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.

Best Self-Paced Course
Next Step Test Prep
Flexible scheduling with instructor guidance.
Pros
Quality practice exams
Interactive Lessons
Live Office Hours
Cons
Online videos can be hard to follow

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.

Interactive lessons

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.

Next Step video lessons include interactive quizzes with diverse question formats.

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.

Best Live Online & In-Person Courses
Kaplan MCAT Prep
Classroom settings and flexible scheduling.
Pros
Live Online Instruction
In-Person Prep Courses
Cons
Practice exam differences

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.

Next Step video lessons include interactive quizzes with diverse question formats.

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.

Best Six-Week Intensive
The Princeton Review MCAT
Intensive courses for the busy student.
Pros
Exclusive resources
Master instructors
Live and on-line options
Cons
Time and location constraints

Why we chose it

Exclusive resources

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.

Master instructors

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

How is the MCAT scored?

The new MCAT scores each of the four sections individually. Each section receives a scaled score from a low of 118 to a high of 132 with a midpoint of 125. Each section’s score is then combined to create a total score ranging from 472 to 528, with a midpoint of 500.

How long does it take to prepare for the MCAT?

You should be prepared to devote at least a few months to preparing for the MCAT. Depending on the amount of time you have to dedicate to studying it can range from 2-4 months, but some experts recommend 6-8 months of total prep time and taking at least three practice exams.

How many times can I take the MCAT?

It is possible to take the exam up to three times in a single testing year, four times during a two consecutive-year period and seven times in a lifetime.

The best MCAT prep courses: Summed up

Next Step Test Prep
Kaplan MCAT Test Prep
The Princeton Review MCAT Test Prep
Best Self-Paced Course
Best Live Online & In-Person Courses
Best Six-Week Intensive
Six Week Intensives
X
In-Person Courses
X
Video-Based Lessons
Live Online Office Hours
X
Private Tutoring
Number of Practice Tests
10
15
15

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