A Guide to MCAT Preparatory Courses

Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner

One of the most pressing issues facing prospective medical students today is the choice of how to prepare for the MCAT, a now 5+ hour test which factors largely into the highly competitive process of medical school admission and whose revised edition is more complex than ever. This article gives students an idea of what bona fide courses are available to them in the classroom, online and in a self-paced mode.
Live Classes
For some students, nothing can replace the give-and-take experience of a traditional classroom with live instructors who are able to answer questions immediately and provide face-to-face feedback during the process of test preparation. For these students, traditional courses are a good option. Here are some choices from around the country to look at:
Princeton Review’s Immersion Course
While Princeton Review may be best-known for its online and self-study courses, it also offers its Ultimate Course, which provides students with a 6-week on-site course totalling 481 hours of instruction time at 3 locations throughout the country. This course also include 13 practice tests and a wealth of AAMC materials, the amplifire study tool and 4-6 different instructors who are experts in their own particular subjects, which are all needed for the test.
Kaplan In Person Instruction
Like the Princeton Review, Kaplan also provides an in-person program based on live classroom learning to help students achieve their best MCAT scores. The course is over 150 hours of classroom time and takes place at various locations and times throughout the year, giving students more flexibility in where they are able to learn.
MCAT Prep Course at Emory University
Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, helps students to prepare for the MCAT through a combination of classes taught by Emory faculty and independent, online study courses that are designed to help students achieve a high MCAT score–and admission to top-tier medical schools. The course helps students through the newly-revised portions of the test as well as the core subject areas of biology, chemistry and physics. The class also emphasizes test-taking skills and guidance on the medical school admissions process.
MCAT Test Preparation, Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah, also offers an intensive classroom-based course to prepare students to tackle the MCAT. This 10-week course includes 51 hours of lecture time and three practice tests. Students also get to take home the AAMC’s Official Guide to the MCAT 2015 and the Kaplan MCAT 2015 7-Book Subject Review.
MCAT Preparatory Course, University of Oregon
Students who are interested in a successful MCAT experience also have the option of the MCAT prep course from the University of Oregon at Eugene (although streaming and video on demand versions of this are also available). A team of faculty members and other educational experts with strong grounding in MCAT subject areas offer students the knowledge base and testing skills they need to succeed on the test.
Online Courses
Sometimes work, schools schedule, or other constraints make it difficult to attend a traditional classroom-style preparation course. Fortunately, with the Internet, the classroom can come to you with a series of online courses that can get your read for test day.
Princeton Review’s Ultimate Course
In addition to their classroom prep course, the Princeton Review offers a comprehensive online study program with over 123 hours of instruction that students can access from their own homes. Like the classroom course, this includes 13 practice tests, released AAMC materials, a panel of expert instructors with a deep experience in their field and the amplifire study tool.
Kaplan’s Live Online Course
This Kaplan course also has the convenience of online learning and can be easily worked in around school or work schedules. There are more than 150 hours of interactive study offered in this course to strengthen students’ knowledge basis and testing strategies before attempting the actual test.
Gold Standard MCAT-Prep.Com Online Course
No discussion of these courses would be complete without a discussion of Gold Standard’s online courses at MCAT-prep.com. There are four that students can choose from. The MCAT Crash Course gives students a good grounding in all the major necessary areas: biology, chemistry, physics, sociology and psychology. There are over 30 online videos in this course and two practice tests included. The MCAT University includes everything in the Crash Course plus extra practice tests and courses. The MCAT CARS, as the name implies, covers information, background and test-taking strategies for just the CARS section of the course and includes practice tests as well. Lastly, there is the home study course, which is discussed in the section below.
Self-Paced Study
For some students, self-paced study is the way to go, and there are many advantages to this strategy. For one thing, for students who are on a tight budget and cannot afford the sometimes costly classroom or online courses, this is a more affordable way to get into medical school. For others, time constraints or preference make this easier. Fortunately there are also tools to help self-studiers prepare themselves for this test.
Princeton Review’s Cram Pack
This Cram Pack connects students who are wishing to study at their own pace up with over 380 hours of practice resources that can can access at their leisure. It also includes 13 full-length practice tests like the online and live versions of the courses and all relevant released AAMC materials.
Kaplan’s Self-Paced Course
Kaplan’s highly-rated self-paced course allows students to study at their own pace, but supports them with a wide range of pre-recorded lessons and videos led by experts in the field that cover pertinent information for the course.
AAMC Online Resources
In recent years, the AAMC has gone into partnership with the Khan Academy and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop relevant online study material and guides to help students study for the MCAT. This site has been over 2 years in the making and includes a variety of instructional videos and lectures on topics covered by the test. They also offer a low-cost Official Guide to the MCAT Exam, a great book to study by. In a press release from April 2013, AAMC president Kirch noted, “We view this effort as an important addition to the work the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals are doing to encourage and attract future physicians from diverse backgrounds, including students of economically and educationally disadvantaged communities.”
Dr. Flower’s MCAT Study Kit
This physician-written guide offers a great tool for self-paced students in the form of a 12- or 17-week course to review and prepare for the MCAT. This kits includes full access to the Flowers extensive online library for biology, physics, chemistry, sociology and psychology and allows students to study with a combination of flashcards, mock tests, glossaries and other reference materials and recorded lectures and presentations.
Gold Standard’s Home Study Course on MCAT-Prep.com
This home study course is another ideal choice for students wishing to prepare for the MCAT at their own pace and/or at home. The kit includes the AAMC’s newest official guide to the MCAT as well as the ExamKrackers Reasoning Skills: Verbal, Research and Math, MP3 CD’s, flash cards, DVD’s and e-books on the core MCAT subjects. It also gives students the opportunity to take 5 separate MCAT practice tests.
SDN Study Schedules
The original Student Doctor Network study schedule, created by SDN member SN2ed, uses a variety of study materials to create an intensive and comprehensive 3-month study plan that is adaptable to your study need and available for download in iCal or Excel format. SDN members mcatjelly and _Nymeria_  have created updated plans for the 2015 MCAT based on SN2ed’s schedule.
Medaholic Website
For students who are wanting to design their own personal program of study to meet their own individualized needs, there are website to come up with a study plan as well. The Medaholic website has a detailed, step-by-step guide to help students opting for a solo course. This includes:
1. Gathering information on and registering for the test
2. Analyzing where individual academic needs are greatest.
3. Acquiring the necessary study materials and books
4. Taking practice MCAT tests
5. Setting up a timetable–and following it
6. Marking your progress
7. Participating in “test day” scenarios
8. Working on time management skills
9. Self-analyzing to understand motives/inspiration for med school
10. Taking the MCAT itself.
Private Tutoring
For students who want the flexibility of at-home study combined with the personal attention and face time of being in class, private tutoring is an option. This can make studying for the MCAT much easier, though it does tend to be one of the more expensive preparatory options. Here are a few to consider:
Princeton Review Private Tutoring
Princeton offers private tutoring sessions for students across the country. Called the Maximum Edge Prep Option, it allows one-on-one time with expert MCAT tutors and is based on an educational plan that is entirely tailored to the individual students. The website has a number for students to call who are interested in this program.
Kaplan Private Tutoring
Kaplan also has a private tutoring program, though it is by far the most costly of their options. However, it is still a good thing to keep in mind for students who want a study program specific to them and their own needs. Kaplan personally screens and trains all of its MCAT tutors to make sure that the student experience is a fulfilling one.
In short, there are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to preparing for the MCAT. Because of this, students can factor in a number of variables, include cost, convenience and learning style into their equations before choosing what style of prep course is right for them.
Barrow-Smith, D. 3 Inexpensive Ways to Study for the MCAT. US News and World Report.
How to Self Study for the MCAT. Medaholic. 2015.
Kaplan MCAT Prep Courses. Kaplan. 2016.
MCAT Prep. Emory University. 2016.
MCAT Prep Courses. The Princeton Review. 2016.
Prep Courses. Gold Standard MCAT-Prep.Com 2016
Superior MCAT Test Preparation. Bringham Young University. 2016.