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Best MCAT Books of 2020-2021

books arranged in circle with spine perpendicular to table representing best MCAT books

There are tons of MCAT study books out there—and I mean that literally. Amazon alone lists nearly 600 MCAT books! But when you’re prepping for the Medical College Admission Test, not just any book will do—and some can actively hurt your score. To avoid that, let’s go over: what are the best MCAT prep books? Magoosh’s experts are here to break it down for you!


 

Table of Contents


 

Best MCAT Prep Books for Each Subject


 

Best for General Biology: MCAT Practice Tests: Chemical & Physical + Biological & Biochemical Foundations

 
Magoosh MCAT prep books - MCAT practice tests
 
MCAT Practice Tests: Chemical & Physical + Biological & Biochemical Foundations is the best choice for General Biology. Published by Sterling, this 2016 book gets 8 out of 10 overall.
 

Pros

Cons


  • Excellent general biology practice

  • Lack of passage problems

  • Some integration of biochemistry

  • Not much chemistry incorporated

  • Detailed explanations

  • Relatively easy problems

  • Good for reviewing all substantive areas of general biology

  • Insufficient biochemistry practice

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Best for Biochemistry: Biology, Part II: Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology

 
Magoosh MCAT prep books - The Berkeley Review  - Biology part II
 
Biology, Part II: Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology is the best choice for Biochemistry. Published by The Berkeley Review, this 2015 book gets 9.5 out of 10 overall.
 

Pros

Cons


  • Precise, expert-written material with distinguished presentation

  • Expensive at $69 (comes with Biology Part I: Physiology)

  • 75 practice passages, extra questions, 2 full diagnostics

  • Difficult material; if you struggle with biochemistry, begin with Kaplan's book

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Best for Physics: The MCAT Physics Book

 
Magoosh MCAT prep books - MCAT Physics Book by Nova
 
The MCAT Physics Book is the best choice for Physics. Published by Nova, this 2016 book gets 9 out of 10 overall.
 

Pros

Cons


  • Breaks concepts down into manageable chunks

  • Passages are too short and fail to integrate biology and chemistry in a test-like way

  • Well-organized and instructive

  • 49 passages and 500 practice problems

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Best for Beginner/Intermediate General Chemistry: General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry

 
Magoosh MCAT prep books - Schaum's Outlines
 
General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry is the best choice for Beginner/Intermediate Chemistry. Published by Schaum’s Outlines, this 2009 book gets 8.5 out of 10 overall.
 

Pros

Cons


  • Written for pre-health majors

  • Small print makes this a daunting read

  • Excellent practice problems, with mini-questions in the body of the text

  • Biochemistry section is rather confusing and outdated, given how much the field has changed

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Best for Intermediate/Advanced Chemistry: 1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry

 
Magoosh MCAT prep books - 1001 questions in MCAT chemistry
 
1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry is the best choice for Intermediate/Advanced Chemistry. Published by Examkrackers, this 2005 book gets 8 out of 10 overall.
 

Pros

Cons


  • Gratifying and fast-paced

  • Doesn't reflect the current MCAT

  • Provides countless opportunities to quiz yourself

  • The explanations to problems are incredibly brief

  • Questions are sectioned into 7 general areas

  • Passages are too short

  • A good source to turn to on days when your attention is dwindling

  • Emphasizes chemistry/physics more than chemistry/biology

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Best for Organic Chemistry: MCAT Organic Chemistry Review

 
Magoosh MCAT prep books - Kaplan Organic Chemistry Review
 
MCAT Organic Chemistry Review is the best choice for Organic Chemistry. Published by Kaplan, this 2018 book gets 9 out of 10 overall.
 

Pros

Cons


  • Padded with too much general MCAT info

  • Reader-friendly

  • Organic chemistry questions are not test-like

  • Plenty of discrete questions with clear explanations

  • Includes a full length practice test online!

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Best for Psychology: MCAT Flashcards

 
Magoosh MCAT prep books - Barron's Flash Cards
 
MCAT Flash Cards is the best choice for Psychology. Published by Barron’s, this 2015 set gets 8 out of 10 overall.
 

Pros

Cons


  • Balances context with vocabulary

  • Not comprehensive; you may still need additional materials for remaining concepts

  • You’ll get 80% of the psych/soc concepts you need to know through this deck.

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Best for Sociology: MCAT Psychology & Sociology: Psychological, Social & Biological Foundations of Behavior

 
Magoosh MCAT prep books - Sterling Test Prep - Mcat psychology and sociology
 
MCAT Psychology & Sociology: Psychological, Social & Biological Foundations of Behavior – Review is the best choice for Sociology. Published by Sterling, this 2018 book gets 8.5 out of 10 overall.
 

Pros

Cons


  • Unique approach to sociology.

  • Good for learning, not for practice.

  • Helpful for applying theories to the empirical research found on the MCAT.

  • You’ll need additional sources with research-based passages to see how the material will appear on the exam.

  • Links theorists clearly to their theories.

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Best for CARS: Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, Volumes 1 and 2

 
Magoosh MCAT prep books - AAMC MCat review
 
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, Volumes 1 and 2. Online is the best choice for CARS. Published by the AAMC, this 2016 book gets 10 out of 10 overall.
 

Pros

Cons


  • May not reflect the new test.

  • Passages and questions come from actual MCAT exams

  • AAMC’s practice passages might be too easy.

  • Passages are electronic and timed

  • Clear explanations

  • You get experience with the test format as well as the content

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Best MCAT Study Books FAQ

Click any of the below FAQs to view the response from our MCAT experts!

What MCAT prep book is the best?

 
Overall, the best MCAT prep books are Examkrakers and Kaplan’s MCAT complete 7-book subject review. The best resources for you will depend on where you are in your studies.

Examkrackers is best for people who have less than 3 months to study or just need a little boost in some areas. Kaplan is better for people who have the time and desire to read, study, and digest MCAT content at a deeper level.

In both cases, you’ll get a comprehensive view of the subjects you need to know, complete with excellent illustrations.

The main exception to this is if you’re aiming for a top score and are struggling with the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems. For students in the top 10th percentile who are still coming up short on this section, the best books are The Berkeley Review for advanced prep.

Is Kaplan or Princeton Review MCAT better?

 
Compared to the Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review, Kaplan’s MCAT materials are far stronger. The reasons center around what we’ve discussed above: you’ll get an in-depth look at the topics you need to know, combined with great illustrations.

How far in advance should you study for the MCAT?

 
The short answer is, between three months and six months. The longer answer is a little more complicated! It depends on a variety of factors, including your current scores on diagnostic/practice tests, your goal scores, how many hours a week you can devote to studying and practice exams, and your admissions deadlines.

Now, can you study for the MCAT in less time? Sure! You can study for the MCAT in a week if you just need a little brush-up on major subject areas. But if attending medical school means a lot to you, it’s better to take a little longer to review books and prep materials, take full-length practice tests and complete practice questions, and really master the materials before setting foot in the test center for the actual exam.

For a better idea of what different MCAT plans look like, check out Magoosh’s MCAT study schedules!

Are MCAT prep courses better than books?

 
It really, truly depends on your learning style and your comfort level with the different materials tested on the MCAT.

If you just need to brush up on, say, physical foundations of biological systems, or just need a math refresher or an MCAT general chemistry review, you might be better off spending your time focusing on specialized materials on your own. But if you’re someone who learns well by hearing concepts explained aloud and asking questions, an MCAT tutor might be the better choice for you.

Think about the type of learner you are. Do you do best when you can study diagrams for a long time on your own? Or do you prefer to skim over illustrations and hear concepts explained verbally? Because the MCAT tests concepts in great depth, it’ll be important that you allow yourself to encounter them in the way that best fits your learning style.

Finally, it’s important to realize that one “complete study package” is rarely right for every student. The best MCAT study materials will give you an understanding of the test as a whole but also focus on areas that give you trouble. Even when you take a course, for example, you may want to get supplemental test prep books that build on particular concepts.

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A Final Word on the Best MCAT Prep Books

MCAT study guides can be expensive purchases. Beyond that, getting too many of the wrong ones will end up be discouraging. Ideally, you’ll work with the most recent edition of one or more of the books above, combining it with some form of online or in-person course or tutoring to get familiar with the test as a whole.

In the end, finding the best MCAT prep books relies on a deep knowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses. Starting with a diagnostic, like the AAMC sample test, is a great way to get this understanding (and familiarize yourself with the test’s instructions) so you can succeed on the actual MCAT exam. Good luck!

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2 Responses to Best MCAT Books of 2020-2021

  1. Lalita Alexander January 10, 2019 at 5:59 pm #

    Hello Ms. Kat,

    My name ia Lalita Alexander and I am going to medical school this Fall. I need to score 485 on the MCAT to qualify for a full scholarship but I want to score 528. I have been out of school studying science for at least 22 years but I am a Family Nurse Practitioner finishing up my Doctor of Nursing Practice. I was weak in Organic Chemistry during my biology undergraduate degree. I need a plan and study teacher/partner to help reach my goal. What advice can you offer? I sit for the exam April 13, 2019.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 25, 2019 at 12:39 pm #

      Hi Lalita,

      Thanks for reaching out to Magoosh! I recommend that you check out our three month study schedule, which will help you organize your studies and cover everything you need to now for the MCAT. If you are interested in a comprehensive, self-paced online study program, check out our Magoosh Premium Program. As a Premium student, you will have access to our team of expert tutors who can help you to adapt our study schedules and find a plan that works for you 🙂


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