The MCAT is a stressful and difficult exam, and it’s part of the stressful and difficult process of applying to medical school. One bright spot, however, is that the AAMC (American Association of Medical Colleges) provides a set of official practice resources to help you prepare for the exam. As the organization that makes the MCAT, their materials are the gold standard of test-likeness, and the full-length exams and other practice in the official resources can be a cornerstone of a high-quality MCAT prep program.
If you’re wondering what’s in the official prep resources, we have a guide we wrote for that very purpose – you should check it out! But you may also want to know how to work the AAMC resources into a larger prep plan that also includes non-AAMC resources. In particular, many students wonder how other practice resources, like Qbanks and other full-length exams, fit into the larger picture…and whether those additional practice resources are strictly necessary. In this article, we’ll answer that question in detail.
Is the AAMC Practice…Enough? Do I Need More?
The official AAMC practice should not be the only practice or assessment in your MCAT prep. Whatever resources you use for content review, be it textbooks, review books, or video resources like Sketchy, you should choose one that has smaller quizzes or practice questions to test your knowledge along the way.
So you should be answering some questions outside the AAMC practice. However, depending on your needs, the AAMC practice may be enough test-like practice for a full course of MCAT prep.
This might sound radical – is the AAMC stuff really enough? Don’t people buy extra Qbanks? Aren’t there literally dozens of third-party full-lengths you can buy? What about those giant comprehensive packages with 10,000+ questions?
All that extra practice does exist, yes. But if you are reading an article about how to “save time and money” on your MCAT prep, you’re probably interested in how far the AAMC alone can take you, and you’re probably trying to avoid paying for resources you don’t need. So let’s consider the volume of AAMC practice and how much time it takes to get through it all, and how that compares to the time you have available to study.
As a rough calculation, if you do all 2,849 AAMC practice questions and make some reasonable average estimates about how long they’ll take you to take and review – let’s say, on average, each takes 1.5 minutes to answer and another 1.5 minutes to review – that adds up to 8,547 minutes of AAMC practice and review, or just over 142 hours. If your MCAT study schedule spends about half your time on content review and half your time on test-like practice, that brings you to 284 hours of total prep…which is a very hefty schedule! Most test-takers spend 200-300 total hours preparing for the test, and 284 hours is right in that range.
So you really can make a full prep program out of a full bundle of the AAMC resources plus the comprehensive content review of your choice, assuming you attack them in the right way.
Of course, there are good reasons for some students to go beyond this and buy more prep. For instance, the AAMC resources have a fixed distribution of practice across test sections and subjects, so if you are a student who wants to spend a lot more of your test-like practice on Chem/Phys topics than others, or a lot more time on CARS, you may want to seek out additional resources in those areas. But if you feel lost among all the various prep options, or if you’re looking for ways to piece together a full prep program on a budget, you can start with “Content Review + AAMC” as a basic plan, and then customize into other resources if you need to later on.
Why Sketchy Has an AAMC Bundle
If you’ve made it this far, you have an understanding of what the AAMC resources can do for you, and how the AAMC practice, paired with content review, can be the base of an MCAT self-prep program. Well – in our efforts to help MCAT students, we at Sketchy have put together just such a bundle! Our MCAT Prep Essentials course includes:
- The full Sketchy MCAT course – that’s your content review, covering everything on the test (yes, including CARS)
- All the AAMC practice listed above
- A Study Planner (see above) to sequence it all together and keep you on track
Plus, we actually make this stuff fun, teaching through cartoons and memory hooks rather than textbooks or lectures, and for a much more affordable price than other prep courses you may have heard of. If that sounds appealing at all, please check us out with a free trial. And whether you ultimately use Sketchy or not, we wish you the best!