In this episode, I talk with Eric Chiu, Executive Director of the Pre-Health Programs for Kaplan Test Prep. He is in charge of the MCAT prep at Kaplan.
We discuss the MCAT 2015, Kaplan’s survey of how medical schools are looking at the new version of the test, whether or not a prep course is necessary, and more.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
- Finishing his undergrad degree in electrical engineering
- Teaching for Kaplan
- Getting inspired to take education as a career path
- Enjoying teaching and interacting with students
Eric’s thoughts on the impetus behind the MCAT 2015:
- The MCAT is an evolving exam.
- Medical schools want an exam that can help them make good, informed decisions about which students are most likely to succeed in their programs.
- AAMC surveyed interviewed med school deans, admissions officers, faculty, and advisors who are part of the application pipeline about ways to improve the effectiveness of the MCAT in predicting success in medical school.
- As a result, the changes in the exam are allowing medical schools to make better-informed decisions.
The MCAT’s ability to predict who’s going to perform in medical school:
- According to a survey conducted by Kaplan, the most frequent application killer among admissions officers is a low MCAT score.
- High GPA scores are good, but they are not standardized. GPA depends on factors like the program you’re in and the teachers you choose.
- The MCAT is the only number that is on a standard scale for every student.
What if you’re just not a good test taker?
- Unfortunately, you have to take the MCAT.
And the MCAT is not the last test you’ll have to take. Schools want to make sure that students are well-prepared to do well on the USMLE or COMPLEX board exams. So the MCAT will not be the last standardized exam you deal with on this path.The MCAT will not be the last standardized exam you deal with on this path.Click To Tweet
[Related podcast: Board Rounds Podcast.]
- There is no such thing as “not a good test taker.”
There are only “bad test preparers.” So you need to figure out whether it’s worth the investment to become a better preparer for all of the tests you have to take beyond the MCAT. Think about how you can build a skill set that will help you become more successful.Think about how you can build a skill set to be more successful at test prep and test taking.Click To Tweet
How to become a better test preparer:
Become a voracious reader. Be able to read critically. Read your textbooks for the concepts, and then memorize the right facts and formulas that are going to benefit you on test day.
Most MCAT passages are not going to be taken from textbooks but scientific journals and other kinds of publications. So become familiar with reading different kinds of articles.
Results from the survey Kaplan has conducted on admissions officers:
- 68% of medical schools felt the 2015 MCAT would be an improvement over the old MCAT.
- 52% of medical schools said they weren’t sure whether the new MCAT would better prepare students for their programs.
Scoring trends and challenges in the New MCAT:
- The MCAT is a scaled score.
Your performance is relative to the rest of the test-taking population. So as long as the testing population is the same, it’s not necessarily about the test getting easier or harder. You’re simply competing with the rest of the pool.
However, the changes in the MCAT could make it easier or harder for each student in terms of the content they’re more familiar with.
[Related episode: Is the MCAT Getting Harder?]
- The broader scope of content covered on the new MCAT represents both a challenge and an opportunity.
The challenge is how to focus one’s preparation, especially now that the exam blueprint covers 11 semesters of prerequisite coursework. There is much greater integration of science content within all three of the science-based sections.
Therefore, you have to have a more holistic approach as you’re studying. You need to focus on the highest yield concepts across all of the subject areas, rather than just focusing on certain sections.The new MCAT has a much greater integration of science content within all three of the science-based sections.Click To Tweet
The biggest mistake students make in preparing for the MCAT:
Premeds are type-A personalities and are very busy, so it’s easy to procrastinate. Whether you’re intimidated by the MCAT or just not excited about it, don’t wait to prepare. Procrastination is the number one mistake students make when preparing for the MCAT.Whether you're intimidated by the MCAT or just not excited about it, don't wait to prepare.Click To Tweet
Eric’s advice to students planning to take the MCAT:
- Start thinking about what your prep plans are a year out from when they’re planning to test.
- Start acclimating yourself to the types of content on the MCAT and the practice you can start to do early on.
- Kaplan courses average between 2-4 months but include the option to extend preparation for up to a full year.
- The sooner you begin to prep, the more benefit you will accrue from the MCAT prep resources you invest in.
[Related episode: MCAT Prep on Any Budget (Should I Spend $3,000?).]
Realistic practice makes perfect.
Practice doesn’t make perfect. Realistic practice makes perfect. Practice in an environment that mimics the conditions of the actual exam day. Wake up early, go to the library, time each section, time your breaks, and pack a lunch to eat just like you will during the real test.Practice doesn't make perfect. Realistic practice makes perfect.Click To Tweet
Hold on to the scored official AAMC practice tests until the last few weeks before your MCAT test date. Make the most of them by taking them in a realistic way, and then review every question closely.
[Related episode: What Is the Best Way to Use the AAMC Official MCAT Practice Tests?]
How Kaplan is helping students prepare for the MCAT 2015:
- 30,000 hours of MCAT expertise have been invested in their books and courses for the new version of the MCAT.
- Kaplan recently launched their 3rd edition of MCAT books and course.
- They’ve rewritten their curriculum and sections of their books in response to feedback from students who took the new MCAT.
Kaplan’s MCAT channel
- Kaplan’s MCAT channel offers a customized study plan for students, so they can pick and choose where to focus their time based on their strengths and weaknesses.
- Approximately 20 hours of live MCAT instruction every week—students can join in and pick the right episodes for themselves.
- Kaplan is now able to help students engage in test preparation that really fits their individual needs.
The Starting Line: Kaplan’s Tuition Assistance Program
- Fill in their online application form and they get back to you in three days.
- They offer up to 60% tuition assistance based on financial need.
- Find more information here: The Starting Line: Kaplan’s Tuition Assistance Program.
How to decide on the right MCAT prep course for you:
- Do you want to become part of a community and learn from those who have come before you, or are you willing to try it on your own and find your way through?
- Choose a structure and study plan that gives you a clear path to success.
- For DIY test takers, try to find ways to not only do your content review but also learn test-taking strategies.
- Check out our MCAT Podcast episode called “What Is the Best Way to Learn MCAT Testing Strategy?“
- Start with really good books. Kaplan MCAT books come with three full-length practice tests.
Advice for students struggling with the MCAT:
Stop viewing the MCAT as an obstacle, and start viewing it as an opportunity. The MCAT is your chance to show medical schools that you have what it takes to perform well in their programs, that you can do the hard work of reviewing content and learning how to take the test.The MCAT is an opportunity for you to really commit to your dream and build a set of skills that are going to serve you all throughout your journey.Click To Tweet
You’re not just getting past the MCAT like it’s the one thing standing in your way. It’s really a rite of passage that basically every licensed doctor over the last half-century has had to go through. If you think about it that way, then it can be an exciting thing.
Do it right, and the MCAT can be very empowering. You can come away thinking, “I feel like I can take on anything now because I was able to conquer this test.”