Advice on MCATs

This is my story- I need 2 more classes to finish up my pre-reqs for med school. Should I finish up or should I retake all my required classes becasue I pretty much forgot everything i learned.

-Are the pre-reqs (general chem, O.chem physics and bio) important for doing well on the MCATs?

-How hard is the MCATs after a long hiatus?

-and how shouyld i sutdy for them?

There are several different issues here - one is the “long hiatus” you mention, another is the whole “what do I need to do well on the MCAT?” concept.

First - the “long hiatus”. Med schools generally like to see recent prereqs/science courses. Whether or not you should retake your required classes depends on how old they are and how you did in them the first time. If you got As and Bs, you probably don’t want to repeat them, Cs can go either way, if you got any Ds, you should definitely repeat them. You say you don’t remember anything - the cheaper (and shorter option) is to do some review on your own for the background needed to do well on the remaining prereqs. Depending on how old your classes are, you might also want to consider taking a couple of upper level science classes as well.

So - are the pre-reqs important for doing well on the MCAT? Yes. The biological science section tests organic chemistry and and the physical science section tests physics and general chemistry. Some people can get away with taking the MCAT prior to taking the last semester term of organic or physics because most of the concepts on the MCAT are usually covered in the first semester of those courses. I suggest you look at the MCAT topic guide for a list of topics that are fair game for the test.

How hard is it after a long hiatus? Depends. If you have truly forgotten everything you learned in your early pre-reqs and its been awhile, its going to be harder than if you just finished your pre-reqs and remember a lot of them. There are different approaches to studying for them. What works varies from person to person. Some people are very self-directed and can sit down with test-prep books and pre-req texts and teach/reteach themselves everything and adequately prepare that way. Some people need more directed learning. If you need more directed/structured learning, then you may want to consider taking a formal Kaplan or Princeton Review course where they will not only review the basic sciences, but also teach test taking strategies and administer practice tests. In either case, you should plan on spending a couple of months reviewing the basic sciences, doing practice questions and timed practice tests and etc.

Hope that gives you somewhere to start. Good luck.

If you have truly forgotten “most” of what you learned…and have a hard time bringing up basic concepts that you will need…I would retake the pre-reqs specially if you did poorly in them when you took them (poorly to me means C/D/F range). If you can easily come up with basic concepts then maybe all you need to do is review the material on your own but you will need to take some recent bio/chem classes to prove to adcoms that you can still do well in an academic environment. The MCAT is only one piece of this whole process…sometimes non-trads forget that adcoms also expect recent grades. Not sayig this is your case but just something I have noticed over the years. Get the list of testable subjects for the MCAT and go over it slowly. If you know what most of those topics refer to then you should be fine with just a review. Good luck.

Retake, retake, retake!!! It’s cheaper than taking an MCAT prep course.

Not where I live, it’s not.

MCAT review books (EK, Kaplan, Princeton Review) are not that expensive and can give you an idea of how much you’ve forgotten.

  • samenewme Said:
Not where I live, it's not.

MCAT review books (EK, Kaplan, Princeton Review) are not that expensive and can give you an idea of how much you've forgotten.

path said an MCAT review course not book.

A four-credit course at my state school runs about $1100. Take two and there’s your Kaplan course.

Personally, I think review courses are primarily for people who have had the courses RECENTLY say within the past 2 or 3 years. Too much in Science, especially in Biology, has changed in the past 5-10 years and I’ve never met a person who regret retaking the classes BEFORE the MCAT. Finally, the OP clearly state that she/he forgot everything and that’s reason enough for repeating th classes.

I agree with you that if they have truly forgotten everything they know and didn’t do that well on them the first time, they should probably retake the courses. Retaking old biology is never a bad idea. But, buying/borrowing a couple of review books and evaluating how much you remember/forgot prior to making a decision on which way to fork out the money is probably a good idea. Most people (if they paid any attention at all the first time around) find that the concepts come back to them rather quickly when they start reviewing, even if they say they’ve forgotten “everything”. If the material doesn’t come back, and the person is not good at teaching themselves/relearning from texts, then they should probably retake the courses

However, your original justification for retaking was that it was cheaper than taking a Kaplan course, which is not the case at almost any university I can think of, and what Denise was responding to.

  • Emergency! Said:
However, your original justification for retaking was that it was cheaper than taking a Kaplan course, which is not the case at almost any university I can think of, and what Denise was responding to.

Maybe I should have been more specific. I don't think the OP should retake ONLY because the it's cheaper and I mentioned a few reaosns above why I think reatking makes sense. Obviously the cost of retaking the casses varies with where you live and the school you atteng public or private, but I did feel the need to state the obvious. So sure, taking a review course is cheaper than say attending Johns Hopkins, but the question is it worth the risk?

Suppose the OP deosn't get the score they desire and have to retake the MCAT, now what, take another review course?? You've paid for a review course that didn't give you the desired results, with old preqs the aren't acceptable to many med schools. So we're back to the justification for retaking the class in the first place.

Again, who among us has regret retaking med school preqs versus who regrets taking a review course after a long acadmeic hiatus?

Also, remember that review books are that…“review books” there is a LOT not covered per se in review books that you need as “background information” to truly do well on the MCAT. Hence, if you forgot MOST of what you once learned and it has been a while since your last science course then beware.

I do kind of regret re-taking the first semester of Physics, and I REALLY regret re-taking the lab. Though it was a well-organized lab, it was a waste of time and money for me.

But I agree that if the knowledge is pretty much gone, you might as well re-take and get a fresh perspective. Things have changed in biology–a LOT, and physics is a lot easier now that you don’t have to use trig tables to do the problems.

I remember Trig tables! Those are probably the only reason I really hated my HS trig class. On the other hand, I just happen to remember most of the (unit circle) decimal values for sine & cosine just because I had to look them up so frequently… they just stuck for some reason. I also recall referencing log tables a lot until my grandfather showed me how to use a slide rule (I don’t know anyone else who remembers how to use one! ). Unfortunately, my difficulties with precalc are mostly associated with solving equations & factoring (skills that seem to elude me in the fog of test anxiety). I feel your pain.


  • pathdr2b Said:
Retake, retake, retake!!! It's cheaper than taking an MCAT prep course.

I'd rather pay lots of money and get good grades

For someone like the OP (who seems to have gone away so I guess this is just a general comment to those concerned), if you have taken your science courses >8 years ago or so, and your old grades were not fantastic, a Kaplan course is a splendid way to get your head back into that space without the risk of hurting your GPA.

Once you've gone through the Kaplan material, you know what it is you need to focus on to do well on the MCAT, and you are warmed up and ready to go on your coursework. I wouldn't take the MCAT right away, either; I'd get some or most of the courses out of the way--Kaplan lets you defer and even repeat as needed--do well in them, do well on the MCAT, and you are on your way. I wish I had taken my Kaplan course a little sooner, like maybe the summer before I went back to school.