One of the most important decisions you make when preparing for an exam is which resource(s) to use.
Because we don't publish our own resources, we pride ourselves on being able to give you the most unbiased feedback, which we're able to do because we are not affiliated with or endorsed by any of the companies whose resources we're reviewing. As such, we've shared our MCAT2015 Special Ops Team's highest-yield feedback with you below.
If you don't have more than 30 seconds, jump ahead to our MST score report.
We also want to be sure we're providing you with the most useful information possible, so please tell us what you'd like to know in the comments area below—whether it pertains to resources, the MCAT2015 as a whole, study timelines, etc.
Read on to see how Examkrackers scored in our first (of many) comprehensive MCAT2015 resource reviews:
What are the unique strengths of Examkrackers' materials when it comes to helping you study for the MCAT?
Parth Kothari: Their ease of readability and how they elevate dry material with color, highlighting, and elucidating illustrations.
Katherine Seebald: Their use of images and graphs to explain concepts. In my mind, a picture is worth a thousand (possibly confusing test prep) words.
Birju Patel: All of EK's in-class exams require the reader to apply basic science concepts while interpreting research methods and results in the context of human physiology and medicine.
Jeffrey Abrams: I like how they use the side panels for important points, and the practice passages at the end of each book as well. They're useful tools for mastering new content.
Masis Isikbay: I was most impressed by how well EK covered the “systems” in the second biology book. It helps to integrate all the relevant information into a “systems” approach (which is a direction all of medical education is headed).
KS: EK not only shows students how to prioritize the information, but they also go through possible MCAT manipulations of concepts that you could see on the exam. In addition, I think they provide simple, clear explanations of complex topics.
What are its weaknesses when it comes to MCAT prep?
Examkrackers is doing many things extremely well. While our initial impressions may change after we've finished reviewing other companies' prep resources, here are our preliminary thoughts about the weaker areas within EK's MCAT2015 bundle:
KS: EK tries to give just enough detail to cover what a student will need to know on the MCAT. When they err in this, they tend to err on the side of not enough detail.
JA: They could have gone into more depth of coverage for some of the more difficult topics in physics, chemistry and the biological sciences. Also, the absence of practice tests is a big weakness. This new test is incredibly long, and stamina will be a really important skill set for every student to develop.
MI: EK could have gone further with integrating concepts together in the manner that they will be presented on the new MCAT exam, though they do constantly have notes within the text referring students to other sections/books as topics relate to each other...
PK: ...they added no value. The practice material following some of the smaller sections (such as biochem) would benefit from having more passage-based questions to help students really nail down the concepts in an applied form.
What's the educational philosophy behind Examkrackers' MCAT test prep materials?
JA: I think the fundamental philosophy of Examkrackers is to cover all of the material EFFICIENTLY. They touch on all of the stuff you need to know for the MCAT, but they don’t go into textbook-esque depth of coverage.
KS: EK focuses on beating the MCAT test rather than on emphasizing rote memorization or obtaining a comprehensive understanding of material. They accomplish this by extensively analyzing the exam, prioritizing high-yield information in their books and omitting low-yield information, and providing students with (mostly) clear and efficient topical explanations mixed in with test-taking and problem-solving strategies and practice problems.
MI: The EK writers teach to the test while making sure students have an understanding of the essential concepts.
In their medical exam study processes, when should students use these materials?
PK: The EK materials would be great to dive right into following an initial diagnostic test or two (to get a baseline starting score). The content review seems to be sufficient for most of the exam, and with proper tailoring with good supplemental materials, EK would be able to carry a student through the majority of studying.
MI: You could also read the books while taking the course in question (for example, reading EK's Physics book when enrolled in college level physics). These books are streamlined, and this newest version is even more efficient in content delivery, but they are not so brief as to allow you to wait until you're close to your exam to begin using them.
KS: I would be more prone to recommend EK at the beginning of a curriculum to get to the mean. They have a broad foundational “backbone” approach that will provide students with a decent understanding of most fundamental MCAT topics. After that, Examkrackers should be supplemented with other materials to make up for gaps in the books.
I would especially recommend this series if a student is not doing well in his MCAT prep and is loosely using a smattering of different test prep materials to study. Examkrackers is a good series to concentrate on when paring down one's repertoire of study materials.
For which medical students would Examkrackers MCAT 9th Edition be most ideal?BP: Most of us feel that any student could use Examkrackers' materials with some supplementation (CARS practice and practice tests).
You might find this set useful if you:
- are an abstract thinker
- have a decent foundation in the sciences
- don't have much time to study (e.g. no more than 2.5 months)
- need to improve understanding of the material that you have a decent memory of
- struggle with problem solving and application
- get overwhelmed with a lot of information and would rather have mostly "high-yield" information
- and/or you lose focus quickly if the presentation is dry
You might not find it as useful if you:
- are a more concrete thinker
- like structure, rules, and steps to things
- are great at memorizing and feel that more information is better
- are learning the sciences rather than reviewing
- like no-frills textbook formats/feel to your books
- and/or you have plenty of time and patience
Examkrackers for CARS
- EK remains strong in this section by eschewing gimmicks, including essential main idea and question stem drills, and tapping into the student's innate skills, e.g. by training him to read as if listening to a friend's story.
- They've added table 4.1 explaining different question archetypes to help students better understand questions and answer them correctly.
- Many students learn by having their tutors "think aloud" as they go through a passage, and EK does essentially this on p. 54 for the reader.
– The biggest execution problem in CARS is the fragmented, insufficient practice sections.
Bottom Line: One of the main points that the Reasoning Skills book makes for the CARS passages is that practice is key, but it gives very little practice, therefore making supplemental resources necessary. A book like the EK 101 passages would have been a useful inclusion for this set of books. Students will definitely want more “real life” passage practice for CARS.
Examkrackers for AAMC Statistical Reasoning
- Having an entire, concise section on statistics is quite useful and makes for an excellent reference to go back to over the course of one’s studies.
- EK hit every item in the AAMC’s “Skill 4: Data-based and Statistical Reasoning” and also effectively covered the AAMC’s “General Mathematical Concepts and Techniques” outline.
- The discussion on P values is handy on pp. 47-48
- The math review is useful and time-saving (pp. 7-28). One of the most important areas is the section on scientific notation and applying that to formulas to quickly ballpark answers—this can save precious time on the MCAT
– Even though the main points were covered, students will need to make use of more practice problems specifically dedicated to honing their aptitude in statistics before taking the exam.
Bottom Line: Examkrackers truly owns fundamental principles here rather than being an absolute expert on detailed statistics or the super fine points of the scientific method. The statistics section goes into enough depth on everything one should be familiar with for the MCAT2015, and the “in-class exams” integrate stats and research into passages and questions well, but this section too suffers from too little focused practice material.
Examkrackers for Medical Research
- The research section within the Reasoning Skills book is short, written in an easy-to-understand manner, and practical.
- It effectively uses charts and images to drive home important points.
- There is also valuable reinforcement throughout all of the other Examkrackers content books as the end-of-the-book practice tests prominently feature stats/research material within the passages.
– As per the AAMC outline, the point of “Reasoning about the appropriateness, reliability, and validity of tools used to conduct research in the behavioral and social sciences” was not covered in enough depth.
Bottom Line: This introduction into research concepts sets the standard. However, considering that the new section is causing the most anxiety for students, it would have been nice to see a specific section delineating research skills for natural sciences vs. behavioral/social sciences, even though they overlap in many ways. Students who struggle with research questions will need many more practice problems (especially with detailed explanations) than what EK provides, even with the integrated research problems in the books’ in-class exams.
Examkrackers for Psychology & Sociology
- The EK Approach section that starts off this book is quite useful. It draws some important connections between the CARS and Psychosocial sections and discusses how to avoid putting in personal bias into the section, which is very important, as some topics that can get political.
- The section on learning was great (pp. 26-30) with good illustrations, tables, and subheadings.
- Similarly good sections—among others—were cognition and memory retrieval.
- While supplemental resources will likely be needed, even if you have a limited background in these topics, reading this book will help you learn these topics pretty well.
– The organization isn’t as clear as in other books, and there are significant content gaps.
– Overall, this book has less illustrations and is less engaging.
Bottom Line: Examkrackers focuses a lot on understanding. In this section, however, there is much terminology that needs to be mastered and quickly identified during the test, and this is something in which Examkrackers isn't as strong. Supplemental flashcards will be a terrific tool for memorizing this vast amount of generally very basic material.
Examkrackers for Biochemistry
- This is a great resource for review if you already know biochem.
- The whole genetics chapter was phenomenal. The illustrations on spermatogenesis vs. oogenesis, and the summary of chromosomes and sister chromatids were terrific.
- The guide on how to approach metabolism questions was very helpful.
- EK also included a great section on laboratory techniques.
– It may be difficult to make connections between the dispersed pieces of information in this book.
Bottom Line: If you haven't studied biochem before, you will definitely need supplemental resources to properly prepare.
Examkrackers for General & Organic Chemistry
- The charts, pictures, and general writing style made getting through this material much easier. (Ex. The graph and blurb at the top of p. 214 visualizes the logarithmic relationship between weak acids and conjugate bases.)
- The back of the book exams are a very useful resource and nicely incorporate research-style questions.
- EK continues to excel at teaching understanding and providing an approach to "must-know" problems
- Combining gen chem and organic chemistry helps make for more efficient topic coverage (though it could have been better organized).
– The biggest critique is, again, that there is not enough practice.
Bottom Line: For material that can be inherently difficult, this book was quite readable. EK concisely goes over the important points with the emphasis being on big/broad principles rather than nitty-gritty details. For the newly de-emphasized orgo, this resource should provide a sufficient amount of review. We strongly advise practice immediately after each content section in order to lock down what was just learned, and for a subject as hard as chemistry (and physics), this is especially true.
Examkrackers for Biology
Overall, we like Examkracker’s division of their biology coverage into two books: Biology 1 takes a molecular approach (including much of the biochem material that falls more under the “biology” classification of questions), and Biology 2 takes a systems approach.
- The EK writing style really came to life in the biology review, with historical and, most importantly, MCAT relevance given for many topics
- EK nailed action potential with two great illustrations (pp. 44-45); they have a great diagram showing parts of nervous system on p. 5; solid coverage of the menstrual cycle (a high-yield area); a very useful color-coded chart for hormones on page 102; and the muscle contraction section and illustrations on pp. 177-178 are great.
- EK’s explanation of all the different types of enzyme inhibition on p. 25 is clear and straightforward; we like that they added “chromosomal vocabulary” on page 34 and made the distinction between homologous chromosomes and sister chromatids; EK also explains meiosis and relates it to the ploidy number and whether there are sister chromatids, like in Figure 2.23.
- In Chapter 4, EK does a good job summarizing the major types of lab techniques a student is expected to know for the MCAT.
- Lastly, we were glad that—among other things—EK expounded upon the ear and hearing, which is a section we’ve often seen students have difficulty with.
– There were a few topics that were somewhat confusing/unclear/lacking: Neurons as an electrochemical cell; the Nerst equation material on p. 43 could have used a good illustrated example; more information is definitely needed on the cardiac action potential; and the kidney nephron system is always hard to understand and the diagram on p. 167 is not good enough. The lack of coverage of pedigrees is glaring.
Bottom Line: This is a terrific review resource for biology. As with the other sections, though, we’re strongly advocating that students supplement with additional practice problems/passages.
Examkrackers for Physics
- This section has a great, streamlined focus on fundamentals and basic concepts.
- Practice questions generally do a solid job of reviewing the important topics, which is terrific for helping to ensure longer-term retention.
- The in-class exam passages have clear relevance to biological systems (something the new test is focusing on).
- Salty’s 5 step never-fail method for solving physics problems (presented on p. 2) is excellent to keep in mind for each part of the physics portion of the MCAT2015.
- EK does a great job of using big illustrations to really help visualize problems in this section. (For example, they have a great two-page illustration and problem walk-through on Torque.)
– Some explanations can be a bit sparse, particularly for some of the tougher concepts.
Bottom Line: Many of these concepts can be difficult to grasp, so unless you already know physics cold and are just looking for a review, you'll need to supplement.
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