Do you need an MCAT prep course to achieve your dream MCAT score? Do you need some help in improving your MCAT taking-strategies or your content knowledge? Some students achieve success by creating their own rigorous MCAT study schedule and sticking to it, but most seek guidance and help in tackling this intimidating examination.

In this blog, we will explore what is the best MCAT prep course, help you decide whether an MCAT prep course is right for you, and how you can choose the one that fits your needs.

Disclaimer: MCAT is a registered trademark of AAMC. BeMo and AAMC do not endorse or affiliate with one another.


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What Is the Best MCAT Prep Course?

The answer might seem obvious, right? The best MCAT prep course is the course that gets you your desired MCAT score! And this is true, but how can a course achieve this? As we discuss later in this blog, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of MCAT prep courses that offer different types of services and promise stellar results? But how to choose the right one?

In our experience, no two students are the same. Every student we work with has a unique learning style and needs. This is why a one-on-one MCAT prep course might be the best option for those looking to improve their MCAT score. The personalized feedback and attention to your needs you receive in these sessions can greatly improve your MCAT skills, whether it’s your MCAT CARS strategy, MCAT timing, or knowledge of the MCAT content.

The one-on-one sessions are not necessary for every student, but if you are gambling on what kind of course will be most helpful in getting you the score you want, then it’s a sure bet that this MCAT prep course style is the best.

However, before you jump into signing up for a course, we strongly advise you to read this article to analyze whether your need an MCAT prep course, what kind of course would work best for your learning style, and what kind of costs you should expect. The information below will help you weigh all the pros and cons of learning in a course vs independent study, so you can make a sound decision that is right for you.

So, let’s dive in! 

Wondering what is a good MCAT score?

How Can I Decide Whether I Need an MCAT Prep Course?

Start with asking yourself the following questions:

Ultimately, only you can answer the question of whether or not you need an MCAT prep course. The above factors can only guide you towards making a well-considered decision. If you choose to go forward with your search for your ultimate course, follow the steps outlined below.

Steps to Take Before Enrolling in an MCAT Prep Course

Follow these steps before you arrive at your final decision about taking, or not taking, an MCAT prep course:

  1. Take a diagnostic test: Your MCAT prep should always begin with an MCAT diagnostic test. This will help you determine where you’re at now (your baseline score) and what are your major areas of improvement. It will also help you get a good idea of how tough the MCAT test is and how much help you might need.
  2. Scan the test materials: Go through the free AAMC MCAT test prep materials online to see how comfortable you are with the concepts and the test format. This should also give you an idea of whether or not you need intensive tutoring or self-directed study.
  3. Evaluate your own goals and limitations: What medical schools do you want to get into? What is your ideal MCAT score? What is your minimum required MCAT score? What is your schedule like? How much time do you have left before the MCAT? What is your biggest obstacle to achieving your ideal MCAT score? Do you NEED to have an instructor or can you get by using self-study? Answer these questions honestly so you know exactly what kind of help you need.
  4. Research the different courses: Go online and find out all you can about the different MCAT prep courses. Compare courses at different price points to see what they are offering. Most importantly, remember your own needs, weaknesses and strengths when you research them. Read what they are best at, what they focus on, and how they can help you.
  5. Read the reviews: Find third-party reviews of the courses to understand their strengths and weaknesses and how they align with your own. Talk to ex-students who can make recommendations from their personal experience.
  6. Contact the course instructors/administrators: This is a good exercise if you know you need help but you’re not entirely sure which type of course is best suited for you. Ideally, you should contact different courses so you get a realistic idea of which program can help you best. A good prep company will gladly walk you through their MCAT prep course during an initial consultation for free. They will demonstrate their interest in your success and not make you sign up for anything until you are certain they are the right fit for you!
  7. Make a level-headed decision: Applying to medical school is a stressful process! With so many things to get done, it might be tempting to take a hasty decision under duress. Instead, try sleeping on this decision for a couple of nights, doing all the required research and then taking the final call based on your actual needs.

Are you wondering what makes the MCAT challenging?

Benefits of Taking an MCAT Prep Course

Looking at the cost outlay for an MCAT prep course can be daunting, especially when you consider the overall medical school cost! It might put you off the concept altogether. The important thing, however, is not to focus on the amount you have to pay, but to consider if you are getting value for your money. The ultimate goal is to efficiently use both your time and money to get the best possible result. If you choose to go for a self-study schedule, and your MCAT score does not meet the standards of the medical school you’re applying to, it will be hard to convince the medical school admissions committee to take a look at the rest of your application and you may not move forward in the selection process. You’ll have to end up investing even more money and time to re-take the MCAT – not to mention the emotional heartbreak of not getting the result you wanted. For some students, in the long run, the benefits of taking an MCAT prep course might be well worth the money.

Here are some benefits for you to consider:

How Much Does MCAT Prep Course Cost?

What can an MCAT prep course offer? The answer to this question is: it depends on the cost. There are numerous MCAT prep courses available today, offering both online and in-person coaching. The cost can vary depending on the brand name of the class, the amount of prescribed study materials and the extent of coaching services being offered.

However, remember that the course needs to address your needs, so do not go for the lowest or the highest cost without reflecting on what you need to get a good MCAT score. Most programs provide multiple options at different price points to satisfy students with varying needs. The advantage of a personalized course is that it can be adjusted and modified directly based on your needs and progress. While class-sized courses are a great way to review material together, there is simply not enough attention paid to each student to focused on tier individual needs.

Below, we have listed all the services an MCAT prep course might offer depending on the price range:

An MCAT class in the lower cost range could offer the following:

A mid-cost course could offer all the above, plus the following:

A high-cost MCAT class could offer all the above, plus the following:

Keep in mind that these are very general guidelines for what prep courses offer.

Keep these in mind before you enroll!

Do You Need an MCAT Prep Course to Ace the MCAT?

There are a lot of students who have aced the MCAT without enrolling in any course, via self-directed study. For those who choose this path, it’s important to invest some time in doing your research, gathering all the study materials, and creating an effective self-study schedule. The AAMC offers a great collection of free and low-cost online resources on their website. You can supplement this with other low-cost online resources, including webinars, videos, PDFs, podcasts, tests, test diagnostics and guides. You can also leverage free resources such as apps, forums, and discussion boards to form study groups.

A self-study strategy is the right option if you match the following criteria:

Additionally, while MCAT prep courses do offer access to a large number of resources, these resources may not always be reliable. That’s why it’s important to regularly check your progress. For example, taking as many practice tests as possible definitely helps to keep track of your progress and improve your final score. But without personalized feedback and professional help, many students find it difficult to figure out what areas of weakness they should address and how to structure their time to achieve the highest results possible. This is why going with a prep course with good reputation, proven strategies, and unbiased excellent reviews is key in your search for the right MCAT prep class. If the MCAT prep course you choose is not reliable or comprehensive, you may end up wishing you had just chosen the self-directed study option.

Alternative Study Strategies for the MCAT

If you thrive in a self-directed study environment, you can access the free and low-cost resources available online to create and follow your own study schedule. Listed below are a few of these resources:

AAMC Materials

AAMC offers free study materials on their website including:

  • Complete exam content in a PDF format for each of the sections (Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, Scientific Inquiry & Reasoning Skills and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills)
  • A collection of free planning and study resources:

  • Official guide to the MCAT exam costing 34 USD
  • Four full-length MCAT practice exams, each costing 35 USD
  • MCAT question pack bundle costing 90 USD
  • MCAT prep CARS diagnostic tool costing 25 USD
  • Additional low-cost resources such as flashcards, guides and section-specific question banks and study materials costing between 10 USD to 45 USD
  • Complete MCAT prep bundle including all the above costing 350 USD

Other sources

You’ll find a lot of free online BeMo MCAT resources such as blogs, videos, webinars, books, and guides on our website. These resources include the same advice, tips, and strategies we provide in our one-on-one consultations. The difference is that some students can easily apply these strategies to their own study habits and schedules, while others need a personalized approach.

Alternatively, if you have the budget for it, you can opt for a private MCAT tutor. Tutors offer subject specific, 1-on-1 coaching along with individual feedback and test-taking tips. This is a great choice for those who prefer face-to-face coaching, personalized guidance and customizable schedules. A tutor can give you a realistic interpretation of your performance in the practice tests and identify the most efficient way to improve your score.

Struggling with MCAT physics? Check out our video below:

Conclusion

The MCAT is one of the most difficult academic tests in the world and there’s no magic formula to help you ace it. You will have to plan your study schedule carefully, put in hours of dedicated studying and stay focused on your goal. An MCAT prep course could help you make the best use of your time and maximize your efficiency. Whether or not you opt for one will depend on a variety of factors. Make sure you carefully consider all the pros and cons before taking this important decision.

FAQs

1. What are the different types of MCAT prep courses?

A lot of different institutes offer MCAT prep courses. Typically, the low-cost courses will include a bundle of study materials (textbooks, guides, flashcards, practice tests, question banks, videos) and limited access to live sessions (workshops, webinars or classes). The mid-cost classes offer a more comprehensive course including access to all extensive study materials, online/in-person classes, instruction from subject matter experts, customized schedules and numerous practice tests with customized feedback. The most expensive courses include an intensive regimen of section-wise classes, 1-on-1 tutoring, customized homework and more.

2. Will an MCAT prep course actually help me improve my MCAT score?

This depends first and foremost on you. A good MCAT score requires, at the very least, 300 hours of intensive studying along with multiple practice test attempts. No course can help you skip this necessary hard work. However, many courses do offer a money back scheme if you don’t improve your score (as compared to your diagnostic score), conditional upon the student having completed all the mandatory requirements of the course (attending class, completing homework, sitting for the practice tests etc.) You are most likely to see a score improvement if:

  • You enroll in a course that meets your individual requirements
  • You make full use of all the resources they offer you
3. What are the benefits of taking an MCAT prep course?

Enrolling in an MCAT prep course will give you access to a much larger pool of study materials, including textbooks, guides, videos, webinars, question banks, practice tests etc. A lot of courses target “high-yield” concepts – that is, their materials cover concepts most likely to be tested in the MCAT. The more comprehensive courses also offer a customized study schedule to help students that struggle with sticking to deadlines.

There are also many different types of MCAT courses to suit different students' needs – from self-paced, online courses with pre-recorded lectures and interactive office hours to intensive classroom instruction by recently successful test takers and other subject matter experts. You can also select courses targeting score improvement in specific sections. A lot of courses also offer specialized instruction in test-taking strategies. This can help if you’re struggling with answering the passage-based questions in the given time.

Finally, a lot of students struggle with understanding exactly what they’re doing wrong and how to fix it. By enrolling in an MCAT prep course, you get access to detailed, individual feedback on your practice tests. This makes identifying and working on your areas of improvement much easier. It also helps to save the time and additional efforts that you would otherwise have to put into research.

4. Are MCAT prep courses worth it?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors. Every student has different requirements in terms of their schedule, time commitments, academic backgrounds, test-taking skills, preferred study style and so on. Aspiring med school students should carefully consider each of these factors to determine if an MCAT prep course is worth the money. If you feel your grasp on the foundational content is weak, and you need help with test-taking strategies, an MCAT prep course may be an excellent investment in yourself and your future. If you just want a one-stop shop where you can access all materials, instruction, study schedules and so on, an MCAT prep course could save you a lot of stress. Alternatively, you might be very comfortable with self-study and therefore don’t need anything beyond the low-cost study materials available online. Do your research on the different courses, identify your areas of improvement, and then you can figure out if an MCAT prep course is worth it for you.

5. Can I get a good MCAT score without an MCAT prep course?

A lot of students take the MCAT without enrolling in any prep course and manage to achieve their desired score. This is the right option for self-motivated, disciplined and focused students. You should be ready to put in your 300 hours (or more) of study, plus additional time for research, resource gathering and practice tests. There are plenty of free and low-cost resources available online, including the official AAMC prep materials, to help you plan and execute your MCAT prep. If at any point you judge that you’re falling behind, you always have the option of taking a targeted subject-specific online course, buying a low-cost resource bundle or hiring a tutor for a few sessions to help you sail through.

6. Which is the best MCAT prep course?

Ultimately, to really improve your score, you need personalized approach. This is why a one-on-one study course with an MCAT expert is most advisable. This type of prep course will be solely focused on improving your weaknesses and help you develop exam-taking strategies, including stress management.

7. What are the disadvantages of MCAT prep classes?

MCAT prep courses are generally helpful for students, but sometimes, can end up being the wrong choice. For example, some classes are tailored towards addressing a specific aspect of the MCAT – either a specific subject, section or general test-taking strategies. If you need more comprehensive help, then taking this type of MCAT prep class could hinder your prep. Similarly, the MCAT practice tests that the course offers could be different from the actual MCAT, in terms of subject matter as well as scoring. If you go in blind, thinking the final MCAT will be exactly like your practice tests, you may struggle during your actual test. Finally, some MCAT prep courses have a pre-determined schedule of classes, practice tests, Q&A sessions etc. If this schedule clashes with your own, you’ll be skipping sessions and ultimately, wasting your money.

8. How can I find an MCAT prep class that is right for me?

To begin with, make sure you give this decision a lot of thought and do all the required research. Find out about the various courses out there and what they offer. Take an MCAT diagnostic test to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Do you need more help with the CARS section? Or are you looking for section-specific improvement? Next, clearly define your own study style. Ask yourself how you study best – in a study group? In a classroom setting? With a self-paced online course? A combination of these? These questions will help you clarify your study goals. Once you know what you, personally, want from an MCAT prep course, talk to different course administrators to see if their offerings match your requirements. Many courses offer multiple options to suit different types of students, so rather than blindly selecting a price tag or brand name, go for an MCAT prep class that suits your academic needs. Finally, before signing up for the course, do read the independent reviews of the course and talk to some ex-students to get an impartial assessment. Following these few guidelines can help you make the right decision about which MCAT prep class to pick.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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1 Comments

Juan Carlos Vazquez

If i struggled in particular pre-req or two –– would you recommend retaking these courses first before beginning to study for the MCAT?

Reply

BeMo Academic Consulting

Hi Juan Carlos! Thank you very much for your question. If you are going to retake a course, you must also restructure your study strategies. Simply retaking a class using the same learning habits might not result in better learning and understanding, or a better grade. The key to successful MCAT prep is developing the right strategies and tactics that allow you to maximize your learning, critical thinking skills, and knowledge of MCAT content. Retaking a class might help, but you must work on your personal study habits to increase comprehension and knowledge of content. I hope this helps your decision. If you have any more questions, let us know!

BeMo Academic Consulting

Juan Carlos, you are the winner of our weekly draw. Please email us by the end of the day tomorrow (October 2nd) at content[at]bemoacademicconsulting.com from the same email address you used to leave your comment to claim your prize!

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