Best MCAT Prep Books

Updated August 2021
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Buying guide for best mcat prep books

When applying to medical school, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is one of the most important and most stressful parts of the application process. The rigorous exam covers a wide range of subjects, from biology to critical reasoning. If you want to ace the test, investing in a good MCAT prep book is essential.

But with so many MCAT study books on the market, choosing the right one can be confusing. You have to select a prep book that offers the sample questions, practice tests, and test-taking strategies that work best for your studying style.

At BestReviews, we take the stress out of shopping with our recommendations and guides. Looking for an MCAT prep book that will help you study effectively? The product list above has our top picks. For everything you need to know about finding the right MCAT prep book, our shopping guide has all the advice you need.

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The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) suggests that pre-med students devote at least 300 to 350 hours preparing for the MCAT in the months leading up to the test.

What is the MCAT?

The MCAT is a standardized test that’s used as part of the medical school admissions process. It is a multiple-choice test that almost every medical school in the U.S. and Canada requires for admission. The MCAT tests the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in medical school and medical practice.

The test is offered multiple times a year, from January to September, across the U.S. and Canada. There are also international testing sites for students outside North America. You should sit for the exam during the calendar year before you plan to start medical school, and you’re only permitted to take the exam three times each calendar year and seven times over the course of your life. If you take the MCAT more than once, medical schools will see all your scores.

How is the MCAT scored?

Your MCAT score includes five different results. There is one score for each of the four exam sections and a total combined score.

The section scores range from 118 to 132. The total combined score is the sum of all the section scores, so it can range from 472 to 528.

What does the MCAT test?

The MCAT contains four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.

Biological and biochemical foundations of living systems

  • Contains 59 multiple-choice questions that you have 95 minutes to answer

  • Features questions related to biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, and inorganic chemistry

Chemical and physical foundations of biological systems

  • Contains 59 multiple-choice questions that you have 95 minutes to answer

  • Features questions related to biochemistry, biology, chemistry, and physics

Psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior

  • Contains 59 multiple-choice questions that you have 95 minutes to answer

  • Features questions related to psychology, sociology, and biology

Critical analysis and reasoning skills

  • Contains 53 multiple-choice questions that you have 90 minutes to answer

  • Features questions similar to reading comprehension sections of other standardized tests, with passages that cover social science and the humanities.

Features to consider for MCAT prep books

Test-taking strategies

When you’re studying for a standardized exam, it helps to have a strategy in mind to maximize your score. With the MCAT, it’s important to know how to apply basic knowledge of specific science subjects, as well as critical analysis, in a format that you may not be used to. A good test prep book offers specific test-taking strategies, like using the process of elimination to find the correct answer or answering every question even if you have to guess. Look for an MCAT prep book with a chapter or section on general test-taking strategies that will prepare you for the exam and bolster your confidence when you take it.

Subject reviews

The MCAT tests your knowledge in science subjects, which you likely studied as an undergraduate. To make sure you’re as prepared as possible for the test, choose a prep book that provides an in-depth review of each subject so you can be confident with all the exam questions. Look for reviews for the following subjects:

  • Biology

  • Biochemistry

  • General chemistry

  • Organic chemistry

  • Physics and math

  • Psychology and sociology

  • Critical analysis and reasoning skills

Practice questions and explanations

As with any exam, studying with practice questions is an ideal way to prepare for the MCAT. Some prep books offer thousands of practice questions that cover all the subjects on the exam, so you can get a feel for both how the questions are asked and what type of knowledge is required. The more practice questions that a prep book contains, the better.

However, be sure that the prep book also includes detailed explanations for each correct answer. If you don’t know why an answer is correct, you’ll have a difficult time answering similar questions on the actual exam.

Practice tests

Practice tests are one of the most effective ways to prepare for the MCAT because they allow you to see exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are as you study. Nearly all MCAT prep books contain some practice tests, but it’s best to choose a book that offers as many as possible. Look for a book with at least three practice exams – one to take at the start of your studying, one in the middle, and one at the end – so you can effectively track your progress.

Illustrations and diagrams

For visual learners, it helps to choose an MCAT prep book that includes illustrations, tables, charts, graphs, and other diagrams that help you comprehend the topics on the test visually. The MCAT covers detailed biological functions and other scientific knowledge, so clear, easy-to-understand illustrations often make it easier to grasp key concepts.


The subjects covered on the MCAT often have a specific vocabulary that’s important to understand if you’re going to do well on the exam. Look for a prep book that contains a glossary with all the key terms that you might see on the test. With a glossary, you can quickly and easily find the meaning for any words that you don’t know.

Supplemental resources

In addition to the book itself, many MCAT prep products contain supplemental materials to aid your studying. Some books include flashcards, which can be helpful for quick, targeted study sessions. Others offer online materials, such as additional practice questions or tests that you can access through the publisher’s website. Some provide online videos to explain certain concepts and terms that are likely to appear on the exam. There are even MCAT prep books that offer a smartphone study app with additional practice questions and subject reviews.

MCAT prep book prices

MCAT prep books usually range in price based on how many practice tests, practice questions and explanations, and other study materials they contain. In most cases, you’ll pay between $12 and $200.

  • Budget-friendly

MCAT prep books that contain mainly subject reviews and some practice questions but only one complete practice test (or none) usually range from $12 to $30.

  • Mid-range

MCAT prep books that contain subject reviews, hundreds of practice questions, and one to three practice tests usually range from $30 to $75.

  • Premium

MCAT prep books that contain in-depth subject reviews, thousands of practice questions, and three or more practice exams usually range from $75 to $200.

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When you take the practice exams in your MCAT prep book, try to recreate actual testing conditions. Use a timer, and don’t eat or drink unless it’s time for a break.


Q. How important is my MCAT score for getting into medical school?

A. While an MCAT score is an important criterion used to evaluate potential medical school students, remember that it’s only one part of your application. Your undergraduate GPA, personal statement, activities, awards, and letters of recommendation are also used to determine if you would be a good fit for a medical school. Most schools also require an interview, which can play a significant role in your candidacy.

Q. What are the most important features to look for in an MCAT prep book?

A. Most experts stress the importance of taking practice exams when you’re preparing for the MCAT. That’s why it’s best to choose a prep book that offers as many practice tests as possible. Subject reviews are important, but many students focus too much on review because they believe they need more in-depth knowledge of the science topics than they actually do. Practice exams not only give you a sense of your progress as you study, but they also help you understand the type and depth of knowledge the MCAT tests.

Q. When should I start using an MCAT prep book?

A. It’s usually best to start studying for the MCAT at least three months before you plan to take the exam. That should give you enough time to review the test’s content and take several practice exams. However, the earlier you begin studying, the better, so you may want to buy your prep book six to nine months before you plan to take the test.

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