When it comes to choosing an MCAT prep course, there are many options to choose from. This page provides a review of several of the different options so that you can make an informed decision.
As an added bonus, if you buy a Kaplan, Princeton Review or Gold Standard prep course through any of the links or banners on this page (that means you click one of the links that takes you to Kaplan, Princeton Review or Gold Standard's site then buy a course), I will send you free copies of my eBooks 10 Steps to Accepted- An Insider's Guide to Getting Into Medical School and Succeeding in Medical School- How I Landed My Top Choice Residency.
In these you'll find my insider tips from my experience on the UCLA admissions committee on what it takes to get into a top medical school. You'll also learn the tricks I used to ace your USMLE's and land your top choice residency.
Just click on any Kaplan, Princeton Review or Gold Standard link or banner on this or any other page on the site, then once you make your purchase, email me through the contact page here. I'll email you the books right away!
Probably the most well known MCAT prep course. Kaplan has a long history of MCAT test prep, and a long history of getting solid results. You'll get a brief overview here. For a more comprehensive review, click here.
Kaplan MCAT prep teachers (the on-site teachers) are generally students who have done well on certain sections of the MCAT. For example, a student who scored a 13 or higher on MCAT physics could be your MCAT tutor for physics. Some of my classmates at UCLA medical school were teachers for the Kaplan MCAT prep courses.
For any of the Kaplan MCAT courses, you’ll start with an
initial test to establish your baseline.
This is important for their “higher score guarantee,” which we’ll cover later.
It’s also just a good idea to begin with a practice test whether you choose Kaplan or not so that you can recognize where you’re starting.
You'll then go to about 24 classes over around a semester and take 5 practice exams through your course.
Kaplan MCAT prep also has the advantage of their Smart Reports, which we’ll also cover later, but basically you’ll get a personalized map of where you are strong and where you are weak so you can tailor your studying. Definitely a bonus!
Kaplan MCAT prep offers a wide variety of options in their MCAT prep course.
They were the first to do many of these, which have now also been implemented by
You should also be aware that Kaplan MCAT has promotions almost every month, so be on the lookout to save money compared to their normal prices. Click here or on the banner to see their current offers.
These Kaplan MCAT prep course options are good choices
if you learn better in a traditional classroom setting where you are physically
with other students and your teacher.
Included in your resources for any of these courses are all 8 AAMC practice tests and 11 Kaplan practice tests, as well as 11,000 practice questions with explanations.
You'll also get online access to 130 hours of recorded
lectures by great teachers, so you'll be able to review material whenever you
choose. They range in price between $2099 and $8,499 for their intensive course. Click here for more details.
Kaplan also offers private tutoring at around $140 per hour. Included with their private tutoring offers is either an in-person or an online course, so in a way you're just adding a few hundred to three thousand dollars to your usual Kaplan MCAT prep course cost. For full details, visit this page.
Prefer to study from the comfort of your own home, or live too far away from one of the Kaplan outposts? No worries! There are online options available. These range from getting live instruction from a tutor online to purely online options. These range from $1899 to $2099. Click here for more details.
You won't get any kind of written materials with Kaplan, so it's probably not the best choice if you learn that way.
There's also some question of how well Kaplan's practice questions reflect the real test. In a study done on studentdoc.com, students scoring an average of a 27 on the practice tests could have scored anywhere between a 9 and a 36 on the real test! You can see this study here. The AAMC's were the best.
What you should take from that is that Kaplan will definitely teach you what you need to know for the test, but don't use their practice tests as a gauge for how you'll perform. Instead, use the AAMC tests which they give you access to.
Kaplan also offers their higher score guarantee, which should give you comfort that even if their questions don't mimic the real exam, if you don't do better you can get your money back (or study longer with them, but not both, details on my Kaplan review page).
You can also buy prep programs for just one subject, which is a nice feature if you really just need help with, for example, physics. You can pay a few hundred to get solid preparation instead of several thousand.
Kaplan MCAT prep course also has Smart Reports, which is a cool system that helps you target your weak areas when you take practice exams and practice questions. That software will help you maximize your study time. For a more detailed pros and cons discussion, visit my Kaplan review page.
My bottom line is that if you learn a lot from lectures and practice questions, Kaplan is probably your best choice.
You'll get the most practice questions by far compared to other
programs and you'll have access to online lecture materials that you can
access whenever you want. Click here to sign up!
The Princeton Review MCAT is a big name MCAT prep course. You're definitely going to get high quality teachers and materials through their program. You'll find a quick review of their courses below and a full review on this page.
For the Princeton MCAT as with the Kaplan MCAT, you will find students who have done well on certain sections of the MCAT as your instructors. Princeton Review MCAT is slightly more transparent about their hiring policies, explaining the selection process as having a "subject knowledge screening test, teaching audition and vigorous training process." Overall, the teachers you get in both will be pretty similar, although some say that Princeton Review MCAT prep course goes into a little more detail than Kaplan MCAT prep course.
You'll start with a practice test so that you can have a baseline for Princeton Review MCAT's higher score guarantee. You'll then attend either in class or online lectures for a total of 105 hours over 3 months. That's a lot of MCAT! Find more about this on my full page about Princeton Review MCAT.
You'll have two main ways to study for the MCAT through this company. In person and online.
These Princeton Review MCAT prep courses options are good choices if you learn
better in a traditional classroom setting where you are physically with other
students and your teacher.
Included in your resources for any of these courses are all 8 AAMC practice tests and 11 Princeton Review practice tests, along with a lot of printed material (3,000+ pages of basic review in textbook style), and 2700 questions with Amplifire (a software that helps you move things you learn from short term to long term memory). These range from $2099 to $2999 for a small group with only 4 students, which is a nice option, to $8499 for their intensive option. Private tutoring is also available for between about $150 and $300 per hour, depending on the level of tutor. There's also an online offering where you attend online lectures (which are recorded for later review) for $1999. Click here for more details.
Just like Kaplan, Princeton Review's practice tests don't correlate very well to the real deal (based on the same study from above). However, their scores tend to underestimate the real MCAT scores. I like this better because you should have a pleasant surprise on the real MCAT compared to your practice tests. Again, use the AAMC tests as your main gauge for how you'll score on the real test.
To me, the big benefit to Princeton Review MCAT is the class and one-on-one time, as well as the written materials. You're not going to find another program with so much individualized attention or as much time in class. Also, Princeton Review MCAT prep course has similar guarantees to Kaplan, but they extend a little longer. For more detail on these, click here.
Overall, if you learn best by in-class time, written materials and personalized attention, Princeton Review is going to be the best choice for you. Click here to sign up!
So, which of these two might be the right course for you? I gave my basic conclusion above:
If you learn better studying online and with practice questions, I'd go with Kaplan.
If you learn better with in class and one-on-one attention and/or written materials, I'd go with Princeton Review.
However, it's always fun to go head to head, so let's look at a few categories.
If you prefer to watch my video review, click here.
Here is a very clear distinction between The Princeton Review MCAT and Kaplan MCAT prep course. With the Kaplan classroom course, you'll get 52 hours of in-class time over 24 sessons. Not too bad, until you compare it to the 105 hours and 40+ sessions with The Princeton Review, along with 20+ hours of one-on-one time with an instructor. There really isn't much comparison.
Winner: The Princeton Review
This is another blow-away section by Princeton Review MCAT. If you choose to sign up with TPR, you'll get around 3,000 pages of written material that you can review, including basic science review that is basically like mini textbooks in each area tested on the MCAT. With Kaplan, everything is basically done online with no written materials.
Winner: The Princeton Review MCAT
Spoiler alert: Kaplan MCAT definitely gets the edge here in Kaplan vs Princeton
Review MCAT. You'll get access to 130 hours of online lecture by Kaplan's best
instructors with any course you sign up with, including private tutoring. You
also get 11,000 practice questions (all online), vs 2,700 with The Princeton
Review online with Amplifire. What about Princeton Review MCAT? Only if you sign
up for their online course, MCAT Live Online. You will, however, get the lectures recorded for your review (the lectures you attended online) with Princeton Review's Live Online course. You also get some online drills with Princeton Review, but it's not on the same level of great teachers teaching you material like Kaplan.
Winner: Kaplan MCAT
The Princeton Review MCAT prep course used to be several hundred dollars cheaper than Kaplan MCAT prep courses, but now they are almost exactly the same. It will basically come down to who has the better deal that particular month.
I have reviewed both MCAT prep courses' practice questions, along with the AAMC questions and have taken the MCAT. In my opinion, Princeton Review MCAT questions more closely mimic the real MCAT. The real MCAT is more focused on understanding the principles behind formulas and their relationships than it is on knowing the exact formulas. For more on this, click here. The Princeton MCAT questions have this same flavor to them. Many of the Kaplan MCAT questions also have this flavor, but many are too detailed, in my opinion. They test specifics of formulas that you will not likely have to know for the MCAT.
This is also consistent with studies done by studentdoc.com and by reviews by other people who took the review courses and the MCAT. According to data collected by studentdoc.com, scores on Kaplan practice tests were poor predictors of actual test performance. For example, a student might have scored a 9 on a Kaplan section could score between a 3 and a 12 on the real MCAT!
Princeton Review was also a poor predictor, but generally if someone scored, for example, an 8 on a Princeton test, they would usually score 8 or better on the real test. AAMC was the best predictor, which makes sense since they wrote the test. For this study, click here.
So, either way, use the AAMC tests to judge your actual score. But, as for me, I'd rather score lower on a practice test and higher on the real deal. So, I give the edge to:
Winner: The Princeton Review MCAT
Both mcat prep course companies come to the table with a similar guarantee.
Kaplan's is essentially that:
1. If you're not ready, you can keep studying with them for 3 months
2. If you're not satisfied with your score (even if it's higher), you can keep studying with them for 3 months.
3. If you don't raise your overall score, you can retake a course or get your money back.
You do have to do all of your homework and practice tests to qualify for the higher score guarantee or do makeup sessions if you miss a class. To claim any of these, you need to claim a refund within 90 days of finishing your course.
Also, the refund guarantee applies in a strange way to the summer intensive program. If you go to that and don't score higher, you can choose a different Kaplan course to repeat for free or get a discount on next year's summer intensive. You can also keep studying with them if you don't feel ready. You might be eligible for money back. According to my call with Kaplan, "if you ask for money back, the directors of the summer intensive program will review your case and determine how much money you are eligible for." A little scary considering how much that program costs!
The money back guarantee also does not apply to tutoring. If you want to repeat tutoring, you'll get it at a discounted rate, but still will have to pay it. Remember with Kaplan you get a course with your tutoring.
Also, keep in mind that you can only choose one of these offers. So, don't think you can say you're not ready, study for 3 more months, then if you don't get a higher score you get your money back. You can only choose one.
The Princeton Review's guarantee has 3 similar offers:
1. If you're not ready at the end of your course, you can repeat the course or take a refresher course. You have a year from the start of your program to take advantage of this. However, it will cost you $300 to use this and you won't get replacement materials. Those cost $200 if you want a new set of written materials. This does not apply to private tutoring.
2. If you're not satisfied with your MCAT score (even if it's higher), you can keep working with Princeton Review for up to a year. Just take the MCAT within 45 days of finishing your course. If you take it after 45 days, you'll pay the $300 fee and maybe $200 to buy new supplies. You can't repeat private tutoring. If you chose that initially, you can take a classroom or online class.
3. If your score doesn't improve, you can get your money back. You need to take your test within 45 days of finishing and need to show your score to Princeton Review within 90 days of finishing your course. This one does apply to Ultimate MCAT, but you'll have to take a repeat course of in class or online, then take the MCAT again and still get a lower score. Then you can get your money back.
Again, you can only choose one of these. Once you use one, the others are gone.
I'd have to say that I give the edge to Princeton Review on this. I like that you can study with them for up to a year if you're not satisfied and that their money back guarantee applies to their intensive summer course. However, you do have to pay that administrative fee that you don't with Kaplan, so a slim win but still a win to Princeton Review.
Winner (but not by much): The Princeton Review MCAT
For in class teachers, this one is a draw. Both are going to be students who did well on the MCAT and were screened to make sure they can teach.
You do have different things when it comes to private tutoring, though. With Kaplan, you'll be paying around $140 per hour for a private tutor. It's not totally clear on Kaplan's site, though, what kind of experience this tutor has. Likely it's someone who has been a solid teacher who Kaplan trusts to privately tutor. You'll also get a full prep course included in the cost, so you could say you're paying about $70 an hour for a private tutor if you take out the cost of the course.
With Princeton Review MCAT prep course, you can choose from three different tiers of tutor. Private tutors are classroom teachers with great reviews, but no proven track record. You'll pay $150 and hour for 48 hours. Master tutors have 500+ hours of instructing time and have proven great results with previous clients. These will cost you around $200 an hour. Finally, there are Premier tutors who have 1000+ hours of instruction and great track records of success. You'll pay around $300 and hour for 48 hours with these guys.
So, I'd give private tutoring a slight edge to Princeton Review, just because if you pay for it, you'll get someone who has shown they can help people get a better score.
Remember, with Princeton Review you'll also get 20 one-on-one hours built into the price you already pay for their course, while you'll pay several hundred to thousands of dollars more with Kaplan for any private tutoring to add on to their course.
Teachers: Winner: Draw
Private Tutors: Winner: Princeton Review
I wouldn't have noticed this before building my own website, but Kaplan's site is a lot prettier and a lot easier to navigate than Princeton Review's. So, a clear winner here.
Ok, so we spent a long time talking about the Goliaths in MCAT prep courses, but what about the Davids? Here you'll find my review of a few of the up and coming MCAT prep courses.
If you do choose some of these options, you can save a significant amount of money compared to our friends Kaplan and Princeton Review.
This is an up and coming company that has had overall good reviews by students.
Probably the biggest benefit of this program is the price. You'll be looking at something similar to the online lectures that are provided by Kaplan with the written materials that are provided by Princeton Review.
The overall cost of a complete package is $1200, which is significantly less than the options described above. You'll get 16 DVDs of lecture material, along with several books.
Dr. Ferdinand is the teacher of all the material in this MCAT prep course, and you can see his teaching style here. I'd rank him as an average teacher.
He's also opened up a similar intensive course in Las Vegas, NV and Montreal, Quebec, Canada where you can live the MCAT for a week.
Another nice option with this company is to get online access to lectures, practice tests and materials for a monthly fee. This could really cut down on the amount you spend preparing for the MCAT, since it ranges between $49.95 and $79.95 per month depending on the package you sign up for. Since you'll probably be studying somewhere between 4 and 6 months, if you like to study online, this is probably your most affordable option by a long shot.
As far as how well their practice tests mimic the real deal, from my review of posted scores, Gold Standard practice tests were within a point or two of the real MCAT tests. The one consistent shortcoming was in verbal reasoning, where people generally scored a point or two lower on the real test than on the practice test. So, you might want to pick up a verbal reasoning package from Princeton Review or ExamKrackers to supplement your Gold Standard Study.
To check out their packages and pricing and to sign up, click here or on the banner below.
ExamKrackers MCAT is more simple than the previous MCAT prep courses. There is only one program available.
ExamKrackers MCAT Comprehensive CBT Review for the MCAT. $1998.99
ExamKrackers MCAT prep course runs for 9 weeks. There are 4 two-hour classes per week for a total of 72 hours of in class instruction. This places ExamKrackers MCAT between Princeton Review MCAT and Kaplan MCAT prep for number of hours. During the two hour sessions, lecture is only 50 minutes. There is then a 10 minute break, a 30 minute practice exam and a review of that exam. The site says a "complete" review, but I think that would be hard to do in 30 minutes. The site does not offer details about teachers or how they are chosen for this MCAT prep course.
From the reviews I've read, ExamKrackers has some of the best material available to review for the MCAT. It's the easiest to study from with the best visual aids. Some people feel that the science material is a little bit weak conceptually, but most people have enjoyed studying from them and only have good things to say.
You can check the books out and the reviews on Amazon. I've added a link to their complete package below, which you can also access here, but you can also choose from various practice question sets and review materials if you're just weak in one particular subject, which could save you a good amount of money. Most of the books are around $20 with the complete 5 book set at around $100. Not a bad deal!
ExamKrackers is also cool enough to give you a full MCAT study schedule that will help you get ready in 10 weeks. You can access that here.
As you can see, there are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to an MCAT prep course. If you're looking for a full on MCAT prep course and you're willing to pay a few thousand for it, Kaplan MCAT and Princeton Review MCAT are great choices with great reputations and great guarantees. As above, I think Princeton Review is better if you learn better one-on-one and Kaplan is better if you like to review things online.
If you're looking to go more the self-study route, ExamKrackers or Gold Standard might be your best bet.
And, remember that any purchase made from this site of Kaplan, Princeton Review or Gold Standard gets free copies of my two eBooks! Just click on a link, make your purchase, then email me through the contact page and I'll email your books!
For more info on the MCAT in general, click here.
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