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Choosing the Best MCAT Prep Book for You

Choosing the Best MCAT Prep Book for You

Published on March 12, 2014

Start off right with a MCAT prep book that fits you. You have many options and opinions on what review book may suite you best. Use these guidelines to decide on the materials that are right for you.

Everything isn't everything

It's easy to get caught up in the idea that doing more is better, but when it comes to studying for the MCAT, reading an inexhaustible supply of MCAT review books may keep you from the necessary practice and reevaluation that your prep needs. The best strategy is to identify the review books that align with your learning style and incorporate those into a balanced schedule of review and practice.

10 Tips for Finding the Best MCAT Prep Book for You

1. Does it fit your stage of knowledge? A more detailed book may be more appropriate if you are scheduling a long review period or if you have a lot of re-learning to do.

2. Is it totable? If you hate carrying around a lot of weight, consider review materials that are broken down in to a series of books rather than one big comprehensive text.

3. Can you borrow it? Stress can play a big factor in whether you get enough sleep and are retaining information leading up to test day, and stressing over money can play a part. Spending a little extra time to find pre-loved books to borrow or purchase cheaply eases the pain on the purse.

4. Do you know someone who recommends that book? Likely the people you are friends with have similar study habits and skill levels. Did the book work for them? It may be more likely that the same text will work for you too.

5. Is it funny? This could go either way. If a lighter tone helps you stay focused, go for it. But too much eye-rolling and groaning can get in the way of processing important information.

6. Are there tables and graphs? If you are a visual learner, choose the material that uses graphic displays to demonstrate concepts. If you tend to ignore these, be sure that you do so because you don't need them to understand. Avoiding graphics because you hate trying to figure out what they mean could get you into trouble with some MCAT passages.

7. Practice as you review. You should be testing your understanding as you proceed through your review. If you do not have your own review process, you should select a text that quizzes you along the way.

8. Mix and mingle. Some prep books may be better for you in one subject, yet not be strong in another. Your loyalty is to your med school app, not a publisher. Feel free to mix texts from different sources.

9. Is it just a book? If you consume a lot of your reading on devices, look for texts that have online complements or PDF versions.

10. Trust in yourself. At the end of the day, it's what you do with your prep book that matters. If you find yourself caught up in committing to a text, take a deep breathe and decide that you will succeed no matter what text you use. The rest is up to you!

How Prep Books Compare

For one thing, prep books differ by the voice of the author. For instance, take these three descriptions of titration:

"Titrations are accomplished by reacting a known volume of a solution of unknown concentration (called the titrand) with a known volume of solution of known concentration (called the titrant). In acid-base titration, the equivalence point is reached when the number of acid equivalents present in the original solution equals the number of base equivalents added, or vice versa."
- Kaplan MCAT General Chemistry Review

"Acid-base titrations are reactions by which we can determine the amount of acid or base present in a solution. This is done by reacting the solution with a base or acid (of known concentration), and by measuring the volume of the known acid or base used up in the process."
- Nova's The MCAT Chemistry Book

"A titration is the drop-by-drop mixing of an acid and a base. Titrations are performed in order to find the concentration of some unknown by comparing it with the concentration of the titrant. The changing pH of the unknown as the acidic or basic titrant is added is represented graphically as a sigmoidal curve."
- Examkrackers MCAT Chemistry

Did one of those definitions make more sense to you? The same topic was covered, yet what matters is whether it helps you understand. Now you shouldn't be basing a selection over this one example, but by flipping through different prep books you may begin to feel more comfortable with certain presentations of the same material. That's your winner.

Which MCAT review book will you be going with? Share your suggestions!

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