Once you’ve decided to enroll in an in-peron MCAT class, it might not seem much different from classes you’ve taken in the past. There’s a classroom, a teacher, a book, quizzes and tests. Your first instinct might be to default to the classroom habits you’ve built up over the years. But if you want to make an expensive MCAT prep class worth your time and money, a much more proactive approach is necessary.
The common advice about MCAT classes that doesn’t work
Right after you enroll in a live MCAT prep class, you’ll likely do your diligence and ask friends and teachers what you should do to make the experience worthwhile. Most of the time, you’ll get well-meaning but tired advice:
- Go to class
- Do homework
- Participate, ask questions
- Go to office hours
It’s trite, easy to say, and it’s what you’ve been hearing for your entire life. You already know that you need to show up to class and do the work. That’s what got you this far along in college, and it’s a routine that’s already an embedded habit for you.
Advice that will make your MCAT class worth it
A big part of my job as an admissions consultant and former test prep instructor is to tell you something you might not already know, or to give you advice that’s a littler harder to hear. In my 20+ years as an advisor and MCAT instructor, there were two things that the most successful students did that make a $2,000+ MCAT class worth the money and the time.
1. You have be your own advocate
Most of your education has been a passive experience: The course happens to you, and you have little or no control over it. You memorize some material, then regurgitate it on a test. That won’t work for the MCAT. Your class isn’t like surgery, where you become unconscious and wake up restored, fully understanding how to ace the MCAT. Just because you paid tons of money doesn’t mean that the instructors and the material will magically transform your score.
When you ask questions, or when you go to office hours, be your own advocate by showing up with specifics: Bring the specific passage, the specific question, and a specific answer choice. Explain your reasoning behind your answer choices, and ask for specific reasons why.
Be public about your mistakes, and don’t try to pretend to know the subject. Own up to your wrong answers and bring them straight to the instructor. That’s the only way that you’ll ever get any insight into your habits, and the only way you’ll overcome any incorrect logical tendencies you have.
2. You can’t beat the test by learning more science
This one is a hard pill to swallow for most premeds who have gotten this far along in life by learning the material better than everyone else and doing a better job of repeating it on exams. On the MCAT, knowing the material is only step one of two. The second step is to apply that knowledge in a logically challenging scenario that is intended to be confusing and difficult. The MCAT test writers play on the habits you’ve picked up over the years by throwing logical mind benders that aren’t anything like the test questions your’e been trained to do all your life.
You can’t learn more science, regurgitate, and win. Instead, you have to approach the MCAT as a logical game that your class instructor can help you defeat.
See how instructors approach the test in an online MCAT review session. You’ll see an instructor go over the test section by section and explain what you can expect from the test.
Your next step
If you’re already in an MCAT class, go into your next session and practice being your own advocate. Don’t just shuffle a wrong answer underneath the rest of your papers and hope to get a similar question right the next time. Bring the passage, the question, and your answer choice to the instructor and ask them to work through it with you. Explain your reasoning for your answer and embrace the feedback you’re going to get. Once you get into this habit you’ll get tons of value from the course and you’ll likely improve your score.
If you’re not yet enrolled in an MCAT class, I recommend finding local Princeton Review course schedules and sitting in on the first session to get a sense for what an MCAT class is like. That way, when you’ll know what to expect when you’re ready to enroll, and you’ll see which kind of instructor you’ll want to work with.