Summer is one of the best opportunities a premed has to study for the MCAT, and for most, this means MCAT prep courses. Because there is no one fit model for MCAT prep, it is helpful to understand the nature of the prep programs and your learning style. Here, I will describe the two most popular programs – Kaplan and Princeton Review – from notes collected from 15 premed students who received 30+ on their MCAT. As a disclaimer, these observations are only based on the courses for the pre-2015 MCAT.
Random tip: Do not only account for the test prep course time in your schedule. Self-study and practice are crucial for almost everybody and is arguably more important than taking a course.
Kaplan: The Kaplan courses have less class time than some of the other prep courses but supposedly cover the same amount of material. While the course cannot possibly cover the very minor details that could manifest in a couple of questions on the MCAT, many say that these details do not need to be learned in class. Instead, they can be learned through self-study and from their previous university coursework. In addition, the reduced class time leaves room for more self-study and gives you the opportunity to really stay on top of the “assigned homework.” If you have not taken all of your premed courses, Kaplan might not be in-depth enough for you (though you shouldn’t be taking the MCAT anyway!). A major con is that the Kaplan practice exams are not the same length as the MCAT and many say that the Kaplan questions do not really reflect the format/question-type of the actual exam. The Kaplan exams are also easier than the actual MCAT leaving some Kaplan students disheartened when they score lower on the AAMC practice tests or the MCAT. However, Kaplan does offer the AAMC practice tests (approximately 10 of them) and if those are sufficient enough for you, then those can be used as practice.
Princeton Review: The Princeton Review course is significantly more rigorous. Classes range from 5-6 nights a week so the pace is much faster and the information presented seems much more detailed. While this may be helpful to those who feel that they didn’t really learn anything from their premed courses, it also leaves less time for self-study, and it is much more difficult to keep up with the assigned homework. This does provide added stress especially when falling behind on the homework. However, if you have dedicated enough time to the MCAT, it is very doable. Princeton Review provides practice exams that are more difficult than the AAMC practice tests and the MCAT. While this can be initially deflating, it does boost your confidence when you score significantly higher on the AAMC tests. Princeton Review’s practice exams are also the same length as the actual MCAT and the questions are similarly formatted, giving you a good idea of what to expect on the day of the MCAT.
Examkrackers: The reason we are not reviewing the Examkrackers course is because they are not as widely available. However, the Examkrackers books are THE BEST MCAT test prep books you will find. Nothing is closer to the actual exam. In addition, the Examkracker books are incredibly easy to follow and are, therefore, perfect for self-study and practice time.