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  • Virtual Cadavers in Training

    The first time you touch a cadaver is unforgettable for most medical students. But across the country, future physicians are beginning to use virtual cadavers. Is the experience the same as feeling an actual human body, skin, and organs?

    Virtual cadavers range from a simpler tablet app to a large 3-D dissection table that are build by Web designers and come from scanning an actual cadaver. The technology is improving every day and it allows students to study 24-7, whereas many cadaver labs host limited hours on campus.

    But there are limitations as well. With a virtual cadaver you can’t move a muscle and look underneath it or get the chance to feel the internal organs. But advocates for the technology say that virtual cadavers are simply an addition to the traditional training and won’t replace actual cadavers.

    Have you used a virtual cadaver? Tell us about the experience. Do you think using virtual cadavers will make medical training better?

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  • Match Day: Like Sorority Rush?

    By Owen Farcy
    Kaplan Test Prep

    Last week's Match Day saw many celebrations throughout the country as 4th year medical students learned where they'll be spending their residency years. A quick glance at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on Friday saw countless photos of students laughing, jumping for joy, and even a handful of proposals as long-awaited envelopes were opened.

    The National Residency Matching Process, more commonly known simply as "the Match", is a process that combines feelings of excitement and trepidation in much the same way as the medical school application process. Kaplan's Emily Hause, a current medical student and regular writer for the Med School Pulse blog, describes the Match as similar to sorority rush. "They have a secret list of ideal candidates and you have your ranked lists of ideal places to end up. However, unlike some sororities, the NRMP is very official and explicit in their selection process."

    The algorithm used in the Match, according to the NRMP website, "begins with an attempt to match an applicant to the program most preferred on that applicant’s rank order list (ROL). If the applicant cannot be matched to that first choice program, an attempt is made to place the applicant into the second choice program, and so on, until the applicant obtains a tentative match or all the applicant’s choices on the ROL have been exhausted.”

    Unfortunately, not every medical student successfully matches - according to initial data from the AAMC, 'it appears that several hundred U.S. medical students did not match to a first-year residency training program" in 2014. With a looming shortage of physicians in the U.S. and the recent expansion of seats in both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools, there are very real fears that the problem will only get worse in years to come, as "there may be too few residency positions for all the newly graduated doctors in the not-too-distant future."

    Fortunately, both the AAMC and AACOM have recognized the issue and are actively working with the government in an effort to expand funding for Graduate Medical Education. As the system for medical education continues to evolve in the coming years, one thing is certain - Kaplan will continue working with students to support them throughout their journey towards becoming successful physicians.

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  • Single Accreditation System for MDs and DOs

    Recently, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) have agreed to a single accreditation system for graduate medical education (GME) programs in the U.S. After months of discussion, the allopathic and osteopathic medical communities have committed to work together to prepare future generations of physicians with the highest quality GME, ultimately helping to ensure the quality and safety of health care delivery.

    The single accreditation system will allow graduates of allopathic and osteopathic medical schools to complete their residency and/or fellowship education in ACGME-accredited programs and demonstrate achievement of common Milestones and competencies. Currently, the ACGME and AOA maintain separate accreditation systems for allopathic and osteopathic educational programs.

    Read more here.

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  • Three-Years for Medical School?

    By Vanessa Obas
    AMSA National Health Policy Coordinator

    Three-year medical school curriculums have popped up in a few of the 124 medical schools across the country. In a cost-effective approach to medical education, schools, like New York University's School of Medicine have started offering medical school tracks that eliminate the 4th year of training.

    In traditional programs, the fourth year is somewhat of a reprieve from the demands and rigor of the early years of medical school. In the time spent outside of interviewing for residency positions, fourth-year medical students explore electives in different specialties. It is of little surprise that the elimination of the 4th year of medical school (and its associated tuition and fees) is appealing considering the average medical school student graduates with $170,000 in debt, according to the AAMC.

    Presently, medical school costs continue to rise in face of the increasing need for physicians in primary care, a lower-paying specialty. Thus, three-year programs present a way for students committed to primary care to pursue that career path with less of a financial burden. Still, three-year medical schools cannot solve the problem of the hugely burdensome cost of medical education on new physicians in the US. The rise in three-year programs has brought attention to the larger issue of the rising costs of medical school debts. Instead of trying to solve the problem of rising medical education costs with changes in medical education, perhaps we can seek ways to tackle student debt head-on without sacrificing years of training.

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  • The Pulse in New Orleans

    By Owen Farcy
    Kaplan Test Prep

    Last April, we launched The Pulse, our monthly online series for Pre-Medical Students. Over the course of the last year we have covered a wide array of topics, from admissions policies to healthcare policy, making The Pulse one of the most popular events for aspiring physicians.

    For our March episode, we're breaking new ground in partnership with AMSA by taking the show on the road to the Annual Convention in New Orleans. On Friday, March 7th, the show will film live with a panel of medical students revealing lessons learned from their medical school experience. It will give attendees a glimpse into what it is really like to be in medical school, and best of all you'll get a chance to be part of the show.

    Of course, we'll have a variety of other seminars and activities for you to enjoy at Convention, so be sure to attend. Even if you can't make it to New Orleans, you can still save yourself a seat for the online broadcast of the show by visiting

    We look forward to seeing you in New Orleans!

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  • MCAT 2014 or 2015, What Should Your Students Take?

    By Petros Minasi
    Kaplan Test Prep

    2014 marks the beginning of the end for the current MCAT, and really the end of an era in medical school admissions and medical education. This is it for our much loved MCAT, and a brave new world rests in the wings! Even though the AAMC has forecasted an increase in the number of tests to be administered this year and in January of 2015, we have already heard reports of test dates and test sites being full, as pre-meds rush to register for the final administrations of the MCAT. As students, your thoughts are probably already swirling around the question of “which MCAT should I take?”

    Of course, the wisest advice we can offer is that you should take the test that you'll be best prepared for, and not to rush into taking the old exam just to get it out of the way. But that doesn't always sit well, and there are often extenuating circumstances. A good exercise to help you make the decision is to walk through the competencies on the current and future MCAT in order to really assess your readiness for the MCAT. Our test change website,, lays out the topics that will be testing on the new MCAT in a student-friendly way, and as a reminder, a free eBook version of our MCAT 2015 guide can be downloaded from there as well.

    Now for a note of caution: some students who want to take the current version of the MCAT might incorrectly sacrifice other opportunities in order to squeeze in more study time before the test changes, but we all know how important clinical and research experience is in the medical school admissions process. As such, you should be aware of the opportunity-cost of accelerating your studies and make sure that you're effectively completing extracurricular activities in conjunction with your prep. Towards that end, the January episode of The Pulse is focused on the importance of clinical and research experiences, and our expert panel will discuss its role not just in admissions but in the future of medicine. Look for clips from the show shortly on Youtube, or find the entire episode as a podcast in the iTunes store.

    The new year brings renewal, and on behalf of all of us at Kaplan, we look forward to continuing working with you to help you achieve your dreams one success story at a time!

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  • Medical School on the Fast Track

    If you could graduate medical school in only three years, would you? 

    Quickly thinking about this question, the easy answer to many would be an astounding YES! But there are many factors to consider. Yes, debt would decrease and you would be able to start practicing sooner. But there are reasons to include fourth year as well including the ample elective opportunities which help students find their passion. 

    According to an article in The Washington Post this week, "fewer than a dozen of the nation’s 124 medical schools are offering or actively considering three-year programs, which typically involve the elimination of electives, attendance at summer classes and the provisional guarantee of a residency — offered because three-year graduates might be at a disadvantage compared with other applicants." Read the entire article here.

    What are your thoughts? Do you think medical school should be three or four years?

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  • Emerging Trends in Medical School Admissions

    By Owen Farcy
    Director of Pre-Health Programs for Kaplan Test Prep

    Each year, we at Kaplan survey medical schools across the country to learn more about emerging trends in admissions. In our 2013 survey of medical school admissions officers*, the results shed light on three important topics for pre-medical students to be familiar with. 

    On MCAT 2015: 43% of those surveyed expect the revamped MCAT coming in 2015 to be more difficult than the current one; notably, this is a near doubling of the 22% who held this view in Kaplan’s 2012 survey. Only 2% in the 2013 survey believe the revised medical school admissions exam will be easier, while the remaining 55% of medical school admissions officers think the difficulty level will remain about the same. But, despite rising concerns about difficulty, a large majority supports the coming changes (90%) and think they will better prepare students for medical school (75%); these findings are consistent with Kaplan’s 2012 survey.

    Among the approved changes coming to the MCAT in 2015:

    More Topics Tested: The 2015 MCAT will include three additional semesters’ worth of material in college-level biochemistry, psychology and sociology, increasing the number of prerequisite classes from eight to eleven.
    Almost Double the Length: Takers of the revised MCAT will face 261 questions over a six hours and 15 minutes time span. The current MCAT has 144 questions that are taken in three hours and 20 minutes. This means the 2015 MCAT will require a lot more stamina and focus.

    New Question Types and Skills: The current MCAT focuses on content knowledge and critical thinking, but the 2015 MCAT tests two additional skills: Research Design, which focuses on the fundamentals of creating research projects, bias, faulty results, and variable relationships; and Graphical Analysis and Data Interpretation, which focuses on deriving conclusions and drawing inferences from visual data like figures, graphs and data tables.

    There is little doubt that the planned changes will introduce new challenges for test takers. The test will be longer, and will require pre-med students to learn significantly more content within the same amount of time. But it’s also important to recognize that the changes to the test only reflect the realities of a changing medical field. Today’s pre-meds face a medical landscape that’s different than what their parents’ doctors faced. Medicine today is based on scientific advances that didn’t exist a generation ago, and doctors are increasingly serving a more diverse population, so it makes sense to adapt the MCAT accordingly. But yes, it’s shaping up as tough medicine.

    On Post-Baccalaureate Programs: 71% of admissions officer say they have seen an increase in the number of applicants who have enrolled in post-baccalaureate programs, a path taken by many aspiring doctors after they graduate college, but before they apply to medical school, to beef up their academic credentials. That could prove to be a smart strategy, as 90% of admissions officers say that doing well in a post-bacc program improves a student’s acceptance chances.

    On Social Media: 32% of admissions reported that they have Googled an applicant to learn more about them; 22% say they have visited an applicant’s social networking site like Facebook for the same purpose; and most interestingly, of those who did 42% reported that they found something that negatively impacted the students chances of being accepted.

    * For the 2013 survey, 79 medical school admissions officers from across the United States (71 from schools accredited by the Association of American Medical Colleges and eight medical schools accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine) were polled by telephone between July and September 2013).

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  • Coming Soon: MCAT 2015

    By Ashley Mannka-Suydam
    Kaplan Test Prep

    Recently the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) officially announced the MCAT Test Administration Calendar for 2014 and January of 2015. Since the announcement, there’s been quite a bit of speculation about the calendar and what it means for the roll out of the new version of the exam in the Spring of 2015.

    Most noteworthy about the released schedule is that it includes 3 administrations in January of 2015 – the 8th, the 10th, and the 13th. Given that the AAMC has previously stated that the final administrations of the current version of the MCAT would take place in January of 2015, it seems reasonable to conclude that these dates represent the last opportunity that students will have to take the current, three-section test. In fact, the AAMC confirmed that point shortly after announcing the test calendar, while acknowledging that there still remained the possibility of scheduling an additional administration in January 2015 if demand warranted it.

    For students planning to take the MCAT this year, registration for test administrations between January and May of 2014 has now opened. The AAMC experienced technical issues on the first day of the enrollment period that forced them to shut down the site, so students who experienced problems when trying to register should check the MCAT Twitter account for the latest updates. It’s expected that the registration period for test dates between June and September of 2014 will open in mid-February, as per the usual schedule, and as always it’s important that students don’t delay in registering for the test in order to ensure that they get their preferred testing date and location.

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  • Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation

    Have you heard about Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation?

    The new journal, published by Elsevier, will feature leading strategies to implement new payment models and improve care delivery processes; creative approaches to organizing care around patients and their conditions; and novel applications of information technology to enhance health system performance. With a rapid pace of health system transformation, there exists a tremendous opportunity to learn what works and what does not to improve patient care.

    The first issue, which came out this past summer, focuses on these issues as they relate to payment reform—a key emerging driver of health system transformation. There are also opportunities for you to contribute work to Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation

    Read the first issue here

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