Best MCAT Prep Books for 2021 [Buying Guide]

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Looking for the best MCAT prep books on the market today but don’t know where to start? Here at Test Prep Nerds, we’ve performed countless student interviews to reach our verdict and have narrowed it down to our top 7. 

The MCAT books that made our list range from $35 per book up to $200+ for an entire MCAT book set. These books fit into any MCAT prep budget and can come at a fraction of the cost of a live or on-demand commercial MCAT prep course. 

If you’re looking for the best MCAT prep books that have been proven to get students to a 520 (and higher) on the MCAT, then keep reading!

Best MCAT Prep Books:

In a hurry? Here’s a quick look at the MCAT prep book that made #1 on our list!

OUR FAVORITE MCAT PREP BOOK

Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Subject Book Set

5/5

This book set is completely comprehensive and can stand alone as your sole MCAT study tool.

The 7 Best MCAT Prep Books for 2021

NAME

RATING

# PRACTICE TESTS

PRICE

PRACTICE

QUESTIONS

YEAR

mcat prep books
Kaplan MCAT Complete 7 Book Set
5 Stars
5/5

3

$$$$

500+

2021-2022

princeton review mcat prep books

Princeton Review Complete Box Set

4.5 Stars
4.5/5

3

$$$

1000+

2018

Mometrix MCAT Prep
4 Stars
4/5

1

$

100+

2021-2022

kaplan mcat prep book
Kaplan MCAT 528
3.5 Stars
4.5/5

1

$$

500+

2019-2020

Test Prep Books MCAT
4.5 Stars
4.5/5

0

$

100+

2021-2022

Sterling MCAT Psychology & Sociology
4.25 Stars
4.2/5

0

$$

100+

2021

Sterling MCAT Biology & Biochemistry
4.25 Stars
4.2/5

0

$$

1200+

2021

Kaplan Complete Subject Review

Best MCAT prep books for overall comprehensive review

5/5 Stars
5 of 5 stars

MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review 2021-2022

Kaplan has been around for what seems like forever, and the Kaplan MCAT prep books are consistently top notch. Their MCAT book set includes everything you’d need to have a solid MCAT home study plan, including their own MCAT study plan, subject-specific review, and lots of MCAT practice questions (online and in the book). I personally enjoy going through practice questions in a physical book, so I find having the option for online or in the book to be a huge plus.

You don’t just have to take our word for it, however, as the Kaplan MCAT prep set was the most recommended MCAT prep books, by far, in our most recent poll by recent MCAT test-takers. In the 7-book set, you will receive the following subject-specific books: Behavior Sciences; Biochemistry; Biology; General Chemistry; Organic Chemistry; Physics and Math; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. You can rest assured that everything matches the current AAMC guidelines, as they put out a new edition each year that addresses any of these changes.

That said, you don’t necessarily need to buy the newest edition. If you have a chance to buy a used edition from the last couple of years, this is going to be pretty much the same book. We prefer sharing the most recent, updated version, as we understand some of our readers prefer to buy the newest versions for peace of mind.

  • End-of-chapter summaries and concept checks make for easy reviewing
  • One-year online access to 3 full-length practice tests, videos, practice questions, and quizzes
  • 350+ practice questions in book + additional online
  • 24 full-page Quicks Sheets provide visuals for important concepts

Pros

  • Can be used as your main content source
  • Updated annually, so you don’t need to worry about outdated content
  • Chapter summaries and concept checks help to reinforce what you’ve learned
  • Online portal has additional practice

Cons

  • The CARS book feels light and we suggest swapping it for the AAMC CARS question pack
  • New editions each year have few differences after 2015

How to Use the Kaplan MCAT Book Set:

This may sound counterintuitive, but we recommend going through the book that covers the subject that you feel the most knowledgeable in. This gives you a chance to become comfortable with how the Kaplan MCAT books work in asking and answering questions as well as how you best study with them. From there, you can then begin working through more difficult subject books.

While working through these books, you should be taking physical notes as well as making flashcards. We share some free MCAT flashcards here.

Top Feature: Access to all online review content + videos

Who Needs this: Students wanting comprehensive review

Sale
MCAT Complete 7-Book Subject Review 2021-2022
  • Kaplan Test Prep (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 3448 Pages - 07/07/2020 (Publication Date) -...

Princeton Review MCAT Complete Box Set

Best MCAT prep book for students with content gaps

4.5/5 Stars
4.5 of 5 stars

The Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete...

The Princeton Review MCAT Complete Box Set comes next in our list of the best MCAT prep books – this 7-book MCAT set includes effective strategies and techniques proven to increase MCAT scores. It’s written by real teachers and includes a bit more humor than you’d find in Kaplan’s book set (which is a pretty low bar).

You pretty much get the same content as the Kaplan MCAT book set: 3 full-length MCAT practice tests, end-of-chapter review, easy reference glossaries, full-color illustrations and diagrams, and online student tools. The difference in these two book sets, however, is in the amount of content covered. This book set by The Princeton Review provides more in-depth information on principles than Kaplan’s book set, which can be either good or bad, depending on how much new knowledge you’re looking to gain versus review.

The Princeton Review MCAT book set is like Kaplan’s in that they offer a new book set each year. Unfortunately, when TPR offers an updated book set, they blend new and old editions of books together. I find this a bit deceptive, as you get some 2nd and some 3rd editions at a price suggesting it’s updated for 2021.

  • More in-depth information than Kaplan
  • Thousands of practice questions
  • High-quality graphics for learning difficult concepts

Pros

  • Deeper coverage on topics than Kaplan (Could be a pro or con depending on your needs)
  • Good value for the amount of content & books you receive for the price
  • 3 full-length practice tests can be used for practice online
  • A bit more personality in the writing than Kaplan’s book set

Cons

  • Their practice tests are notoriously difficult, so use AAMC official practice tests as well for real score accuracy
  • The MCAT Biochemistry Review may not be detailed enough for someone needing serious improvement in this section

How to Use the Princeton Review MCAT Book Set:

As mentioned with the Kaplan MCAT book set, I suggest starting with a book that covers a subject you feel more solid with. From there, move onto the harder subject reviews.

When you work through these MCAT books, don’t just read them, actually practice questions to reinforce the concepts. You should be actively practicing, taking notes, and making flashcards. You can use the practice questions from The Princeton Review, but you should be basing your progress on MCAT scores by using official AAMC practice tests.

Top Feature: More in-depth information on principles than Kaplan

Who Needs This: Students with content gaps who need more than review

Sale
The Princeton Review MCAT Subject Review Complete...
  • The Princeton Review (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 2864 Pages - 12/18/2018 (Publication Date) -...

Mometrix MCAT Prep Book

Best MCAT study guide for budgeters

4.0/5 Stars
4 of 5 stars

MCAT Prep Books 2020-2021: MCAT Secrets Study...

Here is an extremely affordable MCAT study guide by Mometrix, a company that may sound new to you, but is slowly building out a robust test prep product portfolio. They update their MCAT study guide every year, which is a huge plus for those of us who want the newest edition to guarantee matching the current MCAT.

This is a pretty standard MCAT study guide in that it has practice questions and answers, content review, and strategies. Where this MCAT study guide stands out, however, is in its video tutorials that are linked throughout the content. These videos show instructors breaking down a difficult concept and working through examples step-by-step. This can be super helpful for students preparing for the MCAT, as sometimes sticking to just reading text solutions is not enough. For visual learners like me, watching an instructor break down a problem can be a godsend.  

This is truly one of the best values in our best MCAT study guides. If you are looking for a quick MCAT study guide that doesn’t break the bank, then this study guide by Mometrix is a solid pick. 

  • Includes 1 full-length practice test
  • Logical layout intuitively flows from one concept to another
  • Instructor videos break down difficult concepts in video tutorials
  • Detailed answer explanations to each practice question

Pros

  • Links to online review videos makes this prime for visual learners
  • Test taking strategies for the MCAT test day
  • Great value and good for budgeters
  • Updated annually

Cons

  • Be careful that you don’t buy from third party sellers, as some students have received used copies

How to Use the Mometrix MCAT Study Guide:

Since this is an MCAT study guide, you should be using it as a supplement to your existing prep. You should be using your MCAT book set or review course (or whatever MCAT study schedule you’ve created) and use this study guide to after you’ve completed your study for a section. This content is a more summarized review and will provide you with some video content to review what you’ve read and practiced.

Top Feature: Video tutorials and affordable price

Who Needs This: Budget students who want an affordable MCAT study guide

Sale
MCAT Prep Books 2020-2021: MCAT Secrets Study...
  • Mometrix Test Preparation (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 563 Pages - 01/26/2020 (Publication Date) -...

Kaplan MCAT 528

Best MCAT study guide for high-yield practice

4.5/5 Stars
4.5 of 5 stars

MCAT 528 Advanced Prep 2019-2020: Online + Book...

The Kaplan MCAT 528 Advanced Prep is a much more affordable alternative to Kaplan’s 7-book set and packs a lot of punch for less than $30. Like all Kaplan MCAT products, their content is updated every year to reflect all current AAMC guidelines. In this Kaplan MCAT book, you’ll receive comprehensive review, high-yield practice, and star ratings to let you know how important specific topics will be on the test day. 

What I really appreciate in this MCAT study guide is that the content is actually changed between editions. This helps to justify buying the newest version, since it has been painstakingly revised to match the current AAMC guidelines.

The highlight of this MCAT book is the star ratings, which was one of the factors considered when ranking this among our top 7 MCAT prep books. MCAT experts have rated topics on the MCAT based on their importance on the MCAT. This helps students to get the most targeted focus on the most-tested concepts! 

  • More than 500 printed questions and answer explanations
  • Reflects latest AAMC guidelines
  • Full-length online practice test mimics real MCAT
  • Star ratings rank importance of concepts on the MCAT

Pros

  • Online questions are in computer based format, giving you the feeling of taking the real MCAT
  • Super affordable compared to the Kaplan 7 book set
  • This study guide enables laser focus on high yield questions
  • Star ratings allow you to do a quick review before the big day

Cons

  • Marketed as “Advanced Prep” but generally is best for newer MCAT studiers
  • Many of the strategies are one-size-fits-all

How to Use the Kaplan 528 MCAT Study Guide:

This MCAT study guide best serves as a pre-cursor to your MCAT prep. What I mean here is that you should work through it to identify where you are strong and weak, so that you can better strategize your MCAT study plan.

You can also use this 528 MCAT study guide as a last-minute review before your MCAT. Simply find the star ratings that identify the most important topics so that you can review quickly.

Top Feature: Star ratings help students identify most important concepts

Who Needs This: Students who need help getting started on MCAT review

MCAT 528 Advanced Prep 2019-2020: Online + Book...
  • Kaplan Test Prep (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 10/02/2018 (Publication Date) - Kaplan...

Test Prep Books MCAT

Best MCAT prep book for quick review

4/5 Stars
4 of 5 stars

MCAT Prep Books 2021-2022: MCAT Study Guide 2021...

The Test Prep Books MCAT is another affordable MCAT study guide that covers every topic that is tested on in the MCAT. It’s updated every year, so you can feel confident that you’ll be working on representative MCAT practice questions and review material.

Included in this book are MCAT practice questions as well as detailed answer explanations for each. This MCAT study guide is great for students who are looking for an easy and organized review of key takeaways on the MCAT

  • A straightforward review of all the content on the MCAT
  • Detailed explanations to every question

Pros

  • Real customer service is a novelty among MCAT prep books – they respond to emails with any questions you have about the book
  • Practice questions printed in the book (helpful for those who don’t love practicing on the computer).

Cons

  • The questions are a bit on the easy side, so it may not be the best for practice

How to Use Test Prep Books MCAT Study Guide:

I recommend this MCAT study guide for one last refresh on MCAT content before taking the MCAT. I believe that the material here is well organized and makes for easy reference on last-minute topic brush-ups.

Top Feature: Concise study guide for review

Who Needs This: Students who need a quick review MCAT study guide

Sale
MCAT Prep Books 2021-2022: MCAT Study Guide 2021...
  • Publishing, TPB (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 308 Pages - 07/24/2020 (Publication Date) - Test...

Sterling MCAT Psychology & Sociology

Best MCAT prep book for Psychology practice

4.25/5 Stars
4.25 of 5 stars

Sterling Test Prep MCAT Psychology & Sociology:...

I’ve reviewed and listed a couple of Sterling’s MCAT prep books because they manage to do an incredible job putting theory into practice for their section-specific prep books. If you are struggling in a specific section on the MCAT, I recommend having a look through Sterling’s MCAT products and finding the subject-specific prep book that you need.

This MCAT Psychology & Sociology prep book helps you to actually apply these theories and grasp them more than you would through some of the other MCAT prep book sets we listed here. The Sterling MCAT Psychology and Sociology book provides a detailed and thorough review of the updated psychology and sociology topics tested on the MCAT in 2021. We’re also confident that all topics and skills in this book are according to the AAMC guidelines for the redesigned MCAT, because they update the content in the book each year.

  • Covers all information of Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior section of the 2021 MCAT
  • Organized into 15 focus knowledge areas
  • Detailed explanations

Pros

  • Updated each year, just be sure to find the newest version in “Sold and Shipped by Amazon” or at Barnes & Noble
  • Affordable option for students who need to brush up on this specific section
  • Novel higher-score-guarantee money back guarantee that most prep books don’t offer

Cons

  • The book is pretty massive, so it’s not suggested to be used as a study guide for Psychology & Sociology
  • There is a little overlap between sections

How to Use Sterling’s Psychology & Sociology Guide:

Sterling’s Psychology & Sociology book is really helpful for supplementing your Psychology/Sociology prep on the MCAT because it’s clearly organized by topic and concepts. You can use this as a supplement to your existing MCAT prep or use this book exclusively.

Top Feature: Thorough review of Psychology & Sociology

Who Needs This: Students looking for more help in Psychology & Sociology

Sale
Sterling Test Prep MCAT Psychology & Sociology:...
  • Prep, Sterling Test (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 582 Pages - 01/07/2018 (Publication Date) -...

Sterling MCAT Biology & Biochemistry 

Best MCAT prep book for Biology practice

4.25/5 Stars
4.25 of 5 stars

Sterling Test Prep MCAT Biology & Biochemistry...

Here’s our second Sterling recommendation that made our best MCAT prep books list, specifically for general Biology. I wanted to include this one on our list because most pre-med students don’t really need much more knowledge on general Biology, but can still benefit from additional practice. This is especially true with practice problems that incorporate biochemistry.

I recommend you buy this book if you’re looking for a bit more practice in Biology and Biochemistry but don’t need to spend a ton of time on review.

  • 20 Chapters of questions grouped by concepts
  • 1,200 high-yield practice questions
  • Answer keys and detailed explanations to questions
  • General strategies for taking the MCAT

Pros

  • Great Biology practice without excessive content review
  • All the questions are high-yield, so you can be studying way more effectively with each question
  • Higher score money back guarantee across all Sterling books

Cons

  • This book covers more Biology practice than Biochemistry

How to Use Sterling’s Biology & Biochemistry Guide:

Similar to using the Sterling Psychology & Sociology Guide, we recommend using this MCAT book as either your exclusive Biology & Biochemistry prep tool or as a supplement using its simple Chapter/Concept outline.

Top Feature: Best review of Biology & Physiology

Who Needs This: Students looking for MCAT Biology-specific practice

Sale
Sterling Test Prep MCAT Biology & Biochemistry...
  • Prep, Sterling Test (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 439 Pages - 12/16/2017 (Publication Date) -...

Best MCAT Prep Books Recap – Which One Is Best for You?

Best MCAT Prep Books FAQ

Are Kaplan or Princeton Review Books Better for the MCAT?

Kaplan’s MCAT prep book set is the highest-rated among students we’ve interviewed. It is comprehensive and comes with access to Kaplan’s online platform and video content. Princeton Review’s advantage is that their book set is more detailed for those with content gaps. If you missed any classes in college, then we’d recommend Princeton Review’s books. If you’re looking at the differences between these two MCAT providers, read our deep dive here on Kaplan vs Princeton Review MCAT.

What’s the Best MCAT Physics Book?

We have two favorites for those looking for an MCAT Physics book. We recommend the MCAT Physics book by Garrett Biehle and Sterling Test Prep’s MCAT Physics Practice for additional practice questions.

Why Isn’t Examkrackers on this list?

This year, we did not include Examkrackers MCAT books on our list. Their content can be too detailed and outdated, and I’ve spoken to countless students who were unhappy with their study experience using EK products and courses.  You can see our full analysis and how they stack up to Kaplan in our recent post Examkrackers vs Kaplan.

How Far in Advance Should You Study for the MCAT?

We recommend a minimum of 3 months, but your MCAT prep can range from 3-6 months depending on the amount of time you have to commit to studying. You should complete 200-300 hours total in your prep, so however you can disperse that in your schedule is how long your prep will last. 

Can You Study for the MCAT in 2 Months? 

Cramming 200-300 hours of MCAT studying into 2 months can be a recipe for burnout. We recommend choosing another MCAT test date if you only have 2 months to prep before taking the test.  You can read our MCAT study schedule guide, which includes a 3 month MCAT study schedule, but be warned, even at 3 months, 40 hours of MCAT studying each week is not for the faint of heart.

How Many Times Can You Take the MCAT? 

You can take the MCAT up to 3 times in 1 year, up to 4 times in 2 consecutive years, and up to 7 times in your lifetime. 

How is the MCAT Scored?

Each MCAT section is scored on a scale of 118–132 (highest). Your MCAT total score (which is the sum of your section scores) ranges from 472–528. Because different versions of the test have varying levels of difficulty, the scale will be slightly different from one MCAT administration to the next.

How Much is MCAT Prep?

A standard MCAT prep course live or online will cost around $2,000. A book set, however, can come at a fraction of the cost with a maximum expense of $200.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, there are plenty of MCAT prep books to choose from. The final decision on the best MCAT prep book boils down to you. If you are still on the fence, we highly recommend the Kaplan MCAT book set for its effective and comprehensive review of every subject on the MCAT.

OUR FAVORITE MCAT PREP BOOK

Kaplan MCAT Complete 7-Subject Book Set

5/5

This book set is completely comprehensive and can stand alone as your sole MCAT study tool.

Looking for More MCAT Prep?

Check out the best MCAT flashcards and free tools to supplement your study as well as some free MCAT practice tests to get your prep to the next level.  

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