The 8 Best MCAT Resources: How to Start Studying for the MCAT
There are a wide variety of resources available to help prepare when you are thinking about how to start studying for the MCAT, but it is difficult to know which have the best value and are right for you. Additionally, there are more excellent resources than any individual can possibly use, so it is essential that you focus your efforts on a manageable number of quality high-yield resources. Some may prefer reviewing content alone via prep books, question banks, and flashcards, whereas others thrive from a structured learning course and regular MCAT tutoring. Many will pursue a combination of such options as part of a more balanced study plan. Regardless of your preferences and when you plan to start studying, this list is sure to have resources that will benefit your studying. To get the most out of this article, look into each resource mentioned and consider what combination will work best for you. There is a mix of free and paid resources here, so keep that in mind as you read.
In addition, when considering where and how to start studying for the MCAT, it may be good to set a target score and read some of our tips regarding how to customize your study schedule.
AAMC Full-Length Sample Test (FREE)
The AAMC offers a variety of free planning and study resources on their students and residents website. These are the best resources you can take advantage of when you are considering how to start studying for the MCAT because they are official and provided by the test developers. Although they may not offer as much insight into strategies for preparing for or taking the exam as private companies who do their own analyses of the MCAT, these resources are guaranteed to be the most accurate and relevant. One of these resources is an official full-length practice test. It also comes with explanations for all answer choices and links to the Khan Academy videos and practice questions covering related content (discussed more below).
The Princeton Review Full-Length Practice Test (FREE)
The Princeton Review also offers a free online practice test that can be used in a similar way as the official AAMC practice test. However, keep in mind that because this is not an official exam created by the test developers, it will not provide a score as representative of the actual MCAT. It is still incredibly useful for simulating question formats and the testing environment but be careful if you are using it to predict your score, especially as you get closer to your actual exam date. For that reason, this practice exam may be better suited as an initial baseline at the beginning of your studying rather than a score prediction during the middle or end of your studying.
Khan Academy Video Collection & Practice Questions (FREE)
The most comprehensive free MCAT resource is the Khan Academy test prep website. In one location, you can access passages and practice questions for each of the four sections of the exam plus videos on dozens of specific topics. Each of these topics is grouped into broader themes to make it easy to navigate the content and pair practice questions with content or exam review. Best of all, Khan Academy partners with the AAMC so you can be sure this is a reliable resource.
See our blog post on using Khan Academy for MCAT prep here.
AAMC Prep Bundles
In addition to their free resources described above, the AAMC has also created a variety of paid resources including additional full-length practice exams, a section bank, individual question packs, online flashcards for key concepts, and an official guide to the MCAT exam. Each of these can be purchased individually, but the bundles are the best deals. There are two options: the online-only bundle (which includes everything except the printed official guide) and the complete bundle. Both are deeply discounted when compared to buying everything separately and all the resources are of the highest quality. This is a good place to start when you are considering how to study, and which resources to use for your MCAT studying period.
Online MCAT Tutoring with Elite Medical Prep (EMP)
Much of MCAT studying demands individual content review and self-driven practice. However, due to the complexity and magnitude of the exam, many find that complementing their own studying with personalized MCAT tutoring is a winning strategy. Here at EMP we offer free consults and trial sessions to determine your goals from MCAT tutoring and your preferred learning styles. Our medical student and physician tutors have all completed the MCAT and scored in the top percentiles. Learning directly from someone who mastered the exam is one of the best ways to get the most out of your prep and ensure your own mastery of the content and test-taking strategies.
UWorld Question Bank
For those who want additional practice questions beyond what the AAMC and Khan Academy provide, UWorld offers paid subscriptions to their question bank which contains over 2,000 questions. The official AAMC and Kahn Academy materials are generally preferred due to their accuracy and economy, but some individuals may prefer a wider variety of resources or a supplement to these resources. If you are spreading your studying out over a long period of time (e.g., 9 months) and are concerned about running out of questions, this is a good option. It is better to always answer new questions that will make you think rather than repeat old questions that you may be able to answer based on memory or familiarity alone.
Prep Book Sets
Taking timed, full-length practice exams and completing question banks should be one crucial half of your prep. Reviewing content should constitute the other major half of your plan and should be started early. Khan Academy is an excellent resource for those who are video-oriented, but students who prefer to read or learn at their own pace may benefit more from a prep book set. Kaplan’s complete 7-book review set is widely recognized as the best book set and is reasonably priced on Amazon. It is comprehensive yet concise, enjoyable to read, and updated annually to ensure that the information is accurate and exam-specific advice (e.g., test-taking strategies) are up to date with the current exam format. The Princeton Review, Barron’s and Examkrackers also offer book sets that are worth exploring as well.
Online Prep Courses
The last type of study resource that many people integrate into their studying is a prep course. These are predominantly held online and consist of a variety of live sessions and asynchronous content. These courses are similar to tutoring in that they teach both content and test-taking strategies. Their main advantage over tutoring is that they are more structured, so this is a good option for students who thrive under external pressure and accountability. However, the downsides are that they are less personalized and often more expensive than MCAT tutoring. Kaplan and the Princeton Review both offer highly regarded prep courses, but there are many others available that vary in structure, length, cost, and time commitment.