What kind of MCAT prep books do you need to prepare for the test? You definitely need to know how to study for the MCAT using correct prep materials if you want to get a good MCAT score. Your MCAT score will play a major role in your medical school admissions process. The MCAT is an extremely challenging exam that requires months of preparation. Using the right books will help you create learning strategies and have a clearer idea of what to expect from this test. We made a list of the best 15 MCAT prep books to help you get the best score!

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Why Use MCAT Prep Books

The MCAT is a 7.5-hour exam that represents an important milestone in your medical school application journey. Even though it is not impossible to get into medical school with a low MCAT score, you need to make sure to do everything in your power to obtain the highest score possible. There is no right or wrong way to prepare for this exam, although one thing is for sure: to figure out when to start studying for the MCAT you will need to check out the MCAT test dates and come up with the ideal MCAT study schedule and dedicate several hours per week during at least a few months to reach a score that will impress a medical school admissions committee. Embarking on such a journey all by yourself won’t be a good idea if you don’t have quality resources. Good prep books don’t only provide you with the information you should know about the topics included in the test, but they should also provide study strategies and practice tests/questions. It is essential to learn tactics to answer and tackle MCAT passages.

Of course, you can always resort to an MCAT tutor, or take an MCAT prep course, but you will also need to review a lot of material on your own.

MCAT prep books offer the benefit of organizing the information in such a way that you can easily get a realistic sense of what the exam consists of, highlighting what’s important, and providing expert tips and information you wouldn’t typically find in other sources. 

Looking for tips on how to get a good MCAT score? This infographic might help:

About the MCAT

This test was developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) as a way of assessing your problem solving and critical thinking skills, and your knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.

This exam is divided into four sections:

The first three sections of the test are based on fundamental scientific knowledge, while the last one analyses your reading comprehension through a series of passages and questions.

The AAMC offers an official guide that contains all the general information you need to know about the test. AAMC’s Official Guide is an amazing first read to start getting an idea of what to expect from the MCAT and how it works, but it most definitely should not be your only purchase. Ideally, you should complement this guide with additional material. 

MCAT CARS Prep Books

MCAT CARS is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of the test and your prep for this section of the exam should start long before you schedule your test date. It is essential to familiarize yourself with books from outside the scope of the core MCAT subjects to ace this section. This is not something that can be achieved over time, but part of your MCAT CARS strategy should involve developing analytical and reading comprehension skills.

Additionally, guides such as the AAMC’s Official Guide or BeMo’s Ultimate Guide to MCAT CARS are fundamental to understand the tactics and strategies to obtain the highest score. It is not just about having all the necessary knowledge, but also about knowing what to do with it. 

CARS prep book #1:

It is actually possible for you to start preparing for the MCAT way ahead of time, regardless of your exam date, by habituating yourself to reading magazines, literary classics, and basically any reading that you find intellectually challenging.

Ideally, you should be looking at completing 1 book per week during 6 months. The secret to this is turning it into a habit. Doing something every day makes it easier for you to incorporate it as part of your routine. If you are already used to reading for pleasure, this will not be too different.

Here are a few ideas on what to read:

You can even think about taking courses on more diverse topics like art history, if you find that more appealing. Any text that takes you out of your comfort zone will do the trick.

Want to practice with some MCAT CARS passages and questions? Check out this video and we'll provide our expert answers on how to answers these:

CARS Prep Book #2: BeMo’s Ultimate Guide to MCAT CARS

BeMo’s Ultimate Guide to MCAT CARS is the perfect prep book as you approach the year when you decide to take the MCAT. Our ultimate guide will not only test your reading and comprehension skill, but also help you get accustomed to the unique CARS format. Using our MCAT CARS strategy, you will be able to tackle any passage you face on your test.

This book includes:

  1. Top 8 reasons why applicants score low on CARS
  2. 10 sample CARS passages with expert responses and analysis
  3. 40 practice CARS passages with questions and answers
  4. BeMo's top strategies and 7 steps to ace any CARS passage
  5. Long-term and short-term stress management strategies
  6. Free access to BeMo’s online resource center

You can get a paperback copy on Amazon for under $20, but might also be able to get a digital version for free for a limited time, making it your most convenient option financially speaking. 

Check out this infographic on how to study for the MCAT to see steps to MCAT prep and some key resources:

Full MCAT Practice Tests

Practice tests play a big role in helping you navigate the exam more confidently and manage your time more efficiently, not to mention you will be more prepared to answer all the questions in the best way possible.

First of all, taking an MCAT diagnostic test can help you design the ideal MCAT study schedule. Performing well in a diagnostic exam is not important. The goal is for you to determine where you are at the moment of developing your study plan, and find out what your strengths and weaknesses are, to be able to work on them more efficiently.

Full-length practice tests should take place in your study schedule every few weeks, so that you can assess your progress. Ideally, you should take them in a realistic environment and time them.

The AAMC offers a series of practice exams for you to get a real sense of what your exam day will be like. These practice exams are not only the best, but they are also quite affordable and include 230 authentic questions that replicate the exact MCAT experience, plus a free sample test. When you take one of these practice exams, you will be able to see your score to have an idea of how you might perform on a test day. 

If you're looking for more MCAT prep tips, see this video:

MCAT Question Banks

In addition to course materials, books, and practice tests, it is essential for you to prepare for the first three sections of the exam using practice questions. They will help you know what to expect and answer each one more accurately and faster. Question banks will help you apply your answer strategies to the questions.

An excellent resource for this is the UWorld multidimensional question bank. It covers all of the topics included in the test and over 2,000 MCAT-style questions, plus illustrations to aid visual learning. One interesting highlight of this resource is that it imitates the interface of the actual exam, making the experience as realistic as it can get. You can also create customizable exams that suit your study needs at different points of your preparation process, which makes it possible for you to tailor each study session according to the study plan.

Other Study Materials You Can Use

As you design your study schedule, you will need to make sure to gather all the study materials you will use throughout your journey. In addition to what we mentioned previously, you can also resort to:

Remember to be creative. Some resources might not seem to traditional but they make a difference at the end of the day. Every student has different needs and different ways of incorporating information, not to mention different attitudes and sensations when it comes to sitting for an important exam.

Conclusion

If you are fully aware of how hard the MCAT is, you know that preparing for the exam on your own can feel like an impossible task without the appropriate MCAT prep books. Fortunately, there are several options for you to choose from, depending on your budget, your style, your needs, and your study schedule. Normally, test-takers like to combine two or more resources to get a broader understanding of the MCAT and how it works. Even though it is definitely going to be a challenge, with the right preparation you will be able to ace the MCAT like a pro!

FAQs

1. Do I need a book to prepare for the MCAT?

Even though it is true that the MCAT is based on everything you learned during your undergraduate studies, knowing about the topics covered in the exam is not enough if you don’t know what to expect from it. You need to be familiar with certain aspects of the exam such as question complexity, scoring, time management, and come up with an effective study plan to get to the exam day with a solid notion of what the MCAT consists of.

While it is true that most of this information can be found online for free, books present the advantage of structuring the information in an organized way that is easier to digest. In a few words, the right books can make your exam preparation much easier and stress-free.

2. How long does it take to prepare yourself for the MCAT?

Technically, you start studying for the MCAT as soon as you start your undergraduate degree, since you are going to learn about all the topics included in the exam. The recommended time you should dedicate to your MCAT preparation is 6-7 months, dedicating an average of 10 hours per week. Needless to say, students who can dedicate more time per week to their exam preparation will need less time to complete it, although a more gradual approach can be more effective for some students.

3. What is a good MCAT score?

Your ideal MCAT score will depend on which schools you plan on applying to. All schools have different standards, and depending on your score, you might have higher chances in some than in others. Any score between 506 and 515 can be considered competitive. However, a truly outstanding score will be at or above 517.

4. What happens if I get a low MCAT score?

Well, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but you will have to make up for it with an outstanding GPA and impressive extracurriculars. An MCAT score is considered non-competitive if it is below the matriculant average, meaning that it has to be above the mark of those who applied and did not make the cut. High and low scores are not set in stone, they vary greatly from one school to another. You might not get into your dream medical school but you could aspire to less competitive programs if you apply strategically. After carefully analyzing all of your possibilities, you can always consider retaking the exam if you really think it is the best choice for you, but you should rule out all your other options first!

5. Is MCAT mandatory for medical school?

Given the difficulty of the exam and the stress it involves, it is understandable that some aspiring doctors end up looking for ways to skip the MCAT. Although it is an extremely common requirement for medical schools in the US and Canada, there are some medical schools that don’t require the MCAT.

6. How hard is the MCAT?

There are a few factors that make the MCAT especially challenging:

  • It is lengthier than probably any other exam you have taken before. The testing time for the MCAT is 7.5 hours, including introduction and breaks between each of the four sections.
  • It consists of 230 questions covering many different subjects, such as general and organic chemistry, physics, biology, biochemistry, psychology, and sociology.
  • It is passage-based, which means that you will be asked to read a 6 to 7 paragraph passage and then answer questions that combine details from the passage with your own knowledge, so it is not just about memorizing information but also putting your critical thinking to work.
  • You don’t really have much time to answer each question. Yes, we mentioned earlier that the exam lasts several hours, but that doesn’t mean you get to dedicate a lot of time to each individual question. Your time management skills can make you or break you. 
7. Are there resources online?

Yes, there are countless resources you can find online for free, including the information provided by the AAMC on their website, plus testimonials and tips from students and teachers who can help you get a broader picture of how the MCAT works. You can also explore our YouTube channel and our free blog. However, investing in a good MCAT prep guide is a must if you want to obtain a high score. Some of these guides are even in digital format and allow you to practice MCAT questions on your computer, just like you would do in real life.

8. Is there an official MCAT preparation guide?

Yes, the AAMC offers an official guide that tells you everything you need to know about the exam. Most students, however, like to use this guide as a complement to other MCAT reviews.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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