6 Best MCAT Prep Courses of 2021

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a mandatory test for all students planning to become a doctor in America and Canada. This is a difficult and high-stakes exam with little room for error and your MCAT score will make or break your application into med school.

The MCAT is a standardized test issued by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and it consists of 120 multiple-choice questions. The MCAT comes in four sections:

  1. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  2. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
  3. Biological and Biochemical foundations of Living Systems
  4. Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior

This test has been designed to assess your readiness for medical school and it is very challenging. In fact, out of 53,571 applicants, only 21,869 were accepted in 2019, meaning there is only a 41% passing rate with an average passing score of 511.5.

A few research online has shown that it is critical for one to study and be fully prepared to do well on the MCAT unless you’re a genius with an adequate science background in your pre-med course. But, this is only the case for an incredibly small population. This proves that the selection of the right prep course is a pivotal decision at the start of your journey to becoming a doctor.

If you cheap out on a prep course, you may waste time and risk delaying your admissions a year. Overspend, and you may waste thousands of dollars on a course with bells and whistles you don’t necessarily need. As someone who is passionate about the medical profession, you should already be taking relevant courses and classes such as biology, anatomy and physics to give you sufficient knowledge base to answer the MCAT questions.

The point of a MCAT prep course is to help you become familiar with the test process, timing and wording of the questions. With so many different MCAT prep courses available online, it can get confusing to decide on which would be a good choice for you. Fortunately, we have reviewed just about every MCAT prep course available and compiled only the best ones here to help you make an informed decision. Our article today even includes a detailed analysis and explanation for each MCAT prep course.

Best MCAT Prep Courses

Blueprint MCAT

If you’re looking for a quality yet affordable course to prepare you for MCAT, then Blueprint online has got to be the best prep course you should consider for MCAT. It was clear from the moment we opened the Blueprint MCAT online content that they are rich in information that will help you answer practice questions well.

Blueprint MCAT offers only one-course format – an online-only, self-study course where you get to set your pace. At the very heart of this course is their suite of interactive and highly effective video-based lessons with a comprehensive curriculum through a series of 160+ learning modules, all intelligently designed to reinforce study materials.

In addition to that, Blueprint MCAT test prep online also offers a very respectable amount of high-quality practice material to test your knowledge, including 4,000+ questions through its QBank, 15 full-length practice tests, and all available AAMC practice materials. They even include a ton of great MCAT prep resources for extra studying. All of these MCAT exam prep resources and materials combine to create an extremely robust prep package, and you even get to enjoy it all at a very affordable price point!

As discussed above, Blueprint MCAT course’s interactive and highly engaging video is their bread and butter. The company not only has a knack for making visually stunning videos, but they’re also effective at conveying materials in a manner that makes learning easy and improves retention. Each self-study video lesson features a Blueprint MCAT instructor with text, graphics and animations appearing around them as they talk.

The text portion of the lesson is frequently supplemented with catchy graphics and helpful animations to help you understand and retain knowledge better. In fact, many complex chemical processes and physical systems described in the lessons are illustrated onscreen right next to the instructor as they explain. Visualizing these complex subjects greatly improves material comprehension and later recall, plus it just makes the learning experience much fun. We understand that test preps can be a grind at times with dry material and dense textbooks, so these video lessons provide a much-needed break from that.

Studying and absorbing large chunks of information are often ineffective and you may most likely forget what was read a few minutes ago. Luckily, Blueprint’s curriculum is also intelligently structured into bite-sized learning modules, each consisting of a series of video lessons, quizzes, passages, and assessments. These individual components within the unit ensure a more integrated learning experience and to allow you to see and better understand the same material from multiple perspectives.

This type of learning module will serve to reinforce the subject matter and improve content retention. In other words, spending an extended period on one subtopic watching video lessons, doing drills, and taking quizzes to test you out really hammers the material home. All in all, these are more than 160 learning modules covering content review and 30+ covering reasoning skills, test strategies, and other soft skills to help you ace your MCAT test.

Pros

  1. High yield reviewer at a very affordable price
  2. Provides free supplementary study materials like practice book and personal tutoring packages

Cons

  1. Does not provide flashcards to practice for repetition and memory retention

Altius

Altius is another MCAT prep course that offers quality MCAT review at a very low cost compared to some of its competitors. Altius MCAT prep course differentiates itself from the rest by offering an immersive MCAT prep experience. Rather than focusing on more traditional on-demand video lessons, Altius was designed and built for intensive 1-on-1 sessions with an MCAT mentor. They even have small group classes for those who prefer to have discussions.

The company’s belief is that students will be better prepared for exam day with a more personalized and guided approach to preparing the MCAT compared to studying alone with a bundle of materials. Despite being only around for a few years now, the results have proven that Altius is right with an AVERAGE student MCAT score of 516. This outs Altius as the best performance statistics among all the MCAT prep providers.

In fact, Altius is so confident in their method that they guarantee a 90th percentile score for the majority of their prep packages. The 90th percentile scores and intensive, small group session promises sound awesome, but they do come at a price considering the fact that Altius charges some of the highest course prices in MCAT prep. If cost isn’t an issue for you, then Altius is surely the best option on the market to get a top-tier MCAT score.

As mentioned, the basis of Altius MCAT prep course is a series of 1-on-1 mentoring with a dedicated mentor. Altius MCAT prep course specifically labels their mentors and tutors as they train their mentors to offer much more than just answering practice questions. The Altius mentors are trained to help you set a roadmap for your studies, help assess your weak spots, answer content questions, review practice exams with you, and much more. You can even think of them as like a Sherpa on your journey up the mountain to obtain a solid MCAT score.

We loved the Alius process and were crazy about the level of support they offered during our review. Altius’ guidance in this respect is simply unparalleled in the MCAT prep course space. Depending on which package you opt for, you can expect either 15, 25, or 45 hours of dedicated 1-on-1 time with an Altius mentor which is worth more than 100 hours of on-demand video lectures from other MCAT prep courses.

The other half of the Altius prep course system is built around hosting small, group-based learning sessions in their study halls that will serve as the basis of your content review and strategy building, with 1-on-1 mentor meetings to help reinforce these group meetings with a more personal touch.

The group sessions are led by one or two Altius experts and will generally integrate content reviews, work problems, and reviewing practice problem sets in a session. You can expect to dive deep into the details during these sessions and you’ll consistently find yourself learning something new each session.

You get to meet your team members on Zoom and the study halls are capped at just 6 – 8 students per session. This will ensure a more intimate feeling compared to other group-based live online classes. You will even get the chance to get to know your classmates pretty well in smaller sessions. In total, you’ll be getting somewhere between 120 and200 hours of live online group learning sessions, depending on which package you sign up for. These review classes are highly effective and are one of the key highlights of the Altius MCAT course along with their 1-on-1 mentoring sessions.

Pros

  1. Offers MCAT score improvement guarantee program. 90th percentile score guarantee for those who subscribe to their short-track (MCAT crash course) or long-track Silver, Gold, or Platinum Mentoring Programs.
  2. 14-days trial with refund
  3. Face-to-face tutoring and mentoring programs accompanied by small classroom sessions to provide an effective discussion avenue and to help enhance areas that need improvement
  4. Every study has his/her own dedicated mentor and access to all MCAT practice exams and 32 group-based practice sessions

Cons

  1. Outdated website is not very user friendly and may be difficult to navigate
  2. Video and sound quality may not be great

Magoosh

Magoosh MCAT test prep promises a 10-point increase to your MCAT score with access to more than 380 lessons and almost 750 practice questions that are easily accessible anytime and anywhere through desktop or mobile.

Magoosh is a pure and simple high-value, bang for your buck MCAT prep course that’s designed to help you keep costs down. If you’re on a tight budget, or just need limited review and practice materials to get ready for the exam, then Magoosh has got to be your best bet.

Magoosh MCAT test prep features a great curriculum for the price with a bounty of study resources at your disposal, including 380+ video lessons, 740+ practice problems, and 3 full-length practice tests. Though these numbers are pretty standard, the quality of these materials is very good. The video lessons, while may be dry and lacking in any real production value, effectively and efficiently communicate more than 380 scientific subtopics that are covered on the MCAT. Although the videos are not that engaging and are housed in a bulk library, it’s still plenty of resources and prep for your money.

The biggest highlight about the Magoosh MCAT prep course is not their video lessons, practice problem explanations, or cool dashboard, it is their incredible value. The company only charges you a $300 one-time, all-in cost instead of a monthly subscription rate as seen in the other courses. This puts Magoosh MCAT prep courses roughly 1/8th the cost of other prep courses in the MCAT space. Calculating the cost per question and test, this MCAT prep course certainly offers great worth and it’s especially true if you adjust for the total number of video lessons. The bottom line is that the course price point is more than just affordable, it’s a downright steal!

Just because the price is cheap doesn’t mean the quality is as well. You still get some first-rate features that other more expensive MCAT test prep companies offer, such as a customizable practice session pool that allows you to create personalized practice question sets through Magoosh MCAT course’s advanced filters. The feature lets you narrow the practice problem set by MCAT subject, question type, difficulty, and more. This is a useful function to help you create targeted quizzes to focus on areas that need improvement.

Pros

  1. High library with high-yield material
  2. High-resolution videos and can be arranged based on subjects
  3. Each lesson has a transcript you can retrieve
  4. 3 full-length exam simulations that mimic the actual MCAT test
  5. Designed with a strikeout and highlight features accompanied by detailed explanations for each question.
  6. Dedicated study planner creates a study plan ranging from 1 to 6 months based on your set test date to be aware of your schedule and maximize your preparation time
  7. Email support could respond within 24 hours for any lingering questions to your tutor

Cons

  1. Few practice questions

Princeton Review

Students who prefer self-paced learning through live online or in-person tutoring courses may find that the Princeton Review MCAT Prep Course their cup of tea. Princeton Review has been prepping students for the MCAT for years with great proven track records. They have one of the most comprehensive and detailed curriculums you can find online, which is delivered through a ton of classroom time. Providing 123 live class hours (live online or in-person), Princeton Review stands head and shoulders above their rivals in the live class space.

In addition to that, you even get access to more than 500 detailed video lessons covering and reinforcing the same material. Combining that with 16 full-length tests, 2500+ practice problems, and a set of content-rich prep course books, you’ll never be in shortage of prep work. And it’s not just the quantity of Princeton Review’s coursework that’s impressive, but the quality is very good as well.

As mentioned earlier, the Princeton Review MCAT course boasts 123 live class hours, which is 3 times more than their nearest competitor (Kaplan at 36). Another thing we love is the structure of Princeton’s live classes. Instead of a generalist MCAT expert, all of your lessons are guided by a rotating team of subject matter experts. In total, you’ll get 4 to 6 expert instructors teaching your class sessions in their area of expertise. This is a major value add since you get an extra bit of content depth with a subject matter expert compared to a generalist. This will improve the overall instruction and learning experience. If you’re after a live class, then Princeton Review MCAT definitely rates out as one of the best online MCAT prep courses for live instruction.

On top of great live instruction, Princeton Review MCAT course also boasts some of the best hard copy prep books available on the market. When you purchase a Princeton Review MCAT prep course, they will ship you a box set of 11 prep books, 7 of which cover subject-specific content review across the MCAT subjects of biology, general chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry, physics and math, psychology and sociology, and CARS. The other 4 books are various course-based workbooks. Each of these books is incredibly detailed, well-written, and contains great graphics as a supplement to the main course.

Pros

  1. Princeton Review has a reputable experience with more than 30 years in the industry and having helped over 10,000 students pass MCAT for the first time
  2. Princeton Review materials are of high-quality
  3. Money-back guarantee programs
  4. 510+ MCAT Score Guarantee gives you access to MCAT Topic Focus with 12 sessions of rigorous review experience
  5. Jam-packed with practice tests, online materials, videos, and Amplifire learning tool to help boost your material retention
  6. Princeton Review tutoring packages by experts who motivate and help you achieve high MCAT scores

Cons

  1. No free trials
  2. No free flash cards

Kaplan MCAT

Kaplan test prep is great for its diverse study packages and access to live lecture classes, much like Princeton. They even offer a high score guarantee to those who subscribe. Thousands of future med school students have relied on Kaplan MCAT to prepare them for the MCAT since they have a proven track record of success.

Kaplan’s MCAT curriculum has been meticulously crafted by their in-house MCAT experts and refined over the years to give their students one of the most robust, yet efficient, sets of lessons and coursework you can find out there.

They provide traditional in-person classes (or live online) that show results. While they may not lead any particular category in terms of a number of features and MCAT prep course materials (such as practice questions, practice exams, or live instruction hours), they do everything across the board amazingly well. Kaplan MCAT prep course is just a really solid all-around course that simply gets the job done.

Kaplan MCAT prep course provides top-notch video-based lessons at the center of its DIY Course instruction that acts as a critical supplement to its live classes. Though they’re not as good as Blueprint MCAT’s, they are definitely a close second. The production value of these videos is fantastic, providing a sharp picture and modern digital whiteboard.

Each video even features a uniform opening, with your instructor on the screen to introduce a topic while the slide sets the agenda for the video. The video will transition into the lesson following a whiteboard as your tutor verbalizes their instruction over it. Text, formulas, graphics, and animations will fill up the screen as the instructor speaks that will keep you engaged as you cut through the dense material. Altogether, there are more than 130-course review videos, each adding tremendous value to the instruction component of Kaplan’s course.

Another primary feature of the Kaplan MCAT practice work is its adaptive Qbank study resource which gives you access to over 2,900 high-quality practice problems with advanced filtering functions. This feature allows you to customize practice sets by subject, question type, difficulty, and more. The practice questions will even adapt to your skill level and performance as you work through the problems. This will help you zero in on your weak spots that need improvement and simultaneously ratchet up the difficulty as you improve.

Following each practice problem set, you will get a detailed score report with some nice analytics around your performance. Together with the QBank, Kaplan MCAT exam prep will ensure your practice is more efficient and effective.

Pros

  1. Kaplan’s MCAT Channel is a unique feature that gives 6-days-a-week access to live lectures from experts.
  2. Pre-recorded content could be accessed 24/7
  3. Wide range of course options with the freedom to strategically execute your study plan
  4. Higher Score Guarantee Program that lets you retake the program for free or get a refund if you do not increase your score.
  5. Kaplan’s course materials do not expire until you sit for the MCAT test

Gold Standard

Gold Standard MCAT prep is an affordable and generous MCAT prep course that provides several practice questions and free resources. The sheer quantity of practice materials makes it perfect for those students seeking the most practice exams and questions possible. They offer an industry-best 20 full-length practice exams and 6,500+ practice problems. Gold Standard is not just about the quantity, but the quality of their materials is also top-notch, primarily relying on their own in-house material and reputable third parties.

Aside from their practice material, Gold Standard MCAT test prep even offers you access to their well-vetted eBooks and 30+ hours of video review lessons. While the instructional work isn’t the most comprehensive around, it does provide a nice jumping-off point for your practice.

As mentioned above, the Gold Standard MCAT course’s practice materials are the highlight of their MCAT prep course. Not only are the numbers impressive, but we love how they even pull from a network of high-quality third parties to get their materials instead of just relying on their in-house experts to design questions and tests. This gives you a wider range of practice questions from different perspectives.

In addition to your practice material from the Gold Standard MCAT course, you will also get practice tests and practice questions from the likes of AAMC, Kaplan, Princeton Review, and Examkcrackers. They pull the combined expertise of these distinguished institutions to offer you a much more diverse and rice practice experience. Considering the fact that everyone is making their best-educated guess at how MCAT questions will be designed, having a broad range of practice questions in terms of length, difficulty, perspective and design is a true benefit.

Another major highlight of Gold Standard MCAT Prep course is their bundle of high-quality eBooks. These digital prep books have been around for over 20 years and are extremely well-vetted by this point. Each chapter within the eBooks covers each MCAT subtopic in great detail, breaking down a complex subject matter into understandable bites.

The eBook contents are well-articulated and rich, you would be shocked to see an official MCAT question where the underlying topic wasn’t covered in these eBooks. The books also contain helpful illustrations and graphics to improve material understanding and knowledge retention. Students who prefer a prep book as their main source of instruction will find the Gold Standard MCAT prep course well suited to their needs.

Pros

  1. Updated content with new passages, practice questions and explanations.
  2. High-yield to get you a high score.
  3. Generous to provide free resources including practice questions.

Cons

  1. The platform itself is quite outdated and not as flashy as its competitors.

General MCAT Information

MCAT Test Structure

MCAT is a computer-based, multiple-choice exam that takes seven-and-a-half hours to complete. AAMC revamped the MCAT exam in 2015 to four sections: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS); Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior.

The CHemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section has a total of 59 questions (44 passage-related questions and 15 standalone, non-passage-related questions). This section will test a student’s physical sciences knowledge in the context of biological sciences and even wraps in a fair amount of biochemistry. It breaks down the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section by undergraduate course, the section tests General Chemistry (30%), Physics (25%), Organic Chemistry (15%), Biochemistry (25%), and Introductory Biology (5%) is also included in this section of the test.

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section of the MCAT pre-medical school exam consists of 53 passage-related questions that need to be completed within 90 minutes. The CARS section does not require any prior information or substantive knowledge as all information necessary to answer is included in the exam itself. This section is designed to test the student’s ability to analyze arguments, synthesize passages, and identify underlying assumptions and inferences.

The Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section mirrors the Chemical and Physical Foundation of Biological Systems section in terms of structure. It has a total of 59 questions with 44 passage-related questions and 15 standalone, non-passage-related questions. Students are given 95 minutes to complete the MCAT questions. This section examines the test taker’s knowledge of biology and biochemistry with additional questions containing organic chemistry and general chemistry. The undergraduate courses incorporated into the MCAT exam include Biology (65%), Biochemistry (25%), General Chemistry (5%), and Organic Chemistry (5%).

The Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior section is once again composed of 59 questions, 44 passage-related and 15 standalone, non-passage-related questions, and 95 minutes to complete. This is a relatively newly added section that tests Psychology and Sociology concepts related to biological sciences. While some pre-medical school students will not have taken Psychology and Sociology, as they’re not a prerequisite course to medical school admission, having done a semester in one or both of these areas will help. This section of the MCAT test will test a student’s ability to analyze and apply psychological, sociological, and biological principles in the context of behaviors and relationships.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of MCAT Prep Courses available online, there are also great options for those on a budget. Before making any final decision on which is the best MCAT prep course for you, do remember to take some time to note down exactly what you want from an MCAT prep course and see which ones match your list.

With the power of the internet and technology, tutoring and exam preparation is so much more accessible now. But if you do have any questions regarding an MCAT prep course, do contact the provider and ask all the questions you need. A financial investment is still a financial investment, no matter how big or small it is.

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