Which books you should get to study for the MCAT

by Gabe Ladd

There are so many different books you could get to study for the MCAT, and if you don’t really know the differences between them then it’s hard to make a decision.

Here’s my short and sweet guide with my top recommendations for which MCAT books to get for your prep.

(In case you’re wondering, I’m not affiliated with any of these companies and I don’t get any revenue off my recommendations)

Option #1: I want just the basics

If you already have a really solid background in the sciences on the MCAT and you’re just looking for a quick overview, then I recommend the ExamKrackers books.

They do a good job of sticking just to the essentials. You won’t ever be overloaded with details. So if you’re comfortable with the material already it’s a good way to get a quick refresher.

The books are also written in a more readable style, so they’re not as hard to get through. They’re much easier to read than a typical textbook, for example.

The main drawback of the books is that they might not always cover all the content you need. So if you have some areas where your knowledge is lacking, then they might not be the best choice. You may find yourself having to refer to another resource to get better coverage of the material.

Option #2: I want a more thorough review

If you’re looking for a set of books that go into more detail than the ExamKrackers books, then I recommend Kaplan. They generally do a good job of covering everything you need to know without going completely overkill.

These are the books that I used to get a 526 on my MCAT, and they’re my favorite set all around. The Kaplan books are probably the best choice for most people. Especially if you feel like you might be weak in some areas, the Kaplan books will be very thorough.

That said, the one drawback is that there are some sections where they go into more detail than you’ll need. I especially found this to be true in some of the sections that cover physiology.

My preferred way to use them was to focus especially on knowing everything that was mentioned in the end of chapter summaries. That helps to narrow your focus a little bit and keep the content more manageable.

Option #3: I want the most in-depth review possible

If you’re looking for the most in-depth books you can find, then you want to go for The Berkeley Review.

They seriously cover everything. The Berkeley Review books cover every single detail you could possible want to know (and probably plenty you won’t care to know). On one hand, this can be a good thing if you’re trying to score around 130+ on the science sections. That’s because as you’re trying to break the 130 barrier, knowing more small details in the sciences becomes more important.

On the other hand, I scored 130-132 on all the science sections using mostly the Kaplan books. So I’m not entirely convinced that you need The Berkeley Review books simply because you’re trying to score well! They probably have more content than you really need. And that basically highlights what I find to be the biggest drawback of the books: the amount of content covered in them can be overwhelming.

Nevertheless, they’re a good option for some folks, and they’re all around a well-produced set of books.

An important final note

The two areas where most books fall short are the psychology/sociology section and CARS.

For the psychology/sociology section they generally fail to cover a significant portion of the content which the MCAT will expect you to know. So if all you do is read whatever books you buy (whether it’s Kaplan, ExamKrackers, or somebody else) then your psychology and sociology knowledge will be lacking. The best resource to fill those gaps in your knowledge is Khan Academy. Their MCAT videos cover just about every detail you’ll need to know. (The main drawback is that they can be slow and sometimes too detailed).

For CARS, well…this might be a little self-serving, but I think I have the best resources here at Redwood MCAT. The strategies and techniques found in the test-prep books just don’t work that well. Check out the CARS Mastery Course if you really want to improve your score.