One of the most frequent questions I get is, “Should I take a review course for the MCAT.” My answer is almost universally, “It depends.” It really does! The MCAT is a pretty tough exam. Every year, tens of thousands of pre-med students sit for this exam and about 25% of pre-meds will suffer through it more than once, like I did. So, I definitely understand why a review course is in the running when it comes to deciding the best method of study.
There are some things to consider with review courses. They usually come with hardcopy and online study resources, practice exams, and classroom style learning. They provide a structure and schedule for studying as well as test-taking skills. Typically, there are varying packages offered by MCAT review courses to suit your individual needs and budget.
Sounds like a slam dunk YES, right? Again… it depends. I know you’re probably thinking, “Would you tell me the answer already?” Actually, you know the answer better than I do, but I’ll help you get there. Here are 5 questions that you need to ask yourself to decide whether or not to take a review course and/or what method of review course you should take for the MCAT.
1. Do you learn during an in-person lecture? Sitting in lecture is very similar to sitting through an in-person MCAT review course. You meet at a scheduled time at a scheduled place and the material will be reviewed live. You are given the opportunity to have your questions answered in real time. There’s also a personal connection that you can make with your MCAT tutors that might also appeal to you.
2. Do you learn online? Some review courses offer live online courses. This is almost like an in-person lecture except you can learn while in the comfort of your own home or a coffee shop. This method also works for getting your questions answered in real time. Perhaps, the connection might not be as personal here, but there is still an opportunity for the MCAT tutors to know you and understand what you need.
3. Will you stick to self-study? What’s great about the first two options is that the schedule is made for you. The tutor will be available at a certain time to go over the material and you need to be present to participate. Self-study requires that you make your own study schedule and stick to it. MCAT courses have learn-by-recorded video options, or you can simply buy review books for studying. For these options, there is no tutor to engage you in Q&A. If you are a self-motivated self-starter, then self-study might be a great option for you.
4. What about practice exams? I am a big proponent of taking a lot of practice exams before the MCAT. I’m talking at least 10 exams. MCAT courses have a varying number of practice exams built into their programs. There are also exams for sale by the AAMC. Practice exams help you to simulate testing conditions and gauge what your score might be during the real exam. Determine if you need the structure of a review course or if you can get your hands on enough practice exams to do it on your own.
5. What’s the cost? Cost is a real factor when it comes to deciding on doing a review course or not. MCAT review costs vary based on what they offer. So, if your budget can’t handle a course with all the upgrades, bells, and whistles, then maybe a video course or basic review books present a better option for you.
If you do decide to take a live course, remember… You have to pay attention! The review course is the actual review. Don’t rely on learning It later for the sake of taking notes. Use that time to learn, commit to memory, and apply what may have missed in your classes. Refresh yourself on how best to do that by reading my post, “I took pages of notes. I can’t tell you what I learned.”
Now that you've decided if a review course is right for you, don't forget to pick up my FREE strategy cheatsheet: 5 Strategies you're currently NOT using to get into medical school!