The Berkeley Review (vs. Examkrackers)
I think I can offer some useful advice on the question of Examkrackers or Berkeley Review for MCAT prep. I used full sets from both companies during my own MCAT prep. Both are outstanding choices for MCAT prep books, no matter who you are. I found both incredibly useful during different times and for different reasons.
The Berkeley Review books are a chore to get. In case you haven’t figured this out yet, you have to order the books by mail (as in, you fill out a physical order form and mail it to them) and wait anywhere from 2-6 weeks to get them. Because they’re in high demand, you’ll probably have a tough time finding them on Amazon (but you can go straight to their website, here). There’s a listing for them, but when I was trying to find them, they were never available, even at full price.
As for what’s actually in the books, it’s top-notch. If you had an Examkrackers or Berkeley Review MCAT prep book in front of you, you’d see right away that they’re very different. Where Examkrackers is colorful and inviting to look at, the pages of TBR are black and white and text-heavy. While you have the cartoon-guide “Salty” offering study tips and strategies in Examkrackers, there’s nothing of the sort in The Berkeley Review.
Which is why I recommend TBR for people who already have the basics down. The content in the The Berkeley Review MCAT prep materials is far more in-depth (to a fault, in my opinion) and written with an impressive amount of clarity. Where Examkrackers prides itself in only giving ink to what you need to know (for the most part), The Berkeley Review includes explanations and examples you’ll probably not need for the MCAT. As I mention in our review of the top four MCAT prep books, The Berkeley Review at times seems more like a glorified text book instead of MCAT prep-worthy material. But if it’s important for you to understand the context of various principles, you’ll love it.
In my opinion, the best attribute TBR brings to the table is the practice material in the Berkeley Review MCAT books. You can certainly subscribe to the TBR full length practice tests, but there’s really no need as every chapter has at least 100 passage-based practice questions (100 in every subject except physics), which will push most pre-meds to their limits. These questions aren’t hard because they test you on particularly obscure information, but because each question makes you think pretty hard, in some cases harder than those on the AAMC MCAT tests, I’d say.
My having said that may lead you to ask, “Wait, I thought it’s best to find tests that are similar to the actual MCAT test.” And you would be right to point that out. But the reason that’s even an issue is because most of the tests out there aren’t like the actual MCAT in that they overemphasize calculation, are too easy, or cover subjects and ideas you aren’t likely to come across on the real thing—or they’re poorly written. In other words, they mostly come up short.
So Examkrackers or Berkeley Review: TBR MCAT prep books and the practice problems in them are just straight-up harder. They cover copious amounts of material—some you’re not likely to encounter on the real test, but the questions at the end of each chapter are asked in a way that’s similar to the ever-tricky AAMC style, but somehow even trickier. In my opinion, there’s more variance in the way questions are asked, which keeps you guessing and on your toes. There isn’t a gimme in practice sections of any chapter of any of the TBR books. In other words, if you can master the TBR practice problems, your mind is going to be sharp enough to handle anything AAMC will throw at you. Granted, it’s important to be taking AAMC official tests so you’re familiar with exactly what to expect, but after you’ve done a few, I would highly recommend referring to questions in the The Berkeley Review MCAT prep texts or purchasing a few TBR full length practice tests.
If it’s any help, it’s generally accepted that whatever you score on the The Berkeley Review tests is 2 full points lower than what you will likely score on the real MCAT.
The real and—in my opinion—only downside to TBR is the cost. You’re not likely to get The Berkeley Review books used, and there are two books for each subject, which run $69 for both. The time it takes to get them in the mail, and the process of filling out a mail order form, are frustrating too (I spoke on the phone last year to a TBR rep who told me he thinks they’ll be offering an online order form soon, but that was over a year ago, and they’re still running on snail mail), but well-worth the wait and effort, especially if you’ve got the sciences down pretty well already and need extra questions to gnaw on.
Examkrackers or Berkeley Review for MCAT Prep Books?
To summarize both posts, I’d say if you’re at the beginning of your MCAT prep, desperate to get your bearings on what you need to know, or you need books quick, Examkrackers is your best choice.
On the other hand, if you’ve got time, money, and a pretty good foundation in the sciences, go with Berkeley Review for MCAT prep.
Finally, if for some reason you’re weak on one or two subjects after going through Examkrackers, you might pick up one or two Berkeley Review MCAT prep texts to supplement your studies. I’ve found that TBR texts are a little easier to find individually on Amazon, but that’s not really likely still. With the new post-2015 books, you’ll have a fresh style of practice problems, and a much more challenging ones at that.