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Kat Thomson

Best MCAT Books of 2016-2017

The Best MCAT Prep Books by Subject

The following table is a guide for helping you narrow in on particular areas of the MCAT to round out your studying and practice. Click on an MCAT content topic in the table to jump to the best MCAT prep book by that specific subject to learn why we think it’s the best, and check out Magoosh’s MCAT prep for more help.

Best Book by Content TopicPublisherTitleYearOn A Scale of   1-10
PhysicsNovaThe MCAT Physics Book20169
General BiologySterlingMCAT Practice Tests: Chemical & Physical + Biological & Biochemical Foundations20168
BiochemistryThe Berkeley ReviewBiology, Part II: Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology20159.5
Chemistry for Beginners/ IntermediateSchaum's OutlinesGeneral, Organic, and Biological Chemistry19948.5
Chemistry for Intermediate/ AdvancedExamkrackers1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry20058
Organic ChemistryKaplanMCAT Organic Chemistry Review20169
PsychologyNext StepMCAT Psychology and Sociology20168
SociologySterling Test PrepMCAT Psychology & Sociology: Psychological, Social & Biological Foundations of Behavior - Review20168.5
CARSAAMCCritical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, Volumes 1 and 2. Online201610.0


 

The MCAT Physics Book



MCAT Physics Book by Nova

Best for Physics

Why it’s so great
The MCAT Physics Book is great for learning as well as practicing, as it breaks things down into manageable chunks. The book is well organized and instructive with 49 passages and 500 practice problems.

Weaknesses
However, these passages aren’t representative of the new MCAT. They are brief and most don’t integrate biology and chemistry the way the actual MCAT does.


 

MCAT Practice Tests: Chemical & Physical + Biological & Biochemical Foundations



MCAT practice tests
Best for General Biology

Why it’s so great
Most pre-med students are well versed in general biology and don’t need much review. They need practice problems, especially problems that integrate biochemistry. By answering these practice problems and reading the detailed explanations, you’ll be reviewing all the substantive areas of general biology.

Weaknesses
Students who haven’t taken biology or physiology in the past 4 years might need additional sources to refresh themselves with general principles of biology. Also, there aren’t many passage problems, the problems don’t incorporate much chemistry, and the questions are fairly easy. The book isn’t adequate for biochemistry.


 

Biology, Part II: Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology



The Berkeley Review  - Biology part II
Best for Biochemistry

Why it’s so great
TBR publications are written with precision by true experts. The presentation is distinguished and painstaking. There are 75 practice passages, additional discrete questions, and 2 full diagnostics. It is sold as a set with Biology Part I (Physiology), which is also thorough.

Weaknesses
It’s a bit pricey ($69 for the set of 2 books, not counting shipping charges), and difficult. If you struggle with biochemistry, I recommend beginning with Kaplan’s biochemistry book, which is still challenging but more condensed and easier to chew.


 

General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry



Schaum's Outlines
Best for Beginner/Intermediate General Chemistry

Why it’s so great
True, this isn’t an MCAT book. But it’s what I used to refresh myself in general chemistry after a 17-year hiatus in order to begin learning higher-level science. It was written for pre-health majors, so all the practice problems are slanted in that direction. I absolutely love the practice problems and how the authors incorporate mini questions within the body of the instructional text. It kept me engaged.

Weaknesses
The print is small and can feel overwhelming. It requires a bit of discipline. It isn’t as stimulating as a chemistry book that consists of practice problems. Also, the biochemistry section is rather confusing and outdated, given how much the field has changed.


 

1001 Questions in MCAT Chemistry



1001 questions in MCAT chemistry
Best for Intermediate/Advanced Chemistry

Why it’s so great
Gratifying and fast paced, this book provides countless opportunities to quiz yourself. The questions are sectioned into 7 general areas (atoms, gases, thermodynamics, solutions, heat, acids/bases, and electrochemistry). It’s a good source to turn to on days when your attention is dwindling, but you still want to feel productive.

Weaknesses
It was written before the new exam, so the passages are short, and they emphasize the overlap of chemistry/physics better than chemistry/biology. The explanations to problems are so brief that they don’t really deserve to be called explanations.


 

MCAT Organic Chemistry Review



Kaplan Organic Chemistry Review
Best for Organic Chemistry

Why it’s so great
Focuses on the organic chemistry you need to know and eclipses the excess. I found it to be very reader friendly with clear descriptions of how the content relates to what you might find on the exam. Plenty of discrete questions with clear explanations. Includes a full length practice test online!

Weaknesses
The first section of the book is overly padded with information about the MCAT as a whole. The practice questions don’t look much like the organic chemistry you’ll find on the actual MCAT, but for learning purposes, this is it.


 

MCAT Psychology and Sociology



Next Step MCAT Psychology and Sociology

Best for Psychology

Why it’s so great
Detailed instructions on how to make the best use of the book and material. Great visual depictions (charts, diagrams) that are easy to interpret at a glance. Engaging, with actual examples from the “real world”. Tons of discrete questions.

Weaknesses
Fewer than 20 passages. Content doesn’t follow AAMC’s organizational structure. However, this can be an advantage if you prefer to learn concepts in discrete chunks.


 

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



Sterling Test Prep - Mcat psychology and sociology
Best for Sociology

Why it’s so great
I have been very disappointed with the sociology MCAT prep material that’s available. Sociological theory is qualitative, and brief descriptions and terms don’t teach you how to apply theories to the empirical research found on the MCAT. Sterling is unique. They do incredibly novel things here, such as linking theorists to their theories (imagine that!).

Weaknesses
This book is good for learning, not for practice. You’ll want to find additional sources with research-based passages to get a sense of how the material will actually appear on the exam.


 

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, volumes 1 and 2



AAMC MCat review
Best for CARS

Why it’s so great
Sorry to be uninventive and take you directly to the source on this one, but the truth is, there aren’t any CARS sources I’ve come across that approximate the real thing (although we’re working hard at Magoosh to change this!). The passages and questions come from MCAT exams that were actually administered in the past. Because the passages are electronic and timed, you get experience with the test format as well as the content. Also, the explanations are clearly written.

Weaknesses
The AAMC claims the passages and questions they’ve chosen from earlier years reflect the new exam, I’m not entirely convinced. When the MCAT was revised in 2015, the CARS section changed some. They dropped the natural sciences passages, they increased the number of questions, and they allot more time per question (about 100 seconds). Since you have more time to answer each question, it’s likely that the passages and questions will be more difficult. AAMC’s practice passages might be too easy, although it’s too early to say.

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About Kat Thomson

Kat Thomson has a PhD from UC San Francisco with degrees in medical sociology and health psychology. Since 2005, she has been teaching premed and nursing students across the US. Kat collaborates with other experts to create quality MCAT products, and above all, she enjoys she enjoys mentoring students. While Kat does love feline cats, she happens to be allergic to them, adding a new dimension to the concept of autoimmunity.


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