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.

Results

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!

Affiliate links are present in this post.

10 Great MCAT Study Tips

Are you using the summer to study for the MCAT? Here are 10 MCAT study tips to make things easier:

  1. Start early. 3-6 months is what most people need to study for the MCAT, depending on the amount you plan to study each week.
  2. Have a plan. Make a study schedule and stick to it.
  3. Take practice tests. The best MCAT practice tests are from the AAMC, including one for free. Kaplan and Princeton Review each have free practice tests. I also checked out practice tests from the library, although these are not electronic obviously.
  4. Itentify weak areas and focus on those. The practice tests will give you an idea of what you need to work on. Focus on studying in the areas where you are weak until you see your scores in those areas improve.
  5. Limit study sessions to two hours. As Cal Newport at Study Hacks notes, your productivity drops dramatically after two hours. If you want to study four hours a day, have one session in the morning, take a nice break and relax, and then have the next session in the evening.
  6. Practice problems and reading sets. Much of the physical sciences is doing simple calculations. The only way to study for the verbal section is to practice. Check out these books for practice problems:
  7. Examkrackers MCAT101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning

    Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT in Physics

    Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry

    Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT, Organic Chemistry

  8. Quiz yourself. Some parts of the MCAT are basic memorization. Cover up formulas with a piece of paper and practice writing them or saying them out loud.
  9. Check out forums for FAQs about the MCAT. The MCAT forums at SDN are active.
  10. Rise early as the test approaches. Most test times for the MCAT are at 8:00AM. The week before the test wake up at the time you would plan to on the day of the test. Take practice tests starting at 8:00AM.
  11. Stay healthy. Eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep leading up to the MCAT. The last thing you need is to be battling both the MCAT and a nasty cold or flu.

Hope these tips are  helpful. Good luck studying for the MCAT! If you need to get some study materials, check out my review of the ExamKrackers MCAT Complete Study Package.

MCAT Examkrackers Complete Study Package: A Med Student’s Review

Are you considering the Examkrackers MCAT Complete Study Package? Read my review first!Examkrackers complete package

The MCAT can make or break your medical school application. Choosing how to study for the MCAT is important and should be considered carefully. There are basically two options:

I knew I could study well on my own. After exploring pre med forums, it was clear that the Examkrackers books were the most popular option among successful MCAT test takers. What follows is a brief review of the MCAT Examkrackers Complete Study Package.

Pros

  • Comprehensive. The Examkrackers books cover Biology, Organic Chemistry, Chemistry, Physics, and Verbal Reasoning in great detail. The necessary formulas to memorize are clearly displayed. All the material is relevant to what you may encounter on the MCAT.
  • Easy to Understand. The books are written in plain English with a light-hearted tone, tossing in cheesy jokes without compromising the material.
  • Colorful. You´d be surprised how this makes studying the books more attractive.
  • Great Practice Questions. Practice questions are key to mastering the MCAT.

Cons

  • Writing section. The preparation for the writing section is weak and downplays it´s importance. I took this advice and scored poorly on the writing section.

Conclusion

I loved the Examkrackers Complete Study Package and was very pleased with my score of 32 on the MCAT. Click here to check out the Examkrackers Books at Amazon. It is well worth the investment.

Click Here!

Also check out these other titles from Examkrackers:
Examkrackers MCAT101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning

Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT in Physics

Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry

Examkrackers: 1001 Questions in MCAT, Organic Chemistry

Affiliate links are present in this post.

MCAT 2010 Registration is OPEN

If you’re on top of things and want to register for the MCAT now’s the time.

Click here to register for the 2010 MCAT.

I personally chose to take the MCAT in January and it worked well. I had no stress deciding whether to apply to schools or not waiting for my score. Read more about my experience and find some MCAT tips.

Some more MCAT links.

Will you be registering for the exam? If so, what is your biggest fear regarding the MCAT?

2010 MCAT Test Dates: Updated

 Here are the upcoming 2010 MCAT test dates. The last date to take the MCAT in 2009 was September 12th.

January 29th at 8 a.m.
January 30th at 1 p.m.
March 27th at 1 p.m.
April 10th at 1 p.m.
April 17th at 8 a.m.
April 23rd at 8 a.m.
May 1st at 8 a.m.
May 21st at 8 a.m.
May 22nd at 1 p.m.
May 27th at 1 p.m.
June 27th at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
July 8th at 8 a.m.
July 16th at 8 a.m.
July 29th at 1 p.m.
July 30th at 8 a.m.
August 4th at 8 a.m.
August 5th at 1 p.m.
August 12th at 8 a.m.
August 13th at 1 p.m.
August 19th at 8 a.m.
August 20th at 1 p.m.
August 24th at 1 p.m.
September 2nd at 8 a.m.
September 3rd at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
September 9th at 8 a.m.
September 11th at 1 p.m.

Note: Registration for the 2010 MCAT will probably begin  November 2nd.  Click here for complete schedule and registration dates.

I took the MCAT in Janurary this year and it was great to know my score before making the decision to apply. I recommend doing the same.

For more help check out my basic MCAT overview and MCAT links page.

My MCAT Strategy- Part 1

I took the MCAT Jan 31st, and am very happy with the 32 I received. Now that I have a good score back I feel comfortable sharing the methods I used to achieve that score. 936394705_3de472288a_b

(New to the MCAT? Check out my basic MCAT overview)

Let me preface this by admitting that I did not study as much as I could have. I say this not to sound arrogant, but rather to give you hope that it is possible to score well without sacrificing your entire life for 6 months. It still takes a lot of hard work, but don’t dread studying for the MCAT thinking that it will take over your life.

That said, here are a couple tips and strategies that I found useful.

Take as many Biology, Chemistry and Physics classes as possible before taking the test.

Because I decided to take time off before medical school, I finished a degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry before taking the MCAT. This helped immensely. Biology classes hammer home the basic concepts (even if it’s just a quick review in the advanced courses), which is what you really need to know for the MCAT. I struggled the most with the Physical sciences section, which directly corresponded to the amount of General Physics and Chemistry classes I had taken.

Practice Tests. Start taking them early and take as many as possible.

I took two practice MCAT exams early on in my studying (5 months and 3 months before the test) to identify weak areas. Then I studied those weak areas and did a quick overview. With about 3 weeks til the test I started taking practice tests more often. Again I identified the weak areas and focused my studying there.

While practice tests are useful for identifying weak areas to study they are most useful to give you an idea of the pace of the real test. You need to know about how much time you can spend on each passage.

I found some practice tests from the local library, but the most useful are the tests you can by directly from the AAMC. Click here to access these tests. Be ready to drop $35 per test. Lame, I know.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my MCAT strategy. I’ll give some more tips and talk about the types of preparation material I used.

(Source pic)

The Basic MCAT Overview

One of the most feared stepping stones in the journey to medical school is the Medical College Admission Test or MCAT. Fear is often of the unknown, and I know that the MCAT is a huge unknown for many pre-med students. Don’t be afraid! Here is a brief, hopefully useful basic overview of what the MCAT is all about.

What is the MCAT?

The MCAT is a test administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges. You must take the MCAT to complete an application to any medical school in the United States.

What does the MCAT test?

The MCAT focuses on basic science principles from Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Organic chemistry. It also tests reading comprehension through the Verbal Reasoning section as well as basic writing skills.

How is the MCAT organized?

The test is divided into four major sections:
1. Physical Sciences. This focuses on Physics and Chemistry. It is 70 minutes long.
2. Verbal Reasoning. This section features 7 reading passages, each with questions about that particular passage.
3. Writing. Here you write 2 essays with 30 minutes to write each one. There is no break in between, so it lasts 60 minutes.
4. Biological Sciences. This section tests mostly biology concepts with some organic chemistry thrown in. It is 70 minutes long.
Between each of these four sections is a 10 minute break.

When should I take the MCAT?

That depends on a variety of factors. Most important is when you want to go to medical school. The AAMC recommends taking the MCAT the year you want to apply. If you want to start the application process in 2009, you should take the MCAT some time in 2009. However, many schools will accept scores from 2-3 years back.

I think the best answer to the question is this: you should take the MCAT when you’re ready to! If you’re in school and don’t feel like studying for the MCAT is a possibility, wait for the summertime or when you’re no longer in school.

Important MCAT Links:
The AAMC MCAT site: http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/

Studentdoctor.net MCAT discussion:

 http://forums.studentdoctor.net/forumdisplay.php?f=31

2009 MCAT Schedule: http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/mcatschedule.htm

Do you have any other questions about the MCAT?

Waiting for MCAT Scores

This is driving me nuts.

I took the MCAT Jan 31st. Everything that I read said that within 30 days I would receive the scores. I’m thinking that March 2nd sounds reasonable, as there are 28 days in Feb, then March 1st, and then March 2nd. That’s 30 right?

Apparently not. So I find the 2009 Deadline and Score Release Schedule, and they say the tentative release date is March 3rd. I can deal with that. Of course they underline tentative, making it clear that it could be another date.

AAAGGGHH.

Ok. I’m good. I just needed to rant for a bit.

All in all I’m not that stressed out. I’m just looking forward to seeing the scores. Soon.

Anyone else waiting?

The MCAT is Over!

Wahoo!

I took the MCAT today. Crossing my fingers that I never have to take it again. I feel great, like a huge weight has been lifted. I’m still apprehensive about the score, but at least it is done!

I was scoring between 30-32 on the practice exams, and I had similiar feelings about the actual test, so I’m hoping that’s where my score will be.

I came home to relax, and I layed in bed reading some digg.com. Lo and behold I come across this lovely article – Study: Medical Students More Depressed Than General Population.

So if I actually get in, I’ll be twice as likely to be depressed! That was a nice way to be greeted after taking the MCAT. : )

If you took the MCAT either of the last two days, I hope it went well. If you’re planning on taking it in the future, I’ll be posting some study tips that I found helpful soon.

I’m looking forward to writing on a more regular basis. Take care fellow journeyers!