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MCAT Tutoring: Is it worth it?

Private MCAT tutoring can be an expensive proposition, but it maybe worth it

It’s not news to anyone how important the MCAT score is in the admissions process to medical school. It makes up 50% of your tangible statistics that any medical school sees (along with your GPA, total and BCPM). A few extra points on the MCAT truly can make the difference between an acceptance or a rejection. Get accepted, you are on your way to becoming a physician. Get rejected, and well, maybe it’s law school ;-). That’s why a lot of premed students look into MCAT tutoring to help boost their scores.

To understand the importance of MCAT tutoring and preparation, let’s take a look at a few key numbers.

Average MCAT for Students Accepted to US MD Schools

  • The average MCAT score is a 500
  • The average MCAT score of an applicant to US MD schools in 2016-2017 was a 501.8
  • The average MCAT score of a matriculant to a US MD school in 2016-2017 was a 508.7
  • For 2017-2018, the numbers are even higher (~504 for the average applicant and ~510 for the average matriculant)

This data is gathered right from the AAMC (table A-16: https://www.aamc.org/download/321494/data/factstablea16.pdf). So what does it all mean? It confirms what we already know. A few extra points on the MCAT can make a HUGE difference. If you are at the mean MCAT score (500) and you raise your score by 5 points, you will likely go from someone who was rejected from medical school to someone who was accepted.

Ways to improve your MCAT score

There are a number of ways to improve your MCAT score. Clearly, studying hard is one of the most fundamental keys. Doing well on each and everyone of your prerequisite classes is also key, as these classes are the foundation of your MCAT knowledge. These two are givens, so let’s take a look at some of the other options that are commercially available

MCAT Classroom Preparation Course

  • The classic MCAT classroom prep course is tried and true. Spend 6 weeks sitting down with an instructor in a small group setting going through everything you need to learn on the MCAT.
  • Classic teaching style with small group learning, which you are likely used to
  • Can be cost reasonable
  • Comes with a “complete” solution to your MCAT preparation needs usually including practice tests
  • Classic teaching style with small group learning, which is not always effective for everyone
  • No personalized attention
  • You repeat tons of material you already know
  • You miss out on repetition and focused review of the things you don’t know
  • You spend as much time on one section as you do another (what if you are strong in bio, but week in CARS?)
  • Limited start dates so it may not fit your schedule
  • Kaplan
  • Princeton Review
  • Examkrackers
  • Berkely Review

MCAT Online Course

  • The MCAT classroom prep course can now be done online, with video review and a whole bunch of other great features. You can do these courses from the comfort of your home, either with live video or with recorded video sessions.
  • Classic teaching style with small group learning, which you are likely used to
  • Can be cost reasonable
  • Comes with a “complete” solution to your MCAT preparation needs usually including practice tests
  • Can be done from anywhere
  • Often include office hours
  • Classic teaching style with small group learning, which is not always effective for everyone
  • No personalized attention
  • You repeat tons of material you already know
  • You miss out on repetition and focused review of the things you don’t know
  • You spend as much time on one section as you do another (what if you are strong in bio, but week in CARS?)
  • Online learning can be distracting as some students prefer to be in a physical classroom
  • For some, virtual learning is simply less effective than in person
  • Kaplan
  • Princeton Review
  • Examkrackers
  • Next Step Test Prep

One-on-One Private MCAT Tutoring

  • With the advent of classroom software, online private MCAT tutoring is more feasible than ever. While private MCAT tutors have existed around the country for years, your options may have been limited.
    Now, an MCAT tutor can essentially come right to your home.
  • Focused, one-on-one attention
  • Targeted review of your weakest areas
  • Proven ability to raise scores because of the personalized attention
  • Ability to ask questions at anytime without any fears
  • Schedule can be completely flexible for your needs
  • Can be more expensive than classroom options
  • Relies on people to study on their own to supplement tutoring session learning
  • MedSchoolCoach’s MCAT Tutoring
  • Princeton Review
  • Kaplan
  • Next Step Test Prep
  • Cambridge Coaching
  • Varsity Tutors

When is one-on-one MCAT tutoring most effective?

Private MCAT tutoring is most effective when you are a self motivated student who is struggling in one or more areas. The private tutoring world allows you to really focus in on your individual weaknesses without spending too much time covering the concepts you already know. As opposed to a course, which may give a great overview of all the content, private tutoring really allows a much more in depth way to study material and perform well on your MCAT exam.

Is MCAT tutoring worth it?

Let’s get back to the fundamental question of “is MCAT tutoring worth it”. Well, from a purely monetary perspective, any investment you put into the MCAT is probably worth it. If you can raise your score by 5 points and get into medical school, well your earning power as a physician compared to most other professions is much higher (let’s not, for a second, take into account all the debt that goes into medical school. That’s a story for another day).

Private MCAT tutoring can cost almost $8,000 or more. It’s not a small investment, however your medical school education will likely cost >$400,000 when all is said and done. So that’s ~2% of your education costs going into maximizing your score for the most important test in your life, one that will determine if you can or cannot be a physician. Compare that to the cost of a course, which is typically in the range of ~$2,000 and you are spending about 1.5% more in your total education cost for private tutoring. For some people, it’s a no brainer! That extra small percentage can get you into medical school. But, it’s not for everyone! Most people will be able to succeed with an MCAT prep course instead of private tutoring. As you assess yourself as a student, you need to think about a variety of factors before jumping into private MCAT tutoring, but for the right student, it’s a great option.

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Sahil Mehta

Sahil Mehta M.D. is an attending physician in the Department of Radiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Founder of MedSchoolCoach. Dr Mehta is one of the world’s experts on medical school admissions having founded MedSchoolCoach in 2007. MedSchoolCoach provides admissions consulting to premedical students in the form of interview preparation, essay editing and general advising. In the past 10 years, he has had a hand in over a thousand acceptances to medical school.

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