Finding the best MCAT prep course can be the deciding factor on whether you can actually become a good doctor. Find out which prep course can help you get ready for the test that future doctors need to take.
If you’re absolutely serious about becoming the best doctor you can be, then you need to take the time and effort to find the best MCAT prep course for you. What you need to realize is that just about every US medical school will factor in your results in the Medical College Admission Test to determine if you can handle the hard work that medical studies require.
The MCAT isn’t the type of exam that you can just wing. To do well here, you have to study seriously, and doing this on your own may not be your best option. The best MCAT prep course can systematically cover every subject that may come up in the test, while you also get the most effective strategies for studying for the test and then taking it.
Do You Need an MCAT Prep Course?
It’s technically true that some people can still do well in the MCAT even if they prepare for the test on their own. Others, on the other hand, will absolutely do better with a systematic MCAT prep course instead of just the DIY approach.
So how do you know if you stand to benefit a lot from an MCAT prep course? Here are some signs that indicate how much you really need a form prep course for the MCAT:
You’re Not Satisfied with Your Projected Score
It’s easy enough to find an MCAT practice test you can take for free. This test can then reveal just how well you’re able to deal with the real thing without any sort of preparation.
If you’re like most future doctors, you can get your score and realize that you can improve it. If that’s your reaction, then you should seriously consider a proper prep course for the MCAT.
Self-Discipline is Your Weakness
Some students realize that they don’t find it easy to maintain a proper study schedule. After all, they’re young, and it’s sometimes hard to resist the siren call of parties, dates, and generally just goofing off.
An MCAT prep course, on the other hand, can really make sure you stick to the plan. At the very least, you’re aware that you’re throwing good money away when you goof off.
Prep courses with real tutors also help you emotionally, when you need motivation and encouragement to continue. The feedback the tutors offer can also guide you on your studies.
You Can Afford a Prep Course
You may want to save up for a proper MCAT prep course, as some of these aren’t cheap at all. Think of it as an investment—the money you earn down the road.
The mean salary of doctors in the US is close to $300K per year, as a Medscape Report indicated. It does depend on your specialty, and if you become a neurosurgeon you may end up earning more than $650K a year.
Of course, you’re not limited to just the expensive prep courses. Some budget options are very reasonably priced, and may do almost just as well for you.
Benefits of a Good MCAT Prep Course
A terrific MCAT prep course can offer a definitive improvement for your projected MCAT score. In fact, some of the best MCAT prep courses may even guarantee that your score will improve if you’ve taken the test before.
If you haven’t taken the test before, they still give you a diagnostic test to see where you’re currently at. They can promise with confidence that you’ll improve on your diagnostic test performance once you’re done with the course.
This diagnostic test may even shed light on the MCAT areas you need to focus on more. That way, you don’t waste too much time covering test subjects you’re already an expert in.
The best prep courses offer carefully chosen tutors, and most of them have extensive experience in offering study plans for MCAT preparation. These prep courses also often offer realistic test formats and questions you can practice on so that you’re familiar with the test when you take the MCAT for real.
7 Best Courses
Here’s a list of the best options you can take to make sure you’re not wasting your time and money:
If we’re in the mood to nitpick, we can point out several things we don’t like about the Princeton Review MCAT prep course.
One of these things is the actual brand name. We feel it’s misleading because this company doesn’t really have a formal partnership or association with Princeton University. A lot of students, however, seem to think so and Princeton Review isn’t actually going out of its way to clarify this point.
The second main issue is that the various MCAT prep courses they offer aren’t exactly cheap. They’re actually quite expensive, and it’s as if Princeton Review has forgotten that MCAT test-takers aren’t earning big bucks just yet.
But then again, the premium quality of the Princeton Review for the MCAT is undeniable. Plenty of people also say that while you spend more here, you get a lot of bang for your buck. You’re not wasting your money, time, and effort at all.
Lots of Different Options
Instead of a single template, you have a wide range of MCAT prep courses from Princeton Review.
- Self-Paced (online). This is the most “affordable” MCAT prep course, and it costs $1,399. With a laptop, you can study anywhere and you can go at the pace you want.
- Ultimate. This costs $2,399 and the extra thousand dollars covers the cost of the 123 hours of comprehensive live instruction you get. There are 4 to 6 experts that can offer live online instruction. There used to be an “in-person” option for this, but that may no longer be the case for a while following the pandemic crisis.
- MCAT 510+. This is actually the most popular option, despite how it comes with a $2,899 price tag. Plenty of people think it’s worth the price since it comes with a guarantee that you’ll get a score of at least 510 or you will increase your MCAT score by at least 10 points. With a score of 510, the acceptance rate for medicals schools is 62.4% on average. That’s triple the acceptance rate of 20.6% for those who score just 500.
- Immersion. There’s a difference between learning a language like Japanese from a teacher and learning the language and culture by living in Japan for a time. That same principle is set here with the Immersion option. This gives you more than 860 hours of instruction and support, including 195 hours of live instruction. On-demand tutoring will be available 24/7, and you’ll have a one-on-one personalized study manager along with 6 subject matter specialists as your MCAT instructors. This guarantees a score of at least 515, putting you in the 92nd
- Available med school admissions strategies
- Even the self-paced option offers more than 500 videos to review
- Thousands of practice questions with detailed explanations
- 16 full-length practice tests, with 2 “shortened” practice tests that last 5 hours and 45 minutes
- 10 review books at least, including 3 books exclusive to Princeton Review
- 12 months of access
- Scoring guarantees
- Not really cheap
- Takes a lot of time to get through 500 videos
Bottom line: You pay a lot, but you get a lot in turn—including guarantees
This was once known as the Next Step brand, but they’re known as Blueprint now. They’re very proud of their reputation since they offer hard evidence that their students actually improve with the Blueprint MCAT prep course.
The students who didn’t complete all of the lessons or didn’t even take 4 of the practice exams still managed to increase their MCAT scores by an average of 9.8 points. Those who completed at least 90% of the lessons and took a minimum of 4 practice exams enjoyed an average increase of 10.4 points in the MCAT scores.
Heck, some even managed to increase their scores by as many as 21 points!
The study planner tool is customizable, with hundreds of video explanations with live online instruction 5 days a week at no extra charge. You’re able to tailor the MCAT preparation to your particular needs, shoring up your current deficiencies.
Accurate MCAT Representation
Here you get lots of practice exams that are basically like the real thing. In fact, you have at least
That means you won’t be unfamiliar with the format and the questions asked when you’re taking the real MCAT. You also get detailed test performance analytics that will tell you which areas need even more focus when you study.
The Blueprint prep course offers 4,000 different “passage-based” questions, and these cover every content section in the real MCAT. You also enjoy the advanced filtering feature, so you’re able to tackle the questions that you need to review more. That way, you won’t waste too much time tackling questions that you already know how to answer properly.
The online course offered by Blueprint is the brainchild of 99th instructors. These are the best of the best, as they all scored at least 524 points. They’re the real experts who know what’s really needed in an effective MCAT prep course.
The current instructors in the Blueprint lineup aren’t slouches either. In fact, fifty of them scored at least 520 points when they took the MCAT themselves. These experts really know what they’re talking about, as they’ve succeeded where so many others didn’t.
Guaranteed Score Improvement
So how confident is the Blueprint brand in the effectiveness of their MCAT prep course? They’re so confident that it will work for you that they offer a guarantee that your score will absolutely increase. If it doesn’t, you get your money back.
- 160 learning modules,
- 30 learning modules with special emphasis on experimental design and statistical reasoning
- Personalized study planner
- Advanced Qbank filtering
- Sophisticated analytics
- Smartphone app
- 10,000 practice questions
- 15 full-length MCAT practice exams
- Expert instructors
- Only 6 months of access
- Cheapest plan costs $1,799 (about $300 per month)
Bottom line: Lots (and lots) of practice questions and practice tests
This is another famous brand name in the prep course industry, and it’s been around for about 8 decades now. It’s a safe bet they know what they’re doing.
Lots of Offerings
The Kaplan MCAT options range from practice bundles that include realistic practice tests and about 3,000 Qbank questions to review and practice on. There’s a DIY online course for $1,799 and $2,499 gets you live online classes with the support of teachers. Pony up $2,999 and you get the full online course with 1-on-1 tutoring.
So, which one do you get? Kaplan helps with that too with 3 questions to filter your needs. They ask you about how much time you have before the MCAT, whether you’re a solo studier or you absolutely need an authority figure to provide some structure. You’re finally asked if you need 1-on-1 support. Your answers reveal the plan that suits your preferences and circumstances.
Does Kaplan work? Plenty of students say it does, and Kaplan itself offers a score improvement guarantee. If your score doesn’t improve, you get your money back.
Plenty of Content
Aside from getting all the official AAMC practice materials, you receive:
- Live or on-demand lessons
- 700 hours of guided preparation
- Adaptive Qbank with thousands of practice questions
- 16 full-length practice tests
- And 8 books
The 16 full-length practice tests give you a real test of the actual MCAT, so you won’t be surprised at what you encounter when you take the MCAT for real. You’ll be very familiar and comfortable with the type of questions you get and the length of time needed to complete the exam.
Heck, you may even practice questions that may actually come up on the real MCAT. Even if you fail to answer a question correctly in the practice test, if it comes up again for real, you’re more likely to get it right the next time.
However, another benefit of these practice tests is that they’re all diagnostic. They give you a more accurate view of your strengths and weakness at the time you take the practice test. You can then focus more on the areas you’re not doing well in when you resume your online classes and practice questions.
- Proven track record
- 16 practice tests
- Plenty of different options
- Thousands of Qbank questions
- 700 hours of instruction
- Definitely pricey
- Only 6 months of access
Bottom Line: You have to pay for Kaplan quality, but you get what you pay for—an MCAT prep course that really works for you
The Magoosh brand is a testament to the fact that there’s an exception to every rule, and they prove that an effect MCAT prep course doesn’t have to be expensive at all. It’s true that there’s a scheduled price increase in the near future, but Magoosh won’t likely raise their prices too much. The main reason why Magoosh is so highly regarded is that they offer effective options at such a low price. It’s doubtful that Magoosh is willing to abandon that unique selling point.
2 Basic Options: Price and Access Time
If you check the 2 options available, you’ll find that there’s only 1 actual option here. That’s because you have a really great deal, alongside a really bad one.
The excellent choice is the more expensive (but not by much) 12-month premium. You pay $199 and you get access for 12 months. That’s about $33 per month.
That’s way more reasonable with the other ostensibly “cheaper” option. You only pay $179, but that only gives you a 1-month access time. On a per-month basis, that’s just too expensive in comparison.
You actually have a single plan here, since the only difference between the 2 options is the length of the access period.
Your plan includes:
- The ability to pause your account, so you can study for 2 weeks, take a 1-month break, and study for another 2 weeks and it all counts as just a month of access
- A study plan on your dashboard to constantly remind you of your schedule
- At least 380 content review topics covering the most crucial topics, offering “big picture” coverage
- More than 740 practice questions
- 3 shortened MCAT practice exams, designed to look exactly like the questions you’d get on the real MCAT
- Detailed explanations for every practice question
- Email support from MCAT tutors
- A guarantee that your score will improve by at least 10 points
- Very affordable (especially the 12-month option)
- 7-day trial available
- Helpful videos for every question you get wrong on AAMC practice tests
- Coverage of all MCAT subjects
- Too few questions for 12 months of study
- Only a handful of practice tests and they’re the shortened versions
Bottom Line: This is affordable for a reason, as it works best as a supplementary review course after taking a more comprehensive MCAT prep course.
Dr. James L. Flowers actually came out with the first MCAT prep manual called the “Harvard Manual”, which became the template for many of the other MCAT books that followed. An online MCAT prep course is an obvious step up, and the brand has been around for 35 years.
Different Study Plans
You have several options when it comes to your MCAT study plan, so you can tailor it to your specific circumstances. The MCAT Challenger course is popular, as it’s quite comprehensive.
If you don’t have much time, there’s the Cram Session study plan that lets you squeeze in as much review as you can handle even shortly before the real MCAT. If you’re deficient in a specific topic, you have study plans like the Physics Booster that focuses on certain areas.
The Comprehensive plan lets you prepare for the MCAT in just 8 weeks, which covers 292 concepts with 2,621 practice questions. This is a daily study schedule, with 4 hours of study each day.
The 12-week plan tackles 313 concepts with 3,406 practice questions, while the 16-week plan covers 345 concepts with 4,200 questions.
- Customized plans
- Maintainable 4-hour daily schedule
- Email support for MCAT-related questions
- No full-length practice tests
- 4-month access at the most
Bottom line: This may not be the most comprehensive option, but for its price, it’s a nice refresher option.
It’s a truism in the MCAT prep course industry that there are very few cheap options that are actually any good. So, it’s understandable if you’re skeptical about a brand that bills itself as the “Home of the Free MCAT Prep Course”.
The Free Course
Technically, this is true. They do offer a free course, starting with 10 content modules with 150 lessons that you can complete easily enough. The eCourse section allows access to more than 300 hours of video content. If you don’t have that much time, you can still play the videos at 2x time regular speed and you’ll still be able to understand them.
Other features include MCAT study tips, MCAT Question of the Day, email support, and a Facebook study group.
The MCAT Self Prep folks make money here by following the “free app” approach. Sure, you can use the free course, but you also can upgrade the course.
You still get the video collection and the 10 modules, and with the paid models the experience is entirely ad-free
- Basic Pro costs $9. This adds the customized study plan, with a study portal and score tracker.
- Advanced Pro sets you back $99. This time, you also get more than 5,000 Quizlet Flashcards. These flashcards cover all the content you’ll find in the more popular content review books and sites such as by Khan Academy.
- The Deluxe Pro is the most expensive at $999, and with this you get more than 5,000 practice questions. This is expensive because it includes various special courses focusing on a more specific concept. The Mastery Courses cover Amino Acids, Metabolic Pathways, 100 Most Essential MCAT Equations, High-Speed Math, 10 Most Commonly Mussed Concepts, Science Passage Reading Strategy, Medical School Applications, and the Ultimate CARS Strategy.
This offers lifetime access, so don’t worry about time running out. They will just trust that you won’t improperly share the course with friends and family.
- Unlimited access
- Offers free and affordable options
- Mastery courses available
- Score improvement guarantee with paid versions
- No live online classes
- No practice tests and no analytics
Bottom Line: This offers a wide range of pricing options, but the plans are geared towards DIY students.
This has also been around for the last 25 years, so it’s safe to say they have a track record with lots of experience to use.
The costs of the plans range from $35.95 up to $1,499 while the access time ranges from 3 months to a full year. They’re all self-paced.
The features will depend on which plan you get, with 3,000 practice questions to start with and 10,000 practice questions for a few of the more premium plans.
You can go with just 2 full-length practice exams, up to 20 for true tracking and customization of your study plan.
Curiously, their Platinum Package Plus offers resources from other MCAT prep providers. The Kaplan and Princeton Review MCAT courses are part of the package, along with other resources.
- Lots of different options
- Wide range of prices
- Combines the resources of other top brands
- Can go up to 20 practice tests
- Mostly self-paced, no live-online option
- No real tracking tools
Bottom Line: You can choose different options from a wide range of price points, and you can even combine the self-paced offering of other top brands.
Kaplan vs. Princeton Review: MCAT Prep Course Comparison
It’s clear that plenty of students attest to the overall effectiveness of the Kaplan and the Princeton Review MCAT prep courses. Which leads to the natural question: which one is better for you?
To answer that question, let’s compare the details of the 2 MCAT prep courses.
While both give you the AAMC MCAT tests, they also have their own versions of the practice tests.
They’re both good, admittedly. But a lot of people say that comparatively speaking, the Kaplan tests are better.
The main problem with The Princeton Review tests is that they’re not too similar to the question style that appears in the real MCAT. Also, you get the feeling that Princeton Review really values memorization and calculation.
The best way to compare the 2 is to get the price of their basic DIY packages. It’s $1,399 for Princeton Review, and $1,799 for Kaplan.
So, you can get a top-notch self-paced review course with Princeton Review, and save yourself $400 along the way.
Winner: Princeton Review
What’s really galling with Kaplan is that they cost more, but they give you a shorter access time of just 6 months. With Princeton review, you get 12 months of full access.
On a “per month” basis, Princeton Review is a comparative bargain.
Winner: Princeton Review
In terms of value for money, it seems apparent that Princeton Review offers a lot more. However, it may be argued that Kaplan offers a slightly “higher-quality” course, but that’s subjective.
In the end, it’s your call. We just feel that they may offer the same level of MCAT prep course quality, but the Princeton Review offers longer access for a lower price.
Just how hard is the MCAT?
There are many ways to describe the MCAT, but “easy” isn’t a word you’d use to describe it. It’s difficult, to say the least. There’s simply no way you can just wing it and do well.
Which section is the most difficult section of the MCAT?
The popular opinion is that the most difficult part of the MCAT is the CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills). But there’s hard evidence to back up this belief because this section generally has the lowest mean score among all the MCAT sections.
How long does the MCAT take?
The test technically takes more than 6 hours to complete. That’s not taking the other relevant time periods into accounts, such as the early travel time (you don’t want to be late), the check-in process, and the breaks in between the test sections. All in all, it will take at least 8 hours from start to finish.
Are MCAT prep courses worth the money?
Thousands of future doctors who have taken these prep courses have answered a resounding “yes” to this question. The demand for this service continues to be strong, precisely because lots of people know that the prep course cost is worth the benefits.
Just how long should you prepare for the MCAT?
For best results, you may want to reserve at least 6 months for your MCAT preparation. Some students even go with a full year of studies to really make sure they’re ready.
Which is the best MCAT prep course?
You’re the one who can answer the question the best. You have to factor in your study preferences and your budget, along with the reputation of the brand offering the MCAT prep.
If you’re serious about getting into a good medical school to become a proper doctor, you need to take the MCAT seriously. It’s the one exam that can very much dictate your career in the years to come.
Save for it, and pay for the premium courses. Having lots of content matters. Customize your study plans to account for your weaknesses, using the study method that works best for you.
Of course, buckle down and study. Take the course seriously. Even the best MCAT prep course won’t do you much good if you don’t use it properly!