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Today on the OldPreMeds Podcast, we discuss the best resources for studying for the MCAT, what you need to do, and some things you need to consider to find the best MCAT prep materials for you.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
OldPreMeds Question of the Week
As usual on the OldPreMeds Podcast, our question is taken from the Nontrad Premed Forum. Our poster is looking at retaking the MCAT. They scored a 19 on the old version of the MCAT, and they’re trying to avoid going to the Caribbean. What are the most useful resources for studying for the MCAT?
Changes Made to the MCAT in 2015
The MCAT used to be a 3-part exam:
- Biological sciences
- Physical sciences
- Verbal Reasoning
Ever since 2015, the MCAT now covers 4 sections:
- Chemical and physical foundations for systems
- Critical analysis and reasoning
- Biological and biochemical foundations
- Psychosocial and biologic foundations of behavior
What You Need to Do for Your MCAT Prep
- Have a plan.
- The courses you take as an undergrad are not enough preparation.
- Understand how the exam works.
- Understand the strategies for reading and answering questions.
- Practice, practice, practice.
- Don’t take the exam until you’re ready to do so.
- Get started with the AAMC practice tests (the closest thing as the real exam as possible).
- Get another set of exams with one of the providers.
How Many MCAT Practice Tests Should I Take?
A rule of thumb is to do 4-6 practice exams under realistic conditions where you’re getting scores you’re comfortable with before you take the actual exam.
Here is a full episode of the The MCAT Podcast where we discuss this question at more length.
Which MCAT Prep Company Should I Use?
If you’re looking for an MCAT prep course, check out my video review of Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)’s MCAT course, as I think it’s the best available.
That said, you don’t necessarily need an MCAT course. You can self-study (if you have good habits and can be disciplined) and just buy retail books provided by an MCAT prep company such as Next Step, Kaplan, Examkrackers, or Princeton Review. This would cut down your costs considerably.
Listen to “MCAT Prep on Any Budget” for more discussion of the different price points of the options.
Is It Better to Take an Online MCAT Course or In-Person?
Whether to take an MCAT prep course online or in person is your personal preference.
Which of the courses of these companies are going to work for you?
The test prep companies all have access to the same information, so it
- Kaplan stresses exam-taking strategy a bit more than some of the others.
- Princeton Review is a content-heavy course.
- Examkrackers offers online and in-classroom classes, but there are mixed reviews about their classrooms.
You should also check out free online resources like Khan Academy.
Things to Consider When Choosing MCAT Prep Resources:
When choosing the best MCAT prep for your individual circumstances, you should consider your:
- Learning style
- Discipline about studying
- Financial considerations
Understand where you are in your MCAT prep process and how you’re going to fit the course into your prep schedule.
Do You Need an MCAT Prep Course?
Rich personally believes that everyone should be in some sort of formal course (online or classroom). If you’re thinking about investing a couple hundred thousand dollars for med school, then $2,500 to pay for a prep class is not that expensive.
For more discussion of whether you need an MCAT prep course or not, check out Session 10 of The MCAT Podcast or Session 106 of OldPreMeds Podcast.If you're thinking about investing a couple hundred thousand dollars for med school, then $2,500 for a prep class is not that expensive.Click To Tweet
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my book about the MCAT, co-written with Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep): The Premed Playbook: Guide to the MCAT.
- Related episode: How Can I Prepare for and Improve My MCAT CARS Score?
- Related episode: How to Prep for the Psych and Sociology Section of the MCAT.
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!