If you’ve looked into how to get into medical school, then you already know you need to take the MCAT, short for Medical College Admission Test. The MCAT is a difficult and time–consuming exam that you can prepare for using the best MCAT prep books. The majority of students spend several months studying for the MCAT.
MCAT prep resources give a comprehensive review of MCAT content, test-taking strategies, full-length practice tests, practice questions, and detailed answer explanations. Some include an expert study plan with study tips. In this article, we’ll share the best MCAT prep books, free MCAT prep books, and study resources for students preparing to take the MCAT.
Should I Take the MCAT?
If you want to go to medical school, you should take the MCAT. Even the easiest medical schools to get into require this standardized examination developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges. According to Medical Education Online, MCAT scores can predict if medical students will do well on their United State Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).
Common MCAT Sections You Need to Prepare For
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems. This section tests your knowledge of how the principles of physics and chemistry work in biological systems. This section has 59 questions.
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. This section tests your critical thinking, comprehension, and reasoning skills. You’ll have to read passages and answer questions about the content. This section contains 53 questions.
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems. The section tests your understanding of biological and biochemical concepts involved in the basic process of life, including growth, metabolism, and reproduction. This section has 59 questions.
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior. This section is designed to test your knowledge of the core concepts of research and statistical principles. It contains 53 questions.
The 10 Best MCAT Prep Books to Help You Get Ready
1. The Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete Box Set
- Best for: Students with are missing a basic understanding of some concepts, who need more in-depth explanations
The Princeton Review book set has detailed information for every section of the MCAT. There are hundreds of practice questions using the structure of the actual exam. Students also have access to an online portal where they can take three full-length practice tests. It is a great book for visual learners as it comes with a lot of diagrams, tables, and illustrations.
2. The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam
- Best for: People who want to understand how MCAT works.
This prep book was developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges as the official guide to the MCAT exam. This book offers essential information on how the test is graded, factors that affect admissions decisions, and tips to prepare for the exam. It doesn’t offer a comprehensive review of the material, but it does have authentic practice questions.
3. Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review
- Best for: Students who want a comprehensive review
This book has in-depth and comprehensive study materials for all MCAT topics. The study guide contains a detailed content review with diagrams, graphs, charts, and illustrations. These prep books use the star rating system where every topic in the book has a star rating which shows how important that particular subject will be important to your score.
4. Mometrix Test Preparation MCAT Prep Books
- Best for: Students on a budget
Mometrix has a more affordable price than other MCAT preparation books on this list, making it a great option for students with a tight budget. It contains practice questions and answers, practice passages, test strategies, study tips, and content reviews. It also features review videos and video tutorials, which can be helpful for students who learn better with an instructor.
5. ExamKrackers MCAT Complete Study Package
- Best for: Students with limited amounts of time before the exam
Examkrackers is the best MCAT self-study guide bundle for students who don’t have large amounts of time before their test date. It comes with an expert study plan, practice questions with explanations, and detailed review material on all MCAT content. This MCAT prep book is very good at simplifying difficult concepts.
6. Barron’s MCAT Plus Online Content
- Best for: Students looking for affordable prep materials
Barron’s features detailed explanations on crucial MCAT topics, focusing on conceptual understanding rather than memorization. The manual includes test-taking strategies covering timing, test anxiety, problem-solving, and critical analysis. Barron Test Prep contains four online practice tests and 29 online passages. It also comes with a CD-ROM for a detailed explanation of important concepts.
7. Test Prep Books MCAT Prep Books
- Best for: Students who need a quick review of MCAT concepts
This study guide was created by Test Prep Books to help students who only need a quick review. This book covers essential topics that you need to study for your exam and includes plenty of practice questions, two full-length practice exams, and tips to help you in your preparation
8. Sterling Test Prep MCAT Section Books
- Best for: Students who need a comprehensive review of one
Sterling Test MCAT prep books are a comprehensive review for each of the MCAT subject sections. The majority of students don’t need to review all core concepts in this much detail, they should use these books for the subject material they need the most help with. Each book has over 1,200 practice questions with detailed explanations. Students can access additional resources online.
9. Kaplan MCAT Self-Study Toolkit
- Best for: Learning exam strategies and making your study schedule
The Kaplan MCAT Self-Study Toolkit provides students efficient studying strategies, in-depth review, and guided examples on important concepts in behavioral science, biological science, biochemistry, and biology. Students have access to thousands of practice questions. This is a great option for visual learners as it utilizes 3-D illustrations, charts, and diagrams.
10. Kaplan MCAT Flashcards + App
- Best for: Visual learners
Kaplan MCAT Flashcards are useful study material for memorizing and revising concepts you already understand. This 1,000-flashcard package and app contain key concepts that you can absorb easily. It is important to note that since they are just flashcards, there aren’t any detailed explanations. The flashcards make a good addition to your study sessions, but they shouldn’t replace study books.
Free MCAT Books and Resources to Help You Get Ready
- Khan Academy MCAT Test Prep
- MCAT Union Test Prep by Become
- Shanmassian Academic Consulting MCAT Ultimate Guide
- Jack Westin MCAT Question of the Day
Best MCAT Prep Books FAQ
The Princeton Review books are slightly better than Kaplan Test Prep, though Kaplan offers better instructional videos for MCAT concepts. Both books have strong curriculums, detailed explanations, online resources, thousands of questions, chapter summaries, and full-length practice tests.
Kaplan MCAT Self-Study toolkit, Princeton Review, Barron Test Prep, and Examskracker are some of the best MCAT prep books that you can buy for your exam preparation. All of the books in this guide can help you get high scores on the MCAT.
For the majority of students, MCAT prep books are enough to help you do well on your exam. They contain everything you need and are a great option for students who prefer self-study or do not want to pay the expensive fees associated with MCAT prep courses.
On average, most students spend between 200 to 300 hours getting ready for the exam over three months. You may need to spend more time if you have a specific area of weakness in the MCAT curriculum.
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