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Imagine yourself gazing at your reflection in the mirror, wearing a stethoscope around your neck, and donning that coveted white coat – beaming with pride and becoming a true testament to the great opportunities that a career in medicine can give you.
Of course, we won’t sugarcoat it any further – pursuing this path is no easy feat. The long hours, the influx of patients coming in, and the risk that it involves may be too much at times, but the compensation and prestige make it a step in the right direction.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics discloses that the 2022 median pay for physicians and surgeons was equal to or greater than $229,300 a year (roughly $110 an hour). Sure, it may take more than a few years of additional study and training, but if you’re in a fast-paced environment that is highly cerebral and fulfilling, then medicine is the way to go.
To be qualified to get into the school of your dreams, you must first study for the MCAT. Today, we will be giving you a rundown of this examination, a few tips and tricks, as well as the top 15 online courses that will help you prepare for the test in the best way possible.
MCAT: Following the Med School Dream
The Medical College Admission Test is a computerized and standardized examination taken by students in North America, Australia, and other locations.
The MCAT is in multiple-choice format, developed and administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and covers a wide range of topics, including applied and pure sciences (including biological, physical, and chemical sciences; sociology and human behavior).
If you’ve tried applying for other postgraduate programs in the past or have experience taking other standardized exams, you will see a certain pattern in the structure of the examination, testing important skills such as critical thinking, scientific inquiry, and verbal reasoning.
These competencies are expected from every candidate and measured by the medical school’s admission officers.
Additionally, taking this test will help you manage your expectations and let you know if you’re ready for medical school (MD or DO).
According to the AAMC, more than 85,000 students take the MCAT each year.
The MCAT Format
To increase your chances of getting into the university of your dreams, you must be clear with your goals and be familiar with the examination structure, including the different parts and skills being tested. Since the 2015 update, the MCAT has four different sections that are scored individually and may take around 90-95 minutes each to finish. Scores are valid three years after the exam was taken.
Including break times, you are expected to finish the exam in 7 hours and 30 minutes.
The MCAT is composed of the following sections:
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (59 multiple choice questions; 95 minutes): This section aims to test applicants in the fields of chemistry and physics or the physical and chemical interactions and processes that happen within living systems. It includes different concepts taken from basic biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, and mechanical processes that occur. A basic grasp of statistics and research is also required to answer this section.
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (59 multiple choice questions; 95 minutes): This section covers multiple facets of biological and biochemical sciences and requires induction and deduction to arrive at certain answers. Key concepts include cellular and molecular biology, reproduction of living organisms, acquiring materials and energy, adaptation, among others.
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (a 95-minute section with 59 multiple choice questions): This section aims to test the taker’s grasp of psychology, sociology, and other important factors that may impact the way people think about what’s around them. It includes basic premises related to self-concept, cultural influences, social interactions, and different relationships that play a great role in a person’s or group’s well-being.
- Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills (53 multiple choice questions; 90 minutes): A deep understanding of scientific inquiry and reasoning are important traits in med school. You will be tested on four different parameters: (a) Knowledge of Scientific Concepts and Principles, (b) Scientific Reasoning and Problem-solving, (c) Reasoning About the Design and Execution of Research, and (d) Data-based and Statistical Reasoning.
MCAT Testing Changes Related to COVID-19
With the onset of a global pandemic, it is important to take note of any testing changes related to COVID-19. Here are a few notable ones:
- The AAMC is offering a shortened version of the in-person MCAT, which will reduce the “sit-in” duration of the test. As of 2020, time has been reduced to 5 hours and 45 minutes from the previous 7 hours and 30 minutes.
- Certain sections of the MCAT usual exam will be removed or shortened as well. For example, each of the four sections that initially had 59 questions (53 for Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills) will now have only 48 questions, taking around 76 minutes for each section to finish. It would also include tutorials, evaluations, and surveys at the end of the day.
- Test-takers will be advised to adhere to different health and safety protocols during the testing day, which include:
- Physical distancing: being seated at least 6 feet away from the examinee next to you
- Encouraging test-takers to bring alcohol-based hand rubs, masks, and gloves during the exam
- Disinfection procedures before and after each exam session
- Depending on your testing location, the AAMC will follow guidelines in place, which may affect the availability of testing on your schedule. Test-takers are therefore advised to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization for valuable updates.
14 Best Online MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) Prep Courses
To help you prepare for the upcoming MCAT, you may need a few tools and tricks up your sleeve. Luckily, we’ve rounded them up for you. Here are the best online MCAT prep courses that are available online, with their accompanying price points and packages:
If you’re looking for valuable resources that will help you gain confidence before taking the examination, you’ve got to make sure that you’re starting with the originator. AAMC’s MCAT Prep Hub is an exam gold mine, filled to the brim with different test-taking tools such as the 12 MCAT questions.
It is a tool that helps you familiarize yourself with the structure of the exam, roadmaps to different sections, guide questions, and instructional videos. The portal also includes a section where you can learn how to create your very own study plan, walking you through the perfect schedule before the big day.
Price: Free version available; Paid Pro Version starts at $9.99 up to $999 for the Deluxe Pro
MCAT Self Prep’s free version may come with some ads, but this package is one of the best. It includes the whole MCAT Video Collection, covering all the pointers listed by the AAMC. It also has ten content modules with a boot camp feature.
If you want to do it ad-free and without all the distractions, you can choose to go forward with their Basic Pro plan, which allows for more customization and an option to create your study plan course (spreadsheet, study portal, and score tracker access). The Deluxe Pro is even more comprehensive, with Quizlet and access to different Mastery Courses – now that’ll get your scores up!
Khan Academy is another institution in test prep that you can rely on to supplement your MCAT review. Because there are no costs involved upon signing up for their free MCAT prep course, it’s a good way to start reviewing and exposing yourself to the test format. Especially if you want to start with the basic concepts first, then the material is definitely for you.
Units covered include CARS practice questions, Biology, and Human Behavior. They offer free videos that are reviewed and approved by the AAMC, which can be streamed across all devices. The good news is that your progress can be tracked easily!
Price: Free trial available; starts at $219 (for their 90-day access option) to $319 (for their 360-day access option)
With UWorld, you will be getting a good supplement to any existing study plan or review package that you may already have. Still unsure about committing to it? You can sign up for their free trial and gain access to 100 questions for seven days.
Moreover, their basic plan will grant you 90 days of unlimited access to their full QBank, consisting of more than 1,900 sample MCAT Questions.
UWorld boasts of its user-friendly interface, designed to look exactly like the actual exam. The images are crisp and mobile-friendly, and the paid versions allow you to create digital flashcards and flag questions for follow-through.
Price: Free trial available; starts at $179 for their 1-month Premium access; $199 for their 12-month Premium access
Magoosh MCAT Prep is a testament that you don’t need to spend more than one grand to get the best possible review package online. The test prep powerhouse claims that its students are offered admission to prestigious medical programs like NYU, University of Washington, and Cleveland Clinic, among others.
If you’re aiming for top marks or want to get the most out of what you pay for, then Magoosh it is! Their premium courses offer more than 380 review videos and an embedded study plan to keep you on track. You can even email their team of tutors if you have any questions, and they will reply within 24 hours.
Price: Free trial available; starts at $49 for their 15-day access; $69 for their 30-day access and $114 for 60-day access
If you’re up for an MCAT Bootcamp like no other, you may like AptarePrep’s take on training for the MCAT – they offer a complete MCAT Practice module that you can access for 15 days for only $49!
All premium subscriptions give you access to more than 4,800 MCAT practice questions, a downloadable custom study schedule, comprehensive section reports, and a percentile rank calculator that gives you a clearer picture of your performance on testing day.
Additionally, if you have any other areas that need to be addressed, you can ask expert MCAT coaches for help through the site’s discussion forum.
Price: $300/month (6 month plan); $208/month (12 month plan); $167/month (18 month plan)
Dubbed “the smarter way to prep,” Blueprint MCAT Preparation prides itself on providing engaging content and a personalized curriculum that would increase compliance and efficiency. They organize all of their concepts very well, integrating quizzes, lessons, and other tools in different learning modules for your convenience.
The Advanced Analytics part helps you identify areas that may need more work from you. This platform is especially good for visual learners who need more than contextual material – Blueprint would be a good fit and work as a supplement to those who are halfway through their review.
Price: $2,499 for the whole course; discount codes available
Kaplan MCAT Prep Online Course may be one of the premium test prep providers in the market, but if you’re looking for a comprehensive and proven way to increase your chances of success, then it’s worth signing up for. Kaplan employs the best instructors and gives the most detailed classes in the game.
Along with the classes, they have 11 revised practice examinations that you can try out, adjusted according to the shortened version this year (although they also offer a version that focuses on the standard). They also have a 2,900+ QBank, more than 90 hours of live and recorded classes, and personalized assignments.
Price: Trial sessions start at $75/hr; discounted rates available with different packages
If you do not have the time for an MCAT review for an extended period, the Suprex Learning MCAT Test Prep is your go-to package. This online test prep program is conducted by a highly qualified test prep professional who will start tutoring within 24 hours.
The tutoring session can be recorded via Jitsi and 24Sessions. Wherever you are in the world, they can accommodate you and your schedule. They also offer a one-time trial session and a money-back guarantee.
Price: Courses start at $1,399 for their self-paced option
The Princeton Review is another forerunner in test prep, although it may seem a bit up there in terms of price. But the quality and quantity of study materials set it apart from other prep providers – their success rate, number of enrollees, and years of experience don’t lie; they justify what you pay for.
Sign up for their packages and add a tutoring package depending on your pace and problem areas (or to motivate you further). Keep it simple and meet your expectations with the Princeton Review MCAT Prep Course.
Price: $2,199 inclusive of Exam Prep Books and Apps
The University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s MCAT Test Prep has a live online module that helps students keep up with exam prep, even in the middle of a pandemic. Each section of the examination will be discussed extensively because the course offers more than 700 hours of instruction and over 130 science review videos that will guide you through the process.
The price point is quite steep, but it includes valuable materials such as exam prep books (Kaplan’s 7-Book MCAT Subject Review) and apps (flashcards and QBank) that you can take with you on the go.
Price: Price available upon request
Some students prefer a 1-on-1 approach and a study plan that is customized to meet their pace and learning goals. If you’re that kind of student, you may benefit from AJ Tutoring’s take on MCAT Prep, focuses on weak areas that you may have. Especially if you’re juggling different responsibilities or working on the side, you can avail of their hourly session when you need them.
You will be matched with a single professional tutor who will be with you every step of the way. Although they typically recommend 18 to 24 hours of preparation (over three months), tutors at AJ Tutoring are open to accommodate your busy schedule.
Price: Starts at $29.95/month for their Crash Course
Whether you’re going for their self-paced course or a more extensive one, the Gold Standard MCAT Prep Course takes the cake in being one of the best when it comes to testing prep. You’ll be happy to know that they’re also taking account of necessary changes, offering updated resources from the AAMC in time for the testing season.
Their interface may seem a bit dated, but trust us when we say that it’s the content that counts! The Gold Standard also offers more free resources and practice sets than any other provider in the game, giving you more confidence than ever.
Final Notes: Additional Tips for MCAT Success
As a final word, we will give you additional tips and tricks to help you conquer the MCAT with flying colors:
- Read through guides and arm yourself with important information. Since the AAMC is doing the exams a bit differently today (with some COVID-19-related measures in place), it pays to be more receptive to additional information and set your expectations accordingly. You can scan through the MCAT Essentials for Testing Year 2020 for more details.
- Take note of your target schools’ MCAT score requirements. Yes, it may differ from one institution to another, so plan accordingly. AAMC’s Medical School Admission Requirements, or MSAR will help you compare admission information from US and Canadian medical schools – it will be a great tool to have during the decision-making phase!
- Learn to manage stress, even before the exam comes. Especially if you have any preexisting mental and physical conditions that may affect your MCAT performance, it’s best to address these things before exam season. Test anxiety is a real thing that a lot of students struggle with, so build upon your physical and mental strength and incorporate coping and relaxation techniques into your routine.
- Be reasonable with your schedule and make time for a proper review. There are certain demands, like work, school, and family life, that may get in the way of quality study. If you want to make it work and prevent extending the duration of your MCAT prep, make room for adjustments. Give up a few hours of work, or inform your work superiors of your plans.
- Quality over quantity. Yes, it may feel like a handful if you only have so much time to prepare. But as long as you focus on high-yield concepts, stick to your schedule and make the most out of your hours (sans distractions), you will do fine. It’s not about the hours you spend – it’s about how you use them.
- Figure out your learning style, and work with what you’ve got. If you’re a contextual learner (and absorb information much more easily through reading and taking down notes), then sign up for modules that focus on outlines, reading assignments, and flashcards. If you’re more of an audiovisual learner, focus on videos, images, and live instruction. No matter what you feel most comfortable with, don’t be afraid to explore and experiment with different learning techniques, especially if you have a bit more time on your hands.
- Balance your time answering practice tests and reviewing content during study days. Don’t take either part for granted. Yes, there are things that you cannot achieve through practice sets alone or cannot experience through long readings and memorizing concepts. It may seem like a tough line to walk, but make sure to give ample time to cover everything.
- Patience is your friend. The test, in its entirety, is a draining ordeal. Even its shortened version can take away all of your energy. Akin to training in a marathon, try to pace yourself during the first few weeks of MCAT training. Don’t try to speed up the process, and be patient with yourself. Step by step, reduce the duration of your breaks and simulate exam conditions – this will help you ease in well.
- Be more vigilant and attentive to the common mistakes that you make. It takes a lot of resilience to power through MCAT prep – certainly, there will be off-days and more wrong answers than right ones on your practice tests, but this is completely normal! Try to take note of these patterns (if any), and work on them first. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
- Plan and make sure you arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes before the test. Yes, we know that it’s already a given – punctuality is everything when it comes to any standardized examination. Still, we have to reiterate that arriving at least 30 minutes earlier will ensure that you have everything set and save you from any unexpected check-in delays. Here is a video that will let you know what to expect during the test.
What is the best way to prepare for the MCAT?
The best way to prepare for the MCAT is to:
- Create a study plan that covers each of the MCAT’s four sections (Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills), and then break it down into manageable chunks.
- Incorporating practice tests into your review schedule is also essential, as it will help you track your progress and identify any weak areas that need to be addressed.
- Additionally, it’s crucial to find a study method that works for you and ensure you have the necessary resources to help you understand complex concepts.
- Finally, taking care of your physical and mental health should be a priority, as it will help you stay focused and motivated.