PagingDr.F

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I know there's a lot of threads out there asking about which company has the best exams and everyone says different things which makes it even harder to choose when you start scouring reddit and SDN.

Here I give my own opinions and personal experiences with the following: NS, Altius, Kaplan, and TPR.

First, here are my test scores in the order taken: (C/P : CARS : B/B : P/S)
AAMC OG: 70% / 83% / 70% / 50%
AAMC Sample: 81% / 85% / 75% / 68%
TPR Demo Test: 127 / 126 / 126 / 128 (507)
AAMC Scored 1: 129 / 127 / 131 / 127 (514)
Next Step FL 1: 128 / 126 / 129 / 128 (511)
Next Step FL 3: 129 / 128 / 130 / 128 (515)
Next Step FL 5: 129 / 128 / 129 / 128 (514)
Next Step FL 2: 129 / 127 / 130 / 128 (514)
Next Step FL 6: Quit half-way through the C/P section - NOT WORTH IT (nothing past FL 5 is)
Altius FL 1: 130 / 124 (WTF) / 130 / 128 (512)
Altius FL 2: 130 / 127 / 130 / 127 (514)
AAMC Scored 2: 130 / 132 / 130 / 126 (518)

I took a couple Kaplan FLs before taking the OG but don't have the scores anymore (they were around 503-505).

Kaplan and TPR: NOT representative. They test things that are way out of scope, and they test more rote memorization than what's really being tested on the MCAT. They could be useful early on because they can help you get your content down but don't pay attention to the scores.

Next Step: A lot of people say these are the most representative but that their C/P sections are more on the difficult side and extremely heavy on the calculation. This is definitely true in my opinion. Next Step FLs are harder than AAMC material but have somewhat of an easier curve. People have suggested to ignore their CARS section because it's not representative (which is true, it's extremely convoluted), but DO NOT IGNORE it. The fact that these passages are extremely long and confusing is a GOOD thing. If you can finish these sections within the time allotted, you'll have plenty of time to spare on AAMC material. Don't kill yourself over the scores, but don't brush off this section...it's still worth doing. Overall, NS is great practice. Their passages on all sections are longer and what I've noticed is that their answer choices typically include two answers that can be correct. It would drive me crazy and I didn't always agree with their explanation/logic, but when you take an AAMC test, you'll be surprised at how straightforward they seem after NS.

Altius: These are HARD. They're really good practice for experimental type passages. The hardest thing I found about these tests, especially on CARS, was that they give you answer choices that were so similar (just like NS but more). Again, I didn't always agree with their logic or explanations, but being forced to pick between choices that all seemed right is a GOOD thing. When I took AAMC FL 2 after Altius and NS exams, I was ALWAYS able to narrow the answer down to two choices. And most of the time, I was able to cross out three answers because I just KNEW they were wrong, even if I wasn't 100% sure of the right answer.

Basically, I strongly suggest Altius and Next Step exams. If you can only afford one, flip a coin lol. If you're buying ~10 tests, buy 5 of each. They really train you to eliminate WRONG choices, which is the easiest way to get a good score...DON'T PICK THE WRONG ANSWER, JUST DON'T DO IT (easier said than done on these practice tests)...

And again, DO NOT skip their CARS section just because "they aren't representative". It's always good practice, it helps improve your timing, and reading WTF passages makes AAMC passages seem like 5th grade reading material. I cannot stress how easy AAMC FL2 CARS felt after the crazy **** I read on NS and Altius.

My P/S section clearly needs work according to my AAMC scores. I would be happy with a 127-128, which is what I was getting on NS and Altius. Don't trust these scores. I felt their P/S sections were easier. On NS I barely had to read the passage to get 49-50 questions right. On Altius, the P/S sections were a lot more about data interpretation, which isn't a bad thing but if you lack general content knowledge (terms and definitions) like me, you need more than these exams. But they're still good practice nonetheless.

Hopefully I can carry my AAMC FL2 performance on to the real thing. I'm retaking a 31 that's expired :/
 
Jul 27, 2017
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I know there's a lot of threads out there asking about which company has the best exams and everyone says different things which makes it even harder to choose when you start scouring reddit and SDN.

Here I give my own opinions and personal experiences with the following: NS, Altius, Kaplan, and TPR.

First, here are my test scores in the order taken: (C/P : CARS : B/B : P/S)
AAMC OG: 70% / 83% / 70% / 50%
AAMC Sample: 81% / 85% / 75% / 68%
TPR Demo Test: 127 / 126 / 126 / 128 (507)
AAMC Scored 1: 129 / 127 / 131 / 127 (514)
Next Step FL 1: 128 / 126 / 129 / 128 (511)
Next Step FL 3: 129 / 128 / 130 / 128 (515)
Next Step FL 5: 129 / 128 / 129 / 128 (514)
Next Step FL 2: 129 / 127 / 130 / 128 (514)
Next Step FL 6: Quit half-way through the C/P section - NOT WORTH IT (nothing past FL 5 is)
Altius FL 1: 130 / 124 (WTF) / 130 / 128 (512)
Altius FL 2: 130 / 127 / 130 / 127 (514)
AAMC Scored 2: 130 / 132 / 130 / 126 (518)

I took a couple Kaplan FLs before taking the OG but don't have the scores anymore (they were around 503-505).

Kaplan and TPR: NOT representative. They test things that are way out of scope, and they test more rote memorization than what's really being tested on the MCAT. They could be useful early on because they can help you get your content down but don't pay attention to the scores.

Next Step: A lot of people say these are the most representative but that their C/P sections are more on the difficult side and extremely heavy on the calculation. This is definitely true in my opinion. Next Step FLs are harder than AAMC material but have somewhat of an easier curve. People have suggested to ignore their CARS section because it's not representative (which is true, it's extremely convoluted), but DO NOT IGNORE it. The fact that these passages are extremely long and confusing is a GOOD thing. If you can finish these sections within the time allotted, you'll have plenty of time to spare on AAMC material. Don't kill yourself over the scores, but don't brush off this section...it's still worth doing. Overall, NS is great practice. Their passages on all sections are longer and what I've noticed is that their answer choices typically include two answers that can be correct. It would drive me crazy and I didn't always agree with their explanation/logic, but when you take an AAMC test, you'll be surprised at how straightforward they seem after NS.

Altius: These are HARD. They're really good practice for experimental type passages. The hardest thing I found about these tests, especially on CARS, was that they give you answer choices that were so similar (just like NS but more). Again, I didn't always agree with their logic or explanations, but being forced to pick between choices that all seemed right is a GOOD thing. When I took AAMC FL 2 after Altius and NS exams, I was ALWAYS able to narrow the answer down to two choices. And most of the time, I was able to cross out three answers because I just KNEW they were wrong, even if I wasn't 100% sure of the right answer.

Basically, I strongly suggest Altius and Next Step exams. If you can only afford one, flip a coin lol. If you're buying ~10 tests, buy 5 of each. They really train you to eliminate WRONG choices, which is the easiest way to get a good score...DON'T PICK THE WRONG ANSWER, JUST DON'T DO IT (easier said than done on these practice tests)...

And again, DO NOT skip their CARS section just because "they aren't representative". It's always good practice, it helps improve your timing, and reading WTF passages makes AAMC passages seem like 5th grade reading material. I cannot stress how easy AAMC FL2 CARS felt after the crazy **** I read on NS and Altius.

My P/S section clearly needs work according to my AAMC scores. I would be happy with a 127-128, which is what I was getting on NS and Altius. Don't trust these scores. I felt their P/S sections were easier. On NS I barely had to read the passage to get 49-50 questions right. On Altius, the P/S sections were a lot more about data interpretation, which isn't a bad thing but if you lack general content knowledge (terms and definitions) like me, you need more than these exams. But they're still good practice nonetheless.

Hopefully I can carry my AAMC FL2 performance on to the real thing. I'm retaking a 31 that's expired :/
How did you end up doing on the actual test?
 
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PagingDr.F

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LOL...So I took it yesterday...

I took over 12 practice tests and really had no idea wtf was going on in that C/P section. It was by far the hardest C/P I've ever seen.
CARS, B/B, and P/S were all pretty standard. Some pretty random discrete in B/B and some terms I hadn't seen before in P/S but they were all relatively "easy" compared to that C/P section...

I think Altius/NS were really good prep for the B/B section I had on the real test.
My C/P section was not really experimental, had no biochemistry (maybe 3 questions on amino acids). It was all heavy orgo (the likes of which I've never seen) and heavy calculation. NS sort of helped me with this since they have a lot of calculations but it just felt so different from everything, even the AAMC practice materials.
 
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Gilakend

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LOL...So I took it yesterday...

I took over 12 practice tests and really had no idea wtf was going on in that C/P section. It was by far the hardest C/P I've ever seen.
CARS, B/B, and P/S were all pretty standard. Some pretty random discrete in B/B and some terms I hadn't seen before in P/S but they were all relatively "easy" compared to that C/P section...

I think Altius/NS were really good prep for the B/B section I had on the real test.
My C/P section was not really experimental, had no biochemistry (maybe 3 questions on amino acids). It was all heavy orgo (the likes of which I've never seen) and heavy calculation. NS sort of helped me with this since they have a lot of calculations but it just felt so different from everything, even the AAMC practice materials.
I take mine 8/18. Without being too specific (because you can't be) what types of orgo? Complicated reactions? SN1/SN2? Sterochem?

Lots of physics?
 
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PagingDr.F

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I take mine 8/18. Without being too specific (because you can't be) what types of orgo? Complicated reactions? SN1/SN2? Sterochem?

Lots of physics?
SN1/SN2 would have made me so happy. No, I saw things I had never seen before and can't explain because I'm orgo dumb I guess. I Didn't have one stereochem question. If you look at the 8/11/17 mcat reddit thread, you'll see what I mean. Many report being on question #20 by the 45min mark. I was slightly ahead of 20 but still far behind my usual timing. Thinking back on it, this may be a classic primacy effect (lol). The second half of the section was actually pretty easy but the first half threw everyone off and maybe we're all just fixated on what we didn't know and aren't realizing how much we did know. I easily finished the second half in like 25 min. It was really odd.
 

Gilakend

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SN1/SN2 would have made me so happy. No, I saw things I had never seen before and can't explain because I'm orgo dumb I guess. I Didn't have one stereochem question. If you look at the 8/11/17 mcat reddit thread, you'll see what I mean. Many report being on question #20 by the 45min mark. I was slightly ahead of 20 but still far behind my usual timing. Thinking back on it, this may be a classic primacy effect (lol). The second half of the section was actually pretty easy but the first half threw everyone off and maybe we're all just fixated on what we didn't know and aren't realizing how much we did know. I easily finished the second half in like 25 min. It was really odd.
Oh how upsetting this is. Orgo is the one subject I've probably neglected the most, looks like I know what I'm studying tomrrow!

Thanks for the thread!
 
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PagingDr.F

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I've probably neglected the most, looks like I know what I'm studying tomrrow!
I would try and get familiar with it but you never know what type of section you might get and this doesn't mean your test will be orgo heavy as well. I get this is a standardized test but luck definitely plays in to these scores. I know if they had given me a more physics/gen chem oriented section I would have done much better - regardless of the scale. On the other hand, my B/B was genetics heavy which is my strong suit. I guess it all evens out in the end.
 
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Gilakend

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I would try and get familiar with it but you never know what type of section you might get and this doesn't mean your test will be orgo heavy as well. I get this is a standardized test but luck definitely plays in to these scores. I know if they had given me a more physics/gen chem oriented section I would have done much better - regardless of the scale. On the other hand, my B/B was genetics heavy which is my strong suit. I guess it all evens out in the end.
Hoping to get lucky. What sorts of concepts would you say to know? I know the fundamentals because I just finished Ochem last semester which is why I didn't hit it as hard as I did some other subjects. I can do basic reactions but nothing advanced without freshening it up.
 

Dox4lyfe

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LOL...So I took it yesterday...

I took over 12 practice tests and really had no idea wtf was going on in that C/P section. It was by far the hardest C/P I've ever seen.
CARS, B/B, and P/S were all pretty standard. Some pretty random discrete in B/B and some terms I hadn't seen before in P/S but they were all relatively "easy" compared to that C/P section...

I think Altius/NS were really good prep for the B/B section I had on the real test.
My C/P section was not really experimental, had no biochemistry (maybe 3 questions on amino acids). It was all heavy orgo (the likes of which I've never seen) and heavy calculation. NS sort of helped me with this since they have a lot of calculations but it just felt so different from everything, even the AAMC practice materials.
Whoa that's actually pretty scary. Did the review books you used have everything at least or would you say there was stuff not covered in those either? Also asking because I looked thru the TPR ochem book and it was extremely streamlined imo (relative to the wade textbook that I'm used to using).
 

xochitl

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mine was also orgo heavy and i had no clue what the hell was goign on all of C/P but ended up okay after i thought i bombed that section...orgo stuff is hard to study for really just get good at looking at new material and interpreting it
 
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PagingDr.F

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Yeah it sucked. I honestly worked the hardest on C/P and felt really prepared for it. I felt 10x more prepared for this MCAT than I did for my 31 so I'm hoping it pays off.
 

Nugester

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Good info. Looks like I'll be purchasing some NextStep and Altius...
 
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Gilakend

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mine was also orgo heavy and i had no clue what the hell was goign on all of C/P but ended up okay after i thought i bombed that section...orgo stuff is hard to study for really just get good at looking at new material and interpreting it
When you and @PagingDr.F say orgo heavy, do you mean the passages were largely organic chem and it was hard to interpret or that the question required a lot of outside knowledge of orgo? For most of the C/P section I feel like you can get from passages but other things like physics problems or some gen chem then you need outside knowledge. I haven't ran into any "you need extensive knowledge of orgo for this" questions on my practice tests.

I test Friday, do you think redoing the section banks for C/P would help? I wasn't worried about this section but now I am a little bit after hearing so many consistent reviews of recent tests.
 

xochitl

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When you and @PagingDr.F say orgo heavy, do you mean the passages were largely organic chem and it was hard to interpret or that the question required a lot of outside knowledge of orgo? For most of the C/P section I feel like you can get from passages but other things like physics problems or some gen chem then you need outside knowledge. I haven't ran into any "you need extensive knowledge of orgo for this" questions on my practice tests.

I test Friday, do you think redoing the section banks for C/P would help? I wasn't worried about this section but now I am a little bit after hearing so many consistent reviews of recent tests.
There are some AAMC questions in FL 1 that were similar but the real test is way harder...review the CP sections and ask yourself "what type of variations of this question could they ask?"
 
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Gilakend

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There are some AAMC questions in FL 1 that were similar but the real test is way harder...review the CP sections and ask yourself "what type of variations of this question could they ask?"
While it was harder did you still score around the same you got on the practice tests since it is based on how other people who took it did too? Or did your C/P score go down?
 
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PagingDr.F

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I test Friday, do you think redoing the section banks for C/P would help? I wasn't worried about this section but now I am a little bit after hearing so many consistent reviews of recent tests.
I did the SB at the beginning of my study (after OG and sample test) and scored around 81% and then did it again 4 days before my test and scored 94%. I prefer the C/P SB 100x more than the C/P section I got lol. They were very different...

While it was harder did you still score around the same you got on the practice tests since it is based on how other people who took it did too? Or did your C/P score go down?
Also wondering this @xochitl
 
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PagingDr.F

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I forgot to post how I did...it's extremely late lol but I think my score results definitely show that Altius and Next Step are the best practice tests out there for anyone else who reads this post.

August 11 2017 MCAT results: 517
130 C/P - 128 CARS - 131 B/B - 128 P/S

These scores are very similar to my averages across all my practice tests. The P/S section I had was actually pretty similar to the data interpretation passages I was seeing in Altius and NS. I thought I had bombed C/P but I guess I answered some of those WTF questions right. Point to remember - DO NOT let how you feel during a section affect you on the rest of the test, stay focused and remain confident. If you read a passage/question and don't know what the hell is going on, chances are the kid in the cubicle next to you is also freaking out.

AAMC materials + Next Step and Altius practice tests are the way to go.

Good luck!
 
Jun 26, 2018
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First time poster here, but just wanted to add my experience to this thread in case future users see it!

I also think Altius is 100% the way to go! From what I've heard Next Step is similar so I'm sure they are helpful too, but definitely PR and Kaplan will not be nearly as helpful. Due to a crazy schedule I was only able to prep for the MCAT for a few weeks (although I had a very rigorous science major so of course that's important to keep in context) and I got a 520 back yesterday! I think that the question style on Altius tests for all sections, but especially CARS, B/B, and P/S, was key for seeing through the wrong answers and tricks etc. Their tests really are wicked difficult, but you'll be ready to nail the exam if you commit to getting through a handful of their FLEs. I'm definitely on board with the OP!
 

PlsLetMeIn21

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I have also heard great things about Altius exams. After much consideration and feedback from people who took the MCAT, here is what I plan to do starting next month.

FL1: TBR1 C/P EK1 CARS Altius1 B/B EK1 P/S
FL2: TBR2 C/P EK2 CARS TBR1 B/B Altius1 P/S
FL3: Altius1 C/P Altius1 CARS EK1 B/B TBR1 P/S
FL4: EK1 C/P EK3 CARS Altius2 B/B EK2 P/S
FL5: TBR3 C/P Altius2 CARS TBR2 B/B Altius2 P/S
FL6: AAMC 1
FL7: AAMC 2
FL8: AAMC 3

Any leftover sections from the exams I'm splitting apart I'll use as problem sets to mix in with AAMC SBs. This will allow me to take the most realistic practice tests available, by mixing the best parts from each brand.
 

mariposas905

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I've heard that Altius CARS was worse than Next Step...is this not the general consensus anymore?
 
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I personally never did any Next Step but Altius CARS is definitely brutal! That being said, I scored in the 99th percentile with a 131 for CARS in the end so I definitely recommend doing it because it makes you better :)

I also did singular timed sections between FLEs and I think that was very manageable and helped a lot! Definitely recommend doing that because you don't want to burn out taking FLEs!!
 

mariposas905

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I personally never did any Next Step but Altius CARS is definitely brutal! That being said, I scored in the 99th percentile with a 131 for CARS in the end so I definitely recommend doing it because it makes you better :)

I also did singular timed sections between FLEs and I think that was very manageable and helped a lot! Definitely recommend doing that because you don't want to burn out taking FLEs!!
Thanks for lmk! How many Altius FLs did you do and what were you scoring on them? I have done Altius 1, 6 and 7. I may have time to do one more...is there a specific Altius test you recommend that in your opinion was pretty representative?
 
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I remember thinking 3 did a good job of hitting a lot of different but frequently tested material, but that could just have been my perception! I did Altius 1-6, and it was just those six plus one Princeton Review one but that was pretty much useless imo (although it's good to get familiar with how the test actually looks because they use the real formatting, same as the AAMC ones)

The first FLE I took was a 503 and the last one I took I got 517, idk exactly the middle ones off the top of my head but it was a general upward trend. The significant difference was just getting really good strategy for the CARS down, and learning literally ~1000 terms for P/S. My sciences obviously went up some, but it wasn't nearly as much as the boom in my CARS and P/S scores! And that was 100% just from learning the way the questions are asked and what mistakes to foresee

I almost felt I needed to take an AAMC FLE because I was worried I would be off-target with how questions are worded simply relying on Altius, but I never ended up taking one and it was totally fine! Def don't "need" to take an AAMC, Altius was just fine in that department

I hope this helps! Let me know if any of that didn't completely make sense!
 
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