Part 1 from the Disneyland Fireworks Show
I have decided to migrate away from this blog.
I have migrated all previous posts there. The new site is http://www.JeffreyMD.com.
About a week after I had taken the MCAT in August 2005 I wrote a review of the Kaplan Preparatory course that I had taken. That review can be found here. Almost a year and a half later, my opinion of the prep courses is unchanged. But I decided to write some more about preparing for the MCAT because this is one of the most pressing concerns for Pre-med students.
One thing about any of these courses is that they are all pretty expensive. When I took the course, the going rate was about $1400 -- and this is in addition to any AMCAS or secondary application fees. So the decision on whether or not to take the course weighs heavily on those applying to medical school. In this post I won't discuss study methods. I assume Premed students preparing to take the MCAT will have a pretty decent G.P.A. and some study skills. So I will just restrict this post to discussing prep courses.
The first thing to remember when thinking about taking one of these courses is that it is a REVIEW course taught by people who most likely are not as qualified as the professors who taught you the material in the first place. When I took the course, Kaplan's requirement to teach a subject was that one had to score at least an 11 on that section in an MCAT. So don't expect to go into the class to learn the material in-depth. It should be a review of things you have already covered in Biology, Physics, G. Chem, and O. Chem classes; so study the material well while in those classes.
The second thing that one should do is assess his or her ability to get motivated to study. The MCAT covers four science subjects: Biology, Physics, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. One useful thing about these courses is that they force you to cover a certain amount of material for each class. It keeps students moving along. For some, this structure approach can be very useful. If you find yourself as one who needs the structure of a class to get you studying, then take it if possible. Others may be able to self-study and keep a healthy pace without the structure provided by a class and these peope may be better off saving their money instead of enrolling in a review course. Plenty of students who take the MCAT without going through a prep course and score very well. And while it can be difficult, this assessment is crucial.
The third thing to consider is practice exams. Practice MCAT exams are extremely important for preparing for the real deal. I think the real value of a prep course is in putting the students through a full-length MCAT under "real-life" conditions. For an exam as important as the MCAT, one does not want to go in not knowing what to expect. Taking practice exams under simulated conditions will helps in pacing. The worst thing that can happen is to have the proctor call time before finishing a section. These practice exams are also important because they build stamina. It is a long test. Sitting for 8 hours gets tiring on the neck. Believe it or not, you build neck muscles in these practice exams! However, I hear the MCAT is going electronic and will be taken on a computer and will be shorter. But you still should be able to sit through a whole thing without fidgeting and as they say: practice makes perfect.
Alright, so you've read to here. Should you take a prep course or not? This is a question each individual must answer on his or her own. A prep course offers structure and an environment in which a simulated MCAT can be administered. But this can also be done without a course. So if you feel you can go it alone, then by all means do so and save the money! If not, then take the plunge, go to class, practice the MCAT and get as much as you can out of it.
Well here's the update: I am no longer attending classes. Why not? Have I decided that I can learn better on my own than by listening to a lecture? Nope. Do I hate the teachers and profs? Nope. Do I have trouble getting along with the person sitting next to me in class? Nope. I am no longer attending classes because I have requested a leave of absence.
Last quarter was a challenge. I never got my "head into the game." I could not get focused and struggled with motivating myself to study. It just was not working out. And so, two days ago I turned in my signed request for a leave of absence until this coming August when I will be joining the new incoming class.
I think it'll work out fine. I now know what needs to be done. Well, I guess I now know how not to study.
In the meantime, I'm considering brushing up on some espanol to keep me occupied. It will give me an opportunity to re-energize and recharge for August.
Heres to the crazy ones
This was on television in the late 1990s. Great ad.
Alright, well it has been over a month since I last wrote in. It was really good to have the 3 days off for Thanksgiving break. Although after the break, I was not ready to go back to school. Now I'm just looking forward to Christmas break.
But to get to Christmas Break, I have to get through another test week. Stress levels are up now. During our last set of exams, the class didn't do so well on the Physical Diagnosis (Cardiac) exam. We need a 68% to pass the class. Class average for the exam was 66%. Yeah, there weren't very many happy people after that week.
Fortunately, the professors decided that its more important for us the learn the material. They said that they will take all the questions from the first test and put about 5 in each of our tests from now until the end of the year. At years' end, we will be able to replace the score from our first test by adding up the points from the cardiac questions that were scattered throughout the year.
Since the last set of exams we have also started Auscultation Lab. Its pretty cool. We sit in this amphitheater and each student is given a pair of "stethophones." The top part is just like a stethoscope but there is not diaphram attached to it. Instead, there is a box that holds the battery, volume control, and IR receiver. The instructor then can play any heart sounds they want and we all hear the same thing. Next quarter we get to use the simulation lab with the dummy where we can listen to all the heart sounds, measure JVP, BP, and other vitals. Oh what fun $250,000 can buy you these days.