The MCAT is a key component of most medical school applications, so it’s important to do you best. Many students enroll in an MCAT prep course before taking the test, and Houston has several of them to choose from. But they’re not all created equal. That’s why we put together this guide to the best MCAT prep courses in Houston, so you can find the one that best fits your needs.
Our team of experts compared 10 of the most popular MCAT prep courses based in the Houston area to determine which best prepare you for the test. We looked at the amount of in-class time, the included study materials, methods of instructor support and options for personalizing your study plan. We also talked with former students to get their opinions on each course. In the end, we came up with three companies worth a closer look.
Each of our finalists offers in-person MCAT prep courses and private tutoring at one or more locations in Houston. Kaplan was our top pick because of its comprehensive instruction and unique resources, like the MCAT Channel, that can’t be found with any other company. You may prefer one of our other recommendations, however, so it’s a good idea to consider all your options before making a decision.
A Full List of Every MCAT Prep Course in Houston Worth Considering
Our three top picks are listed below, along with the other seven companies we considered. Click on the links to read our reviews and to view the available courses on the company websites.
The 3 Best MCAT Prep Courses in Houston
|Kaplan Test Prep||$299 - $9,499|
|The Princeton Review||$499 - $9,000|
|Altius Test Prep||$1,599 - $4,499|
The Other 7 MCAT Prep Courses in Houston We Reviewed
|Advantage Testing||Visit Site|
|Next Step Test Prep||Visit Site|
|Suprex Learning||Visit Site|
|Varsity Tutors||Visit Site|
The Most Important Features: Accessibility, Study Materials, Support and Customization
We looked at dozens of features when choosing the best MCAT prep courses in Houston, and they fell into four main areas: accessibility, study materials, support and customization.
Each of our finalists hosts regular in-person MCAT prep courses and private tutoring in Houston. Kaplan and The Princeton Review also offer self-paced and live online courses for students who prefer to learn from home. We looked at the number of locations in the Houston area and the frequency of new classes. Weekend and evening classes were a must to accommodate those who have school or work during the week. Kaplan impressed us the most in this category with six locations in Houston and new courses starting every few weeks.
An MCAT prep course comes with a textbook, video lectures, a question bank and full-length practice tests. The best programs will incorporate proctored practice tests into their programs to help you become familiar with the time constraints and test-day procedures. It’s also a great way to help you estimate your scores and track your progress. Kaplan outdoes all the rest here with 15 full-length practice tests, over 10,000 practice questions and the MCAT Channel, a webinar library containing over 30 hours of additional instruction.
All of our finalists enable you to reach out to your course instructors outside of class if you need assistance. Depending on your program, you may be limited to email support, but some may give you access to a hotline as well. Student support may also take the form of a score improvement guarantee, like the ones offered by all three of our top picks. If your score doesn’t go up after completing the prep course, you can select either a free course retake or a full refund of the course materials. There are certain requirements you must satisfy in order to qualify for these guarantees, however, so make sure you understand the fine print before signing up. Altius Test Prep stands out here for its unusual 90th percentile score guarantee, which promises that the company will keep working with you until you score in the 90th percentile or above.
Every student learns a little differently, and a good prep course is able to provide everyone with individualized recommendations on how to improve. Most of the top companies employ analytics to track your answers to practice questions and tests and make suggestions on what you should review. Private tutoring is another option, though the cost may put it out of reach to some. A few companies, like The Princeton Review, also offer section-specific courses designed for students who only need help in a single area. This could save you a lot of money and time if you’re already confident in the other sections of the test.
Choosing the Right Houston MCAT Course Delivery Type for You
There are five main types of MCAT prep courses. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the right one for you depends on your individual preferences. We’ve outlined each of them below.
- Self-Paced: You work through the prep course materials at your own pace.
- Live Online: You join other students in a virtual classroom and learn from a remote instructor.
- Live In-Person: You travel to a physical classroom and learn from a live instructor.
- Private Tutoring: A tutor works with you to design a custom study program tailored to your needs.
- Bootcamp: You cover the same material as a traditional MCAT course in a shorter, more intensive program.
- Cheapest prep courses
- Design your own schedule
- Set your own pace
- Must be disciplined
- Little personalization
- Limited instructor support
Who It’s Best For
A self-paced course is best for those with busy schedules and independent learners who want the flexibility of setting their own pace.
- Available anywhere
- Personalized assistance available
- Structure to keep you on track
- Not as interactive as in-person programs
- Technical problems could arise
Who It’s Best For
A live online course is great for someone who wants the flexibility of being able to learn from home and the interactivity of a traditional classroom course.
- No distractions
- Familiar setting
- Highly interactive environment
- Must travel to location
- Can’t adjust course schedule
- More expensive than online-only courses
Who It’s Best For
A live in-person course is perfect for students who prefer a collaborative, interactive learning environment and want quick access to instructors in case questions arise.
- Personalized curriculum
- Tailored study plans
- Choose from online or in-person tutoring
- Most expensive prep option
- Can be time-consuming
Who It’s Best For
Private tutoring is a good choice for those who are looking to retake the MCAT and those who want to bring their scores up significantly.
- Short duration
- Complete immersion
- Can attend online or in-person
- Courses last all day
Who It’s Best For
MCAT bootcamps are a good option if your test date is rapidly approaching and you need to cover the material quickly.
Full Reviews of the Best MCAT Prep Courses in Houston
Kaplan Test Prep MCAT Review
Best for comprehensive instruction.
Few MCAT prep companies have as big of a reach as Kaplan, and that’s due in large part to its comprehensive curriculum, dedicated instructors and innovative study materials. In addition to 36 hours of in-class instruction, students can tune in to the MCAT Channel for over 30 hours of additional lectures and then put that knowledge into practice with a massive question bank and 15 practice tests. If Kaplan comes up a little short in one area, it’s private tutoring. Its smallest package is 15 hours, so it’s not for people who only need a little help on a single section.
What to Expect
Kaplan has six locations in Houston, and there are a handful of new classes starting every month. Each one meets for 12 three-hour sessions over the course of four to six weeks. Most classes meet on weekday evenings, but there are some weekend classes available to those who can’t attend at any other time. In each class, your instructor will cover key concepts and test-taking strategies and show you how these apply to practice questions. Then, you’ll be assigned homework so you can reinforce these concepts further.
As part of the course tuition, you also get access to the online study materials that make up the self-paced course, including textbooks, video lectures, a question bank with over 10,000 items and 15 full-length practice tests. One of these exams is taken under proctored conditions at a real testing facility as part of Kaplan’s Official Test-Day Experience. This helps you get familiar with the exam conditions, so you won’t be surprised come test day. Kaplan’s most impressive resource is its MCAT Channel. This is a growing webinar library containing dozens of hours of additional instruction on a variety of MCAT and medical school-related topics. You can search the existing videos by topic, instructor or difficulty, or join new webinars live and participate in them just as you would in a regular online class.
In addition to its self-paced and live prep courses, Kaplan also offers private MCAT tutoring to interested students. Unfortunately, the inflexibility of its packages may put it out of reach for some. You must pay for at least 15 hours upfront, and plans go up in 10-hour increments from there. If this is too much for you, you may want to consider a company like Altius Test Prep, or else check out Kaplan’s PLUS plans. These include all the same materials as their regular courses, plus three hours of private tutoring and two self-paced Foundations courses.
Kaplan Test Prep MCAT Details
|Practice Test Pack||$179|
|MCAT Prep - Self-Paced||$1,799|
|MCAT Prep - Self-Paced PLUS||$2,299|
|MCAT Prep - Live Online||$2,499|
|MCAT Prep - Live Online PLUS||$2,999|
|MCAT Prep - In Person||$2,499|
|MCAT Prep - In Person PLUS||$2,999|
|Private Tutoring - 10 hours||$3,699|
|Private Tutoring - 20 hours||$4,799|
|Private Tutoring - 30 hours||$5,899|
|Private Tutoring - 30 hours||$5,899|
|Private Tutoring - 40 hours||$6,899|
The Princeton Review MCAT Review
Best for flexibility.
The Princeton Review offers several tiers of MCAT prep courses to suit learners at different stages. There are comprehensive courses that cover all aspects of the test, short courses that focus on key information and test-taking strategies, and section-specific programs for those who only need help in a single area. Unlike the other companies on this list, there is no single instructor for the course. Instead, four to six subject matter experts will walk you through each section. The Princeton Review’s online materials aren’t quite as extensive as Kaplan’s, but with 15 full-length practice tests and hundreds of hours of video, there’s still more than enough to keep you busy.
What to Expect
The Princeton Review has three in-person locations in Houston, and each one has new courses starting every few weeks. The Ultimate course includes an impressive 123 hours of in-class instruction spread out over more than 30 three-hour sessions. Classes usually meet three to four days per week, though there are some weekend classes as well. If you don’t have the time to accommodate a course this extensive, check out the Strategy course instead. This is a shorter 44-hour program focuses on mastering the key topics and test-taking strategies you need to succeed on the test. And if you only need help on CARS, there’s a special program for that too.
If you’re enrolled in a live course, you also get access to The Princeton Review’s self-paced study materials. These include the Medflix library of over 500 review videos, 11 textbooks and 15 full-length practice tests. Your progress will be tracked in your online account and your performance analyzed so you can see which areas you need to review further. You’ll also receive personalized study recommendations to help you improve in your weak areas. All of these materials are accessible online or through the company’s mobile apps, so it’s perfect for busy students who don’t always have access to a computer.
The Princeton Review is also known for its flexible and affordable private tutoring packages. You can purchase as little as three hours to start and pay hourly from there. But if you plan to do a more extensive review of a single section or the entire exam, you’ll save more by paying for a 10- or 60-hour package upfront. Your tutor will help you design a custom study plan based around your individual needs, and if for any reason you’re not happy, the company will assign you a new tutor at no additional charge.
The Princeton Review MCAT Details
|MCAT Topic Focus||$399|
|MCAT Targeted Private Tutoring - 10 hours||$2,000|
|MCAT Comprehensive Private Tutoring - 60 hours||$11,000|
|Comprehensive Admission Counseling Program||$3,500|
Altius Test Prep Review
Best for private tutoring.
Altius Test Prep markets itself as an MCAT mentoring program, and it emphasizes individualized instruction in all of its programs. Private tutoring is its bread and butter, but its Bronze program offers affordable small-group instruction for those who are interested in a more traditional prep course. Each program includes 24/7 access to your own personal MCAT mentor and a number of private tutoring and small-group sessions. Depending on which package you choose, you may also receive some admissions counseling to help you improve the other aspects of your medical school application.
What to Expect
Altius Test Prep has two locations in Houston, and tutoring can also be done online if you’d prefer to stay at home. There are four different levels to choose from, each with a different number of private tutoring hours included. The Silver package has 12 hours, the Gold has 22 hours and the Platinum has 42 hours. The Bronze package is the only one without private tutoring. Instead, instruction takes place in a number of small-group sessions focused around key topics and practice problems. Students who sign up for the higher-tier packages get to attend these sessions as well, along with additional mastery sessions and, for Platinum students, admissions consultations.
Each course includes access to every available AAMC practice test as well as four to 10 Perfect Match practice tests created by Altius and peer-reviewed by doctors to be as close to the real MCAT as possible. Throughout the program, you’ll have regular access to an MCAT mentor who works with you personally to clarify any misunderstandings and overcome any obstacles. You can also ask questions during the Study Hall sessions, which are student-led and designed for tackling any lingering confusion from the group sessions.
If for any reason you’re unsatisfied with the program, you can request a full refund within 14 days, no questions asked. Furthermore, Altius is so confident in its programs that it guarantees a 90th percentile score. If after completing the program, you don’t score in the 90th percentile or above, you can retake the course for free as many times as you need to until you hit your goal. The company also promises to match any of its competitors’ rates on a comparable tutoring program. No other company offers guarantees like this, so if you’re worried about getting your money’s worth, take a closer look at Altius.
Altius Test Prep Details
Frequently Asked Questions About the MCAT
There’s more to preparing for the MCAT than just understanding the material you’re going to be tested on. We put together this guide to some of the most frequently asked questions about the MCAT to help you understand the test, how to study for it and the larger role it plays in your medical school application.
What are the most important things to know prior to taking the MCAT?
Before you sign up for the MCAT, you should familiarize yourself with your chosen school’s requirements and deadlines, the exam format and the rules you’ll be expected to follow on test day.
Every medical school makes its own rules about what kind of MCAT score you must have to gain acceptance. Most don’t have a strict minimum score. They might list an average score or a range of scores they will accept. Do some research on the schools you’re applying to and make a note of any numbers you can find. Use this as your goal when studying for the test, and take regular practice tests to measure your progress toward it.
You also need to be aware of application deadlines. If your school has a rolling deadline, you have some freedom in when you submit your test scores, but when there’s a single date, it’s important that you get everything submitted on time. It’s best to take the test several months in advance in case you don’t get the score you want on your first try. Bear in mind that it takes about a month after the exam for your official score reports to be released and sent to the schools you choose.
The MCAT is a multiple-choice, computer-based exam containing 230 questions. It is divided into four sections that test your scientific knowledge and critical thinking skills: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Critical Analysis and Reasoning (CARS); Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; and Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior. Each section is 95 minutes long and contains 59 questions except CARS, which is only 90 minutes long and contains 53 questions.
Make sure you know how to get to the nearest testing facility and arrive at least a half hour early. You must present a government-issued photo ID and submit to a fingerprint scan in order to verify your identity. You will be required to present this ID and scan your finger every time you enter and leave the testing room. You may also have to submit to additional identity checks, including a metal detector scan to ensure you’re not bringing any prohibited items into the testing room with you.
You can’t bring any personal items apart from your ID into the testing room. The exam proctor will give you a secure locker where you can store your belongings for the duration of the exam. During breaks, you may access any food, drinks or medication you brought with you, but everything else must stay in the locker until the test is complete. Scratch paper and a pencil will be provided to you if you need it. For a full list of test-day procedures, visit the Association of American Medical Colleges website.
How much time should I spend studying for the MCAT?
The answer to this is different for every person. It all depends on how well you already know the material, how quickly your test date is approaching and what your schedule is like.
What You Already Know
Take a timed practice test to determine how close you are to your goal score. Look at your results and determine which areas you struggled the most in, and use this as your guide moving forward. If you only had trouble with CARS, for example, you may be able to get by with just a CARS-only course. But unless you’re really short on time, we recommend doing a comprehensive review of all sections of the exam in order to give yourself the best chance of success. Keep taking practice tests as you go and adjust your study plan accordingly.
It’s best to leave yourself at least two possible test dates in case you need to retake the exam. Look up your school’s application deadlines and work backward from there. Check the available MCAT dates and leave yourself a couple of options. Keep in mind that it takes about 30 to 35 days after the test for your official scores to be released. Once you’ve decided on your first test date, you can figure out how much material you need to cover each week in order to be ready in time.
If you’re juggling work, school and other commitments, you’ll probably have to start studying earlier than someone who can devote several hours per day to reviewing the material. You should try to set aside some dedicated study time each week in order to keep yourself on track. If you find you’re really short on time, you may want to consider a bootcamp-style program or a shorter program, like The Princeton Review’s Strategy course. You won’t be able to cover the material in as much depth as you would in a traditional MCAT prep course, but it’s still better than no preparation at all.
How is the MCAT scored?
Your MCAT score is measured in three ways — your raw score, scaled score and percentile rank — but only the latter two are listed on your score report. You also receive a subscore in each of the four sections.
Your raw score is the number of questions you get right. The MCAT has 230 multiple-choice questions, and you get points for each correct answer. There is no penalty for incorrect answers, so it’s better to make an educated guess if you don’t know than to leave the question blank.
Your raw scores are converted to the scaled scores you see on your report. Section scores vary from 118 to 132 and these numbers are added together to produce the total score ranging between 472 and 528. These scores are converted through a process called equating. While the test creators try to make each version equal in difficulty, this isn’t always possible. A scaled grading system enables the test makers to account for these variances in difficulty so that the scaled scores demonstrate a similar level of knowledge across each version of the test.
Your percentile rank shows how you stack up to other students who have taken the MCAT in recent years. For example, a 90th percentile rank means that you scored higher than 90 percent of all students who have taken the MCAT. You receive a rank for each section and the test overall. Percentile ranks are occasionally updated by the Association of American Medical Colleges to reflect more recent data, but they are generally pretty consistent.
How important is the MCAT to medical school admissions?
The MCAT is used by nearly every medical college nationwide to compare applicants and to assess your ability to cope with the challenging graduate-level coursework. But it’s only one piece in a much larger picture. Schools also look at your undergraduate transcripts, work history, letters of recommendation, essay and personal interview. It’s important to put just as much effort into these other aspects of your application as you do into studying for the MCAT.
Every school weighs the different components of your application in their own way, so there’s no way to know how big of a factor MCAT scores will be for you. It’s a good idea to aim for the school’s average MCAT score if you can. Do some research online to figure out what this is. Some schools may list a range instead of an average. In this case, aim for the high end of the range just to be safe.
Don’t worry if you fall a little short of your goal score, though. Schools know that test scores don’t tell them everything, which is why they also look at your undergraduate transcripts and work history. They also want to get a sense of who you are as a person and how you’re going to fit into its culture. That’s where your essay, letters of recommendation and interview come in. Doing well in these areas may be enough to make up for a low MCAT score, and likewise, doing poorly on these other components could be detrimental even if you have a high MCAT score.
How do I submit my MCAT scores to schools?
When your official score reports are released about a month after the test, they’re automatically sent to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), a centralized application processing service that lets you apply to multiple medical schools from a single application. Any school that participates in AMCAS will automatically receive a copy of your MCAT score report when you submit your application. If a school you’re applying to doesn’t participate in AMCAS, you can manually send a score report by logging into your account and choosing the school you would like to send the report to.
If you’ve taken the test multiple times, your report will include a record of all attempts, so there’s no way to hide a bad score. Fortunately, most schools only consider your highest score when determining admission status. Scores are usually good for two to three years, but this varies by school. If you took the test several years ago and you’re not sure if your scores are still good, reach out to the school’s admissions department and ask.
The MCAT doesn’t allow you to cancel your scores if you feel you didn’t do well, but you can void them. Unlike canceling, voiding scores will leave no indication on future score reports that you even sat for the exam. It will be as if it never happened. But this isn’t usually a good move. For one, you will forfeit your $310 exam fee and you’ll need to retake the test. Plus, voided attempts still count toward your annual and lifetime maximums. You can only take the MCAT up to three times per year and seven times overall.
Key Statistics of the MCAT
The MCAT is broken down into four sections, each of which is scored from 118 to 132. The four section scores are then added together to give you a final score ranging from 472 to 528. In order to give you an indication of how you stack up to other test takers, we’ve gathered some statistics on percentile rank and listed them below. Total score data is rounded up to the closest percentile listed.
90th Percentile: 514
80th Percentile: 509
70th Percentile: 506
60th Percentile: 503
50th Percentile: 500
40th Percentile: 497
30th Percentile: 494
20th Percentile: 491
10th Percentile: 486
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
|Scaled Score||Percentile Rank|
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
|Scaled Score||Percentile Rank|
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
|Scaled Score||Percentile Rank|
Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior
|Scaled Score||Percentile Rank|