If you are about to study for the MCAT, you have probably already considered taking an MCAT prep course. But are MCAT prep courses really worth it? Will they get you the competitive score you need or waste your time and money?
These are questions I had when deciding how to study for the MCAT. I have tried both approaches and despite what you might believe, I ended up scoring much better when I decided to self-study.
Like most pre-med students, I assumed that an MCAT prep course was the way to go. The course was engineered by professionals to get you a high score and you had that accountability of keeping up with your studies as you would with any other in-person class. Not to mention, you had actual teachers who knew what they were talking about.
And to be totally transparent, my MCAT prep course teachers were probably the best science teachers I have ever had. They were very good at explaining difficult concepts in an easy to understand manner. (My MCAT physics teacher was able to teach me concepts that I couldn’t grasp from my college courses!)
Not to mention the guarantee to score above a certain point!
Just because I did better self-studying doesn’t mean other premeds can’t benefit with an MCAT prep course. In fact, there are lots and lots of premed students who took an MCAT prep course and performed amazing on the MCAT.
But before you spend $3,000 on a course, consider these points.
#1 Instructor Led MCAT Prep Courses Are Not Tailored To The Individual
This is a very important factor to consider.
Every pre-med student starts at a different level in there MCAT prep. This is because the MCAT covers a broad spectrum of premed courses and every individual is going to have strength and weaknesses in different areas.
Therefore, when you take an MCAT prep course you may spend more time on subjects you already understand and you may not spend enough time on concepts you really struggle with.
In addition to this, students tend to study things differently and have different approaches to solving practice problems.
Therefore, if an MCAT prep course pushes a certain study plan or teaches a certain method of reading a passage, this may be beneficial for some people but harmful for others.
#2 MCAT Prep Courses Place Emphasis On Their Own Material
However, the most important material you need to purchase is the official practice tests and problems from the AAMC. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough AAMC material. Therefore, we resort to Kaplan, Princeton, Examkrackers, and all the other 3rd party MCAT companies.
The MCAT prep course I took focused completely on their own material. We never even touched the AAMC material as a class.
Whether you decide to take an in-person MCAT prep course or not, make sure you spend time going over ALL the AAMC MCAT problems. This will put you in the mindset of the MCAT exam.
#3 Instructor led MCAT Prep Courses Follow Their Own Pace
If you take an MCAT Prep Course you will more or less be confined to their schedule. (Unless you take a self-paced course!)
All pre-meds are going to have a different schedule when it comes to the MCAT. Some students will want to study during the school year for an extended period of time while others will want to cram it over the summer for efficiency.
There is no right answer when it comes to pacing yourself for this exam. Before signing up for an MCAT Prep Course, make sure you are realistic about how much time you need.
Further Reading: How to decide when to take the MCAT
#4 Does Your College Offer a Course?
Although a simple concept, this can be easily overlooked. Especially at a large university.
Lots of colleges will offer either their own MCAT prep course (With eligible credits!) or a partnership with an MCAT company. (Also sometimes eligible for credits!) If you are planning to take an MCAT prep course consider this option. It is a lot cheaper!
Keep in mind, MCAT courses run by the University instead of an MCAT company might not be as valuable. College professors don’t always have experience with how the MCAT likes to present their material.
Ultimately, we believe the best way to study for the MCAT is self-prep. Particularly because of our MCAT philosophy.
The way to ace the MCAT is by practicing over and over. This means going against the common notion of a focus on content review. Although in class MCAT prep courses can be very successful, they don’t place enough emphasis on practice problems and tests.