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 25, 2014

What is Changing on the MCAT 2015?

[caption id="attachment_1534" align="alignright" width="313"] New topics and areas of study will be covered on the MCAT 2015[/caption] If medical school is in your near future, you probably know that, as of April 2015, there’s a new MCAT in town, appropriately termed MCAT 2015 to differentiate it from the current exam. While much of the popular conversation has centered around the new content areas of biochemistry, psychology, and sociology, we think it's important to understand not just how the MCAT is changing in 2015, but why the MCAT is changing, and why now.

Why is the MCAT changing?

Science and medicine have advanced at an exponential rate in the past 23 years, and so has medical education, but the MCAT has not kept pace since its last update in 1992. The new MCAT is designed to resolve this discrepancy and help address and improve the preparedness of future medical students. While the new subject areas will add a significant amount of prerequisite content knowledge, the new MCAT structure will also more accurately evaluate a student’s ability to apply this content.

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)

This section, much like the current MCAT's Verbal Reasoning section, will test no prior knowledge. In fact, none of the passages will contain any hard science. The topics will be limited to the humanities and social sciences. They will explicitly test a student's ability to reason.

Application of the sciences on the new MCAT

The other three sections on the MCAT—Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior—will test students in the content of biological and living systems. Gone are the questions requiring you to calculate how far a ball is going to travel when thrown at a certain initial velocity and angle; here to stay are the questions that ask how much force must be generated by the muscle doing the throwing.

Is organic chemistry really gone?

While organic chemistry is the bane of many a pre-med’s existence, it is the backbone of biochemistry (literally and figuratively), and it is still going to be a content area students must know in order to do well on the MCAT. The buzz about organic chemistry has to do with the direct amount of explicit questions on the new MCAT. While there will be fewer of these, the test will still emphasize the biological application of organic chemistry.

The human element of medicine and medical school

Our current pre-medical curriculum places almost zero importance on the human element of medicine. Sure doctors know a lot about science and the human body, but they also interact with patients, who are humans with emotions and backstories. For this reason, psychology and sociology will be introduced on the new MCAT to help students better understand and heal their future patients. No transition comes without its challenges, but the new MCAT 2015 is an overall win for the future of medicine. With students entering medical school with a stronger biology, biochemistry, psychology, and sociology background, schools can place greater emphasis on teaching the art of medicine. Tell us which MCAT 2015 topics you’d like to see covered on Kaplan’s Med School Pulse by commenting below.  For more insider news on the future of medicine, getting into medical school, and the MCAT, register for our monthly, online pre-med series: The Pulse. ...read more
Applying to Med School
April 29, 2013

Medical School Insider is here!

Kaplan Test Prep will host our fourth annual Medical School Insider tonight, Monday, April 29th at 8pm ET.  This is our biggest event of the year for pre-meds and you absolutely don’t want to miss it! The insights revealed at #medInsider are incredible, they’ll really change the way you look at the admissions process!  Be sure to mark your calendar now for this year’s live streaming event. Save your spot by clicking here now!  

Medical School Insider

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydIZYCYugog&list=UUwZ7x4y5NY7tz-yEyz9gr4g&index=4 ...read more
April 1, 2013

Correcting a Common MCAT Misconception

One of the questions I get asked most frequently as a teacher is, “Exactly what questions will I see on my test?”  If I knew the answer to that question, I would be making tons of money setting everyone up with their personalized MCAT answers. Although I can’t tell anyone exactly which questions they will be answering on Test Day, I do want to help out all of my intrepid MCAT studiers today and correct a common MCAT misconception.

Misconception: When I take my test, all of the material will be 100% familiar

Here’s the deal- yes, you have been studying for hundreds of hours. You have completed dozens of practice tests and successfully conquered countless numbers of MCAT passages. You are extremely well-prepared. However, the AAMC realizes that students prepare for the test and thus include passages with experimental set-ups that you have never seen. There is a critical thinking component to the MCAT, and the AAMC likes to keep test-takers on their toes.

So, if you get to your test and see something totally new, that’s okay! You’re not expected to have previously seen every inch of the test. Your job is to get out the relevant information from the passages and work on correctly answering the questions.

The most important thing you can do when you get to an unfamiliar passage, is to not panic. I repeat, don’t panic! If you think a passage looks difficult or unfamiliar, chances are that everyone else is struggling with the same passage. If you see an extremely complicated experimental set-up, they are really asking about concepts you know. I have seen ridiculous looking MCAT passages that are essentially asking about flow of electrons or F=ma.

When you’re taking your test, expect the unexpected and know that you’re well-prepared. Use that confidence to propel you through even the trickiest-looking MCAT passages.

  ...read more
November 13, 2012

The 2015 MCAT – Thoughts and Statistics

Last week Alex wrote about the The Big Buzz behind the 2015 MCAT changes.  Check out his post for more information on the new format and content which is also being highlighted in the Preview Guide for the 2015 MCAT Exam.
With all of this new information Kaplan surveyed medical school admissions officers to see what they thought about the revamped MCAT set to launch in 2015.  The new MCAT has the support of the medical education community.  Nearly 9 out of 10 (87%) medical school admissions officers support the changes to the MCAT, while only 1% don’t support the changes; 12% aren’t sure.   Similarly, 74% of admissions officers say the 2015 MCAT will better prepare aspiring doctors for medical school; just 5% say it won’t; and 21% aren’t sure of what its effects will mean. While the medical school admissions officers think the 2015 MCAT will produce stronger medical students, many also believe the road to medical school may become more intense for pre-meds.  40% say that pre-meds’ course loads will increase because of the additional content they will have to learn as undergrads; 46% say their course loads will stay at their current levels; and 15% aren’t sure.  No admissions officers say pre-meds’ course loads will become easier.  Many pre-med programs have already revised their curricula or are in the process of doing so to ensure that students – particularly freshmen and sophomores – are prepared to tackle the exam’s new content come 2015.
Other key results from Kaplan’s 2012 survey of medical school admissions officers:
  • MCAT’s Importance Increases: 51% of medical school admissions officers say an applicant’s MCAT score is the most important admissions factor – up from 43% in 2011’s survey; an applicant’s undergraduate GPA placed second at 23%, followed by relevant experience at 14%; the interview at 6%, letters of recommendation at 4%; and personal statement at 3%.
  • The Interview Process: 76% of medical schools say they use the traditional interview process – where applicants meet face-to-face with just a few officials for lengthier periods of time – down from 82% in Kaplan’s 2011 survey.  17% say they use the newer Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) process, where applicants are interviewed and assessed by many officials for shorter periods of time – only 6% said they used this process in Kaplan’s 2011 survey.
  In 2012, more than 45,000 aspiring doctors applied to medical school, a 3.1% increase over 2011. As always we will continue to preparing students for success.     * For the 2012 survey, 75 medical school admissions officers from the 141 Association of American Medical Colleges across the United States were polled by telephone between August and September 2012.
...read more
Tests & Scores
July 2, 2012

Changing the MCAT Test Date

In my MCAT prep courses, I have been getting a common question from many of my students. “When is it appropriate to change your MCAT test date?”  Now there are many factors to consider in this decision and it is not something to take lightly, but first to get the facts straight from the AAMC policy on changing the MCAT test dates.  Yes, you are allowed to change your testing date, provided there is an open spot on the date you are newly considering.  You will be charged a $70 fee when changing your testing date and center.  If you change the testing date and center at different times you will be charged $140.   If you want to cancel your MCAT test date to wait for the next calendar year, you are able to do that as well, for a partial refund, as long as it is 14 days before the exam.  The full information can be found on the AAMC website. Now that we understand the policy on changing the testing dates, when would it be an appropriate time to do so?
  • You are rushed.  That study plan that you originally laid out at the beginning of your Kaplan course never quite came through the way you thought it would.  At this point in the game you are cramming everything in and you are beginning to have vivid dreams of Organic Chemistry monsters swallowing you up, and mysterious physics equations that just can’t quite be remembered.
  • Your scores aren’t where you would like them to be.  We highly recommend for student to take AT LEAST 8-10 full length examinations.  This number allows for you the student to have an honest representation of how you are going to score on the real thing.  You must have a larger sample size, i.e. more tests, to have an honest representation of your average score. Everyone has good days and bad.  There is no sense in taking the test if you are not scoring in the range you need to get into the schools you want.
  • Life throws a curveball.  Whatever the case there may be things that can happen where it might not be the best time in your personal life to take your MCAT exam.  If you are having extenuating circumstances that are preventing you from giving your full focus to your academics it might be best to post-pone your test so that you will be able to meet your full potential.
In summary, the MCAT takes approximately 300 hours to study for.  Ideally we want our students to spread their study out over 12-14 weeks so that the time you are studying is less anxiety inducing and you are able to focus on the task at hand.  Simply, never go into an MCAT under-prepared, not scoring where you need to be for your target schools, or at a time when your personal life might be distracting you from giving your full focus to the exam.  If you have any questions please remember to reach out to us on the Kaplan MCAT Facebook page or our twitter account @KaplanMCATprep Happy Studies! Pat ...read more
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

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