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I just finished my MCAT and now that I've had some time to calm down I'd like to post my thoughts of the review materials. I took the Kaplan course, did the EK series, and took the AAMC practice tests and can comment on them.

1. Kaplan Course/Practice Tests. A lot of people here have complained about the Kaplan course and practice tests as going into too much detail. I generally agree with this assessment, but I don't see it as a bad thing. In recent years the MCAT has gotten more specific with the content it requires, so a more in-depth review course is preferable. The key to studying is to focusing on big picture things. No one in their right mind would be able to memorize every fact and equation and reaction in all of the Kaplan books and it would be futile to try. In fact, I think attempting to memorize everything is one of the biggest mistakes people make in preparing for the test. It's not important to know every single reagent and reaction for ochem, because if you understand how nucleophiles and electrophiles interact, you can figure out whats happening most of the time.

For people going through the course, I recommend doing all the homework they provide (end of ch questions, end of lecture quizzes). They aren't there to bombard you with material. The psychology of learning says we remember best when we review the material we've just learned 24 hours after we've learned it, and again within a week to attain maximum retention. If you do the homeworks the day after you read a chapter, and take the quizzes a week after you finish the chapter, your retention will go through the roof!

As far as the practice tests go, don't use them as a predictor of your score as they are different than the real thing. Generally speaking, Kaplan passages are filled with complex language that makes them nearly incomprehensible and their questions are usually calculation-heavy. They do, however, have a very generous curve so it doesn't really translate well. They are great practice to get you used to the kinds of tricky passages the MCAT test makers can present to you.

2. ExamKraker's Review Books. After I took my diagnostic for Kaplan, I saw that Bio was my worst area so immediately read all of EK Bio and took notes on it. I loved their books! While Kaplan gave all the background info, EK was very concise and did a good job of developing critical thinking skills that in my opinion are one of the most important tools on the MCAT.

As far as their verbal strategy goes, I took it and kept it once I started using it. It's way more intuitive, and very helpful. However, I found their questions more vague than either the AAMC verbal or the actual MCAT, but seeing those vague questions prepares you for the few vague ones you'll see on the real thing.

Both Kaplan and EK Verbal have their strengths and weaknesses. Kaplan gives you really confusing passages which are hard to decipher and gives you too many detail questions, but this does a good job of preparing you to deal with tricky passages. EK prepares you to face tough questions and helps develop your critical thinking skills. Both are important to doing well on the MCAT and both together would be better than either alone.

3. AAMC Practice Tests. These are the closest things you can get to the real MCAT. Most of their questions require straightforward knowledge combined with some critical thinking and will usually appear much easier than the Kaplan full lengths. They make up for this by having a brutal curve. Definitely the best practice you can get as this is the closest to the real test.

The AAMC verbal was generally speaking easier than both EK101 and Kaplan but with a much harder curve. It tended to rely more on "main point" questions than details.

Now how do these compare? In terms of difficulty, Kaplan is the hardest, but has a really generous curve. AAMC was the easiest, but they had really tough curves. The real MCAT was harder than any of the AAMCs bur easier than most of the Kaplan's.

I'd say for anyone serious about getting a 35+, using Kaplan/EK/AAMC together is essential to develop multiple skills. For someone just wanting a 32ish, just doing the Kaplan course and most of the AAMCs will get you there.

I'll post my study habits in detail when I get my score (don't wanna jinx anything!)
 

Ahsan

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i just finished my mcat and now that i've had some time to calm down i'd like to post my thoughts of the review materials. I took the kaplan course, did the ek series, and took the aamc practice tests and can comment on them.

1. Kaplan course/practice tests. A lot of people here have complained about the kaplan course and practice tests as going into too much detail. I generally agree with this assessment, but i don't see it as a bad thing. In recent years the mcat has gotten more specific with the content it requires, so a more in-depth review course is preferable. The key to studying is to focusing on big picture things. No one in their right mind would be able to memorize every fact and equation and reaction in all of the kaplan books and it would be futile to try. In fact, i think attempting to memorize everything is one of the biggest mistakes people make in preparing for the test. It's not important to know every single reagent and reaction for ochem, because if you understand how nucleophiles and electrophiles interact, you can figure out whats happening most of the time.

For people going through the course, i recommend doing all the homework they provide (end of ch questions, end of lecture quizzes). They aren't there to bombard you with material. The psychology of learning says we remember best when we review the material we've just learned 24 hours after we've learned it, and again within a week to attain maximum retention. If you do the homeworks the day after you read a chapter, and take the quizzes a week after you finish the chapter, your retention will go through the roof!

As far as the practice tests go, don't use them as a predictor of your score as they are different than the real thing. Generally speaking, kaplan passages are filled with complex language that makes them nearly incomprehensible and their questions are usually calculation-heavy. They do, however, have a very generous curve so it doesn't really translate well. They are great practice to get you used to the kinds of tricky passages the mcat test makers can present to you.

2. Examkraker's review books. After i took my diagnostic for kaplan, i saw that bio was my worst area so immediately read all of ek bio and took notes on it. I loved their books! While kaplan gave all the background info, ek was very concise and did a good job of developing critical thinking skills that in my opinion are one of the most important tools on the mcat.

As far as their verbal strategy goes, i took it and kept it once i started using it. It's way more intuitive, and very helpful. However, i found their questions more vague than either the aamc verbal or the actual mcat, but seeing those vague questions prepares you for the few vague ones you'll see on the real thing.

Both kaplan and ek verbal have their strengths and weaknesses. Kaplan gives you really confusing passages which are hard to decipher and gives you too many detail questions, but this does a good job of preparing you to deal with tricky passages. Ek prepares you to face tough questions and helps develop your critical thinking skills. Both are important to doing well on the mcat and both together would be better than either alone.

3. Aamc practice tests. These are the closest things you can get to the real mcat. Most of their questions require straightforward knowledge combined with some critical thinking and will usually appear much easier than the kaplan full lengths. They make up for this by having a brutal curve. Definitely the best practice you can get as this is the closest to the real test.

The aamc verbal was generally speaking easier than both ek101 and kaplan but with a much harder curve. It tended to rely more on "main point" questions than details.

Now how do these compare? In terms of difficulty, kaplan is the hardest, but has a really generous curve. Aamc was the easiest, but they had really tough curves. The real mcat was harder than any of the aamcs bur easier than most of the kaplan's.

I'd say for anyone serious about getting a 35+, using kaplan/ek/aamc together is essential to develop multiple skills. For someone just wanting a 32ish, just doing the kaplan course and most of the aamcs will get you there.

I'll post my study habits in detail when i get my score (don't wanna jinx anything!)

thank you for this!! It is truly an encouraging piece! :)
 

MegaSpectacular

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I just finished my MCAT and now that I've had some time to calm down I'd like to post my thoughts of the review materials. I took the Kaplan course, did the EK series, and took the AAMC practice tests and can comment on them.

1. Kaplan Course/Practice Tests. A lot of people here have complained about the Kaplan course and practice tests as going into too much detail. I generally agree with this assessment, but I don't see it as a bad thing. In recent years the MCAT has gotten more specific with the content it requires, so a more in-depth review course is preferable. The key to studying is to focusing on big picture things. No one in their right mind would be able to memorize every fact and equation and reaction in all of the Kaplan books and it would be futile to try. In fact, I think attempting to memorize everything is one of the biggest mistakes people make in preparing for the test. It's not important to know every single reagent and reaction for ochem, because if you understand how nucleophiles and electrophiles interact, you can figure out whats happening most of the time.

For people going through the course, I recommend doing all the homework they provide (end of ch questions, end of lecture quizzes). They aren't there to bombard you with material. The psychology of learning says we remember best when we review the material we've just learned 24 hours after we've learned it, and again within a week to attain maximum retention. If you do the homeworks the day after you read a chapter, and take the quizzes a week after you finish the chapter, your retention will go through the roof!

As far as the practice tests go, don't use them as a predictor of your score as they are different than the real thing. Generally speaking, Kaplan passages are filled with complex language that makes them nearly incomprehensible and their questions are usually calculation-heavy. They do, however, have a very generous curve so it doesn't really translate well. They are great practice to get you used to the kinds of tricky passages the MCAT test makers can present to you.

2. ExamKraker's Review Books. After I took my diagnostic for Kaplan, I saw that Bio was my worst area so immediately read all of EK Bio and took notes on it. I loved their books! While Kaplan gave all the background info, EK was very concise and did a good job of developing critical thinking skills that in my opinion are one of the most important tools on the MCAT.

As far as their verbal strategy goes, I took it and kept it once I started using it. It's way more intuitive, and very helpful. However, I found their questions more vague than either the AAMC verbal or the actual MCAT, but seeing those vague questions prepares you for the few vague ones you'll see on the real thing.

Both Kaplan and EK Verbal have their strengths and weaknesses. Kaplan gives you really confusing passages which are hard to decipher and gives you too many detail questions, but this does a good job of preparing you to deal with tricky passages. EK prepares you to face tough questions and helps develop your critical thinking skills. Both are important to doing well on the MCAT and both together would be better than either alone.

3. AAMC Practice Tests. These are the closest things you can get to the real MCAT. Most of their questions require straightforward knowledge combined with some critical thinking and will usually appear much easier than the Kaplan full lengths. They make up for this by having a brutal curve. Definitely the best practice you can get as this is the closest to the real test.

The AAMC verbal was generally speaking easier than both EK101 and Kaplan but with a much harder curve. It tended to rely more on "main point" questions than details.

Now how do these compare? In terms of difficulty, Kaplan is the hardest, but has a really generous curve. AAMC was the easiest, but they had really tough curves. The real MCAT was harder than any of the AAMCs bur easier than most of the Kaplan's.

I'd say for anyone serious about getting a 35+, using Kaplan/EK/AAMC together is essential to develop multiple skills. For someone just wanting a 32ish, just doing the Kaplan course and most of the AAMCs will get you there.

I'll post my study habits in detail when I get my score (don't wanna jinx anything!)
it is odd to say:

Kaplan + EK + AAMC for 35+

Kaplan for 32'ish


Many people score 35+ with Kaplan, and many score sub 35 with both.

Instead say this:

If you want a higher score use as many high quality passages as you can. Obviously you can succeed with one prep company but using say: BR and EK isn't a bad idea either.

SN2 has done a good review of the best prep books. Also anytime you give a review like this it is usually good to post your score break down.
 

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If you don't want to take my advice don't, no need to criticize. Haven't received my scores yet but averaged 40 on Kaplan practice tests and a 39-40 on the AAMC tests. Just my take on things.
 

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it is odd to say:

Kaplan + EK + AAMC for 35+

Kaplan for 32'ish


Many people score 35+ with Kaplan, and many score sub 35 with both.

Instead say this:

If you want a higher score use as many high quality passages as you can. Obviously you can succeed with one prep company but using say: BR and EK isn't a bad idea either.

SN2 has done a good review of the best prep books. Also anytime you give a review like this it is usually good to post your score break down.
If he wanted to say that, I'm sure he would have
Thanks for your review
BTW how was the EK 1001 Bio?
 

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Actually EK 1001 Bio was the best of the 1001 series because it had both passages and discretes. All of the 1001 series are good for fixing problem areas but the bio one is the only one with passages.

For the most part I used Kaplan on problem areas because they have a Q bank that can be specific to problem areas but I backed it up with some of the 1001 questions when I needed extra help.

And I should have been more specific, nothing can guarantee a score. But in my opinion for those who care about getting above a 35 the best chance is to use a combination of materials to ensure you develop multiple skills. If your less concerned with getting above a 35 you don't need as many different materials. That's not to say that people who don't use all the materials wont get above a 35, I just think that it's more likely to do well the more materials you use.
 

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If you don't want to take my advice don't, no need to criticize. Haven't received my scores yet but averaged 40 on Kaplan practice tests and a 39-40 on the AAMC tests. Just my take on things.
Agreed.

Just letting people know my take, and also give a bit more balance.

It is silly to say that you can't only use Kaplan and get a 35+.
 

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You need to read my posts more clearly, I never said you have to take EK/Kaplan/AAMC to get a 35+, just that the more review materials you use the better your chance of getting above a 35. Some people don't need any review materials at all to do well. Obviously the more materials you use the better the chance you'll do better.
 

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It is silly to say that you can't only use Kaplan and get a 35+.
Of course you can score well with any material if you are good but using Kaplan only for a high score is only going to make things harder for yourself.
 

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Another thing too is that different review materials have a tendency to give different content. For example, Kaplan seems to care alot about fetal blood circulation and the different ways it does that (foramen ovule, ductus arteriosus etc) and its not even mentioned in EK.

I think one of the benefits of using multiple practice materials is exposure to a wide range of content. And I'd also like to point out again that trying to memorize facts like this is a huge waste of time considering there are about ten million variations on the way they can present the material. Focus on big picture, like how blood circulates through the body, how gas exchange occurs, etc and you'll be in much better shape.
 

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*bumping* Think this post might be useful for people about to study for the MCAT.
 

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Princeton Review's materials are the best. Period.

Why?

Because they're not published (yet) like the other companies.

Why not?

So people will sign up for the courses to receive said best materials.

But isn't that stupid?

No; Last year 54% of MCAT takers took a prep course. Taking prep courses is not stupid. Taking prep courses for just the books is not stupid either. Put yourself in that 54%. You're competing against them.

But Princeton Review is unheard of compared to KAPLAN outside of the Northeast?

Yes--ask yourself: Which is the bigger company? Which do you think would have more $$ to spend on advertising?

So why doesn't Princeton Review market more aggressively?

Because they spend most of their money on developing the best material out there.

Why the (yet) in parentheses?

To keep up with the competition, Princeton Review is publishing their MCAT prep books this summer. In color, divided into 5 separate books, with practice problems after each lecture in each book.
 

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Princeton Review's materials are the best. Period.

You sound like a walking Princeton Review ad. Unfortunately you fail to give any concrete examples. This post was in reference to my experiences with review materials. As I did not take the Princeton Review course, I can only make judgements on Kaplan and EK as those are the review materials I've used. And since it is highly unlikely you've used both prep companies, its silly for you to be able to make a judgment call off of your own personal experiences. And if you work for Princeton Review, your opinion is biased and based off no discernible facts.

To keep up with the competition, Princeton Review is publishing their MCAT prep books this summer. In color, divided into 5 separate books, with practice problems after each lecture in each book.
Kaplan has already done this, so we're looking at nothing new here.

Look, the fact of the matter is whether you use Berkeley Review or Kaplan or Princeton Review, your bound to get plenty of review materials that cover everything that is tested by the MCAT. Each of them will adequately prepare students with content review, and its up to each student to determine which program is best for him/her and what study method fits them. Taking any one of those courses will not ensure any student a particular score, it comes down to the particular student and his study habits that will determine his ultimate success on the MCAT.
 

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To the OP, good thread.

I just checked amazon.com and princeton review does have books coming out in july. Amazon has them for preorder. I'm thinking july might a be a l'il late to bring out these books since most people take the exam before then. I preordered the kaplan premier book in jan and got it in late february. It was set to be released at the end of march.

I'm curious to know if these new books will be like their hyperlearning books.
i guess time will tell. nevertheless, i like their hyperlearning books. I think it's great for people who've been away from the material and need a rock solid review. I started with EK for physics and realized i needed the detailed review in TPR for certain topics. I like their gen chem as well. Bio is a little too much at times, heck it has the stuff i'm studying in biochem now in it. i prefer EK for bio.

For those who buy the new princeton books, let us know what it's like.

Princeton Review's materials are the best. Period.

Why?

Because they're not published (yet) like the other companies.

Why not?

So people will sign up for the courses to receive said best materials.

But isn't that stupid?

No; Last year 54% of MCAT takers took a prep course. Taking prep courses is not stupid. Taking prep courses for just the books is not stupid either. Put yourself in that 54%. You're competing against them.

But Princeton Review is unheard of compared to KAPLAN outside of the Northeast?

Yes--ask yourself: Which is the bigger company? Which do you think would have more $$ to spend on advertising?

So why doesn't Princeton Review market more aggressively?

Because they spend most of their money on developing the best material out there.

Why the (yet) in parentheses?

To keep up with the competition, Princeton Review is publishing their MCAT prep books this summer. In color, divided into 5 separate books, with practice problems after each lecture in each book.
 

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I'm curious to know if these new books will be like their hyperlearning books.
i guess time will tell. nevertheless, i like their hyperlearning books. I think it's great for people who've been away from the material and need a rock solid review. I started with EK for physics and realized i needed the detailed review in TPR for certain topics. I like their gen chem as well. Bio is a little too much at times, heck it has the stuff i'm studying in biochem now in it. i prefer EK for bio.

For those who buy the new princeton books, let us know what it's like.
You bring up a good point I've been wondering about personally. I took a review course, but my impression of the whole situation was that self-motivated students could easily prep without a course and still do fine. I't be interesting to see how people do without a course vs with a course. I'm not sure there's any hard data on the matter, but would still be good to find out.

What I liked about the Kaplan course was the access to numerous practice tests and review materials. I liked that there was one place I could go to for all my studying -- made things convenient, but by no means necessary.
 

NYR56

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You bring up a good point I've been wondering about personally. I took a review course, but my impression of the whole situation was that self-motivated students could easily prep without a course and still do fine. I't be interesting to see how people do without a course vs with a course. I'm not sure there's any hard data on the matter, but would still be good to find out.
The ONLY thing a course does is to ensure you stick to a timeline. The material is exactly the same and there are no secrets they give you. Like you said, if you are motivated, a course is totally unnecessary. I didn't take one and I'm very happy I didn't waste all of the money. That said, if you tend to procrastinate, a course might be good to keep you in check.
 

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You sound like a walking Princeton Review ad. Unfortunately you fail to give any concrete examples. This post was in reference to my experiences with review materials. As I did not take the Princeton Review course, I can only make judgements on Kaplan and EK as those are the review materials I've used. And since it is highly unlikely you've used both prep companies, its silly for you to be able to make a judgment call off of your own personal experiences. And if you work for Princeton Review, your opinion is biased and based off no discernible facts.
Well, stating that I taught for Princeton Review and ExamKrackers, and I used KAPLAN materials to study for the MCAT would be too challengable now, wouldn't it?


Kaplan has already done this, so we're looking at nothing new here.
So has ExamKrackers (before KAPLAN I might add). Material is material. Presentation is a marketing tool. Just because something is in color, or divided into 5 subsections does not make it better. I hope this point isn't too subtle--so I'll be more explicit: If the material is good, it doesn't matter if it's in a thick black-and-white book. Unfortunately, the average buyer cares more about glossy paper and bold colors than the quality and relevance of material.


Look, the fact of the matter is whether you use Berkeley Review or Kaplan or Princeton Review, your bound to get plenty of review materials that cover everything that is tested by the MCAT.
Absolutely. But which one gives you exactly what you need to know for the exam--nothing more, nothing less?


Each of them will adequately prepare students with content review, and its up to each student to determine which program is best for him/her and what study method fits them. Taking any one of those courses will not ensure any student a particular score, it comes down to the particular student and his study habits that will determine his ultimate success on the MCAT.
Adequate = meets the minimums and may or may not include footnote-level information (for instance alternating current, elasticity of solids, etc).

Effective = meets only the mimimums and does not impose more information than necessary. This is part of the reason why the Princeton Review is publishing their books for the first time.
 

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Well, stating that I taught for Princeton Review and ExamKrackers, and I used KAPLAN materials to study for the MCAT would be too challengable now, wouldn't it?
Are you assuming that I wouldn't believe you? This does give validity to your claims about which material is "better" as you've seen all 3 prep courses.



So has ExamKrackers (before KAPLAN I might add). Material is material. Presentation is a marketing tool. Just because something is in color, or divided into 5 subsections does not make it better. I hope this point isn't too subtle--so I'll be more explicit: If the material is good, it doesn't matter if it's in a thick black-and-white book.
You were the one citing color as a reason to use the Princeton Review books, not me.





Absolutely. But which one gives you exactly what you need to know for the exam--nothing more, nothing less?
Again, haven't taken Princeton Review but from my experiences on the MCAT Kaplan gave me the information to answer every single question on my test. EK while was more straightforward in its presentation, it was missing certain facts that would have prevented me from answering certain questions on test day. And to answer your claim that Princeton Review gives you exactly what you need to know, I'd say that was an impossible task for any prep company to manage. The topic list posted by AAMC are all fair game for test day, and what emphasis the prep companies give those topics is dependent on the attention AAMC has given them in the past. This is why a section in EK may be glossed over, but the AAMC still could test it in detail since it appears on the list.

A book that gave high level of detail to every topic on AAMC's list of topics would be too ridiculously large to manage. This is why all the prep companies give you the most likely tested knowledge as a way of giving you focus in your studying, but what level of detail AAMC requires of its topics can vary greatly.

Adequate = meets the minimums and may or may not include footnote-level information (for instance alternating current, elasticity of solids, etc).

Effective = meets only the mimimums and does not impose more information than necessary. This is part of the reason why the Princeton Review is publishing their books for the first time.
I would argue that the effective student would be better served by having access to more information rather than less and filtering out what they think to be less important themselves. That way they have the option of deciding to know the information or skipping past it themselves. For people shooting for a 45 on the MCAT, you need to have a very detailed knowledge base and basically know "everything." I'd rather really know everything, than what my prep company "thinks" I need to know, since their focus is always based on trends in previous tests and the new test could present knowledge not tested on previously.

If my prep company has put less of a focus on that topic in their books because the MCAT hasn't even really had questions on it, I'd be doing myself a disservice since I may or may not learn enough to actually answer the question.
 

NYR56

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EK while was more straightforward in its presentation, it was missing certain facts that would have prevented me from answering certain questions on test day.
Out of curiosity, what was EK missing? I used them and thought they covered everything you needed to know. They may have only touched on a topic but I thought everything was at least mentioned. I recommend the EK books to many people so I'd like to know what shortcomings you think there were.

BTW, it sounds like the new PR books are going to be similar to EK. EK already is to the point, so I'm not sure what's going to be so special about the PR books.
 

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Its not that EK didn't cover the material, just that they didn't go as far into detail as I would have liked. For instance, I got a question on cartilage that was only briefly touched on by EK (just explaining the basics) when it would have been nice to learn a lot more about extracellular matrix and the features of cartilage that distinguish it from other tissues.

I personally loved EK for its simplicity, but I think its more of a "teach you how to think and where to focus" type of material than "teach you absolutely everything you need to know for the MCAT" type of material. I definitely wouldn't have done as well on the MCAT without EK, but I definitely felt that Kaplan gave me more information that was critical to the MCAT.

I used Kaplan more extensively when I either was seeing a concept for the first time (like physio topics or things in physics I never learned in my classes) because it gave a much deeper explanation of the material, and used EK primarily for subjects I knew well (that I had learned/remembered from my pre-reqs), and it seemed to be a pretty good use of my time.

I think the root of the issue is that Kaplan gives extensive background information in all topic areas, even one's that the MCAT doesn't frequently test which gives people the impression that they are "bombarding" you with material, but I think the approach of the wise studier must be to extract the important bits of information and give less importance to the obscure stuff.

I noticed that once I started taking practice tests, I had a much better idea of what the AAMC found as relevant information to know, so I adjusted my study accordingly. Granted, I still missed some obscure discrete questions because it had been an area that wasn't covered much by either Kaplan or AAMC practice tests, but I feel the memorization of every mundane fact was a complete waste of time and not the most efficient way to study. Rather, I tried to grasp main concepts and gave little weight to the details, which seemed to work pretty well on the real thing.