MCAT Prep-What took you so long?”

by Dr. James L Flowers

April 14, 2011

I was speaking at Michigan State University Medical School-Grand Rapids Campus. After the presentation, which included our new system. a student came up to me and made the comment, “What took you so long?” Initially, I wasn’t sure how to take it, other than as some type of compliment (wishful thinking). After some thought, this is how I am interpreting that statement.

It wasn’t just about us. It was about all the MCAT prep online programs and maybe even the classroom programs. What I had demonstrated was the ability of our system to replace the positive classroom features desired by students. When we completed our second online version in 2006, there were a lot of concerns expressed by students that they still were unsure if they wanted to do an online MCAT prep because of the “loss” of discipline which occurred with a classroom class that was not present with the online programs available at that time. To mis-paraphrase Groucho Marx “Why they were concerned, I never knew?” I.e., why a student who wanted to be a doctor had concerns about generating their own discipline eluded and still eludes me. See my prior blog entry: .Anyway, it was a great concern for a number of students.

One our many concerns, then, as we created our new system, was to keep students on track, motivated and, yes, even disciplined. All of this was built into our new system. To explain simply, we have a day by day structured study plan. The system forces the student to complete the sequenced learning of that study plan. If they skip a task, that task is placed into a pending file. The student cannot progress until they complete that task. So, unlike a classroom prep, where you can miss a class, and then come to the next class, our system forces you to complete the task you missed. Additionally, there are frequent quizzes and tests. Unlike a classroom (where you can take a test, and do poorly on it and not understand the underlying content, and then just move to the next content area without even mastering the last…is this a type of “social promotion”?…), the student must get a minimum score on that test before he/she can move on.

Apparently, this is what the student was so excited about among many other equally exciting new features. Our online program offers a very structured, motivational and disciplined MCAT prep. If you want to experience it, go to  and sign up for the free 3 day full access to the system.


Predicting MCAT scores using practice tests

by Jason Sparks

June 7, 2010

Category: MCAT Prep Tips

I recently came across a page at studentdoc that reveals research on the predictive success of popular MCAT practice tests from AAMC, Kaplan and The Princeton Review by comparing the results of these practice MCAT tests with students’ actual results on the real MCAT. The conclusion is that the best predictor or performance on the actual MCAT are the AAMC’s own practice tests. The AAMC practice tests were the best indicator when considering the composite score and considering individual score (biology, physics, verbal).

This research aligns with Dr. Flowers’ conclusion that he told me upon meeting him in 2005. He told me the best way to prepare for the MCAT is by using the AAMC practice tests as the benchmark for assessing your strengths and weaknesses, and then studying according to your MCAT weaknesses. Two years ago on this blog, Dr. Flowers responded to the sentiment that the AAMC is tries to trick students by writing “when there is appropriate preparation of content and skills using real MCAT’s, the specter of ‘trick questions’ will magically disappear. ”

The AAMC’s practice tests are available at Additionally they can be purchased at discounts through a Dr. Flowers MCAT subscription. One AAMC practice test, 3R, is available for free from AAMC.


Dr. Flowers MCAT – UCLA Review

by Jason Sparks

December 28, 2009

Over the Christmas break, I came across a review of Dr. Flowers MCAT by a student in a UCLA newsletter dated January 2007. It was the first time I’d seen this review, yet it aligned with other feedback we received at the time. The reviewer gave us a B- and highlighted PRICE as being his main objection. At the time the reviewer bought our product, the cost was $995 for 6 months. Since then we’ve lowered our prices as follows: $295 for 2 months $495 for 4 months $595 for 6 months Students can now buy more months as needed.

Students can also get free months if they don’t meet their goals after following Dr. Flowers’ recommended study plan. One reason we can’t lower the price too much more is that our price includes the price of the AAMC practice exams so part of our price goes to pay AAMC for their practice tests for our clients.


Visit to AAMU and Preparation for Health School Admissions Tests (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, OAT)

by Dr. James L Flowers

December 20, 2009

I want to thank Dr. Razi Hassan for his tremendous hospitality during my stay at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, AL. He and his staff were wonderful hosts. I must say I was impressed by the city of Huntsville and its critical role in space travel and with the university itself which has been educating students for over 125 years.

This was a totally new experience for me. Most of my trips have been focused totally on the MCAT. But, this time I was charged with teaching for the MCAT as well as the PCAT (Pharmacy), the OAT (Optometry) and the DAT (Dental) school admission tests. I found this both interesting and challenging.

Some of my thoughts are:

1) The science components may be used by all of the students with some differences. I found little difference between the science preparation needed for the DAT, OAT and PCAT other than physics which is only required for the OAT. As for the MCAT, if you take one year of really good biology (you do need to know photosynthesis for the DAT, OAT and PCAT), one good year of general chemistry, a solid year of organic chemistry, and one year of non-Calculus physics (only for MCAT and OAT), you WILL be prepared for all of these tests. The science of the DAT, OAT and PCAT would be helpful for general knowledge for the MCAT. But, the reason the MCAT’s science is more difficult is the interaction of the passage and general knowledge content on that test. I found that the OAT, DAT and PCAT actually had more difficult pure memory questions than the MCAT. Also, don’t be fooled by the lack of passages on the DAT, OAT and PCAT. What they had were essentially “mini-passages” as stand-alone questions which are equivalent to passage questions on the MCAT.

2) Reading comprehension is more difficult for the MCAT. The preparation is similar for all of these tests. Studying one, especially the MCAT, would be beneficial for the others as well.

3) Verbal abilities, ie analogies and sentence completion, are only for the PCAT.

4) Writing samples are found for the MCAT and PCAT but are slightly different. General preparation in writing would be helpful for both. The MCAT has a thesis/antithesis/reconciliation approach. The PCAT requires writing an argumentative and/or a problem solving essay. These would require somewhat different approaches and styles.

5) Mathematics is distinctly different on the tests. The MCAT math is submerged within the science questions mainly in the Physical Sciences. It is, by far, the simplest of all the math on the tests. The OAT and DAT are roughly equivalent in difficulty and both are much more demanding than the MCAT. There is no calculus or precalculus on the DAT or OAT. I found these questions to be moderately difficult, given that we want to be doctors, dentists, pharmacist and optometrists, and not engineers or physicists. By far, the most difficult math was found on the PCAT. This was partially because of the calculus, but there were just some very difficult questions on this test…so, beware in your preparation. Preparation for the MCAT math is about junior high school level; preparation for the OAT and DAT is at the high school level; preparation for the PCAT requires a first year college calculus course (unless you had it in high school) as well.

6) Finally, the Perceptual Abilities test is only found on the DAT and can be challenging. I introduced some, from what I was told, novel techniques which seemed to help the students.

Overall, I think I learned a lot as did the students. It appears to be possible to teach for all of these tests during the same general session. I am grateful for Dr. Hassan and his staff for affording me this opportunity.


Dr. Flowers Honored at Recent Conference

by Janice Moreland

September 30, 2009

The National Association of Medical Minority Educators bestowed the President’s Award on Dr. Flowers during their annual conference in Chicago on September 18, 2009. Dr. Flowers was unable to attend, so I stepped in to receive the award on his behalf. NAMME noted that Dr. Flowers has worked to prepare students for the MCAT for well over 30 years. They also noted that Dr. Flowers has provided classroom presentations, books on MCAT preparation and more recently an online course.

I read the acceptance speech prepared by Dr. Flowers. He thanked all those members of NAMME who encouraged him to continue to produce his work. He made special mention of the late Dr. Bill Wallace who encouraged him to write the first MCAT prep book while he was still a medical student. Dr. Flowers renewed his commitment to work with students providing them with a quality MCAT preparation.

I enjoyed the Awards luncheon. It was indeed a special honor for me to accept the award for Dr. Flowers. Thank you NAMME! Great work Dr. Flowers!




Michigan State University Visit and Continuing Lessons in MCAT Preparation

by Dr. James L Flowers

August 2, 2009

My trip to East Lansing to meet with a group of Pre-Med MSU students was educational and as enjoyable as usual. Ms. Fowler was a great and considerate host. The facilities were great. And, of course, the students were attentive and involved. Each time I go on one of the road trips, I learn a lot. Maybe more than the students. This trip was no different.

Many of the students had already taken the MCAT and not performed up to their expectations. Most of these had taken an expensive MCAT prep from the big names in the business. From our discussions and then during and after my presentation of how to prepare for the MCAT, I want to share some of my insights on what needs to be done to get ready for this very difficult test:

1. Trust what AAMC is telling you. Despite all of the great literature and direction from AAMC, many students just don’t believe them and think there is more to it than AAMC is telling. AAMC, as best I can determine, has been and is completely transparent in their description of their test and how you can best prepare for it. Follow their advice.
2. Understand where you are at in terms of your strengths and weaknesses. You need to have some good assessment of your current level of readiness in terms of what is needed for the actual test. Too many students think they need advanced and complicated courses and knowledge for the test…they don’t.
3. Take the necessary time to prepare and prepare hard. This means you will need adequate time over months and adequate time each day to unhurriedly and without distractions study for this test. The average student will probably need 400 hours to prepare…those less prepared will need more.
4. This is not an IQ test, no known test measures general intelligence. This is a test of achievement…this is what medical schools want to know. What have you achieved that is going to make you a good candidate for their school?
5. Every test has its own unique structure and its own “culture”. For you to succeed, you should have some appreciation of that and how you can take advantage of that.
6. You need to use the real MCATs available from AAMC and extract every ounce of educational value from them to make your preparation successful.

These are some of the lessons I tried to instill that day. I hope they listened. My belief is that anyone who uses the correct approach, and then put their real effort into it, will do better and succeed.


Remaining Test Dates for the MCAT

by Janice Moreland

July 30, 2009

The remaining test dates for the MCAT are:

July 30 and 31, 2009

August 5, 6,14, 21 and 25, 2009

September 3, 4, 10 and 12, 2009.

Go to for your online preparation.





Which is easier, the MCAT or the DAT?

by Dr. James L Flowers

December 5, 2008

The MCAT, Medical College Admissions Test, and DAT, Dental Admissions Test, are both high-stakes standardized tests which function mainly as obstacles to medical and dental schools respectively. My take on the similarities and differences follow.

Importance in the Admissions Process:Both are very important. But, admissions committees do use other factors as well.

Administration and length of test: Each test is now about half a day or so. Each is computer based.

Science content of test: The MCAT requires basic biology, basic physics, basic organic chemistry and basic general chemistry. The DAT does not require the physics. The level of content for both is at the introductory college level. The major difference is that the MCAT has primarily passage based applications of science. You will need to be able to read science passages effectively and efficiently for the MCAT. You will need to understand and be able to apply the basic concepts more on the MCAT than the DAT. Passage analysis and interpretation is not needed for the DAT. The DAT questions are more direct and will involve much more calculations and problem solving type questions than the MCAT.There are a few topics expressly required for the DAT that are not directly noted for the MCAT. Some are found on the MCAT but seem to have more of an emphasis on the DAT. These are cladistics, multistep organic syntheses, blood coagulation, genetic technology, animal behavior and learning, photosynthesis (not needed for MCAT), population and community ecology (minimal on MCAT), ecosystems (minimal on MCAT), social behaviors of animals (not noted on MCAT), aromatic chemistry and oxidation-reduction reactions of organics. There are some MCAT topics not mentioned on the DAT list such as titrations.

Math content of test:The DAT is clearly the more difficult test for math. The DAT has a specific math (quantitative) section whereas the MCAT merges the math with the other sciences mainly physics and general chemistry. Very little high-school level math is needed for the MCAT. But, the DAT will require a deeper understanding in these areas not found on the MCAT: graphical analysis with equation to graphic conversions, Probability and Statistics (minimal on MCAT), Trigonometry (minimal on MCAT), units and conversions, Equations and expressions (minimal on MCAT), Inequalities (not on MCAT), Absolute Values (not on MCAT), Fractions and Decimals, and Applied Mathematics (as word problems) (minimal on MCAT). Whereas some of these are found on the MCAT, the questions on the DAT are more difficult and require a deeper understanding of the topics.

Verbal Reasoning:The MCAT’s Verbal Reasoning is more extensive and difficult. There will be a wider range of topics on the MCAT. The few passages on the DAT are longer and have more direct questions than found on the MCAT.

Writing Sample:Found on the MCAT but is not part of the DAT.

Perceptual Abilities Testing:Found on the DAT but not found on the MCAT. Will require good 3-dimensional analysis skills and spatial abilities.

The important question is not which is easier…both are difficult. The real issue is what you want to do and having an accurate assessment of your personal skills and abilities.

MCAT site:

DAT site:


Preparation For A New Version Of The MCAT Underway

by Dr. James L Flowers

November 9, 2008

At their annual conference in San Antonio in November 2008, AAMC announced they have convened a study committee to overhaul the MCAT. Current plans are for a new MCAT by 2013. They are seriously looking to make the MCAT more useful to medical schools and their admissions committees. The MCAT was first launched in 1928 as the Moss Test. Since then, there have been four major revisions of the test. The current revision will be the fifth.

There is no need for current college students to worry what a new test will be like. But, high school students may be facing the totally new test when they enter college and make plans to take the MCAT. As before, I am sure AAMC will provide plenty of forewarning and education about the new test.

I cannot predict what the new test will be like. I am sure it will still contain the cognitive challenges of science and basic math as has been found on all previous tests. Beyond those, there are other important domains for physicians. I refer you to the following blog entries:

Cognitive Domain

Psychomotor Domain

Affective Domain

MCATs Prediction of Success


Importance of Working Memory for MCAT Success

by Dr. James L Flowers

September 14, 2008

There are three generally accepted levels of human memory: 1) immediate memory (IM), 2) working memory (also called short-term memory) (WM) and 3) long-term memory (LTM). Let’s focus on the role of WM.

MCAT importance of WM:1) retrieving critical info at the time of the test, 2) storing critical info during your study.

At test-time, the effective use of your WM is crucial. WM has a small capacity, possibly 5-9 bits of info possible, and a short retention, possible 20 seconds or so. Why is it important with these significant limitations? When you are faced with a question on the MCAT, the processing begins in your WM. To solve that question, you must bring additional bits of data/info into your WM. So, a first step is to determine what additional info is needed to solve the question. Sometimes this info is found in the passage, call it Passage Knowledge (PK). Other times that info will be based on your prior study, call it Study Knowledge (SK). So, to solve the question, all of this critical info has to be in your WM. The PK is found by skimming the passage or using any highlighting or notations you may have made. The SK is only found from your LTM. Then the effective organization of the passage and of your LTM will become a central factor in how well you do on the MCAT questions.

The organization of the passage is done in various ways. The main available method, other than a photographic memory which is very rare, is to highlight or notate in some fashion. This will help you visually get to the key info for a given question as rapidly as possible.

For your LTM, the organization depends on how you stored the info initially. Here again, the WM is crucial. Knowledge storage begins with its recognition, or bringing it to your attention, in your IM. It is then passed to your WM where it can be processed into your LTM. The most ineffective means of storage in LTM is simply by rote memorization. Info stored in this manner is the least accessible at critical times…ie, taking a test. More effective LTM storage occurs when the new info in WM is somehow meshed with existing memory in LTM (Importance of Effective Long Term Memory For MCAT,Creating Effective Long Term Memory-Part I, Creating Effective Long Term Memory-Part II.) To do this, you must bring that info from LTM into WM so this process can occur. Then the storage of this new info in your LTM becomes connected with existing and info and will be more available for rapid retrieval.
What’s the point? If you don’t want to be complaining that you studied hard but did poorly on the test, then you need to pay attention to the role of WM during your study process and during test time and understand its central role.

Related Entry: Long Term Memory and Working Memory

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