The new MCAT (post-2015) does not have a section dedicated to Biology anymore. Instead, all of the premed sciences are spread out into 3 sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, and Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior.
Although each section has its own focus, General Biology is by far the most tested subject on the exam. The Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems contain 65% general biology and even the other 2 sections contain a small percentage of Biology.
The point I’m trying to make is that if you want to do well on the MCAT, you will need to make sure you have a very strong grasp of the general biology topics.
If you feel that you are lacking in general biology, I highly recommend checking out the books below.
In addition to great content, the most important thing these books will provide is quality practice passages and discrete problems. In order to do well on the MCAT, you need to be doing lots and lots of practice questions.
Further Reading: Interested to see what the best overall MCAT prep book set is?
Here are the 4 best MCAT biology prep books.
- #1 Next Step MCAT: Biology and Biochemistry Review
- #2 Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Biology
- #3 Kaplan MCAT Biology Review
- #4 The Berkeley Review MCAT Biology
- AAMC Material
- How To Study For The MCAT Biology Section
- Using Khan Academy for MCAT Biology Review
- MCAT Biology Flashcards
If you are struggling with MCAT biology, chances are you need to do more practice problems. Generally speaking, most premed students have a good foundation with biology but need that extra MCAT practice to get themselves in the correct mindset.
In my opinion the Next Step MCAT (now called Blueprint, but this book came out before Next Step was bought out) practice books are highly underrated.
I have personally used Next Step practice books and loved them!
This book in particular covers both general biology and biochemistry and has tons of quality MCAT passages/questions. However, it does tend to lean more biochemistry, which is probably due to the fact that the new MCAT focus’s more heavily on biochemistry, and students tend to struggle with this topic.
I found the passages and questions in this book to be fantastic.
No surprise here, Next Step has always been the leader in 3rd party MCAT practice tests. Their MCAT practice tests are the most accurate to the new MCAT. And don’t worry, Blueprint is using the same content and practice tests that Next Step created!
This Next Step book tends to lean towards being more difficult. Although this may not be the exact same difficulty as the real MCAT, it is better to study something that is more difficult than less.
Next Step also tends to shine with their solutions to problems. They go into great detail explaining why correct answers are correct and why incorrect ones are incorrect.
Next Step also likes to talk about strategy. Throughout the book, you will find advice on how to attack problems so that next time you can be more prepared.
This book is easy to find on Amazon and relatively inexpensive. You can find this book dirt cheap used, but be careful about buying used MCAT books. The point is to do practice problems and if half the answers are already filled out, this kind of defeats the purpose.
You may be better off just buying a new one.
There is no doubt about it, doing these biology practice passages from Next Step will help your biology score. You can count on the accuracy being close to the MCAT and the solutions will help you develop better testing techniques.
Although the Examkrakers 1001 questions in MCAT Biology is a fairly old book, it is still highly recommended if you are struggling with MCAT Biology.
The questions in this book are all discrete questions so they won’t help you in deciphering passages, but they will help you nail down important biology concepts. While studying for the MCAT I used these books for topics that I struggled with. Honestly, they were very helpful.
Many premed students on social media will also agree with me that the Examkrackers 1001 books are good quality study material for the new MCAT.
Once again, the Examkrackers 1001 Biology questions only contains discrete problems. As far as discrete problems go, this book is pretty accurate to the new MCAT discrete problems. That being said, I recommend this book more for solidifying your general biology understanding as opposed to developing your MCAT test-taking skills.
The difficulty of these questions is moderate at best. Not too easy where they end up being a waste of time, but also not too great of a challenge.
Every problem has a solution in the back of the book. The solutions are short and accurate. They will tell you why the correct answer is correct and sometimes why the incorrect ones are incorrect.
Because all the questions are discrete problems, there really isn’t a reason to go too in depth with the explanations.
There are a ton of these books out there and you can find them very cheap used. Purchasing this book new is also possible, but given the age of the book it’s pretty expensive to buy it new.
My recommendation is to scroll through the used options until you find one in a “very good” or “like new” condition. Make sure the description also states that it has not been marked in or minimally marked.
The Examkrackers 1001 Questions in MCAT Biology book is ideal for students who are struggling with particular topics in Biology and need extra practice to reinforce those areas. The book is cleverly designed to separate all the questions by topic so that you can really hone in on the areas where you are lacking.
In our post on the Best MCAT Prep Books we go into more detail on why Kaplan is our favorite MCAT book set. Kaplan hits that sweet spot of not going into too much detail like Princeton but also not to brief like Examkrackers.
In addition to this, Kaplan just does a great job of explaining concepts in a way that is easy to understand.
Kaplan’s biology review is included in the complete Kaplan MCAT 7-book subject set. But, if your concern is only biology, this book will still help you nail down any concepts you are having trouble with.
This book’s focus is content review with practice problems and passages to back it up.
Each chapter is followed by 15 discrete practice problems. In addition to this, you will have access to many more MCAT Biology practice problems and passages online. Below we dissect the quality of Kaplan’s practice problems.
Kaplan does not meet Next Step’s/Blueprint’s accuracy to the real MCAT passage problems. However, these practice problems are by no means a waste of time and are still a very good resource if you are needing extra practice with your biology subjects.
In my opinion, Kaplan’s MCAT practice problems tend to be more difficult than the real MCAT. Most of my premed colleagues would agree.
Kaplan does a great job explaining the solutions to their MCAT practice questions. They go into great detail on why the correct answer is correct and why the incorrect answers are wrong. You will find their solutions long and thorough, which many premed students like to see.
Kaplan’s MCAT Biology Review can easily be found on Amazon. Each subject is affordable on its own. If you want to go with Kaplan’s entire set, you will have to dig a little deeper into your wallet.
But don’t worry, you can always resell your MCAT books after you take the test! You won’t get all your money back, but you can get a lot of it back.
All in all, Kaplan books are great content review. Kaplan backs up their content with practice problems so that you can view this material from the eyes of the MCAT. However, there are better resources out there if all your looking for are practice problems.
Kaplan’s MCAT Biology Review is ideal for students who need to read up on their biology due to a lack of knowledge on the subject material.
The Berkeley review is loved by many Premed students. They are thorough in their content review and the passages are very good. I recommend TBR’s MCAT Biology books to students who need a lot of brushing up on their general biology.
Some might argue that the amount of content TBR puts into their MCAT books is overkill. This could be true, you may end up studying things that aren’t tested on the MCAT. Therefore, only use this book if you lack the Biology knowledge needed to do well on the MCAT and you have extra time on your hands.
Each section in these books is followed by 15 practice passages. Here is our analysis of these questions:
Accuracy and Difficulty
The general consensus is that TBR does a great job being accurate to the real MCAT. However, people also say that these passages tend to be more difficult than the actual MCAT especially in Biology. Once again, it’s better to have questions that are too hard than too easy.
TBR does a great job of going into depth with their explanations. As you practice and review their questions, you will develop a greater understanding of the subject material and develop better skills to tackle other MCAT passages.
One downside is that you are essentially forced to buy these books new from The Berkeley Reviews website. You could try to find them used on Amazon for a cheaper price, but in my experience it’s hard to find the newest edition.
The first time I purchased TBR books on Amazon I ended up with a copy that was almost completely filled out. Huge mistake. If you plan on purchasing these books, just bite the bullet and buy them new directly from TBR website.
To sum things up, TBR’s MCAT Biology books are useful when you need to go very in-depth with your Biology review. You could also purchase these books purely for their practice passages. However, they are a little pricey and you can find cheaper MCAT Biology practice books elsewhere.
Nobody should study for the MCAT without taking full advantage of what the AAMC has to offer.
The AAMC has 2 biology question packs with 120 questions each. These questions are relatively easy because they are essentially from the old MCAT biology section. Additionally, you won’t be able to practice by topic like the books above let you do.
Regardless, you should still practice these problems. My recommendation would be to save them for later in your study schedule so that you can brush up on all the biology topics and make sure you aren’t struggling in a particular area.
The AAMC also has a section bank for the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of the living system. There are 100 of these questions and they are very accurate to the actual biology section.
How To Study For The MCAT Biology Section
Chances are, if you are a premed student, you have a lot of background in college-level biology. If you are struggling with the biology section of the MCAT, you probably need to focus on doing practice problems.
In general, the best way to study for the MCAT is practice problems.
After purchasing one or several of the books above, focus on doing practice passages and discrete problems on subjects you struggle with the most. Do a set of 10 passages or around 50 discrete problems in a row. Then go back and review the questions, making sure to refer back to the content on that subject whenever you aren’t 100% confident about the material.
After this, rinse and repeat. I promise you will see great results if you do a ton of these practice passages and discrete problems.
Further Reading: 7 Best MCAT Practice Books
Using Khan Academy for MCAT Biology Review
Khan Academy is an excellent free tool that should be utilized for MCAT studying. They do an excellent job of separating all their material by subject so that you can easily navigate the stuff you need the most help on.
Additionally, they have lots of practice passages to help reinforce the material in each section. Back when I was studying for the MCAT, Khan Academy did not have solutions to their problems which made it kind of difficult to review. However, now they have detailed explanations that walk you through the reasoning for the correct answer.
If you find yourself struggling in a particular subject in Biology, find that subject on Khan Academy and their videos will give you a fresh perspective.
Further Reading: Is Khan Academy MCAT Prep a Waste of Time?
MCAT Biology Flashcards
The truth is, Biology has a lot of material that needs to be memorized. Flashcards are a great way to get all that material ingrained in your head.
I recommend Kaplan’s MCAT Flashcards.
These cards are very well organized with the perfect amount of detail. They are pretty flimsy which can be aggravating when you end up with a bunch of bent cards that you shoved into your backpack pocket.