7 Best MCAT Prep Books Reviews 2020 | Top Study & Practice Guides
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Getting a good score on the Medical College Admission Test or MCAT is likely the first challenge that you need to overcome if your heart is set on getting into med school. While it is agreed upon by many experts and former test-takers that this standardized test tough, it’s perfectly possible to ace it with enough practice and prep materials. As an MCAT tutor, I have found that the best MCAT prep books as well as the best MCAT prep course are much better than the others in the quality of study materials to help you improve your score. Seriously, outside of the top 4 or 5 the others are quite mediocre.
I put together this list because I want you to succeed as bad as you do... well, that might not be true but I definitely want you to do well and I am completely confident that you'll do well if you get at least one of these (though multiple are commended for more complete studying) based off of my own experience of prepping for the exam as well as tutoring others.
MCAT Prep Study Materials Comparison Table
# of practice tests
Editor Rating & Benefits
Best MCAT Prep Books List 2020
To further help you in your search for the best MCAT prep book, here is our list of the top eight great titles that you should check out. All of them are highly recommended by experts and test-takers so they might just be the perfect choices for you to get into medical school. Buying these is a great start, but make sure you also invest the necessary time to take advantage of these resources.
The KAPLAN MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review 2019-2020 would be one of the first titles to come out if you search for the best MCAT study guide online and it deserves the #1 spot on our list and is a great bang for your buck. Why not when it’s the most highly recommended book set out there?
It’s said to be one of the most comprehensive and information-packed study books in the market today, so it can certainly be what you need to get into medical school.
What makes these Kaplan MCAT books special? The content is seriously packed with content not just about studying, but with test strategy and practice sections. This book set is composed of 7 subject-specific books with practice problems for the following: Behavior Sciences, Biochemistry, Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics and Math, Critical Analysis, and Reasoning Skills section.
These pretty much cover all 7 subjects in the MCAT and is really good with psychology / physiology. They’re also guaranteed to provide an in-depth discussion of the subjects and concepts that will most likely appear in the test, consistent with all Kaplan test prep resources.
How can you be sure of this? Aside from the fact that this set is made by the most established test prep companiy on the planet, the content is also guaranteed to be AAMC aligned. This means that you can expect accurate information if you use this as a reference for your test prep efforts. The company is also very credible and reliable, so you can certainly count on them to help you get ready for the big day.
A lot of experts and test-takers say that these test prep books is erroneously named. It has the word ‘review’ in its title which they think is inaccurate. Its discussions of concepts and subjects are said to be not similar to other reviewers because they’re more in depth. This set isn’t just for browsing through concepts. Its expertly-written presentation of data and information will offer more than what most folks expect from a review book.
Lots of people also loved this set for its visual presentation of information. Concepts are very nicely represented in graphs and diagrams so you won’t get too overwhelmed looking at walls of text all the time.
Aside from the per-subject study guides, you’ll also get 3 online practice tests and a 24-page Quicksheet booklet for on-the-go studying. The only drawback it has is that it might not be the greatest pick for those who are rushing to take in as much information as they can before the exam since it's so thorough.
The online resources it comes with are also constantly updated.
The Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-book Subject Review is the most comprehensive resource and is a must have for students who want to take the mcat exam and get into their #1 medical school. It is one of the best mcat prep books not just on our list, but almost everyone else's as well.
Pairs well with the need to know subject of Psychology & Social Sciences.
Want a quick and painless way to kickoff your test prep efforts? Test Prep Books’ MCAT Prep 2018-2019: Test Prep & Practice Test Questions for the Medical College Admission Test is our 2nd ranked best mcat prep book to get started.
Most folks describe this title as a brief and concise study guide because it only contains 304 pages and already covers every section of the test. This also makes it a great place to start if you have no clue how to begin preparing for the big day. Just read this study guide from cover to cover and you’ll already get a good idea on which topics you should include in your study plan as you monitor results from the practice problems.
Others, however, use this as a handy review book if they're more confident about their knowledge and chances of getting into medical school. Those who are strapped for time or are just not bent on going over the test content in depth already find this prep book sufficient to their needs. If you’re still very familiar with the things that will most likely come out in the MCAT, then this title will work as a refresher.
What exactly can you expect from this study guide? You can find chapters on the sections of the MCAT, for one. They will contain the concepts and will help with subject reviews that are likely to be asked about in the test. There are also several sample test questions to help you get better acquainted with the MCAT’s format and 2 full-length practice exams. Finally, you’ll also find several test-taking strategies that should help you conquer the test without a hitch.
Coupled with a very friendly price tag, this book is arguably the best-priced title in the market today. If you’re on a budget or you just want to get various prep books to boost your prep efforts, this can be a solid addition to your collection since it has some of the best MCAT practice exams.
The Princeton Review 7 MCAT PREP Books Box Set, 3rd Edition is another 7-piece review set that every MCAT prepper should check out. The Princeton Review is a prominent brand in the test prep space and also in the tutoring/education so it's no surprise they have created one of the best MCAT prep books, complemented by awesome test strategy tips.
It’s a comprehensive and in-depth review guide set that will let you focus on all of the subjects tested in the MCAT. So if you feel like you need to go in-depth in your prep efforts, these books might be what you need to help you get into the medical school of your choice.
Due to its format, it’s also often compared to the Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-book Subject Review. They are pretty similar in many regards. Aside from the 7-books they contain, they also have full-color illustrations, full-length practice tests, and end-of-chapter quizzes.
However, Princeton Review’s set is said to edge out the Kaplan vs. Princeton review MCAT debate because of its seriously in-depth discussion of everything. The way it discusses each point will help you master everything that you need to know by exam day.
The Princeton Review set also contains extensive glossaries so you can easily pore through the different concepts when you just need a refresher before the test day for specific things. This makes it easier to navigate these massive prep books.
What makes the TPR MCAT study guide stand out is its good presentation of information. It will closely guide you into going over all of the things that you need to learn and remember to crush the MCAT. Each of the 7 books in this Princeton Review set is focused on each subject tested in the said test so you can be guaranteed that you’ll cover all your bases when getting ready for this test.
Despite its information-packed content, however, this resource from The Princeton Review can still be very useful for those who need to quickly go over all of the concepts and topics that will come out in the test. With its extensive glossaries, you can use them as lists of the concepts that you need to recall before the test day as content review.
Unfortunately, some folks don’t find the Princeton Review practice questions to be as plentiful as Kaplan’s. This means that you will most likely need to get the Sterling Test Prep question book to get a lot of practice test experience. It’s also a bit more expensive than Kaplan’s, so you might also want to take its price into consideration - medical school prep and tuition definitely isn't cheap.
Despite its goofy name, the 9th Edition Examkrackers MCAT Complete Study Package deserve its place on the list of top-rated study guides on the market for mcat prep practice exams. Some even go as far as calling this set as the best mcat prep for medical school there is. It's great, but we didn't think so.
Why, you might be wondering? For starters, people say that it covers more ground than any other set in this list. This alone makes it worth checking out if you want a reference book that can guarantee to help you go over everything you need to work on.
Don’t let its information-dense reputation scare you, though. The Exam cracker MCAT books present information in a very friendly manner so you can be guaranteed that you can go through them without too much fuss. There are graphics, illustrations, and even a mascot that makes the content seem friendlier.
What makes it even better is that it’s designed to efficiently help you retain the information you’ve just read about. There are about 3-4 quizzes interspersed in each chapter to check what you’ve learned. There are also mini-tests at the end of every quiz to thoroughly gauge what you understood. These mini Examkrackers MCAT practice tests are deemed to be harder than the actual MCAT so you can be guaranteed that they’ll prove to be very useful for your test preparation.
The Sterling Test Prep MCAT General Chemistry Practice Questions: High Yield MCAT Questions is more of a practice test workbook than a prep book in general but it’s still a great addition to your MCAT prepper arsenal. It can certainly compliment any of the review sets mentioned above as it will help you gauge your General Chemistry knowledge and will help with your MCAT organic chemistry review.
Packed with 1200 practice questions, discussions on General Chemistry concepts and topics, test-taking strategies, practice passages, as well as in-depth answer explanations, this workbook can really come in handy if you want to boost your chemistry score.
It will help you with formulas, calculations, equations, and biochemistry which more than adequately helps you prepare for both the exam and medical school.
Like other Sterling Test Prep titles, the contents of this book is also updated regularly, so if you got the newest edition, you can be further guaranteed to get great results with more up to date practice tests as the best MCAT prep for Chemistry.
This is not a complete book and requires other study materials such as Sterling's MCAT Psychology & Sociology and other prep materials.
For a good deal of almost authentic MCAT test experience in Physics, you should check out the Sterling Test Prep MCAT Physics Practice Questions: High Yield MCAT Physics Practice Questions with Detailed Explanations. This title contains 860 practice questions in the aforementioned subject, so if you need help in that area, this might be what you need.
Like the other Sterling Test Prep workbooks listed here, this book is also regularly updated as well as contains in-depth answer explanations and test-taking strategies. You can get and use it on its own or create your own set with the different study materials for a more complete topic coverage. It's easily the best mcat prep for physics.
If you need more help in the Biochem and Orgo, the Sterling Test Prep MCAT Organic Chemistry & Biochemistry Practice Questions: High Yield MCAT Practice Questions with Detailed Explanations is a solid choice for you and one of several subject specific prep books by Sterling. This practice questions workbook contains almost everything you need to get ready for the Biochem and Orgo parts of the test, making it high on this list of the best MCAT prep books for Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Like the other Sterling Test Prep items listed above, this book provides a lot of information about the subjects mentioned, which are required for medical school. It discusses the concepts and topics of the said subjects in-depth so you can effectively get ready for the MCAT. Unfortunately, some find its elaborations to be too complicated, so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
MCAT Books to Avoid
MCAT Elite's quality is just exactly opposite of what you'd hope for. The strategies and tips are gimmicky and generic. While the information could be helpful for a few types of problems, this is one of my least favorite books. It will NEVER be a standalone resource and it's not even great as a complementary one.
Opt for other options, as even the practice questions aren't great. It screams mediocrity in its entirety.
Although The Princeton Review is a great company when it comes to resources, The MCAT Workout is really disappointing. It doesn't live up to the reputation of Princeton Review by any means as it seems like it was just poorly thrown together to make a quick book from those desperate for additional resources.
It's obvious there was no care for the book and little editorial practices. It has a slew of grammar and spelling issues. Additionally, the organization of the book is poor as it jumps from topic to topic in a nonsensical manner. You're often left with incomplete explanations only for this book to revisit the topic at a later time.
Worst of all, they prevent some incorrect information most notably in the Biochemistry section.
It's a complete waste of money. Instead, opt for Princeton Review's complete MCAT set prep. It's hard to imagine both products were produced by the same company, but at least the other one is seriously amazing.
What is the best way to prepare for MCAT?
The best way to prepare for the MCAT is to use multiple prep books, enroll in a course, get a tutor, and have a study buddy to keep you accountable.
Here are some tips to prepare for the MCAT (expect at least 300 hours of studying):
- Get an MCAT prep book
- Go over it twice, taking notes and understanding the questions
- Take the practice tests
- Use khan academy and other online programs
- Practice tests
- Get another mcat prep book and go over it twice
- Practice tests
- Create flashcards
- MORE practice tests
How long is the MCAT exam?
The MCAT takes about 6 to 7.5 hours to complete. If you are just beginning to practice it may take up to an hour longer as you get used to the questions and the test format.
How is the MCAT scored?
The MCAT is scored based on 4 sections, which you can get anywhere from 118-132, with 132 perfect for that section. When you add up the points from all the sections you can get a 472-528. Because there are many variations of the test where some are harder than others, your score is normalized based on the scores of that test so that everything is more fair.
How many times can you take the MCAT?
You can take the MCAT 3 times in a single year, 4 times over a 2-year span, or 7 times over a lifetime. You can't register for more than one at a time and have to wait about 24 hours after you take the official exam before registering again.
How early should you start studying for the MCAT?
You should start studying for the MCAT about 2 to 6 months ahead of time - the more time you have the better. Most students in medical programs study about 300 hours a week, which you can hit in about 2 months by studying 8 hours a day, five days a week.
How much is MCAT prep?
MCAT prep can be just a few hundred dollars if you do it yourself or several thousand if you use a help/tutoring service. You just need to be able to decide for yourself what you think will motivate you to study effectively and get a better score. More study materials can definitely be helpful if you put in the time, but also cost more money.
Can you study for the MCAT in 2 months?
You can study for the MCAT in 2 months. Keep in mind most people study over 3 months so you'll need to really put in extra work to get to the same level. It's not just about hours, but studying over time has a lot of benefits because by cementing the prep material into your brain so that you have better recollection.
Buying Guide: Factors to Consider To Get the Right Book For You
How do you find the best MCAT books? Let this guide help you with these must-have prep materials.
Understand Your Options, Then Commit To A Plan
You have several options to prepare for the MCAT. For one, you can always turn to experts and sign up for a MCAT prep course. These are lessons and classes that you can take in person or online wherein you’ll have structured study sessions.
They’re great for those that are not necessarily big fans of self-studying as they also help you with a study schedule. The guided study sessions will free you from the hassle of creating your own study plan and mapping out the various components of the test you should cover to get ready for. Armed with knowledge, mcat prep books will definitely help students prepare for the test.
Unfortunately, these prep courses can get quite pricey. Some might even require you to focus full time on the test prep course so they’re not the best options for everyone. However, getting into medical school is competitive and you'll need to study to even get an average score so review courses can definitely be worth it.
Taking MCAT self-prep measures is also a good approach to the said standardized test. Self-studying can work for most folks, especially with the right techniques and these mcat prep books really help boost your scores.
No matter what your chosen approach, however, you’ll need the best MCAT review books to fully prepare for the said exam. These will work as your reference materials as you get ready for the MCAT. They can certainly help you navigate the complex and tough test preparation process.
The good news is, there are tons of options to choose from. The bad news is, the number of choices available to you can be a bit overwhelming. Also, not all of them are guaranteed to help you out so you need to find the best for you to ensure the best results.
To help you do this, we’ve rounded up some proven-effective tips that should assist you in narrowing down your options and finding the right title that can help you get ready for the MCAT. Here they are:
1. Do a lot of research about the MCAT before anything else.
To make sure that you’ll find a title that will suit your needs and requirements to fully get ready for the MCAT, you should get better acquainted with the said test first - knowledge is power. Find out the most crucial points about this exam so you can look for corresponding details in the study guides you’ll look into to maximize your MCAT prep.
The most important question to answer when researching about this test is ‘what is on the MCAT?’. The answer to this query will help you identify what kind of content the best prep book should have.
The available MCAT exam dates can also help you choose the right MCAT prep books (yes, getting multiple is recommended). With the wide coverage of this exam, it shouldn’t be surprising that some study guides come with several books to help you prepare thoroughly for it.
Titles like the TBR MCAT prep come with ten books in its set, so if you don’t have enough time to go through all of them, this might not be the best choice for you.
2. Ask for recommendations and read multiple reviews carefully.
After doing a considerable amount of research, you can then move onto which titles are highly recommended by experts and former test-takers. The recommended titles will clue you in on which of the best mcat prep books are the most popular and what makes titles popular.
3. Consider your own learning style and preferences.
You might feel compelled to go for the most popular titles but don’t do so without much consideration. If you don’t think that they will suit your learning style and preferences, they might not do the trick for you.
Be very particular with the way the content is presented. While a lot of med school aspirants will be able to handle the drabbest writing, your MCAT prep efforts might benefit more from something concise and less dragging that might not require complex memorization tools. Additionally if you prefer more mock tests than studying then get more books with full-length practice tests.
So make sure to keep such details in mind when looking for the right MCAT prep books for you.
4. Opt for updated editions (at least within a few years).
If you’re taking the MCAT in 2020, make sure to get a prep book that is made within 2-3 years (2017 or later). These things can become outdated pretty quickly, depending on how the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) will craft the next test. By getting the latest edition of a prep book, you’re more likely to get information on the tests given out in the previous year. This can help you get familiar with the test that will most likely be very similar to the one you’ll take as there can be a big difference between years.
5. Don’t hesitate to get multiple prep books. More books means more context.
Another important thing to remember when searching for the best MCAT study books is the fact that you don’t have to stick with just one book or set. While you also don’t need to get several different titles, you might be better off getting a few different ones. This will help you cover more areas and become more prepared for the test.
Aside from a few different study guides, you might want to get different varieties of study materials as well. Aside from a prep book, get the best MCAT practice tests workbook, flashcards, and other study tools that might help you get thoroughly ready for the said test. Different materials have their own approaches in helping you get ready for the big day, so they can really come in handy for all students alike.
Conclusion and Our #1 Recommendation
Like we mentioned before, our top recommendation is the KAPLAN MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review + Online Materials. It's very complete and even though it's the most expensive, it's very thorough and comes with 7 books which will provide comprehensive MCAT prep. If you only want one resource and no other study material then this is the one to have to confidently take the MCAT.