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The Ultimate Guide to MCAT Prep Resources: What You Need to Know

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Table of Contents:

Introduction

What Are the Main Features of the MCAT?

MCAT prep: official materials, books and flashcards

Best MCAT Prep Programs

MCAT Test Prep FAQs

Conclusion


 



Introduction


Are you considering applying to medical school? If so, you're likely aware of the importance of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in the application process. The MCAT is a standardized, multiple-choice exam that assesses your problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and knowledge in natural, behavioural, and social sciences. 


In this article, we will explore the main features and assessment criteria of the MCAT, as well as provide valuable insights into how to best prepare for the exam. We'll discuss the content and structure of the test, the scoring system, and the skills and knowledge areas assessed. Additionally, we'll share some of the most effective prep books and programs available to help you improve your MCAT results. Whether you're just beginning to consider medical school or are already knee-deep in the application process, understanding the MCAT and how to prepare for it is essential. Let's begin!


What Are the Main Features of the MCAT?


The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized exam managed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). It is used to assess weather aspiring medical students are ready for beginning medical school. The MCAT format consists of four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behaviour, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. It evaluates a wide range of skills including critical thinking, problem-solving, scientific knowledge, and verbal reasoning. 


As you may have already understood, the purpose of the MCAT is to provide medical schools with a measure of the potential each applicant has to succeed in their program. It is an essential component of the medical school admissions process, together with other criteria such as GPA, letters of recommendation, and interviews. Many med schools in the United States and Canada (and in other countries as well) require MCAT scores as part of the application, and a high score can greatly increase your chances of admission. 


MCAT prep: official materials, books and flashcards


After showing the overall structure and purpose of the test, let's dive into the topic you may be most curious about: the nitty gritty of test prep. When preparing for the MCAT, many students turn to a combination of official materials, books and flashcards to help them study effectively. Choosing the right resources and books can give you access to comprehensive content reviews and practice questions, while flashcards are an efficient way to reinforce your knowledge on the most important facts and concepts. In this section, we will explore the official MCAT Prep Hub, as well as some of the best books and flashcards available for MCAT prep. Whether you're a pre-med student just beginning your MCAT preparation or gearing up for test day, these resources can help you maximize your study time and improve your chances of success on this exam.


Official materials


To begin with, the Association of American Medical Colleges runs the official MCAT Prep Hub, where you can find variety of free and purchasable resources to help you prepare for the exam, including practice questions, sample exams, study guides, and tips for success. The Hub also provides information about the structure and content of the MCAT, as well as advice on study strategies and test-taking techniques.


Books


Prep books are a valuable resource for students studying for the MCAT, particularly for those who prefer independent learning and self-organizing their study plan. If you are one of them, here you can find an overview of the most effective and popular prep books: 


  • "The Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete Box Set" is a set of seven books covering all the material tested on the MCAT, from biology, to chemistry or psychology.  It also includes thousands of practice questions and access to online resources and practice tests.

  • "Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review" offers in-depth content review covered in seven different books, all accompanied by clear figures and summaries. In addition, by scanning the QR code on your books you have a 1-year access to countless online resources and practice tests.

  • Lastly, remember that The Princeton Review and Kaplan also offer subject-specific help. This means that if you are especially struggling in chemistry, you can buy a smaller book focused just on that.

Flashcards


As previously mentioned, flashcards are an effective tool for studying for the MCAT. As a first option, you can create flashcards yourself, to test your knowledge on key concepts, equations, or vocabulary terms. Remember to keep them organized and updated, and to practice them as part of your daily study routine. Creating flashcards can be time-consuming, especially for the extensive content of the MCAT. For this reason, you may want to opt for some flashcard products. Once again, The Princeton Review MCAT Flashcards and Kaplan MCAT Flashcards are great and high quality options.


Best MCAT Prep Programs


While prep books and flashcards are great resources, everyone learns differently and some students require a more in depth and comprehensive support to succeed in the MCAT. If this is you, right here you can find more information on MCAT consultants and prep programs that can help you boost your scores and increase your admission chances. Here is a detailed list of some of the best programs available.


BeMo MCAT prep


Promotion 1

BeMo is a leading educational consultant worldwide. Among its diverse services, it offers in-depth and personalized options for aspiring med students to help them excel on the MCAT exam. Here is an overview of their MCAT prep services


  • Score increase guaranteed - If your baseline score is below 500, BeMo guarantees a 15-point improvement or a score of 515+ if your baseline is 500+.

  • Repeat the program for free - If you're not satisfied with your score, you can repeat the program for free trough BeMo's no-questions-asked policy.

  • Private, high-quality sessions - All sessions are done privately to guarantee personalized attention to each student. BeMo's team consists of the top 5% MCAT experts who are dedicated to helping you succeed.

  • Countless resources - You'll have access to up to 18 practice tests and a 2,000+ questions to ensure you're completely ready for the MCAT. 

Magoosh MCAT prep


Promotion 2

If you are looking for a high-value MCAT prep course on a limited budget, Magoosh may be the best option for you. Here are the highlights for their MCAT package:


  • Comprehensive and affordable - Magoosh's MCAT prep program includes video lessons, practice problems, and full-length practice tests at an affordable price. Plus, you can start a seven-day free trial to see if this program is right for you.

  • Score increase guaranteed - If your score doesn't improve by at least 10 points after studying through Magoosh's MCAT package, you can be eligible for a full refund.

  • Flexibility - Magoosh's flexible study schedule are perfect for busy students. By purchasing the MCAT package, you will also be able to study though Magoosh's app.

Kaplan MCAT prep


Promotion 3

A third resource is Kaplan's package, which is designed to provide a personalized and tailored approach to help students achieve success on the MCAT exam. More specifically, the program features: 


  • Proven track record - The program has a proven track record of raising students' scores by an average of 15 points, guaranteeing success for all who enrol.

  • Personalized approach - Each student's preparation plan is tailored to their individual needs, ensuring that no time is wasted on irrelevant material.

  • Diverse learning options - You can take your MCAT classes through online resources, live classes, or one-on-one tutoring. These diverse learning options can help every student to find the format that best suits them.

  • Countless resources - every Kaplan package include 17 full-length MCAT practice test (including 6 coming directly from AAMC) and more than 10,000 practice questions.


MCAT Test Prep FAQs


After reading all this information, you may still have some doubts on the topic. In this final section of the article, we'll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the MCAT test. Let's begin!


Are there special accommodations for disabilities?


Yes, there are accommodations available for individuals with disabilities or medical conditions when taking exams. When registering for an exam, individuals should indicate their need for accommodations and submit documentation of their disability or medical condition. This documentation may include medical records, a diagnostic evaluation, or a letter from a healthcare provider. The review timeline for accommodations can vary, so it is important to plan ahead and submit all required documentation as early as possible. Once the request is submitted, the testing organization will review the documentation and determine what accommodations are appropriate. It is important to plan for accommodations when registering for the exam to ensure that there is enough time for the review process. Some common accommodations may include extra time, a separate testing room, the use of a computer or assistive technology, or a reader or scribe. 


Are there any practice exams available?


As you may already know from reading the previous sections, you can find practice exams for the MCAT from various sources. Indeed, most MCAT prep courses also offer practice exams as part of their curriculum. These prep courses typically include a recommended number of practice tests to take before sitting for the official MCAT exam. It is generally recommended to take several practice exams to familiarize yourself with the format and content of the test, as well as to refine your test-taking skills and time management.


Furthermore, it is important not to forget that you can take official practice tests through the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The AAMC maintains a repository of full-length practice exams that are often considered the most accurate representation of the actual MCAT. These practice exams can be accessed without signing up for a formal course, giving you the opportunity to gauge your readiness for the test.


How early should I start preparing for the MCAT?


The recommended starting point for MCAT prep is at least 3-6 months before the exam for a minimum amount of time. However, for a more thorough and effective preparation, you are advised to start your prep as early as 12-18 months before the exam. 


In addition, understanding your target MCAT scores is essential because it will allow you to tailor their study plan according to the specific requirements of the medical schools you aim to apply to. Different medical schools have varying MCAT score expectations, making it important to aim for an MCAT score that aligns with the target medical schools' admission criteria. 


What is the range for a good MCAT score?


A good MCAT score is one that places you in the upper percentiles, demonstrating a high level of proficiency in the material tested. The average MCAT score is around 500, with the 50th percentile falling at this mark. However, top medical schools typically require scores in the 90th percentile or above, which equates to a score of around 514 or higher. The range of possible total scores on the MCAT is 472 to 528.


How much do I need to pay to take the MCAT?


The updated cost for the MCAT for the 2024 testing year is $330 for standard registration and $135 for fee assistance registration. International test takers will incur an additional $120 fee. MCAT prep courses can range from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the provider and course length. However, there are potential financial assistance programs available for those who qualify, such as the AAMC Fee Assistance Program, which reduces the MCAT registration fee to $130 and includes free access to the Official MCAT Prep products. It also offers a discount on MCAT prep courses through certain providers. Additionally, there are various scholarships and grants offered by organizations and institutions to help cover the cost of MCAT prep for students in need. Overall, the cost of the MCAT can vary depending on registration type, location, and preparation resources, but there are options available to help alleviate financial barriers for aspiring medical professionals.


Conclusion


We have reached the end of this article. Today, we have gone through many prep options you can consider in your med school admission journey. Lastly, I wish to stress once again that, while preparing for the MCAT test may seem daunting, it is a crucial step towards achieving the dream of attending medical school. Remember that the MCAT is not just a test; it is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and passion for medicine. Stay focused, stay motivated, and believe in yourself. You have the potential to achieve your dreams and make a positive impact on the world. Good luck, and keep moving forward with determination and optimism!

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