Which Books to Get for AP or SAT or MCAT Practice?

I was asked this question recently by several mothers about which book (singular, not plural) they should get for their sons for their upcoming tests. To both of them I replied: "Get the Princeton Review edition of the book." And while I believe this to be the CORRECT answer, this answer unfortunately is misleading because what I actually want to say is, "Get ALL editions of the book." For example if there is a Barron's version, a Kaplan version, a Princeton Review version, etc. etc. of AP Chemistry, then I would advise the moms to get ALL of these books for their sons (assuming of course that they'll read them).

The reason is because one book doesn't have enough practice problems. From experience, after reading the first test preparation book or textbook, the student will have a rather hazy outline of the subject material. Books 2-5 make the outline clearer. Most students don't begin to really understand the subject until around Book 7. And that's the reason why some students do better on standardized tests than others. It's not because they're smarter: it's because they get to Book 7 whereas the other students stop at Book 2.


Now I'm NOT recommending that students should study like that. If you want to study like that, I think that's wonderful, and if you don't want to study like that, I think that's wonderful too. The opportunity cost of studying is pretty high. Instead of studying, you could, for example, go out with your friends, play video games, play a sport, do a hobby, etc. etc. But if you're planning to go to medical or law school, or get a PhD or even a Masters in hard science or engineering, then I STRONGLY recommend developing excellent study habits BEFORE going to med or law school because OTHERWISE you would have made a very expensive mistake.

For example, over the last six months, I have read TEN different test preparation books for the Medical Colleges Admissions Test:

1. Princeton Review Physics MCAT
2. Princeton Review Chemistry MCAT
3. Princeton Review Biology MCAT
4. Princeton Review Organic Chemistry MCAT
5. 6 MCAT-type Tests by Kaplan (not exact title)
6. ExamCrackers: 1001 questions of MCAT Physics
7. ExamCrackers: 1001 questions of MCAT Chemistry
8. Princeton Review MCAT Complete
9. Barron's Preparation book for MCAT
10. Kaplan's Preparation book for MCAT

And the reason why I read only TEN test preparation books is because I SLACKED OFF. If I really wanted to get max score (45), I would have read at least 20 books by now. But I'm shooting for a score in the high 30s or low 40s, and for most people (with better GPAs than mine) a score in the low 30s is fine (27 on the MCAT is average).



I had (still have) several friends in Med School and whenever I meet them, they always have this dazed look from lack of sleep. Apparently once you're in medical school, the MCAT is considered to be something of a joke test. Of course, Medical School itself is considered to be easy compared to the next part:




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