The 8 Best MCAT Prep Books to Buy in 2018

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If you want to become a doctor, you will need to conquer the Medical College Admission Test, commonly known as the MCAT. The grueling 7.5-hour exam includes four sections: the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems Section, the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems Section, the Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior Section, and the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Section. Sound like a lot? It is, and you will need a great guide or two to get you through the process with your sanity — and medical school admissions prospects — intact. To help you ace the test, we rounded up the best MCAT prep books to buy today.

The only “official” MCAT guide produced, this comprehensive book by the Association of American Medical Colleges will get you well on your way to feeling prepared to ace the MCATs. It is not overflowing with practice questions: The guide includes just 120 questions and answers, 30 for each of the four sections of the MCAT. However, what it lacks in practice problems it makes up for in helpful advice about how the exam is graded, other factors that can make or break your admissions decision, and how to best prepare for the exam. While we wouldn’t recommend buying just this book, it is a great first read to start understanding the MCAT and how it works.

Kaplan’s “review” of the MCAT is a little bit of a misnomer: We do not think “review” is a good word for a comprehensive, seven-book series that covers every area of the MCAT in precise detail. If you are looking for a quick and dirty way to ace the MCAT, this is not it. If you are looking for an expertly-written path to guide you from the moment you decide to take the MCAT to the final question on exam day, this is it. The books include study plans, 3D illustrations, and diagrams of complex scientific topics, over 2,450 practice questions (including three full-length practice MCATs), 24 “quick sheets” that outline the vital things to remember from each prep section, and a detailed study guide for the four sections of the test.

While mastering the subject matter on the MCAT is absolutely vital, it is not enough to ensure a test-taker receives a perfect or near-perfect score. For that, you will need to remain cool, calm, and collected for the duration of the exam. The best way to ensure that you can do so is to make sure you master test-taking strategies, and this book from Test Prep Books emphasizes those test-taking strategies that will keep you sane come exam day. The book also includes a detailed review of the main sections, as well as comprehensive solutions for each of the many practice problems inside, which will help ensure you understand each and every question before you proceed to the next one. 

This book series from Princeton Review provides many of the same benefits that the one from Kaplan does: Seven complete books, three full-length practice tests, full-color illustrations and thousands of practice questions. However, their depth and summation of the subject reviews put them a cut above the rest if you want to be sure you have mastered each knowledge area you will need to know on test day.

The Princeton Review guide includes extensive and helpful glossaries to help you navigate the thick books, as well as helpful chapter reviews that will provide a great reference when you are looking to re-review before exam day.

If you learn best by listening rather than reading, this audiobook is definitely one that you should add to your test preparations. Two medical doctors narrate the seven-plus hours of review, so you won’t have to worry about whether or not you’re pronouncing technical words wrong: you’ll hear them correctly from the get-go. The series covers not only the straight facts and theories you will need to master but formulae and equations as well. Unlike regular study guides, you can use this one on the run or while biking, on your commute without having to lug a heavy book around, or anywhere else where you won’t stick out for wearing headphones.

While you could spend thousands on an MCAT tutor who would keep you accountable and check in on your progress every day, this book is much more affordable — and much less annoying. It is written by the host of The MCAT Podcast, who has helped thousands of students master this difficult test. Just under 200 pages, this guide includes everything you need to know to plan an MCAT study strategy that will work for you.

The book provides information on what to expect when you register for the test, the best other books or classes you should purchase based on your learning style, and how to build a successful study group and individual study plan. 

Reviewers have noted that these books are easier to read and cover more information than some of the other boxed sets on this list. There are three quizzes after each lecture of pre-med material, which will help you ensure that you understand each and every concept that you are learning. There are also short 30-minute exams along the way to help provide you with “mini-MCATs” that you can complete in an afternoon or evening without feeling totally overwhelmed. 

Last but not least is the popular Barron’s guide to the MCAT. In addition to the helpful review they provide, they also offer more practice tests than any other guide on this list. The science review sections stand out for their conceptual presentation rather than just providing a list of things that individuals should memorize. There are many, many practice problems throughout each step of the books.

This book also includes a comprehensive sample study plan and advice on how to strategically pace yourself through each section of the exam, how to combat test day anxiety, and how to approach the different types of problems that will appear on the exam.

Our Process

Our writers spent 8 hours researching the most popular MCAT prep books on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 40 different books overall, screened options from 5 different brands and manufacturers and read over 40 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.