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Kaplan Courses - What did / didn't you like

Discussion in 'Kaplan MCAT Forum (Sponsored)' started by Fireballfx, Jun 1, 2008.

  1. Fireballfx

    Fireballfx 2+ Year Member

    Jul 18, 2007
    Hi all,

    I am a Kaplan instructor, and am interested in hearing feedback from previous course takers as to what you liked / what you didn't like about the course so that I can structure the course to better fit the needs and expectations of my students.

    I have an idea of what I would expect of an instructor, but alas I am only one person and as such, have only a limited range of perspectives.

    Thanks in advance for any replies!


  2. fourteensierra


    Jun 7, 2008
    I had one lady who taught the critical thinking and verbal and she was great. She really got involved and was excited to be there (also the physics guy was pretty good). Unfortunately, I had two bio teachers and they kind of stunk and totally phoned it in.

    Word of advice: people can tell whether you really care if they are learning or you are just there because someone is paying you to stand there and read from some pre-made kaplan notes.

    In the end I guess the best advice is easy to think of but hard to follow. Be a dynamic speaker don't just read from the pre-made notes (anyone taking the MCAT is already literate) and actually care about the students you are teaching (they paid alot to be there they WANT to learn the material)
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2008
  3. greg1184

    greg1184 10+ Year Member

    Dec 9, 2006
    Everything is geared towards the CBT
    Tons of practice material. They give you so much practice material that there is no way you will ever run out. Full lengths, section tests, topical tests, subject tests, etc.
    Great syllabus kept me organized and in order for my studies.
    Fantastic workshop presentations that explain certain important topics.
    I had an awesome teacher for most of my classes.
    Full length exams do an excellent job simulating the test in terms of time. Interface is pretty friendly.
    I liked how the review notes were organized.
    One of the questions Kaplan had in its lecture book actually appeared in my exam!!!
    Raised my score 6 points from the previous year. Got 1 point short of my target score .

    It is hit or miss with Kaplan teachers. I was fortunate to have some very good teachers.
    Verbal strategies just did not work for me. EK's strategies for verbal are more intuitive to the nature of the verbal section.
    Practice tests, especially verbal, are geared towards their strategies that don't work as well in AAMC/EK tests.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2008
  4. gmacpac

    gmacpac 10+ Year Member

    Nov 21, 2006
    I agree w/ Greg:

    Verbal strategy is not so good. After practicing Kaplan's verbal strategy for months and getting consistantly in the range of 6-7 on my practice exams, I switched over to EK's verbal strategy. My score, and confidence level improved just after one try.

    Ok. This is not to promote EK over Kaplan.

    Kaplan's books were too wordy. By far Kaplan's online material was really the best thing about the course. At one point, I stopped going to class because I felt that the instructor was basically reading from the book, which after lecture #4 became extremely boring. I got more accomplished by just studying on my own, and doing as many practice problems as I could from Online prep.

    Again, I'm not trying to be rude. I probably would never have posted this stuff. But since, a Kaplan instructor is asking us for our feed back, I think its most appropriate for me to be brutally honest. This way Kaplan can improve their course for future students who will be paying $1,600+ for a course prep which may not be as good as it is hyped up to be.
  5. manda27


    Jun 24, 2008
    I had the worst teacher from kaplan, he has never taken the mcat and he had a god complex. This guy wouldn't stay on track, go through the course material, and would turn a 3 hour class into a 4 hour class...

    needless to say I left that class and went to another kaplan class in a different area.

    Don't be stuck on hearing yourself talk, It would be great to do an ice breaker activity first and even make everyone trade info to study with.

    And notice if people have strange looks on their faces because we probably don't understand what is going on but are too afraid to ask, scared of feeling stupid.
  6. ACGator09

    ACGator09 boom goes the dynamite 5+ Year Member

    Aug 6, 2006
    for me, the online "how many seconds did you take to answer this question" timer did not work. i guess you can't do anything about that, but it wouldve been a nice little feature.
  7. FLman


    Jul 5, 2008
    The Verbal Reasoning practice wasn't very impressive to me. I didn't find Kaplan's passage mapping methods to be effective. They were way too time consuming. Also, while my Chem teacher was very knowledgeable, many times he went further in depth than is necessary for the MCAT, which was kind of annoying. I would suggest trimming down the course material covered and empasize problem solving more. Also, the high yield problem solving guide wasn't very helpful because the questions were loaded. It's more important to be able to recognize the basic science concept(s) that a given MCAT question is drawing from, and go from there.
  8. CUcanMS


    Aug 14, 2007
    I'm currently a Kaplan student, testing in about a month. Overall, I think all the Kaplan material is useful, especially the online stuff. Echoing the other comments, the actual classroom sessions aren't always the time you spend there.
    Anyway, one of the reasons I'm taking this course is to improve on Verbal. I've hit target scores on real MCAT's twice before on PS and BS, but VR has been my let down.
    That being said, I'll take any advice about other strategies that you guys might have for VR. Their mapping does feel slow and ineffective on some passages, so anything that would speed up the process of getting through a passage and hitting the questions would be great.
  9. futuredoctor10

    futuredoctor10 10+ Year Member

    Jan 25, 2007
    Positive Aspects of the Course:
    * all the online course materials - topical tests, section tests, full lengths, etc
    * excellent content review in the books (I liked it, but I know it's a subjective thing depending on how much explanation an individual wants.)
    * Bio lectures (in the in-classroom course) - the lectures were organized by system, learned and integrated concepts

    Things I didn't like/ Suggestions for Improvement:
    * Improve Verbal Reasoning Strategy. Going over question types is helpful - one page, or one class. But the difficulty for students is not knowing the difference between keywords (however, and, but) or the difference between fact and opinion, which is reiterated in Verbal Lessons. I think going over wrong answer choices and just more practice would be more beneficial.
    * Try to merge some of the topics discussed in Online Workshops into the books. It's okay to see the material twice, but it's nice having any content required for the MCAT in one source to eliminate the need to review both the texts and online workshops.
  10. manickamosu

    manickamosu 5+ Year Member

    Feb 14, 2008
    Does anyone find that Kaplan's tests / practice materials are written harder than the actual test?
    How much of a difference did you see between your Kaplan scores and your AAMC scores (or the real thing if you've already taken it...)? I'd like an idea of where I stand since I have only taken Kaplan tests so far.

  11. futuredoctor10

    futuredoctor10 10+ Year Member

    Jan 25, 2007
    If you look at the 6/13 and other threads, most recent test-takers found the MCAT to be more difficult than AAMC exams. Several people said it was harder than, but closer to, AAMC 7-10 or 9-10. And ppl are saying that Kaplan FLs were more on par with the actual MCAT in terms of difficulty. So your Kaplan FL scores may be a good indicator.

    I have not taken the MCAT and am also in the process of doing FLs like you but hopefully someone who's actually taken the test & AAMCs/Kaplan FLs can help answer this question better!
  12. mcant

    mcant 5+ Year Member

    Jul 13, 2008
    Having just taken the MCAT today, I guess I can offer my opinion.

    I was enrolled in a Kaplan classroom program in montreal. I can only say good things about my instructors: both of them were enthusiastic and were excellent instructors (I had different teachers for verbal/science).

    The good:
    -Kaplan's approach to question stem analysis really helped me, I could usually eliminate 2 answers based solely on their wording
    -Science passage mapping: really helped with the experimental passages and if anything keeps you more focused during the passage
    -Writing sample prep: database building is awesome, as was how systematic you guys make it
    -Online content: I didn't have time to do all of the practice tests despite studying for 3 months, which says a lot. I found them harder than the AAMC tests (and the real thing) which is also a plus

    The bad:
    -Verbal. Your passage mapping strategy really slowed me down and gave me less time to analyze the questions. I didn't think it was a practical method of approaching the section (I only started improving when I did it my way, I was scoring an 8 for 2 months).

    From the sounds of it it's hit or miss with a teacher, I guess I really lucked out. Mine were both awesome.
  13. amar21

    amar21 professional crammer 7+ Year Member

    Feb 27, 2006
    teachers reading off sheets = terrible, i can read that myself at home.

    another bad = the explanation of FL 1 online was terrible. The recorded onliny lecture would just say "so looking at paragraph three we know its answer choice C. Now moving onto the next question" without explaining why.
  14. katnap

    katnap 2+ Year Member

    Nov 7, 2007
    I would have to echo a lot of what other people have said in this forum already. A lot of the teachers were young kids who had only just started with Kaplan and were reading from the book. This was really disheartening. When they were asked a complicated question, they usually promised to "get back to you as soon as possible with a really good answer". On one occassion, one of the teachers stayed and tried to help me solve a really difficult physics concept. The problem was that he made the same mistakes I made, and after an hour of banging our heads on the problem he gave up. At the next lesson, he announced that "if I need specialised physics tuition, then I have to pay extra for a physics tutor and drive to the nearest Kaplan centre". Obviously, the centre manager had enforced the corporate hard-line approach of selling extra personalised tuition whenever possible. This is not helpful, and it discouraged me from asking questions. At times I felt like all I got for my money was access to the online section, the class notes, and someone to read them to me.

    We didn't have a Kaplan centre in our city, but we have a major university. The classes were held at the university, which was really convenient. However, the poor supply of teachers was a constant challenge. We must have had a minimum of 10 teachers during the course, and at least 4 of them were there for just one lesson. The lack of continuity was a little disruptive sometimes, although the planned and fixed syllabus helped to alleviate that.

    Their verbal strategy doesn't work. I abandoned it early on, and that was one of the best decision that I made in my VR strategy. Using their strategy I scored around 8 or 9 on each passage, whereas I always ranged from 10-13 using my own strategy. The online section tests, exams, etc. were one of the best features of the course. I was able to track and work on my weak areas.

    I would not have passed the MCAT with a 30+ score if I hadn't taken Kaplan. They almost doubled my score from the score that I got on the diagnostic exam - although most of my issues were with not knowing how to take an MCAT as I'd never seen one before. And, as you all know, it's not like any of the other exams that you take in life.

    I don't want to criticise Kaplan, as I am very grateful for the tuition that they gave me. It was more helpful than just about any of my undergrad courses (except perhaps OChem - I had an amazing teacher). I'm just trying to provide feedback, as it was requested.

    Last edited: Jul 28, 2008
  15. Tutmos

    Tutmos MS0 2+ Year Member

    Apr 10, 2008
    They really need to clean the online product up. It's very sloppy, in some cases to the point that if you're not paying attention you'll duplicate work. The online course structure is good, and if refined would be well worth it.

    They need to get rid of a number of the people doing the audio recordings. Some actually repeatedly fail to follow the script and say the opposite of the correct statements and some are very hard to understand because they slur or try to get clever with tone etc. Hire some professional voice talent instead of a bunch of kids you found from your student teaching jobs.

    They also spend far too much time trying to convince you how great their schemes are for the various sections, it seems not to stand on its own so they have to tell it's really good. I think they're forgetting that you've already paid for the product by this point and they don't need to keep selling you.

    They also need to refine the questions they use, there are a fair number that require calculators, such as some log functions and I'm not talking about those you could estimate for pH etc. They're far too math heavy on a lot of things and they need to switch focus to problems that are more likely on the actual MCAT, moderate calculation problems that don't require 10 steps and 15 minutes to solve, it's unrealistic.

    As for sloppy, as I mentioned above, a good example is OChem 2 and 3. They tell you to read chap 13 in the book before the lesson 2. Well if you aren't paying attention when you get to lesson 3 they make the mistake of telling you to read it again.

    I guess I'm rambling. I'm sorry I just got really annoyed at the mush mouth kid that does the chem 3 recording I just got done with. He's the person that wasn't following the script and saying the wrong signs etc.

    The Verbal strat and concept of Triage and most mapping should be thrown out the door, how silly. Anything to sell people on a "special" stategy I guess. I better shut up until I take the MCAT and get a good score I suppose :eek:
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2008

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