2013-09-11

Kaplan's "MCAT Advantage - Anywhere" COURSE REVIEW, Part 2: Materials

As I said in the first part of this review, I decided to take the online Kaplan prep course for the dreaded MCAT exam. If you are considering enrolling in it as well but are still not sure, read below, as this time I will present all the online materials included in the test preparation package along with the course. I hope that by the end of my course review series you will have an idea of what Kaplan's "MCAT Advantage - Anywhere" course is all about, so let's start another part!

Last time, I talked about the physical package that you receive via mail once you sign up for the course. The main bulk of material that you get, however, is available to you online, accessible once you get enrolled in your course. It is a good idea to go through all of this before you start your course so that you know your tools - but as this is one of the purposes of this review, you have a chance to go through these materials even before you purchase your course, so read closely.
Once you log in and click on your course, you can see four main tabs: Syllabus, Flex Sessions, Additional Resources, and My Performance. Each of them has a different function, described as follows:


The Syllabus tab does exactly what it says (see the picture above) - it presents a very clean and orderly list of all your classes along with everything you need to do before and after each class, so that your attendance is as efficient as possible. Following this list, it is hard to forget a class or any of your homework, as there is even a checklist, allowing you to check-off each item as you do it. If you are like me and you always write out your tasks and then go and fulfill them by their importance one-by-one, you will love this. It even records the date of when you did what.

The next one is Flex Sessions, which is a list of additional live online classes, about 2 hours long, each dedicated to a specific "high-yield" (often used and efficient in terms of gaining points) topic of the MCAT. As these sessions are live, they take place at a specific time, and so you need to sign up for them in advance. Each session dedicated to a specific topic takes place approximately once a month, with total of some 7 topics being currently offered.

Additional Resources tab offers a lot - and I mean a lot - of material for additional practice.
First of all, if for some reason you don't like using the books you got in your package (or books in general), you have access to your review notes online here (for some reason, this section did not work at first, but it is fully functional now) - and it is not just a mere PDF document. You can pick a "playlist" of topics here from any subject, and read through them as you wish, knowing which ones you already went through and which ones are new. After you're done studying, you can see a list of topics you went through with their "yield" expressed on a scale of 1-6 stars. It would be nice to be able to see this "yield" also before you pick the topics (so that it could help you decide which topics you want to study for efficiency) and also, once you create a "playlist," to be able to come back to this playlist or edit it later, but even despite this, it is a great feature and one can see that people at Kaplan were thinking hard to make these documents a little more interactive.
If you need more scientific background before you start with the MCAT material, though, there is a Foundation Reviews section for you, which should help you review the basic scientific principles (this time in a good old PDF form).

Next, there are classic flashcards with short questions from all four science subjects and answer "on the other side" (of these electronic flashcards) - and after seeing each of them, you can pick if you knew, didn't know, or wasn't sure about the answer, so that you can come back to the ones you still need to memorize easily. It is a fun online app, which you can even download on your Mac OS device (iPhone, iPad). As an Android user, though, I am quite disappointed that this app is not available for me as well (nor is it for Windows phones), and so (although there is an online version optimized for all smartphones) I do not have the option to go through my flashcards offline, unlike Apple users - and being able to flip through your flashcards anywhere, like in the subway for example, is a great thing. I'm sure Kaplan's working on this.

Practice of material is then enhanced in many different ways and forms - including Fast Fact Videos (short descriptions of "high yield" material) and Flex Workshops (non-live versions of 5 of the Flex Session topics described above). For extra training in verbal and math skills necessary for the MCAT, you will get an access to another set of "on demand" (that is, not live) video classes for each of these two disciplines, along with a lot of practice problems.
The entire collection of practice materials is then concluded by a *huge* Question Bank, again made very interactive - you have an option to pick from any of the science topics and subtopics (as officially listed by AAMC) and question types (passage-based, stand-alone, or experiment-based) and so compile your own quizzes with random (sets of) questions coming up. Moreover, these quizzes can be done in either "timed" (solutions after the quiz all at once) or "tutor" mode (solutions shown right after each question). This, again, looks like a great tool for MCAT preparation.

Once you are done with the practice (or at least some part of it), you probably want to start testing your knowledge and MCAT skills. For that there is a great database of practice tests available, consisting of Subject Tests (about half-an-hour tests focusing purely your scientific background knowledge, by subject), Section Tests (full-length 70-min MCAT sections - 7x Biological Sciences, 7x Physical Sciences, 15x Verbal Reasoning), Full-Length Tests by Kaplan (six 4-hour tests in addition to the five ones you will do as a part of your course) with explanations (those for the first five tests are in the form of videos), and AAMC Official Full-Length Tests (access to eight official practice exams) with Explanations (by Kaplan).

The Additional Resources tab is then concluded by a Social Media section, which leads you to different publicly accessible Kaplan-related websites to connect with other students preparing for or at medical schools.

The last tab is called My Performance and it tracks the development of your MCAT test-taking abilities throughout the course. It is closely related to the Kaplan Diagnostic Tools, which I will describe more closely in my next review post.

Overall, to me, this looks like a really great database of resources (when I saw all of this for the first time, my initial reaction was "Oh, ok - this IS worth $2,000...") and I will be glad if I even go over all of the practice tests before the actual MCAT (which I'm planning to do) - but I would like to use all the other material that is being offered to me as well, so I need to start working hard very soon.
As I mentioned above, next time I will write more about the Diagnostics and also about Kaplan's Tech Support, so stay tuned!


Acknowledgement: This is an independent review. Materials and course enrollment were provided by the Kaplan company; the author is in no way or form affiliated with this institution.

If you would like to write a review of an MCAT prep course or study materials and have it published on this blog, please, contact the author!!

>> NEXT:
Kaplan's "MCAT Advantage - Anywhere" COURSE REVIEW
Part 3: Diagnostics and Tech Suppport 

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