Welcome back pre-med friends,
As I have promised, I will be writing today about how and what resources I am using to study for the MCAT a second time. The first time I took the MCAT was in August of 2015 and so it has definitely been a while since I have touched up on a few of the MCAT topics such as physics and chemistry. Studying for this big exam a second time has had moments of ups and downs, hopes and discouragements, as well as energy and fatigue. My purpose for writing this blog today is to help fellow pre-med friends in the same shoes as I am by reviewing what resources I’m utilizing as a self-studier. I hope that you will find this somewhat helpful and use it to fine-tune your studies!
Content Review Books
For my first MCAT, I was enrolled in the Princeton Review prep course where I was provided their content review books. I still have them and have been using them as references when I need further clarification on certain topics.
While they are an older version, I still find them to be very helpful with their detailed explanations, graphics, examples & solutions within the chapters, and practice questions and passages at the end of each chapter. I love that for the examples given for the topics, there is a solution right underneath so you don’t have to flip all the way to the back of the book every time. The examples and solutions walk you through every step while you’re still reading about that certain topic instead of waiting until the end of the chapter to give you practice. Then, all the way at the end of the chapters, there is a page with a summary of all the concepts/formulas followed by a few back-to-back practice questions and a practice passage. These are handy if you want to time yourself and see how you do!
Overall, I really enjoy the Princeton Review books and love referencing to them when I need more information in addition to the Exam Krackers. The details ensure that you are not missing out on any concepts and gives you all the information you need for the MCAT!
Since I already wrote and highlighted all over my Princeton Review books, I wanted to start over with brand new books where I could write in again. Also, it’s because I love the smell of new books and perhaps I would’ve been fine with using the Princeton Review books again, but….why not? hehe. I’ve heard so many good things about Exam Krackers from peers so I decided to give it a try.
Moving on, these books are great because they are so short and concise! Everything you need to know and nothing more. This is great when you want to do a quick review without all the fluff that’s not relevant. All the important formulas and vocab are highlighted in red and Salty the Kracker gives lots of tips and tricks on understanding concepts and giving examples. There are also the MCAT Think paragraphs that helps with application of concepts. What I love about the Exam Krackers books is that there highlighted text on th margins of the book when a particular concept, say in physics, relates to another concept in biology! For example, I would be reading about pressure and the text on the side helps me to understand how pressure is related to blood circulation. It’s awesome!
As for practice questions, there are some after EVERY TOPIC. For example, in Physics, after learning about Projectile motion, there is a page of back-to-back practice questions and after learning about Newton’s laws of action, there is another page of practice questions — even thought they’re both in the same chapter. You don’t have to worry about learning something new before knowing you’re comfortable with the previous topic. The solutions can be found in the back of the book. Finally at the end of the book, there are practice sections for each chapter. I haven’t done one yet, but these are probably good for timed practice.
With the pros, there are also the cons. These books are not ideal when you need more explanation and details on particular topics that you’re struggling with. It’s nice that they’re short and concise, but sometimes you just need more examples, more practice, and more explanations. I would suggest seeking other resources for a particular topic if Exam Krackers don’t fully help you understand it.
Seriously, check them out. They are like your virtual teachers if you are self-studying. If you go to http://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat you will find a TON of practice and lectures just for the MCAT. Each MCAT Section has tons of lectures and practice questions. I didn’t even know they had a special page for the MCAT until I googled them. You can also make an account to track your progress, and they take donations since their purpose is to make education available to everyone! They are so great and I can’t emphasize that enough.
So I just received these in the mail today right before I sat down and wrote this blog. After lots of research online and asking people what good resources to use for the MCAT, I heard about NextStep. Though I cannot afford their tutoring and prep course, I decided to try their practice books since they’re pretty popular.
I don’t have much to review yet, but at a glance I can see that I am in CARS heaven. This book is meant for TIMED PRACTICE. There are 11 sections with each containing 53 questions to practice in 90 minutes. This book is not meant for daily practice, but rather for when you want to sit down and see how well you can do on a full section of CARS. Ideally, I should be practicing CARS on the computer like it will be on test day, but sometimes I just find it easier to sit down with a book and pencil to practice and that’s what I’m going to do IN ADDITION to any online practice I can find. It looks like a great source, and will update this blog if I change my mind.
I’ve also ordered the MCAT Science Practice with NextStep and it should be arriving soon. That book is supposed to have a bunch of practice science questions that will help me with the other sections of the MCAT!
These are pretty much the same as the NextStep books — one for CARS and one for science. They came with my prep course. The science workbook was incredibly helpful for my first MCAT as well as the CARS. Although I wanted brand new books since I’ve already written in these and circled the answers.
I am actually still in the process of finding sources to take full-length practice exams at an affordable cost. I will update this blog once I have found something! If you have any suggestions for where I might find these, please leave a comment and I would very much appreciate it!!!
At first I wanted to follow the NextStep example study schedule, but work and life happened so I haven’t been able to keep up with it religiously. It is a great guide though to make sure I am spacing my studying well and not spending to much time on a particular topic and keeping myself accountable. I don’t have all the resources that the guide suggests you use, but I am using it as a guide for the order of what topics I am studying. The schedule I’m looking at is for a 3 month plan and is only an example to help you build your own study schedule. The link is found here: https://nextsteptestprep.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MCAT2015-Study-Plan-24hr-12-week-Next-Step.pdf
So far I am limiting myself to a maximum of 5 hours a day since I have a little over 4 months until my exam. I will gradually increase my study hours as the exam approaches, but I really want to avoid any kind of burn-out this early in the game. I suggest you start slow and build stamina while continuing to enjoy life and doing the things you love! It’s so easy to get stressed and overwhelmed with the MCAT, but always remember to breathe and do what is best for your mind and body.
So there you go! These are all the books I will be using to study for my second MCAT! Studying a second time is easy and hard at the same time. It’s easy to know where my weaknesses lie and what to work on, but it’s hard to get that motivation and relearn a lot of things you’ve forgotten. It can also be discouraging to think about sitting through an 8 hour long exam and the grueling practice it takes in the months ahead. However, with lots of perseverance and patience, you can get through anything! Keep your chin up and take it one day at a time. Don’t think about the next few months ahead, but rather focus on what you can learn in this one day. Don’t get too stressed, but when you do please take a break and go do something you enjoy. Have lots of discipline, but also give yourself lots of breaks. It will all be worth it, I promise!