The Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, is a necessity for any prospective medical student. Developed and administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) it provides schools with an easily comparable measure for applicants’ abilities and readiness.
As a gruelling 7+ hour exam covering everything from biological and biochemical foundations of living systems to critical analysis and reasoning, preparing for the MCAT involves more than just reading any material you can lay your hands on. But we’re assuming you knew that already!
MCAT study books need to be comprehensive, current, easy to absorb and fit your style of learning. Some people learn best with images and diagrams, others with quick flashcards or practical explanations… so think carefully about what you need.
To help you make the right decision, we’ve compiled our list of the ultimate MCAT study materials. With summaries of each publication as well as in-depth pros and cons, if you’re looking for the best MCAT preparation books, look no further.
Let’s get started…
6 best MCAT prep books
Quite frankly, if you’re searching for the best MCAT test preparation books in 2021 – you can’t go too far wrong with Kaplan.
Kaplan MCAT books are popular for a reason. They’re number one on this list because no other subject reviews match up to their level of detail.
Content is broken down into easily digestible chapters with plenty of charts, graphs, concept-checks and 3-D illustrations to aid study.
With a year’s access to three full-length online tests, quizzes and questions – you’ve got ample opportunity to practice for the real thing.
- The most detailed and comprehensive MCAT preparation books available.
- Online portal with practice tests and quizzes.
- Chapter summaries and concept checks to reinforce learning.
- Whilst they are comprehensive – Kaplan MCAT books are expensive.
- The level of detail can be problematic if you’ve left things a little late.
- Limited updates between new editions.
As another established and respected publisher, Princeton Review is a solid bet for MCAT study materials.
Like Kaplan MCAT books, this complete set comes with seven individual books and three online practice tests, including tried and tested strategies for increasing your score.
What’s more, Princeton Review books are written by real teachers with just a pinch of humour (and some high-quality graphics) thrown in. Trust us, when you’re deep into the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems – this helps!
- In-depth coverage of key principles and information.
- Good value for money, written with personality.
- Online practice tests and thousands of practice questions.
- Practice tests can be more difficult than the real thing.
- Some content sections are more detailed than others.
- Too much in-depth information can slow-down learning.
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If you’re looking for a combination of affordability and quality content – then Barron’s Test Prep might just win the award for the best MCAT test preparation books in 2021.
The level of detail is more than sufficient to study topics with confidence, and it also offers 39 online passages and four practice tests which near-exactly mirror the real thing.
With added materials covering test-taking anxiety and critical strategies, it’s a great choice for anyone suffering from exam-day nerves.
- A budget-friendly, yet comprehensive option.
- Advice on anxiety, exam-pacing and problem solving.
- Can be paired with Barron flashcards to reinforce learning.
- Some practice questions can be confusingly worded.
- Information is concise and easy to learn, but feels sparse at times.
- General reviews are more common than detailed explanations.
The AAMC prep book stands out amongst the other MCAT study books on this list because, well, it’s the AAMC official guide!
Given it’s developed by the people actually administering the test, you can expect realistic questions and expert overviews.
Whilst you will get a clear idea of what you’ll be facing, the content can be a little dry and high-level.
Consequently, this guide would work well alongside in-depth reviews (such as Kaplan or Princeton) as a complimentary preparation aid.
- 120 authentic practice questions.
- Advice on scoring and exam insights.
- Created directly by the AAMC.
- No online access to practice questions.
- Limited in-depth reviews of subject material.
- No full-length practice exams.
Like Barron’s Test Prep, this is one of the more affordable MCAT preparation books.
It covers every topic you need and is updated each year – so you know you’re working with the very latest MCAT study material.
Test Prep Books provide practice questions, exercises, well-organised review material as well as detailed explanations of answers.
So if you’re a learner that needs to understand the why as well as the what (and who doesn’t!?), it’s a fantastic option.
- Easy to digest content and key takeaways for each section.
- Detailed explanations for every question/answer.
- Printed practice questions with straightforward reviews.
- Practice questions can be relatively easy.
- Additional information about the actual exam would be useful.
- Material could be more detailed for those needing extra help.
In this guide to the best MCAT preparation books, we’d be remiss not to mention Examkrackers.
Whilst some students have criticised these books for being overly detailed – they are still great guides not just to the content, but also exam and revision strategies.
If test-taking is something that worries you, Examkrackers can really help.
The complete Examkrackers MCAT study books set offers full review of all the topics, with each section boasting clear graphics and diagrams, as well as practice questions. Two mini-exams in real MCAT format are also included.
- Deep understanding of concepts with cross-discipline application.
- Plenty of practice questions and two mini-tests.
- Genuinely useful test-taking and revision strategies.
- Information can be patchy (too much or too little) at times.
- Limited updates with new editions.
- Additional review material may be required.
For anyone preparing for the MCAT exam, we wish you the very best of luck. With the right MCAT study books for you, you’ll be off to the best possible start.
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