2013-10-07

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

In the previous part of this continuous review, I described all the tools and materials available to pre-med students taking Kaplan's Advantage - Anywhere course as a part of their MCAT preparation. This time, I will focus specifically on one of the essential tools following a test-taker throughout the course - the diagnostics. In the second part, I will make a couple of remarks about the technical support, the meta-framework "behind the scenes" helping the entire course to run smoothly.

Before you even start taking any MCAT classes, you need to do some planning. First, you want to know where you stand in order to see how much you want or need to improve by the test day - and for that, Kaplan provides you with an extensive set of diagnostic tools.
You start with a personal questionnaire, which asks you all the important questions ranging from how much time you have before you'd like to take the MCAT to what score you are aiming for or what relevant courses you have already taken and how successfully so.
Next step is then to take two separate diagnostic tests, each of which will take you about three hours to complete. The first one is very much like the actual MCAT, and so it serves to assess your overall MCAT abilities - that is, merging your factual knowledge with your test-taking skills. The second one is focused solely on knowledge and aims to see how solid is your background in the sciences, regardless of the intricacies of the test format or the verbal reasoning section.

Once you are done with these, your diagnostic report is created, providing you with detailed advice on what you should focus on during your upcoming MCAT course and of what, on the other hand, you already have a solid grasp - with respect to not only each science section, but also the subtopics included in them.
Your scores are then plotted on a time-curve, waiting for other scores to be added later, as you take practice exams throughout the course. This way, students can see their progress as the test day approaches, seeing their strengths and, particularly, weaknesses.
At the time of filling out the questionnaire (in September), it did not allow me to put in my desired MCAT test date (January), most probably because of the fact that the official test dates have not been released by the AAMC yet. As a result, the time-planning functionality of the questionnaire was partially compromised, but the diagnostic tool still provided me with some valuable insight into what I want to invest most of my valuable study time in.

Overall, this is a great component of the study packet - it is a good idea to stop, take a deep breath, and realize what are the obstacles out there for you to conquer before you actually start tackling them.
In my opinion, on top of that, Kaplan also makes sure to motivate you for your studies by showing you how much you need to improve. It is true that if you scored really high, you probably wouldn't take the course as seriously as if you failed the test - and fail the diagnostic test, you will.
I consider myself an above-average student in the sciences and although I will not publicly share either my current GPA or the results of my diagnostic test here, I will just mention that I am currently TAing for an undergraduate Introductory Biology course at my University, while I scored deeeeeeeply below the supposed average of this test. After the initial horror, at least some of my confidence came back after reviewing several pre-med forums where students share the same concerns and where I could see that I didn't really do all that bad, after all. The diagnostics did its job, though - it showed me that (and where specifically) there is definitely a lot of room for improvement for me. Keeping this in mind, therefore, take the diagnostic test as a challenge and do not let the result discourage you - take it as your motivation instead, which it is intended to be.

There might be one other reason for his low score tendency on the diagnostic - and that is Kaplan's higher score guarantee. This policy states that if on your official MCAT exam you do not score higher than on the diagnostic test, you are eligible for a refund of the entire course price. This, though, also includes your eligibility to take the entire course once again (up to three months after the initial completion of the course) for free in case you are simply not satisfied with your official MCAT score, which sounds fair.

In addition to the Kaplan's diagnostic tools, you also have access to the official AAMC self-assessment package, which might be particularly helpful later, as you are nearing the end of your MCAT preparation and going over the official AAMC practice exams (available to you as well).


In a conclusion of this part of the review, as I mentioned above, I would like to make a few remarks regarding my overall experience so far, from the technical point of view. As you can see on the screenshots in the Part 2 of this review, the users' environment is graphically very pleasing and after finding your way through all the materials provided, it is very easy to find what you need whenever you do.
Attending the online MCAT classes, it happened to me once that I could not access the class due to an invalid link in the schedule, which I solved by clicking on a different one (for one of the previous classes). Another time, the class did not load due to my own technical issues, as the environment simply failed to load - and it is a complicated one, as there is a lot going on at the same time during the class (read more about live online classes in my next review). This can be particularly stressful when you are trying to connect to your class that just about to begin. Making sure that your computer can pass the connectivity test well before the first class might be, therefore, a good idea. Also, note that you might not be able to attend the class from
your iPad, as you will need to be able to load a flash platform-based environment.

Several times already, I have called the Kaplan help line (1-800-KAP-TEST) - with issues ranging from technical difficulties to simple questions about the course, which were usually easily resolved. All in all, the service is a good one - I never waited for more than a minute to be connected to a representative, who is available between 9am and 10pm Monday through Thursday, and almost as much during the weekends, which is very convenient. For this reason, this is always the easiest way for me to answer any questions that might come up and I do not find it bothersome to use this resource as well.


I hope today's review helped answer some more of your questions about the Kaplan's live online MCAT course, but if there are still some unanswered ones, please, let me know in the comments below! I will try to address more of them in my next part of the review, where I will write about the live online classes!


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 4: Online Classes

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