MCAT 2006 - how to start

I’m taking the MCAT next year–2006–and I suppose it’s never too early to start thinking about it. I have no idea where to begin. I have finished biology, chemistry, and math (PreCalc I&II) this school year (2004-05). I’m currently enrolled in general chemistry again to improve my previous grades. I will take o-chem and physics in fall and spring (2005-06).
I suppose I will take the April 2006 MCAT while currently enrolled in o-chem 2 and physics 2. Is that advisable or should I wait until August? I guess I’ll see when the time comes. The mantra from OPM seems to be “wait until you’re ready” and only take it once although I know some people redo it. Since my grades are low, that’s extra pressure for me to get a high MCAT score. The only standardized test I’ve ever taken was the SAT, and my score was not high. It was average–barely. And the SAT was a long time ago…
Did you start reviewing your basic bio/chem/math/physics from your college texts before purchasing MCAT prep materials? Did you take a prep course and if so which one? There’s so many different MCAT prep materials–many from Kaplan and The Princeton Review–but I have also heard names like “Audio Osmosis” and “Exam Krackers” and QBank (although I think that’s a service from Kaplan, but I’m not sure). MCAT prep. stuff is expensive and I’m wondering which books/other study aids you all have used that worked for you and why they worked for you.
Thanks for your help.
P.S. I am planning to attend the Thurs. night MCAT head-to-head at the conference too.

I had a friend in my O-Chem II class this semester who was taking Physics II and working full time. He took the April MCAT so it is definitely doable. The question is really whether or not you feel you can do the appropriate amount of preparation and whether or not you are “ready” from an endurance standpoint.
The MCAT is less about knowledge and more about intellectual endurance and problem solving skills. I’d suggest the ExamCrackers series. Take some practice tests in the areas you’ve already covered class-wise and see how you do. If you feel you need more prep, I’d advise against packing your Spring semester and rushing the MCAT.
You only really get one good chance at it so you want to make it count. Subsequent attempts dilute the impact of eventually getting a decent score. If you tend to do poorly on standardized tests, you may want to rethink your strategy.
Either way, I don’t think there’s a generic “right” answer. It depends on you and how you work. One thing is for sure: you won’t be penalized for taking your time and taking an extra year if that’s what you decide.

I’m going to take April MCAT. I’m done with biology and Gen Chem. I’m doing Organic now in the summer and I’ll be taking Physics in the fall and in the spring. I think that MCAT will be only 2 or 3 weeks before the end of the spring semester, so I guess we might just read few chapter ahead.
I think I’m going to look for the MCAT materials in August and I’ll probably atart reviewing slowly in the Fall. But since I’m taking full load of classes in the Fall it will be a really slow process. Then I’m planning to take less classes in the Spring so I can devote more time for MCAT preparation.
It’s my strategy. It’s possible I’ll have to adjust it on the way.

Hi Stacy. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, taking the MCAT the same semester as O-Chem II and Physics II will be incredibly tough, and probably not yield the results in any of the three for which you are looking.
For me, O-Chem II was considerably more difficult than O-Chem I, for the simple reason, I guess, that the first half of O-Chem I was simply a lot of restructuring of Gen. Chem principles in the context of organic chemistry. But once the reactions and reaction mechanisms hit I began to get a lot more bogged down and had to dedicate more time to it. This could simply be my experience, however. Physics is basically math word problems (in a physics context,) so the amount of time you will need to spend on it will vary depending on your comfort level with problem solving in math as well as your algebra (and trig/geometry to some extent) skills.
It seems that taking the August MCAT does put a person at a disadvantage to some degree in the application process. However, so will a poor MCAT score. In a case such as you offer, when hoping to produce a high MCAT score to off-set grades, it’s my opinion that waiting and taking the August MCAT would put a person at a better place in the overall application process. The time in the spring can then be used to focus on learning and doing well in the courses being taken.
Regarding test prep, I have the Audio Osmosis CD’s from Exam Krackers and really like them. They’re expensive (I think I paid $125 or something for them) but they give a lot of information on them, and I think their explanations are really good, especially for concepts which might be sitting in the back of a person’s head needing to be retrieved again. For concepts new to a person, they give enough information to feel comfortable in researching the topic further to gain a better understanding.
Good luck with your amazing year!

Thanks to those who posted! I still haven’t started studying for the MCAT, but I won’t do it until 2006. I’m now leaning more towards taking the August MCAT so I can concentrate on o-chem 2 and physics 2 next spring, but I’ll see how well I’m doing next year.
For those of you who attended the recent conference in D.C., what do you think about Kaplan and The Princeton Review’s (henceforth TPR) review courses? I’m still not sure which company is better. I suspect either of them would be fine. For those of you who missed the conference, their in-class options are the same price (about $1600 ) but their fundamental philosophies are different. Kaplan is more strategy; TPR is more content. Kaplan stresses crisis prevention/teaches you how to take the test while TPR stresses content. With Kaplan, everything is taught by 1 instructor but TPR has 4-5 diff. instructors. I think TPR has more actual hours but both of them have several full-length practice exams that you take. Also, TPR really stresses the verbal section of the MCAT. Kaplan has a money-back guarantee where if you don’t get the score you want, you either get the money back or retake the course for free. TPR doesn’t do that.
In my case, the in-class options probably don’t matter so much because neither company has a location near me. They both offer online versions although from the presentations, it sounds like Kaplan is a little more up-to-date and web savvy so that may solve that problem.
Also, there’s another company called ExamKrackers that Denise especially was trying to get to come to D.C. but they couldn’t make it although they did donate a set of books and 2 Audio Osmosis CD sets.
Which materials did you all buy? Kaplan/TPR/Examkrackers/Other?
In-class prep course or online?
Books/CDS or supplemental material?
Did anyone just purchase old MCATs through the AAMC and nothing else? (I think most people do that plus something else but I don’t know). Was what you used successful? About how much did you spend? Do you think you got your moneys worth with a good MCAT score? Just want your opinions, esp. for those currently in medical school or residency. Thanks for your help.

No matter which prep course you take, you are going to get what you put into it. You can sign up for TPR and get all of those books. But if you are not going to spend the time studying then it was a waste of money. Not saying that this is something that you do.
I currently am taking the Kaplan on-line course and I am quite happy with it. I can listen to the lectures as often as I like, I can rewind, pause, etc.
I am also using the Audio Osmosis CDs so I can listen to them on my way to work. I found that because the AO CDs re-teach you the material and the kaplan can teach you the test taking skills, they complement each other.
Good Luck.

Hi Stacy,
From what you’ve said above, it sounds like August might be the better time to take it. I’m not sure I’d want to take it in April without having finished physics and orgo yet. First, that’s a lot to be doing all at once, and second, there’s a decent chance that second semester material from one or both those classes will appear on the test. On the other hand, if you ARE ready by April it’s advantageous timewise to take it then, of course.
Answers to your questions:
I bought the Audio Osmosis CDs, the whole Kaplan class, all the AAMC practice exams, and some Kaplan book called MCAT 45 which was a total ripoff since it duplicated other Kaplan material.
I did the in-class Kaplan course.
I would probably agree that Kaplan is more strategy based. I didn’t know this beforehand and found it really frustrating. Eventually I quit going to class and just used their training library, which has its own problems. After burning out on that, I resorted to studying straight from my textbooks. I know people say not to do this, but I think everyone’s study needs are different, and this helped me. Still I’m glad I took the class because spending that much money really motivated me.
I would personally not choose a prep course based on their emphasis on the verbal section. It’s really hard to prep people for that. You can do a lot just by reading on your own for speed and content. I’m sure either class will give you a good start as far as these skills are concerned.
Well, good luck with your MCAT planning! I hope some of this is helpful.