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I know that the SDN population is not representative of the larger pre-med population but I found something interesting when I scrolled through each of the several pages in the 30+ MCAT study habits thread:

Most of the highest scorers (35+) have not taken an MCAT course as at all. In fact, in their 30+ posts, they even recommend against taking a course. The posters who have taken a course have scored around or slightly above 30.

Any explanations? I would also invite condemnations for obsessively looking through the 30+ thread and making threads about things I notice from there, instead of spending more time studying for this beast! :laugh:
 

Spiker

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Yes there is an explanation.

Prep courses are aimed toward the majority. What is the majority? People who trying to get a 30 to get into the medical school. They dont care about those who want to score a 45 therefor do not create their stuff accordingly.

I took a ACT prep course before and it was the most waste of my time ever. I was trying to get a 34 NOT a 24! lol
 

medschl hpeful

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i took kaplan and went from 31 to 41.
Most that study well. Do not need the prep course. Fear is the biggest obstacle of the MCAT. I go in and before I can even do anything, my hands are trembling, I'm looking around, thinking everyone is so much smarter than me, which is not true. It is that hurdle that MOST need to get over to perform well on this exam. It is what causes us to loose 3 or more points a section. Stupid mistakes. Yes I am angry about it to. I'm trying to stay away from the dark side.:laugh::eek::mad:
 

Jubal Early

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This is like noticing that sicker people are in the hospital, even though they are getting better medical treatment then the people that stay home.

People take those classes because they are shaky in some areas and/or don't study well on their own. If you are a Bio/Chem split major with a minor in physics and rhetoric, you probably don't need to take a course or study much and you will do better than most others.
 

Naijaba

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I took a Kaplan course and it helped a little bit (+4 points). Then I bought the EK subject books and EK 101 Verbal and they helped A LOT (+8). I got a 37Q on the actual test, up from 25 (first Kaplan diagnostic). It goes without saying that those who are anal study on their own, and learn a lot more than a prep company teacher can teach.

EDIT: Spiker is correct about test-prep courses, however the EK books specifically say that the books are for students already achieving 10+ in each subject test.
 
OP
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Naijaba,

The EK books say that they are for students who have NOT scored 10+.
 

LostInStudy

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Actually both of you are right. The EK 1001 books are for people who score below a 10 but (even though it doesn't say it in the books) you need quite a bit of knowledge to use the EK textbooks so people who find the textbooks helpful would probably score close to a 10 on the science sections anyway.

Hope this helped,

-LIS
 

FuSoYa

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I'll throw in my thoughts. I took a course in 2003, scored a 27Q. Retook this past January after studying on my own and scored 35R. Some of this has to do with personal growth, but the following still applies.

When I took the course in 2003 I was overly reliant upon the course. I kept up with the assigned reading, did all the homework, showed up for the practice exams, asked questions in class, took notes in lecture, and based on how we're trained in college I thought that this would be enough. I didn't realize how much extra, independent study was required for the MCAT.

For the 2009 test I used all the EK books and instead of sticking to a pre-set program I just studied the material until I mastered it. Some chapters I went through 3-4 times, others just once. And I took a lot of practice exams from multiple sources, instead of just one like a prep course, in order to become comfortable with the MCAT's testing style.

Basically, a prep course is beneficial in helping you stay on track if you're a natural slacker. They organize all the material and present it in a concise fashion. But if you're really serious about doing well you wouldn't need this outside help. Grab some MCAT books, study the material, practice, review, rinse and repeat. By the time test day comes you should be so sick of practicing and reviewing the same freakin material that you WANT to take the test and get it over with. At least that's how I felt. Except for verbal... i can't give much advice on verbal, HAHAHA :laugh:
 

Naijaba

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BennieBlanco

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I know that the SDN population is not representative of the larger pre-med population but I found something interesting when I scrolled through each of the several pages in the 30+ MCAT study habits thread:

Most of the highest scorers (35+) have not taken an MCAT course as at all. In fact, in their 30+ posts, they even recommend against taking a course. The posters who have taken a course have scored around or slightly above 30.

Any explanations? I would also invite condemnations for obsessively looking through the 30+ thread and making threads about things I notice from there, instead of spending more time studying for this beast! :laugh:
lol. Why would most 35+ not take a course? A course is structured while self study can be adapted by an intelligent person. Should you spend equal time on biology if you own biology and are weak in physics? No.

Plus you have to understand that the people who take a course often say, "I need structure, I need someone to discipline me to study" This is code for, "I am not motivated or disciplined", which are necessary for success.

Courses are weak. Self study is superior. Courses waste time also.

Classes are even silly in my opinion.

Option 1:

1. I can give you some books and have a guy who scored highly on a test guide you through it - $1800

Option 2:

2. I can give you the same exact information and the entire internet with loads of people who are willing to give advice that have scored as high or higher - $200-$600 (depending on what materials you get and where).

I guess if mom and dad pay then they don't care but why waste as much as $1200.

With all that said, anyone can succeed under any circumstances if their will is strong.
 
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clearsight

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This is my opinion only, so take it with a grain of salt I guess, here it goes (deep breath)...

I got a 37 O (11 VR 12 PS 14 BS). I took a prep course called Altius (not available in most areas). For effectiveness, I found personal study>>group work>one-on-one tutoring. I would recommend forming a private study group of three or four intelligent people with particular ability in at least one area, like one chemistry whiz, one biology major, and a physics major. You get the picture. I would take every single practice exam and do every practice question possible, all timed so it is under pressure. I would take my practice exams at the same time as my actual MCAT. As for the writing sample, I did poorly and your advice would be better than mine, so no comment. I did not try.

Before taking a prep course, though, I would take a diagnostic first and see if it is even necessary!

If I could do it again, I would do every EK book and do Kaplan's online package that has a ton of problems but not take the classes. I would start about four months before the MCAT. And remember that grain of salt :)
 

OPPforlife

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I never took a prep course for the MCAT. However, I think the course may actually be pretty helpful since it provides you with SO much info. The reason why I think some course takers tend to not do so well is because they rely too much on the course and get in to this mentality that just because they are enrolled in this course they should do better than people who are not. This kind of mentality is not help full at all.
That being said, if finances allow, I would love to take some kind of a prep course for the step 1 (or at least some kind of online package).


I did do what clearsight is talking about(study groups with experts in different subject areas), and I think that for most things education related it is the best strategy out there.
 

Segovia

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I took a prep course and I definitely learned some great tips and mnemonics on how to remember the information. The courses offer tips that you learn from sitting in class every day. For example, from Princeton Review:

Example 1: Ox Cat, a Red Ann

Example 2: FLAT PEG

I mastered the class, I learned to excel and exceed expectations with pure excellence. I am an exemplary candidate with extraordinary willpower and if you are like me then taking a prep course will help you very much.

The "E" is for Elvis-stimulating hormone.
 

mic2377

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I have my own input regarding this. I took the Kaplan class a long time ago, when it was still paper, and scored a low 30's score. However, I only scored mid 20's on my first 2 practice exams, and decided the class wasn't really helping me. So, I quit going to the classes and only went to the practice exams.

I re-took the MCAT in 2008 after my earlier scores expired. With my own studying and a comprehensive review book, I managed to again score in the 32-34 range (number is to be not disclosed). This was after approx. 4 weeks of studying 2-3 hrs/day, after I got done with my 40 hr/week job.

Most of the people who score very well on the MCAT have good grasp on what and how they need to learn, and they do not need coaching on how to do so. They are also likely to be very disciplined, in contrast to the "hand-holding" approach of Kaplan. Likely, they are also naturally good test takers. I am fairly sure that if I had the resources to study very hard like many of the people on SDN, I could definitely crack a 36+.

Your mileage may vary.....
 

Hemichordate

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I guess for PS, is the AAMC more representative of the real thing than Kaplan? I heard this wasn't the case for BS, at least.
 
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I guess for PS, is the AAMC more representative of the real thing than Kaplan? I heard this wasn't the case for BS, at least.
I don't know how AAMC can be less representative than Kaplan, given the fact that the AAMC writes the MCAT and that those practice tests are actual old tests. Some of the AAMC ones are harder, and some are easier, but that's what you could get on test day. Taken together as a whole, the group of AAMC tests offer pretty good preparation.

In response to the OP, I opted not to take a course, and followed a schedule very similar to the one outlined in the link in my signature titled "How to Study for the MCAT Exam" (hence why it's in my signature!) It worked beautifully, and I was able to walk into the testing center fairly confident and come out feeling good.

I think the general consensus is that a course is important and perhaps necessary for some, but others can do just as well or even better with a well-devised self-study program. The key is to set up a program and then follow it.
 

FishHungry

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I want to add my two cents, only because I happened to take the same course Clearsight took, Altius Test Prep. I got a 40S. I think Clearsight is a little funny to get a 37 and then say that he wasn't sure if the course was necessary. That's kind of like winning the NBA championship and saying, I'm not sure if the coach really helped or not, we might have been able to do it without the coach. I would totally recommend Altius if you happen to live in Utah (I think that's the only place it is offered). Most every friend I studied with scored in the mid to high 30s and that's not normal.

I took a diagnostic from Kaplan before I took Altius and they said I scored a 30. After takign the Altius course and all of the AAMC tests however, I am skeptical about the accuracy and realism of Kaplan questions, so I'm not sure what that 30 really means. I then took the entire Altius course. It is all private tutoring which I found much more helpful. Most of the stuff everyone is saying about prep courses in general stems from the fact that they are 1) directed to the masses (and so don't help a student with high goals as much), and 2) don't have any specific help or attention. Having a tutor allowed me to focus in immediately on what I didn't know and not waste time (like in a classroom setting) working thru stuff I did know. Altius was great for me and I think is miles beyond anything else out there.

But, since almost none of you reading this can probably take it, this is what I would recommend. I would get the EK series and maybe supplement with PR. I would try to replicate the private tutoring environment by getting together with some similarly-motivated friends and taking turns teaching each other sections of the review books. I would mimick a lot of what Altius does because they are getting some killer results. For example, they have you take the AAMC exams section by section and spend a lot of time analyzing the question style, how the question was asked, what principle was tested, etc. Do this primarily for the AAMCs, because the EK and PR won't be as accurate. I thought doing this gave me a huge advantage because I began to understand how the test writers were designing questions. I could almost predict the kinds of questions they would ask on each subject and so on test day i felt very cool and collected. Altius has you take a ton of practice tests, which I think is a must. I would take all of the EK/PR tests first, then end with the real AAMC tests. I think that if you haven't taken 12-15 full-length 5-hour practice tests in timed conditions, you have no business taking the real exam. Finally, Altius is brutal in how they follow up on you. My tutor made me report back to him on EVERYTHING I was supposed to be doing, including my scores on the practice items. By yourself, you really, really, MUST be disciplined. You have to set aside a large amount of time for study and make sure you do it. Procrastination/Laziness is what seems to kill most people. Anyway, hope that helps! Good luck to all!
 

ezsanche

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This is like noticing that sicker people are in the hospital, even though they are getting better medical treatment then the people that stay home.

People take those classes because they are shaky in some areas and/or don't study well on their own. If you are a Bio/Chem split major with a minor in physics and rhetoric, you probably don't need to take a course or study much and you will do better than most others.
Lol that describes me. Good job!
 

cheekiemunky

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I'll throw in my thoughts. I took a course in 2003, scored a 27Q. Retook this past January after studying on my own and scored 35R. Some of this has to do with personal growth, but the following still applies.

When I took the course in 2003 I was overly reliant upon the course. I kept up with the assigned reading, did all the homework, showed up for the practice exams, asked questions in class, took notes in lecture, and based on how we're trained in college I thought that this would be enough. I didn't realize how much extra, independent study was required for the MCAT.

For the 2009 test I used all the EK books and instead of sticking to a pre-set program I just studied the material until I mastered it. Some chapters I went through 3-4 times, others just once. And I took a lot of practice exams from multiple sources, instead of just one like a prep course, in order to become comfortable with the MCAT's testing style.

Basically, a prep course is beneficial in helping you stay on track if you're a natural slacker. They organize all the material and present it in a concise fashion. But if you're really serious about doing well you wouldn't need this outside help. Grab some MCAT books, study the material, practice, review, rinse and repeat. By the time test day comes you should be so sick of practicing and reviewing the same freakin material that you WANT to take the test and get it over with. At least that's how I felt. Except for verbal... i can't give much advice on verbal, HAHAHA :laugh:
Nice username.... I bet not many people pick up on that haha.
 

JP2740

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My friend took Kaplan. His grade went from 27 (diag) to a 37. My other friend took Princeton's class. His grade went from 20 (diag) to a 34. I think if you just study your butt of constantly. Do the HW, keep up, use all the resources they give PLUS anything else you can fit in, the class can be helpful. However, many people on here are advocates for the Berkeley material so I'm not sure. I am in a similar dilemma, where I am deciding between taking the Princeton class or just studying on my own.
 

caseofthemndays

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Just wanted to add my 200 pesos. I got a 21 on the Kaplan diag, although I'm not sure that really means much. Took the class and scored a 29 (boo) A year later, I just hit the books, and studied in a way that was comfortable to me (lots and lots of repetition) and scored a 34. You gotta work in a way that benefits you, I agree that the prep courses are directed to the "masses" IE covering just enough to get you by without really anything tailored to the student.