Studying for the MCAT is potentially one of the most time consuming parts of preparing to apply to medical school. Because of the vast number of resources available, choosing the best MCAT study materials can be quite a daunting task. The following review discusses some of the most popular MCAT study materials as well as the pro’s and con’s of each. This review looks at the most purchased MCAT study packages, which are collection of books provided by the publisher. Most of the book packages can be purchased individually for those that need help on only a few subjects of the exam.
There are a few things that nearly every MCAT study guide publisher includes, such as at least one “free MCAT practice exam”. Everyone has a different preference when choosing MCAT study materials, so it may be worth recommending that you borrow one of each from a friend before buying them. Each of the materials listed here includes a full-length section devoted to each of the 5 subjects tested on the MCAT.
- Organic Chemistry
- General Chemistry
- Verbal Reasoning
Hopefully, this guide will help you determine where you should start looking for MCAT study materials. There’s a link to each of the books or study materials on Amazon in the event you wish to purchase one of the books mentioned here.
Kaplan MCAT Premier
Kaplan MCAT Premier is probably the most comprehensive book to help study for the MCAT. Now, Kaplan actually guarantees that if you use the Kaplan MCAT Premier to study, you’ll get a higher score or they’ll refund your money.
If you buy it from Amazon, you can get the 2014 version of Kaplan MCAT Premier for only $72.90, which is pretty good considering how much information it contains. However, if you find that this is too expensive for your wallet, you may want to look at getting a version that is a year or two older. In the end, it’s much cheaper to purchase Kaplan MCAT Premier than it is to purchase the individual subject review guides.
The best part of the individual subject review guides is that they are now available in a digital format on the Kindle store. The Kaplan Premier is a huge book to try to carry around, so if you like to study on the go and have the extra money to spare, the Kindle editions may be the way to go.
Historically, the Kaplan practice exams, 5 of which are included in the purchase of the book, are also considered a good value. Most students find them to be more difficult than the actual exam, and subsequently, a better indicator of a higher score than others.
The only real downside of the Kaplan books is the complexity and breadth of the information that they contain. If you just need a review, you may be better off going with Examkrackers. If your prerequisite courses didn’t cover everything on the MCAT or if you appreciate a textbook-style read, Kaplan may be perfect for you.
- 5 practice tests, 2 in the book and 3 online.
- Full-Color Images and Diagrams.
- The most informative.
On Amazon: Kaplan MCAT Premier 2013-2014
Examkrackers MCAT Study Package
The Examkrackers MCAT Study Package costs a whopping $121.37, which is more expensive that Kaplan’s MCAT Premier. It includes each of the 5 subject manuals which, if purchased individually, are nearly the same price. The only drawback is Examkrackers MCAT Study Package only contains one practice MCAT exam which isn’t available when you purchase the individual subject books.
One of the greatest things about the books by Examkrackers is that they are concise. The writers actually took the time to include all of the information, without placing too much emphasis on the content that is rarely included on the exam.
Examkrackers MCAT Study Package is probably the best resource for those with a solid foundation in their prerequisites, but need a refresher that has all of the information from the subject sections. Alternatively, if you need a more comprehensive MCAT study guide or want more practice exams, Kaplan may be a better choice.
- 1 practice exam.
- Full-Color Images and Diagrams.
- Concise and relatively easy-to-read.
Barron’s MCAT Study Guide is listed here simply because it is purchased by many premeds. That doesn’t mean that it’s a great resource. However, Barron’s is widely available at nearly any major bookstore and is always the cheapest one on the shelf. The only good thing about Barron’s MCAT relative to the others is that it is available as a Kindle edition. Even still, at $28.49 the Kindle edition of Barron’s MCAT is only $7 cheaper than the paperback.
On the other hand, when you open the book, you are able to immediately determine why it costs so little. The pages are made from recycled paper, making it difficult to turn pages and navigate the book. As a result of the poor quality construction of the book, every image is rendered in black and white. In the end, the diagrams are difficult to read and are not very appealing. In addition, most students find the practice exams to be of little or no help. The practice exams are often filled with errors and don’t seem like very good indicators of the actual MCAT exam.
Buyer Beware: If you decide to purchase this book, you’ll likely be disappointed. Save yourself the hassle and purchase one of the others mentioned here. If you’re really concerned with the cost, try searching on eBay or Amazon for the used version of the book.
On Amazon: MCAT (Barron’s Mcat)
Cracking the MCAT, by the Princeton Review
For only $63.62, Cracking the MCAT is much cheaper than purchasing the individual subject books from Princeton Review. Cracking the MCAT is also cheaper than the books of equivalent content such as Kaplan Premier.
Many of the criticisms around Cracking the MCAT include the shortage of practice questions. Most of the other publishers include 10 – 20 practice questions directly following each subject section. Cracking the MCAT only provides as many as 6.
The books by the Princeton Review, however, are known to be thorough yet hard to read. All things considered, those that wish to use a thorough guide but don’t like Kaplan Premier for what ever reason may prefer Cracking the MCAT.
- Free online access to 4 full-length practice tests
- A full-color, 16-page tear-out reference guide with all the most important formulas, diagrams, information, concepts, and charts for each section of the MCAT
On Amazon: Cracking the MCAT, 2013-2014 Edition (Graduate School Test Preparation)
On the Princeton Review Website: Cracking the MCAT, 2013-2014 Edition
Ultimately, if you get one of the MCAT study materials here, you’ll probably be satisfied with your purchase. It’s disheartening that every book isn’t available electronically. You’ll likely find the size and weight of most of them to be extremely inconvenient.
Overall, Kaplan and Examkrackers tend to be the publishers of choice. The Princeton Review is close behind them, receiving generally positive reviews from the premed student population. However, you’ll need to choose the MCAT study materials that best fit your learning style.
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