Everything You Need to Know About the AAMC MCAT Resource Bundle

We break down everything you need to know about the AAMC MCAT Resource Bundle, what it includes and how you can fit it into your MCAT prep program.

One of the most important decisions you’ll make on your journey to medical school is how you prepare for the MCAT, and one thing every student will have to consider in that decision is how to use the AAMC’s MCAT Official Prep resources, the “gold standard” of MCAT practice.

Unfortunately, the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) is not always the best explainer or organizer of its own high-quality resources – if you want to see a web designer cry, have them navigate for a while – so in this article we’ll explain what’s in the AAMC materials, how they can fit into your MCAT prep program, and how clever use of them can save you from spending unnecessary time and money on other prep resources.


What Is the AAMC Official Practice?

The AAMC, among its other duties – such as housing the AMCAS application portal – is the organization that creates and administers the MCAT. As such, over the years it has released and made available for purchase some of its own internally written MCAT practice, much of which appeared on actual, scored MCATs before being retired from circulation and released in these prep materials.

Having been written by the testmaker, the official AAMC resources are, almost by definition, the most accurate MCAT practice you will find. Especially given its provenance, it is also a fairly good value, costing (as of this writing) less than $300 for nearly 3,000 questions, split nicely between full practice tests and more subject-specific resources.

Formally speaking, the “AAMC resources” usually refers to the AAMC MCAT Official Prep Online-Only Bundle (or sometimes the AAMC MCAT Official Prep Complete Bundle, which also sends you a physical copy of The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam). This bundle is a package of 14 individual resources, including practice exams, question packs, and other question sets. These 14 resources, plus the two freely available full-length exams (the “Sample Test” and “Free Practice Exam”) comprise everything the AAMC has released since the last major change to the MCAT in 2015. The individual resources can be purchased separately or in smaller bundles, but purchasing them all at once saves about 15% relative to buying them individually.

New resources are also released occasionally, typically in October or November.

How Many MCAT Questions Are in the AAMC Materials?

There are 2,849 questions across all the official AAMC practice resources, as of early 2023. The breakdown by resource is as follows:

  • Practice Exams: 1380 (6 exams * 230 questions per exam)
  • Question Packs: 720 (6 packs * 120 questions per pack)
  • Section Bank: 300 (3 sections * 100 questions per section)
  • Official Guide Questions: 120
  • Independent Question Bank: 150
  • CARS Diagnostic Tool: 179

Each of these resources is further broken down and detailed below.

Practice Exams

There are two free practice exams that anyone can access (one scored and one unscored, called the “Free Practice Exam” and “Sample Test,” respectively), as well as four scored practice exams (called “Practice Exam 1,” “Practice Exam 2,” etc.) available for purchase. These are full-length, 4-section, 230-question exams that, with the exception of the unscored Sample Test, even give you realistic scores at the end.

Students can best use these exams by taking one close to the start of their prep as a baseline, to learn their current scoring range as well as strengths and weaknesses, and then taking the other exams once every one or two weeks in the leadup to their real MCAT.

Question Packs

There are six question packs in total: one for Chemistry, one for Physics, two for Biology, and two for CARS. Each of these has 120 questions, and the questions in a pack are all focused on their respective subject. For the science question packs (Chemistry, Physics, and Biology), the questions are a mix of passage-based and non-passage-based questions.

One important note about the question packs, and ALL AAMC resources, is that every time you start it, it displays as a single 120-question section. This does NOT mean that you need to answer it all in one sitting; in fact, that would be unwise, as these are best used for shorter, more focused practice sessions where you review your answers right away. Instead, you should answer only as much as you want for that sitting, end your practice (so you can see your results), and start the section over later. This can unfortunately mean your “revisits” involve clicking many times through questions you have seen before, but that is just how the AAMC’s interface is coded 😕.

Section Bank

The Section Bank is three blocks of 100 questions, each of which is dedicated to a different science section of the MCAT (Chem/Phys, Bio/Biochem, and Psych/Soc). 

Similar to the question packs, the Section Bank is a mix of passage-based and non-passage-based questions. But unlike the question packs, the mix of subjects and skills tested is more representative of a real MCAT section. For example, within the Chem/Phys block of the Section Bank (or, more formally, “Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems,” which is what the AAMC calls the section), there is a sampling across General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry questions, as well as questions in all four of the AAMC’s Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills.

As with other AAMC materials, each of these always loads up as a single contiguous block of 100 questions. However, they do not need to be answered all in one sitting, and they should be revisited over time in multiple study sessions…even if it takes a lot of clicking.

Official Guide Questions

The full and official name for this resource is “MCAT Official Prep Online Practice Questions from the Official Guide to the MCAT Exam”...which hopefully makes you realize why we just call it the “Official Guide Questions.”

This resource is four sets of 30 questions each, and they are exact copies of the 120 questions printed in the AAMC’s book, The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam. These are some of the oldest questions in the entire set of AAMC resources, and in some cases they show their age. However, they still are scientifically sound, and they do test the same content and skills that you will see on the real exam.

Independent Question Bank

This is a set of 150 science-section questions that are NOT attached to passages. It’s called the “independent” question bank because “independent” is the AAMC’s official term for questions without a passage – though in the world of MCAT prep, these are more commonly called “discrete” questions. On the real MCAT and in full-length practice tests, approximately 25% of science-section questions are “independent,” but in this resource 100% of them are.

These questions are spread across six science subjects – Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Psychology, Sociology, and Biochemistry – with 25 questions for each. The questions in this bank are in-format, realistic MCAT questions, with appropriate question stems, four answer choices, and so on, though they are somewhat simpler and easier than your average question on a scored practice exam.

This is a shorter resource, but it’s still a good use of time for many students, especially those who want to drill more straightforward applications of the science, such as definitions and formulas.

If you’ve ever heard of the “AAMC Online Flashcards,” that’s what this resource used to be called, so you may see it referred to elsewhere under that name. (Honestly, that was never a great name for it. They’re practice questions, not flashcards!)

CARS Diagnostic Tool

This is a unique resource, in that it has some additional features within it, such as a diagnostic pass through the CARS section, a “days until your test” tracker, and some video instruction. But what most students use it for is: more CARS practice!

Among its other features, the CARS Diagnostic Tool has 179 additional CARS questions. This also happens to be the most recent dedicated CARS practice released by the testmaker, which some believe makes it more accurate to today’s exam. Given how vital CARS practice is, we recommend using this as an extra, jumbo-sized CARS question pack, whether or not you use the other features of the diagnostic tool.

Where to Find the AAMC Official Practice Resources

The AAMC Official Prep resources are available directly from the AAMC’s website, but they are also bundled together with many other third-party MCAT prep products, so make sure to read the details of any prep options you’re considering, to see if they’re included. One such bundle is Sketchy’s MCAT Prep Essentials course, which combines Sketchy’s proven MCAT review course with the AAMC’s resources and a study planner to integrate them together with an MCAT score guarantee to boot – check out Sketchy’s MCAT site to see the details.

However you choose to prep, we at Sketchy wish you the best of luck!

 Save 15% off Sketchy with code SHOWDOWN15 Let the games begin.

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