October 21, 2014

Why do I have to take the MCAT?

Hello my hard-working readers! Today I want to address a question that I hear frequently from my students and even more frequently from my classmates: Why do I have to take this standardized test? My students are complaining about having to take the MCAT and my classmates are complaining about the USMLE, or Step 1, as it's commonly known. It's popular to bash on standardized tests, but today I'd like to talk about why they're actually awesome!  

1. They're standardized

Your GPA can vary greatly depending on your school, your schedule, and the difficulty of your classes. That makes it difficult to accurately assess the validity of your GPA and use that to compare students across hundreds of schools. The MCAT, on the other hand, is completely uniform. It's designed to be representative of your ability regardless of undergrad institution. Medical school admissions can use your MCAT score independently to compare you to other students. That's super! If you had a bad semester that pulled down your GPA, that deficit can be partly made up by an awesome score on the MCAT. The same is true of the USMLE; residency programs know what your boards score means. It is completely independent of your school performance and can be used to set you apart from the pack of applicants. Turns out that most medical school students are smart, overachievers. It's nice to have a number to help separate yourself and stand out.  

2. You can study for them

There are tons of ways to prepare to take the MCAT and the USMLE, including great options such as Kaplan classes, tutoring, and books. There are practice tests, review materials and hundreds of available passages and questions that cover all the material that you're likely to see on your exam. So unlike your undergrad or medical school classes, where it's up to the professor what questions and material is on the exam, on standardized tests, there are specific topics that have to be covered and in a certain predictable proportion. With the addition of three new subjects to the MCAT 2015 test, Kaplan has created the only course that provides prep specifically for this new material: MCAT Foundations. [embed]http://youtu.be/3TDIrCB49wM[/embed]  

3. Your initial score doesn't determine your final score

During your undergrad classes, if you bomb your first exam, it can pull down your grade for the semester. That's not true on the MCAT! While it can be incredibly defeating to take a MCAT practice test or your Kaplan MCAT diagnostic exam and score in the single digits, your initial score does not determine your success on Test Day. The reason that all of these resources exist in the first place is that is definitely possible to study for and increase your score on any standardized test! I have seen students go from a 4 to a 28. I have had students who struggle with Verbal Reasoning email me when they get their scores back to tell me about their 12 on the VR section. You just have to make sure to invest enough time and effort into studying. With the help of the right resources and guidance, you can absolutely increase your score. This is wonderful news for you the test-taker!  

4. You have a clearly defined goal

Sometimes over the course of a semester-long class, you lose sight of your overall learning goals for the class. Instead it becomes a death march to finishing the semester and escaping with best grade you can reasonably achieve. Turns out that this feeling doesn't end when you're in medical school. My class is currently limping towards the end of our Neuro block after a particularly vicious third exam. Every now and then, it's hard to remember why you're learning the material. Having a numbered score to strive for can be very motivating. Each question that you get right moves you towards your 37 (or your 268 on the USMLE). You always have a goal in mind and you can lay out practical steps to achieve that goal.  

5. Taking the MCAT prepares you to take the USMLE

The Verbal Reasoning section of the MCAT is the most strongly correlated with your USMLE scores. If you learn the skills needed to succeed on the MCAT, those same skills will be used again when you kick butt on the USMLE! Plus, there are many ways that studying for the MCAT benefits you as a med student. You might as well get started on your medical school success now! With those facts in mind, happy studying! If you took the MCAT right now, how would you score? Find out with a free Kaplan MCAT practice test! You will not only get an idea of how you’d score on the exam, but you’ll also receive a full breakdown of your strongest areas, and those in which you need more practice. ...read more
October 20, 2014

Fast Facts to Help You Target Your Ideal MCAT Score

[caption id="attachment_1673" align="alignright" width="171"] Want to aim for a good MCAT score? Check out these fast facts![/caption]

With autumn comes the white coat ceremony

When autumn arrives, so do lots of people’s favorite things—football season, pumpkin-flavored everything, crisp weather that makes you want to cozy up to a mug of hot chocolate. On medical school campuses across the country, autumn also brings with it the white coat ceremony—that time-honored tradition in which family and friends gather to watch you don the symbolic garment of the medical field and the singular identifier of you as a fledgling student doctor: the short white lab coat. After three months of constant wear in your third year, you'll likely grow tired of the thing, but wearing that white coat for the first time at the ceremony is a feeling you’ll never forget. If you are just deciding to apply to medical school, the white coat ceremony may seem a long way away, but—believe it or not—you, too, are well on your way to receiving your own white coat. The process of getting into medical school inevitably leads you to the MCAT and all of its mysteries: how long is the MCAT, when should you take the MCAT, what do you need to do to prepare for the MCAT, and, finally, what is a good MCAT score to shoot for? No need to get overwhelmed. It’s easy to start breaking down the process into digestible parts. Start with these fast facts about MCAT scores so you can secure a good one!  

1. The average MCAT score is rising for students getting into medical school

I can't tell you how many attending physicians I've worked with who all say the same thing (though hopefully not in front of patients): "I'm not sure I could even get into medical school if I were applying today." Generally, this is a hyperbolic statement, but it carries some truth: the average MCAT score of those getting into medical school is on the rise. According to the AAMC, the average MCAT score of those matriculating as an M1 is a 31, while the average MCAT score of those applying is 29. You do the math. Sure, some applicants with a score 29 are getting into medical school, but the majority of matriculants have a slightly higher MCAT score. On the one hand, this is good news. Now you have a realistic and tangible goal to work towards. On the other hand, the fact that the average score of those just taking the test is down around 26 means that there are a lot of MCAT test-takers out there who end up not even applying. Could insufficient prep be one possible reason for the attrition?  

2. Securing a good MCAT score requires serious prep—about 350 hours’ worth

Another interesting fast fact: the recommended number of study prep hours for the MCAT is 350. That's over 14 full days—or two weeks—straight through, not factoring in the necessary breaks for eating, sleeping, and otherwise being a normal person. Phew. That’s a daunting task to undertake—too daunting for many. Which is why many people end up taking the MCAT after insufficient—or unstructured—prep, scoring poorly, and consequently not applying. Luckily, Kaplan has a proven track record of providing students with excellent MCAT test prep. With 350 study hours to fill, it's easy to see how you could get overwhelmed, or even lost. The beauty of the classes Kaplan offers are in their structure: the schedules are designed to make every minute of your MCAT test prep count. From in-class sessions to full-length practice tests, the hours add up quickly, and in the end you'll be grateful for putting in the extra time to score well on the MCAT.  

3. Practice makes perfect

In no way does this statement become more evident than when preparing for a big test like the MCAT. The best way to simulate Test Day is to take practice tests. You can't know how far you've come without knowing where you started. Take the first step by registering for one of our free MCAT practice tests to see how you’d do right now if you were going into the exam today. After taking the test, you’ll get:
  1. A detailed score report: We’ll figure out what kind of test-taker you are and let you know your strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Complete explanations to every question: We’ll show you what mistakes you made and how to guard against them in the future.
  3. Strategies for improvement: We’ll give you ideas for raising that MCAT score!
Sign up today to get started on the path toward your own white coat ceremony some future autumn not so far down the line. ...read more
October 16, 2014

Tips For a Non-Traditional Pre-Med Student

Through Kaplan’s exclusive, national partnership with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), we will be providing a series of personal stories from AMSA leaders about their pre-medical experience and journey to medical school. Stefanie Smith: University of Missouri   [caption id="attachment_1668" align="alignright" width="300"] The busy life of a non-traditional pre-med. Stefanie is pictured here working in the lab.[/caption]

The Busy Life of a Non-Traditional Pre-Med Student

Violin lessons, dance, parent teacher conferences, a test, two conference calls, multiple doctor appointments, and a full-time job; this is a pretty average week for me. Being a pre-med can be overwhelming at times; when you add the intricacies of a non-traditional pre-med (e.g. family and work), it can seem downright impossible. Whether you are going back to school to pursue medicine or you have taken anything other than a straight path into medicine, here are some things that I have learned along the way that have helped me balance all the stresses of life, while also actively pursuing all those pesky medical school admission requirements.  

Tips for Balancing Your Personal and Pre-Med Life

 1. Find a way to volunteer that involves your family and/or friends.

A good way to gain volunteer and leadership experience without sacrificing your personal life is to find things that your friends and family are interested in and become more involved in those kinds of activities. For example, my daughter loves to run, and has recently started participating in Girls on the Run, an afternoon program that teaches young girls about self-esteem, healthy relationships, and positive body image while also training to run a 5K. The coaches are all on a volunteer basis, and it has been a great experience for me to take on a leadership role in my community. I really enjoy volunteering at community events that involve children; it lets me interact with the community while also letting my kids explore interests that they may not have otherwise been exposed. There are a ton of medical and non-medical extracurricular opportunities in your community, so start exploring and get involved!  

2. Incorporate your work.

I am lucky enough to be employed at a hospital histology laboratory, so I get to see how the health system works from a different vantage point. Everyday I see the amount of teamwork and the many health professionals that help to make it easier for doctors to focus on their job. Medicine is a team sport and learning to work well with coworkers is an essential skill that can be acquired in any profession. If you are employed (or volunteer) at a hospital, talk to the physicians that you interact with. I have found that they are more than willing to provide excellent advice and opportunities to shadow and learn from them. If you haven’t yet gained clinical experience, talk with your pre-med advisor or pre-med club officers today.  

3. Take advantage of the resources available to you.

While it may seem daunting to continue doing pre-med prerequisites while working, it’s important to realize that it’s okay to take it slow. If your schedule only allows you to take to one or two classes at a time, make sure you have enough time to focus on the classes and do well in them. While in school, talk to your pre-med advisor. They are familiar with the schedule of classes and can help make sure that you stay on track for graduation and the medical school admission timeline. If you’ve already graduated, it is still a great idea to go back and talk to the premed advisors on campus because they can help you fill in any gaps and provide some great advice. Many employers also offer educational funds for employees who want to continue their education. Take full advantage of these! In order to find out if your company offers these benefits, talk to human resources. In hospitals, you can also talk to nursing education departments: they may have some classes, such as Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), that you can take for free. My hospital provides $1500 a year for classes that contribute to your growth in medicine; this is allowing me to take an emergency medical technician course and gain more hands on patient experience.  

4. Give yourself plenty of time to study for the MCAT.

The MCAT is one of the most important parts of the medical school application, so you want to make sure that you are as prepared as you can be. Making sure that you plan extra time for studying means that you won’t need to stress out when you don’t study because of a family emergency or a looming work deadline. You need to maintain your flexibility and recognize that things will rarely ever go according to plan. As a non-traditional pre-med student, your experiences and insights are different than a traditional student, but they are just as valuable. Remember that we all have great qualities that made us desire a career in medicine. When we chose this career path, we knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I believe that it is definitely worth all the hard work!   Now that you’ve read about Stefanie Smith’s journey to unlocking the good life and getting into medical school, we’d like to hear from you!  Tell us what the good life means to you in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. Visit our Unlock the Good Life site and find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries and read profiles of people just like you who followed their dreams. ...read more
October 15, 2014

5 Tips for MCAT Verbal Reasoning Success

[caption id="attachment_1663" align="alignright" width="300"] To master the verbal reasoning section on the MCAT, follow these great tips.[/caption]

Verbal reasoning on the MCAT

It’s the bane of many an MCAT test-taker: the dreaded verbal reasoning section of the med school entrance exam. Most see the verbal reasoning section as a wordy jumble of dense information followed by questions that make you think, “Wait, did I just read the right passage? Are these questions to a different section? Did I lose consciousness there for a little while?” Fear not! While the verbal section of the MCAT can be the most challenging to tackle—especially considering the time constraints—the following five tips will have you slicing your way through verbal reasoning practice with the coolness and calm of a seasoned professional!  

1. Don’t make it harder than it already is

Okay, so the verbal section is hard. Really hard. There, it’s out in the open. Now let’s move on. Here’s why: Once you’re honest with yourself about verbal reasoning being a cruel beast, you can start systematically learning how to take it down, despite it’s might. Don’t give the verbal section an inch—don’t give it the satisfaction. Realize it’s hard, accept it, and learn how to master it. Instead of dreading the end of the biological sciences section because it heralds the appearance of verbal reasoning, be pumped that you get to grapple with the biggest villain in the game. Go into it with a positive attitude, and picture yourself beating the section. You’d be surprised how getting into the right brain space can alter your performance.  

2. Triage

The concept of triage, borrowed from emergency room parlance in the medical field, can also be applied to the verbal section of the MCAT—and it just happens to be a cornerstone of the Kaplan method, in general. Triage in the ER means assigning levels of urgency and severity to patients’ conditions. Triage in the verbal reasoning section means doing the same thing when evaluating passages. With unlimited time, you might apply triage to the MCAT’s verbal section in an unhurried manner, casually skimming each passage and deciding which to tackle first based on which you feel most comfortable with. In the real world of the verbal section, with its strict time limits, this is obviously not possible. Instead, triage has to be fast and dirty.
  • Skim the first passage in five seconds. Glean the topic and type of passage. Is it natural science or humanities? Is it long or short? Does the topic seem easily understandable or more abstract?
  • Play to your strengths. Are you a baller at humanities passages or are you more of a natural science person? If the passage at hand falls within your strengths, full steam ahead, Capt’n.
  • Continue reading, marking, and mapping the passage, and then tackle the questions.
If the passage is something you know you’ll struggle with, save it for later. Come back to it in the middle or towards the end. Start with your strengths and collect some points while you’re fresh.  

3. Don’t bring in outside information

Another big trap MCAT test-takers fall into is casting their own preconceived notions on the passage. Say it’s a topic you actually know something about. Perhaps you took a class on the subject or wrote a paper on it at some point. Forget all of that. Really. Get it out of your mind. The correct MCAT answers are all contained within the passage. Don’t let your own knowledge get in the way of your success. As far as you’re concerned, the only information that exists on the subject in the entire world is presented right there in front of you, and you don’t need anything else.  

4. Mark it and move on

Every second is precious when it comes to verbal reasoning, so wasted time is the enemy of the MCAT test-taker. There will inevitably be tricky questions on the verbal section. You can pretty reliably expect to encounter two or three really difficult questions per passage, but you can also almost always narrow them down to two answers. The alternative—debating and fretting and going back and forth and worrying, all while the timer ticks closer to zero—is unacceptable. Don’t let this happen to you! Sure, there will be questions you answer in two seconds and move on immediately, and there will be questions that will keep you guessing—possibly well after the test is over. But, during test time, don’t let those longer questions eat up too much time! If you feel yourself spending more than 30-45 seconds on a question, mark it, choose an answer, and move on. Go with your gut. Chances are, you’re right. Plus, if you have time at the end to review the marked questions, you may look at the question in a totally different light and be able to answer it in seconds.  

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

As with anything MCAT-related, real, reliable improvement only comes with practice. If you struggle with the verbal section, practice the verbal section. Here are some quick, easy things you can do anytime to sharpen those verbal reasoning skills:
  • Map a newspaper article while you wait for class to begin.
  • Read every day to improve your critical reading skills and your speed-reading.
  • Skim articles and see how much you can gather without reading every word.
The more exposure you get to reading and thinking critically, the more comfortable you’ll be by test day. These five tips for verbal reasoning make up the list that I give all my students and future MCAT test-takers. Adjust and add to them as you see fit, but stick with these basics for MCAT success and you’ll be one step closer to your first day as an M1! If you took the MCAT right now, how would you score? Find out with a free Kaplan MCAT practice test! You will not only get an idea of how you’d score on the exam, but you’ll also receive a full breakdown of your strongest areas, and those in which you need more practice. ...read more
October 9, 2014

Pre-Med Priorities: Tips for Building a Strong Academic Foundation

Through Kaplan’s exclusive, national partnership with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), we will be providing a series of personal stories from AMSA leaders about their pre-medical experience and journey to medical school. Priscila Cevallos: University of Texas at Austin  

The Pre-Med Journey Begins: Freshman Year

The night before my first day as a college freshman, I remember tossing and turning for hours unable to sleep. My mind wandered to thoughts of the future and what the next four years would hold in store for me. More than anything, my dream was to get into medical school, and I wanted to prepare myself as best as possible in order to make that dream a reality. There are many pre-med priorities to consider, and I had procured a checklist of medical school requirements, along with suggestions from my pre-med advisor on how to become a successful medical school applicant. As I thought about how the next four years would launch me on this path, I was excited to get a head start on my journey and determined to make myself stand out among the sea of pre-meds as quickly as possible. As a freshman, it’s difficult to know what to expect as a pre-med and it can be hard to figure out which experiences to focus on and cultivate. I myself was an overeager freshman when I first started undergrad. I ran around campus most days of the week from meeting to meeting. I was trying to do it all: classes, pre-med student organization(s), community service groups, research, etc. I thought that I needed to start working through my pre-med checklist from day one of college in order to ensure my acceptance into medical school. However, it was during this time that I received two pieces of advice that helped me tremendously in thinking about and planning for my future.  

1. Focus on Your GPA

The first piece of advice was to focus on nothing but school and academics during my first semester of undergrad. The change from high school to college is extensive, and while the transition may be easier for some more than for others, it is there nevertheless. Many students are so eager to join as many organizations as possible to try to create those meaningful college experiences right off the bat. However, it is important to remember that developing a solid foundation during your first semester is imperative to successfully easing into a new routine, campus, and friends. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the rigor of pre-medical courses will be much more beneficial to you in the future than overstretching yourself right away. After this foundation is established, it’s much easier to explore your passions while also maintaining focus on your GPA. After my first semester, I slowly began to seek out extracurricular activities that were of interest to me. What I began to realize was that, there is no “one shoe fits all” list of extracurriculars pre-meds should complete. Every student’s passions are unique, and hence every pre-med’s experience is unique. After attending an American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Convention, I fell in love with the organization, staying involved for three years first as a member, then as Secretary, and most recently as President. My scientific curiosity also led me to seek out research experience. I joined a neuropharmacology lab at the end of freshman year, and worked there for three years. My research experience culminated in receiving two Undergraduate Research Fellowships to pursue my own research projects, and I was able to present my work at various conferences. My extensive involvement in both AMSA and in research would not have been possible or as enjoyable, if my academic foundation had not been established first. Doing this allowed me to fully explore and really get involved with the experiences I cared about, without also having to juggle adjusting to the rigor of class every semester.  

2. Incorporate MCAT Prep Into Your Everyday Life

The second piece of advice I received was to begin studying for the MCAT while taking the necessary pre-medical pre-requisites. The MCAT is a cumulative test covering topics learned during introductory biology, intro chemistry, intro organic chemistry, and intro physics. By the time most students come around to studying for the MCAT their junior or senior year, it’s been a while since they have even thought about what they learned during their first two years of college. While studying for my intro classes during the week, I would also have my MCAT book open to the same topic. I would read over the MCAT chapter and answer the follow-up questions. I found this extremely helpful then, and now that I am actually studying for the MCAT, the topics seem much more approachable since I took the time to really understand what I was learning in my introductory classes. It might not be a bad idea to begin browsing through those MCAT books and take the time to really understand what you’re going over in class. You will have to know this information anyway when you take the MCAT! The novelty of college is incredibly exciting and there are so many opportunities out there for students to engage in. As you think about how you want to shape your next years in college, remember to prioritize your academics first. Seeking out those unique experiences will be more seamless after having laid out a firm academic groundwork. And keep in mind that it’s never a bad idea to begin studying for the MCAT! Now that you’ve read about Priscila Cevallos’ journey to unlocking the good life and getting into medical school, we’d like to hear from you!  Tell us what the good life means to you in the comments section, on Facebook, and on Twitter using #kaplangoodlife. Visit our Unlock the Good Life site and find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries and read profiles of people just like you who followed their dreams.   ...read more
October 8, 2014

Which MCAT Test Date Is Best For You?

[caption id="attachment_1644" align="alignright" width="300"] BREAKING NEWS: AAMC just added an additional MCAT test date on Saturday, December 6, 2014! Find out more at https://services.aamc.org/20/mcat/[/caption] One of the first major hurdles you’ll face on your way to unlocking the good life as a doctor is taking the MCAT. And there are many things you have to consider as you prep, including when you should schedule your MCAT test date to maximize your score. Deciding when to take the exam isn’t always easy, and every student has his or her own unique situation, commitments, and timeline. Read on to find out what Kaplan recommends for you!  

Which MCAT test dates should you avoid?

While the test is administered year-round, there are definitely some MCAT test dates that are advisable to avoid, such as many that fall during your application year. The AMCAS primary application and ACOMAS open up in May and can be submitted beginning in June. These dates are important to keep in mind, since you want to send everything in as soon as possible. As for how this affects your MCAT exam date, taking the test in June and July of the year in which you plan to apply not only means that schools will receive your MCAT score later than those of most applicants, but it also leaves you with no chance for retaking the exam if you don’t do as well as you would have liked the first time around. Do yourself a favor now and cross those dates off your list.  

Should I take the MCAT in April or May?

April and May also make for very popular MCAT test dates, but ones you might want to avoid if you are a traditional university student. Many students decide they want to study through the semester and take the MCAT right after school ends. However, it can be difficult to find the right balance between studying for the MCAT and handling full-time coursework. Finals can also occupy several weeks in April or May, leaving you underprepared for a test date so soon after the semester. Set yourself up for success by taking your MCAT prep into account when planning your spring semester’s coursework.  

What are the best MCAT test dates?

The remaining MCAT test dates can be narrowed down based on your personal circumstances, but January and August dates are rather popular. Why? For most university students, those dates fall right after winter break and summer vacation, meaning there is a ton of class-free study time that can be used to focus solely on the MCAT. As an added bonus, if you don’t get the score you like, both of these test dates provide you the opportunity to take the test again—in September for a previous August administration and in March for a previous January administration. With the Kaplan Higher Score Guarantee, you’re covered if you want to take the test later for any reason!  

What date and time are best for my MCAT score?

While perhaps not as important as the test date itself, the day and time you choose to take the exam can also affect your MCAT score. Being in a good state of mind for the MCAT is imperative. If you’re busy during the week, taking the test on Saturday might be a good idea—sometime you can be well-rested and focused. If you have to travel to another city or state to take the MCAT, it may be prudent to get to the testing location early, spend the night at a hotel, and take the exam the next day, instead of traveling straight to the testing center. As far as test time goes, consider what works with your circadian rhythm. If you’re a morning person, then 8:00 a.m. exams are for you. If not, you might enjoy having some time to wake up, shower, get dressed, and eat something fulfilling before you hit the ground running for the 1:00 p.m. exam. One important tip to keep in mind: take your practice tests at the same time of day you plan to take the actual MCAT.  

One last piece of advice…

Most importantly, you want to take the MCAT when you feel ready for it. Keep a close eye on the gold, silver, and bronze deadlines created by the AAMC Registration Schedule. By taking our full-length practice exams, Kaplan students can get a good idea of whether or not they’re ready to take the MCAT prior to the bronze deadline. Congratulations on the huge step you’re taking toward becoming a doctor! Now you just need to explore the Kaplan resources that are at your disposal. Check out our road maps to the good life to see what the average MCAT score requirements are for your top schools, and, while you’re at it, enter our Good Life Sweepstakes for a chance to win $10K! ...read more
October 7, 2014

Pre-Med Prerequisites for Taking the New MCAT

[caption id="attachment_1639" align="alignright" width="300"] Content areas to study in your pre-med curriculum for the new MCAT[/caption]

New pre-med requirements for passing the MCAT

The upcoming changes to the new MCAT also mean a change to the typical pre-med prerequisite courses we are accustomed to advising students to take. For many years, the "traditional" pre-med prerequisites have been a year of general chemistry, a year of general biology, a year of physics, and a year of that old fan favorite, organic chemistry. But with the new MCAT exam, which will first be administered on April 17, 2015, additional content knowledge in upper-division biochemistry, introductory psychology, and introductory sociology will also need to go on your list of requirements.  

Same ol’ pre-med requirements for med schools

At this point, however, most med schools are not changing their pre-med coursework requirements. In other words, you won't necessarily need to take these classes to apply to medical school, but you will need the content knowledge in these areas to prep for the new MCAT. For that reason, it is advisable to incorporate these courses into your pre-med schedule, as they will help immensely in providing you with in-depth study of the subject matter.  

Specific prerequisites for MCAT 2015

It’s important to note is that not all upper-division biochemistry, intro psychology, or intro sociology classes will qualify as MCAT prerequisites or cover content tested on the new MCAT. Rather, the AAMC has defined very specific content areas and has grouped them into 31 categories, under 10 foundational concepts, for the new exam. So your first step as a pre-med who will be taking the new MCAT is to consult with your pre-med advisor and see which classes at your school cover the new pre-med prerequisite material. You can also do this exercise yourself by consulting the AAMCs guide to the new MCAT.  

Can’t take more prerequisites?

If you don't have the time to take three additional semesters of coursework, like most pre-meds, or if you’ve been out of school and are now planning on going back to medical school, Kaplan has a solution that will fulfill your content needs. We call it MCAT Foundations. Our MCAT Foundations program is a 15-session intensive live online course designed to give you the extra three semesters of content you need to be adequately prepared for the new MCAT. You will receive comprehensive instruction on the precise material that will be tested on the new exam—no more, no less! Regardless of how you acquire the new content knowledge on the exam, keep in mind as you are learning this material (as well as the traditional requirements) that success on the MCAT is not about how much you know. High scores come from applying what you know, developing strong critical thinking skills, mastering the pace of the exam, and building your test day endurance! If you had to take the MCAT right now, how would you score? Find out with a free Kaplan MCAT practice test. You will not only get an idea of how you’d score on the real exam, but you also get a full breakdown of your strongest and weakest content areas. ...read more
September 29, 2014

4 Reasons Why You Should Take a Kaplan MCAT Class

Hello my excited readers! Today I'd like to answer a question that I get a lot from interested students:

Why should I take a Kaplan MCAT class?

I've been teaching for 6+ years at this point, so clearly I believe in the benefits of the Kaplan MCAT program. I took a Kaplan MCAT class in 2006 and did well enough on the actual test to score-qualify to teach the class. If you aren't sold by that fact alone though, I have some four great reasons for you!

1. Flexibility

One of the best features of the Kaplan MCAT program is the class schedule flexibility. You can take an On-Site class with an in-person teacher that runs 1, 2 or 3 times per week. If you live farther from a big city, have a different work schedule or learn best online, there are two online class options: Classroom Anywhere (live, online classes with varying scedules) and On Demand (self-study via previously recorded lessons and 24/7 access to an online syllabus). One of the advantages of the Classroom Anywhere online option is the ability to learn in your bed with your PJs, while still receiving the same high-quality instruction you would in a traditional On-Site class! Finally, if you learn best in a one-on-one, face-to-face setting, Private Tutoring allows you to set your own schedule. All of our live options (On Site, Classroom Anywhere, and Private Tutoring) also include access to Live Flex Sessions: these optional, online sessions cover key science topics that appear frequently on the MCAT and they run on weekends, weeknights and at varying times throughout the day. My students are frequently blown away by how often they can log-on to their syllabi, hop into a live flex session, and work on some content with a Kaplan teacher. Speaking of teachers, that brings me to reason number 2!

2. Dedicated Teachers

I have had the opportunity to work with and mentor hundreds of Kaplan instructors. I honestly have never met a Kaplan teacher that I didn't like. Every instructor is a top performer on the exam (90th percentile or higher), undergoes a rigorous training program, and is constantly evaluated by students to ensure that you have a truly exceptional experience. They tend to be a great combination of smart, engaging and committed to student success. In fact, we had a panel discussion a few weeks ago in which brand new teachers could ask veteran teachers their questions. I was blown away by how thoughtful the questions were and how concerned the entire group was with making each class session successful and making sure each student gets the help they need to reach their best score.

3. Tailored for your needs

I've already touched on the flexibility of the schedule, but there are other aspects that ensure you get an experience that's tailored to your individual study needs. One of the best aspects to Kaplan's technology is the Smart Reports that are generated after each practice test you take. They help you focus your studying on specific content areas, question types and passage types. That way you can study smarter, not harder. There are also different aspects of your syllabus that allow you to practice timing, content, strategy, or full-length exams. Basically, I'm getting at my next reason- the abundance of resources!

4. Tons of resources

We have the most available official AAMC practice, including the newly released Self-Assessment Package as well as all eight officially released full-length exams. From AAMC and Kaplan full-length practice MCATs (19 full-length exams in total) to 11,000+ practice questions, in addition to MCAT Qbank custom quizzes, the resources in your Kaplan syllabus are set up to help you increase your score and destroy the MCAT on Test Day! The Topical Tests will help you battle through tough content. Section tests make practicing your timing a breeze. Beyond your online syllabus, you also get a Review Notes book for each content area: Biology, Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry, Physics and Verbal Reasoning. These books are also available on your online syllabus if you don't want to haul around actual books. The Review Notes are essential because they are a focused review of MCAT-pertinent material. Each section is rated based on the difficulty of the content and the frequency it appears on the actual MCAT. That way you don't spend too much time stressing about an infrequently tested, hard to understand topic!   So, what are you waiting for? There are so many great reasons to sign up for a Kaplan MCAT class today! I'd love to hear why you chose Kaplan in the comments. Let me know! Happy studying, Emily ...read more
September 11, 2014

How is the MCAT Scored?

[caption id="attachment_1587" align="alignright" width="300"] Understanding MCAT scoring can help in your medical school admissions.[/caption] Over the past 15 years at Kaplan, I have spoken to thousands of pre-med students, and the question I get asked the most is “how is the MCAT scored?” Today, I want to dispel the most common myths about the current MCAT scoring process and get you the facts.  

Why Do I Have to Take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)?

Before we dive into the question of “how is the MCAT scored,” let's take a step back and look at the dual purpose this famed med school exam serves in admissions. First, the MCAT is used to predict how a student will perform academically in medical school—primarily in the first two years: those pre-clinical years that are primarily comprised of lectures and labs. Second, the MCAT is used to differentiate applicants in the medical school admissions process. You’ll notice that neither one of these metrics is designed to indicate whether or not someone will make a good doctor.  

MCAT Scoring and Myths

This med school exam is scored on a scale of 1-15 for each of the three sections, with an aggregate range of 3-45. The average MCAT score is around a 25; the average score of applicants is around a 28; and the average of matriculants is around a 31. So the major takeaway here is, you don't need a 45 to get into medical school. What you need is a competitive MCAT score for the schools you are applying to.  

Myth 1: MCAT scoring based on the student scores from a single test administration

False. The MCAT is a standardized test, and while many equate “standardized” with “multiple choice,” what it really means is that the scores can be compared across administrations that contain different sets of questions, So whether you took the MCAT five years ago or yesterday, the scores are comparable. To achieve that standardization, each individual exam has to be “normed” back to the original standard. How is this done? Say that one version of the test requires you to get 70% of questions on the Physical Sciences section of the test correct to score a 10, and another version requires 75%. The discrepancy can be made up for in the difficulty of the questions you receive. So the best thing you can do while taking the exam and preparing for the exam is focus on developing a solid plan of attack for each type of question. At the end of the day, you need to focus on getting as many questions correct as possible. Many times, students suffer from score paralysis—they get so obsessed with the scaled score that they lose sight of the true task at hand, which is learning how to master the MCAT. Only mastering the exam will lead you to the score you need to get into medical school.  

Myth 2: Some MCAT administration months are easier than others

False. Even if this were true, it wouldn't matter, because the test is always normed back to the standard. In fact, when you take the MCAT, even if there are 30 other students at the testing center taking the exam with you, no one has the same exact set of questions; it’s all randomized. You will definitely have overlapping questions with other students on Test Day, but this isn't like a college exam where everyone gets the same version. For the MCAT, there are multiple forms of the exam for each administration, each of which is individually normed back to the standard. There is a lot that goes into your MCAT scoring behind the scenes. This is why it takes a few weeks to get your scores back, but you shouldn't waste your time or brain energy worrying about that. Instead, apply that grey matter toward securing an MCAT score that will lead you to the white coat! Kaplan can help you achieve your MCAT goals on the current exam and the new 2015 MCAT. Check out our upcoming MCAT class schedules, and get started on your path to living the “good life” of a doctor. Visit our Unlock the Good Life site and find out more about a career in medicine. Learn about salaries, read profiles of successful people, and see how far a higher MCAT score can take you. You will also be entered to win a $10,000 sweepstakes!   ...read more

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