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Best MCAT Prep Courses
Our in-depth guide to the best MCAT prep courses and classes
The MCAT is a difficult and high-stakes exam with little room for error. For many aspiring med school students, your MCAT score will make or break your application, which in turn makes the selection of the right prep course a pivotal decision at the start of your journey to becoming a doctor. Cheap out on a course, and you may be looking at delaying your admissions a year. Overspend, and you may waste thousands on a course with bells and whistles you didn’t need. To help you make the most informed decision possible, we have reviewed just about every MCAT prep course available and compiled the best ones here, each with a detailed analysis and explanation.
Why Blueprint MCAT (Next Step) Makes the Best List
It was clear from the moment we opened the Blueprint MCAT online content that they would not only be on our best MCAT prep courses list, but also right near the top of it. Blueprint offers only one course format – an online-only, self-study course where you are in the driver’s seat. At the heart of this course is their suite of interactive and highly effective video-based lessons. Surrounding these video lessons (which we provide further detail on below), Blueprint provides a comprehensive curriculum through a series of 160+ learning modules, which are intelligently designed to reinforce material.
In addition, Blueprint offers a very respectable amount of high-quality practice material, including 4,000+ questions through its QBank, 15 full-length practice tests and all available AAMC practice materials. They also toss in a ton of great study resources to boot. All of these study resources and materials together make for an extremely robust prep package, and all at a very affordable price point.
Crazy Good Video Lessons
As referenced above, Blueprint’s interactive and highly engaging video-based instruction is their bread and butter. They have a knack for making videos that are not only visually stunning, but also convey material in a manner that makes learning easy and improves retention. Each video lesson features a Blueprint instructor in front of a green screen, and as they talk, text, graphics and animations appear around them. The text portion of the lesson is frequently supplemented with catchy graphics and helpful animations. In fact, many of the complex chemical processes and physical systems described in the lesson are illustrated onscreen right next to the instructor. Visualizing these complex subjects greatly improves material comprehension and later recall. And perhaps most importantly, it just makes the learning experience more fun. Test prep can be a grind at times with dry material and dense textbooks, but these video lessons provide a much-needed break from that.
Smart Integrated Learning Modules
Blueprint’s curriculum is intelligently structured into bite sized learning modules. These learning modules each consist of a series of video lessons, quizzes, passages and assessments. These individual components within the unit together provide for an integrated learning experience and allow you to see and understand the same material from multiple perspectives. This serves to reinforce the subject matter and improve content retention. In other words, spending an extended period on one subtopic watching lessons, doing drills and taking quizzes really hammers the material home. All in, there are 160+ learning modules covering content review and 30+ more covering reasoning skills, test strategies and other soft skills.
For decades, thousands of future med school students have relied on Kaplan to prepare them for the MCAT. Why? They have a proven track record of success. Kaplan’s MCAT curriculum has been meticulously crafted by their in-house MCAT experts and refined over the years to give you one of the most robust, yet efficient, sets of lessons and coursework out there.
Their traditional in-person classes (which can also be taken live online) just plain get results. While they may not lead any particular category in terms of total quantity of features and practice materials (such as practice questions, practice exams, or live instruction hours), they just do everything across the board really dang well. My best analogy is a baseball player who does not lead the league in any one statistical category, but is a close second in just about every race, while others are all over the board. That is usually the guy that wins the MVP, and the same concept applies here – Kaplan is just a really solid all-around course that gets the job done.
Stellar Video Lessons
At the center of its DIY Course instruction, and as a critical supplement to its live classes, Kaplan provides some top-notch video-based lessons. Though not quite as good as Blueprint MCAT’s (which are truly superb), they are a very close second. The production value of these videos is fantastic, with a sharp picture and modern digital whiteboard. Each video features a uniform opening, with your instructor appearing onscreen to introduce the topic while a slide sets the agenda for the video. The video then transitions into the lesson, which follows a digital whiteboard as your teacher verbalizes their instruction over it. As the instructor speaks, text, formulas, graphics and animations fill the screen. This is not some old school PowerPoint video – it is a high-quality production that keeps you engaged as you cut through the dense material. All together there are more than 130 of these content review videos, each adding tremendous value to the instruction component of Kaplan’s course.
Customizable Question Sets through the Qbank
One of the primary features of the Kaplan practice work is its adaptive Qbank. This study resource gives you access to over 2,900 high-quality practice problems with advanced filtering functionality. The Qbank allows you to customize practice sets by subject, question type, difficulty and more. Not only that, the questions adapt to your skill level and performance as you work through the problems. This allows you to zero in on your weak spots that need improvement and simultaneously ratchet up the difficulty as you improve. And following each practice problem set you get a detailed score report that provides some nice analytics around your performance. Together with the Qbank, it makes your practice more efficient and effective.
There is no hiding why we place Magoosh on our list of best MCAT prep courses. They are a pure and simple high-value, bang for your buck prep course designed to keep costs down. If you’re rolling on a tight budget, or maybe just need limited review and practice materials to ready yourself for the exam, Magoosh will be your best bet.
They have a great curriculum for the price and give you a bounty of study resources, including 380+ video lessons, 740+ practice problems and 3 full-length practice tests. I know those numbers are nothing to write home about, but the quality of these materials is actually quite good. The video lessons, while dry and lacking in any real production value, effectively and efficiently communicate more than 380 scientific subtopics covered on the MCAT. They are not that engaging and are housed in a bulk library, but that is a lot of prep for your money. All in all, it wouldn’t be a best list without one high value course.
Course Highlight: Incredible Value
Continuing from above (and at the risk of beating a dead horse), the biggest highlight of this course is not its video lessons, or practice problem explanations, or cool dashboard. It is its incredible value. Pure and simple. At a total cost of roughly $300, this course is a true bargain. That $300 is not a monthly subscription rate like you see with other courses – that is the one-time, all-in cost. This makes the Magoosh course roughly 1/8th the cost of other prep courses in the MCAT space. But you don’t get just 1/8th the practice with Magoosh. Calculating the cost per question and test, this prep offering has great worth. And this especially holds true if you adjust for the total number of video lessons. The bottom line is that this course price point is more than affordable, it’s a downright steal.
Customized Practice Sessions
Despite the low price, you still get some first-rate features that the other more expensive test prep players offer, such as a customizable practice session tool. This feature allows you to create personalized practice question sets through Magoosh’s advanced filters. You can narrow the practice problem set by MCAT subject, question type, difficulty and more. This is a very useful function that allows you to create targeted quizzes to focus on areas needing improvement.
Like Kaplan, it just wouldn’t be a best list without tried and true Princeton Review. Princeton has been prepping students for the MCAT for years with great success. They have one of the most comprehensive and detailed curriculums we have seen, which is delivered through a TON of classroom time. At 123 live class hours (live online or in-person), Princeton Review stands head and shoulders above their rivals in the live class space.
In addition, you get access to 500+ detailed video lessons which cover and reinforce the same material. When combined with 16 full-length tests, 2,500+ practice problems and a set of content-rich prep books, there will never be a shortage of prep work. And it’s not just the quantity of Princeton Review’s coursework that impresses, the quality is also very good.
Fantastic Live Instruction
As mentioned, Princeton Review boasts an extremely impressive 123 live class hours. For reference, that is more than 3x their next nearest competitor (Kaplan at 36). Additionally, we loved the structure of Princeton’s live classes. Rather than being led by a generalist MCAT expert, your lessons are guided by a rotating team of subject matter experts. In total, you will get 4 to 6 expert instructors teaching your class sessions, depending on their area of expertise. This is a huge value add, as you get that extra bit of content depth with a subject matter expert as compared to a generalist. This improves the overall instruction and learning experience. If a quality live class is what you’re after, Princeton Review rates out as our best course for live instruction.
Killer Prep Books
In addition to some great live instruction, Princeton Review also boasts some of the best hard copy prep books on the market. When you purchase a Princeton Review MCAT prep course, they will ship you a box set of 11 prep books. Yes, count that, 11. Of these 11 books, 7 cover subject specific content review across the MCAT subjects of biology, general chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry, physics and math, psychology and sociology, and CARS. The other 4 books consist of various course-based workbooks. These books are incredibly detailed, well-written and contain some great graphics. As a supplement to the main course, they are an extremely valuable resource.
Gold Standard MCAT Prep rounds out our best MCAT prep courses list due to their sheer quantity of practice material. This means for those students seeking the most practice exams and questions possible, listen up. They offer an industry-best 20 full-length practice exams and 6,500+ practice problems. These are some eye-popping numbers, but there’s more to it than just quantity. The quality of Gold Standard’s materials is also top notch, primarily relying on their own in-house material, but also pulling from reputable third-parties. However, it’s not all just practice material with Gold Standard. You will also get access to their well-vetted eBooks and 30+ hours of video review lessons. While the instructional work isn’t the most comprehensive we have seen, it provides a nice jumping off point for your practice.
The Practice Material
As you clearly understand by now, Gold Standard’s practice materials are the highlight of their prep package. Not only are the numbers impressive, but we are also huge fans of how they get to those numbers. Rather than relying on just their in-house experts to design questions and tests, they pull from a network of high-quality third-parties to get their materials.
So in addition to your practice material from Gold Standard directly, you will also get practice tests and questions from the likes of AAMC, Kaplan, Princeton Review, and Examkrackers. Pulling on the combined expertise of these distinguished institutions, you get a much more diverse and rich practice experience. Outside of the AAMC, most everyone is making their best educated guess at how MCAT questions should be designed, so having a broad range of questions in terms of length, difficulty, perspective and design is a true benefit.
The other major highlight of the Gold Standard MCAT Prep package is their bundle of high-quality eBooks. These digital prep books have been around for over 20 years and are extremely well-vetted by this point. Each chapter within the eBooks covers a MCAT subtopic in great detail, breaking down otherwise complex subject matter into understandable bites. They are well-articulated and content-rich. I would be shocked to see an official MCAT question where the underlying topic wasn’t covered somewhere in these eBooks. The books also contain some helpful illustrations and graphics that improve understanding and material retention. For students who prefer a prep book as their main source of instruction, you will find these eBooks and the course as a whole well suited to your needs.
The Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, is the standardized exam utilized by almost every major school in the U.S. and Canada in its medical school admission process. The MCAT is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC, and is designed to assess skills that are crucial to success in medical school, including problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles. As a note, when applying to med school, your MCAT must be recent – most schools will not accept MCAT exam scores that are more than three years old.
MCAT Test Structure
The MCAT is a computer-based, multiple-choice exam which takes a daunting seven-and-a-half hours to complete. Since 2015, following a revamp of the exam by the AAMC, the MCAT is comprised of four sections: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS); Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior.
The Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section is comprised of 44 passage-related questions and 15 standalone, non-passage-related questions, for a total of 59 questions, which the test taker is allocated 95 minutes to complete. This section tests a student’s physical sciences knowledge in the context of biological sciences, and wraps in a fair amount of biochemistry. Breaking down the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section by undergraduate course, the section tests General Chemistry (30%), Physics (25%), Organic Chemistry (15%), Biochemistry (25%), and Introductory Biology (5%) is also included in this section of the test.
The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section of the MCAT consists of 53 passage-related questions, which the student is given 90 minutes to complete. The CARS section does not require any prior information or substantive knowledge, as all information necessary to answer the questions is included in the exam. This section is designed to test the student’s ability to analyze arguments, synthesize passages, and identify underlying assumptions and inferences.
The Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section, mirroring the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section in structure, consists of 44 passage-related questions and 15 standalone, non-passage-related questions, for a total of 59 questions, for which the student is given 95 minutes to complete. While this section is true to its name and examines the test taker’s knowledge of biology and biochemistry, this section additionally contains questions based in organic chemistry and general chemistry, as those principles wrap into the biochemistry aspect. The undergraduate courses that are incorporated into and tested in the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section include Biology (65%), Biochemistry (25%), General Chemistry (5%), and Organic Chemistry (5%).
The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section once again is comprised of 44 passage-related questions and 15 standalone, non-passage-related questions, totaling 59 questions, which the student is given 95 minutes to complete. This (somewhat) newly added section tests the concepts of Psychology and Sociology as they relate to biological sciences. While some pre-med students will have not taken Psychology and Sociology, as they are generally not required prerequisite courses to medical school admission, having done a semester in one or both of these areas will help. This section tests a student’s ability to analyze and apply psychological, sociological, and biological principles in the context of behaviors and relationships.
When and Where Can I Take the MCAT?
The MCAT is offered roughly 25 times per year at test centers around the globe. Students have a number of options to choose from in regards to dates and locations, as the exam is administered between the months of January and September yearly. To see scheduling deadlines, test dates and locations, and to register for the MCAT, visit the AAMC website here.
MCAT exam scores are typically released approximately one month after the exam is taken and can be viewed online. We recommend you register early, as test centers and preferred dates tend to fill up quickly.
Preparing for the MCAT
We recommend studying for three to six months before actually sitting for the MCAT. Obviously, that study time frame will change depending on your commitments and schedule, but be prepared for a long haul. You cannot procrastinate in studying for the MCAT and expect to score well. You must study early and often. Unlike some graduate school entrance exams that do not test much, if any, substantive knowledge, the MCAT will test your knowledge on a range of scientific and social concepts and their application to varying scenarios. There is lots to pack in before the big day, so here are our key strategies for studying for the MCAT:
Create a study plan and timeline – do not go into your MCAT preparation without a plan or direction. Create an actionable timeline of when to hit certain targets, how often and when you will take full length practice tests, and generally plan out your attack so you are ready when the big day arrives. Having a game plan is critical.
Practice questions and tests – do not spend all of your time with your nose buried in a book or flashcards memorizing facts and formulas. The MCAT tests your ability to think critically and apply substantive scientific knowledge to unique scenarios. Hammering practice problems is by far the best way to prepare yourself for the actual exam. But don’t stop at just practice questions—do a number of full-length tests under real exam conditions. You want to condition your mind and body for the real thing so that you’re not caught off guard on the day of the exam. Make sure to incorporate a number of full-length tests into your study plan.
Focus on improving your weaknesses – as much as we hate to admit it, we all have weaknesses. As you work through memorizing material and doing practice questions, you will be sure to notice where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Whatever your weaknesses are, reallocate study time from your strengths to your weaknesses. If you’re crushing biology-based questions and struggling with biochemistry, no need to keep spending so much time on the biology. Focus in on that biochemistry and make it a strength!
Quality not quantity – do not worry about hitting quantitative targets in terms of memorization or practice questions. This will only rush your learning process and can possibly cause a false sense of security. Instead, focus your energy on quality of study. Concentrate on knowledge retention (read a flashcard or passage multiple times if you need to) and learning from your mistakes (make sure to understand why you got a question wrong).
Ensure readiness – if you don’t feel ready as the big day gets close, push the exam out. The MCAT is offered roughly 25 times per year and there’s no need to rush in to it if you’re not mentally prepared—you will only be setting yourself up for failure. You want to feel confident and prepared before the big day so that you can go in there and rock it.
Do I need a MCAT prep course?
Given the high stakes nature of the MCAT, it is strongly advised that you purchase and take a MCAT prep course. The vast majority of students will need the content review and actionable strategies offered by the various MCAT prep providers.
How much does a MCAT prep course cost?
MCAT prep courses range widely in price, from $30/month for budget subscription courses, up to $5,000+ for comprehensive packages with tutoring. That said, most students end up taking a course somewhere in the $1,500 to $2,000 range.
Will a MCAT prep course raise my score?
The short answer – very likely yes. Compared to self-studying with free resources, or not studying at all, a MCAT prep course is very likely to improve your score. You will get access to content reviews, practice materials and helpful resources, all designed to boost your MCAT score.