TBR vs. Kaplan (can't decide which would be the best in my situation)

Apr 15, 2010
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San Jose, CA
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Pre-Medical
I've heard great things about TBR and I haven't heard much of Kaplan (except what PR told me...which obviously wasn't positive). I was hoping to take TBR at Stanford, but they're only offering it at Berkeley, which is the closest location to me.

Being that it is going to be 6 times a week and that I would have to be commuting 2-3 hrs a day roundtrip (from San Jose), is the course worth it? Kaplan is going to be 15 minutes away from me...so there's a huge difference. If TBR is better than Kaplan, then I would be willing to stick out the commute. (I would study on my own with the TBR books, but I know I'm the kind of person that needs structure to keep on task...so there is no point risking it on self-study). I realize this more of a personal matter than anything else...but if you were in my position which would choose?

Any bay area kids that have made or are currently making the trip? I guess I can get know the BART system and just study on the train.
 
Sep 2, 2010
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Podiatry Student
I've heard great things about TBR and I haven't heard much of Kaplan (except what PR told me...which obviously wasn't positive). I was hoping to take TBR at Stanford, but they're only offering it at Berkeley, which is the closest location to me.

Being that it is going to be 6 times a week and that I would have to be commuting 2-3 hrs a day roundtrip (from San Jose), is the course worth it? Kaplan is going to be 15 minutes away from me...so there's a huge difference. If TBR is better than Kaplan, then I would be willing to stick out the commute. (I would study on my own with the TBR books, but I know I'm the kind of person that needs structure to keep on task...so there is no point risking it on self-study). I realize this more of a personal matter than anything else...but if you were in my position which would choose?

Any bay area kids that have made or are currently making the trip? I guess I can get know the BART system and just study on the train.
Let me be the first to say... as I am saying to everyone... that the kaplan course is the biggest waste of money on the face of the earth and I hate it with a passion. I am currently in the course and have had to buy textbooks from other companies (TPR and BR) to learn the stuff because it is just so freaking bad.

Total waste of $
 

alopathik

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Aug 10, 2010
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@emerikana - that is completely false.

I took the kaplan course and did really well on the MCAT. I used kaplan materials and examkrackers and I think kaplan's online content is superb. you get hundreds of passages/practice exams/quizzes/etc. and access to 10 (correct me if I'm wrong) AAMC exams. the online content is enough for you to do as well as you are capable. you want to be doing as much stuff online as possible because on the day of the exam you'll take it on a computer.

i think your time would be better spent with the closer option.

1. think about the psychological toll of commuting 2-3 hours a day for a class. how fresh and ready to learn could you really be? i know right now you think you could be super attentive but all that time adds up.

2. there's a huge opportunity cost associated with that commute. you could be studying during those 3 hours or relaxing or exercising. i think your time is best spent studying instead of thinking about studying.

3. you can always also get berkley review books. tons of forum members have used those materials to great effect.


think carefully about how to use your time because time management is crucial to your studying and testing strategies. i know everyone wants to think "if i do this course i'll get a high MCAT score". that's not true - it's not the course but the amount of effort you put in.
 
OP
E
Apr 15, 2010
84
0
San Jose, CA
Status
Pre-Medical
@emerikana - that is completely false.

I took the kaplan course and did really well on the MCAT. I used kaplan materials and examkrackers and I think kaplan's online content is superb. you get hundreds of passages/practice exams/quizzes/etc. and access to 10 (correct me if I'm wrong) AAMC exams. the online content is enough for you to do as well as you are capable. you want to be doing as much stuff online as possible because on the day of the exam you'll take it on a computer.

i think your time would be better spent with the closer option.

1. think about the psychological toll of commuting 2-3 hours a day for a class. how fresh and ready to learn could you really be? i know right now you think you could be super attentive but all that time adds up.

2. there's a huge opportunity cost associated with that commute. you could be studying during those 3 hours or relaxing or exercising. i think your time is best spent studying instead of thinking about studying.

3. you can always also get berkley review books. tons of forum members have used those materials to great effect.


think carefully about how to use your time because time management is crucial to your studying and testing strategies. i know everyone wants to think "if i do this course i'll get a high MCAT score". that's not true - it's not the course but the amount of effort you put in.
Yeah I understand that a lot of it is on me. The tutors aren't the ones taking the test for you. I just wished I could get an idea of their teaching techniques and how they present the material to decide which would be better for me.

I think I'm mainly afraid of burning out on the commute. Well unless I can use the train system and/or live in Berkeley, it may be better to stay local.

Why do people boast TBR more than Kaplan? Is it the books or is it how the tutors teach? Even the doctor I'm shadowing is vouching for me to take TBR over Kaplan...but that is because he liked how the material was presented with TBR more than with Kaplan.
 

SN2ed

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BR has great books and their teacher quality is typically tops (probably due to the company being very small). If even the doctor in your area is vouching for such a small, obscure company, then BR is likely the best class in your area. It's not unheard of for people to temporarily move or stay with a friend to take BR's classes. I've seen a number of posts where people have done just that.

That said, you don't have to take a class. Keep in mind that the vast majority of your studying will be self-study. Additionally, you can, and should, call Kaplan and BR to arrange for a sit-in to watch the teachers in action.
 
Nov 10, 2010
54
0
Status
Pre-Medical
That said, you don't have to take a class. Keep in mind that the vast majority of your studying will be self-study.
Is it true though that by taking the prep course, you learn certain test taking skills that you otherwise would not have learned on your own? I mean the books teach you just the material/content, right?

Picking up clues/hints/test taking skills is really the only reason why I might want to take a prep-course.

Any thoughts?
 

BerkReviewTeach

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I just wished I could get an idea of their teaching techniques and how they present the material to decide which would be better for me.

I think I'm mainly afraid of burning out on the commute. Well unless I can use the train system and/or live in Berkeley, it may be better to stay local.

Why do people boast TBR more than Kaplan? Is it the books or is it how the tutors teach? Even the doctor I'm shadowing is vouching for me to take TBR over Kaplan...but that is because he liked how the material was presented with TBR more than with Kaplan.
Why don't you sit in for a class or two? That will give you an idea about the commute, the teachers, and the class. I'm not all that familiar with the Berkeley class (I'm in so cal), but I know that many people study on BART quite effectively. Depending on your commute, it's basically a moving library where you have no internet to distract you and you can get much studying done. Also, having a study destination like the BR MCAT study room will make you take better advantage of the office hours and study hall at BR. In LA, many students who commute for an hour or more usually stay and study in the center for most their day, take practice exams there, attend office hours regularly, and basically waste less time around their apartment. While a commute at face value may seem bad, it could potentially lead to less wasted time if you are easily distracted at home. You should also see if it's possible to do multiple classes in a day, and thereby cut down the number of days you'll need to commute.

In terms of the teaching, I don't know many of the instructors up there. You should call and ask them who is teaching in the Spring. If you get Dale teaching biology (he wrote the books), he is great. If you have Todd teaching chemistry (he wrote both chem books), then I would do it in a heartbeat. I hear from students who take part of the class in Berkeley and part in LA that they love the verbal teacher in Berkeley. I don't know his name off the top of my head, but he's been there for years and hopefully will be there when you take it. Check out the course if you can.

If you like the books, then you'll like the teaching, given that the authors are the teachers.

Is it true though that by taking the prep course, you learn certain test taking skills that you otherwise would not have learned on your own? I mean the books teach you just the material/content, right?

Picking up clues/hints/test taking skills is really the only reason why I might want to take a prep-course.

Any thoughts?
Different prep courses approach their teaching differently. At BR, for any classes I teach, test skills are a big part of the presentation. I'll cover material and basic concepts, but the major part of the class is going over how to think our way through sample questions on the concept.

As has been pointed out, and I completely concur, there are many students who don't need one at all. There are also some students who can survive without one, but taking a course will make their experience more time efficient. Lastly, there are some students who need one from their core to teach them about the material and the test.

It starts with you determining who you are and what you need. The right prep course, that is the course that matches your style of learning and needs, can provide many things.


  • 1) As you mentioned, clues/hints/test taking skills are essential.

    2) The convenience of having your questions answered (office hours and approachable, knowledgeable teachers are key)

    3) Helpful and unique ways to think about the concepts and information.

    4) Expertise on subjects. A person to say definitively what the answer is to any question you may have.

    5) A supportive environment where you feel comfortable asking questions, motivated to work hard, and cared for by those around you.

    6) A positive coach and peers who encourage you on those days you need a little push.

A smart, self-motivated student can create their own study environment where some of the things on the list above are achieved. The Q and A forum here can work well for number 2. BR books help with 1 and 3, although a teacher can often explain them better than the book (two-way communication and feedback helps). Numbers 5 and 6 aren't necessary for everyone. So in general, whether someone needs a course can only be determined by the person.

My personal thoughts, having been a student and a teacher both, is that the course really helped me think about things more cleanly. They have some great explanations that make topics I used to hate make so much sense. I think the best thing for you to do would be to sit in on a class or two and see how they work for you.
 

BerkReviewTeach

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And this can be done how? Just show up at one of the sessions?
Sometimes I had students just show up and ask to sit in. As long as there's space (which there usually was), it wasn't a problem. Usually I got a heads up from someone beforehand, but not always. If I were you, I'd call the office or stop by early before a class to make sure it's okay with the teacher on that particular day (make sure it's a class and not an exam/review day). If you are looking to sit in on a particular subject, I'd definitely call ahead, because the schedule on line is generic and often not what's actually being taught that day.
 
Nov 10, 2010
54
0
Status
Pre-Medical
If I were you, I'd call the office or stop by early before a class to make sure it's okay with the teacher on that particular day (make sure it's a class and not an exam/review day). If you are looking to sit in on a particular subject, I'd definitely call ahead, because the schedule on line is generic and often not what's actually being taught that day.
Thanks Berk! Seems like I will be doing just that!