Please comment on my plan

jlgone

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This site is a great resource. After reading many of the posts, here is my plan. I'm already into the second year but this summer and Junior year are what I am trying to plan. Please comment, especially if you would do something differently.


First Year: Chem 1&2, Intro Bio 1&2

Second Year: Organic 1&2, Physics 1&2

Summer between 2nd and 3rd year - take a Formal Prep course

Fall Third Year: Cell Biology and Intro Physiology

Jan - Feb (we have a 6-week winter session I can take off): Practice tests & final self study

Take MCAT 1st time Late winter/early Spring

Retake in summer if not happy
 

FlStudent

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Prep courses can be a waste of time. And summer prep courses are so depressing, you might lose interest. Self-study is liberating and can be more efficient.

Great 1st and second years. Cell Bio is a good course to take before MCAT (it helped me a little bit in conceptualizing some bio), there is some nice basic organic chem in there as well. Ties stuff together well. Physio is cool. I would consider Biochem, that ties some stuff together as well. I love the winter break for studying MCAT, that will be helpful. That is what I did. I took it 1/27.

Also, a light load fall junior year may be good so you can study MCAT. And if you study for MCAT in summer, you might forget stuff you learned in May when the actual test comes in late January. Maybe take prep course in mid-summer through mid-fall or something. If you self-study at your own pace through summer/fall, that might be more efficient. But of course, I am biased towards self-study.

*Don't plan for a re-take. Get that out of your head. If you put all of your energy in studying for MCAT, the 6 months of study time you have allotted you will be more than enough as you will find out. If you put a lot of energy into MCAT studying in those months, you will find you won't have much, if anything, to improve upon come April, i.e. your scores won't change much.

Take a lot of practice tests, specifically aamc 1-10 along the way. Not just test-prep tests, those aren't as good a gauge.

Cheers, you are on a very nice path from what I can tell.
 
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Raindrop423

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Regarding whether or not to take a prep course at all, I guess that just depends on whether or not you feel you need it, but the thing I would say is... if you do plan I taking one, I don't know that I'd take it so far away from when you take the actual test. My impression is that they get you all ready to take the test right at the end of the course, so you might want to take advantage of that and take the course in the fall or something, and do your self-studying in the summer, when you'll probably be less busy anyway.
 

mvenus929

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Also keep in mind that unless they change the schedule, there's only two tests at the end of January, then the next test isn't until April. Don't take the prep class unless you need it (for the motivation to study, not because you need to know the material). I agree with what the poster above said regarding that, though.
 

jlgone

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I am somewhat of a procrastinator so I think I will definitely need to structure of a prep course. I figured fear would motivate me in the last 4 weeks to take practice tests and self study areas of weakness. I agree that it would be better to take the prep course closer to the test - in the fall vs summer - but I am afraid that would compromise my studying for those classes and result in lower grades.

I agree I might be better off just taking a light load of easy classes in the fall and taking the prep course over the fall. With this method I wouldn't have the advantage of those additional classes though. It seems there is always a trade-off.

I could take just one science class and several easy electives in the fall of my Junior year.

If so what single class would be best to take???
 

FlStudent

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Having a light easy load of classes will be MUCH MORE beneficial than taking specific upper level classes the semester before the test. You might not believe this until you start taking a few real practice tests. It is a general test, you really could do VERY well if you only took the basics and are bright, and had sufficient time to study.

That is a real easy decision, not much of a trade-off. take the lighter load, spend ~20 hrs a week studying specifically for MCAT, and do well.

Regardless when you take the prep course, you will have to put in a bunch of hours. And, like previous posters said, it is best to put the bunch of hours closer to the test (i.e. in the fall), than all in the summer.

That's fine, take the prep course, if you think it will provide you structure. I didn't mean for this to be prep course/not prep course debate. Just put a helluva lot of study hours in!

A single class you ask? Cell Bio, nice mix of bio and o-chem.

And don't worry about specific courses to take before the MCAT. I mean, the classes you will be taking will only help you in the BIO section, 1/3 of your final grade. I don't see you considering taking any advanced g-chem/physics courses. Having mcat study time is more precious in the fall than anything.
 

mvenus929

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Well, if you're still willing to drop classes to take the MCAT, then I'd suggest studying all summer, with the help of a prep course (since you say you need it), and taking it early on in the fall semester. That way you can take all the classes that you want to take, and not have to worry about MCAT studying bringing down your grades. As some have said before, the MCAT does just test on basic science classes, and if you study hard enough, you'll be able to understand it enough to score well.

I took Cell Bio last semester, am taking Physiology now (not for MCAT prep, just cause it's required for my major. The help on the MCAT is just bonus), and will take the MCAT in May. I can give you a better idea of which will be better then, but I personally find Physiology a LOT more interesting than Cell Bio. And really, in the EK book, Cell Bio only accounted for about the first two lectures, and not even all of them (Genetics at our school covers all of the first two sections, since the first part of the class is a review of Cell Bio). Physiology will cover a whole lot more on the BS section.

But it's up to you in the end.
 

jlgone

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It seems the advice has gone full circle. Your advice is take the MCAT at the end of Summer (vs January/April); I had originally thought this might be a good idea since physics and organic would still be very fresh in my mind. In another thread I asked if it made sense to take thre mCAT at the end summer following all of the minimum preqesties but other people advised me to take the addtional courses (eg Biochem, physiology) before taking the MCAT.

I am so confused!?!
 

JoeNamath4Eva

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well here's the thing: do what you think would suit you best. most people on here think that if everyone tells them one thing then it is as good as the word from God. take advice of those who've been through it but don't be suprised if you get conflicting advice b/c if there was "one way" to do it best, there would be no debate. people seem lazy when they ask too many questions like this.
 

Anastasis

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Having a light easy load of classes will be MUCH MORE beneficial than taking specific upper level classes the semester before the test. You might not believe this until you start taking a few real practice tests. It is a general test, you really could do VERY well if you only took the basics and are bright, and had sufficient time to study.

That is a real easy decision, not much of a trade-off. take the lighter load, spend ~20 hrs a week studying specifically for MCAT, and do well.

Regardless when you take the prep course, you will have to put in a bunch of hours. And, like previous posters said, it is best to put the bunch of hours closer to the test (i.e. in the fall), than all in the summer.

That's fine, take the prep course, if you think it will provide you structure. I didn't mean for this to be prep course/not prep course debate. Just put a helluva lot of study hours in!

A single class you ask? Cell Bio, nice mix of bio and o-chem.

And don't worry about specific courses to take before the MCAT. I mean, the classes you will be taking will only help you in the BIO section, 1/3 of your final grade. I don't see you considering taking any advanced g-chem/physics courses. Having mcat study time is more precious in the fall than anything.

I agree about taking the lighter load. I was taking 14 hrs while I was studying for the MCAT and volunteering around 15 hrs a week. I put the necessary hours in but I never saw my friends and was on the verge of burning out by the time I actually took the class.

And I also agree about upper-level classes. The only upper level bio class I had before the MCAT was genetics (and I was concurrently enrolled while studying) I hadn't had biochem, cell bio, molecular... nothing. It is possible to do really well if you're willing to study and a decent critical thinker in the first place.
 

Anastasis

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It seems the advice has gone full circle. Your advice is take the MCAT at the end of Summer (vs January/April); I had originally thought this might be a good idea since physics and organic would still be very fresh in my mind. In another thread I asked if it made sense to take thre mCAT at the end summer following all of the minimum preqesties but other people advised me to take the addtional courses (eg Biochem, physiology) before taking the MCAT.

I am so confused!?!
Well - you know yourself better than any of us on this board... do YOU think you need the extra classes? Have you read through any prep books yet to see what kind of information is covered?

I'm pretty sure there's a list of covered topics somewhere on AAMC's website - read through that and see how you think your prep from intro bio (after you take it) has covered that.
 

FlStudent

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"well here's the thing: do what you think would suit you best. most people on here think that if everyone tells them one thing then it is as good as the word from God. take advice of those who've been through it but don't be suprised if you get conflicting advice b/c if there was "one way" to do it best, there would be no debate. people seem lazy when they ask too many questions like this. "

I totally agree with Namath and Anastasis - use your own critical thinking skills.

Basically - take the dang test when you feel most comfortable and think you will perform best. It might be a bit early to know the true answer, but just register when you are ready - that is what is going to happen anyways.

"but other people advised me to take the addtional courses (eg Biochem, physiology) before taking the MCAT."

Whatever....does my logic make sense to you though? If you are taking courses which will only help at MAXIMUM 1/3 of your overall score (since they are only in 1 section), how much of an effect will those 2 classes actually have? And remember, Cell Bio or Biochem are themselves only a fraction of the material covered in the biological science test. Think :)

I agree with Anastasis-look at just one prep book or the AAMC topic guide before you change your whole year around.

In only my opinion, I think reading some current science articles (or practice mcat test passages) will be just as helpful as any advanced coursework. You have to get used to big scientific words and experiments you have never heard of. B/c they want to see if you can apply your basic understanding of science to stuff you haven't seen before.

But the key idea here is: critical thinking. See other people's opinions and eventually create your own path that you think will be the most effective.

hope this helps.
 

mvenus929

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No matter what you decide to do, you'll be ahead of the game. If you take it in January, you won't have to worry about it the semester before you apply and can focus on other things. If you take it in September, say, you'll be even further ahead of the game.

Some people had crappy intro bio classes, and weren't all that good at the subject in the first place, so upper division bio classes help them solidify some knowledge before the MCAT. Some people wait until their junior or senior year to take O Chem, and consequently end up taking other bio classes before the MCAT (if bio is their major). Keep in mind that there is a large portion of people accepted every year that only take the minimum classes required. They obviously had a good enough MCAT score to get in.

As I said before, and as the posters above me have said, it is up to you in the end. We don't know you, and can only offer advice that we're taking ourselves, or wish we would have taken. This advice may not work for you, and that's cool. If you think O chem and Physics are going to be your weak points, then you should seriously consider taking the test as close to when you finish the subjects as possible. If you think Biology is going to be your weak point, then you might want to consider taking additional classes to help you understand the material you are weakest at.

The August and September testing dates don't even open registration until April, so you have plenty of time to think about it. I suggest taking a diagnostic test close to the opening of registration (say, the first week in April), and go from there. A prep course should help you learn the ins and outs of the test and will cover pretty much everything you need to know for the test.
 

jlgone

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Thanks to everyone for their input. It was very helpful.

At this point I have come to a number of conclusions (from this thread and others). Hopefully this summary will help others with my same questions.

- It is not necessary to take more courses than the pre-reqs to do very well on the MCAT. It is necessary for a normal student to study for 200+ hours to do well, even if they have had additional classes.

- People who try to study while taking a full load/volunteering are overly stressed - obviuosly not something you should plan to get yourself into and not optimal for MCAT studying or your GPA.

- For some reason, very few people suggest additional upper levels course in physics or inorganic chem; Biochem is the only non-biology course frequently described as valuable. (That may be because no one ever takes them, and therefore none ever cites them as being helpful.)

- If I take a particular class, e.g., genetics, prior to the MCAT and the particular exam I get focusses on physiology I would have waisted valuable study time. It would be better to self-study across all topics, since you can't predict the focus of a particular test and at best it would only give incremental help on 1/3 of the test.


My plan (for now at least!) is to take a very light load the fall of my Junior year. I just can work/volunteer that summer to avoid getting burned out in the fall. I do need the structure of a prep course, but will try to take other samples tests at the very end to broaden my exposure. I can take a prep test over the fall semester and self study areas of weakness as needed, take a break for finals and the holidays, and then take off my 6-winter session to focus all Jan for a late Jan test.

I just signed up for a free Kaplan diagnostic in March and that should help me with my decisions. Next step is to decide which prep course. There are plenty of opinions on that subject as well!
 
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