Apr 7, 2020
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Hi all - this is my first SDN post so bear with me.

I'm planning on taking the MCAT this September and I'm trying to gather study materials. I've been going through SDN forums and feeling pretty overwhelmed at all of the choices. I've already purchased the Kaplan self-paced course that includes all of their materials and was planning on supplementing it with the AAMC complete bundle, Khan Academy, and possibly UWorld. However, as I read through more posts it seems like most of you are not big fans of Kaplan. I may try to get a refund if I am advised to go with other materials instead. As of now I am leaning towards purchasing the TPR box set or self-paced course in the place of the Kaplan one.

I'm extremely indecisive and want to make sure I have the materials that will allow me to succeed. On the other hand, I do need to actually get started and can't spend much more time psyching myself out by reading all of these forums and trying to find the perfect fit.

A few questions:
Why do people not like Kaplan?
Is it really necessary to mix and match all these different test prep companies to get the best combo?
Should I give up on Kaplan and get TBR or TPR materials instead?
If you had to choose between buying the TPR box set or the Kaplan box set which would you choose and why?
I want to do at least one CARS passage per day but I'm worried about running out of passages - what is the best way to go about getting as much CARS material as possible?

Also, have any of you listened to Dr. Gray's CARS or MCAT podcasts and if so, did you find them helpful?

If you have any general advice on how to choose resources and your personal experiences with any of them, I'd love to hear it!

Thanks so much in advance!!
 

GreenDuck12

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Mar 30, 2014
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A few questions:
Why do people not like Kaplan?
- I wouldnt say that people dislike Kaplan. Kaplan's review materials are fairly comprehensive and concise. Will they go into every detail that could be tested? No. But they cover high yield topics quite well. In general, I am not a fan of their self paced course but that is because I am not a fan of self paced online courses. I think they have a tendency to lull folks into a false sense of forward momentum when really they are studying in a passive manner.

Is it really necessary to mix and match all these different test prep companies to get the best combo?
- It is really about finding what materials work for you. I know high scorers who have used Kaplan, Next Step, TBR, etc exclusively who did not feel the need to use other materials. In my case, I used TBR for gen chem, orgo, physics, and TBR's practice passages for Bio and biochem. I used Kaplan for Bio and biochem (the TBR content overview was too dense for my taste) and psychology and sociology. I also supplemented with NextStep's full length exams because of their experimental heavy practice MCATs and UWorld for additional practice.

Should I give up on Kaplan and get TBR or TPR materials instead?
- Entirely up to you. I recommend TBR for physics, orgo, and gen chem at the minimum when folks ask for input. Is it necessary? No. There are plenty of free passages from Khan Academy you could use instead.

If you had to choose between buying the TPR box set or the Kaplan box set which would you choose and why?
- I have no opinion on this.

I want to do at least one CARS passage per day but I'm worried about running out of passages - what is the best way to go about getting as much CARS material as possible?
- Jack Westin has free CARS passages that he posts daily. On his site, you can access previous passages for free. I highly recommend upping this to three passages per day to get used to using comprehension/diagramming strategies and to get used to reading dense material about art history, philosophy, linguistics, etc. I would not place a lot of emphasis on the questions or answers. IMO the AAMC is the only material you should use to practice question and answer logic/reasoning.
 
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PlsLetMeIn21

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Dec 5, 2017
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A few questions:
Why do people not like Kaplan?
Is it really necessary to mix and match all these different test prep companies to get the best combo?
Should I give up on Kaplan and get TBR or TPR materials instead?
If you had to choose between buying the TPR box set or the Kaplan box set which would you choose and why?
I want to do at least one CARS passage per day but I'm worried about running out of passages - what is the best way to go about getting as much CARS material as possible?
Also, have any of you listened to Dr. Gray's CARS or MCAT podcasts and if so, did you find them helpful?

I completely agree with what GreenDuck posted, so I'll try to add a few additional points.

Why do people not like Kaplan?
Like GreenDuck said, it's not that people don't like them, they're just not the best study materials. It is definitely personal preference, but for me the most important part of any materials are the practice questions and explanations. I didn't feel like their questions were helpful (realistic or thought provoking).

Is it really necessary to mix and match all these different test prep companies to get the best combo?
Should I give up on Kaplan and get TBR or TPR materials instead?
I found mixing and matching to be the best for me. No one company has mastered all of the areas. Most study plans involve mixing books and resources. I found TBR the best for general chem, orgo, physics, and like GreebDuck biology not counting biochemistry. I like TPR best for psych/sociology and CARS. I found UWorld helpful for psych/sociology and as a bridge between my book reviewing and starting AAMC materials.

If you had to choose between buying the TPR box set or the Kaplan box set which would you choose and why?
Neither, because they each have their strengths and weaknesses. Kaplan for biochemistry and TPR for CARS and P/S. If you really set on getting only one set, then get TBR because their sciences are excellent and you won't need anything else for that. For CARS, you need AAMC so you can get away with pretty much any materials.

I want to do at least one CARS passage per day but I'm worried about running out of passages - what is the best way to go about getting as much CARS material as possible?
If you can afford, buy FLs from multiple sources and use their CARS for practice. I unfortunately had to take the MCAT again (122 CARS my first time) and between all the materials I had, I never needed to do any passages a second time besides AAMC. There are literally over 1000 passages available from all of the third party vendors.

Also, have any of you listened to Dr. Gray's CARS or MCAT podcasts and if so, did you find them helpful?
I really like Dr. Gray's admissions advice, especially the personal statement. His CARS tips seemed okay, but honestly not much different from anything else you can read or hear. I think his MCAT tips are good, but having taken a class this last time I studied, I'd say that the tips I got from the class blow Dr. Gray's advice (and everything I've read or heard) away.
 
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I would put Anki, UWorld, and Khan Academy in my S-tier for MCAT resources thus far. Obviously you have to get the AAMC stuff. If there were any way to not give the AAMC money, I'd recommend that. But they write the test, it's just required that you use their stuff.

UWorld is ball-crushingly hard and the explanations are just unbeatable. The UWorld writers are actually geniuses. There are a definitely bad questions or ones that are just way too hard but Uworld is just so good.

Anki, it's just the fastest way to learn period. I've used a lot of premades but Miledown is fantastic if you want to get your content review 80% of the way there really fast. Also free and open source. I like opensource.

I don't like Khan Academy's content just because they're videos and videos are too slow. Their passages seem to be pretty high quality and there's a lot of them... for free.

As for Kaplan IDK what the SDN opinion on them is, I think they're fine... there's certainly nothing wrong with their books. It's not that they're bad but when I use Anki as my primary study resource reading books is just inefficient. I like them as a reference and they've helped me when I need to drill down on a specific problem. I've honestly used the CARS one the most I'm just not making headway on a very specific type of question and I'm trying to develop my CARS strategy more.
 
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BMEhound321

2+ Year Member
Jul 3, 2018
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I will rank resources i would recommend BUYING by priority (most priority to least priority)

1.) MCAT registration duh
2.) All the AAMC practice exams
3.) UWorld
4.) AAMC Quizpacks and section banks
5.) TPR Practice Exams (will explain why in a sec)
________
There are infinite more resources that as a millionaire you can purchase for ****s and gigs but imo you wont be better for it.

BY FAR: PLEEEEEEEEASE explore reddit . com / r/ mcat
This is FREE! It's amazing! It will increase your score.

This forum contains just an abundance of information and resources and support. You can also search any qbank/section bank/official exam question and will get a whole page regarding why the correct answer is correct and other peoples perspective on the question. Awesome resource. Also people take offensive to reddit because that community has a lot of very high scoring individuals. I do not see why this is a negative because it's known that you will become more like the people you surround yourself with, the more time you spend around them. Surround yourself with people who complain about getting a 518 and not a 520. Did i mention it's free?

UWorld is the single best investment you can make imo for resources that are not AAMC because it will quiz you hard, it will quiz you in depth, and the explanations will make you want to jump for joy! Especially useful for psych and bio (taught me how to analyze graphs in my sleep). But phys/chem and CARS were also sick. The single best 200$ you will spend. And finish the entire question bank once and redo all the wrong questions once more for optimal results.

TPR exams. Here's why I like TPR exams. My first one was a 499. Went down to a 498 a week later. Ended up scoring a 506 on my best one. This is a REALLY GOOD place to be. It teaches you very very specific detail stuff full of calculations and very in depth information that once reviewed properly will be sure to serve you well on the AAMC exams. (506 on TPR might can be considered in the mid teens on the AAMC think 515-517). By practicing hard you will be better prepared for the real thing. This is why I preferred TPR to more 'accurate' third party exams. You have enough 'accurate' exams from AAMC so thereby do not need more 'accurate' practice from third party. Use third party exams to train HARD. and TPR is from what I have found to be about the hardest out of them. Also NS sucks booty dont buy imo.

_______
Overall advice:

1.) Do you best to give yourself 3 full time months for this. This is ideal and certainly not too short. Dont do more than 4 months you'll burn out. Dont stuff your schedule with a bunch of stuff. Trying dedicating 3 months to just MCAT. If possible. Get ready for this study sesh and treat it like a vacation. A long, ****ty, vacation that you do not want to repeat lmao.

2.) Before you begin, spend a week full time browsing reddit collecting resources and ORGANIZING this information in a way that makes sense to you. This is high yield so that you dont waste time doing this later.

3.) To each his own, but I found that content review is not something I could do. In addition, my basic sciences were quite weak so i was a bit apprehensive of this at first. It ended up being the best thing to happen to me though because instead, I spent my time doing practice, practice, practice, taking an exam every week or two. But more importantly, REVIEW your mistakes and redo those questions at a later date.

4.) "Think and Grow Rich". A book about how your mindset influences the outcome. Read it if you want but take a lesson from it. Your mindset WILL influence your score. There was not a moment that I didn't believe that I was going to receive anything lower than my goal. Ended up scoring a bit lower but my goal was a 522. Set a high af goal and just go for it.
______
Use your resources. Use your family, use your friends, use online communities. All those people should be resources to use as mental support, but dont let them distract you. Do you for 3 months, go somewhere where no one you lives. Somewhere. But have a place to get away to and jsut put your head down to grind. You got this! Feel free to reach out for support/help/mcat advice/anything you need.

*** also september is the perfect time to take it, there's a link somewhere on the reddit page for a mp3 download of all the P/S khan academy videos by chapter. From now till you begin studying in may, go through this entire thing in the following way (that helped me at least): Each chapter listen to it twice, then move on to the next chapter. Each chapter is about 1 hour worth of lectures broken up by video, and there are about 25 videos. (This method along with UWorld is the only thing that allowed to crush psych with 0 content review)
 
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