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Should I Take Online Courses to Prepare for the MCAT?

Session 66

Session 66

This week, a student asked about retaking old prerequisite classes that they previously did well in, hoping to better prepare for the MCAT. The classes that the poster has been considering to take, however, are online. What are the options?

If you have any questions, register for an account at OldPreMeds.org and join the collaborative community there.

OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

“I am ‘stuffling’ (I wasn’t really sure what the poster meant by this word) in deciding whether or not to retake my science courses online. I took most classes, bio and general chem, about ten years ago and recently took some courses to prep for the MCAT. I took the MCAT two years ago and scored a 500.

I want to retake all science classes to help me prepare better for the MCAT. Unfortunately, I can’t do daytime classes because I work and I have a family to support and the schools where I live do not offer these classes in the evening. Will it be okay if I took these classes online? Will medical schools accept them or am I better off not retaking these courses. My science GPA is 3.7 and my overall is 3.9.  I really want to apply to medical school as soon as possible as I’m 31. But I really need a bit more review on physics because that is my weakest point. Any advice would be helpful.”

Here are my thoughts:

[03:00] Prerequisite Classes

Retaking the MCAT is obviously a huge endeavor. 500 is not a great score but it’s a score and a 3.7/3.9 is a great GPA. Interestingly, you only mentioned Bio and General chemistry so I’m wondering if you really understand all the prereqs for medical school. Now with the new MCAT, it’s not just Biology but also, Psychology, Sociology, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry. Some of the medical schools are adding some of those Psychology and Sociology classes to their prereqs so that’s something to look into.

[04:00] Taking Online Prereqs

If you go back to OPM Session 18, it talks about online degrees. But the person here is just taking online courses to supplement her previous courses in order to give her a better foundation for the MCAT.

My biggest piece of advice is to look into the MSAR (for MD schools) and look at the requirements for each of the schools since they will tell you whether or not they accept online courses.

In this situation, you did well in your courses to begin with (assuming you did all of the prereqs) so let’s say you’re taking these online courses not to boost your GPA but as a refresher. This is something you have to ask the medical about. Reach out to the school and present your situation telling them you did well in your previous classes. Since they’re older, are they going to take these older classes? And would it be okay if you took these online courses now not for boosting your GPA but really just to prepare for the MCAT.

[05:52] MCAT Prep Course

Another option is just to apply and see what happens. 500 is not a great score but it’s the average MCAT score so it will limit what schools will look at you.

The last options is spend the money on a MCAT prep course instead of online courses and use the MCAT prep course materials to relearn the information you need to learn. Personally, this would be the route I would take. I would self-teach myself, use Khan Academy videos online, and take a look at the Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) from Stanford University for example and see if they have any Physics courses online for free. I’d take a look at whatever online resources are out there and self-teach myself through those online resources and through the study material from these courses.

Check out Next Step Test Prep, specifically their new MCAT class where they teach you the material online and at your own pace. They also have online office hours five days a week to have your questions answered. Compared to other big-named companies, they have more materials and they’re much cheaper. Save some money by using the code MSHQ.

Links:

Next Step Test Prep

OPM Session 18

MSAR

Khan Academy

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs)

MedEd Media Network

OldPreMeds.org

The Premed Years Podcast

The MCAT Podcast

Specialty Stories Podcast

The Short Coat Podcast

Transcript

Dr. Ryan Gray: The Old Premeds Podcast is part of the Med Ed Media network at www.MedEdMedia.com.This is the Old Premeds Podcast, session number 66.

You’re a nontraditional student entering the medical field on your terms. You may have had some hiccups along the way, but now you’re now ready to change course and go back and serve others as a physician. This podcast is here to help answer your questions and help educate you on your nontraditional journey to becoming a physician.

Welcome to the Old Premeds Podcast, my name is Dr. Ryan Gray and I am the host here at the Old Premeds Podcast as well as several other podcasts on the Med Ed Media network. If you haven’t checked out those other podcasts, you should if you’re a premed, and I’m assuming you’re a premed because you’re listening to this podcast. Go check out The Premed Years, The MCAT Podcast, and our newest podcast, Specialty Stories. And we have a new podcast on our network that’s not hosted by me, the Short Coat Podcast which is an awesome podcast put on by the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. We take questions- here at the Old Premeds Podcast, we take questions directly from the www.OldPremeds.org forums. So if you don’t have an account over there, go sign up. It’s free, it’s easy, great community, and we’ll answer your question hopefully here on this podcast.

A Nontraditional Poster’s Question

The question that I got today is one from a student asking about their path and what they should be doing. So they said- the title of the post is ‘Nontraditional Medical School Applicant,’ which would make sense because this is Old Premeds, and that is the definition of nontraditional applicant. So it says, ‘Hello, I am stuffling-‘ I’m not sure what ‘stuffling’ is supposed to mean, ‘in deciding whether or not to retake my science courses online. I took most classes, bio and general chem, about ten years ago and recently took some courses to prep for the MCAT. I took the MCAT two years ago and scored a 500. My question is I want to retake all sciences classes to help me prepare better for the MCAT, but unfortunately I can’t do daytime classes because I work and have a family to support, and the schools where I live do not offer these classes in the evening. Will it be okay if I took these classes online? Will medical schools accept them or am I better off not retaking these courses? My science GPA is 3.7 and my overall is 3.9. I really want to apply to medical school as soon as possible as I am 31, but I really need a bit more review on physics as that is my weakest point. Any advice would be helpful.’

Alright so a couple of things here. Retaking the MCAT is obviously a huge endeavor. Scoring a 500 is not a great score, but it’s a score, and a 3.7/3.9 is a great GPA. What’s interesting, this poster said, ‘I took most classes,’ but only mentioned bio and general chemistry. So I’m wondering if they fully understand all of the pre-req’s for medical school. I’m assuming yes, but I just find it weird that they pointed out just bio and general chem. So things like biochemistry- now with the new MCAT having psychology, and sociology, and organic chemistry, biochemistry, making sure all of those classes are there. So medical schools are adding some of those psychology, sociology classes to their pre-req’s. So that may be something else to look into.

This question comes up a lot; taking online pre-req’s. And we actually covered something similar back in session 18 if you want to go back and listen to the www.OPMPodcast.com/18 about online degrees. Now this isn’t an online degree, this student is talking about just online courses to supplement her previous courses to give this person a better foundation for the MCAT. My biggest piece of advice is to go look at the MSAR for MD schools. If you Google ‘AAMC MSAR’ and look at the requirements for each of the schools. They will tell you whether or not they accept online courses. Now this situation is a little different because they did well- this student did well in his or her courses to begin with. Let’s assume that they did take all of the pre-req’s and not just the bio and general chemistry. So let’s assume they did well, and they’re just taking the online courses not to boost their GPA but for a refresher. That could be something I would ask the medical school. Maybe there’s a medical school that they really want to go to, and the MSAR says, ‘Nope we don’t accept online courses,’ I would still reach out to that school and say, ‘Look here’s my situation, I did well in my previous classes, they’re older, will you take these older classes and will it be okay if I take online courses now not for boosting my GPA or anything, even though it will have that effect a little bit, but really just to prepare for the MCAT.’ So that’s one option.

Another option is just apply and see what happens. A 500 is an average MCAT score, it’s the average as the definition, and so it’s not great, and it will limit what schools will look at you, but that’s one option.

And the last option is instead of spending money on online courses, spend the money on an MCAT prep course, and use the MCAT prep course materials to re-learn the information that you need to learn. And if I were in this person’s shoes, that’s probably the route I would go. I would self-teach myself. I would go and use Khan Academy videos online, I would take a look at the Massive Online Open Courses I think they’re called, the MOOCs from like Stanford and MIT, and see if they have any physics courses online that you can basically take an MIT physics course for free anytime you need it. So I would look at what online resources are out there, and I would self-teach myself through those online resources, and through the study material from these courses. And so Next Step Test Prep, go look at them, they have their new MCAT class which is teaching you the material online at your own pace, and they also have online office hours five days a week to have your questions answered. It’s got a ton of material, more than the other big name companies, and it’s cheaper, and you can even save some money by using the code MSHQ. So go check them out, www.NextStepTestPrep.com. Use the code MSHQ, check out their new MCAT class. That may be the next bet to self-teach yourself.

Final Thoughts

So lots of options, I hope that helps. I always try to shy away from online courses just as a rule of thumb. So something to think about, and I hope that helps you on your journey.
Again if you have a question, go to www.OldPremeds.org, register for an account, ask away. It’s a great community there and hopefully you joining will be a welcomed addition. I hope you have a great week. Don’t forget to check out everything else that we’re doing on the Med Ed Media network at www.MedEdMedia.com.

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