Hello ndi nkem! Today’s post is a combination update post and a review of my MCAT studying. I have been hesitant to share this because I don’t want to wear the hat of an expert but I decided to do it anyways. I am a premed student like most reading this post, and I am trying to make my journey to medical school as transparent as possible. After sharing my last post on taking the Covid MCAT, I had a lot of folks reach out to me asking for my advice. I want to reiterate that this was my personal experience and may not work for everyone, but I still believe it should be shared. That being said, let’s get on with the program.
I heard about Next Step’s Course from the MCAT podcast hosted by Dr. Ryan Gray. I loved how they broke down difficult concepts and the way they explained the logic behind questions. I also appreciated that their course included live office hours, where folks could have their questions answered. So when I started shopping for a prep course, it was a no-brainer for me to choose NextStep.
Why a prep course? Well I am a non-traditional student that had been out of college for almost two years at the point when I started studying. The last time I had seen some of the MCAT concepts were over four years ago. I was working in a different field and I didn’t remember much from my undergrad classes. As well, I am not very good with standardized tests. I have taken the MCAT before, and my biggest problem then was figuring out the logic of the test. I knew I needed help.
With Next Step, the first thing you do is take a Diagnostic test. This is a half length test and is completely free. I took my Diagnostic at the end of January and I scored a 493. When I tell you my heart dropped at the sight of that score. I was slightly defeated, but I assured myself that at least that this is my worst case scenario. I hadn’t studied or opened any materials, so I still had a shot.
Initially, I studied three days a week due to school stuff. Next Step’s study calendar factored that in making my life easier. But once classes went online, I increased my studying to four days a week. This allowed me catchup for days when I felt slow. Some of my favorite things about using NextStep’s course were:
- The schedule builder: I loved that I could adjust it to fit my needs. It also synced with the course so I didn’t need to do any extra work. However, you can’t add any extra things to the schedule, you can only move things around. So if you are using outside material like Khan Academy videos or Anki decks, that won’t be reflected on your schedule
- The lesson videos: Although these were long, they were very helpful. There are 20 of them spaced out for the duration of your content review phase. I liked that they focused on high-yield content. These videos really helped solidify my test taking skills. I learnt how to make mnemonics and worksheets that helped me with spaced repetition. The videos also take you through how to answer passage questions, pacing and timing, amongst other things. The videos are the crux of content review in the course and I learnt a lot from them.
- Content review videos: These came through for me during my last three weeks of prep. At this point, I had taken a few practice tests, and I started realizing that I was still weak in certain content areas. Rather than re-reading the whole book, I watched the content review videos. They have in-built short quizzes in them, which helped solidify some things for me.
- NextStep’s Full-lengths: You may have heard this before, but let me say it again: NS practice exams are really good. I found them to be truly indicative and predictive of where I was in my prep. As well, the reasoning I needed didn’t seem far off from AAMC practice material (which is included with the course). They also do a good job with the explanations.
- NextStep’s question banks: So these were a necessary evil for me. I hated them because they were harder than the practice tests, but they were useful in helping me identify weaknesses in certain content areas. I essentially used them to quiz myself on content and not really as an indicator of my actual score for a test.
- Office hours: This one is a double-edged sword. The online office hours are five days a week (Sunday-Thursday) and last about two hours. Students join in and ask questions, and one of the tutors answers. Just like in real office hours, certain conversations tended to dominate the space. Certain regular students had their questions answered while others didn’t. Initially, it would frustrate me. Eventually, I realized that no matter what, tuning in to the office hours still allowed me to learn something. My own specific question may not be answered, but hearing other answers always taught me something. Sometimes, I would get my questions answered by fellow students also. I would only attend subject specific office hours cause I found those easier to follow and less chaotic.
As much as I loved the course and its impact on my final MCAT score, there were some things that made it frustrating for me. Some of those things were:
- The books: I was not a fan of this at all. They were sometimes dense and read like they required an absolute mastery of content material. I honestly don’t blame the writers but being a non-trad, I found it difficult to follow. I could only get through 2-3 chapters a day and that slowed me down significantly. I ended up supplementing with KA videos for very dense topics.
- The lesson videos: I had the same problem here sometimes. I often had to slow down the videos or re-watch certain parts to grasp the concept. Tutors talked so fast sometimes and skimmed over things with the assumption that it was covered in the book. This made my content review phase much longer than it needed to be. Nextstep has made changes to their lesson videos, and I believe this issue was take into consideration.
That being said, I would 10/10 use and recommend this course to anyone looking for a prep course. They taught me a lot and were very crucial in me being able to increase my score. My final score was a 512 and I am happy with it. I will continue to put out more information and I hope to share the rest of my application journey as it unfolds. Don’t forget to comment and interact. Reach out to me personally if you have any questions. Subscribe to my mailing list and I hope to see you in my next post. Bye!
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