Applying to Med School
April 24, 2013

5 Days Until Med School Insider 2013!

Kaplan Test Prep will host our fourth annual Medical School Insider on 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! A sneak peak from one of the questions last year:

What's the best way to be a premed? 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? more
Tests & Scores
August 7, 2012

The MCAT Summer Games

With the London Summer Games upon us, the whole world is tuning in to watch the athletes that have spent years preparing and rehearsing for their particular sporting events. There are a lot of things to take away from London Games’ athletes, particularly their hard work and dedication to following their dreams.  Just like studying for the MCAT there are long hard training days where self-doubt can creep in! So what can we learn from these elite athletes? Physical Sciences –This is the first section of the MCAT and one that most pre-med students need to spend a significant amount of time brushing up on.  For some it has been a while since taking General Chemistry freshman year and Physics is a tough subject regardless.  The equations and the concepts may take a little while to get down, but the reward is starting off your MCAT with a great score. Just like GYMNASTICS of the summer games, repetition, repetition, and more repetition will make perfect here! The more practice problems the better! Verbal Reasoning – The second section of the MCAT is one that fills many students with fear. The timing on the verbal is tight and every last second is going to count.  Since starting to practice for verbal is often thought of as ‘jumping into the deep end’ students can take a lot away from SWIMMING.  In swimming again practice is going to make perfect but more importantly the timing is going to be key. If you don’t have the timing you won’t be in the fast lane! Writing Sample – The third section of the MCAT is the most creative section of the exam.  The biggest fear of students is what to write about!  Student can learn a lot from WRESTLING.  Just as in wrestling, the athletes don’t know what their opponent can throw at them; students don’t know what the writing prompt is going to be.  But wrestlers have pre-thought take down moves to get them to the gold, just as students have their pre-thought examples. The best thing students can do to prepare for this section is to think of pre-thought examples to write that can be applied to various prompts. Biological Sciences – The last section of the MCAT is where many students’ energy levels start to wane and endurance can become an issue.  Here students can learn a big lesson from TRACK and FIELD.  Again simply knowing your information is not enough here, you need to be sure to take as many full lengths as possible to build that endurance to be as fresh as possible in the final section.  Just as track athletes spend countless hours leaping and bounding around the track, students need to take those practice tests! No matter what section is giving you self-doubt, remember there is always a solution! Reach for the gold and get the MCAT score you desire! more
Tests & Scores
February 20, 2012

How to build the Ideal MCAT Study Schedule, Part 3

In our last two articles, we’ve introduced several tips and schedules to help you find study time in your packed premed schedule. Now, in our final entry of the Ideal MCAT Study Schedule series we are going to discuss the best way to approach your study materials to get the most out of those precious study sessions. Looking back on the sample schedules we discussed last time, you should note that we are trying to get in at least 20 hours of studying a week; at some point during those 20 hours, you should try to fit in at least: Now, I know that later in their courses a lot of students feel relatively comfortable with the science content on the MCAT, but become frustrated when their practice test scores seem to plateau. The key to improving on the MCAT is figuring out your greatest areas of opportunity – that is, the things you can study that will result in the biggest increase in points by test day. Tellingly, these areas of opportunity aren’t always specific subjects that need to be reviewed, but are often test taking skills or strategies that need to be addressed before you can move forward. One solution to this problem is to build the WHY I MISSED IT CHART; here’s an example of a template:
TEST Q# Passage/ Discrete Subject Topic Why I missed it?
For each question you miss, you’ll want to fill in the appropriate information on a chart similar to the one above. The goal is to focus on the items that reoccur time and time again in the last three columns; what are the mistakes that you keep making that are leading you to miss a large number of points. In my experience I’ve found that the better a student fills out this chart, the more they get out of the exercise. For example:
  • TEST – For this column just fill in which topical/ section/ or full length test you are working on so that you can keep track of your progress.
  • Q# - The question number of that specific test so you can look it up later.
  • Passage/ Discrete – Was this a discrete question or was it associated with a passage?
  • Subject – Some people like to fill this in different ways. I have found the best way to do this is to make your subjects just Physics/ General Chemistry/ Verbal/ Organic Chemistry/ Biology, although splitting it by section (Physical Sciences/Verbal Reasoning/Biological Sciences) may also be appropriate.
  • Topic – Was this an electrochemistry question, or thermodynamics? Filling in topic allows you to identify the specific topics of a subject you don’t know as well as you should. I find the best approach is to go back to the Review Notes and organize your topics by chapter and relevance to the MCAT, then study accordingly.
  • Why I missed it? – This is the KEY to making the whole chart. You need to honestly ask yourself why you are missing a specific question. Are you missing it because you don’t know the concept? Did you misread the question? Did you simply make a calculation error? Did you not understand what you read in the passage?
USAGE The point behind this entire exercise is to concentrate on efficiency. While it may take you only a ½ hour or so to complete a Topical Test, it should take you almost double the time to go back and review your mistakes (this will be even more apparent in full-length exams). By the end of that time you should be able to fully UNDERSTAND and CONCEPTUALIZE the questions that you missed, and that’s the first step towards a better score on the MCAT.  Happy Studies! more
Tests & Scores
February 16, 2012

How to build the Ideal MCAT Study Schedule, Part 2

In my last post we discussed several tips for making the most of the limited study time that you have available as a premed. Now, in Part 2 of our series on the Ideal MCAT Study Schedule we’ll take a look at three different types of premeds and how each can properly utilize a day to get the most out of their studying. One quick note before we get started: you will notice in reading these I really make a point of taking active breaks. It is important to only study for a max of around 2-3 hours, unless you are taking a full length examination; doing so will help fight burnout and avoid fatigue, which can ultimately hurt your ability to remember what you’ve studied. Student #1: The Early Riser If you’re an early riser and can schedule some of your courses 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, and it was highly effective. 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 Student #2: The “Not-a-Morning Person” Schedule Simply put, some of us are just not morning people – and that is totally OK! With the MCAT offered in the afternoon on select dates, an inability to function in the morning shouldn’t cause any concern. The trick to not being a morning person is to try and squeeze a study session in between your other 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 You may have noticed in the two sample schedules above that 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, as well as for managing the stress that goes along with an exam like the MCAT. Student #3: The Weekender No matter how efficient we are with our time, the fact is most of us are trying to balance studying for the MCAT with studying for our usual undergrad courses! If and when you fall behind, the best thing to do is to use your weekends to get caught up as quickly as possible. This might mean slipping in an extra study session on the weekend, or maybe just not spending quite as much time relaxing as you normally might. Most importantly however, as you get closer to test day you’ll want to use at least one of your weekend days to take a full length practice exam, which lasts a full 5 hours. Here’s an example of a typical weekend study day without a full-length test. 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! So there you have it! No matter what your schedule is like, it’s possible to squeeze in several study sessions each day, all of which count towards your total MCAT preparedness. In our final entry of the series we are going to look at how to use the different aspects of the Kaplan course resources to ensure that we are making the most of these sessions by studying as efficiently as possible. Remember unless it is helping you score more points on the MCAT, you shouldn’t be focusing on it! more
Tests & Scores
February 13, 2012

How to build the Ideal MCAT Study Schedule, Part 1

I often get questions from my students about how to effectively schedule studying for the MCAT. With so many other drains on your time, trying to squeeze in 300+ additional hours of studying can seem like a daunting task, and it’s with that in mind that I would like to introduce this first entry in a three-part series dedicated to helping you build the “Ideal” Study Schedule. While the notion of an “ideal” schedule will certainly change from person to person, there are a few constants that you’ll need to keep in mind. In our initial discussion I’d like to look at what factors you’ll want to consider when building the best MCAT Study Schedule possible. The spring semester is already in full swing, and midterms are going to be here before anyone has the chance to remember who Hardy Weinberg was. With daily responsibilities and stresses mounting, it is important to build a study schedule that is going to help you to study more efficiently, not just more. While initially crafting your schedule, there are several important things to remember:
  • Study every day, even if only for a short period of time. If you can make time to study for 45 minutes twice a day, that will add up to 10.5 hours of studying a week! By making it a habit to study everyday you won’t have to put those study marathons in over the weekend that can quickly burn you out.
  • Utilize your time between classes. While everyone tries to craft the perfect class schedule each semester, there are always breaks between classes where time usually goes to waste. Instead of catching up on your Netflix account or mindlessly creeping on Facebook, try and use your half hour break to go through some flashcards. This is a great tool to get a lot of high yield content down quickly.
  • Get out of bed, and study earlier in the day! Despite what your roommate says, your brain functions better in the morning than at night after a long day of labs and classes.
  • As much as possible try and establish a normal daily schedule. Many of us have romanticized the notion of pulling the all-nighter and still getting the A on that organic chemistry test, but the fact is that approach simply cannot be done for the MCAT and certainly will lead to burnout. Establishing a daily schedule may be boring, but it will help keep you on a path to success.
  • Find a good environment to study in. Even though your apartment or your dorm room has all of the luxuries of home, this can be a very distracting environment. After you establish your schedule, part of keeping that schedule is finding a positive place to study. Examples of this can be the library, an empty classroom, or a quiet part of the student union, but the important thing is to find an environment that’s conducive to focus.
While these are all important things to consider when creating any study plan, the main thing to think about while considering your own is to find what works for you! Everyone studies in their own unique way and you need to experiment to find out what can keep you efficient as possible. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll introduce you to three different typical pre-medical students, and show you how each can create a study schedule that meets their needs. more

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