Common MCAT Prep Mistakes Premeds Make and How to Avoid Them

Session 172

Session 172

Another great discussion today as we bring in, Ken, a Princeton Review instructor, tutor, and a premed himself at one point.

Preparing for the MCAT basically starts once you set foot on college campus. Today, they talk about the common mistakes premed students make as they prepare for the MCAT. Listen in to gain new insights and advice so hopefully, you won't make these mistakes discussed on the show.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Ken:

Ken's backstory:

  • Being fascinated in translational applications of research
  • Wanting to apply to MD/PhD school
  • Spending more time on research over clinical experience
  • Pondering on whether to do research or apply to med school
  • Ken plans to apply to grad school and get the PhD and decide whether an MD is still necessary

The most commons mistakes premed students make as they're preparing for the MCAT:

  1. Not thinking through about their plan for studying for the MCAT.
  • Consider the different time points of taking the test. Depending on the year, that will determine how many courses you will have taken.
  • The new MCAT exam has added more biochemistry, psychology, and sociology.
  1. Not knowing how to study
  • MCAT is not just a test of memorization of concepts but being able apply those concepts
  • You need to do a lot of practice tests.
  • Review the content because MCAT is content-based.
  • Review the passage as well as ALL the answers (whether you got it wrong or right)
  • Figure out why you got the question wrong.

Princeton Review breaks down questions into 3 types:

Memory questions – factual recall

Explicit questions – answer is right in the passage

Implicit questions

  1. Not knowing about the new exam versus the old MCAT
  • Much bigger emphasis on passages based on 60% of research article
  • Get more involved with research that you can participate in.
  • Start a journal club with your friends. Choose an article per week, read it, and discuss the article to understand the more technical passages.
  1. Not using the resources
  • Be aware of what resources are available.
  • Test prep companies are different so figure out which test prep company is the best for you in your study habits.

Other resources you should be using:

Practice test from the AAMC  – the most important resource since they created the MCAT

Khan Academy – they have videos for you to learn the material

Misconceptions about the new MCAT:

  • Studying biochemistry – In the new MCAT, biochemistry is now the second most tested content on the exam after biology
  • How students learn science in general in college – In the new MCAT, all the sciences are blended together so don't think of them as completely independent subjects. Understand how they general chemistry concepts can be applied to physics and organic chem in biology context.

When should you have taken the MCAT?

  1. First, take all of your prerequisite courses.
  2. Make sure you have a chunk of time you're able to dedicate towards studying for the MCAT.
  3. Talk to your prehealth advisor or upperclassmen from the school and ask them about the courses you should take to best prepare you for the MCAT exam and when they think should you take the MCAT.

What is the ideal amount of time to study for the MCAT?

  • It varies on the student.
  • Have a good amount of time each week to be able to study for the MCAT but at the same time, be able to do something on the side like research or volunteering so that you're still seeing other people and maintain your sanity.

Different methods to understand the passage:

  • Use the tools available to you.
  • Actively read the passage. Read it and participate and engage yourself in the reading.
  • Highlight texts.
  • Draw down notes on a scratch of paper. This goes into your head more clearly than just highlighting text.

What makes Princeton Review stand out:

  • A good balance of everything premed students need to study for the MCAT exams
  • MCAT Ultimate Course – 123 hours (3-hour 41 classes)
  • They cover all key contents and the standard materials students use (science text books, online practice questions, tests, and passages)
  • Socratic method of teaching to engage the students to get more out of class

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

Studying for the MCAT can be really tough. Find friends that you can study with so you can learn better. One of the best ways to learn the material is to teach the material to someone else.

Links and Other Resources:

2008 Journal of Science article, Debunking the Myth of the MCAT

Save $225 on the Princeton Review's MCAT Ultimate or MCAT Self-Paced Prep Course through March 30th 2016 by going to

AAMC practice test

Khan Academy

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Dr. Ryan Gray: Listen through to the end of this interview, and learn how you can save $225 on the Princeton Review's MCAT Ultimate or MCAT Self-Paced Prep Course.

This is The Premed Years, session number 172.

Hello and welcome to The Premed Years where we believe that collaboration, not competition, is key to your premed success. I am your host Dr. Ryan Gray, and in this podcast we share with you stories, encouragement, and information that you need to know to help guide you on your path to becoming a physician.

Welcome back to The Premed Years Podcast if this is not your first time joining us. If it is, thank you for joining us for the first time. Today we have a great discussion with a Princeton Review instructor, who also tutors the MCAT students at the Princeton Review, was a premed himself at one point, and is still deciding his future path. And we'll dig into that when we talk to Ken in a little bit. But I wanted to talk about the MCAT for a minute, and talk about how it is a crazy test. If you don't know that, if you're kind of unaware of what the MCAT is at that point, that's okay, it probably means you're still early enough on that it's not that big of a deal. But as you'll hear in this discussion, that preparing for the MCAT starts basically when you set foot on college campus. And so this interview will talk about the common mistakes that students make, that premed students make as they prepare for the MCAT; and hopefully you'll listen to this, you'll heed the advice, and hopefully you won't make these mistakes that we'll discuss with Ken. Let's go ahead and dig into it and welcome Ken to the show.

Ken, welcome to The Premed Years Podcast, thanks for joining me.

Ken: Yeah, happy to be here.

Background on Ken

Dr. Ryan Gray: So you are at the Princeton Review. Why don't you give me a little bit of a back story with who you are, and how long you've been with the Princeton Review, and teaching the wonderful MCAT?

Ken: Yes. So I am in the west coast, I graduated from Berkeley a couple years now, and I was a science major so I studied bioengineering as well as neurobiology, and as an undergrad I was a premedical student. I spent a lot of time doing all those things that premeds did, including taking the MCAT, and after taking the MCAT I decided that I wanted to teach for the Princeton Review. So I started doing that, teaching MCAT general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics as well as biology, and I did that for a few years. As I stay with the company for longer periods of time, I basically gradually started doing more and more for the company; so doing tutoring, doing some content development which means I help to write some of the practice passages, questions, and the review books that students use. And as well as giving marketing presentations, going around to schools telling students what the MCAT is about.

Dr. Ryan Gray: You just didn't have enough of it the first time, you wanted to dig in even more.

Ken: Basically, yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So you were a premed, but you're no longer a premed. Why don't you give a little bit of a back story with your path to what you're doing right now?

Ken: Yeah so I've always been really fascinated in translational applications of research which is essentially developing new healthcare treatments. So all through my undergrad I thought I was going to apply for MD/PhD schools, so of course I took the MCAT thinking I was going to do so. The thing though was in my undergrad, I actually spent a lot more of my time doing research as opposed to getting clinical experience. So when I graduated I actually had very, very little clinical experience, so at that point it was basically I could get that clinical experience to apply for med schools, or do more research, which was basically what I decided to do. So I think that it basically told me a bit about my own personal interests. So my plan now is to attend grad school, get the PhD, and I think after the PhD I will decide whether or not I feel that the MD is still necessary for me to do the type of work that I want to do.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay, very interesting. I think it's a good path that you've gone down. You've had those discussions with yourself of, ‘Is this really something I want or need? Do I need an MD to do all the research that I want to do?' And so that's something I think anybody that's on that similar path to you can learn from, so that's great. I want to talk today with you about some of the common mistakes that you see with students as they're preparing to take the MCAT. Obviously as a Princeton Review tutor, an instructor, you've been there, done that, you've seen the mistakes that students make. And so I want to hopefully teach the premed right now that's listening to this what those mistakes are so hopefully they won't make them on their journey. So why don't we start off, what's probably the most common mistake that you see among premeds as they're preparing for the MCAT?

Mistake #1 of MCAT Prep – Lack of a Plan

Ken: So I think the most common mistake is not thinking through about their plan for studying for the MCAT. And that is when premed students are thinking about taking the MCAT, there's actually a lot of different time points that they could be taking the test. Perhaps after their sophomore year, or junior year, or perhaps even after they've graduated. And that's actually a pretty complex issue because depending on the year of the student, that will determine how many courses that they will have taken. And particularly with the new MCAT exam now that they've added more biochemistry, psychology and sociology, students who don't really think about whether or not they have taken all of those courses before studying for the MCAT, there could be some issues there.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So why don't we talk a little bit about that. So ideally from your experience, when should somebody have taken the MCAT by?

Ken: So it definitely varies once again. I think the most important thing for students is that they have taken all of their prerequisite courses, and make sure that they had a chunk of time that they're able to dedicate towards studying for the MCAT. And that is some people will tell students, “You should take the MCAT right after you take all your prerequisite courses.” But the thing though is for students that wait, chances are they're going to take more advanced biology courses, and more advanced biology courses can certainly help on the MCAT but isn't necessarily required. But at the same time, if students try to do the opposite, and that is take the MCAT after they graduated, then yes they've taken more advanced courses, but those fundamentals such as general chemistry, chances are they took it in their freshman year, so the content they might have forgotten. So in that case then it doesn't seem to matter when they choose to take the MCAT, it's moreso to make sure that they have enough time in their schedule to study for the exam. And the reason why I say that is because when you think about the number of semesters and the material covered on this new exam like general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, biochemistry, biology, psychology, sociology; that's a lot of semesters of content that students need to review for. So if as a premed student you realize, ‘Oh in my junior year I have too many classes, too many extracurriculars,' then perhaps it's better for the student to wait until later to take the class, as opposed to another student where they figure out, ‘Oh this semester I have a pretty free class schedule, so I have lots of time that I will be able to dedicate to studying.'

Dr. Ryan Gray: So it sounds like ideally- again this is the perfect scenario, is a student entering college can start planning this right away.

Ken: Yeah I'd say absolutely. I think what's very important for students is to talk to their prehealth advisors, or better yet probably upper classmen from their school. Ask them, “What courses can I take that will best prepare me for the MCAT exam? And when do you think I should take them so that I will be able to be at a point perhaps in my junior or senior year when I can take the test?”

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah I think that's key. I actually sat in on a prehealth advisor's session last week at the University of Colorado Boulder, and that's exactly the kind of stuff they covered. Is, ‘Okay here are the classes that you're going to need to take to prepare for the MCAT, and this is when you're going to want to take it,' and just start laying out all those courses now. You mentioned having a chunk of time to study for the test. In your experience, what is an ideal amount of time to study? And should that be done with no other distractions like class or work?

Ken: So once again it's going to vary depending on the student. That is I have had students ask me, “How many hours do I need to study to do well on the MCAT?” And I can say, I know some students who studied three weeks for the MCAT and did fantastic, and I also know some students who studied for six months and still didn't do so great. So the reason why it varies is because some students are very good at retaining in their brain, that is they learn it and they retain it. While a lot of other students are the opposite. It basically goes in their head, and then a day later they forget it. So depending on the student themselves, and many of them know this from taking premed courses, they know if they're they type of student where they forget material quickly. Then certainly they want to spend more time preparing for the exam. In terms of time though, I think that is something that is important. And that is imagine if you start classes, or a part-time job, or volunteer in research in the morning, and you're starting stuff at maybe 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning, and you're doing stuff during the whole entire day until 5:00 or 6:00 PM and thinking that you can use just your weekday evenings and perhaps your weekends to study for the MCAT. At that point you probably need to have more time in your schedule to dedicate to studying. Because I've worked with a lot of students with such limited schedules, and ultimately they just realize they don't have enough time and need to push their exam back. But at the same time, I think the other extreme of saying, ‘I'm going to give up my whole entire summer to study for the MCAT,' that's debatable too because studying for the MCAT is a very challenging thing. When you talk with students currently studying for the MCAT, they always laugh like, ‘This thing is horrible, I just want to get the exam over with,' right? And if all you're doing for several months is just studying for the MCAT, you know it will make studying not very fun. So generally I recommend to students it's good to have a good amount of time each week to be able to study for the MCAT, but at the same time be able to do something on the side; to do a little bit of research, or a bit of volunteering, so that way you're still seeing other people and being able to maintain your sanity.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah that's very good advice, and I've talked to several students that get in those MCAT funks and can't really understand, they don't remember why they're putting themselves through that pain. Alright so that was a good chunk on studying for the MCAT, and kind of timelines, and how long to prep. What's another common mistake that you see with students as they're preparing for the MCAT?

Mistake #2 of MCAT Prep – How Students Prepare

Ken: So another thing is how students prepare. You probably see on here, the more you study, the better you're going to do on the exam. But the MCAT is actually a very interesting exam that you need to know how to study. And once again, I'm just giving all these examples of students I've worked with. For example I had one student who for studying, she really enjoyed reading, so she enjoyed reading the review books, the textbooks, re-learning all the sciences. But the thing though was she didn't do very many practice problems. The MCAT isn't just a test of rote memorization, it's not just can you spew out all these facts about biology, and chemistry, and physics? But it's being able to apply those concepts. On the MCAT, the toughest questions are the ones that are questions associated with a passage where a student has to use newly introduced content in the passage and combine it with knowledge they've learned while studying for the MCAT to derive the correct answer. So if you don't do enough practice problems, then the student isn't going to do very well on the actual exam. And at the same time, on a complete opposite spectrum, I had another student who she literally bought test prep books from every company; Princeton Review, Berkeley Review, Kaplan, every company you can think of. And she added up all the questions she had, and there were tens of thousands, and she came up with a study plan of, ‘Oh every day I'm going to do 1,000 practice questions.' And when she told me, at first I was like, ‘Wow that's very impressive. Not many students can do 1,000 practice questions in a day,' but she didn't spend any of her studying time actually reviewing the content. And doing practice questions is great because you start to pick up some tips and tricks over here about how to answer the questions, how to eliminate wrong answer choices. But if you don't review the content, that's going to be very hard to do well because MCAT among all the standardized exams for graduate schools and colleges, I would say is the one that is the most content based.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Really? It's funny you say that because there was a study on the MCAT that showed it was the least content based.

Ken: Really? I wasn't aware of that.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yes it is. So 2008 Journal of Science article, it's called, ‘Debunking the Myth of the MCAT,' I think. I'll email it to you. But yeah it was more- out of the GRE, out of medical school tests, out of- I forget the other ones they compared it to. But it was the least content heavy test and more comprehension and analysis, which is what you were talking about as well.

Ken: I understand the comprehension and analysis, but the content part, that's really impressive to me because I feel like if students don't know their chemistry, biology and physics, it'd certainly be hard to do well on the exam.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah and that's why the MCAT's so hard. You need to have that foundation, but the test is still out there to get you.

Ken: That's correct.

Reviewing Practice Tests

Dr. Ryan Gray:  I want to talk a little bit more about this student that you had that got the 10,000 questions, and planned out all these questions. You had talked about reviewing the content, but I want to see what you think about actually reviewing her performance, or his performance with the actual questions and answers. Because it doesn't sound like doing 1,000 questions- each day there's not enough time to actually review what you answered, why you got things right, why you got things wrong. How important is that?

Ken: So that's actually extremely important, and that is you don't just want to do questions and be like, ‘Oh this time I got like 60% or 70% or 80%' right? When you're doing practice questions it's important that you be able to review the passage as well as all the answers. And when reviewing answers you don't want to just review the questions you got wrong, but also the questions you got right. And there's a few reasons for this, and the biggest reason is any time you get a question wrong, you need to be able to figure out why. Why did I get this question wrong, and what do I need to do to make sure I don't get it wrong the next time? So with the Princeton Review we typically break down questions into three types; memory questions, explicit questions, and implicit questions. So memory questions are literally just factual recall. So if it's just a factual recall, which you'll see this in a lot of freestanding questions, if a student recognizes that they missed this type of question, that's actually a pretty easy fix because it just tells the student, ‘Oh I need to go review my amino acids. I need to go review what the one letter codes and three letter codes are.' If the type of question that they're missing is instead perhaps an explicit question where the answer is right in the passage, it means that what the student needs to do is to rely more on the passage. And that is a lot of students have this tendency if they read the passage, then they go to the questions, and when they read the questions they just try to use whatever knowledge that they have to answer the question. But students missing these questions need to recognize, ‘Okay well if I can't figure out the answer to this question, and it's not on anything that I've learned about before for the MCAT, that means the answer has to be somewhere in the passage.' And that fix means the student from there needs to literally change their approach to questions, and make sure that they go back to the passage if necessary to answer the question as opposed to always just relying on their own knowledge.

Mistake #3 of MCAT Prep – Research

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay very interesting. Alright another mistake that you see with premed students would be what?

Ken: So I think another mistake is thinking- this might not be a mistake, but it's just something that a lot of premedical students don't know with the new exam. And that is with the new exam, there is a much bigger emphasis on research than previous- than the old MCAT exam. And that is when students go to take this new MCAT and when they're seeing passages, and on the science sections there's ten passages per section. They're going to see that about 60% to 70% of the passages are from some sort of research article; a research article like a science article where in the article and in the passage they see, it will describe an experiment, and they'll describe the whole experimental protocol, and then they'll also present results. And these passages can be challenging for students that don't have as much of a research background. For example, if a student doesn't know what a Western blot is, or an SDS page is, then it becomes really difficult for students to answer questions if the question is asking about the result from the experiment. So for students that now become aware of this, I highly recommend for them to try to get more involved with research. So as a premed student that means they can try to see if there's any labs on campus, or nearby that they can participate in. Or if they don't have that opportunity to them, what they can do is they can start a little journal club with their friends where they just choose an article a week, they get together, they read it, and then they have a discussion about the article, and that will help them with understanding some of these more technical passages on the new exam.

Misconceptions of the New MCAT

Dr. Ryan Gray: That's good advice; journal club. Alright you had mentioned some new versus old MCAT issues here. Are there any other big changes, or misconceptions about the new MCAT, students holding onto thoughts about the old MCAT?

Ken: Yeah so two. So the first one is quick, and that is on the new MCAT students- in terms of biochemistry. Biochemistry was basically optional since it wasn't an official topic tested on the MCAT; there was a little but little enough that students could self-study. If you look at the new exam in terms of percentage of content, you'll see that biochemistry is now the second most tested content on the exam after biology. Which means for the new test, it's definitely in a student's best interest to take biochemistry before they take the MCAT exam, or at least if they choose not to, to make sure they put in lots of emphasis to self-study that material. The other misconception is how students learn science in general in college. And sometimes it's just the way that science is taught in college. For example, when premedical students come to university, it's one of the first science courses they take is general chemistry. And sometimes it's a great experience, sometimes it's not such a great experience. But after general chemistry they would go on to organic chemistry, and the interesting thing is if you look at a lot of universities in the US, organic chemistry, the knowledge that you need to do well in that course doesn't actually rely much on general chemistry at all. Which is why for a lot of students they taken general chemistry, then they finish, they forget all that content, they're able to go on to organic chemistry just fine. However with the new MCAT, if you look at just the first section, the chemical and physical foundations of biological systems, you'll see that all of the sciences are blended together. That section has 30% general chemistry, 25% physics, 15% organic chemistry, 25% biochemistry, and 5% biology. When all of this content is blended together and a student can get a passage asking questions on multiple subjects, it means that the students need to be able to connect the topics together. So not thinking of them as completely independent subjects as they might have learned in college, but to be able to understand how general chemistry concepts can be applied in a physics, organic chemistry, and biology context.

Dr. Ryan Gray: It's just hearing that gives me the sweats, like thinking about relearning and studying for the MCAT. I'm so glad I'm done with that.

Ken: Yeah it's not easy.

Mistake #4 of MCAT Prep – Use of Resources

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright so what is another common mistake that you see among premeds as they're preparing for the MCAT?

Ken: Other common mistakes. So I think another common mistake is use of resources, that when students are studying for the MCAT, they need to be aware of what resources are available to them for studying for the MCAT exam. And of course me being from Princeton Review, I would say of course Princeton Review has great resources, there's great classes. But at the same time there's also other test prep companies; Kaplan, Berkeley Review, just to name a few. And each of these companies are very different, and I think if a student is thinking about taking a test prep course, or using one of these company's books, they should take some time to learn about each company, and try to figure out which one is the best one for them and their study habits. And another thing I would say is on top of using materials from the test prep companies, students need to know that there are other resources that they should also be using, or highly recommended that they be using. And the first one is material from the AAMC, and this one is by far the most important. And the reason why is because the AAMC created the MCAT exam. So if they created the MCAT exam, and they've released practice questions, and these practice questions are from previous MCAT exams, then certainly these are the most cinder questions that any student is going to be able to get their hands on in terms of seeing what the actual MCAT is like. And one other resource that I think is great for students to use is Khan Academy. So a lot of students are aware of Khan Academy since they provide very great videos, not just for the MCAT exam, but also just studying for the classes; chemistry, math, physics, and so forth. And the reason why I think those videos are great is because what you study- let's say you take a course with the Princeton Review, you get to learn the material in a few ways from doing practice problems, from doing the reading, and from doing the course. But if you supplement your studies by watching some of these Khan Academy videos, it's possible that these videos might present the content in another way. And in terms of education, sometimes when you're taught material one way, it just doesn't click as well to you and just doesn't make sense. But when it's presented to you in a different way, you might realize, ‘Oh that suddenly makes a lot more sense.' So I think by doing so, students increase their chances of being able to find a good way to understand the content.

Methods for Reading MCAT Passages

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay great, that's awesome. And I think Khan Academy, if you- not you Ken, but you listening, if you're unaware, Khan Academy and the AAMC have a relationship so there's a strong tie there with Khan Academy and their MCAT prep, so a great place to go. Alright Ken as we were talking before we starting recording, you had mentioned another thing that I want to talk about, and maybe have some advice for students. As they are reading passages, and taking their tests, talk about the different methods that students use as they're trying to understand the passage as they're reading through it.

Ken: Yeah, so there's definitely a lot of different methods and approaches, and I would say one common mistake that students make when they're doing practice problems and practice passages, is to not use the tools that are available to them. And that is a lot of students think, ‘Okay this is just a practice passage with questions. What I'm going to do is I'm going to read the passage, and after I read the passage I'm going to answer the questions.' However when you read a passage, you're reading, you have a gist of what's going on. Often a moment later you might recognize, ‘Man I just forgot everything I just learned from that passage.' And then that student might find that they have to go back and reference the passage many times, and search around for information. When instead, what might be more helpful to the student is to do what we call active reading. So when you're reading the passage, don't just read it, but really participate and engage yourself in the reading. And that is when you read something in the text that you feel like is going to be important for answering a question, you should highlight that text, or perhaps jot down a few notes on your scratch sheet of paper. And personally I really push for students to jot down notes on their scratch sheet of paper, and the reason is while highlighting is great, you can highlight key text, when you jot down information on your scratch sheet of paper, it goes into your head more clearly than just highlighting text. And a lot of students who haven't done this before, when they start doing this active reading by highlighting and jotting down notes, they find that after doing so they actually understand the passage much better than if they didn't. And if you're able to understand the passage much better, then you're going to find that the students will have high accuracy when answering the questions because as you said earlier, the MCAT isn't just about spewing out facts, but about that critical analysis as well.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay so it's one of those go slower to go faster things it sounds like. Sounds like students skip the highlighting, and skip the note taking because they think they'll go faster, but in actuality they're going back to the passage and rereading things and going slower, when if they just took a couple extra seconds to highlight, to take some notes, it will all sink in a little better.

Ken: Yeah, and at the same time there are some students who don't like to highlight and jot down notes because they think it takes too long so they won't get to all the questions. But some students also need to recognize if you just rush through all the passages, yes you might get to all the questions, but if your accuracy is really low, you might find that students can improve their scores just by maybe doing eight or nine passages, but by having a higher accuracy and just guessing on the last one.

Information on the Princeton Review

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alrighty. Ken why don't you tell me a little bit about the Princeton Review, and try to help the premed that has all these options of test prep companies, and what makes Princeton Review stand out?

Ken: Yeah so I think what really makes Princeton Review stand out is they have a good balance of just about everything premed students need to study for the MCAT exam. And that is within our course, we have what is called the MCAT Ultimate Course, and this course is 123 hours. Right, 123 hours might sound like a lot, but it's 41 classes that are three hours each. Now the reason why we have so much hours in our classes is mainly because the MCAT has so many semesters of materials. And for any student that decides at some point they want to study for the MCAT exam, there is no way that all those semesters of content, they just recently took. So by having our course, have all these hours, we cover all of the key content that students need to know, so that way students can take our course and know, ‘Great I've just reviewed all of the key content.' But at the same time, on top of having the classes where we have instructors review the content, we also have the standard materials that students would use. So we have review books which are basically science textbooks, as well as online practice questions, online practice tests, online practice passages, and all of these materials are so students can get used to the online features of using highlighting the text, left click to select an answer, right click to strike through- to eliminate an answer choice. But I think another thing, with the Princeton Review, I think what makes it very unique is our method of teaching. Because once again, all test prep companies will have classes where they can come to class and learn the materials, but the approach that we give our teachers is using a lot of the Socratic Method. And that is unlike a regular class where a professor might just go up and just teach all this content, we engage the students, and that is we don't just tell them the information because that can be very boring for the student, just being talked to. Instead we ask them questions, we ask them to think critically about the content that they're being taught, so that way if they're participating in class, they'll be able to get a lot more out of the class than by just sitting there and listening. And another important thing about that is if you think about if you just sit in a class and your instructor doesn't engage you, it's almost very similar to just watching videos. So for example, if you're just going to sit in class and not participate at all, I'd say you'd get the same experience just by watching Khan Academy videos. Because the point of being in class is so you can be engaged, and also if you have any questions, for you to be able to ask them in class.

Words of Motivation to the Struggling Premed

Dr. Ryan Gray: Very good. Awesome, so Ken why don't we finish up? For the premed student out there that is knee deep in their MCAT prep and struggling, what do you say to him or her to motivate them to keep going?

Ken: So studying for the MCAT can definitely be a- can be really tough. And often when these students are studying, they feel like they need to have no distractions, so maybe they'll be studying by themselves in a locked room. That can make studying very depressing. And you have to recognize medicine is a very social career, lots of interactions, and that's something that students can be doing for the MCAT. If they feel depressed, find friends that they can study with. And when you study with each other, you actually learn better because one of the best ways to learn the material is to actually teach the material to someone else, because if you're able to do that then you will actually show that you have a very solid understanding.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright again, that was Ken from the Princeton Review, and we covered all the topics that he sees as common mistakes for the students that he's teaching in his classes, in the one-on-one tutoring. So go back and listen to if you need to again, tons of great advice. But at the beginning of the podcast I mentioned that I have a discount code for you to save $225 through March 30, 2016 on the Princeton Review's MCAT Ultimate or MCAT Self-Paced Prep Course. Now if you go to the link, that will give you the $225 coupon. Again, That link will expire on March 30, 2016. And if you are driving and you don't want to pull over and write down that information, if you're driving please don't open up your phone and start texting that to yourself. You can always find information about everything that we talked about today, including that link to get the discount, if you go to, that will bring you to the specific blog post for this episode.

I want to take a second to thank a few people that have left us ratings and reviews in iTunes. If you haven't done that, you can leave one at A very easy one to remember.

We have one from Mariah Elizabeth that says, ‘Fantastic resource. A nontraditional premed, and have found that these topic-based podcasts have been an incredible resource for me.' So you're welcome, Mariah. Thank you for leaving that review.

And we have one more here from Nikkkkkkkiol, lots of K's in there. It says, ‘Great, great, and great. Listen to this podcast everywhere; in the car, gym, walking to classes, tons of really great and useful information.' Thank you for that review.

Again, where you can leave us a rating and review.

Don't forget, save $225 on the Princeton Review's MCAT Ultimate and MCAT Self-Paced Prep Courses. And if you need some more information about everything that we talked about today,

I hope you got a ton of great information out of this podcast. If you want more of this kind of information, go to where you can find other shows that we produce like the Old Premeds Podcast; a great podcast for nontraditional students, and even for traditional students. Again,

I hope you have a great week, and we'll see you next week here at the Medical School Headquarters and The Premed Years Podcast.

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