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Breaking Down the MCAT 2015: 100 Days to MCAT Success

Discussion in 'Next Step MCAT Tutor Office Hours (Sponsored)' started by Next Step Tutor, 09.30.14.

  1. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    EDIT: 03/09/2016. Updated materials selections, links, etc to reflect the new test from the AAMC, etc.

    Hey everyone!

    So the new test has been out for over a year now, and most of the big companies have published their resources for the new test, providing us with a TON of resources to choose from. So having said that, it's time to put together our study plans.

    So, with no further ado, here's Next Step's MCAT Study Schedule (presented with limited commercial interruption by Bryan): 100 Days to MCAT Success

    Materials

    Your choice of materials matters much less than how well you use them. For the schedule below I'm trying to pull together a mix of resources from four sources (NS, KA, AAMC, TPR) that will maximize your prep-to-dollar ratio. You will have to pick up materials from several different companies to get the best possible selection. To start, here's a list of the materials I'm recommending:

    Princeton Review (TPR) 2nd edition boxed set (Link here). Beware they occasionally go out of stock on Amazon. Check out B&N or Walmart or something - don't pay inflated Amazon "unavailable" prices.) This set is totally solid and comes with online activation for three online Full Lengths.
    Next Step Free Half-Length Diagnostic and Free Full Length #1 (Link here). Free tests, gives you a rough baseline of where you're starting from.
    AAMC Official Guide (OG) Online Questions and Official Practice Test (OPT), and Official Sample Test (Link here. The real official deal. Absolute must-have.)
    Next Step Full Length Exams, FL#1-#6 pack (NS FL's) (Link here.)
    Khan Academy (KA) practice passages, and supplement with KA videos. (Link here. Highly variable quality, but it's free and "official" AAMC partner.)
    Next Step Strategy and Practice Books (Link here.)

    Overall cost: Approximately $500 (depending on Amazon's pricing, which can fluctuate)

    If you're looking to economize, cut out the following things in this order:

    • Cut the NS Strategy & Practice books - save ~$119
    • Cut the Princeton Review books (rely solely on KA for content) - save ~$135
    • Drop from the 6-pack to the 4-pack of NS FL's - save ~$50
    === This is where you should stop cutting things b/c after that you're starting to hurt your plan.
    • Cut the NS paid full lengths and use free partial practice tests from other companies - save ~$99
    • Cut out the AAMC Official Guide - save $24
    • Cut out the AAMC Sample Test - save $35
    • Cut out the AAMC Practice Test (scored) - save $35

    If you cut this far, you brought your budget down to $0 - you're relying solely on the free videos and passages from Khan Academy and free practice materials from prep companies. You can do this, but that means the only full length practice test you'll get to take is Next Step's Full Length #1 (this is really going to hurt your practice).

    1. Content Review: You'll be working your way through the TPR 2nd edition boxed set.

    2. Content Supplements: You'll be supplementing with KA videos for topics you have trouble with.

    3. Practice Passages: AAMC Official Guide Online Questions, Passages in the TPR/NS books. KA online passages. NS Strategy and Practice books full timed sections.

    4. Practice Tests: AAMC Practice Test, AAMC Sample Tests, 3 TPR tests w. their book, 6 NS FL's as a stand-alone product.

    5. Extra Help: Study Groups or Classes or Tutoring (cost: free for the study group, many thousands for the classes or tutoring)

    You can't totally fly solo here. You can try but it'll make your life much, much harder. We're social creatures so we need the support of working with and around other people. A class is one way to have folks who are going through the same thing as you, and a tutor can serve as great support both for the content and to keep your energy up.

    But the best, by far, is a study group
    .

    Among the thousands and thousands of students I've had over years, the two factors that have mattered more than anything else were a good attitude and a good study group.

    Okay, so that's it for materials.

    Oh and as a final note, I've attached the official AAMC content outline here. If you buy the paper copy of the AAMC Official Guide you'll find it in there, but if you want to save the $25, the content outline itself is free.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: 03.09.16
  2. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Methods

    The goal is going to be complete mastery of your MCAT prep books, your practice passages and full lengths, and the AAMC materials.

    The basic method is going to involve front-loading the content review and verbal practice, spacing tests out to once a week, and making sure to build in plenty of "breathing space".

    General technique: "Lessons Learned" Journal.

    Doing practice is pointless if you're not actually learning from that practice.

    So as you do practice you'll see instructions about extracting a "Lessons Learned" from each thing you do. These can be content facts you forgot, strategic mistakes you made, or things you did right that you want to do right again.

    Each "Lesson Learned" should be summarized in a sentence or three. Keep all of these lessons in a single word doc or a single notebook. You should then re-read your entire Lessons Learned journal every other day. In the schedule, that read-through will be denoted with "LL".

    General technique: CARS (Verbal) Passages

    You will need to dive into reading practice at the very beginning, because you need to learn the best approach to verbal to suit your style. You will need to decide whether or not you like to take notes, use the highlighter, just skim the passage, read it slowly, whatever. There's no one right way to do reading passages and you have to experiment to find out what works for you, and you need to find what works for you as soon as possible so that you can then apply that strategy for the rest of your practice.

    To that end, you want to do CARS practice every other day right at the start of your prep. Each day, try something new and KEEP TRACK. Write down in your Lessons Learned journal what approach you took, whether you liked it, and how many Q's you got right.

    At the end of the first 2 weeks, pick a technique and use that technique going forward.

    General technique: Keep a Good Attitude

    As I mentioned above, the two biggest factors in MCAT success are social support and a good attitude. Keeping a good attitude seems like one of those nebulous, touchy-feely things that hard headed science students often want to dismiss, but the effect of attitude on outcome is a real, empirically studied phenomenon.

    So the question then becomes how to maintain a positive attitude? I recommend a few basic things:

    1. Positive visualization

    You need to focus on success on Test Day. Take your test results from your diagnostic (usually the official AAMC test) and blank out the scores, and then type in the score you want. Print out 6-8 copies of that "score goal" and tape it up several places around your house - in the corner of your bathroom mirror, the door to your bedroom, etc. Make sure that as you go about your day, your eyeballs are getting this constant, almost subconscious, reminder of how you're going to do on Test Day.

    2. Downtime

    That's addressed below. You must allocate time to doing fun, non-MCAT things.

    3. Focus on the Positive

    This is, by far, the most important thing to do: once a week, review a section from a practice test, but only review the questions you got right.

    The normal thing students do when reviewing is flip quickly through going, "okay, got that right, got that right, oh wait got that wrong what happened there let me focus on that ohgodimsostupidwhywhywhy". Every MCAT teacher or tutor worth their salt will tell you to review all of your questions, but sometimes it can be hard to be self-disciplined enough to do that.

    So instead, flip that on its head: at least once a week, go through a section and casually dismiss everything you got wrong, and slow down and focus on the questions you got right. "Okay got that wrong, whatever, not going to look at it, oh hey YAY I got that one right! What happened? How did I get that right? I'm so smart! I'm so lucky! Go me!"

    I can't tell you how many times over the years I've heard students say, "I can always get it down to two but then I always get it wrong." (especially in verbal!!) That is, of course, false. When you get it down to two, you're getting about half right and half wrong. But b/c students only focus on questions they got wrong, all they notice is the times they guessed wrong. If you reviewed a section and only looked at q's you got right, but then you'd be saying to yourself, "omg I'm the luckiest person in the world every time I get it down to two I guess right!"

    General technique: Rest Your Brain!

    Even God got a day off once a week. You should too. The schedule doesn't have any buffer days built in, because every Saturday (or whatever day you pick) is a day off. Those can be your buffer days if you need them, but I very strongly recommend against that. Your brain needs time to rest. It's an organ like any other and if you work it ceaselessly, it'll break. Your days off should be off, not for catch-up.

    General technique: Social Support

    You'll want to meet with your study group (or your tutor or your class) twice a week. That'll mean you're meeting often enough to keep on track, but spaced out enough that everyone has time to do work in between meetings. Over in my Office Hours thread I have a lengthy post on Study Groups if you want to read more about that.

    ====

    Now, let's talk about how to use your prep books, as this is easily the most commonly screwed up part of MCAT prep. People read their MCAT review notes as if they were studying for a test, when instead they should be learning their MCAT prep books as if it was the score to a musical piece they were going to play at a recital. You've got to know your MCAT books forward, backwards, upside down and under water.

    So here's how you do that:

    1. Start by casually reading through a chapter as if you were flipping through a magazine.

    Don't even attempt to "learn" it at this point. Don't do the questions. Just flip through, skim the text, look at the pretty pictures and bold-faced words and get a general sense of what's going on in the lecture. This process could take anywhere from 10-30 minutes (at most!) depending on how long it is and how well you know your stuff.

    2. Go through learning all of the bold-faced words

    The text won't make much sense if you don't know the language its speaking. As you get to a bold-faced word, stop and say the definition of it out loud. Then check yourself by looking that term up in wikipedia. Wikipedia will go way more in-depth than you need, but the first 3-4 sentences of most wikipedia articles give a really good basic definition of the term.

    Don't cut yourself any slack here! You CANNOT move forward into studying the chapter if you don't actually know what all of the words mean. Make flashcards or study sheets as needed.

    3. Read through the chapter slowly and carefully

    Don't write in the book! You'll want to be able to come back to the material and get a fresh take on it, or sell it later when you're done. Take notes if that's how you feel you learn best. Make flashcards for anything you want to memorize. Learn all of the diagrams. Be able to reproduce the diagrams, from memory. DO NOT CUT YOURSELF SLACK HERE. You *must* know the diagrams perfectly.

    4. Wait one day

    5. Come back to the chapter the next day. Skim through it again, reviewing the diagrams and bold-faced words, and then answer the questions in the chapter and any passages at the end of the chapter.

    On every single question, ask yourself "what is the takeaway point here? what did I learn from this question?"

    For each chunk of questions, extract at least two "Lessons Learned" and add them to your journal.

    6. Wait one week


    7. Come back to the chapter a third and final time. Don't read anything in the lecture. Just re-do all of the questions you got wrong.

    This is another reason not to write in the book. You'll want to be able to re-do the questions.

    In the schedule, the following notation is used for the review book chapters:

    O1.1 means the first time through organic chem chapter 1 - skimming, then learning words, then study it
    P4.2 means the second time through the physics chapter 4, when you do the questions
    BC7.3 means the third and final time through the biochem chapter 7, where you only re-do the questions you got wrong.

    B is Bio, C is Chem, Psy is Psych/Soc

    And so on. The number before the dot is the chapter number, the number after the dot is pass through the material (first, second, third pass).

    Full Exam Reviews

    Fully analyzing your performance on an MCAT should take anywhere from 5 - 7 hours. It's not enough to just zip through and look at the questions you got wrong. You've essentially got to re-do the entire test, slowly and carefully.

    Re-read every passage. Ask yourself what notes you should've taken or what highlighting you should've done.

    On every single passage, extract at least two Lessons Learned and on each set of discrete questions, get at least one Lesson Learned.

    Reviewing a full MCAT should add another 75 - 100 bullet points to your Lessons Learned Journal.

    Practice Questions

    You'll be doing practice questions as you finish each chapter in your review books. In addition, days when you should be doing Khan Academy Practice Passages are noted as "Khan Day" where you should complete something like 8-10 practice passages from the Khan Academy on whatever topics give you the most trouble.

    Finally, near the end of the schedule you'll be doing full timed sections of practice passages from your NS Strategy and Practice books. You'll see those noted as "NS Full Section".

    CARS (Verbal) Practice

    Here, you'll want to work your way through an entire CARS (verbal) book right away near the beginning of your prep. That way you can see different approaches to verbal to find what works best for you.

    For this schedule, I'll be using the Next Step CARS (Verbal) book. That book has three half-sections and three full-sections of practice. Once you're done with that book, you should pick up another set of CARS (Verbal) practice to do some practice every week.

    Note that the TPR CARS book is just to be used for additional supplementation as needed. Feel free to read through it at the beginning if you want to see some strategies on active reading, and the TPR approach to CARS. In general, I think you're better off just doing practice from the NS CARS S&P and NS CARS 108 books, but if you're really struggling with understanding how to read the passages, hit up the TPR book right at the beginning.

    Final Review

    During the final week before the MCAT, you're going to want to spend one full day doing a final review of each science. The final review should involve doing the following:

    1. Go through the entire review book for that science, reviewing all the bold faced terms, equations, and diagrams
    2. Review any study sheets you've made on that topic
    3. Go through all passages from the full-length exam on that science (something like 20-30 passages)

    So now, finally, our study schedule looks like this:

    Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 8.55.20 AM.png

    Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 8.55.28 AM.png

    Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 8.55.36 AM.png
    If you want an Excel version, it's attached to this post.

    Good luck!! :)
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: 03.09.16
  3. litotes

    litotes

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    GREAT schedule! I will definitely be using this as I prepare for my MCAT next summer. Thanks very much.
     
  4. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Updated the materials list above with two important things:

    1. The AAMC practice test is out. It costs $25.
    2. Kaplan CARS (Verbal) book and Princeton Review Pysch book should each be purchased independently for $30 a pop since each comes with online activation codes for three practice tests. Getting six practice tests for $60 is a deal you can't beat.
     
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  5. Doremonster

    Doremonster 5+ Year Member

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    How come these two books are suggested and not the others? Would it be a better to purchase each book independently rather than buying the whole set for the extra practice tests?
     
  6. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Buying the entire Kaplan boxed set and the entire Princeton Review boxed set would be wasteful since it would duplicate a lot of effort and cost too much.
     
    Last edited: 10.07.14
  7. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Hey everyone, just a quick update. I added a little more clarification about the Khan Academy course above. For those who want the specifics, here's the breakdown of the practice passages Khan Academy offers for free:

    (listed by Core Concept)

    1: Biomolecules - 23
    2: Cells - 6
    3: Organs - 30
    4: Physical Processes - 33
    5: Chemical Processes - 6
    6: Processing the Environment - 22
    7: Behavior - 16
    8: Individuals and Society - 2
    9: Society and Culture - 4
    10: Social Inequality - 0

    Additional Practice Passages:
    Bio Sci Practice Passages - 19
    Phys Sci Practice Passages - 9
    Social Science Practice Passages - 10

    CARS (verbal) - 0

    So on the one hand this is amazing - almost 200 free practice passages. On the other hand, this is falling prey to the same problem of free open-access projects everywhere - they operate at the whims of their unpaid contributors. The folks doing the biomolecules and physical processes were clearly devoted, passionate folks who produced a ton of amazing content. But nobody wanted to create a separate section on Core Concept 10, so there's nothing for it.

    What does that mean for us? It doesn't change the core advice - this is free, high-quality content and everyone should make use of it. What it emphasizes is that you'll need to make sure you're also using a good set of prep books, or doing the work with your own textbooks, or taking a course/tutoring to supplement the Khan Academy.

    Good luck!! :)
     
  8. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Hey guys, just a quick update. Our CARS (Verbal) book is up on Amazon for anyone looking to get a jump on their MCAT 2015 prep:

    Link
     
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  9. TryingOnceMore

    TryingOnceMore 2+ Year Member

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    Bryan, I'm increasingly impressed by your posts and offerings - thank you for your effort and help!

    If you'll forgive a foolish question, what does CARS stand for?

    Also, can you explain your schedule groupings for the AAMC topics?
    I notice, for example, that they do not proceed in order from 1A to 1B to 1C and so on.

    Thanks again!
     
    Last edited: 10.14.14
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  10. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=CARS+mcat

    :p

    lol all snarkiness aside, it's the new Verbal section - they gave it a fancy new name, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, upped it to 90min and 9 passages, and tweaked it to be humanities/social science, with no more hard science (old MCAT used to include stuff like meteorology or geology or whatever in the VR), but from everything I've seen so far it's literally exactly the same core set of cognitive tasks you have to perform. The new name is a shiny new bottle for old wine.

    Really here's the only thing that matters for test-takers: the timing.

    You might be looking at that and thinking, "Oh hey now it's 10 min a passage, up from 8.5 min on the old test. That's great! Now I won't run out of time! Yay!!!"

    But.

    Remember, everyone in the room also gets 10 minutes per passage. That means one of the major differentiators - the ability to successfully manage your time, read briskly, and not get bogged down in details, is now slightly less important.

    What's the ultimate effect of that? My guess is that absolute # of questions people get correct is going to drift upwards. For example, let's say on the old MCAT you'd have to get 70% of the questions correct to get an average score. Maybe now on the new MCAT you'll have to get 75-80% of the questions correct to get an average score. It's going to make the verbal scale even more brutal than it already is :(
     
  11. TryingOnceMore

    TryingOnceMore 2+ Year Member

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    Ok, got me on not looking up CARS (face turning red), LOL!

    Also, can you explain your schedule groupings for the AAMC topics?
    I notice, for example, that they do not proceed in order from 1A to 1B to 1C and so on. I'm thinking this might be a cross-referencing of topics?

    Thanks again!
     
  12. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    lol no not really. That schedule was simply a "first draft" effort to cut across conceptual boundaries. The key thing is to NOT just go in order - in the same way that, on the old MCAT, it was a bad idea to "do all of physics at once", for the new MCAT I'd suggest that it's a bad idea to "just go in order from 1A through to 10A". The real MCAT is going to jump around and you need to get used to that. So in your studies you should just jump from one content area to another. Try to get in a little bit of bio, chem, psych, etc. each week.

    Good luck! :)

    (PS let me add that I'll be updating this study schedule as well as my other MCAT 2015 threads on a weekly basis as we get more and more info about the new test)
     
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  13. TryingOnceMore

    TryingOnceMore 2+ Year Member

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    Thank you again!
     
  14. Swagster

    Swagster 5+ Year Member

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    It's October of 2014 and the new exam has never been given, so how can anyone claim to have insights into the exam? If you compare what the AAMC study manual says about the current exam to what you actually get, then you know it's just a guide. With a new exam there is so much more ambiguity. AAMC has done a nice job of showing content, but it's just a few samples. I started to read your list and realized by the second topic how incomplete it is. You've claimed that organic chemistry is not significant on the new MCAT but from what I've seen from AAMC it looks to be more covered than what you imply.

    Why not wait until we all know more before putting your opinions out? I fully understand your wanting to promote your service but it plays on premed fears and does a disservice to the community when you post opinions of what is best SIX MONTHS before the first test is being given.
     
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  15. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    I'm sorry you feel that way. Please understand that I take my job as an educator very seriously and if you check my post history you'll see that I'm not just some corporate marketing shill trying sell Next Step business. I have repeatedly spoken positively of the services offered by other test prep companies, and do my best to be an education professional, in the full sense of the word "professional". I'd also like to flatter myself to think that I'm a valuable member of the SDN community - providing free content, free advice, etc. to my fellow SDNners.

    If there's something particular you've got a question about, I'm happy to discuss it. You raise, for example, the issue of organic chemistry. I'm not speculating here - I'm simply looking at the official AAMC resources. By their own literature, the AAMC have said that organic chemistry will only make up 5% or so of the questions on the exam. Don't take my word for it - go to the AAMC and check it out yourself. They might be lying, but I kinda doubt it.

    Finally, as to the issue of me offering incomplete advice, or advice that's "too early" or something. There, I'm afraid we'll just have to agree to disagree. Many students spend a long time prepping for the MCAT. I usually recommend sticking to something like a 3-4 month timeline, but lots of folks will plan to spend more than that. As such, it's my job as a professional to begin to offer what guidance I can. And again, you'll see that I'm only offering advice that I know is sound - biology is largely unchanged, verbal is largely unchanged, the Khan Academy is excellent, etc. Others may disagree with my advice, but I offer it in full good faith to the SDN community. If you check the larger test prep community, you'll see that folks at Kaplan, Princeton, etc. have also been doing what they can to help students (sometimes years earlier than I have).

    If you'd like to discuss something specific, or have constructive suggestions or advice, I'm happy to talk with you about it.

    Best of luck with your prep!!
     
    Last edited: 10.15.14
  16. nonamechemist

    nonamechemist 2+ Year Member

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    What do you think of the mprep qbank passages, in particular verbal? Yes the price is definitely appealing but I am not sure whether or not to get them.
     
  17. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Good question. I only gave them a really quick once-over and the stuff seemed fine. I don't mean like "you say 'fine' but you're rolling your eyes" I mean they seemed totally fine and you can't beat the price. I recommend them.
     
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  18. Premed_student2014

    Premed_student2014

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    Are you saying purchase the older AAMC Practice exams?
     
  19. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Given how little material the AAMC is putting out, I think it'd be a very good idea to get your hands on PDF copies of the old AAMC tests and self-assessment packages. If nothing else, they'll serve as good practice for the stuff that's not changing much (bio, verbal).

    b.
     
  20. Premed_student2014

    Premed_student2014

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    Do you know of any other companies that are selling MCAT 2015 exams besides the one AAMC had available? And I plan to purchase the older material before January 31, 2015.
     
  21. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Sure, Next Step will have 5 full-length MCAT2015 tests out for sale 1/1/15.

    KTP/TPR already have three each (not sure if you can buy just the tests or if you have to spend the money on their boxed set of books). Typically with KTP/TPR/EK to get their full set of online tests you have to buy their classroom course.

    I'm certain TBR will produce really high-quality tests, but I'm not sure if they'll be up for this test cycle. There's no announcements up on their website.

    b.
     
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  22. Premed_student2014

    Premed_student2014

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    Thank you! I will be purchasing Nest Step practice exams and I'm also getting Kaplan's prep material.
     
  23. dboyhaaan

    dboyhaaan 2+ Year Member

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    I'm enrolled in Kaplan's On Demand course so I automatically get the entire book set with it but I will be incorporating your schedule into my regimen as well. Thanks! :)
     
  24. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Hey, can you PM me your thoughts on that? Given that the Khan Academy has an entirely free online course of pre-recorded videos, I'd really love to get a sense as to why people are willing to spend almost $2000 on something they can get for free now. I'd love to hear your thoughts about why you purchased it, what you were looking for, and what your sense is of the quality.
     
  25. lostsk8r

    lostsk8r

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    I have the old 2014 kaplan MCAT book set and I was trying to patch together a set based on your guidelines. From what I see I would need kaplan's biochemistry and then the princeton review's psychology/sociology book, but do I really need the verbal one from kaplan? (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1618656082?tag=studentdoctor-20&creativeASIN=1618656082) if I already have the 2014 verbal? I know they took out natural science passages in the new MCAT but does that justify buying a new verbal book?

    I could still get the two sets of 3 free tests by buying kaplan biochemistry review and TPR psych/sociology review. Also is that qbank website geared towards 2015 mcat?
     
  26. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    As far as I know MPrep does have an MCAT 2015 q bank up and running.

    You could live without a new book for the CARS section, yes, but I'd strongly suggest you consider getting one for the new exam.

    The older Kaplan verbal book will have a bunch of 7-passage practice sets in them, and you could just do 9 passages at a time to simulate the real exam.

    At the risk of sounding really self-serving, I think you should buy Next Step's CARS book (amazon link here) to maximize value. Buying the TPR psych book, Kaplan's biochem book, and Next Step's CARS book will get you the coverage you need for the new stuff and get you access to online resources from each of those companies. All told it's an investment of under a hundred bucks to get a whole bunch of paper and online practice resources.

    Finally, chances are you're going to need more verbal practice than just the old KTP book anyway. Khan Academy doesn't have any verbal (and no plans to do so, I think).

    Good luck! :)
     
    Last edited: 12.01.14
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  27. lostsk8r

    lostsk8r

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    Yes I was thinking of just those three books (yours, tpr pscyh, kaplan biochem), instead of also getting the kaplan new verbal one. I'll go with that choice, thanks. Going to check out your schedule also.
     
  28. iBro

    iBro 2+ Year Member

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    NextStepTutor, thanks so much for all your product reviews and general advice, including this schedule, on the upcoming 2015 MCAT. It has really made me feel prepared to start preparing for the new test! I have two questions for you.

    1) You lay out your study schedule in terms of topics as listed on the official AAMC mcat guide, is this how content review books are laid out also? I have never opened one (my 9th ed EK set is in the mail) so I'm not sure if they are laid out by "official" topics, or split up into chapters how the prep company sees fit.

    2) Amazon says your NextStepTutor CARS book is out-of-stock! When will it be available again?

    Thanks!
     
  29. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Heya - most prep company books are not laid out by official AAMC topic, they're organized more like traditional science textbooks. Just take the basic structure I outlined and replace AAMC topics with EK chapters.

    Our CARS book will be back up later today or at the latest first thing tomorrow. I just fixed a bunch of typo's and when you re-upload the PDF of a book's interior to CreateSpace, it takes Amazon about 24-36 hrs to re-approve it. The upside to the self-publishing world is that we can fix things (almost) overnight as we need to make updates (instead of waiting for yearly revisions like EK/KTP/etc). The downside is that you lose access for about a day (never more than two).

    b.
     
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  30. meow2015

    meow2015

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    Hey Bryan,

    First and foremost - THANK YOU for all of your efforts in creating this (incredibly) helpful thread. I am taking the MCAT2015 this April (yikes) and am attempting to create an effective/efficient self-study guide.

    I had a question regarding the NextStep books currently posted on Amazon: is there a difference between the "Strategy and Practice for Behavioral Sciences: Passages in Psychology and Sociology" (link here) and the "Psychology and Sociology: Strategy and Practice" (link here) books?

    Finally, I do plan on purchasing the NextStep CARS Strategy and Practice book as well. Can we expect the Biology (Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems) and the Physical Science (Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems) practice books to come out in the near future? I feel having four books geared specifically towards each section's passages is WAY more helpful than having scattered passages from all subject areas.

    On that note, how many passages would you recommend going through per study day? I am definitely planning on utiliizing Khan Academy's practice passages available for free. Additionally, I may use Examkrackers 1001 Questions series (link here) to supplement my studying-- what are your thoughts on that?

    Thank you for taking the time out to read my post and answer my questions. And for anyone else who is in the same boat as I am-- best of luck on the MCAT2015!!
     
  31. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Heya,

    You're certainly welcome! That first book you linked to is out of print, we pulled it from Amazon. It was the book we put out when the AAMC had released their "unofficial" Guide and before they'd released a practice test. They later changed the number of questions and a few other things so we pulled the book, gave it a very thorough update, and released the second one that's still in print. The CARS book has hit a snag just with some internal stuff at Amazon and will take a couple of days to be back up for sale. Nothing wrong with the book itself, just Amazon hassling us. It'll be back up shortly.

    We're working on our Bio Foundations and Chem Foundations Strat & Practice books now and they should be out for the new year (some time early January at the latest), so yes we're planning on have a series of four strategy and practice books, one for each section of the test.

    For number of passages per day, that will vary widely from student to student. At the very least you should be doing 1-2 CARS passages every day to slowly build up those skills. Beyond that you could do anywhere from 0 to 5+ science passages a day depending on how you structure your study. I'm a fan of making sure you do some timed work (full 95 min sections or full 90 min sections) at least twice a week.

    The EK1001 books are popular, but I'm not a huge fan. They're not bad, per se, it's just that they don't really do anything particularly well. I guess what I mean by that is, since there's no passages, they're essentially just science content review. But if you're trying to learn science content you'd be better off making study sheets, flashcards, review notes, etc. Also, if you're strong in a science, then the questions are just pointless busy work. I think if what you're looking for is just a huge volume of questions, you're better off going with MPrep, since their Qbank is cheap and it comes with dozens and dozens of passages. I don't think EK has updated their 1001 books for the 2015 exam, and I don't know if they have plans to.

    Good luck! :)

    b.
     
    Last edited: 12.01.14
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  32. Premed_student2014

    Premed_student2014

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    How many months do you suggest to study since it's been a while since I have taken my prereqs? It feels like it's been forever since I've learned the material. I haven't taken biochemistry and I plan to take it next semester while studying for the MCAT. Also, I look forward to purchasing all the new material that you guys are coming out with. It's so great that you guys take the time out to interact with students. Thank you for everything.
     
    Last edited: 11.26.14
  33. Premed wrestler

    Premed wrestler 2+ Year Member

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    Questions?
    -I know obviously the content of the exam will be very similar, except for the new Social sciences section, but would I still be able to use old practice questions to prepare. The timing and number of questions will be different, but will the type of questions change also?
    -I heard that the 2015 MCAT will take longer to grade therefore longer to get back, any truth to this?
    -Lastly, What materials would I be able to study for the Social Sciences section. I have taken sociology and psychology, but I'm just wondering how the MCAT will put a spin on these topics with their questions
    -Any help any input would be appreciated thank you
     
  34. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    If you've been away from it for a long time, you should consider a more extended prep timeline. The usual suggestion is something like 3 months, but you might want to plan for more like 5-6. Good luck! :)

    b.
     
  35. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    1. http://forums.studentdoctor.net/thr...urces-for-the-new-mcat-a-quick-guide.1103243/

    2. True. The April 2015 dates will take ~60 days to get back. The May 2015 dates will take ~45 days to get back. The AAMC then "hopes" that from June 2015 forward, the scores will come back in the 30-35 days they currently do.

    3. Obviously I'm going to suggest picking up Next Step's practice book here, and I'd also suggest at least one other good psych/soc prep book from a reputable company. We will have our Content Review psych book out at the start of the new year and obviously I think you should wait for ours, but if you're looking to start sooner than that, just stick with the reputable companies - Kaplan, Princeton, EK. I give the edge to Princeton here since their books will give you access to three complete online full practice tests for buying a single book. EK has quizzes in the book itself which are good, but nothing online. Kaplan has NO passages in the book and will give you online tests, but only Psych section tests, not full timed exams.
     
  36. Premed_student2014

    Premed_student2014

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    Thank you. I'm looking forward to purchasing Next Step content review as well as strategy and practice review.
     
  37. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Hey quick update to the above post: after a quick check, it seems that the Kaplan books don't come with 3 full practice tests if you only buy a single book - you have to buy their full boxed set of books. At that point, buying a single one of their books (to get the 3 online section tests) frankly doesn't make much more sense than buying an EK book (which has quizzes in the back) or a Next Step book (which has 1000+ questions). So I've pulled that recommendation. I've left up the recommendation that you at least buy the TPR Psych book because that single book DOES come with 3 full online tests.
     
  38. Ho0v-man

    Ho0v-man 2+ Year Member

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    Thanks for all you're doing to help us all out. So Next Step's whole series will be out 1/1/15?

    I don't see "AAMC passages" anywhere on the schedule. Are these passages supposed to be from Mprep, Khan Academy, some prep book, or somewhere else.

    Also, does Next Step's books come with a significant amount of practice questions/passages or are the "1000+" questions you mentioned in the post above from a separate book?
     
  39. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Heya. Happy to help! Yes, our various books and tests are wrapping up now, and will be rolling out in January - depending on how long it takes Amazon to get everything up, they'll be available between 1/1/15 and 2/1/15. The questions in our books are a mix of pure content review questions (meaning just science recall) and passage-based questions. When the books are actually out, I'll post up the info about them.

    The "AAMC Passages" means the "AAMC Practice Sets" which are, near as I can tell, the new version of the the AAMC Self-Assessment Packages. Meaning, they're official passages from the AAMC but not arranged as actual tests, just banks of passages on a particular science. They're not in the schedule yet b/c the AAMC hasn't released them. When they do, I'll update!

    b.
     
  40. Levrone

    Levrone 2+ Year Member

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    Hi Next Step Tutor, I heard it'd be better to use older 2013 TPR materials than 2015 Kaplan since there's no passages and since the new MCAT is focusing on less content memorization and more integration. Do you agree with this? I'll also be supplementing with online TPR passages and TPRH passages.

    I noticed my kaplan 2015 physics book is like 1/2 the size of my TPR 2013 physics book!
    (edit: but only 70 less pages).
     
  41. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    You could, but you'll have to separately purchase review materials for biochem, psych/soc, and of course you'll need full practice tests. As ever, that's going to be the sticking point - since as far as I know KTP/TPR never sell their exams as separate products. I don't know if EK will be developing a separate product, and I haven't seen anything yet from Gold Standard. Which means you're going to be limited to the one AAMC test, however many tests TBR puts out, and our tests. If you bought the full Kaplan set, then 3 tests are bundled in, which is good.

    Just make sure when using old materials that you buy the AAMC Official Guide and use that as your general study outline so you're not spending time on stuff that's less relevant now.
     
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  42. Ho0v-man

    Ho0v-man 2+ Year Member

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    Ok thanks. Just trying to get a review kit with the most practice passages for the least money. You recommend Kaplan's new set in your first post and the practice tests are a plus, but I've heard they don't come with a lot of review questions. I've done most of the EK 1001 books and just didn't find them all that helpful.
     
  43. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Well if maximizing passage practice is your goal, maybe you should just stick with the official guide and Khan academy for your content review, and then just buy books like Next Step's Strategy and Practice books (or similar books that just focused on practice material).
     
  44. Ho0v-man

    Ho0v-man 2+ Year Member

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    That's actually a pretty good idea. I've got books for the current MCAT, but I'm having to retake and will have to do the new one. I guess between khan academy, the official guide, and Next Step's Strategy and Practice books, I'd be pretty good. I just need content review for the psych and biochem portions. I think in that case I should go for the TPR books for those. That way I have an official book for everything tested and maximize my practice passages/tests.

    Thanks for everything. You probably just saved me from buying all of Kaplan for content review and all of Next Step for practice passages.
     
  45. saresies

    saresies

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    Hi Bryan, thanks for all of the extremely helpful advice you've given so far! I have a question- EK has released their boxed set of exam prep-do you know of anyone who has reviewed it thus far?

    Do you think it would be worth waiting for reviews, or should I be ok with Kaplan's full set, the TPR psych book, the AAMC guide, and the Next Steps book for practice questions? I don't want to wait, I'm a bit eager to get started.

    Thanks so much in advance!
     
  46. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    The EK books are pretty, they're concise, and they have good practice passages. BUT - they don't come with any online tests. That's the deal-breaker for me. At this point, for full sets of books I'm at a toss-up between Kaplan and Princeton, for the 3 online tests, or Next Step (If you have specific questions about our materials, please post over in the Next Step forum).

    b.
     
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  47. lostsk8r

    lostsk8r

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    The Qbank @ mcatquestion.com isn't available for MCAT 2015, although it states it will be in Fall 2014. Just thought I'd point that out. I started studying on your schedule but now am not sure where to get my practice questions from. I'd hate to pay for their old question bank then not have it carry over.
     
  48. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Huh, really?

    If you go here, it sure looks like they're taking sign ups:

    http://2015.mcatquestion.com/qbank.php

    It looks like their "ecourse" isn't ready yet. I don't know about that so I can't recommend against it or for it.
     
  49. zmed92

    zmed92

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    Hi Bryan, thank you so much for all of the information! I have a couple of questions,in regards to the schedule, in Week 8 it says something along the lines of "3BV part I/II" I'm not sure what you mean by this? Did you mean to split up the videos in parts for the Khan Academy 3B vids? Also, when you list that we are supposed to watch a paticular topic (For example 1A Proteins) are we supposed to watch ALL of the videos in that set of the khan academy for the "1A" section? Sorry for all the confusion!

    Also just to be clear, are you guys also coming out with a Biochemistry guide in Jan?
     
    Last edited: 12.10.14
  50. Next Step Tutor

    Next Step Tutor MCAT Guru 2+ Year Member

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    Heya,

    Yeah the two parts is b/c 3B has a bazillion videos so you need to break it up into first half / second half. Watching them all at once would be too much.

    Yeah when I first made the schedules I'd intended it to be all the videos under the Content Category. I'll probably need to go back and re-think that as the Khan videos have expanded out. There's so many of them now that they probably need to be split up more.

    Yeah, Next Step will have a Bio/Biochem content book out at the start of Jan and a Biological Foundations practice book out in late Jan. If you've got more particular questions about NS materials, please ask over in our forum (they don't want us "advertising" in the main MCAT forum).
     

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