Are MCAT Prep Courses Worth It?
I found a post on Twitter about a student claiming she needed to spend $3,000 on an MCAT prep course in order to pass the exam. Understandably, she was taken aback by the price!
Are MCAT prep courses worth it? It depends on your budget and your individual needs. Some students do well self-studying with free and low-cost MCAT resources. Others need the structure of a class. But even if you get an MCAT prep course, you don’t need to spend $3,000.
Today, we’ll cover 3 different levels of MCAT prep and how much they cost. We discuss if expensive MCAT prep courses and bundles are really worth the money, what you get for the cost, and more.
[01:15] Do You Need $3,000 to Pass the MCAT?
I came across this tweet where somebody said that they found an MCAT program they needed to buy to make sure to pass. It was at $3,000 and they were freaking out about that.
So I wanted to raise these two questions about this:
- Does someone have to spend $3,000 to pass the MCAT?
- What else can a student do to figure out other options?
Bryan explains that being able to prep on whatever your budget is part of Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)’s mission. They want to provide quality guidance and quality prep to students at whichever point they are. The free MCAT prep bundle they give away is almost $400 worth of prep materials.
The idea that you would need $3,000 to pass the MCAT is 100% wrong. You don’t need to spend that much to pass the MCAT.
“You don’t even need to spend anywhere near $3,000 to have professional level prep.”
What Level of MCAT Prep Is Worth It for You?
Let’s cover three different levels of MCAT prep and the budget you need to get them. You’ll see that even at the level of an MCAT course, it doesn’t need to be $3,000.
[02:55] Level 1: The Student Ramen Noodle Level
First is the free level. (Talk about lowering the cost of your MCAT prep!)
If you’re on that student ramen noodle budget and you don’t have a ton of money to spend on prep, the absolute minimum required is the registration for the MCAT itself. It’s about $300. It’s significantly less expensive if you qualify for the free assistance program.
If you have no other money to invest in prep, the Khan Academy is free. Their quality of prep material ranges from excellent to pretty good. It’s the official partner of AAMC and it’s free.
Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) has the free MCAT prep bundle. It includes a full-length of 500 questions, science content diagnostic, MCAT diagnostic, QBank, lesson videos, review videos – almost an entire $400-worth of stuff for free.
Of course, you also have this, The MCAT Podcast has tons of practice questions we read through every week.
[04:20] Level 2: The Self-Study-er
If you decide to be a self study-er, the first thing you purchase for $204 (as of this recording) is the Online Bundle from the AAMC. Go to the AAMC’s website and look for the Online Bundle. This includes a whole bunch of real official practice material. It’s a pretty nice discount for buying it all together. All the official online stuff you need for a couple hundred dollars.
Typically, what most students find is they need a little additional prep beyond that. This is where test prep companies come in such as Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep). Sign up for a free bundle. Make sure you like it. Then sign up for either $99 or $149. Sign up for one of their text packages to get the additional full-length practice you need.
You can also get a content review with the Khan Academy or pick up a set of Next Step content review books. This will run you another couple hundred dollars.
“What you really need to keep up with the Joneses on the MCAT prep is more like $300, not $3,000.”
So Bryan pegs it $300 to about $600 to get the AAMC material and get your Next Step full-length practice tests. And then either borrow a set of books or use the Khan Academy. This is what he considers the “minimum” that most students would need. You don’t necessarily need a whole MCAT study program from a prep company.
[06:30] Level 3: Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)
However, for a lot of people, the self-study approach is not going to work for them. They need an MCAT prep course and the social support of classmates. They need live interaction with faculty members.
And they want one-stop shopping. They don’t want to have to go around a million different places to get everything. They want to only do one thing. For these students, are MCAT prep courses worth it? Yes, definitely.
But even at this level, you don’t need to spend $3,000. Well, you could go to companies out there that charge thousands of dollars for a class. But this would be silly since the Next Step MCAT class is only at $1,300. It is significantly less expensive and has literally everything you need.
The course from Next Step is really a whole MCAT prep bundle.
The Next Step MCAT class includes official AAMC materials, and on top of this, they have ten full-length practice tests. They have 70 hours of class videos. They have ten hours a week of live office-hour instruction. You get a six-month enrollment so that’s equal to 250 live hours. You get videos, Qbank, tests—everything you could possibly need for your MCAT prep.
So, the Next Step MCAT course is really a whole MCAT prep bundle—a whole MCAT study program—not just a class.
“For a lot of people, the self-study approach is not going to work for them.”
[07:30] An MCAT Prep Bundle That Includes a Study Planning App
Most importantly, what sets Next Step apart, besides being $1,000 less than the competition, is they have an industry exclusive study planning app. It allows you to get a customized study calendar based on your own calendar. Sign up for their class and you get a study planning tool that generates a calendar for you.
So you get a full MCAT study program, tailored to your schedule. That makes the bundle even more worth it.
There are companies that do a study planning app but not test prep companies that are intimately familiar with all of the material of the whole MCAT process like Next Step is.
A lot of websites and apps out there do study planning, but that’s all they do. The upside is a lot of them are free. But the downside is that they’re not really very user-friendly. You have to manually enter every book and test you’re going to do. You have to manually answer the number of pages you’re going to do every day. They’re not smart enough to know when Christmas is or the fourth of July.
So there are a lot of problems with a lot of apps out there because they’re more of the generic planning tools. While Next Step’s app literally does one thing – it builds you your plan and your whole MCAT study program. To many students, this is really valuable.
“Ours literally does one thing – builds you your MCAT plan.”
[09:45] How AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program Can Lower Your MCAT Prep Course Cost
Aligned with Next Step’s mission, they see themselves as educators first. They recognize that this might be outside the budget range for some students. Bryan wants you to understand that if you qualify for the AAMC’s fee assistance program, they will essentially honor that. They give you their course for half off.
Next Step wants to make sure that students are not locked out of the opportunity to take a class just because of those budget concerns. Again,
“As part of AAMC’s FAP program, you can get their course for practically less than a set of books and tests for another company.”
[10:48] If you’re going to pay $3,000 for MCAT Prep…
So, are MCAT prep courses worth it? It depends. But even if you’re getting a course, you still don’t need to spend $3,000.
What is actually worth $3,000? It’s not a group course. That’s an unnecessary cost to pay just for an MCAT prep course with a group. If you spend that much, you deserve the absolute premium service, which is one-on-on coaching – not you and 20 people. Just you and the expert.
At Next Step, their 24-hour comprehensive plan is $2,899. Even that is slightly less than $3,000. But more realistically, what you need is just about $1,300 for their course.
[12:00] Last Thoughts on MCAT Prep Course Cost
No, you don’t need to spend $3,000 for an MCAT course. Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) has their course at $1,300. This includes access to all of their practice tests, AAMC materials, books, etc. (Check out my full review of the course here.)
If you really want to spend $3,000, you can get one-on-one tutoring from Next Step. To save even more money off their services, use MCATPOD upon checkout.
“Don’t think you have to spend $3,00 for a course which isn’t going to cater directly to you.”