The Best MCAT Prep Courses
How We Found the Best MCAT Prep Courses
8 prep course providers researched
4 categories evaluated
3 top picks
The best MCAT prep courses
Considered one of the most difficult standardized exams, the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®), is a multiple-choice examination used to test competency for medical school. With a testing period of 7.5 hours, the MCAT requires extensive preparation. Enter the MCAT prep course. These courses not only include the materials students need to study, but also provide a study schedule and adaptive study tools.
How we chose the best MCAT prep courses
Adaptive resources, engaging instructors and widespread availability
We started by compiling a list of the eight MCAT prep course providers to evaluate what kind of services they offered. We then separated their courses into four types of study categories: self-paced, live online, in-person and six-week intensive. Each test prep method has different advantages (and disadvantages), and we created a few specific criteria for each method to find the best prep courses.
Three full-length practice exams
No matter what delivery method you choose, when it comes to exam prep there is one study tool that reigns supreme: practice exams.
Official practice exams from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the administrators of the MCAT, are widely regarded as the best study materials available. It’s no surprise, then, that many prep course companies, including Kaplan, purchase AAMC’s available practice materials to include in their prep courses.
Since the most commonly recommended preparation period is three months, the best MCAT prep course will have at least three full-length AAMC practice exams (one per month). This ensures students will have a variety of tests to practice with rather than retaking one they may have inadvertently memorized.
To see which company offered the best official and unofficial practice exams, we consulted the results of a community survey from members of the Reddit MCAT group and Student Doctor Network (SDN) — a nonprofit networking organization for pre-health and health professional students. We gave preference to prep courses that had positive student reviews for replicating the real MCAT experience.
The 3 best MCAT prep courses
Why we chose it
Quality practice exams
Next Step offers access to an impressive collection of company-made practice exams. According to student reviews, Next Step’s practice exams are close simulations of the real thing. The testing platform even mimics the official MCAT interface down to the keyboard shortcuts and color scheme. Of course, you’ll also be preparing with four official AAMC practice tests provided in the course, but we appreciate that Next Step ensures all available practice exams are as realistic as possible.
In addition to its practice exams, the company impressed us with its nine informative books and interactive video lessons. The interactive video lessons are particularly engaging, with built-in quizzes that include multiple choice questions, word banks, and even diagram completion.
The video formats keep lessons diverse and interesting while preparing you for the types of questions you can expect from the MCAT.
Live office hours
Unlike most self-paced courses, Next Step also offers live office hours five times a week. During these sessions, an instructor guides you through a comprehensive review of specific topics. The small focused lessons allow students to receive real-time feedback through live practice questions and Q&A opportunities.
While these sessions are best viewed as a supplemental resource — they won’t replace traditional live-online lessons — having access to an instructor can help students who have difficulty understanding certain topics and questions. You also don’t have to attend the full session, you can drop in just to ask a question, or watch the recorded version later. In other words, Next Step incorporates some of the benefits of a live-online course without sacrificing the flexibility of self-paced learning — an innovative touch.
Points to consider
Online videos can be hard to follow
We found some of the on-demand video lessons a little difficult to follow. But live office hours mitigate the issues by giving you access to an instructor for personalized feedback. In addition, useful practice materials offer the tools and confidence you’ll need for test day. If you are looking for the most well-rounded self-paced course on the market, Next Step is an excellent choice.
Why we chose it
Live online classes
At a glance, the live online instruction from Kaplan is fairly standard for the industry. Instructors lead digital lessons and students can receive real-time feedback through a chat feature. Explanations are clear and precise, and the material is easy to follow. But a deeper look reveals two key characteristics that make all the difference. These include the ability to contact your instructor outside of class, and instructors with top-notch credentials. Kaplan’s live online instructors all scored within the 90th percentile (a top tier score) on their own MCAT exam. Plus, if you get stuck on a topic or question, you won’t have to wait for the next class period to receive assistance — an important feature for students who are on a once-a-week or twice-a-week class schedule.
In-person prep courses
Kaplan holds the instructors for its in-person prep courses to the exact same standards. So you can expect expert instructors in the classroom and beyond if you need to contact them outside of class.
An instructor-led course should also offer the adaptive study tools you’ll need while studying on your own — which is where Kaplan sets itself apart from its competitors. Both its live online and in-person prep courses offer useful tools, like the impressive adaptive QBank, a customizable quiz generator that measures your strengths and weaknesses. Adaptive quizzes are ideal for shorter study sessions where you can focus on the areas where you most need to improve.
However, when it comes to in-person courses, you will have to worry about availability. Since an in-person course relies on physical classrooms, available locations are often limited. Kaplan was the only provider of in-person prep courses that could offer quality instruction in at least three quarters of the nation.
Points to consider
Practice exam differences
Some students complained that its company-made practice exams did not accurately replicate the MCAT experience. But with its wide availability, solid instructors, and other helpful resources, including official AAMC exams, the benefits of a Kaplan course outweighed the competition. In short, if you want an effective instructor-led course, whether live online or in-person, Kaplan is a strong bet.
Why we chose it
The Princeton Review Summer Immersion program’s 6-week course has all of the training and resources you need. With 370 hours of instruction, the most of any of Princeton’s MCAT prep programs, you’ll have access to 11 books and 15 practice tests.
But not only that, it provides exclusive drills and stand-alone digital content, like its Medi-Flix instructional videos which allow you to brush up on content outside of the classroom. For students who enjoy having a study structure, and the added accountability or a classroom setting, the program also comes with an entire MCAT study plan created by experts.
One of the top benefits of the summer immersion course is that it isn’t taught by just one instructor. Instead, you’ll learn from a team of specialists — biologists, physicist, and chemists. The instructors not only knows the MCAT well, but are experts in their respective fields of study. Meaning you can study for organic chemistry questions with an organic chemistry expert and ask your professors questions in real time. They can also help identify any weaknesses and recommend additional resources to work on before the exam.
Live and online options
You can take this intensive course one of two ways — live online or in-person. For those who benefit from the classroom setting, they will have one-on-one interaction with professors. It’s also a great option for those who want to study with others and benefit from being on location as they prepare for the exam.
If you can’t travel to a specific location but still need an intensive course, the summer program is also offered online. You’ll still interact with instructors and have access to all of the materials offered in the in-person course.
Points to consider
Time and location constraints
While a bootcamp-type course may be great for the amount of resources and expert instruction, it is a full-time commitment for six weeks. Meaning, if you do a live course you’ll have to decide if you have time to give up most of the summer to focus on the MCAT and travel to the location where the course is offered.
The good news is there are plenty of other online prep course available from The Princeton Review, and the summer and winter immersion course are also offered online.
Guide to MCAT prep courses
How to find the right MCAT prep course for you
Consider your learning style
Not all courses are the same. Whether you want the flexibility to create your own study schedule or need to go to a physical classroom, there’s an MCAT course to fit your study needs. Plus, thinking through professor availability and study resources are important factors, as well.
Research practice exam availability
The more practice exams the better. Any test-prep provider worth its salt will offer official practice exams from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the administrators of the MCAT. But many offer additional exams they curated to mimic the real exam. If you like doing as many practice exams as possible, pick a course that offers a wide array of exams.
MCAT prep course FAQs
The best MCAT prep courses: Summed up
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