AAMC’s MCAT Prep Review

AAMC

AAMC

As the official keepers of the MCAT exam, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) offers the relatively affordable “MCAT Official Prep Complete Bundle (online and print)” as their primary study resource. The MCAT is written and administered by the AAMC and offers a plethora of study resources available on their website, many of which are free.

Coupled with these free resources, the Official Prep Bundle can provide a complete review of the material that will be seen on the MCAT. The Bundle itself does not offer actual content review, instead, it provides over 2,000 practice questions to help students prepare for test day and identify areas of weakness that require further review. Approximately half of the questions are categorized within subject-specific question packs, while the other half are found spread across three practice exams and one sample test. With a cost under $300, the program offers an affordable means to prepare for the MCAT exam. We tested the AAMC’s MCAT Official Prep Complete Bundle in order to assess its capacity to offer a meaningful MCAT review experience.

The Pros and Cons

Pros  Cons
  • Excellent practice problems provided
  • Simple organization
  • Affordable pricing
  • Minimal prep guidance, and no content knowledge review guidance
  • Limited mobile review (online only, no apps)
  • Sociology/psychology practice is less than other topics

What’s Included

The AAMC’s MCAT Official Prep Complete Bundle combines both print and online resources for students. For a slightly lower price, students can purchase an online-only version of this prep course at the expense of the Official MCAT Flashcards. The Complete Bundle comes with a full-length sample test, three full-length practice exams, a prep section bank with additional practice questions, question packs for different content areas (biology, chemistry, CARS, physics), print version of The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam (with online access to its 120 questions), and the Official MCAT Flashcards. The Bundle also includes a number of free AAMC MCAT resources, most notably granting access to the Khan Academy MCAT Video Collection.

The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam

Segmented between two main sections, this nearly 400-page book covers basic MCAT information in the first half and 120 practice questions in the second. In the first 100 or so pages, students will be given an overview of the exam, how to register and schedule the exam, test prep tips, test-day procedures, how to understand the MCAT score, the role of the MCAT in medical school admissions, and an overview of the conceptual framework of the exam.

The second part contains practice questions divided into the four foundational concepts of the MCAT, just as the exam is laid out. There are 30 questions in each section with both passage-based and discrete questions for the Biology/Biochemistry, Chemistry/Physics, and Psychology/Sociology sections. The Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section is also 30 questions long, but as on the exam, these are all passage-based questions only. The questions come with answers and a detailed explanation of both why the answer is right and why the other options are incorrect. 

AAMC
Courtesy of AAMC

Official MCAT Flashcards

For on-the-go practice of non-passage based MCAT questions, AAMC’s flashcard set is a useful tool. There are 150 questions with a prompt on one side with the answer and a detailed explanation on the other. These questions are equally divided between biology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, psychology, and sociology to provide 25 questions in each category. The cards are color-coded based on the subject area, so you can keep the questions separated by category or mix them up for a random review experience. The 150-card set may be a bit cumbersome for mobile practice, but if you grab one section at a time or a small subset of these, the cumbersome bulk of the entire pile is easily manageable.

Online Question Packs

The question packs provide 120 questions in each set and are a combination of discrete standalone ones instead of solely those that are passage-based. These packs cover the subjects of biology (two packs available), chemistry, CARS (two packs available), and physics. There are no packs available specifically for biochemistry or the social sciences, though some practice on these topics is provided elsewhere in the Bundle. The question packs are interactive, and students can choose whether to review answers (with detailed explanations) immediately or at the end once the review is complete.

After each pack is finished, there is a content and skills breakdown that indicates which foundational concepts were being targeted and the percent correct in each category. There is the option to reset the questions and retry, but the system does not retain previous scores; the student will need to record these if they wish to compare the new results with the previous ones. Similar to the question packs is the prep section bank, with 300 questions spread equally across Biology/Biochemistry, Physics/Chemistry, and Sociology/Psychology. 

Online Practice Exams

Once the preliminary review is complete, the next step will be to evaluate how well students may perform on the MCAT by taking the full-length, 230-question practice exams. These exams mimic actual MCAT test-taking conditions and take students through the exam just as on test day. The exam gives the students the option to take it at the normal exam pace, with extended time, or untimed. At the end, students will receive a scaled score with details about the performance within each section. Students will be able to easily see where further review may be required, with three tests to provide sufficient practice opportunities. 

AAMC
Courtesy of AAMC 

Free Online Resources

To complete the bundle, the AAMC has collected or produced a few free planning and study resources on their website. Most of these resources give advice and suggestions about how to navigate the MCAT and prepare for the exam. Arguably, the most useful of these resources is access to the Khan Academy MCAT Video Collection. With 1,100 videos and 3,000 review questions, students can prepare their own content knowledge review that is specific to their needs. While a fantastic addition to the Bundle, the content is offered only in video format with no textbooks or other study materials, and the information is not taught within the context of the MCAT. Note that these are free and available to anyone through the AAMC website.

Individual Prep Tools

Price: $10-$35

Includes: Each of the tools offered in the Complete Bundle can also be purchased individually. Three full-length practice exams with a scaled score are offered at $35 each, and a full-length practice test without a scaled score costs $25. The AAMC Official Guide to the MCAT (5th edition, print) can be bought for $30, or online access to its 120 questions can be purchased for $10. There are a number of Question Packs in Biology, Chemistry, CARS, and Physics available at $15 a pack (120 questions each). The 150 count Official MCAT Flashcards can be bought for $10, which includes 25 questions each in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Biochemistry, Psychology, and Sociology.

AAMC
Courtesy of AAMC 

MCAT Official Prep Online Bundle

Price: $236

Includes: This online bundle includes access to all of the Individual Prep Tools described above with the exception of the print-version of the Official Guide and the Flashcards.

MCAT Official Prep Complete Bundle

Price: $268

Includes: This bundle includes access to all of the Individual Prep Tools described above.

AAMC’s Strengths

The AAMC’s MCAT Official Prep Complete Bundle offers an affordable means to practice problems similar to those that will be seen on the MCAT.

“Official” MCAT Prep

All of the paid tools and resources compiled through this Bundle are produced by the AAMC. Since the AAMC is the organization that writes the MCAT exam, the student can be assured that the review questions provided accurately reflect those that are seen on the MCAT exam. Each question comes with a detailed discussion that includes the correct answer with explanation and why the wrong answers are wrong, the Foundational Concept covered, the knowledge Content Category used to write the question/passage, and the level of its Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills. Students should feel more than adequately prepared for the types of questions they will see on test day after going through the complete Bundle package.

Simple Organization

It doesn’t get easier than this. There are full-length exams to practice with, question packs for review, and access to free content knowledge review videos. But, this simplicity does come at the cost of guided review. Students will have to determine for themselves where their weaknesses are and how to go about reviewing that information.

Low-Cost Review

Many MCAT prep courses can creep into the four-digit range, but the AAMC is not in the business of prep review as many other programs are. They provide affordable resources to become familiar with the format and organization of the MCAT exam, and rely on the Khan Academy for content knowledge review (Khan Academy is provided for free through the AAMC website without having to purchase anything.) 

AAMC
 Courtesy of AAMC

AAMC’s Weaknesses

While great for practice, the AAMC’s MCAT Official Prep Complete Bundle is limited in its ability to review content knowledge with minimal prep guidance provided. 

Limited Resources and Guidance

The Bundle is designed largely as a means to practice for the MCAT, not necessarily to review for it. It is true that they offer free access to the Khan Academy MCAT Video Collection, which does provide content knowledge review, but it is not integrated with the Bundle. It does not provide any guidance through the review process and students must rely on their own assessment analysis to guide review. Students who need an in-depth, tailored review in conjunction with exam practice may not find this Bundle to be suitable to their needs.

Limited Mobile Review

Although most of this program is available online, it is not very mobile without access to an internet browser. There are no apps that can be downloaded, though the print version of the Official Guide and the printed Flashcards can serve the purpose of mobile review, but are bulky and could be cumbersome.

Pricing

One major advantage of the AAMC’s prep course is its affordability. Students can select individual prep tools for as low as $10, or opt for the complete Bundle for $236 to $268.

AAMC vs. Kaplan

The MCAT prep programs offered between AAMC and Kaplan are quite different. Kaplan provides a full-on MCAT prep course with a guided content review and assessment, adaptive technology, and more practice problems and exams than a student will probably use. The AAMC Bundle, however, is more suited for MCAT practice rather than a review course. This is reflected directly in the price of the two programs, where a student will pay nearly $2,000 for the Kaplan course. While the Kaplan course does have a heftier price tag, the AAMC Bundle discussed herein is included in the Kaplan program as part of its cost. 

Final Verdict

For students who feel well prepared for the MCAT with minimal content knowledge review needed and/or on a limited budget, this Bundle will provide the pre-exam practice necessary to become familiar with the format of the exam. The Bundle is better suited for test preparation rather than test review. While content knowledge review is available through free resources, this program is best for those who need minimal guidance through such a review process.