6 Best MCAT Prep Books & Free Resources [September 2022]

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-medical 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 preparation 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.

6 best MCAT prep books

  • The Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete Box Set
  • Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review
  • Kaplan MCAT Self-Study Toolkit
  • Mometrix MCAT Prep Book
  • Kaplan MCAT 528 Advanced Prep
  • AAMC Official Guide to the MCAT Exam

The gold-standard study book sets used for MCAT preparation are The Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete Box Set (3rd Edition) and its close competitor the Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review (2023-2024 edition).

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 the Kaplan set dominate the MCAT prep book market.

The quality of these book sets is difficult to match and there are not many competitors. Your classmates are probably using either the Princeton Review set, the Kaplan set, or both.

The Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete Box Set (3rd Edition)

The Princeton Review set is well-organized, covers the vast majority of exam content at a high level of detail, and presents information with an easy-to-understand narrative.

Consisting of seven detailed books, each dedicated to a sub-topic (such as general chemistry, biology and biochemistry, and critical analysis and reasoning), and three practice exams, the set carries a high level of value for its price.

You are likely to find it helpful as a “one stop” review source for MCAT prep. Consider reading each book in the set cover-to-cover and be prepared to double back and review topics in which you lack confidence.

Pros:

  • Sufficiently detailed for self-study
  • Three full-length practice exams with explanations
  • Balances content and cost well (high value)

Cons:

  • Practice tests may be more challenging than the actual MCAT
  • High level of detail can slow-down learning
  • Bulky and relatively costly

“Excellent content review with challenging MCAT questions at the end of chapters. Only concern is that some of the questions are too difficult and sometimes require additional information that was not covered in the corresponding chapter.”

A review of The Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete Box Set by a user on Amazon.

Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review (2023-2024 Edition)

The Kaplan MCAT book set is in many ways similar to The Princeton Review set. It also consists of seven subject-specific books and three online practice tests with explanations.

A unique feature of the set is that each book can be purchased individually, if desired. If you need particular help reviewing organic chemistry but have the CARS section covered, why should you spend so much more money to purchase the entire set?

Pros:

  • Well-designed both content-wise and in terms of physical size
  • New edition published each year (though the magnitude of changes is arguable)
  • Detailed with engaging graphics
  • Each book can be purchased individually

Cons:

  • Costly and physically bulky
  • Question bank access limited to one year
  • More condensed than some learners would prefer

“Taking the MCAT soon. Pretty good books here. The information is way more condensed than the Princeton Review books.”

Review of the Kaplan MCAT 7-book set by a user on Amazon.

“Bought this for my daughter who is studying for the MCAT. It’s everything you need in order to study. The books seem to be of good quality.”

Review of the Kaplan MCAT 7-book set by a user on Amazon.

If you are trying to decide between The Princeton Review set and the Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review, consider reading more of the reviews on Amazon.

Choosing between textbooks is often a matter of personal preference, and some students prefer one over the other based on features not directly related to the content.

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. The Princeton Review set is slightly less expensive than the Kaplan MCAT book set.

However, a new edition of the Kaplan set is published each year, while The Princeton Review set is updated less frequently.

Kaplan MCAT Self-Study Toolkit

In addition to their 7-book book set, Kaplan offers a more comprehensive MCAT study package, the MCAT Self-Study Toolkit (2023-2024 edition), which includes not only the 7-book Subject Review set but also 6 practice tests and an adaptive 3000-question practice bank.

The Kaplan MCAT Self-Study Toolkit is considerably more expensive than the 7-book set alone, but provides additional value in the form of extra 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).

If you need extra practice questions and have the extra money on-hand, it is probably worthwhile to purchase the Self-Study toolkit instead of the 7-book set alone. If time before exam day is your most limited resource, then you should re-consider this option.

The components of the Self-Study toolkit 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.

Pros:

  • Perhaps the most comprehensive self-study MCAT toolkit available
  • Many hours of content review and practice for drilling concepts
  • Additional value beyond the Kaplan 7-book set

Cons:

  • More expensive than other book options (but not courses)

“Covers a lot of information.”

Review of the Kaplan MCAT Self-Study Toolkit by a user on Amazon.

Do not use prep books as your primary means of learning exam material. It is far better to take a university course and enhance your knowledge with prep books and questions banks than to rely on either of these resources alone.

If you haven’t taken all of the relevant coursework 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.

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.

Mometrix MCAT Prep Book (2022-2023)

Though much shorter than the Princeton Review and Kaplan sets, Mometrix’s MCAT Prep Book (2022-2023) is a solid but lesser-known alternative. Only a single book, the Mometrix book follows the AAMC outline and can be helpful to individuals strapped for time.

The book is more condensed than the larger review sets. Content is thoughtfully-presented, focusing on high-yield material for exam day without dedicating much space to less-relevant concepts.

“Step-by-step” video tutorials are useful for clarifying points of weakness. Like the Kaplan and Princeton Review book sets, the Mometrix book contains practice questions and advice for exam day.

Perhaps one of the greatest drawbacks of the book is that the illustrations are presented in black-and-white instead of color. As well, some readers may find it to be less-detailed than necessary for comprehensive MCAT review.

Pros:

  • Condensed and high-yield for students with limited time
  • Less expensive than the more comprehensive multi-book sets
  • Step-by-step video tutorials for challenging concepts

Cons:

  • Black-and-white illustrations (instead of full color)
  • Less detailed than some students may prefer
  • Practice test is shorter than the real MCAT

“This book is very clear, concise and even has video learning aspect to help reinforce material. It’s definitely a great addition to your MCAT studying routine.”

Review of the Mometrix MCAT Prep Book by a user on Amazon.

Kaplan MCAT 528 Advanced Prep (2023-2024)

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 book sets in favor of a rapid overview of MCAT material accompanied by 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.

Pros:

  • Concise review for students with limited time
  • Numerous high-quality practice questions for a relatively lesser price
  • Unique test-day advice for advanced learners

Cons:

  • Does not provide a thorough overview of exam content
  • Kaplan’s strategies are useful to some students but not everyone
  • Most of the practice questions are in the accompanying online resource and not the book itself

“Overall, this book can be used for a very surface-level summary of the material before you dive into the content review more thoroughly, or for a brief overview of the material after you’ve already done your studying. If you’re looking for thorough content review, this probably isn’t the best review book for you.”

Review of the Kaplan MCAT 528 Advanced Prep book by a user on Amazon.

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.

Opinions regarding the Kaplan MCAT flashcard set are mixed, so be sure to check out some of the reviews before purchasing a set.

Some students find that the flashcards are more concise, high-yield, and easier to use than books for content review. Other students find the flashcards too cursory, flimsy, and devoid of imagery that could be more helpful than written descriptions.

“I loved this for my MCAT prep, honestly used them more than the book because they were so convenient and easily re-inforced major concepts. Small but mighty. The app grants you access if you have bought the set using a verification process of a randomly chosen word from the deck. Wonderful study tool! I also got accepted into medical school, so they definitely worked for me!”

Review of the Kaplan MCAT Flashcards by a user on Amazon.

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.

AAMC Official Guide to the MCAT Exam (Fifth Edition)

Finally, the AAMC Official Guide to the MCAT Exam is perhaps one of the most useful resources for anyone preparing for the MCAT. It is not a prep book but a source of guidance on how to prepare for the exam, how it is scored, and which content is covered.

The book offers 120 authentic practice questions and insight by the authors of the exam itself (the most authoritative source available, the American Association of Medical Colleges).

In addition to this Official Guide, the AAMC has other resources for exam preparation including practice exams which mirror the actual test better than external sources.

Pros:

  • Written by the authors of the MCAT
  • 120 practice questions similar to those on the real exam
  • Helpful advice and insight for test day

Cons:

  • Limited utility for content review
  • No access to online resources or full-length practice tests
  • Kindle version may have poorer formatting than the print version

“I bought this book and locked myself in the library to read it in one sitting. When I finished it I was able to create my own study plan. It explains the MCAT thoroughly so that you know exactly what to expect and how you will be tested. It is also very useful because it has many questions for each section (3 sets of questions per section so it’s like you are getting 3 full-length exams) which I am planning to take once my exam date approaches.”

Review of the AAMC Official Guide to the MCAT Exam by a user on Amazon.

Free Resources for MCAT Preparation

Before investing money in a book set, course, or other prep tool, first examine free learning resources to find out whether they might fulfill at least a few of your needs.

Khan Academy offers a free MCAT prep course with the support of the AAMC. The course consists of fourteen modules.

Ten are dedicated lecture series on foundational concepts from biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology. Four consist of practice questions relevant to each section of the exam.

Anki, a computer-based flashcard system that supports long-term retention, has numerous MCAT flashcard decks available for free on its website.

Among other companies, Kaplan and The Princeton Review each offer a free scored full-length practice MCAT.

For a comprehensive overview of free MCAT prep resources, consider checking out this list (of over 85) put together by the Office of Academic Advising at Rice University.

We wish you the very best with your mission to master the MCAT. Use MCAT prep books as only one tool in your arsenal and be prepared to transition between resources if you find that they are not supporting your learning to your satisfaction.

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.

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