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Gold Standard MCAT Prep Review
Our detailed and extensive review of the Gold Standard MCAT prep course
Looking at the Gold Standard MCAT Prep website, you may be confused as to what exactly you are getting, with various references to Kaplan and Princeton Review books, Examkracker practice tests, AAMC materials, and more from third party test prep companies. Don’t let this fool you. Gold Standard smartly customizes test prep packages for students based on their individual learning styles and preferences by pairing high-quality third-party resources with their own core curriculum – all at a very affordable price point. The question is, will this cost-effective, collage prep strategy work for you? Find out everything you need to know about Gold Standard MCAT Prep in this in-depth review.
One of Gold Standard’s biggest selling points is that they offer varying course formats, levels of practice material, and price points for just about everybody. From bare bones, uber-affordable subscription packages up to premium packages with industry-leading practice material quantities and tutoring, they have it all. Breaking down their offerings to the four primary prep packages, their prep courses are as follows:
MCAT Crash Course
MCAT Home Study Course
MCAT Platinum Package PLUS
Starting with the MCAT Crash Course, Gold Standard provides those bargain-seeking future med school students an ultra-affordable prep option. This online only, no frills prep course costs $30 per month and will get you access to the follow resources:
Gold Standard eBooks covering the subjects of MCAT Math, Physics, General and Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biology, Psychology, and Sociology
The Gold Standard CARS materials, including test taking tips and techniques, and practice questions
30+ hours of online video lessons
2 full-length practice tests (with question explanations and score reports)
2,700+ practice questions in total, each with a problem explanation
That is a LOT of prep for a $30/month budget course, and one of the best values I have seen. I would say this package is best for students on super-tight budgets and/or those with only a short window in which to study.
One step up from the MCAT Crash Course is the MCAT University. It is essentially the same as the MCAT Crash Course, but offers 3 additional full-length practice tests (for a total of 5) and an additional 5 CARS practice test sections, among other things. It is priced at right around $50/mo. This course should be looked at by the same type of student considering the MCAT Crash Course, but who needs more practice material (perhaps because of a longer time frame in which to study).
Moving into their non-subscription courses, the MCAT Home Study Course is Gold Standard’s lower level comprehensive prep package. This value-friendly course will run you right around $800 (or $600 if you opt to pass on the AAMC materials, though we recommend against that). In addition to the same materials provided by the MCAT University subscription program, you will also get a box set of subject review books from the test prep provider of your choice – Kaplan, Princeton Review, or Examkrackers. This box set includes 6 to 7 prep books (depending on the company you choose) and are the same books the students of those respective companies get. Moreover, you will get a total of 10 full-length exams (including Gold Standard’s practice test book), 5,000+ practice questions, audio summary reviews, and more.
Finally, at the top of the Gold Standard prep offering pyramid is the MCAT Platinum Package PLUS. Once more, this package is roughly the same as the course below it (the MCAT Home Study Course), but builds on it by adding an additional 10 practice tests (for a total of 20), adds 1,500 or so practice problems to the mix, and most importantly, provides 3 private tutoring sessions with a Gold Standard MCAT expert. This is their elite MCAT prep offering and is designed for students seeking to maximize their MCAT score through a mountain of prep material. In total, this course will run you around $1,500, which is still more affordable than Kaplan and Princeton Review’s most affordable course options.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Evaluation of the Gold Standard MCAT Curriculum
Gold Standard provides a comprehensive MCAT curriculum which revolves around their eBooks. These eBooks, which Gold Standard refers to as “chapters,” have been around since the early 1990’s and are on their umpteenth iteration. That is to imply that these books are incredibly detailed and well-vetted at this point.
While the eBooks provide all-encompassing coverage of the MCAT (and in great detail), use of these books as the basis of the study plan causes the curriculum to feel under-developed. Whereas companies like Blueprint MCAT and Princeton Review have very robust and well-designed sequences of instruction, the Gold Standard curriculum just feels amorphous. The material is all there and easily accessible, but there is no real direction. It is entirely on the student to drive the learning order and process.
That said, it is very difficult to design a well-developed and naturally flowing curriculum for a test such as the MCAT. As such, you must look more at what is offered, rather than the order or structure. And on that front, Gold Standard gets high marks. As mentioned, their eBooks are very detailed and cover every inch of the MCAT. They dive into the nitty gritty of every subtopic and sub-subtopic, making sure you learn everything you need to know. They are well-written, straightforward and even provide some helpful graphics. For students that are self-motivated and driven to study alone through reading, these eBooks offer true value.
The eBooks are followed by 30+ hours of video lessons which cover a smattering of subjects. Each video is anywhere from 3 minutes to 20 minutes in length and tackles a particular subtopic of the MCAT (such as cellular metabolism and acids & bases). In terms of video quality and format, these videos are not the best. The vast majority of them are outdated and have grainy footage. The picture quality is kind of pixelated and the audio isn’t crisp.
These older video lessons sort of remind me of an old driver’s ed video from the 1990’s, or a sexual harassment training video you watch your first day at a new job. They just lack any modern feel. With that said, it is clear Gold Standard has changed direction and they now have a number of newer videos with a completely updated format. The picture is sharp, the audio is crystal clear, and there are some great graphics and digital effects. Assuming Gold Standard keeps pumping out these updated videos and replacing the old ones, they will quickly find themselves in the company of Kaplan and other test prep giants.
From a substantive content perspective, the video lessons are spot on, regardless of quality. The Gold Standard instructors deliver excellent summaries of some very complex subject matter. Learning and memorizing MCAT content can be a bear, but the Gold Standard teachers provide some great mnemonics and tips along the way.
Staying on the issue of instruction, assuming you purchase Gold Standard’s Home Study Course or Platinum Package PLUS, you will also get a box set of prep books from one of three major companies, including Kaplan, Princeton Review or Examkrackers. It’s completely your choice. These books are intended to complement the Gold Standard course materials and provide a study resource to help reinforce the material you learn.
Beyond the eBooks, video lessons and third-party prep books, Gold Standard prides itself on its level of practice material offered. Its Platinum Package PLUS course offers a category best 20 full-length practice tests. This is 4 more than both Kaplan and Princeton Review, and makes Gold Standard a clear winner on quantity. In addition, they boast over 6,500 practice problems across their coursework, and 11,000+ if you count practice tests. That is an outrageous amount of practice problems and should not be overlooked.
If there is one complaint with the Gold Standard practice material, it is the format in which you receive it. True that 6,500+ practice problems and 20 full-length tests provide a significant value, but you just get direct access to it. There is no adaptive question bank, tool to create custom problem sets or any cool software that allows to just jump straight into practice like Magoosh offers. The bottom line is that they have a boatload of practice material, but you’re getting it raw and unfiltered, with no bells and whistles. For me personally, this is disappointing, as creating personalized practice sets and having quick and easy access to practice is a huge plus.
All things considered, I was very impressed with the Gold Standard MCAT curriculum. While the course lacks a well-developed structure and the video lessons are kind of outdated, there are mountains of practice material, all directly accessible. In addition, the prep books, both Gold Standard’s proprietary eBooks and third-party box sets, are top notch. All in all, it is a very comprehensive and detailed offering of coursework.
Gold Standard MCAT Prep Books
As discussed above, Gold Standard’s eBooks are at the heart of their coursework. These eBooks have been around for over 20 years and have gone through loads of updates and iterations – and it shows. These books are very well-written and easily understandable. And more importantly, they are painstakingly detailed, going to great lengths to cover nook and cranny of possible MCAT material. In addition, they contain some really useful graphics and renderings.
In fact, the eBooks are the first place Gold Standard suggests you start with each new chapter (which covers a subtopic of the MCAT). These eBooks carry significant prep value and should be looked at as a major piece of the prep course, not as a side feature.
Assuming you pay up for one of the more expensive prep packages, you will also get a box set of prep books from either Princeton Review, Kaplan or Examkrackers. These books won’t serve as the basis of your Gold Standard coursework, but rather act as a supplement (and a very good supplement at that). I am personally a big fan of all three of these book sets and think you can’t go wrong with any of them.
For what it is worth, I would choose the Kaplan books if maximizing practice material is your main concern, while I would go with Princeton Review if you’re looking for the best all-around content review. The Examkrackers books are also good, though I have a personal preference for the other two finding them to be more comprehensive from a content aspect and better articulated. For students that love to learn by reading, these books (and this course generally) were made for you.
Gold Standard MCAT Practice Tests
One of the first things prospective med school students want to know when trying to pick the best MCAT prep course, is how many practice tests they will get. Well, when it comes to practice tests, Gold Standard takes the cake when talking about quantity. All together, they provide 20 full-length practice exams (assuming you purchase the Platinum Package course). But what is most interesting about Gold Standard’s approach is that they don’t give you 20 of their own, in-house written practice tests. Instead, they give you a patchwork of practice tests from different sources – AAMC, Kaplan, Princeton Review, Examkrackers and Gold Standard’s own.
Giving a few tests from each test prep provider makes for a unique practice framework. Rather than seeing the same types of questions written by the same minds over and over again across 20 tests, you get practice questions from multiple angles. This provides access to different perspectives, difficulties, question lengths and more.
I personally see this as a HUGE benefit. Given that no one outside of the AAMC actually has official MCAT questions, it is very beneficial to get a wide variety of tests and questions. It may cause some minor administrative friction taking tests across different platforms, but it is absolutely worth it in my mind.
As for Gold Standard’s in-house practice tests, they are very good. The problems seem to be a close replication of official MCAT questions, and vary in length and difficulty like the real MCAT. I found them to be very similar to the real thing overall. That said, the Gold Standard testing software for the practice exams was not. It doesn’t have a real MCAT look or feel. The structure is there, but it’s hard to get a true exam-like mindset with a different delivery format. If you want as close to the real thing as possible, check out Kaplan or Blueprint MCAT.
The Digital Platform Experience and Interface
Cutting to the chase, there are no frills with the Gold Standard online platform. While other companies boast sleek designs and intuitive layouts, the Gold Standard digital platform is very basic. There are navigation tabs at the top of the screen directing you to lessons, videos, practice tests and more, which makes it easy to navigate the main categories. But once you land there, it is not the cleanest or most intuitive portal to maneuver, especially the lessons tab. To get to your eBook chapters and accompanying questions, you have to keep drilling down, which then opens a separate browser tab for every lesson or tool.
Additionally, to the extent you lump in the video lessons with user experience and interface, the feel is outdated and clunky. The video lessons, as discussed above, have a retro feel to them, with grainy footage and old school techniques (with an instructor standing in front of a whiteboard). Beyond that, the practice tests and questions have a dated functionality as well. In short, the Gold Standard digital platform gets the job done, but it definitely does not have the panache and sleek styling of other test prep companies’ platforms.
The answer here is “sort of.” With the purchase of the Platinum Package PLUS, you get 3 sessions with a Gold Standard MCAT expert. You can use these sessions however you’d like, though Gold Standard notes that most students use one at the beginning of their studies, one in the middle, and one at the end – mostly as a “prep health checkup.”
So while you do get “tutoring” in the sense that you can use these sessions for anything you’d like, most students use them for more general guidance, study planning and general MCAT strategies and questions. If you’d like to use these sessions to focus in on particular MCAT subjects you absolutely can, and Gold Standard’s experts will accommodate. But just keep in mind you only get 3 hours, so make the most out of your time.
Online Content Access Period
For the MCAT Crash Course and MCAT University prep offerings, your content access will depend on the duration of your subscription. Since these packages are pay-as-you-go, your access is directly tied to however many months of study you’d like.
For the Home Study Course and Platinum Package PLUS, Gold Standard provides 12 months of access. That is another industry best stat, and should be more than enough time for you to fully prepare for the MCAT.
Does Gold Standard Have a Mobile App?
Yes, yes, and yes. While Gold Standard does rise to the occasion of providing a useful mobile tool, I use multiple “yeses” because Gold Standard has multiple apps. Rather than having one comprehensive mobile app that covers every MCAT subject, Gold Standard breaks out their apps by topic for some reason. This is not a huge deal, but is definitely a slight annoyance from a user perspective.
In terms of app content, the Gold Standard apps provide helpful flashcards. These flashcards cover all of the major subjects of the MCAT and test your content knowledge. They are not the most in-depth resources, carrying a limited number of flashcards, but are useful for on-the-go studying.
Gold Standard’s Refund Policy
Unfortunately, Gold Standard does not offer refunds. All sales are final and if you change your mind a few hours after purchasing, there’s no going back. This is kind of disappointing, especially given that most other test prep companies have some sort of refund window, even if short. So if you’re going to purchase the Gold Standard course, just make sure you’ve done your homework first.
Verdict: Gold Standard MCAT Prep Course
The Gold Standard MCAT prep course is a great all-around prep package that self-learners will find particularly appealing. There are no live classes, as this course is designed for those seeking online, self-paced study. The strengths of this course lie in its incredible eBooks and mounds of practice material. Their eBooks are incredibly comprehensive, covering every aspect of the MCAT in great detail. In addition, they are well-written and do a great job of breaking down complex subject matter into understandable chunks. These books are combined with a category best 20 full-length practice tests and 6,500+ practice questions, making for a formidable prep option.
Looking at the negatives of this course, the video-based lessons are just okay, with outdated quality and short duration. At the same time, it should be noted the content itself in the videos is still very good. Furthermore, there are no adaptive question banks or custom practice set making tools to go along with the 6,500+ questions, which is a little frustrating. All things considered, these are relatively minor issues when compared to the overall strengths of this course. For students seeking a budget friendly prep option with loads of written instruction and practice material, Gold Standard MCAT prep may be a great fit.
How many full-length practice tests do I get with Gold Standard MCAT Prep?
Assuming you purchase Gold Standard’s MCAT Platinum Package PLUS, you will get access to an industry-best 20 full-length practice exams.
Does Gold Standard MCAT Prep have live classes?
No, there are no live class sessions. The Gold Standard MCAT prep courses are entirely online and done through self-study.
How much do the Gold Standard MCAT prep courses cost?
The Gold Standard MCAT prep courses range in price from $30/month on the budget end, to approximately $1,500 for their most expensive course offering. But even their priciest option is less than most major test prep companies’ value course option.