[non-trad] MCAT Content Learning: retake courses vs. self-study?

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Sep 15, 2020
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I am a non-trad premed who last took some Med School prereqs (e.g. Chemistry I, II, Biology I, Physics I) roughly 7-8 years ago.

Was wondering what folks here think about re-learning the Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc. topics which are tested in the MCAT. Any ideas if it is better to retake old courses (thus relearning those topics), vs. simply self-learning via MCAT review materials, online resources, etc.



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Apr 25, 2019
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It entirely depends on how strongly you feel in those subjects. If you think you wouldn't recognize a single concept, then you might consider retaking the courses. However, if you feel like you still have somewhat of a foundation in those classes, then you may be able to get by on prep books and self study. I'd recommend taking a couple weeks looking things over to gauge where you're at.

Kevin W, MCAT Tutor
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Jun 7, 2018
MCAT content is a mile wide and an inch deep. The prep books + online video content (Khan Academy, AK Lectures on YouTube) should be sufficient for review. I would start studying and doing practice questions and see how it goes. If it's terrible, then you can put your studying on hold and take some classes.

I took physics in 2012 and didn't have any trouble when studying it for the MCAT in 2019, and it's my worst subject.


My theory is to take the class for the credits but review the material using your own resources.

I'm studying for the MCAT right now and the only way I would retake a class is if the information taught in that class changed greatly over the years.
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Oct 16, 2020
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Physics is one of the classes where (IMO) common syllabi diverge the most from the MCAT. For physics, technically almost all of the content you'll encounter in physics 1 could show up on the MCAT, with a few weird exceptions like momentum, but the style of problem-solving emphasized in most physics classes doesn't align that well with how the MCAT tends to operate—most obviously in terms of how calculations are handled, but even beyond that, the MCAT doesn't tend to test physics in a way that depends on highly intricate problem set-ups, systems of multiple equations, and so on. Instead, most MCAT physics problems tend to involve one or two steps, and the most difficult thing is often figuring out what they're asking for exactly. The degree to which a physics class would be helpful for the MCAT or a waste of time might depend on the exact syllabus and instructor, but I'd tread carefully.

These days there's a lot of MCAT-focused materials out there, as other people have mentioned. In general I'd lean towards using MCAT-tailored resources to prep for the MCAT. Physics is one of the more extreme examples, but there are almost always some divergences between how classes tend to present the material and how the MCAT tests it, plus courses always involve time-consuming elements like exams. If you have to take a certain number of credits, that's one thing, but if not, I'd say just go for it with non-course options and only consider taking a class if you really feel like you'd seriously benefit from working through the material completely from scratch in a highly structured environment.


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May 27, 2017
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Maybe take a diagnostic practice MCAT to gauge how much of the content you can recall and apply. This will also show you what sections you’re strong in. If you’re only weak in one or two, it’s probably not worth the time and financial investment of attending a class that teaches all four sections.
Feb 8, 2021
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I tutor non-trad students online! I use Kaplan and various practice questions. Let me know if you’d be interested in one on one tutoring. I have been tutoring MCAT prep since 2017 and am a current fourth year MD student.


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Jan 8, 2009
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A structured course can help...especially one that forces you to take practice tests leading up to your exam somehow.

I took 7 or 8 years off from undergrad to MCAT (grad school). All I did was self study and Kaplan. I ended up going from about a 508 (senior year of undergrad) to a 520 (taken 7 years later end of grad school).
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