The MCAT, or the Medical College Admission Test, is without a doubt one of the most challenging (and most dreaded!) examinations you’ll ever encounter.
This test is designed to evaluate your skills in written analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving, as well as your knowledge of various scientific concepts and principles.
Working hard to prepare for this exam is smart, but it can be tough to know what the best way to study for the MCAT is and how to best spend your time. While you could always look into an MCAT review course, one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to prepare for the test is to purchase a study book. But, not all books are made alike.
How do you find the best MCAT study books for your time and money? Consider this guide.
Why You Need An MCAT Study Book
If you want to do well on the MCAT, one of the best ways to prepare is by purchasing an MCAT study book.
There are plenty of alternatives to this as you’re preparing for the test, of course. You could enroll in a test prep class or complete some study sessions online. You could also “wing it” and just complete the sample questions found on the MCAT website.
However, enrolling in a class can be expensive and time-consuming, and while online resources are helpful in familiarizing you with the content of the exam, they won’t fully prepare you for the rigors of the test.
A study book, especially when completed diligently and with attention to all of its contents, will allow you to truly succeed if you are studying and preparing on your own. It will let you structure your study sessions in a way that makes sense for your skill sets and schedule. You can study on your own terms and move as quickly or as slowly through the content as you see fit.
What To Look For In An MCAT Study Book
There are several attributes you should look for when you are trying to find the best MCAT study book.
First, consider purchasing a book from one of the country’s top test preparation brands. You’ll want to consider names like Princeton, Kaplan, and The Berkeley Review in your search. While you’ll find high-quality MCAT study books from other companies, too, these companies have a certain level of institutional knowledge that can’t be ignored.
Don’t feel like you need to buy a dozen different books or sets of books, either. Usually, one book or series is all you need to be successful. Buying multiple sets will only confuse you, as they all utilize different terminology and lingo in their instruction.
Finally, take some time to look at all of the practice questions that come with the book. Before you buy, even if you’re shopping online, you should be able to flip through the book and see what kind of (and how many) practice questions are included. The more, the better.
Best MCAT Study Books
1. KAPLAN MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review
- Quality: 5/5
- Cost: 2/5
- Comparison To Alternatives: 5/5
- Ease of Use: 5/5
Although the Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review certainly does not come cheap, it’s one of the best options you can consider in your search for the best MCAT study books. In fact, Kaplan is a leading test prep organization, so you really can’t go wrong when you go with this brand.
The books are loaded with all the information you need to ace the MCAT and none of the fluff that is just a waste of your time. You’ll not only get access to several practice and strategy sections, but you’ll receive helpful studying tips, too. There are seven subject-specific books included in this set, with practice problems included for each:
- Behavior Sciences
- General Chemistry
- Physics and Math
- Organic Chemistry
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
As you move through each section, you’ll get in-depth training in all of the topics that are most likely to appear on the test. The content is aligned with MCAT expectations and backed by one of the most credible companies you will find. It presents information in a visual way, which is something you won't always find with test prep books.
It also includes a 24-page booklet that you can separate and take with you for studying on the go, like during your commute.Click Here for the Best Price
2. Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete 7 Book Set
- Quality: 5/5
- Cost: 1/5
- Comparison To Alternatives: 4/5
- Ease of Use: 5/5
Princeton Review is another reputable brand to consider in your search for an MCAT study book. This in-depth, comprehensive guide includes all the books you need to properly prepare you for the exam.
Again, it’s not a set of books that comes cheap, but you won’t have to go out and buy all of these sections separately. It’s quite similar to the Kaplan study set in that you’ll get access to seven books (with similar section breakdowns) along with full-color illustrations and full-length practice tests. As another nice feature, each chapter culminates with a helpful recap quiz.
The major benefit of this study set is that everything is discussed very thoroughly and in an in-depth fashion. You won’t have to worry about feeling like any of the topics have been “skimmed” over - you’ll learn everything you need to know to crush the MCAT.Click Here for the Best Price
3. Sterling Test Prep MCAT
- Quality: 4/5
- Cost: 5/5
- Comparison To Alternatives: 3/5
- Ease of Use: 1/5
When you search for Sterling Test Prep materials, you’ll find that each study book is broken down into individual subjects rather than combined into one holistic study set. For some people, that can be incredibly annoying - but if you’re trying to master the content in just one section of the MCAT, it can save you a ton of money.
For example, if you know you’re going to ace the chemistry section but have been struggling with physics, you can buy just the physics workbook and skip the chemistry section altogether. You’ll save both money, as we mentioned, as well as time, as you won’t be studying information that you already know.Click Here for the Best Price
4. Examkrackers MCAT Complete Package
- Quality: 4/5
- Cost: 3/5
- Comparison To Alternatives: 2/5
- Ease of Use: 4/5
The name of this MCAT study book is a bit hokey, but believe it or not, it’s still one of the top MCAT study books you can buy. There are several editions of this package on the market - always go with the most recent to make sure what you are studying is consistent with what will be on the exam.
It’s much more affordable than the Princeton and Kaplan review books yet offers many of the same features and benefits. It’s not quite as information-dense but still presents much of the information in a visually-appealing and understandable way. In each chapter, you’ll find three or four quizzes scattered throughout to help you learn. There are also larger practice tests at the end.Click Here for the Best Price
5. Kaplan MCAT Flashcards
- Quality: 3/5
- Cost: 4/5
- Comparison To Alternatives: 1/5
- Ease of Use: 5/5
You probably already know just how helpful flashcards can be in helping you to prepare for an exam! Although they might seem a bit elementary at times, using flashcards is a great way to help you study on the go and to memorize vital information that you will need for a test.
There are all kinds of companies that have released flashcards specifically for use in preparing for the MCAT, but these flashcards by Kaplan are some of the best. Again, Kaplan is one of the most well-known brands when it comes to test prep, so you can rely on the information that is presented on the cards.
With exactly 1000 flashcards to review, you don’t have to worry about running out of material any time soon. They aren’t as in-depth as the other study materials reviewed in this guide. That has to do primarily with the fact that it’s pretty much impossible to fit all the necessary information on one tiny flashcard. Instead, these cards are better for memorizing quick chunks of information and studying on the go.
The best way to study with this study resource? Go through the flashcards and as you do, take notes of which information you know you want to keep track of or review again. You can add your own notes and graphs as you go along, too.Click Here for the Best Price
Conclusion: Studying For The MCAT With A Study Book
Ultimately, the most important thing you can do when searching for an MCAT study book has less to do with selecting the book, but what you do with it when you receive it.
Sure, you might think you can get more bang for your buck by purchasing five or six different books and blazing through them as quickly as possible. However, you’ll be better served by purchasing just one and dedicating some serious time to studying its contents.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find the perfect book. Instead, consider these options, and dedicate the next few months to acing the content. You’ll find yourself as a student in medical school in no time!