Self-Study vs. Prep Course

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by BobbyDylanFan, Dec 8, 2002.

  1. BobbyDylanFan

    BobbyDylanFan Senior Member

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    I know this thread should probably be in the MCAT forum, but I wanted to try to get opinions of those who have already taken the MCAT and particularly those who have did self-study. I am having a hard time deciding if I want to go ahead and do the self-study with EK materials (while supplementing with others) or take TPR. I think that if I chart out a schedule, I could stick to it, but I've also never done something like this before. If I do self-study, anybody have tips to keep on track and do well? Will I have an advantage if I take the review course or is self-study just as good (if I do everythign correctly). Anything anybody can contribute will help! I am hoping this thread will help me in my decision. Thanks guys, SDN rules ;)
     
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  3. Camden772

    Camden772 Senior Member

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    I feel like I've said this on a number of posts. So, anyone that has read about my MCAT experiences feel free to skip to the next post.

    I'll try not to make this too long of a post, but I will say that I took a prep course in 1994 (Kaplan) and I studied on my own with the EK books this year. In April of 1994 I scored a 26N, and on the August 2002 MCAT I scored a 36-38R.

    As long as you don't need a course to keep you on schedule, I think you should study on your own. The only other benefit to a course is an instructor to answer your questions. This is only worth it if you have a good instructor and you don't have another effective means to have your questions answered. I think that SDN and the Examkrackers bulletin board should be good enough to answer your questions. And I think that the EK materials along with good practice materials are all you need to score well on the MCAT. You just have to be deligent and study intelligently. The EK materials plus AAMC practice materials and some practice materials from a couple of other companies was good enough for me this year. And I had not taken a science class of any kind since 1995 and I had not taken any of the prerequisite classes in over 8 years. I did better in 2002, years after I had taken the prerecs and without taking a prep course than I did in 1994 right after I had taken the prerecs and taking a prep course. The main reason, I put in more effort this year and I prepared more intelligently.

    I really liked the EK materials but probably any of the big prep company materials would be good enough. Just make sure you put in the effort if you study on your own. As long as you do this, I actually think that studying on your own is a more efficient use of your time. I am happy that I did not take a review course this year (although I didn't really have a choice because of my work schedule).
     
  4. Camden772

    Camden772 Senior Member

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    As for practice materials you can get. In addition to AAMC practice tests (III-VI are a must) and practice items, you can buy EK's two tests, which are both good. In addition, you can get Berkeley Review tests and practice materials and Columbia Review tests and practice materials online. You can also get a few Kaplan and TPR tests in bookstores. This is way more than you need.

    I bought 9 Berkeley Review practice tests and 7 Columbia Review practice tests and BR and CR verbal practice tests as well. This was way way way more than I needed. I actually only took AAMC practice tests III-VI, EK1D and EK2D, a couple of Columbia Review verbal practice tests and a couple of the Berkeley Review verbal practice tests. I never touched the 9 full length BR practice tests or the 7 full length CR practice tests. And I never even touched the AAMC practice materials. The only other practice items I did was the 30 minute quizzes in the EK books.

    I think 6-10 tests is more than enough. I would take of minimum of 3 to make sure you get the timing down. Just make sure you review all the practice tests you take carefully and make sure that all full length tests are taken under real exam conditions.
     
  5. kam730

    kam730 Senior Member

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    For what its worth, and this is only my own personal experience, four of the five people I know who took courses (3 different courses) were unhappy with their score and retook the MCAT in
    August. My roommate and I did self-study, she had princeton review materials, I had only the big Kaplan book they sell at the bookstore (but I got it much cheaper than $60). We studied pretty much on our own but did timed practice tests together on Saturday mornings. I studied 3-4 nights a week at least for a couple hours at a time. Some Sunday afternoons I studied 4-5 hours. I got a 34Q and she got a 33-35R; needless to say, we were pleased with our scores. Like others have stated, the courses are particularly good for people who need the structure, who don't feel like they could stick to a schedule on their own. But, and I think this was the problem some of my friends had, some people feel that they do not need to study at all on their own, that what they do in the class will be enough. And this may be true for some people. Anyway, I think courses are good for some people, but I didnt feel it was necessary for myself (plus I couldnt afford one!!).
     
  6. xaelia

    xaelia neenlet
    Physician Faculty

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    I would think the value of the structured coursework would be helpful mostly for tips and test-taking strategy for those with historical weakness in testing, as well as in forcing yourself to set aside time to study.

    I purchased the thick Kaplain review book and studied on my own, and found the practice tests to be the most useful guide to further review. I had no more than one semester of physics and one semester of organic chemistry four years prior to the exam, and self-study off only the material in the book worked fine for me - 35S.
     
  7. Flack Pinku

    Flack Pinku U lookin at my glasses??

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    ...For the rest of us, there's the Prep course.

    Highly recommended--I'm taking one now. Material itself is worth the dollars I think.
     
  8. Nogpa

    Nogpa Member

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    I did self-study for about two months before the exam--I think used the flowers and silver book, which had good reviews of most of the material. The other thing I did was the AAMC practice sets. I had a weak background in physics and chem, and it really helped to do set after set with good answers.

    Also, it's good to take a practice test periodically to check your timing and progress. One thing I would advise against is taking the PR online practice test. I did much more poorly on the physical science section than I had been doing on the AAMC tests, and it sort of shot my confidence for a few weeks. Either way, if you're willing to put in regular time, I think the self-study method can get you a decent score. Plus, it saved me some $$$, which was nice. Good luck with it.

    BR
     
  9. STi555

    STi555 Senior Member

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    As others have stated you can do great with self study. I got a high score and I didn't take a class. I believe one of the best things about the class is it forces you to spend more time studying, but if you can force yourself to study or do well enough on tests that you need much studying, than don't bother with the class.
     
  10. paean

    paean Senior Member

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    I took Berkeley Review (and if you are reading this in CA, you should consider them highly, the teachers were uniformly great, unlike what some of my friends experienced with the two big prep companies), but I took the class because I wanted the external discipline. What ended up being the most useful was the self study I did. I got a 38-40R, and if I hadn't done questions in all of the books they sell, including every verbal exam they make, I doubt my score would have been as high. If you are going to self study, I highly recommend coughing up the $$ for their materials. www.berkeley-review.com
     
  11. BobbyDylanFan

    BobbyDylanFan Senior Member

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    Just wanted to thank everyone for their candid remarks! I have chosen to go ahead and do the self-prep using EK audio osmosis, EK books, AAMC stuff, while supplementing with other materials when needed. Hope this works! Congratulations to those who have succeded in getting great MCAT scores while still saving some serious cash! You came, you saw, and you conquered the CAT!
     

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