If you're looking for the best MCAT books we're sure you've stumbled upon sites that claimed to have the ultimate list, but instead promoted all of the books on the market right now.
You deserve better than that.
You're on our site which means that you're ambitious and you want to do well, and it is our job to help you find the best prep materials for the exam.
We didn't just use our previous knowledge of the exam.
We also interviewed dozens of high-scoring med school students (520+ on the MCAT) and several MCAT prep course creators in order to bring to you the truly best list of MCAT prep materials.
(We also have a books to avoid section as some sites have been recommending books that will decrease you score instead of increasing it.)
MCAT Study Materials Comparison Table
# of Pages
# of practice tests
1 + mini-exams
The Ultimate Prep List
We update this list monthly, but if you have any questions or feedback about the books we selected feel free to comment below.
Also, simply buying the study materials isn't effective, you also have to put time in. 😉
This Kaplan study set is hands down the best option for studying for the exam, but only if you have the time and dedication to go through all 7 books. (If you don't have the dedication to do this, then maybe self-studying isn't for you and you should sign up for a prep program.)
These books were highly recommended by nearly every high-scoring student we talked to, and for a good reason- they're highly detailed with great visuals and well-structured practice questions in each chapter.
None of the other MCAT books were as detailed as these, and Kaplan even has the "star feature" that lets you know which sections and what material is most likely to be emphasized on the test.
If you're worried you won't get enough practice with this book, don't worry. They have the end of chapter review sections, 3 online practice tests, and random questions throughout the book to keep you on your toes. If that's not enough you can always look at the Khan Academy video bank.
However, while you will be 95% ready after reading through all of the books and working on your weak spots, you might still need to get the MCAT Psychology and Sociology book as the Kaplan psychology one that comes in this package doesn't cover 100% of the info you need to know.
While this is the most expensive item on our list, it also gives you the biggest bang for you buck as you get 7 practice books (which ends up being around $20 per book) and 3 detailed practice tests which is more than you get from anyone else.
- Very detailed
- Great graphical representations of concepts
- Plenty of practice questions
- The "star feature" lets you know what's likely to be on the actual exam
- Very in-depth with a lot of content. Might not be the best for those crunched for time
This is the best study option if you're pressed for time and you need to know the essentials without having to wade through tons of extra material that won't be on the exam.
Just make sure to order the 10th edition instead of the 9th one as the newer version greatly improves on the disappointing 9th edition.
They corrected nearly all of the mistakes present in the previous version, updated the psychology/sociology book, and added more questions to the practice exams.
As for the quality of the study material, in the typical Examkrackers fashion they only provide what you'll need to know for the exam, but in some cases they err on the side of not providing exactly enough.
All of the 6 books are precise in their language, and the mascot, Salty the Kracker, provides much needed breaks from the arduous studying that you'll have to do. (There's 6 long books to go through after all!)
All in all, the Examkrackers package is great for those who don't have the time to learn superfluous information, but still have enough time to go through 6 books worth of material.
- Concise, but still covers everything you need to know
- Mistakes from the last version were corrected
- Funny mascot distracts you from the pain of studying
- Quite expensive. Especially if you don't use all of the books.
- Sometimes they don't provide enough information about certain topics so you have to look them up yourself.
Sterling doesn't offer a package of study materials like Kaplan or Examkrackers, but you can create your own package for about the same price as Kaplan.
The best part of Sterling is that they update their books every month to make sure that the material covered best reflects the current MCAT.
Their "high yield" MCAT questions books each have over 1200+ questions on specific subjects which is perfect since the best way to prepare for the MCAT is to take similar tests over and over again.
Each book also has detailed explanations for each question in the back, and their support team is incredibly responsive so if you don't understand the explanation in the back of the book, they'd be more than willing to help you. (It's like having a personal tutor!)
However, keep in mind that while the books over an overview of the foundations, if this is your first time learning a certain topic it might be better to purchase a different book or use Khan Academy or a similar resource to learn it before practicing.
Even if you buy the Kaplan package, it might be worth it to invest in a Sterling book for the subject that you're weakest in.
- Updated books guaranteed to cover the new exam
- 1200+ questions for specific subjects
- Very responsive support team that's almost like your own personal tutor
- Only contains an overview of topics. You'll need to actually learn them elsewhere.
While the Princeton review books are great, they do have some drawbacks compared to the Kaplan or Examkrackers study materials.
However, if you don't mind learning extra material that won't be on the exam and expanding your general base of knowledge then this is perfect for you.
The 3 practice tests are very helpful, and there are questions at the end of each chapter to make sure you understand the material, but it doesn't have as many questions as Kaplan or Examkrackers which means you'll have to purchase the Sterling question book or something similar to make sure you have enough "real-exam" practice.
The visual aids are quite useful, although they should've included more of those in the physics book as it's much easier to explain a physics concept through images instead of drawn out texts.
Overall all of the books are well-written and they will prepare you well for the exam as long as you are willing to buy more books to practice the your weaker sections.
- Very in-depth
- 3 full-length practice tests and other practice
- Contains some extraneous material that's not on the exam
- Not enough visual aids in the physics section
The MCAT psychology section is a mess because there are no great review books for it.
However, if you do decide to buy only one book for the exam, we recommend getting this one as it has the most practice passages, and whatever this book doesn't cover you should be able to figure out using Khan Academy and other online resources.
They've greatly improved the book since the last edition, and it now includes a full-length exam in addition to the actual practice sections in the book.
The passage breakdowns and question explanations are highly helpful, and while their glossary isn't the best, that's not why you're buying this book, are you?
- Highest number of practice passages for the exam
- Contains great explanations and passage breakdowns
- The best of the worst. The psychology section is a mess with nothing truly good.
- Will need to use other sources to be fully prepared
If you're this far in your medical career then we're sure you understand the power of flashcards.
They're great for studying on the go, memorizing hard to remember topics, and making sure you remember older material.
A couple different companies have released flashcards for the MCAT, but the Kaplan ones are the best ones by a mile.
It has exactly 1000 flashcards which helps review the ton of material you need to know for the exam.
Quick word of warning though: the flashcards only contain general definitions and no detailed information as it's impossible to fit that much on a small flashcard. It's still highly useful for jogging your memory and making sure you understand the concept at a high level.
One thing we do recommend is going through the flashcards and adding other important things you would like to know for the exam. EX: add your own quick graphs, notes, etc. (This can be a bit of a pain, but it also helps a ton with remembering information.)
As for the quality of the cards themselves, they're somewhat flimsy, but they should last you the couple months that you'll be spending preparing for the MCAT.
- Perfect for spaced repetition and studying on the go
- Great for jogging your memory and understanding concepts at a 10,000 foot level.
- Flimsy, but will last you a couple months.
- Lacks detailed explanations.
MCAT Books to Avoid
We've seen other sites recommending books that are absolutely terrible so we want to make sure that you don't end up buying one of them and wasting your money.
MCAT 528: Advanced Prep
This book is terrible simply because it's pretty much a copy of an official AAMC prep guide with a couple chapters of Kaplan strategies for the test.
Trust us, buying this book simply because of the Kaplan strategies isn't worth it.
The Princeton Review Complete MCAT - One Book, Not the Set
We had high hopes for this book because of the fairly high ratings, but we were disappointed.
It seems that the majority of the high ratings come from people who either never looked at the book, or who were paid to give the book a high rating.
The book is terribly structured and they will give you questions that contain material you're supposed to "learn" 3 chapters later.
The solutions frequently reference non-existing or non-related examples, and they're riddled with errors and missed steps.
It seems as if they just threw this book together as quickly as possible in order to make money, but we guess they forgot that their book can be the difference between someone becoming and not becoming a doctor.
What a shame.
However, we don't want to end on a sad note. Just know this: we believe in you, and if you put in the time and study using one of our recommended resources you will do well!
We know you might have a lot of questions about the MCAT so here are the answers to some of them!
How long is the exam?
It can take anywhere between 6:30 - 7:30 to complete depending on how many breaks you take.
How is the MCAT scored?
There are 4 sections that you can get a 118-132 on. This means you can get anywhere between 472-528 points on the final exam.
How many times can you take the MCAT?
You can take it 3 times per year, 4 times in a two year period, and 7 times during your entire life.
How many hours should you put into studying for the MCAT?
We recommend studying for around 250 - 700 hours depending on how well you know the material beforehand.
This ends up being about 2-6 hours per day for 3-6 months.
What does an optional break mean?
You can skip the optional breaks without penalty, but you can't use the extra time on the next section. We recommend utilizing the breaks for recharging your brain with food and water, going to the bathroom, and stretching out your legs and getting the blood flowing by doing some jumping jacks.
Can you use old MCAT prep materials to get ready for the new exam?
There are many similarities between the two exams, but there are also many differences, so in order to make your preparation as effective as it can be we recommend using a new prep book or course.
Otherwise you might end up spending too much time on topics that won't actually show up on the exam.