It is a common consideration regarding MCAT prep courses – to take or not to take? We will explore some of the pros and cons of MCAT prep courses, but our general advice is to consider how you have learned best in the past. In high school and during your undergraduate degree, did you find yourself studying independently a lot of the time, or did you prefer to learn in a classroom setting? Individual factors are very important when choosing the best strategy for MCAT studying.
On the one hand, there are some distinct advantages to MCAT prep courses. The major companies that offer such courses do a comprehensive job of teaching MCAT material, so you can be assured that you will see every concept covered on the MCAT at least once. In addition, instructors of such MCAT courses will also help to let you know what concepts are not covered on the exam. For example, much of the physics covered in your introductory university courses is not tested. Another benefit is actually having an instructor who is familiar with the material (having recently conquered the MCAT themselves) go over it during class. For many individuals, this in-class learning experience is invaluable. Finally, MCAT prep courses also do a good job of teaching you how to think in a way that is conducive to writing a standardized exam. For instance, test taking skills can be improved by emphasizing logical principles and promoting awareness of tricky questions that are intended to trap you.
On the other hand, MCAT courses are very expensive. Consider that you can buy all the MCAT prep books you need for between 100 and 400 US dollars, whereas most MCAT courses are at least 2,000 US dollars. Moreover, the prep courses offer a fairly prescriptive learning experience. If you are already prepared for some sections of the MCAT, you will be revisiting those sections during class when you could be spending that time studying areas of weakness. MCAT courses also involve overhead. For instance, they may require you to commute, leading to the loss of precious minutes of study.
The bottom line is that it is a personal decision whether to take a course, and that it may absolutely be the right or wrong decision depending on your learning style. Whatever the case may be for you, we do not recommend MCAT courses for everyone. And, they are certainly not essential for attaining a great MCAT score.