August 28, 2014

Pre-Med Study Abroad Questions Answered, Part 2

[caption id="attachment_1559" align="alignright" width="300"] Emily is enjoying some downtime while studying abroad.[/caption] Hello again my pre-med study abroad readers! In part 1 of this post, we talked about the specifics of who, where, when, and how long to study abroad. In part 2, I'd love to discuss how studying abroad makes you a better pre-med student, better medical school applicant, and a better physician.  These experiences can make it possible to live your version of the "good life" sooner rather than later. 

A Better Pre-Med Student:

Have you ever experienced studying burnout? The demanding schedule of a pre-medical student can leave you feeling exhausted and wondering why you're even trying to go to medical school. Studying abroad for a week, a month or a semester can reinvigorate your studies and help you recommit to your classwork. It can also give you a fresh perspective on your life and your goals. This new energy can be especially true if you get the opportunity to work or volunteer in a medical setting during your study abroad experience. It's a lot easier to sit through a boring organic chemistry lecture if you've spent time with medical students in other countries or patients who can inspire you to keep working hard. It can also help put your struggles into perspective, which is something every pre-med student needs now and then.

A Better Medical School Applicant/Student:

Admissions committees are taking more holistic approaches to reviewing applications. They want to know that you're not only excelling in school, but can also demonstrate more intangible qualities like motivation, maturity, compassion, leadership and integrity. Having experiences such as living or volunteering abroad can help demonstrate these intangible qualities and help paint a picture of you as a more well-rounded applicant. You can showcase these experiences throughout the application process: many secondary applications and interview questions also get at the idea of your ability to empathize with patients from different backgrounds. Getting outside your comfort zone by traveling abroad and meeting people with completely different lifestyles and cultures can help you more effectively answer these questions, but more importantly help you relate to people from other cultures. Once you are accepted into medical school, there are many opportunities to continue studying and volunteering abroad. By establishing contacts in another country during undergrad, you can focus on doing a meaningful project during medical school based on these previous relationships.

A Better Physician:

Studying abroad expands your horizons. If you learn a foreign language, you can communicate effectively with an entirely new patient base. Volunteering in a resource-poor community can help you appreciate the resources in our hospitals. Interacting with people from different backgrounds can help make you a more culturally sensitive and overall more effective physician. Basically, if you have the time and opportunity, you should make it a priority to study abroad during your undergraduate career! We want to hear from you!
  • If you hope to study abroad:
    • Where do you hope to study abroad?
    • How do you think studying abroad will help you as a pre-med student, med student and/or physician?
    • How will studying abroad fulfill your vision of a good life?
  • If you've already gone:
    • What did you like about the experience?
    • Is there anywhere you would recommend?
Tell us in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. We may share your story in an upcoming post. Then stay tuned for more articles to get you inspired! Visit kaptest.com/unlock to see what the good life has in store. Happy studying! ...read more
August 27, 2014

Am I Ready to Take the MCAT?

Hello my MCAT-loving readers! Today I want to answer a common question posed by students - “When will I feel ready to take the MCAT?” The short answer is that you may never feel ready to take the MCAT. It's an intimidating test and feeling 100% certain that you're ready to go destroy it, may not happen for you. That doesn't mean that you're not actually ready to take the MCAT. What you should really be asking is - “How do I know that I’m ready to take the MCAT?”

You're ready to take the MCAT if:

1. Your score on MCAT practice tests is within a few points of your goal score.

Realistically, you shouldn't expect your MCAT score to vary by more than 2-3 points on Test Day. On the safe side, you should be averaging your desired test score. If you're not within the range of your desired score, you may want to consider moving your test date.

2. You've moved from pure content review to practicing MCAT-style questions.

At this point you want to be focused on utilizing strategies and fine-tuning your test-taking skills. You should have the majority of the content memorized and be ready to spit out equations and concepts like a master MCAT machine.

3. You have taken at least 8-10 practice full-length exams.

You want to make sure that you've taken both Kaplan and AAMC MCAT practice tests. By taking both types of exams, you'll be well-prepared for anything the MCAT throws at you. After 8-10 exams, you should feel confident in the test structure, your timing and the general flow of the MCAT. The more practice tests you have completed, the more well-prepared you'll be for Test Day.

4. You've put in at least 300 hours of MCAT study time.

The AAMC recommends 300+ hours of study and practice time to be fully prepared for the MCAT. The number will vary based on how recently you've taken your pre-requisite classes, but you want to be within the 300 hour ballpark. Building a successful MCAT study schedule is key to achieving success on test day.

We'd love to hear from you in the comments! What other signs or diagnostic tools can we use to tell whether or not you're ready to take the MCAT? People who have taken the MCAT, how did you know you were ready? For those of you who have not yet started your MCAT prep, sign up for a free MCAT practice test with Kaplan and view upcoming MCAT class schedules. Happy studying! ...read more
August 14, 2014

5 Tips for MCAT Success

Some of you reading this may be planners. You may have color-coded binders with tabs and dividers, organized desktops and files; you may group your apps into folders based on category. Some of you may refuse to use any writing tool other than an ultra-fine point Pilot G2 0.38mm (yours truly). If this doesn’t sound like you, you might need to “fake it til you make it,” because doing well on the MCAT and getting into medical school is all about planning. And it starts now. 5 Tips For MCAT Success: 1. Start your MCAT prep early. Start immediately, in fact. The single best thing you can do for yourself for success on the MCAT is to plan. No one who gets a 42 on the MCAT wakes up the week before and decides they’re just going to wing it. (Actually I’m sure that guy or girl exists out there, but they’re the rare unicorn of the MCAT world). You need to plan early, and plan well. 2. Choose a MCAT date. Pick a date with plenty of time for you to adequately prepare ahead of time. The AAMC recommends at least 300 hours of study time before taking the MCAT. It’s up to you to decide how much time you need to spread out your study time, depending on course load, extracurricular activities, and other commitments, but in general, students can prepare adequately for the MCAT in about 3 months. Commit to a MCAT date and register early. Then whip out your calendar and put a big circle (color-coordinated, if that’s your thing) around the date you’ve chosen. 3. Build your MCAT study schedule. Building your calendar may be the most important step. Take your calendar, and work in anything you have to do in between now and your MCAT. Birthdays, family get-togethers, and personal days come first - stick to them: they’re what will keep you sane during your study. Next, build in your big blocks of study time. Build in your Kaplan MCAT class times, your full-length exams, and your test reviews. Build in extra study time, which you’ll inevitably need. Build in more time than you think you’ll need; that way when you can’t finish a section in the amount of time you allotted, you have the ability to spill over into “make-up days.” 4. Be honest with yourself. After your first pass through your schedule, ask yourself “Can I really handle this?” Sleep on your new schedule for a night, and ask yourself again in the morning. This is your one best shot at tweaking your schedule or starting over from scratch, so make sure to make changes now! 5. Stick to your test prep schedule. The MCAT is the doorway to becoming a medical student and fulfilling your lifelong goal, and your schedule is your roadmap for the MCAT. Stick to this schedule no matter what! If you’re disciplined and reasonable with yourself and your time commitments, you’ll be cruising for a competitive score that will impress your interviewer and get you in the door to a lot of medical schools. Tons of students I’ve worked with have determination and drive to spare, but they lack the direction and the planning to get into medical school. Both are needed to make it to your first day on the wards, and sticking to a plan is a sure-fire way to get you one step closer. ...read more
August 11, 2014

Everyone Gets One Life. Make Yours Good.

The “Good Life.” What does it mean to you? For some, it’s earning enough money to lead the life they want to live: a nice home, a big family, or the ability to travel the world.  For others, it means creative freedom, supporting a cause, or dedicating life to helping others. Every path is different.  Many Doctors are privileged with helping others and saving lives. Though a medical degree is a huge investment it will serve you well as you passionately work to serve others. At Kaplan Test Prep, we strive to help students achieve their educational and career goals.  We want to reach beyond test preparation to give our students the tools and confidence to become their very best. See how others—student and teachers, professionals and notables—unlocked their good lives.  Maybe their dreams, vision and success will inspire you to accomplish yours.

“I like to cut through the excuses people have for not being healthy. By removing barriers and false assumptions, my patients get real information (that they may or may not like to hear) that I know will help them live a healthy lifestyle.”

-Dr. Gretchen Phillips M.D. FAAFP, Family Physician and Associate Medical Doctor

We want to hear from you!  Tell us what the good life means to you in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. We may share your story in an upcoming post.  Stay tuned for more personal stories and get inspired by others' achievements, so you can better achieve yours. Visit kaptest.com/unlock to see what the good life has in store.   ...read more
July 18, 2013

Kaplan Takes Over Las Vegas

Hello my sweaty (good grief it's hot today) MCAT students! This week I am writing to you from Las Vegas where I am at an annual Kaplan grad conference. This is my first time in attendance, so I'm excited to be sharing this experience with you! This meeting is essentially one of the nerdiest gatherings you will find, since everyone here cares very deeply about test preparation and isn't afraid to talk about it. I have already had so many conversations about the subtleties of organic chemistry, the virtues of computer-based testing as well as the joys of MCAT teaching and I have been here less than 24 hours.
I'll keep you all updated if I learn anything interesting or exciting in the next few days. One of the major topics that I'm nerdily anticipating learning about is the upcoming changes to Kaplan's MCAT classes due to the AAMC's decision to re-vamp the MCAT in 2015. I have been on-board with the content development, but the changes to the actual Kaplan classes are fascinating.
As a teacher, I'm here to answer questions that other people may have about you, my glorious MCAT students! It's inspiring to me to know that so many people in the company care about making a product that suits your needs, helps you do better on the MCAT and overall wants you to have a great experience.
Which leads me to my question today- what would you tell Kaplan that would improve your experience?
Happy studying! ...read more
February 7, 2013

MCAT Re-booted: Study Block Part 1

Following up on last week’s entry on Study Schedules, I want to continue the focus and narrow in on what “study blocks” are and how to best implement them.  Many of you were asking what a typical day in the week would look like. Remember, the focus of re-thinking your MCAT studying is to build consistency over to aid in preventing burnout and producing a happier you! The first question that many students ask is how long they should be studying for.  Right away many say "9, 10 hours? All day even?" I am here to tell you that is simply not the case.  Remember that the goal for total hours studied for an MCAT should be around 300 hours on average. Keeping that in mind, a good number to start at is 6.  Just 6 hours is the max many study in a given day, often less. The important thing to note about these hours is that it is NOT 6 hours in a row.  Ideally, you want to break those 6 hours over 3 different sessions in the day.  Could you study for 6 hours in a row? Yes, absolutely you could, however, we find that students study more efficiently and put in more quality time when they limit a “study block” to only 2 hours.  This allows them to stay focused and work hard during that time frame and then back off and take a break. Below is a list of common daily schedules used by our students. I, once a Kaplan student, used the ‘Early Riser’ Schedule many days during my MCAT studies. This allowed to accumulate a lot of study time that I otherwise would not have found. Early Riser If you can become an early riser and schedule some of your classes for the late morning/ early afternoon you can really utilize your mornings for MCAT study.   This is a very similar schedule to what I personally did in my own MCAT preparation. 8am – Wake and Breakfast 9am – First Study Session 10am – Workout 11am – Second Study Session 12pm – Classes 6pm – Dinner 7pm – Study for Classes 9pm – Rest/ Relax The “Not-a-Morning Person” Schedule Simply put some of us are just not morning people and that is totally OK! With the MCAT offering the 1pm start time on select dates this shouldn't cause any concern.  The trick to not being a morning person is to try and squeeze a study session in between your classes. 11am – Wake and Breakfast 12pm – Classes 2pm – First Study Session 3pm – Classes 6pm – Dinner 7pm – Second Study Session 8pm – Study for Classes 10pm – Workout 11pm – Rest/ Relax The Weekender As you can see in the two sample schedules above I always recommend time for a workout or at least some break that involves physical activity.  This can be the trick for keeping yourself focused and alert during long study days. Remember for most of us we are trying to balance class work with MCAT work! When you fall behind the best thing to do is to use your weekends to catch up! Most importantly you want to use at least one of your weekend days to take a full length exam. 10am – Wake and Breakfast 11am – First Study Session 1pm – Workout/ Lunch 2pm – Second Study Session 4pm – Break/ Errands 5pm – Study Session 7pm – Enjoy your time off. Remember it’s the weekend! Stay tuned! More to come on what goes into those 2 hours of a "study block".  Remember a happier you in #MCATdomination! ...read more
January 28, 2013

MCAT Re-booted: Study Schedule

In part one of “MCAT Re-booted”  I want to cover what is going to make the ideal MCAT study schedule. The AAMC recommends on average 300 total hours to study for the MCAT.  They also have a “Creating a Study Plan” listed on their web-page. With all of this information out there and the rumors that run rampant in the pre-med community on “secrets” of MCAT studying, where does a student go to get the real answer? Well right here of course!

Now how long is 300 hours in reality? You could easily break that into 10 weeks or approximately 2 ½ months of 30 hours of studying a week.  I know what you must being thinking... 30 hours a week?! I already have class, research, clubs, activities, and that long lost social life! How can I possibly fit 30 hours into a week? Well simply put, you can’t and you aren't expected to.  The majority of students start studying well beyond the 2 ½ month mark.  On average students need to think about breaking that time up into somewhere between 3-6 months, depending on their schedule, how many of the pre-med required courses they have already taken, and their confidence in the material.

After getting a rough idea on when to get started, where do we start? Many students have come to me after getting their Kaplan MCAT materials and feel overwhelmed. Don’t fret! You now have the best material for the MCAT and over 11,000 questions to aid in testing your comprehension of all things MCAT. What you need to do first is establish how much time you have during the week and create “study blocks”.

  • First you need to account for the things that take up time in your week. For example:
    • Personal obligations
    • Professional obligations (school, work, Kaplan class, research etc.)
    • Extracurricular (volunteering, clubs, shadowing)
    • Social time with friends and family
    • 1 day/ evening off/ week
Now after you have successfully jotted this down in a notebook or added to your online calendar you will get a better idea of how much time you truly have to study during the week. With the time left (ideally around 10 -15 hours) we are going to create 2-3 hour “study blocks”. This is going to be the time you are going to use to start tackling all those great Kaplan resources. Many people ask, “Only 2-3 hours?! I can study longer than that!” You are right you probably can, however, your assignment this week is to write down your weekly calendar, and in my next post I will answer why only 2-3 hours and what goes into a successful “study block.” Stay tuned! More #MCATdomination coming at you!   ...read more
January 24, 2013

A Tale of Two MCATs: Which Should I Take?

With the major MCAT revision coming up in 2015, many students are starting to ask:  which MCAT should I take?  Is there an advantage to one test versus the other? The short answer is:  it's possible to do either and score extremely well, but you'll have to plan starting today. What's changing in the 2015 MCAT? If you haven't read our other articles about the MCAT 2015 exam, make sure to go back and check them out: What classes will I have to complete before studying for the MCAT? Both the current MCAT and 2015 MCAT will require one year (2-semester sequence) of physics, general chemistry, biology and organic chemistry (8 classes total).  The 2015 MCAT will also require one semester of introductory psychology, sociology, and biochemistry (11 classes total).  All prerequisites for the current MCAT could be completed in two years (taking biology simultaneously with general chemistry one year, and organic chemistry simultaneously with physics the second year).  Thus, even if you're currently a freshman, you could complete the requirements and take the current MCAT during the summer after your sophomore year (Summer/Fall 2014).  However, if you are not positive that you'll be able to complete these requirements in this time (that is, after all, a very rigorous courseload!), it behooves you to take behavioral sciences (psychology and sociology) during the first two years of undergrad as well. The two word clouds above are created from AAMC's own content lists for the current and 2015 MCAT.  Click on the image to see a larger version! Will there be any difference in applying with an "old" MCAT score or "new" one? We do not anticipate this being an issue for the student.  It is not 100% clear yet what schools are planning to do with current MCAT scores versus MCAT 2015 scores (this was a hot topic of debate in a few of the sessions at this year's AAMC meeting), but schools were keenly aware that they'll be looking at scores from both forms of the test -- sometimes even from the same student! According to their website, AAMC's score-reporting service will release pre-2015 MCAT scores until 2017 or 2018.  Further, "The AAMC is currently developing new materials, specific to the interests and needs of medical school admissions committees. These will provide detailed information about the scoring of the new exam, the confidence bands that are associated with them, and what test scores are and are not designed to tell them in a holistic admissions process" [1].  In other words, AAMC and admissions committees are already figuring out the fairest way to score and interpret the new MCAT next to the current one. What are the pros and cons of each? In making your scheduling decisions, consider each of the following: Current MCAT
  • Shorter in length (3 hours, 20 minutes required testing time + 45-minute trial section).
  • Fewer pre-requisite classes (8 total).  No psychology, sociology or biochemistry.
  • Compared to 2015 MCAT, has a higher proportion of:
    • Organic chemistry questions (about 20-25% of Biological Sciences section).
    • Physics questions (50% of Physical Sciences section).
    • General chemistry questions (50% of Physical Sciences section).
  • Each question individually may have a large impact on score.
2015 MCAT
  • Longer in length (6 hours, 15 minutes required testing time).
  • More pre-requisite classes (11 total).
  • Compared to current MCAT, has a lower proportion of:
    • Organic chemistry questions (about 15% of Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section).
    • Physics questions (about 25% of Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section).
    • General chemistry questions (about 33% of Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section).
  • Each question individually has a smaller effect on score; more questions can be answered incorrectly without hurting score.
Can I just check out what each test will look like? Absolutely!  In addition to checking out AAMC's website, come to a Kaplan Practice Test (available online, or at a school near you through the month of February) to see the style of the current exam, or check our 2015 MCAT-style Mini-Test online. Regardless of the version you choose to take, start planning out your academic schedule now.  You don't want any surprises down the line!  And rest assured, regardless of version you choose, Kaplan is here to help you get the top score you're looking for.  How are you choosing which test to take? ...read more
December 25, 2012

Happy Holiday Season!

On behalf of the Kaplan MCAT Team, we want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season.  With Santa come and gone, we want to share with you what came for Christmas this year.  We know you have all been good pre-meds and were hoping for no coal in your stockings! So here is our top 5 list! 5) Anatomy Coloring Book

4) Coffee

3) Book: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

2) Fake Skeleton

1) Kaplan MCAT Flashcards Mobile

...read more
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