Before you register to take the MCAT you need to know the basics. For instance, what is exactly is the MCAT? When is it given? What does it test? Finding these answers may seem easy enough, but you may still be in the dark because of the sheer volume of information available online. With so many options it’s hard to even know where to begin. Fortunately, the AAMC (the makers of the MCAT) publish a book with all of this information and more titled The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam. However, unlike many of the other resources offered by the AAMC, this guide is not free. So naturally, this opens the lid to a whole other conundrum: to buy or not to buy? I’ve been there before so I can now offer a MCAT Official Guide review so that you’ll know if it’s worth your extra coins.
What’s in it?
What’s great about this guide is that it gives a bare bones overview of the MCAT. It covers all of the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, why’s and how’s of the test. However, this shouldn’t be the only reason you purchase this guide. Nearly all of the information included in the book is available for free on the AAMC website. The “star” of this guide, and what would make it a worthwhile buy, is that it comes with 120 practice questions and solutions and the guide all packaged into one kit.
Where to get it?
The Official Guide is available as a bundle with the online practice question set for $35 on the AAMC website. You can also choose to purchase the ebook version via Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble Nook. The ebook version isn’t available as a bundle with the question sets, but the question set is available for purchase separately for $10. Also, many public and college libraries have copies of the guide available, though they most likely won’t have access to the question set.
Buy or Pass?
I believe wholeheartedly in obtaining information directly from the source, especially for the MCAT. As such, I definitely recommend incorporating AAMC resources into your MCAT prep. For many students, especially those who are non-traditional, knowing where to start is half the battle and AAMC guides can help to figure out what that means for you as an individual. My recommendation for students who are taking the MCAT for the first time, or those who are for those who have been out of school for a while is to get the Official Guide, but ONLY if you can find it in a library or some other free option (like a hand me down). For those who are retaking the MCAT or have very strong pre-med advising at your school, I don’t believe that spending money on guide itself is essential for doing well.
Regardless of whether or not you decide purchase the guide, the question sets are great resources for successful MCAT prep. So I would still recommend purchasing access to those. The same content that’s found in the guide can be found by going directly to the AAMC website or here.