Which study materials should I buy?

Does anybody have any recommendations about which study guides to buy for the MCAT? Just from searching on Amazon there seems to be an endless list of resources. I know the Kaplan books are highly regarded, but is it worth it to invest in the Complete 5-Book Subject review? If I buy that, do I need the MCAT in a Box? What about MCAT Flashcards? Kaplan MCAT Practice Tests book? If anybody has any sort of comprehensive list of materials, it’d be appreciated. What books and resources helped you the most?

I’m probably taking the test in 2015, and I’ve read that the test is going to change, so I don’t know if that will affect any responses. I do have an old Kaplan MCAT study guide that I bought when I was first considering premed, back in 2009…would it still be relevant?

I do plan on taking a study course and practice tests. My question here is mainly about what resources are best for studying on your own.

I thought the Examkrackers books were the best of what I ended up using (mainly self-study). I found they were concise and didn’t go overboard on the details, making it easy to get through them. I didn’t care for the Kaplan books. I thought they were too detailed and provided more background info than necessary.

Part of it depends on where you’re coming from when you’re going to study. If you haven’t taken any of the prereq courses in years, you may need a more thorough review. If your coursework has been recent, you may just need some materials to refresh things.

That said, I know the test is changing and I don’t know if they’ve published new versions for the 2015 MCAT. You’re existing guides should cover the existing material fairly well (Physical Science, Biological Science, Verbal (Verbal will be slightly different on the new exam)). You should definitely ensure that you’re going to have some materials to cover the social sciences, and biochemistry.

I did the Kaplan On-Demand course, which included a course-specific set of books plus a lesson book. The included set was pretty much the standard 5 book set you can buy on Amazon. The books were good since I hadn’t had most of the classes in years, but if you can afford it (time and money), I would highly recommend the class. Even the self-paced class got into details of subjects but also did good test prep lessons that you wouldn’t get from just the normal books.

The course included access to the Kaplan apps, which has e-flashcards as well as the texts in digital format. There are also tons of additional study/test materials that I thought helped me practice much more than I otherwise would have.

I know 2 doctors who both got 43s on the MCAT, both of whom used Berkeley Review for their studies. But Examkrackers is also very good.

IMHO, TBR is the best for PS and Orgo. EK is the best for verbal and Biology.

I’ve heard the best about Berkeley Review but it is very pricey. I used Kaplan (also expensive) and lots of my classmates used ExamKrackers and liked it better.


I used both Examkrackers and The Princeton Review. Each had pros and cons.

I wrote a review and comparison of the two on my blog: http://mybedsidemanner.blogspot.com/2013/04/battle…

Hope that helps!

And good luck!

I am using both TBR and EK to study (again) for the MCAT. I agree that EK Verbal is good, and that TBR is tops for the sciences.

One can get used copies of TBR, TPR, Kaplan, and EK and others via Craigslist, etc. Also, there are numerous people selling PDF DVDs and CDs of scanned copies of these books. Illegal, I am sure, but it is being done.

  • datsa Said:
One can get used copies of TBR, TPR, Kaplan, and EK and others via Craigslist, etc. Also, there are numerous people selling PDF DVDs and CDs of scanned copies of these books. Illegal, I am sure, but it is being done.

Be very, very , VERY careful about buying PDFs. I have a set where the answers don't match the questions.

Stick with the real vendors with these products, there are some shady people out there selling crap that isn't correct.

You mention the Kaplan MCAT Practice Tests book, and I don’t believe anyone thus far has commented on this aspect of MCAT preparation, full-length practice exams or tests.

AAMC has made 8 online CBTs (3-5 and 7-11) available through their website, and they naturally are used as the main barometer of what to expect on Test Day. Excluding the options for customizing your exam and the in-test search function, they offer the most realistic simulated online practice other than taking the exam and voiding your score at a Prometric Center. Traditionally, premeds have used some of the later AAMC tests to predict what score to expect on Test Day.

Officially, there are two additional sources of AAMC passages, the 5 Self-Assessments, one for each subject, and the Official Guide to the MCAT. The Self-Assessments comprise mostly of the extra passages removed from the official tests when AAMC changed to the shorter CBT format in 2007. The passages are ordered in difficulty, and AAMC designed these assessments to take 3-4 hours each to complete. The Official Guide gives a sample passage set for each subject. Unofficially, there are the paper test materials from the 90’s (Practice Test I, II, and Practice Items) and the recently retired AAMC 6.

Most test prep courses require completing both the AAMC and their practice exams in part. Preparing with additional practice tests will give you exposure to a greater diversity of passage types and difficulty levels. For independent studiers, there are three sources of additional practice exams: Berkeley Review, Examkrackers, and Gold Standard. Kaplan and Princeton makes their practice exams only accessible by enrolling in their courses.

Berkeley offers 7 online practice exams on their website. You will receive 45 days of access prior to your indicated test date. My clients found the passage content to be sufficiently difficult, especially in biochemistry, and have scored lower than expected from the trend from their AAMC scores. I found some of their questions were too specific to their way of thinking or particular knowledge set from their study guides. Overall, they seem to be solid tests requiring a high level of critical thinking, but I would not take the scores too much to heart.

Gold Standard offers 10 online practice tests on their website. Years ago, I took their free online practice test, I felt the passages were shorter and the questions not challenging enough in their critical thinking. Nonetheless, students have been using them as a resource and they have a dedicated forum in SDN, but I am not a huge proponent of them.

Examkrackers offers 3 paper practice exams in old longer format through their website, but I have no experience with them or heard anything about how representative they are.

Does anyone have any experience with the practice exams from Berkeley, Examkrackers or Gold Standard? For anyone having taken the MCAT, how representative were they of the actual MCAT? Would love to hear any feedback.

You are not alone. I am also studying again after scoring only a 23 last year! I am scheduled for August. U?

Adding more info about Examkrackers–

My past students used Examkrackers with tremendous success. Those materials are tried and true. I also asked the executive director about their online practice tests since they used to have them but when doing a search I found nothing. She said that they took down the old materials since they are in the midst of developing new ones for the 2015 MCAT. So you can look out for online practice tests from Examkrackers in the future.

Happy studying!