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AdaptiBar vs Smart Bar Prep
A head-to-head comparison of the budget friendly bar prep courses from Smart Bar Prep and AdaptiBar
Bar review can cost an arm and a leg. With companies like BarBri, Kaplan and BarMax charging between $2,500 and $3,000 for a bar review course, bar prep is simply unaffordable for some students (especially those with massive student loans). However, in recent years, budget friendly bar prep courses like AdaptiBar and Smart Bar Prep have popped up to fill the value gap left by the big companies. In this detailed comparison, we evaluate these two bar review courses and see how they stack up.
To most effectively compare these two bar review courses, we think it is best to see a side-by-side matchup of the key features of each course. Based on our evaluation, here is how we see these two prep options stacking up.
Discussion of Offerings & Pricing
Unlike other bar review companies that generally offer one complete bundle of bar prep resources, both Smart Bar Prep and AdaptiBar each offer a base package, with additional feature add-ons available through upgrades (and of course, at extra cost). Starting with Smart Bar Prep, their Standard UBE/MEE Bar Exam package costs just $125 and includes a basic bundle of their written materials like outlines and “Smart Sheets.” From there, they offer three available upgrades, with each level adding on flashcards, essay materials and MBE practice questions. Their packages top out at around $400.
Alternatively, AdaptiBar offers their standard MBE Simulator & Prep package for around $400, and uses a cool a la carte pricing structure from there. You can add on video lectures, early access and flashcards, each for a fixed price. Including their full bundle of video lectures, the AdaptiBar course comes in at around $850.
In terms of value, we see Smart Bar Prep offering more bang for your buck – at $400 for their top tier package, it is just hard to argue with that price point. Advantage: Smart Bar Prep.
Quality of Study Materials
Although both bar review companies sound similar on paper, this is a really hard category to judge. And that is because each course has such different strengths. In fact, these two courses really seem to take different approaches to bar prep.
If you are after MBE-only practice work, engaging video lessons and some killer adaptive software, that’s going to be AdaptiBar. Their 2,000 MBE practice problems are at the heart of their course, and offer true value when combined with their well-written text explanations. In addition, we found the streamlined video lectures from Professor Jonathan Grossman to be highly effective in terms of no-fluff content review – though we have to note they were severely lacking in the production quality department. And perhaps more notable than anything, AdaptiBar’s namesake adaptive software is plain awesome. It optimizes your study plan and helps you narrowly target your weak spots.
With all of that said, if you prefer effective and well-organized written prep materials that focus on content review, we 100% believe Smart Bar Prep is the preferred choice. Their smartly-distilled attack outlines, strategy guides and written content review are some of the best in the space, even rating out better than the materials from some of the big boys.
Bottom line, these two courses take different (though intelligent) ways to prepping – Smart Bar Prep through content review, and AdaptiBar through practice work. At the end of the day though, the bar exam is about memorizing and regurgitating black letter law rules and concept, and as such, we place greater value on the content review portion. Advantage: Smart Bar Prep.
There is no doubt that AdaptiBar takes the cake in this category. Not only does AdaptiBar offer 2,000 MBE problems to Smart Bar Prep’s 600 or so, but they also provide deeper and more thoughtful text explanations. And that is because the solutions that accompany each practice question are really the backbone of your written content review with AdaptiBar. There are no prep books, written lessons or outlines – just problem explanations and flashcards (if you opt to add those on).
In any event, the AdaptiBar practice material is superior, but I would just note that this practice work is MBE-only. That is contrasted with Smart Bar Prep, which provides practice work for the MPT and MEE as well – so if you need material for the full bar exam, take note. Advantage: AdaptiBar.
This category is pretty simple to judge. AdaptiBar provides video lessons and Smart Bar Prep does not. In terms of quality though, we generally love the content of the video lectures from Professor Jonathan Grossman, but hate the format. These video lessons offer concise, targeted reviews of the necessary black letter law and cut out all the fluff. However, the production quality just kind of stinks.
Don’t get me wrong, Professor Jonathan Grossman is engaging and a great communicator, but the delivery format is dry and the A/V quality is like watching an old drivers ed video or something. At the end of the day, some video lessons are better than none. Advantage: AdaptiBar.
If you are looking for sharp, smartly-condensed outlines that provide you with all the necessary rules and principles you need to know for test day, Smart Bar Prep is the slam dunk winner here. In fact, we actually think Smart Bar Prep offers about the best attack outlines in all of bar prep. You don’t even get outlines this good from the likes of BarBri or BarMax.
These priority outlines are the perfect balance of detail and brevity. They cut out unnecessary material that is rarely tested, and thoughtfully distill down the material that is tested. And even at that, they label the level of importance of each rule through color coding. They’re just plain awesome. In fact, we could say the same about all of Smart Bar Prep’s written study material. Advantage: Smart Bar Prep.
Now, flashcards are the one category where you actually have a close call here. An that’s because each company offers strong flashcards, which are directly comparable. At the end of the day though, we prefer Smart Bar Prep’s flashcards to AdaptiBar’s. And that’s mostly because they align with Smart Bar Prep’s other written materials. The nice about this integration is that as you start with Smart Bar Prep’s beefier written materials and work your way down to the attack outlines, you can constantly test yourself with flashcards throughout, which contain the same exact same rules, definitions and mnemonics.
This is in comparison to AdaptiBar’s flashcards where you’re sort of studying them in vacuum. That’s not to say AdaptiBar’s flashcards are bad – they’re actually pretty good – but I just prefer having all of my written materials aligned, so am not confusing myself over the same rule or concept when I see it in different places. Advantage: Smart Bar Prep.
User Experience & Interface
There is no doubt that AdaptiBar offers the better user interface. Their digital platform is clean, modern and very easy to use. It is exactly what you’d expect from a top tier online study program. On the hand, Smart Bar Prep’s user interface is just sort of….OK. It is serviceable and intuitive, but nothing to write home about. Advantage: AdaptiBar.
Both companies offer some pretty nice customer protection by way of guarantees. To start, Smart Bar Prep offers a 30-day money back guarantee. If you’re not satisfied with your materials for any reason at all within 30 days of purchasing, you can get your money back with a simple email. And with AdaptiBar, they actually offer a pass or money back promise. That is, pass the bar exam, or they’ll give you 105% of your money back (yes, you read that correctly, 105%). That’s a crazy nice promise and one of the best I’ve seen. Advantage: AdaptiBar.
Verdict: Smart Bar Prep vs AdaptiBar
Both Smart Bar Prep and AdaptiBar offer very solid bar prep packages which each provide serious bang for your buck, but in vastly different ways. AdaptiBar impresses with their question bank of rock solid practice work, adaptive algorithm, and near best-in-class problem explanations. On the other hand, Smart Bar Prep blew us away with their written prep materials. Their content review is perfectly integrated through larger outlines, attack “smart sheets,” and flashcards.
In other words, while one course impresses with its bundle of practice work, the other does so with its written prep materials focused on content review. In the end though, we place more value on the content review portion of bar prep and plain loved Smart Bar Prep’s outlines. That, plus the fact that much of AdaptiBar’s practice work (real MBE questions) can be found with other prep providers (including Smart Bar Prep), we give the edge to Smart Bar Prep here.
Though I would just note that combining these two courses for your bar review wouldn’t be the worst idea ever either, as they really seem to complement each other and fill in the study gaps.
Which bar review course is better, Smart Bar Prep or AdaptiBar?
While both courses differ greatly, we give the nod to Smart Bar Prep as the better course. Their outlines and other written prep materials are unmatched.
What’s the difference between AdaptiBar and Smart Bar Prep?
Where AdaptiBar focuses heavily on learning by doing through practice work, Smart Bar Prep gives more weight to written content review through outlines and flashcards.
Which bar prep course costs more, Smart Bar Prep or AdaptiBar?
Smart Bar Prep is generally the more affordable bar prep option. The most expensive Smart Bar Prep course option tops out at around $400, while AdaptiBar’s packages start at around the same price point of $400.