The Best MCAT Prep Courses and Books

What is the best way to study for the MCAT? Between live and online courses, books and audio prep the choices can feel overwhelming. While I used a combination of Examkracker’s books and practice questions there are many other ways to successfully study for the MCAT. I decided to do a little digging to find out which courses and books are used most by students who aced the MCAT.

Student Doctor Net (SDN) has a forum thread that has been going on since 2007 titled “30+ MCAT Study Habits- The CBT Version”. While you could spend hours reading through each student’s strategy, I decided to condense things down.

On each page I did a word search for the popular ways to study for the MCAT including Kaplan, The Princeton Review, Examkrackers and The Berkley Review. My thought is that word mentions would roughly correlate with the popularity of each method.


The MCAT prep course most often discussed by students who had scored a 30 or higher on the MCAT was Kaplan with 2621 hits.

The second most popular course was The Princeton Review with 1649 hits.

Analyzing data for the most popular books was difficult for several reasons. The term “EK” is used to refer to Examkracker’s, however in the word search any word with the letters EK will be picked up. Therefore the 3715 hits for “EK” is not an accurate number. It was clear just by browsing the thread however that the Examkracker’s books were a popular choice.

It is worth noting that the most popular Examkracker’s books are six years old and there are very few reviews for the latest edition. Another popular Examkracker’s item is their MCAT Audio Osmosis CDs.

Speaking of data, the Kaplan MCAT Review Complete 5-Book Subject Review has a great 4.5 star rating on Amazon and could be another helpful choice for self-study.

The other books that started gaining popularity over recent years are The Berkeley Review. They were mentioned 318 times in the last year. The books are hard to get a hold of on Amazon but you can also find them on their website. They also seem to have prep courses in California.

Prep Course Options

If you decide a full prep course is for you both Kaplan and the Princeton Review have several options. These are expensive but for some people are the right choice.

Through Kaplan you can do:

Through the Princeton Review you can do:

I hope this post has been helpful. The MCAT can be daunting and some help preparing can go a long way. If you decide to self-study don’t forget to make a study schedule and use practice exams. Good luck in your journey to medical school!

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Tips for the Third Year of Medical School

Forget what you know about 4927466850_53ce280aa5medical school, the third year is a completely different animal. On top of being able to absorb a large amount of information, third year will test your ability to adapt to new environments, communicate effectively and work well with others. What follows is a list of tips I think will help you thrive during the third year.

1. Be Flexible

It’s number one because it is probably the most important. You will likely be changing clinical sites every 2-4 weeks. This means learning a new system, interacting with new people and having different expectations. This is probably the most difficult part of third year. You begin to become comfortable and then you are shipped off to a new place. Roll with it, get used to introducing yourself to new people and smile.

2. Practice Empathy – For Everyone

I see empathy as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Obviously this is useful when interacting with patients, but have you thought about being empathetic towards your residents, your attending, the nurses or your fellow students? For each of these people I asked myself, how can I make things a little easier for them? I found trying to think about things from my resident’s perspective allowed me to be a more helpful and involved medical student.

3. Put Away the Smartphone

I know there are incredibly helpful resources available online and through smartphone apps. But in general I think it is better to keep the smartphone in your pocket. You may think you are being discreet but people can tell when you are looking at it and even if you are looking up something relevant it still looks bad. More importantly it is a temptation that allows us to be easily disengaged from what is going on around us.

4. Read about your Patients and their Diagnoses

Everyone will say this because it is true- it’s the best way to learn. Things stick better when you can attach them to a real person. Countless questions I have answered on exams thinking back to clinical experiences I had with patients. It also allows you to ask relevant questions to your attendings and residents. You can say something like “I was reading about this, can you clarify something for me?”

5. Expand your Reading Beyond UptoDate

UptoDate is a useful and simple to use resource. If you want to go a little deeper, nothing beats finding relevant journal articles. I have found very helpful articles by searching Pubmed and specifying “Review” under article types on the left side.

6. Emulate the Best

You will have the privilege of working with and observing many physicians during your third year. Carefully observe the attendings and residents you respect the most and incorporate what they do into your own practice. What phrases do they use when they talk with patients? How do they talk with each other? What physical exam tricks do they use?

7. Adopt a “Craftsman” Approach

I highly recommend Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. In it he advocates for a craftsman’s approach to all kinds of work. Essentially that means identifying skills and then constantly practicing and improving those skills. This can easily translate to medicine. Taking a history is a skill. Physical exam. Suturing. Communication with others. All these are skills that can be practiced and improved upon. Find areas you know you need improvement on and actively seek out opportunities to practice.

8. Relax

I hope I haven’t seemed too intense with these tips. Being perfect all the time is impossible. You have the freedom to make mistakes. Ultimately, if you show up and are eager to learn and participate third year will go great for you.

That’s all I’ve got for now, I hope these are helpful. What tips have you found to be useful during the clinical years?

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