Anything new in the world of MCAT?
March 1, 2011 1:02 PM   Subscribe

I have over a year until the MCAT, what books and/or study material did you find useful for the long-haul study?

I've scoured the prior threads on the matter (particularly this one) and I was wondering if there are any new/better recommendations for study material.

Possibly relevant background detail: have already taken all the college courses, with the exception of o-chem, which will be fall '11 and spring '12. I got As in all the classes I've taken so far. Classes were a little spread out, due to working full time. By summer of '12, it will have been more than two years since I took the biology classes. I graduated in '07 in an obliquely related field and plan on finishing my second degree during my year of applying.

In particular, I'm looking for a very thorough book or set of books with lots of review and sample problems. Did you find a particular brand to be really helpful? Would buying a used older test-prep book be a mistake? (say 2008 old, not 1995 old) Did you find any other prep-material spectacularly helpful? (e.g. flashcards, computer programs, iphone apps)
posted by lizjohn to Education (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My sister went through the MCAT process and scored a 33 and shes home from college so I thought I would ask her what she did to get what she got. :)

She recommends getting 2 books. The first was the Kaplin set and the second is Exam Krackers. She said that you should start with Exam krackers because it give you a good overview of the test, then the Kaplin set goes into detail over certian things. If either of the books came out in the last 4 years, there fine.

She said that flash cards didn't help her at all and that practice tests were always inaccurate. But its still a good idea to take them to get the feel for the test. Another thing was if you want to score high you really need to study every day, and months in advance. From what I recall, she started like 3 months in advance. And when it came down to the final week or so, she was up like crazy studying. The last thing was she said you need to study everything in little chunks. Don't focus on math for 2 weeks then reading for 2 weeks. Do it all at once or else you will forget it.

Hope this helps. :)
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 1:26 PM on March 1, 2011

Took the MCAT in 2006 when I still thought I wanted to go to med school. Got a 32.

I would suggest doing whatever it is that helps you learning, and run with it. I hate flashcards, so I skipped them entirely. I would avoid the "cram classes." I went with the Kaplan Exam Study Guide, which was awesome. Order a used copy on Amazon. My prep was mainly focused on organic chemistry and biochemistry, and most of the rest fell into place. I know a lot of colleges offer a pre-MCAT test. Take it if that comes up as it will be a good prep going into the real thing. Last, but certainly not least, I also grabbed a book that had just MCAT test questions with no study material.

There are other tips that you should greatly consider. Take an easy load of classes during the quarter/semester of the MCAT. Start your prep around 3-4 months ahead of the test. When signing up for the MCAT, see if there is a nearby small college to take the test. Anecdata on this is that I went to Ohio State, where the test was done in rather uncomfortable recitation classrooms. I took the test 20 miles up the road at Ohio Wesleyan where the test was done in the main library: quiet and lots of space.

Lastly, don't let other test-takers psych you out. During the last section (I think that was Biological Sciences) I finished with 20 minutes to spare. Other people in the room were in tears as they were bombing their second test, and for some their chance to get in to med school. It was very unnerving.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:38 PM on March 1, 2011

Examkrackers worked well for me.
posted by killdevil at 3:35 PM on March 1, 2011

I spent a week doing the tests in this book. I think I took it in 2001? I was pretty happy with my score.

Agreed about not letting test takers freak you out. My center almost had a cat fight break out in the morning. The center also took over 8 hours to administer the test (One giant room, it took 20 min to pass out or collect the tests from hundreds of students).
posted by maulik at 3:56 PM on March 1, 2011

The test is about knowledge, but it's also about endurance. Make sure you do a few full-length practice exams, no matter how you choose to study for the test. I took a Princeton Review course over a four month period and can't recommend it enough. It was expensive, yes, but the review books were expansive without being overwhelming, and the course included four Saturday practice exams. You didn't say anything about a review course, but if you're a few years out of your science coursework, it might be a good idea to have a brisk review.
posted by honeybee413 at 5:22 PM on March 1, 2011

Lots and lots of questions. I tried to do 25-50/day for 6mo or so. For the 4-6 weeks leading up to it, weekly full length exams. More questions. Figure out how to crack the verbal section. I like learning via lecture, so kaplan lectures worked well for me. The only books I used were the kaplan review/qbooks. But kaplan has so many questions. You should do as many as possible.
posted by ruwan at 6:03 PM on March 1, 2011

Do NOT use old materials if you can avoid it. They are constantly changing which topics are included on the test, so an old book might include lots of things you don't need to know (wasting your time) or omit things you may need to know. Look on this page to download pdfs of the current topic lists.

I also read about a study (about to go to bed and too lazy to look it up now, sorry) but it basically indicated that when you're doing intense studying, your efficiency drops off very sharply after about 2 hours and you don't retain as much. It's better to break up your studying into 2-hour increments throughout the day. i always separated study stretches with breaks lasting an hour or more.

don't sign up for a class, they aren't worth it. (i was an instructor at one for a while and my training was basically zilch. my students could have all done a more efficient job studying at home from the books.)

As far as materials go I used examkrackers exclusively (although i've heard the berkeley review materials are really good too, especially in physics.) i used the EK books, including the excellent 101 passages in verbal book, as well as audio osmosis and got a 36. but i feel that had less to do with actual prepping and more to do with what i learned in graduate school. the upper level science courses and working in a lab and reading journals taught me the WAY of thinking that the MCAT is trying to get you to do. So honestly, if you're still in school, i'd try to take some upper level bio or a journal club or something along those lines that involves experiments and research methods/approaches.

what else . . . when it came to practice exams i ONLY took the official AAMC ones. i think this is better because you're more ready for the real thing when you get it, and anything more than that is probably overkill. besides they are just really good because they break it down into which topics you were strong or weak in. and one of them is free, so it's helpful as a diagnostic/ starting point. oh and another good online resource i liked was the EK website, you could sign up for the "daily mcat quiz" and it tracks your progress and tells you what your strengths and weaknesses are.

i know i'm an incredible dork but i like talking about the MCAT, i was a tutor for a while and really enjoyed it. so if you want any more info or advice please memail me! i also wrote a "guide to verbal" for my students i'd be happy to send if you want it (that was my strongest subsection.) good luck!
posted by GastrocNemesis at 11:15 PM on March 1, 2011

oh, and i looked at the thread you linked, and the one important difference between then and now is that the test has gone from a paper test to computer-based (CBT.) so some of the strategic stuff is different. for example, monocyte's approach of going through and doing all the easy ones first, then going back, is more difficult on the CBT. the way i did it is to go through the whole thing, in order, but if you find yourself spending too long on any one question without getting closer to the answer, just make your best guess and mark it for later. there's an option to mark questions for later review. once you get through all the questions, it shows you a list of all the ones you marked or didn't answer, so you can go back to them at the end if you have time. but you might not, so do your best not to dwell too long on any question you're really stumped on. better to come back to it only if you have time at the end.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 7:58 AM on March 2, 2011

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