Please note that this page reflects the opinion of the writer, and that what they "recommend" might not be the best decision for your particular situation. It is highly recommended that you also seek out other testimonies, etc. and make the most informed decision for yourself.

Before we begin, it is important to acknowledge that this discussion is incredibly nuanced as some people might not be in a position that allows them to spend money to "pave a nicer path" to success (e.g., taking a class, buying multiple book sets, etc.). For this page, we are only able to discuss resources based on the standpoint that you are fortunately enough to spend money on items. However, we will be sure to include free and/or low-cost resources that we are aware of wherever they are applicable/available.

All hyperlinks are colored in blue.

This page is written by Nguyen Le. Last Updated on September 27, 2021.

Legal Disclaimer/Financial Disclosure:
1. I have no financial relationship or support to disclose. All organizations and products mentioned on this page are discussed based on my experiences and my discussion with other Pre-Med students. The organizations and the owners of the products did not contact or sponsor me to be promoted on this page.
2. Unless stated specifically, I do NOT have any endorsement or recommendation for any groups, companies, organizations, or products mentioned below.

An MCAT exam costs about $320, not including test prep materials such as:

  • AAMC MCAT Official Prep Complete Bundle: $294
  • A Book Set for Content Review: About $200, if not more
  • Full-length Practice Test: about $40/test

If you get 5 Full-length practice tests, your total cost for the MCAT will come out to about $1,000, not including any MCAT Prep Class that you are thinking about taking. As a result, it is very expensive to prepare for and take this test. Some classes might already include AAMC Resources, so be sure to check out the details.

For those who qualify, you can apply for the Fee Assistance Program. This program will:

  • Give you the MCAT Official Prep Online-Only Bundle ($269 value) for free. Compared to the Complete Bundle, you are just missing The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam (print, $30 value).
  • Reduce your MCAT registration from $320 to $130.

You still have to pay full price for the other studying tools.

If you are not sure if you qualify for the Fee Assistance Program, please make sure that you check out this program before you start preparing for the MCAT. The benefits are NOT retroactive, and no refunds will be issued if you already paid for the products/services.

In my opinion, there are two main reasons that one should take an MCAT course:

  1. They learn better from live instructions than from purely just reading books, AND/OR
  2. They have a hard time coming up with a plan and sticking to that study schedule

Regardless of what the reason is, be sure to weigh the pros and cons.

The first reason is fairly obvious - the answer depends on your learning style.

The second reason is more common than you think it is. It is typical to hear the following story: a student allocates 3 months to study for the MCAT. However, it turns out that they spend the first month goofing around (it's really hard to stick to a timeline). Then, they spend the next month trying to finish content without doing any practice. And when the final month rolls around, they panic and take a bunch of practice exams, while wondering if they should cancel their MCAT because they worry if they will be ready by exam date. You have to be honest with yourself if you will fall into this particular scenario. There is unfortunately no room for you to be defensive - you have to be honest because your future of making into medical school depends a lot on your MCAT score. As a result, if you decide to go with NOT taking class, MAKE SURE that you develop a good plan and stay disciplined.

If you need extensive content review, it is arguable whether or not you need a class. If you are disciplined enough, you can relearn everything through books, which should cost less than $1,000.

I recommend that you at least have the following resources:

  1. AAMC MCAT Official Prep Bundle ($294):
    1. Official Guide to the MCAT
    2. Online Practice Questions from the Book
    3. AAMC MCAT Official Prep Sample (Diagnostic) Test
    4. AAMC MCAT Official Practice Exams 1 – 4
    5. Section Bank
    6. Questions Pack for each section
    7. Online Flashcards
    8. Note: If you think you qualify for the Fee Assistance Program, make sure you apply and get that first before you buy anything (because if you get it after, you will not be refunded). With the Fee Assistance Program, you can get the MCAT Official Prep Online-Only Bundle ($269 value) for free. Compared to the Complete Bundle, you are just missing The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam (print, $30 value).
  2. A book set of your choice for content review (typically $150+, can be as high as $500). Options include Kaplan, Princeton Review, Examkrackers, or Berkeley Review.
  3. You can choose to use the Khan Academy Videos, but you will miss out on the multiple practice questions that these book sets tend to have. Remember that practice is important for the MCAT.
  4. The MCATBros Khan Academy Psychology/Sociology File (Free)
  5. The Kaplan MCAT Quick Sheets (Free)
    1. A 24-pages document of high-yield content
    2. I recommend that you just memorize this
  6. Third-party full-length practice exams (~$40/test). Options include Kaplan, Princeton Review, Examkrackers, or Berkeley Review.
    1. You only have 4 full-length exams from the AAMC, and you should save those because they are the closest to what you will get on the actual exam day.
    2. Since practice is so important, the only way for you to get more practice is to get full-length practice exams from other companies. You can use these to gauge your knowledge, build your test stamina, and improve your test-taking skills.

This is a personal preference. The books can range from:

  • Very little details (i.e., minimum-needed): Examkrackers
  • Moderate details: Kaplan and Princeton Review
  • Extreme textbook-like details: Berkeley Review

I have two friends who did really well on the MCAT (520+ scorers): one used Examkrackers, and the other used Berkeley Review. This little example shows that it is really a personal preference/need for which one you should get. For the MCAT, practice is CRITICAL. You are bound to miss a detail here and there on the exam, so spending extra time to memorize every last bit of detail is a rather “high risk, low return” investment, especially if you are low on time. Therefore, my recommendation is simple: Just get a book set that you think is sufficient based on your scientific knowledge, then get to work.

Obviously, there are also Khan Academy videos that are free. While there is generally no agreed-upon "best" set, the community agrees that: Khan Academy Psychology/Sociology is the best on the market. Fortunately, their content is conveniently summarized into a 300-page document published by MCATBros.

There is NO right answer to this question.

If you want to go straight to medical school after college, then you should take it during the summer between your second and third year. You can try to take the MCAT during the school year, but that is really challenging on top of academics and extracurricular activities.

However, most people end up taking gap year(s). As a result, this makes the answer to this question a little bit dependent on each person. We will discuss in a different section why gap year(s) is not as bad of an idea as many underclassmen seem to think.

I generally recommend that by the time you take the MCAT, you should at least finish all of the lower division science courses – so studying for the MCAT is more or less a content review. It will be also helpful if you:

  • Get a year of research experience – to build up your reading comprehension and analysis of scientific studies
  • Finish CHEM 153A
  • (Maybe finish PSYCH 10 and SOCIOL 1 – but this is highly debatable among Pre-Med students because many felt that the Khan Academy PDF file is sufficient)

An MCAT score is good for three years, and schools will see ALL of your scores, including expired ones. As a result, you will want to take it closer when you are ready to apply. It is an expensive test so it will be in your best interest to take it once. Many students do retake the MCAT, so it is not an outlier, but you HAVE to do better each time.

Once again, this varies for each person.

Some can pull it off within only a few weeks, when others will need half a year. Most people end up with a 3-months schedule, although it varies widely from "those who usually goof off then cram" to "those who study 9 AM – 5 PM all day every day". You can also find some suggested studying schedules online. They are everywhere.

You will figure out what studying works best for you during college. Use that for the MCAT.

Remember that the most important thing is practice. As a result,

  • Definitely spend the weekends taking practice exams to gauge where you are at.
    • After obtaining your score, you should go back and figure out what you did wrong, so you do not repeat the same mistake for the next time.
    • Also, be careful with the questions that you got correctly as well, especially those you guessed correctly on. Always make sure that if the question (or a similar concept) repeats, you understand how to find the right answer.
  • Make sure that you finish all of the practice questions from AAMC.
  • It is to note that the AAMC MCAT Official Practice Exams 1-4 are the closest to what you will get on the actual exam date. As a result, spread them out (i.e. save 1-2 of them to when you are getting closer to the "decision day").

Most people recommend a schedule of:

  • 2 months of content review (with practice questions and exams during the weekends), followed by
  • 1 months of intense practice exams

It is easy to be worried about contents and not practice enough. I made that same mistake too. As a result, I am telling you now: DO NOT REPEAT THIS SAME MISTAKE. MAKE SURE THAT YOU GET PLENTY OF PRACTICE.

It is commonly believed that your performance on CARS is predictive of your future performances on the Steps exams. As a result, if a student scores low on CARS, there is a reasonable chance that medical schools will not admit that student. They believe that the student will not be able to pass the Steps exams, and from the school’s perspective, that is a huge loss of investment because that is one less physician that they can get for society.

CARS is also notoriously difficult to get better at. You can only improve through a lot of experiences. As a result, get into the habit of readings, think about what you are learning, and when it is time for the MCAT, practice a ton for CARS.