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At the end of Test Prep Week, there will be two winners slected by the administrators at SDN to win the following:

  • 1) A complete set of the 2013 TBR homestudy books.

  • 2) A set of 7 CBT exams to be used in 2013.

In addition to the SDN rules, we have a few to set forth. After a learning curve spawned by a past event, we have some rules about the prizes.

(1) These cannot be substituted in any way for another prize or for credit towards a course.

(2) If you provide an invalid shipping address and the books get returned to us, then you are responsible for the shipping costs for re-shipping.

(3) If you have already purchased the books from us, we will not issue a refund in lieu of the books. We will send the winning set of books, which you are encouraged to sell off.

(4) If you do not contact us (through SDN private message using your winning account) within the time period allotted by SDN, then you lose your prize and it will be designated to the next person that SDN notifies us has won (a second chance winner).
 

OneTwoThreeFour

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The Berkeley Review books have a reputation as some of the best in the business (specifically in the physical sciences). How would you say you've achieved this while other companies providing preparation materials have failed?
 

BerkReviewTeach

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The Berkeley Review books have a reputation as some of the best in the business (specifically in the physical sciences). How would you say you've achieved this while other companies providing preparation materials have failed?
I think the difference comes down to the author(s). The lead author of each BR book has been teaching MCAT preparation for over twenty years, where the national companies don't get that luxury. Their turnover rate for teachers and administrators is too high to develop the experience needed to take a good book and make it great. BR authors have the advantage of years and years of instant feedback about the way things are worded and presented. They know their audiance really well. The best ways to present certain topics can only be perfected by working in the classroom and experimenting with different ways of doing things.

As a result, the BR have two things that the other books can't touch. (1) Well reasoned and thorough answer explanations that teach students how to tackle a question as much as they address the concepts. (2) Many amazing shortcuts you won't find anywhere else.

The reputation is no accident. Despite having the worst website in the industry and the least convenient means of ordering the books, people still recommend them as being so good it's more than worth the hassle.
 
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Lafakads

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Currently in the process of retaking the MCAT and looking to achieve a super high score. I heard you guys have some of the best practice problems and content for physics, chem and o chem, but for biology I heard it's overly detailed. Do you guys agree with that TBR bio is too detailed or does the understanding need to be like that?
 
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I am also preparing to take the MCAT near the end of the semester, and have already purchased the set of TBR books which I am supplementing with a couple EK books and the Kaplan on demand online course. I have found that the formatting within some of the TBR books is much different, examples are instead given and explained for review purposes. I find the methodology helpful but wonder why the deviation from the standard 'textbook like' review as found in a lot of the other program books? Why is this beneficial?
 

BerkReviewTeach

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Currently in the process of retaking the MCAT and looking to achieve a super high score. I heard you guys have some of the best practice problems and content for physics, chem and o chem, but for biology I heard it's overly detailed. Do you guys agree with that TBR bio is too detailed or does the understanding need to be like that?
Great question. If I were to take the MCAT again, knowing what I know now, I'd use the biology books differently. The biology books have some of the very best passages you'll find anywhere as well as a few I would skip (maybe 10%). One thing I think many people never mention, but would agree with when asked, is that the two different biology books (Book 1: physiology and Book 2: Cell, Molecular, and Genetics) are stylistically very different. Let's look at the two books separately.

For physiology, I'd 100% use BR book 1 as it is at the perfect level of detail for the MCAT. It's the right size for the subject and covers everything you need for the exam. It has great passages with well-reasoned answer explanations. There are so many passages on applications and experiments, in the same style as the actual MCAT. I really like the muscle, kidney, heart, and reproduction sections in particular. They explain things well and make you think. Perhaps best of all is that I feel confident that everything is accurate, and that's really important to me.

For cell biology, I'd 100% use BR book 2 for the reasons mentioned above. It presents the material in a clear and logical way and I found the passages to be perfect for what I needed. For genetics, I'd skim the text sections in BR book 2 and focus on the passages. There are certain aspects that are exceptionally well explained (like the operons), but the passages also do a great job with the topic, so reading is a bit redundant. I also knew some sections well, so it felt like it droned on, but in the end I actually needed some of that rehashing. I think the genetics and molecular biology passages are critical, because they address lab technqiues, and that is an absolute must for the biological sciences section. For metabolism and pathways, this is where IMO the book has some excess writing. I'd maybe read the ETC and one other pathway, but after a while all pathways start to blend and I'd look at the overall results of a pathway more than the details. The experiment-based passages in this section are very good, especially chapter 8. But I think this is the chapter that gives the book it's reputation as overly detailed. I also think that unlike the other sections, most of us have strong biology backgrounds, so it seems like overkill.

Then again, there are people more diligent than myself who like the detail, so keep in mind that this is my personal opinion and not an official statement.
 
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MDhopeful23

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How are your books organized? And why would you recommend your books over Kaplan Princeton or Examkrackers? Thanks for your help
 

BerkReviewTeach

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I am also preparing to take the MCAT near the end of the semester, and have already purchased the set of TBR books which I am supplementing with a couple EK books and the Kaplan on demand online course. I have found that the formatting within some of the TBR books is much different, examples are instead given and explained for review purposes. I find the methodology helpful but wonder why the deviation from the standard 'textbook like' review as found in a lot of the other program books? Why is this beneficial?
If you looked at the history of the BR materials, you'd see an evolution from a tradional textbook approach to more of a transcript from a discussion on the application of concepts. The main reason for the difference you mention has to do with the BR authors seeing themselves as teachers writing to students in a small class setting, because that's where they get their feedback. Most textbooks are written by professors who lecture to large classrooms and who get feedback from other professors who also lecture to large classrooms, rather than from their students.

I have found that the BR approach leads to a much better conceptual understanding of the material. This may also be in part due to the reduced academic snootiness in BR books, where even if it's a silly approach, it's accecptable in the student culture. A perfect example is the mnemonic for recalling glucose which involves flipping off the Fischer projection. It is really useful, but would never appear in another textbook.

The reality is that MCAT materials are suppose to make a student better at taking the MCAT. I think where many companies make a big mistake is that they are trying to mimick a textbook (make a half-sized textbook), because they think that's what students will like given that that's what they have been using. But that is not what they need, because the MCAT passages are not asking questions the same way as college exams. The BR philosophy is to use passages and questions to teach material in context and to emphasize how to answer questions. Afterall, the score you get on the MCAT comes from how well you answer questions more than how well you know a subject.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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How are your books organized? And why would you recommend your books over Kaplan Princeton or Examkrackers? Thanks for your help
They are organized into chapters, like most books, but there are far more passages in our books than others. We also spend a good amount of words explaining answers, never saying things like "refer to Equation 7-1 on page..." in an explanation. It's a little thing perhaps, but when an author is too lazy to retype the equation it's a diservice to the student. We treat each answer explanation as a closed system.

The main reason I'd recommend BR books over any other book, including the ones you mentioned, is because they are better at getting a student ready to think the way they need to think to do well on the MCAT. There are strategies and perspectives on the material in the BR books you won't find anywhere else.
 
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docindev

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Hello!

After reading much on SDN and consulting with friends who have utilized Berkeley Review's classroom course, I have found that your course has a reputation of over-preparing students for the Physical Sciences section and my friends have told me their actual MCAT PS section ended up being a whole lot easier. How much of this is intentional and in what ways do you go about doing this? I have also heard that TBR emphasizes math shortcuts and estimates in calculations which end up saving time.

About the Verbal, I have heard that the passages are not the best in comparison to Kaplan and Princeton. If you could explain what makes TBR's verbal strategy stand out above the rest, that'll be great!
 

Bambi16

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I have heard that your CBT exams are generally harder than a lot of other practice exams. Do you think asking harder questions is a better way to study for the MCAT?
 

BerkReviewTeach

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Are your products aimed at students who need a "quick refresher" of material, or who need extensive review/re-teaching?
Neither! We don't aim our materials at a student's background; we design them to cover all the topics the MCAT can potentially test on. We write passages to make both types of students as prepared as they can be to take the MCAT without being caught off guard by the weirdness and difficulty of the passages and questions on their actual exam.

When it comes to reviewing in depth or in a cursory fashion, that's a choice the student needs to make. Our books cover everything the MCAT can ask and mixes different subjects together in practice questions to prepare students to think. If a student knows the material really well and only needs a cursory review, then we encourage them to skim the chapter text and focus mostly on passages. If a student needs an in-depth review, then they should take notes as they work through the text. But in the end, it's about a student knowing themselves well enough to make that choice.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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Hello!

After reading much on SDN and consulting with friends who have utilized Berkeley Review's classroom course, I have found that your course has a reputation of over-preparing students for the Physical Sciences section and my friends have told me their actual MCAT PS section ended up being a whole lot easier. How much of this is intentional and in what ways do you go about doing this? I have also heard that TBR emphasizes math shortcuts and estimates in calculations which end up saving time.

About the Verbal, I have heard that the passages are not the best in comparison to Kaplan and Princeton. If you could explain what makes TBR's verbal strategy stand out above the rest, that'll be great!
When you think about it, isn't everyone over-prepared for their MCAT? No matter what, you are going to study far more material than what is tested. So our plan in the classroom course is to cover every possible topic and discuss several different types of passages that could show, getting our students ready for the weirdest, hardest test that the writers might throw. If you get one of those really hard exams, then you'll be sitting pretty, because you're completely ready and the national curve is going to be low. In the event, and a likely one at that, that your exam is easier than what we have prepared you for, then you'll finish early and hopefully spend that extra time catching and correcting your careless errors during your second pass-through. And yes, we have a plethora of test-taking strategies, techniques, and tricks for saving time, zeroing in on the crux of a question, and staying calm while others are panicking. We treat it as a preparation course more than a review course.

As for the verbal section, I read feedback about our book too. As far as our verbal book goes, I think there are some people who have never used it commenting on its reputation, but that's going to happen. There are also some people commenting who used it. The reality is that it could be better. One post about a year ago was by someone who used selected passages and found it to be a great resource. There are some excellent, realistic passages in the book (about half of them are good), but there are also some verbose passages (about a third are too wordy). The book is a collaboration of several passage writers, which was by design given that your MCAT will be written by several different authors. But, there are some writers that missed the mark. However, if you're talking about the classroom handouts for BR, then I'll take those any day of the week over any other resource available. The class outlines and practice exercises (passages) are the result of several years of work and feedback, and the passages in those handouts were chosen out of hundreds to fit an exact need.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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I have heard that your CBT exams are generally harder than a lot of other practice exams. Do you think asking harder questions is a better way to study for the MCAT?
Because the difficulty of the MCAT is a moving target, you have to make a choice as to what you prepare for. Do you prepare for a math-heavy exam because one out of twenty people say it was filled with difficult math? Do you prepare for a test rich in molecular biology or a test rich in organic chemistry and physiology? A big challenge in preparing is that the test topics vary and the difficulty of the questions vary. It's a standardized exam, not a uniform exam.

We have adopted the philosophy that if you prepare a student for the realistically hardest possible exam, then they will be most prepared for anything they face. We also are aware that most students will be using AAMC exams to prepare, so we keep that in mind in designing the difficulty of our exams. Many people will tell you that the AAMC exams were too easy and their actual MCAT caught them off guard. We figure that if a student uses some AAMC exams and some of our exams, then they'll be ready for the full range of possibilities. So the truth is that we skew higher on the difficulty range, but if you couple our exams with AAMC exams, then you'll be ready for the entire range.
 
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Forkit

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If I complete the BR books and go over their practice problems/passages and learn from it, will I be 100% prepared for the BR CBTs? Or should I expects some questions with material not included in the books, with the goal of me learning from those CBTs questions? The BR books sometimes tend to post practice questions that deal with concepts not discussed in the content review section, so I end up learning new stuff from explanations of those questions, if I get them wrong. So are the CBTs similar in that there may be some unexpected stuff outside of the books that I will learn from the CBT explanations themselves?

Thanks!!

P.S. , How do I participate in the raffle? I have all the BR books (2012), and am dying to get their CBTs, but I'm to broke to afford any atm :-(. Would be sweet if I win this raffle
 

Sabio23

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The BR books I got have covered so many topics in such a comprehensive manner. Although they do tend to be on the wordy side, I feel the company has a good job preparing its students, especially in a competitive state like California. Do you guys have any plans for expansion to other states on the East Coast (offering live/online classes)?
 

Hemorrage

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I have a few of the BR books and i must say they are much better at explaining concepts when compared to their counterparts. How did BR accomplish this as a much smaller company while larger groups like Kaplan didn't?
 
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Do the BR books contain enough information for someone to relearn information that they haven't covered in years?
 

BerkReviewTeach

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If I complete the BR books and go over their practice problems/passages and learn from it, will I be 100% prepared for the BR CBTs? Or should I expects some questions with material not included in the books, with the goal of me learning from those CBTs questions? The BR books sometimes tend to post practice questions that deal with concepts not discussed in the content review section, so I end up learning new stuff from explanations of those questions, if I get them wrong. So are the CBTs similar in that there may be some unexpected stuff outside of the books that I will learn from the CBT explanations themselves?

Thanks!!

P.S. , How do I participate in the raffle? I have all the BR books (2012), and am dying to get their CBTs, but I'm to broke to afford any atm :-(. Would be sweet if I win this raffle
The books are set up in a way where about two to three passages will address material not covered in the text. The idea here is that whether it's in the text or in the passage, you're seeing the material either way. And by surprising you with material not covered in the text section, you are preparing for that possibility on your MCAT. However, that's not the philosophy with the CBTs. Everything has been covered, but there are some passages that are flat-out weird. In this sense, we're hoping to mimick your MCAT experience where a familiar topic is presented in an unfamiliar way, and you need to use common sense and POE to do well. And the explanations on the CBTs emphasize test strategy and thorough review of the material. We are expecting that many people taking the CBTs will not have used our books, so some shortcuts are explained from scratch.

I'm not sure how the raffle works, but I know they will choose people from the posts in this section. I greatly appreciate your sincere question and hope you (or another poster of a question they genuinely wanted to ask) will win.

Finally, you might want to check out this thread for a few other opinions on the passages vs. chapter in BR books .
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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The BR books I got have covered so many topics in such a comprehensive manner. Although they do tend to be on the wordy side, I feel the company has a good job preparing its students, especially in a competitive state like California. Do you guys have any plans for expansion to other states on the East Coast (offering live/online classes)?
First and foremost, thank you for your kind words. They are greatly appreciated. Being a small mom-n-pop company and a one-trick pony of sorts (MCAT only), we take things more personally than the corporate folks, and get motivated by positive feedback. I'm sure this is true for everyone, but it's nice to read positive feedback.

As far as expanding, we actually unexpanded (contracted is probably a better word) in the late 90s and have been happy being a small company ever since. At one time we ran classes in Seattle (at UW through the help of their AED), in Ann Arbor, in Chicago (at Pritzker through the help of the premedical society), in Palo Alto, and in San Diego (in addition to our four core sites). The truth of the matter is that it was really difficult to maintain the quality of teaching we demanded and it became stressful. At that time, we saw a newcomer to the MCAT market try overexpansion to their detriment, and decided the best thing was to put quality over quantity.

We have experimented with live video lectures, but the unnatural pauses and dead-time made lectures challenging and they felt unnatural. The reality is that facial expressions and class ambiance play a huge roll in lectures, as teachers take that feedback and adapt. As a company we know how profitable on-line courses could be, but they are not as effective as live instruction. There are no plans to do any teaching besides live.

However, one thing we have entertained is bringing back power weekend courses for a student group on a given campus. As long as a number of their members are studying using our books, then it works well. We have done this on a few occasions and very much enjoyed the experience. The student organization got the room and we flew our teachers out to do two eight-hour days of hot topics (4 hours of physics, 4 hours of general chemistry, 3 hours of organic chemistry, and 5 hours of biology). It's well short of a full course, but when we've done them before students really enjoyed the sessions and found them very beneficial. It allows us to bring some of the shortcuts in the books to life.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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I have a few of the BR books and i must say they are much better at explaining concepts when compared to their counterparts. How did BR accomplish this as a much smaller company while larger groups like Kaplan didn't?
Again, as I started the previous response saying, thank you so much for your kind words. It's a point of company pride.

Writing a great book is the result of many revisions and listening to your students. Our books are written by the most experienced MCAT instructors in the world (literally the people who have been teaching MCAT preparation longer than anyone in the world). Twenty-three years of student feedback and teaching experience fuel the current renditions of our books. We have continually revised and reworked our books to reflect the way things are taught in class. We have strived to not simply write a lightened version of a textbook, but rather a book that helps you remember information more clearly, understand concepts more innately, and solve problems more efficiently. The hardest part of writing the books stems from writing passages, because for every question you see, there were two to three that were thrown out.

And truth be told, a behemoth is actually at a disadvantage when writing books and designing a course because they lose touch with their students and have such a huge turnover of teaching staff and administrators. It would actually be much harder to write a good book with so many people in upper management worrying more about profit margin and aesthetics that the content you're creating.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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Do the BR books contain enough information for someone to relearn information that they haven't covered in years?
Definitely! But, be careful not to focus too much on absorbing information, because how you take the exam is also important. If you know all of the information but are inefficient at time allotment, then things might not end well. Our books will allow you to review (or relearn) a subject, and then drill you with all sorts of applications and conceptual questions. This is essential in developing the skills needed to do well.
 
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BobbyT

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Does the The Berkeley Review collect data analysis of how their students perform on the MCAT compared to other MCAT prep companies?
 

Meredith92

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Do you recommend, as SN2ed does, to do all the phases in TBR timed? Or, do you think it is best to do phase 1 un-timed and the rest timed? Also, do you think it is best to do all the phases before you start full length exams, or to do phase 2 during full lengths? Finally, to recommend using a mix of companies for the mcat, or if we plan to use TBR to just stick with that?? (PS, TBR has been so impressive so far!)
 

docindev

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I know this isn't recommended, but can the Berkeley Review review books be used "as needed" meaning, do we have to follow the recommended plan in order to do well or can we pick and choose areas where we are weak if we don't have the necessary time to go through the entire course schedule? I am going to school and working so I want to maximize my efforts.

Thank you.
 

Qester

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Often times I hear that your review books are 'to' in-depth, however I personally feel that sometimes review books cut out important information. How does BR ensure that everything is covered without going too in-depth.
 

Technorino

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I have a question (that may metastasize into many others).

So I've looked through a friend's TBR books and I was quite overwhelmed.

First time I took the MCAT, I mainly used Examkrackers and Chad's MCAT videos to prepare along with the official old AAMC tests.

My question to your company is: Why should we choose your preparation materials over any of the other companies? What is it that you guys offer to us as students taking the MCAT that other companies simply cannot offer? Is it the type of questions in the practice books? Is it the amount of information covered? These are all questions that go through my mind when I'm looking to buy these books because in the end, we all need thorough preparation for this exam.

Thank you and sorry for the metastasis =)
 

silverturtle

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Hello! Let me first say that I've heard from multiple places that TBR is one of the best (if not THE best) resource in MCAT studying.

Do you suggest waiting until you've mostly completed your studying before working on the practice tests or integrating them into your studying?

Thank you!
 

DrDashInd

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How are you guys planning to adapt for the 2015 administration of the MCAT? Do you think there will be prep materials for those first students taking the 2015 MCAT?
 

BerkReviewTeach

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Does the The Berkeley Review collect data analysis of how their students perform on the MCAT compared to other MCAT prep companies?
If students choose to do so, they can list their previous MCAT scores on their enrollment application and if they took an MCAT course previously. We get scores from some of these students after they've taken the MCAT, so we can compare and measure their improvement. We do this for the classroom course students, but not for independent study students.
 

BerkReviewTeach

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Do you recommend, as SN2ed does, to do all the phases in TBR timed? Or, do you think it is best to do phase 1 un-timed and the rest timed? Also, do you think it is best to do all the phases before you start full length exams, or to do phase 2 during full lengths? Finally, to recommend using a mix of companies for the mcat, or if we plan to use TBR to just stick with that?? (PS, TBR has been so impressive so far!)
Thanks for a great question. SN2ed has some great suggestions and I find myself in accord with his ideas about 98% of the time. That 2% includes the timing of Phase I apparently. Our philosophy on Phase I is that you should take it slowly and use the passages as a learning tool. It's suppose to be the transition from the context portion (the text) to the practice portion (the passages). The Phase I passages we have chosen are passages that are almost 100% from the reading, so it's more like a tradiitonal homework set designed to get you refamiliarized with the content. Phase II and Phase III are definitely meant to be timed.

If you can complete all of your phases before your first exam, that would be great, but it's next to impossible to do that unless you are on the six-month plan. Typically our classroom course students start their exams about two-thirds of the way through their material (nearly all of Phase I, 75% of Phase II, and about 40% of Phase III). You can finish the phases during your off-days between practice exams.

For your last question, I strongly believe that your core science review should be BR, but as your test date nears you should do passages from as many sources as you can. We are strong believers that our strategies and approach should work on material from any author, and encourage our students to test that out. The MCAT is written by several different people, so your last month is best spent being exposed to the work of several different authors. After hearing from students over many years, I am 100% in belief that BR has the best science materials available, and a good three months with them will result in a great understanding of the material AND how to do well on the MCAT. But I'm also aware that some other materials are pretty good too and that they can serve a good purpose in a student's preparation.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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I know this isn't recommended, but can the Berkeley Review review books be used "as needed" meaning, do we have to follow the recommended plan in order to do well or can we pick and choose areas where we are weak if we don't have the necessary time to go through the entire course schedule? I am going to school and working so I want to maximize my efforts.

Thank you.
You can definitely use it as needed, and I'd go so far as to say that's a brilliant plan. Customizing a plan specific to your needs is exactly what I'd suggest to everyone. For areas you know well, it's pointless (and wasteful) to spend hours reviewing what you already know. Our passages are set up in a way where a student could skip the text altogether and just do the book passages for a complete and thorough review. Most of us are wired to read text before questions, so it's unnerving to suggest this, but if you're willing and condifent in that approach, then I'd highly recommend it for you.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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Often times I hear that your review books are 'to' in-depth, however I personally feel that sometimes review books cut out important information. How does BR ensure that everything is covered without going too in-depth.
Admittedly, I read comments about our books being too in-depth as well. For a while I logged categories of the people making this comment and found that most of the time the person either (a) was repeating the MCAT or (b) had just started their review when they gave up on BR. In those same threads there would be people coming to the defense of the materials and how well they worked. Those people also fell into two distinct categories: (a) people who did the MCAT once and did quite well and (b) people committed to an intense schedule from the first day of their review. Intrigued by this, I actually went page by page and counted exactly how long the various books are and posted that in a thread. A few people commented how long other books were. It was a very helpful thread. It ends up that BR text is about 10% longer than the average book in physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physiology. It's about 15% longer in the rest of biology. If you figure that BR books include test-taking strategy and mnemonics on pretty much every page, I'm not sure if anything can be cut out. So it really comes down to the style of book fitting a personality type. If our books are intimidating at first glance, that's natural. But once you get into them and see how much better the answer explanations are than anything else on the market, you'll realize that they should be the core of your reviw.

As for what can be trimmed any further, the organic chemistry book got trimmed down in the most recent edition, omitting some sugar reactions. But the books are reduced to a what you need for the 2013 version of the MCAT. Some of the thinner prep books on the market haven't been updated for a while (as implied by their still having some alkene reactions), so I think rather than comparing that our books are bigger than those, a diligent student will consider that our book are more current than those.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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I have a question (that may metastasize into many others).

So I've looked through a friend's TBR books and I was quite overwhelmed.

First time I took the MCAT, I mainly used Examkrackers and Chad's MCAT videos to prepare along with the official old AAMC tests.

My question to your company is: Why should we choose your preparation materials over any of the other companies? What is it that you guys offer to us as students taking the MCAT that other companies simply cannot offer? Is it the type of questions in the practice books? Is it the amount of information covered? These are all questions that go through my mind when I'm looking to buy these books because in the end, we all need thorough preparation for this exam.

Thank you and sorry for the metastasis =)
I get that the books can be overwhelming at first glance. When you think about it, the volume of information in the first two years of medical school is going to be much more than our books, and that's overwhelming. Most long term tasks that require daily effort for months on end will be daunting at first. But if you can let yourself get past the anxiety and the first week or two of adjustment, then you'll find that it's really not that bad. If you can look back at your friend's books, I'd ask that you open any of the books to the answer explanations and compare them side-by-side with the answer explanations in the materials you used the first time.

The best learning a student does is when they review after an exam, and that's where we don't skimp
. You need more than a line or two with an occasional reference to something from the chapter to get better. Our answers are extremely detailed and written by teachers in a tone they'd use during office hours.

The reality is that the answer to your questions are in another thread here talking about our books, and I encourage you to read the deatils of our materials. It really comes down to you aksing yourself a very honest question. "How hard are you willing to work?" There is no doubt that our materials force you to think. They force you to contemplate how different concepts connect. They don't make you feel good sometimes. But in the end when you get your score, how will you feel? What you need to assess more than anything is what you need to do differently this next time studying. Something has to change if you want to be a better MCAT test-taker this next go-around. It might be something simple or might be taking a more intense apporach this time. You know best what you need.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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Hello! Let me first say that I've heard from multiple places that TBR is one of the best (if not THE best) resource in MCAT studying.

Do you suggest waiting until you've mostly completed your studying before working on the practice tests or integrating them into your studying?

Thank you!
Thank you SO MUCH! It's nice to read. We take a great deal of pride in our materials and the years of effort to perfect them. I think that if you are doing passages every day, then whenever you start full length exams is more based on timing in terms of your MCAT date than when you have completed your review. Most people overlap the last third of their review with the start of their practice exams. It hurts the first few practice exam scores, but it's all about prep anyway. If you can ignore your preseason scores on the first few exams, then feel free to start whenever it seems best timed.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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How are you guys planning to adapt for the 2015 administration of the MCAT? Do you think there will be prep materials for those first students taking the 2015 MCAT?
We'll definitely have great materials in time for the March 2015 exam. Being based in Berkeley, CA, let's just say there's a large base of people willing to write and argue about sociology topics. :) Seriously though, that job started last year following the AAMC meetings and announcements. We're actually really excited about the change. Only doing MCAT allows us to focus completely on this. Look for BR to become a much bigger force in the field when the new MCAT is introduced.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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What should we look for when purchasing used copies of TBR books?
With any used books, clean pages are the biggest priority. If the text is highlighted, it can be annoying, but not the end of the world. But if the questions are circled (even in pencil so thay can erased), any hint that one choice is better than another can bias your thinking. If you buy used books with passages that have been circled, do yourself a favor and circle every letter and then erase.

As far as the years go, there's a thread on that in the archived 2011 TPW forum. I can't find the link, but if you follow the forum headings you'll find it. With so many used BR books floating around, you should be able to find the latest for about the same price as ones that are a few years old.

General rules to consider are:

(1) Buy from SDN members if you want the most honest and accountable source for used books. Most of the criminal activity we hear about involves Craigslist and a little on eBay.

(2) If you are in Canada, please do fellow Canadians a favor and sell them in Canada, because shipping new books to Canada is costly.

(3) Physics should be 2011 or later and organic chemistry should be late 2012 or later. Make sure the passages are in the 25-52-?? format. For physics there is no ??, but in organic chemistry it's anywhere from 26 to 31 questions.

(4) General chemistry is best from 2012 or later, but 2009 and later can work if you absolutely can't find 2012 or later. Biology is okay 2009 or later.

(5) Don't overpay for used books, especially second generation used books. Brand new they cost $260 for the full science set and $310 for everything.

Some sellers exaggerate how long it takes to get books directly from the company (probably to help promote their sales). Granted, using the postal service is archaic and a poor business practice, but you should expect your books anywhere from four weekdays to ten weekdays after you mail your order (depending on where you live and the payment type). FedEx is expensive, but they are reliable and fast. Basiclly, if you are overpaying to buy used books via Paypal so you get them mailed to you sooner, it might only save you a couple of days (more if you're on the east coast).
 
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Jun 29, 2011
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Posting here since I think you overlooked the other thread!

Last one for me:

Which TBR CBTs would you recommend if we were to only purchase a select few? Are there ones that are newer and more reflective? Harder? Better for a certain section? etc.

Thanks again
 

BerkReviewTeach

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Posting here since I think you overlooked the other thread!

Last one for me:

Which TBR CBTs would you recommend if we were to only purchase a select few? Are there ones that are newer and more reflective? Harder? Better for a certain section? etc.

Thanks again
LOL, I literally just left that thread. Sorry about the timing, but I'm trying to completely field every question with a well-thought answer, so it's taking me a longer than it probably should.
 
Jul 16, 2012
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I've been using the books for awhile now, and I've found them to be very good. However, it's been taking me an absurd amount of time to go through each of the sections. Do you have any recommendations on how to tackle the readings-- skim first, then reread while taking notes, etc. How long should I aim for when completing the readings on average?

Thanks again for all your detailed responses! They've been very helpful!
 

eleveneleven

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Aug 19, 2008
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I've been using the books for awhile now, and I've found them to be very good. However, it's been taking me an absurd amount of time to go through each of the sections. Do you have any recommendations on how to tackle the readings-- skim first, then reread while taking notes, etc. How long should I aim for when completing the readings on average?

Thanks again for all your detailed responses! They've been very helpful!
It's always very difficult to recommend how much time people should spend with their studying, as it tends to have a huge range depending on the person studying/topic being studied/how comfortable the person is with that topic, etc. To give you a very general idea as to how long it could take me, I spent anywhere from a 2-3 hours with a given chapter up to about 5 for really long, tough, chapters on topics that I knew I struggled with (I'm looking at you, equilibrium chemistry). Don't go overboard on the content, as you should be spending sometimes just as much time (if not more) going over passages, and if you burn yourself out with the content review, you won't be getting adequate review from the passages (arguably the most important part of studying for the MCAT). I would recommend reading through the chapter, taking very brief notes on important concepts/formulas, not letting yourself get wrapped up in too much of the minutiae, and just making sure you have a strong understanding of the conceptual underpinnings of each chapter. With this, you have a strong basis for approaching the passages and can then solidify your content from your reviews and additional readings of portions of the chapter if needed.
 

Fifty 3rds

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I have an interesting thought:

1. If someone used your materials for content review, along with some of the other materials out there and scored really well.

2. And they found themselves with some downtime before matriculation.

Would it be alright to host an MCAT preparation course for students who prefer a classroom setting, while using the TBR books as the basis for the course? (the fee of which would be used to cover TBR materials for each student participating)

If this should be taken offline for disucssion, I completely understand.
 

BerkReviewTeach

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I've been using the books for awhile now, and I've found them to be very good. However, it's been taking me an absurd amount of time to go through each of the sections. Do you have any recommendations on how to tackle the readings-- skim first, then reread while taking notes, etc. How long should I aim for when completing the readings on average?

Thanks again for all your detailed responses! They've been very helpful!
Eleven-11 gave a magnificient response. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses as well as a different perspective on what the purpose of passages is. To me, I see phase I as a continuation of reading/skimming the chapter. For the questions in the reading section and phase I, I don't care how long it takes and I spend a good amount of time going over the explanations and in some cases trying the question over again to make sure I get it. This will take anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours depending on the subject. Phases II and III should take about two hours on average to take and review, if you've paid your dues during phase I. I worry about the score and timing on the last two phases.

At this rate, it should take about 50 hours to complete physics, 50 hours to complete general chemistry, 40 hours to complete, and 50 hours to complete biology. That's 190 hours total, which at 30 hours per week works out to be six weeks. That right about the norm for most people, so I wouldn't feel so bad.

If you are looking to save time, then start by looking at the terminology list on the chapter cover page (or insleeve) and go through what terms and equations you recall. If things look familiar, then start with Phase I and skip the reading. There's no reason you should read every word in each book. The author's never intended for anyone to read everything but instead have them read only what they need.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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It's always very difficult to recommend how much time people should spend with their studying, as it tends to have a huge range depending on the person studying/topic being studied/how comfortable the person is with that topic, etc. To give you a very general idea as to how long it could take me, I spent anywhere from a 2-3 hours with a given chapter up to about 5 for really long, tough, chapters on topics that I knew I struggled with (I'm looking at you, equilibrium chemistry). Don't go overboard on the content, as you should be spending sometimes just as much time (if not more) going over passages, and if you burn yourself out with the content review, you won't be getting adequate review from the passages (arguably the most important part of studying for the MCAT). I would recommend reading through the chapter, taking very brief notes on important concepts/formulas, not letting yourself get wrapped up in too much of the minutiae, and just making sure you have a strong understanding of the conceptual underpinnings of each chapter. With this, you have a strong basis for approaching the passages and can then solidify your content from your reviews and additional readings of portions of the chapter if needed.
That is just a great response. Thank you for taking the time to think out loud with your reply in such a logical fashion.
 
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BerkReviewTeach

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I have an interesting thought:

1. If someone used your materials for content review, along with some of the other materials out there and scored really well.

2. And they found themselves with some downtime before matriculation.

Would it be alright to host an MCAT preparation course for students who prefer a classroom setting, while using the TBR books as the basis for the course? (the fee of which would be used to cover TBR materials for each student participating)

If this should be taken offline for disucssion, I completely understand.
There have been a few people who've done just that and it worked out really well for all parties involved. I should probably PM you with the details of how they did it. The most recent guy was really organized and that made a big difference. He reserved a room on campus on a regular basis, had eight students, ordered books in bulk, and based his syllabus on the chapters. He did it one subject at a time over the summer. It's probaly best to leave the details to a PM.
 
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GatsbyK

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Hi BerkReviewTeach,

I have several questions about your products. I have heard numerous praises on SDN and other forums that they have been one of the best books for science review. I am planning a retake and want to further increase my scores for science. (11PS, 12BS) Upon reading your other replies about how your book is different I want to know some specifics about how it is different. I have used Kaplans and currently using EK books. I was planning on buying your products as well but wasn't sure since I could not examine a copy of it in any retail stores. I want to know about how the books are structurally different, do you guys just go more in depth with topics by explaining the topic more through words? Do you guys add graphs and try to be more visual? Or do you guys have simple mnemonics? Basically how is the structure of the content in your books different from Kaplan or EK besides the difference in authors? Each company say their authors are better but when it all comes down to studying it is the way the materials are explained and presented that matters the most to a home study student trying to learn. Therefore, I want to know how the content and structuring of your content is different.

Also I noticed that on your website you buy the books in "sets" for each topic. I was wondering do you guys have a type of "full package" deal instead of buying the sets individually, if not do you guys intend to do anything of the sort? Also is there any "Major" different between years? Is there major revisions of topics in sets or is it more change based on trial?

P.S sorry the questions seem repetitive. I just want a copy to examine but I don't think you guys ship to like book stores etc. Therefore, I wanna know how your books are structured before buying.
 

mehc012

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Jul 9, 2012
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First of all, I want to start by saying that your books seem like the absolute best resource out there...I tend to overplan things when I get excited, so I spent an embarrassingly long time scouring the internet for MCAT review book reviews (wow, that sounds awkward), and read just about every thread out there on comparing TBR to TPR, Kaplan, EK, you name it. Your book won in reader reviews hands down, mostly due to the passages you include!

However, I very nearly didn't purchase them, and actually ended up with an outdated set, simply because the website has a 'dated' look to it and, more importantly, the payment methods seemed cumbersome and very bizarre. I don't believe I have ever paid for anything by check except in person, and I didn't know money orders were still a thing. When I first tried to buy the books, I honestly thought I'd fallen for the best scam ever, until I remembered that many people in the review threads had commented on the strange site.

Having obtained a full (slightly dated) set from the SDN forums, I now wish that I had given my business directly to you guys; the used prices are pretty similar to new, but you guys lose a sale and I miss out on the most recent materials!

I suppose my question is, while I know setting up a credit transaction could be a hassle, have you guys ever considered using PayPal or something similarly easy to set up? I feel that the site loses you new sales simply because it's...very uncomfortable...to exchange that much money through a dated site via dated methods. It unfairly set off many of my internet transaction red flags, if you know what I mean!
 
Dec 20, 2011
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For the typical college student from a middle class family, MCAT prep costs can be an issue. What makes your materials more cost effective than any other company? Do you foresee in the future that costs of prep materials will increase? Decrease?
 
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