Hi I was hoping some of you experienced and weathered in the MCAT business could clear up a couple of things for me…
I had two questions
- Are MCAT prep programs different in quality in different states? For example, Ohio vs Chicago, California vs South Carolina… etc
- Which MCAT prep programs are the most successful for students? (please share your personal experiences if you have any)
I don’t know about quality by state, but I have heard good things about Berkeley Review which is only available in the Bay area (I think–at least it’s not on the east coast). The pre-meds with whom I have spoken who received high scores (35+) used BR to study Bio, Gen Chem, Physics, possibly Orgo as well. One of these students (sample of 7) attended Kaplan. One student attended a NY-only class run by Scott Roberts in the East Village.
The general consensus re: the two national programs (Kaplan and TPR) is that Kaplan prepares you for test-taking strategy while Princeton Review better prepares you for content–thus it will depend on your weak area(s).
FWIW, I scored a 39 but did not take a class per se. I attended 2 or 3 days of Princeton Review and realized I did not like the classroom setting. I studied on my own using material from TPR and ExamKrackers (mostly); for Gen Chem and a bit of Physics I used coursesaver.com, which I highly recommend.
Be aware that the MCAT content is changing in 2015. Also that AAMC says it no longer tests on benzene rxns in organic chem, but nearly all test-prep materials still cover benzene. Have not noticed any other major discrepancies; you may wish to look at mcat-review.org as well as the Official Guide to the MCAT, each of which has topic lists for the MCAT.
Prepare for the Longest Post Ever, as I Put Off Being Productive Today…
The quality of the programs is not their national reputation, or by state or even city. The quality of a prep program is in the person or people teaching the class. Best way to figure it out is to talk to other pre-meds and see if any are really happy with who taught theirs. Also, you can call their offices and make an appointment to sit in on a class, and see how they teach.
With Kaplan, you got one teacher for all subjects. Although they have to score well to work for Kaplan that doesn’t mean they are fully versed in all the topics, or that they’re qualified to teach them. I used Kaplan and was overall happy with it, although my teacher was not very good at explaining physics or verbal prep. They really do focus more on strategies than content, which is fine if you’re confident of your knowledge of the basic material.
The Princeton Review uses different teachers for each subject, which seems like a huge advantage. However, they offer little in the way of strategy and focus very strongly on content. While I might have scored better on the PS portion of the MCAT with their help I definitely feel that, from what I’ve heard from those who took their program, they need to cover the ins and outs of taking the test far more than they do. Also, SDN kids love the TPR books - but the real ones are only available if you pay for the course. The books that are sold on the TPR website and Amazon are not the same.
Both Kaplan and TPR also have online resources, including question banks and practice tests. And you will need those practice tests. If you go DIY you can buy the tests through the AAMC for $35 a pop. I recommend you do this because you need to have regular (weekly!) practice of the testing experience, format and content.
I know a lot of people on the SDN forums recommend both the Examkrackers content books and the Berkely Review books (which you have to order through mail, because their website is like a time machine to 1995).
Berkeley Review is very highly spoken of, with in-depth books and teachers from the university. If you live there, great. If not, you can order the books and prep DIY, but they have no online program.
Examkrackers has an online program that I don’t know much about, but is also offering classes in some cities across the country. I don’t remember what teaching format they’re using, but their 1001 books are used by a LOT of people prepping for the MCAT.
Finally, no program will give you everything you need. I used Examkrackers 1001 books to really figure out my weaknesses, and EK 101 Verbal to boost that score. My books from Kaplan were alright, but didn’t seem to go in depth enough for my needs in physics. I spent a lot of time with an old physics book and online, trying to fill in the blanks the month prior to my MCAT. And, at the time I hadn’t taken genetics or biochemistry, so I spent a good bit of time using Khan Academy videos to fill in the blanks on quite a few Bio topics.
awesome, this clears up alot for me. thank you both!
PixieSanders did a pretty good job summing up my understanding of the different companies.
When I went through it all I chose to try Kaplan. I’d have to say that my teacher was abysmal at best. He only lasted 2/3 the way through our program and then took off. Kaplan never even officially replaced our instructor; however, not all was bad. Kaplan included their online prep in my course. It was fantastic. I could have (and should have) used only their online program. It was exactly what I needed. I really liked how it kept track of all my history what I did and didn’t understand well.
At the end of the day I would choose Kaplan again, only this time I would stay with their online program.