May 2, 2012

Kaplan’s Medical School Insider Provides a Peek Behind the Curtain of Medical School Admissions

Every premed student has questions about getting into medical school; from the personal statement to the interview, the admissions process can seem like a daunting and confusing endeavor. Compounding the problem is the fact that nearly everyone you’ll speak to seems to have their own opinion on the best approach to take – one person might suggest listing certain experiences on your application, while another will say the complete opposite! Much of this advice is anecdotal and may not apply to your situation – you aren’t the same person as the friend of your cousin’s wife, so you shouldn’t necessarily take the same approach to applying that she did just because she was accepted. In the end, the only opinions that really matter are those of the admissions committees; after all, they’re the ones that decide whether you’ll be accepted or not. Unfortunately, opportunities to pick the brain of a Dean of Admissions are few and far between. In an effort to shed some light on what admissions committees think about when reviewing your applications, Kaplan Test Prep will once again be hosting its annual Medical School Insider event on Monday, May 7th. In this 2-hour live, online discussion a panel of experts from a variety of backgrounds in medical school admissions will convene to discuss the application process and answer students’ questions about getting into medical school. This year’s panel includes:
  • Dr. David Jones, Senior Associate Dean of Admissions, University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio
  • Dr. Darrin Latimore, Assistant Dean of Medical and Resident Diversity, University of California, Davis, School of Medicine
  • Susan Hanson, Executive Director of Admissions, Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Gina Moses, Associate Director of Application Services and Recruitment, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Dr. Danielle Salovich, National President, American Medical Student Association
  • Ellen Watts, Assistant Dean for Pre-Health Advising, Fordham University
Throughout the event the panelists will discuss the different facets of the medical school admissions process; moreover, during the discussion the panel will examine and dissect actual medical school applications to demonstrate how the different pieces work together to shape the committee’s view of the applicant. It’s a rare opportunity to see the types of conversations that will take place when your own application is reviewed. More than anything, however, Medical School Insider is a chance for students to get all of their questions answered, and with the 2013 application cycle starting soon it represents a chance to change your application for the better. Students are encouraged to submit questions for the panelists both before the event and during the broadcast, and selected comments and questions will be answered live on the air. At the same time, Kaplan MCAT experts will be leading a side discussion of the event on both Twitter and Facebook as they help students understand how the information shared by the panel affects their individual case. In the end, Medical School Insider should once again prove to be an exciting and informative event for all involved. To learn more about the event or the panelists - or to reserve your seat for the live broadcast - please visit KaplanMCAT.com/medinsider. We hope to see you there! ...read more
Tests & Scores
April 23, 2012

Effective Studying: Relating MCAT Science to Everyday Things

Time and time again I get asked “Patrick, I feel like I am drowning! There are so many science concepts to remember on the MCAT. Do you have any tips to keep it all straight?!” And my answer is simple; all one needs to do is to relate it to an example in everyday life. Rote memorization has its time and place in studying, but the MCAT rewards the student who is able to go above and beyond to UNDERSTAND the concept in all its intricacies. With this in mind I often push my students to think of common examples, so that in the worst case scenario - if you forget what you memorized - you still understand WHY relationships are the way they are. Let’s take for example the ideal gas law. Every pre-med is required to take General Chemistry and you can bet that in that time you memorized PV=nRT. Charles’ Law, Boyle’s Law, direct relationships, and indirect relationships… so many things to remember and with just memorization it is very easy to forget or mixed up. Boyle’s Law (which I myself even mixed up once on an exam, believe it or not!) is defined when temperature is held constant under a closed system. Think about the diaphragm of the body as an example: the temperature of the human body is relatively constant at 37 degrees Celsius, and when a person is breathing they contract their diaphragm so as to expand the volume of the lungs. Using the ideal gas law, we know that when the volume increases the pressure is going to decrease. This causes a negative pressure breathing mechanism that allows the oxygen rich air to flood into the lungs. By simply relating Boyle’s Law to a familiar system like the diaphragm, we’ve created a key example that will help us remember the ideal gas law in a conceptual manner, similar to the way the MCAT is going to test it! Struggling with Charles’ Law instead? Looking back at the ideal gas law we see that pressure and temperature are going to have a direct relationship. Now how do we apply Charles’ Law to a common example? How about a soda bottle? When it is cold out there is very little pressure released when the bottle is opened. However, when it is warm outside the pressure inside the bottle builds up and causes soda to squirt out. Sometimes if it gets hot enough the warm soda can explode out of the bottle on its own! (If you’re wondering why a soda would explode in the freezer given what we’ve just covered, remember that the solid phase of water is less dense than it’s liquid phase and you’re halfway to answering your own question!) In the end, the MCAT is a critical thinking test. After taking all of your pre-med courses you might be inclined to think of the test as a 10 semester final examination, and in some ways it is. However, the format of the MCAT is very different than any other test administered during your undergraduate career – it’s doesn’t ask you to simply regurgitate your science knowledge, but instead to apply it. Memorizing key science concepts will only get you so far; by relating scientific concepts to everyday situations you are more likely to remember the material in a conceptual way, and are already one step closer to applying it to similar situations you could see on the MCAT! Happy Studies! ...read more
April 17, 2012

From the MCAT to Harvard Medical School: Dr. Ricky Grisson’s Journey

Oftentimes, we are asked about the performance of our past MCAT students; how they did on the test, where they went for medical school, and where they are today. Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with one of our many amazing Kaplan MCAT course alumni, Dr. Ricky Grisson, about where his journey in medicine has taken him and the role that Kaplan played along the way.  1. What was your reaction to taking the MCAT for the first time? Wow! I was surprised by the difficulty and really disappointed in myself. I performed poorly and felt really terrible about my hopes of becoming a physician. I was doing well in school, as an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University, but I did not feel prepared at all to take the MCAT! 2. What do you think it about the MCAT that makes it so challenging for premeds? The MCAT is a very unique test—from the passage-based format to the types of questions it poses. The MCAT tests more than just factual scientific information that premeds learn in college. I'm sure that many students who take the MCAT without using some sort of prep course wind-up feeling as disappointed about their outcomes as I did about mine. 3. How do you think the Kaplan MCAT course helped you prepare for the test? After having my dreams crushed by the MCAT, Kaplan really helped restore my confidence.  A large part of me still believed that I could become a physician, but I needed guidance and support­­—Kaplan provided it. Kaplan gave me strategies to deal with difficult questions and passages that make the MCAT so challenging. Finally, Kaplan also helped me focus on the science topics that I needed to know to ace the MCAT. 4. What area of medicine were you most interested in as a medical student and how did you pursue your interest? As a medical student, I was most interested in infectious diseases.  After starting Harvard Medical School and studying at the Pasteur Institute in France to gain further experience, I helped develop HIV vaccine candidates. These research experiences motivated me to travel to South Africa, where I helped develop a curriculum to train clinicians to treat HIV. 5. Do you have any last advice for premeds? Take advantage of every opportunity that you are given. By taking advantage of opportunities when they were presented to me, I have been able to travel around the world in my quest to understand and help reduce the impact of HIV. After taking my first MCAT, I could have given up on my dreams.  Instead, I looked for ways to enhance my MCAT preparation and found the Kaplan prep course. Sometimes you aren't given a second chance, so don't pass up potentially life-changing experiences and opportunities! Now that you've read about where Dr. Ricky Grisson took himself, we'd like to hear from you! Where will you take yourself? Tell us what lies in your future, what your ambitions are, how you're going to leave your mark on this world. In short, tell us what and who you're going to be. We want to hear the story of the “future you”—in 120 characters or less—and give you the chance to win cash and a free Kaplan course. Click here to enter. ...read more
Your Future
April 16, 2012

MCAT Practice Tests: Learning from your mistakes

Every Monday morning during the months of September through December, professional football players gather at their respective team’s facilities tired, weary, and groggy from the previous day’s game. They spread out based on their positions and assemble in dark rooms where video projectors display game film while position coaches break down the plays screen-by-screen. The players hate this. They just finished playing barely 24 hours ago. The last thing they want to do is watch the game again. If they won, they want to storm the practice field and keep up their positive momentum. If they lost, they want to charge the practice field and play until they get the sour taste of defeat out of their mouth. There are many reasons, however, why they all still gather to dissect the action from the last game. Athletes want to improve. They know that in a competitive environment they constantly have to analyze their past performance in order to ensure that their future performance will be up to par. It’s for this same reason that a structured analysis of practice test performance is essential to improving your MCAT score. No one looks forward to this part of test prep; personally, I hate it. I already have my practice test score, so I can move on, right? If I improved, then great, I’ll just keep doing what I was doing. If I haven’t improved, then I’ll just study harder. That notion is where the problem lies; the MCAT is all about studying smarter, not harder. By reviewing your practice exams and section tests, you’ll be able to see areas where you make consistent mistakes. For example, each time a question requires no information from the passage, do you pick an answer choice that has information from the passage but is not relevant to the question being asked? If so, then you’re falling for the ‘faulty use of detail’ answer choice – it’s tempting because it contains something you’ve seen from the passage, but it doesn’t answer the question you’re being asked. You can study the science as much as you like, but if you make this strategy mistake again and again your score will never improve. No amount of additional test-taking or chapter reading will uncover this behavior, but a close look at the practice tests will illuminate this bad habit quickly. To help this process along, we’ve provided Kaplan MCAT students with our adaptive learning technology called Smart Reports. The system automatically generates a report after every practice test; strengths and weaknesses are reported, along with useful data such as the number of questions changed from incorrect-to-correct, correct-to-incorrect, and incorrect-to-incorrect. I have taught plenty of students who swore that they always changed the right answer to the wrong answer, but once they looked at the Smart Report data, they saw that it was actually pretty close in terms of how many incorrect they changed to correct versus how many correct they changed to incorrect. Knowing this information helps you adjust your test-taking habits, thereby making you more confident for the real exam. While this is just a single example of the way that post-test analysis can help you improve, it’s an important point to remember as you get ready for test day. Acing the MCAT is about more than just learning the science that will be on the test – it’s about recognizing your mistakes and learning from them. Once you’re armed with this information, you’ll start to understand questions that used to be your Achilles heel. You’re now thinking like a test-maker and not a test-taker, which is a powerful transformation during your quest to master the MCAT! ...read more

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