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Mobile Apps That Help With MCAT Preparation

Flip through flash cards on your phone with apps that prepare students for the MCAT.

While smartphone apps can help students memorize information, experts recommend they use a variety of resources while studying.
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September isn't just a time for back-to-school shopping. For premed students, it is also the last month in which the Medical College Admission Test is offered in 2013.

It is common for students to hire private tutors, sign up with test preparation companies or buy study guides to prepare for the test. But mobile apps offer yet another option to help students study. They let students review information on the go and are often offered at a fraction of the price of face-to-face tutoring.

Choosing the right apps can take some work, though.

With the number of apps and different technology-based tools available, it is easy for someone to get overwhelmed, says Daniel Southren, director of MCAT programs and a senior MCAT tutor at MedSchool Tutors.

[Prepare for the MCAT as a premed student.]

"The question is: How do you define the resources that will work best for you?" he says.

He encourages students to use apps that allow them to customize how information is presented, such as apps that let users create their own flashcards. Customization, he says, is imperative for forcing students to zero in on areas where they are weak.

Some apps allow users to access other users' flashcards, but doing this may get a student off track, says Southren. Studying with another person's cards can inadvertently lead a student to focus on material that is a challenge for someone else – not the student.

When using mobile programs to study, students should also try to download tools that will help them review topics quickly and maximize their time.

"Use apps that facilitate rapid and targeted acquisition of information," he says.

We asked Southren and other MCAT experts to suggest mobile apps to help students ace the test whenever they take it. Here are their recommendations.

•AnkiMobile and AnkiDroid: This mobile app allows users to create digital flashcards that have a term on one side and an explanation on the other.

Flashcards can be divided into decks – such as one for organic chemistry and another for anatomy – and include photo, video and audio attachments. Anki keeps track of how frequently people review cards and shuffle through decks.

If students are too busy to create flashcards or want to make their flashcards available to others, they can access Anki's Get Shared feature to find or add decks that are available to other Anki users.

The app can be synced with Anki's desktop program to allow students to review flashcards from their phone or computer.

Prospective students with Android phones can get the app for free, but iPhone and iPad users will have to pay $24.99.

[Learn to balance your personal life with medical school.]

•Mental Case: Similar to Anki, this app allows users to create digital notes – which are similar to flashcards – and attach images, video and audio. Users can flip through notes with a swipe of their finger.

Notes can be divided into stacks, and the app keeps track of how recently users have reviewed notes and answered them incorrectly. Challenging questions can be marked to remind students to spend extra time reviewing a certain topic.

Mental Case is available for Mac, iPhone and iPad users. It can be synced across all three devices, though the price of Mental Case depends on where you download it. It is free for iPhone and iPad users, but it costs $29.99 if purchased through a Mac computer.

•SDN MCAT Pearls: This application is based on author Alfa Diallo's book "The Official Student Doctor Network MCAT Pearls: A high-yield review of the pre-medical sciences," and the popular website Student Doctor Network. It is almost like a mobile version of the book.

Content is divided into four sections – biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics – and within each section are at least 12 subtopics filled with lists of questions.

Prospective students can flip through questions on topics such as magnetic fields and electrolytic cells, create a quiz on what they've learned or take one of the quizzes already offered through the app.

The app is only available for devices with an iOS platform, such as iPhones, for $2.99.