Choosing whether to enroll in an MCAT prep course is a difficult decision because many of these courses cost around $2000. Taking a prep course is not a requirement before sitting the MCAT; the AAMC reports that approximately 50% of test-takers did not. One year ago, I was plotting to take the MCAT but I didn’t want to spend the money on a prep course. So, I devised a plan to self-study for the MCAT. Four months later, I found that I had accomplished nothing that I had set to do, and I had only four months before the date I wanted to take the MCAT. So, I enrolled in online Kaplan MCAT prep. I cannot say whether Princeton Review or Kaplan MCAT prep is better, but I can definitely tell you why Kaplan was great! (The only reason I decided on Kaplan was their schedule was better than Princeton Review’s for me.)
I took Kaplan during the spring semester of my senior year because of my late confirmation to be pre-med. Since the classroom course would have conflicted with my work and class schedule, I decided to take Kaplan MCAT Advantage Anywhere because it was online and I could easily leave early to go to work if I needed to. I really enjoyed the online setting because I could eat a snack during whenever I wanted, didn’t have to leave the house, and could ask the TA questions through an instant messaging system anytime during the live online class. The course I chose was twice a week for three hours each time.
Here are the reasons why I’m glad I chose Kaplan.
Obviously, I needed structure! My plan to study without a prep course completely floundered. Although I had bought a book containing practice tests and questions, I did absolutely nothing with it for four months. Once I had to start attending the course, I entered the rhythm of studying the material, some of which I hadn’t taken since my freshman year!
I had bought some MCAT prep books, but I love the Kaplan books. There is one book for each subject: general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics, and verbal reasoning and writing. At the end of each Kaplan chapter there is a quiz of ten or more questions. My friend took Princeton Review and their chapters are longer, but contain questions throughout the text. Because of this, Kaplan’s chapters are shorter than Princeton Review’s and I more quickly felt a sense of accomplishment when reading them.
In addition to the books for content review, Kaplan includes tons of material to test your knowledge. All of this material is available online, meaning that you get practice testing on a computer, which you will do for the actual MCAT.
- MCAT diagnostic test
- Science Assessment Exam
- 5 AAMC Self-Assessment Practice Exams
- 11 Full Length Kaplan MCAT tests
- 9 Official AAMC MCAT tests
- 5 General Chemistry tests
- 5 Physics tests
- 5 Biology tests
- 5 Organic Chemistry tests
- 33 subject tests (in all topics and are focused on one subject such as electric circuits or amines)
- 7 Biological Science Section tests (the length of a biological science section on a full length MCAT)
- 7 Physical Sciences Section tests (the length of a physical science section on a full length MCAT)
- 15 Verbal Reasoning Section tests (the length of a verbal reasoning section on a full length MCAT)
- 25 quizzes in various subjects (ranging from quantum numbers and electrons to critical reading skills)
- 6 Verbal Reasoning practice tests
- 15 Organic Chemistry quizzes (same as the ones in the book after each chapter, but online)
- 11 General Chemistry quizzes (same as the ones in the book after each chapter, but online)
- 12 Physics quizzes (same as the ones in the book after each chapter, but online)
- 15 Biology quizzes (same as the ones in the book after each chapter, but online)
3. Assessment and Feedback
Of course, since all of the tests and quizzes are online, they are instantly graded after you finish them. This is so much easier than flipping to the back of a book for the answer key. Kaplan’s Smart Report page lets you see your progress on their practice tests over time and assesses your knowledge of each subject. The pie chart below indicates competency in each subject. Towards the end of my MCAT prep, I worked on my weaker subjects (the smaller slices of the pie) so that I would be more well-rounded on the MCAT.
4. Miscellaneous Benefits
When you take the AAMC practice tests, whether provided by Kaplan or purchased from the AAMC, they provide explanations for each of their questions. But, the AAMC explanations of the answers on their practice tests are confusing, in paragraph form, and don’t tell why the other answers are incorrect. After completing the Kaplan course, I was in the habit of assessing the reason why the others answers were incorrect because this allowed me to not make this mistake twice. Fortunately, Kaplan has written their own explanations of the AAMC tests in “Kaplan style” so I did not have to suffer with AAMC’s style.
Because I had taken so many practice tests through Kaplan, I was completely comfortable during my actual MCAT test. Kaplan gave me the confidence and peace of mind I needed to take the exam, and I feel it was definitely worth the investment. The material I had purchased prior to the MCAT did not have anywhere close to the number of quizzes and tests that Kaplan provided.
Since Kaplan knows the AAMC MCAT syllabus through and through, reading their material and taking their tests made me familiar with content tested by the MCAT, too. Since I hadn’t taken classes in some of these subjects for many years, I often had to review the material in further detail using outside sources. But, because I had read the Kaplan material, I knew when my organic chemistry notes were too in depth for the MCAT, or when I should shut off a YouTube video that was going into too many details.
I would definitely recommend Kaplan to anyone taking the MCAT. If you can’t afford the MCAT Advantage Anywhere course, you could buy MCAT On Demand, which is cheaper. Both MCAT Advantage Anywhere and MCAT On Demand have video lessons which are essentially slideshows with a voice over from an instructor (see below). But, the MCAT Advantage Anywhere course has live lessons with an instructor and the video lessons.
Most importantly, if you enroll in MCAT Advantage Anywhere, you can take Full Length MCATs and then send your writing sample to Kaplan to be graded for feedback. MCAT On Demand students do not have this available to them, which is challenging if you are not a strong writer or are unsure if you are satisfying the MCAT’s required writing style.
Any time that I had questions about a question on the MCAT I could e-mail my MCAT Advantage Anywhere instructor. However, after my access to this course expired I was still not ready to take the MCAT, so Kaplan gave me a lengthy extension of my course in the form of MCAT On Demand (this is why I know about the limitations of both!) My instructor said I could still e-mail him but I felt like I would be a burden, so I e-mailed the generic Kaplan support desk, which proved very helpful.
Kaplan was awesome! But only time will tell if I scored as I wanted. I receive my score on October 9, 2012.