The MCAT is one of the most challenging graduate school admission exams. It is lengthy, rigorous, and covers a relatively immense amount of information. For many pre-med students, preparing for the exam is a full-time endeavor and takes weeks or even months of dedicated studying. Fortunately, there are a number of useful MCAT prep books available on the market that make the process of learning and mastering exam content a more straightforward process. We’ve provided an overview of the best MCAT prep books and other resources for anyone preparing to take the MCAT exam. Our team may earn a small commission from purchases made using the below links at no additional cost to you.
- The Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete Box Set
- Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review
- Mometrix MCAT Prep Books
- Kaplan MCAT 528 Advanced Prep
- MCAT Verbal Practice: 108 Passages for the New CARS Section
- Kaplan MCAT Flashcards
- AAMC Official Guide to the MCAT Exam
The Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete Box Set is one of the gold-standard sets of study books used for MCAT preparation. Perhaps due to the complexity and quantity of exam content, or maybe simply because they are difficult to one-up, The Princeton Review set and its close competitor, the Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review, dominate the MCAT prep book market. There are not many competitors. Your classmates are probably using either the Princeton Review set, the Kaplan set, or both.
The Princeton Review set is well-organized, covers the vast majority of exam content in sufficient detail, and presents information with an easy-to-understand narrative. You are likely to find it helpful. Consider reading each book in the set cover-to-cover and be prepared to double back and review topics in which you lack confidence. The path to a 528 involves reviewing the vast majority of content repeatedly until it is mastered. As you take practice tests, carefully evaluate the questions you felt unsure about or answered incorrectly and use the prep books as tools for reviewing relevant concepts.
However, do not use prep books as your primary means of learning exam material. It is far better to take a physics course and enhance your knowledge with the prep book than to rely on the prep book alone. If you haven’t taken all of the relevant courses prior to exam day, don’t worry, you are not alone. Consider using Khan Academy, a free resource, to cover material that you missed out on at university. Even if you’ve taken all of the requisite classes, you are likely to find Khan’s videos useful for reviewing MCAT material.
If you are trying to decide between The Princeton Review set and the Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review, consider reading the reviews on Amazon. Choosing between textbooks is often a matter of personal preference, and some students prefer one over the other. While some individuals find The Princeton Review’s writing style more palatable, Kaplan’s books are thinner, sleeker, denser, and come with useful “quick review” study sheets. Both books are replete with the necessary information, informative illustrations, and practice questions.
In addition to their 7-book book set, Kaplan offers a more comprehensive MCAT study package, the MCAT Self-Study Toolkit, which includes not only the 7-book Subject Review set but also 6 practice tests and an adaptive question bank. The components are akin to the question bank and practice tests offered by the AAMC. Use the official AAMC practice tests and Q-bank first and then, if you have the time, further advance your preparedness with the Kaplan study materials.
The Kaplan MCAT Self-Study Toolkit is considerably more expensive than the 7-book set alone, but provides additional value in the form of study materials that some students find helpful. It is a “self-study” toolkit for students that are unable to take an MCAT Prep Course (which can be rather expensive and difficult to schedule).
Though much shorter than the Princeton Review and Kaplan sets, Mometrix’s MCAT Prep Book can get the job done. Only a single book, the Mometrix book follows the AAMC outline and can be helpful to individuals strapped for time. The book is accompanied by “step-by-step” video tutorials and, like the other sets, contains practice questions and advice for exam day.
Students that have already mastered MCAT exam content and that are looking to take their test score “to the next level” should consider using the Kaplan MCAT 528 Advanced Prep book. The book provides a superficial overview of exam content, sacrificing the depth of one of the MCAT prep sets in favor of a rapid overview of MCAT material and also provides numerous practice questions with explanations. Some students find the authors’ strategies for exam day helpful, while others find them to be a “one-size-fits-all” approach that fails to account for differences between students.
Out of the four sections of the MCAT exam, the CARS section is perhaps the most challenging. Since prior knowledge is not required for this part of the test (it involves only reading and interpreting written passages), some students believe that preparation is not necessary or greatly under-estimate the amount of preparation required to perform well. Don’t make this mistake. On test day, you need to have a thoroughly-practiced strategy for rapidly reading passages, identifying important concepts, drawing conclusions, and correctly interpreting and answering questions that are often written to trick you.
To this end, it is prudent to approach the CARS section in two stages: (1) developing an effective strategy and (2) practicing that strategy until you are consistently achieving your target score. It needs to be driven into your sub-conscious (e.g. by the time that you take the MCAT, you should be acing CARS sections while you sleep). The Kaplan and Princeton Review books provide some insight into test-day strategies, and in addition, there is abundant advice on Student Doctor Network and the Pre-Med sub-reddit.
If you have exhausted the practice exams and question banks developed by the AAMC and other large test prep companies, consider using NextStep MCAT’s MCAT Verbal Practice: 108 Passages for the New CARS Section. The book provides numerous practice passages and questions for students that are looking for extra practice. This is a solid resource for gaining depth and breadth of exposure that will support your performance on test day. Some students find the passages and questions in the book to be considerably harder than those on the actual test. In my opinion, this is a strength of the book and could lead to over-preparation (a good thing). However, some of the answers in the book have been described as vague or ambiguous, and to this end other students have used Exam Krackers 101 CARS Passages instead.
Though not a prep book, a good set of flashcards are useful for committing the immense amount of test material to memory. The Kaplan MCAT flashcards provide a reasonable overview of the content of each section of the exam and cover a great deal of information. Some students find that the flashcards are too cursory and should include more imagery instead of providing written descriptions of certain information. You could also consider using one of the MCAT decks available on Anki, a free flash card software. Anki is used widely among students in medical school and is also helpful for pre-medical students preparing for the MCAT.
Finally, the AAMC Official Guide to the MCAT Exam is useful to anyone preparing for the MCAT. It is not a prep book but provides guidance on how to prepare for the exam, how it is scored, and which content is covered. The AAMC also offers other resources for exam prep, including practice exams which mirror the actual test better than external sources.
Follow a study plan, stay disciplined, and be prepared to grow as a student and a person. Medicine is a profession that demands immense dedication, and the MCAT is only the first of many exams on your journey into the clinic.
Trying to find the best textbook for your coursework? Consider checking out our other book reviews.