Test Prep Insight is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more
Blueprint vs Kaplan MCAT
See which prep course reigns supreme in this detailed Kaplan vs Blueprint MCAT comparison
The decision to attend medical school and become a doctor is a long and difficult road that all starts with scoring high on the MCAT. To do well on the exam, you’ll likely need to spend over 200 hours studying. As such, selecting the right prep course is crucial. In today’s comparison, we take an in-depth look at two leading MCAT prep providers (Kaplan and Blueprint/Next Step) so you can make an informed decision.
Given this is a long, detailed comparison, we’ve included jump-to links above for your convenience. You may also want to check out our list of the best MCAT prep courses on the market before you start studying.
For years Blueprint has been one of the major competitors in the MCAT prep course space, and its’ status and core curriculum has recently been greatly upgraded and enhanced due to the merger of Blueprint with Next Step Test Preparation. The merger has brought together the strengths of two high level prep course providers – Next Step’s industry wide distinction for its’ coursework and test taking strategies, and Blueprint’s award winning video lessons and analytics. The resulting new Blueprint MCAT offers future medical students a wide array of top-tier prep courses specifically designed to meet their individual learning preferences.
For those students who are highly motivated self-starters, and who prefer to study at their own pace and on their own time schedule, Blueprint MCAT recommends its’ Online Course. Given its’ combined Blueprint and Next Step legacy, the Online Course is extremely rich in the depth and breadth of its’ core content curriculum and includes as its backbone a highly customizable study planner tool, and 160 learning modules integrating video lessons, quizzes and assessments – including 30 modules exclusively focusing on strategy and statistical reasoning skills.
The Online Course also provides students live online office hours 5 days a week, the ability to further personalize test preparation and save time by being able to test out of a module by passing the pre-module assessment, access to Blueprint’s Qbank containing over 4,000 questions, problems and passages, and 15 highly representative full-length MCAT exams. Pricing for the Online Course is based on content access period, but generally starts at around $2,000.
For those students who feel they need the additional support of a class schedule and live instructors, Blueprint provides its’ Live Online course. The Live Online course includes, in addition to the high quality curriculum of the Online Course, 40 hours of live classroom instruction divided over sixteen 2 ½ hour long sessions. The classroom sessions integrate seamlessly into the online coursework and are taught by 2 master MCAT instructors (individuals who have scored over 519 on an official MCAT exam), engaging in a back and forth style of instruction that feels more like an interesting conversation than a stale lecture. We found our instructors to indeed be true masters in communicating complex scientific concepts across multiple disciplines in an engaging, fun and easy to digest and understand manner. Blueprint combines the Live Online course with its’ 6-month Online Course for a package price of $2,599.
Lastly, for those students looking to get the best MCAT score possible, or who just may need a little individualized help, Blueprint has 3 tutoring packages: the Essential 16 hour plan, the Comprehensive 24 hour plan, or the Intensive 40 hour package. As with the Live Online course, each tutoring package is combined with Blueprint’s self-paced 6 month Online Course, and additionally includes your tutor crafting a personalized study plan after an MCAT diagnostic assessment, specialized homework and practice test assignments, 1 or 2 weekly meetings depending on diagnostic feedback, individualized in-depth test taking strategy sessions, and 10 full-length practice exams. These tutoring packages range in price from $3,600 for the Essential program, $3,850 for the Comprehensive plan, and up to $5,600 for the Intensive package.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Our Evaluation Of The Blueprint MCAT Study Materials
The Blueprint MCAT study materials bring together the best elements of both Blueprint and Next Step: high quality in-depth content and dynamic animated videos. However, rather than moving through the curriculum in Next Step’s more traditional subject to subject manner, Blueprint has instead broken down each MCAT topic into subtopics, and then developed 160 discreet learning modules for each subtopic integrating amazing and engaging video lessons, quizzes, drills, strategies and passages. The learning modules are thoughtfully and expertly designed to help students master the content, and not just simply memorize it. Every student is required to tackle each subtopic, and test out of it, before moving on to the next subtopic.
While some MCAT test prep can be stale and boring with just a mishmash of PowerPoint videos or pre-recorded lectures, Blueprint’s video lessons are the true core of the course materials and are purposely designed to be both educational and entertaining. The videos are state-of-the-art productions, are fast paced, extremely engaging, and use gaming features and software tools to grab and hold your attention. Blueprint’s video instructors are highly trained MCAT masters who teach in front of a green screen as it populates with notes, images, graphics, illustrations and funny cartoon animations to help students more easily visualize and retain complex concepts and systems. Overall, we found the videos lessons truly enhance Blueprint’s goal of keeping students engaged and learning all the way up to test day.
Following each video session is a quiz, including a variety of question types to mimic the actual MCAT, and short problem explanations. While some problem explanations were a little short on detail, what we found particularly helpful were the sample highlighting for passage-based problems, wherein Blueprint showed you where you should have focused your highlighting and strike-through for ultimate efficiency. Additionally, students have access to Blueprint’s Qbank with over 4,000 discreet questions and passages, which can be specifically filtered to create custom practice sets. Our team consistently found Blueprint’s core coursework to be very comprehensive and well designed.
Blueprint also provides every student with 6 hard-copy prep books as part of its’ prep package. These prep books cover the primary MCAT subjects, including Psychology & Sociology, Physics, Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry & Organic Chemistry and CARS. Following the Blueprint and Next Step merger, these prep books also underwent a complete revision and closely track and serve as an excellent compliment to the learning modules. The prep books are well written and provide substantive reviews of the primary MCAT subjects, are excellent at breaking down and clearly explaining complex processes and biological systems, and contain relevant and helpful end of chapter practice problems and strategies.
Practice tests are an important piece of any prep course’s study materials, and Blueprint’s full-length practice exams are among the most representative of any we’ve reviewed, after the AAMC itself, to help minimize any surprises on test day. The practice tests are dead ringers for the official exam, and do an excellent job of duplicating actual MCAT questions in terms of length, content and difficulty. Obtaining a great score on the MCAT also requires mastering the mechanics of the test, and Blueprint testing interface is functionally identical to AAMC’s, so working all the practice tests will help closely track your exam day experience. Blueprint’s also uses some of the most advanced practice test scoring analytics we seen, displaying not only what you got right and wrong, but why. The testing analytics uses advanced “intuitive data visualization” to assist in spotting patterns quickly to improve any problem areas.
Seamlessly bringing all of Blueprint’s study materials and resources together is its’ award winning digital platform. User interaction between the platform and course material is accomplished through the navigation bar at the top of the screen, which moves you easily and smoothly through all the coursework and ancillary components. The functionality of the platform is simple, intuitive, aesthetically pleasing, and is simply is one of the best and most advanced we have encountered.
Blueprint’s incredible video lessons are what truly differentiate it from other MCAT test prep providers. The video lessons are the highlight of the course materials, and are without a doubt graphically and visually stunning. They are uniquely designed with the dual goals of keeping you totally engaged while more effectively retaining concepts in a process that Blueprint refers to as “Edutainment”.
As the video rolls through dynamic illustrations and animation bringing intimidating, dense and complex material to life, Blueprint’s master video instructors keep you totally focused and entertained with their insights, humor and wit. Together, the amazing videos and superb instructors make for a powerful teaching combination that places the Blueprint MCAT core curriculum head and shoulders above the competition.
Kaplan is, as famed sportscaster Keith Jackson would say, the “granddaddy of them all” when it comes to MCAT test preparation. Kaplan has been assisting aspiring medical students for almost 3 generations get into the medical school of their choice. Their vast experience, inside knowledge and resources has produced one of the finest and most relevant curriculums in the space, and allows them to offer a wide variety of prep courses to meet any individual needs.
Kaplan’s most affordable course option, for students who prefer to learn at their own speed, and on their own timetable, is the 6-month DIY Course. With total flexibility, the DIY course offers a wealth of resources including pre-recorded lessons, office hours, detailed independent study programs, Qbank with over 2,900 questions and explanations, access to Kaplan’s MCAT channel with live lessons 6 days a week and over 90 hours of recorded lessons, and 16 full-length realistic practice tests.
Kaplan also provides the ability to add the Plus package to the DIY Course to receive an additional 3 hours of 1-on-1 tutoring and individual subject specific classes in Biochemistry, Behavioral Science and Medical School Admissions. Kaplan prices the DIY Course at around $1,800 (the same as Blueprint’s 6-month Online Course), and the DIY Course Plus at $2,300.
Kaplan’s next step up, for students looking for a little more structure, is its’ Online Course. In addition to the rich DIY course curriculum, the Online Course provides built-in support with a full schedule and study plan, personalized homework assignments based on diagnostic assessments of strengths and weaknesses, and features twelve 3-hour sessions with an on-screen instructor, while additional teachers are off-screen answering questions via a private chat.
Kaplan’s instructors are among the best we’ve encountered, and have been screened and selected for their extensive knowledge and high course ratings by other students. Kaplan prices the Online Course at around $2,500, and as with the Online Course, you may add on the Plus advantage package with the enrichment benefits as outlined above for about $3,000.
Kaplan’s Prep Tutoring + Online Course adds a little more horsepower by combining the DIY and Online Course suite of resources, and further including an individual tutor who will work with you 1-on-1 throughout the MCAT prep process helping to pinpoint what you already know and where you can improve. The 1-on-1 sessions do an excellent job of not only keeping you on track, but also focusing on problem areas and providing in-depth test taking strategies. Students can select between 10, 20, 30 or 40 hours of private tutoring starting at about $3,700.
Lastly, for future doctors and medical professionals looking to absolutely crush the MCAT, Kaplan has its’ Bootcamp program. Kaplan’s Bootcamp is a rigorous 5-6 week-long program during the summer with a strict daily schedule, both small group and 1-on-1 teaching modalities, in-depth subject review sessions, 5 full-length proctored exams, and every resource in Kaplan’s deep curriculum. Over the 5-6 week long Bootcamp program students receive over 700 hours of instruction, support and practice with unmatched personal attention. The intensive Bootcamp course is offered both online and in person (2021 Bootcamp in-person programs offered in both Atlanta and San Diego), and is Kaplan’s highest student rated prep program. However, this incredible immersion program is not cheap, coming in at around $7,000.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
How The Kaplan MCAT Study Materials Compare
Kaplan has not remained for over 80 years as one of the top dogs in the MCAT prep course space by offering an inferior course curriculum. Their coursework and study materials are undeniably among the best there is. Kaplan’s MCAT curriculum is by all accounts extremely comprehensive and all encompassing covering absolutely everything students need to know in order to fully prepare for the exam.
Kaplan’s online coursework serves as the heart for virtually all its’ course types, and is broken down into 3 units. The first two units cover substantive content, and are divided up across MCAT topic specific sections. The topics are further broken down into subtopic modules where you get deep into the weeds through a mix of interactive video-based lessons, quizzes and book assignments. The third unit is comprised of reviews and practice tests.
It is with Kaplan’s 130 interactive video lessons where the true value of the coursework lies. Each video starts with the instructor giving an overview of the module, and then transitioning into the lesson. The lessons are typically comprised of the instructor’s voice over a sharp digital whiteboard populating with a rich diversity of lesson text, notes, pictures, graphs, drawings, formulas, and various graphics. There is also an outline that appears to the left of most lessons that allows students to track and see how concepts build on each other. The video lessons are extremely professional, very high quality, and make for a nice structured learning experience that assists in the retention of the course material (much like Prep101’s).
The quizzes and book assignments closely follow and nicely compliment the interactive video lessons, and serve to reinforce the module’s subject matter. We found the quizzes, in conjunction with Kaplan’s adaptive Qbank that allows students to build customized practice problem sets tailored to a specific module’s subject matter, to be particularly valuable diagnostic tools exposing potential weaknesses that require further study.
In addition to its’ high quality online content, Kaplan also provides every student with 8 hard copy prep books; 7 subject specific review books and 1 lesson book. All are well written, extremely thorough, and very content heavy. Although typically I prefer visual learning techniques, I personally found the subject specific prep books to be nicely structured with a natural flow that expertly blended and expanded upon many of the subtleties of the video lessons.
Kaplan’s 16 full-length practice tests are an important component of the study materials, and do a good job of representing and simulating the actual exam. At 7 ½ hours long each, this study component alone comprises 120 hours of learning by doing – a critical aspect of any test preparation. Kaplan’s testing platform also does a nice job of mimicking AAMC’s to further replicate a true exam-like experience.
Similar to all of Kaplan’s study material components, its’ online platform and digital interface is top-notch, has a great layout and some of the best functionality we have seen. The dashboard is clean, simple, and very professional. There are 4 main sections across the top banner: Study Plan, Resources Library, MCAT Channel and Adaptive Qbank. This sectioning makes the portal very easy to navigate, and a breeze to quickly locate video lessons, quizzes, problem sets, and ancillary resources. Although the interface may not have the sleek modern feel of Blueprint’s, it is nonetheless more than adequate and a nice compliment to the study materials.
Kaplan’s Adaptive Qbank is a unique and invaluable tool that quickly improves your test taking skills to help make the most of your limited study time. The Qbank contains over 2,900 practice problems and quizzes that you can customize by length, topic and subtopic. An algorithm quickly adjusts and adapts the questions and problems to your learning and skill level, avoiding questions that are either too easy or difficult, and thereby speeding up the learning process.
In-depth explanations are provided, many allowing students to interact by rotating, labeling and zooming in on 3D images, and score reports further detail where problem areas may lie and further study might be required. Our evaluation team definitely enjoyed working and playing with the Qbank, and unanimously felt the adaptive learning process helped to both reinforce retention of the subject matter and more quickly raise practice test scoring.
Although minor distinctions exist between Blueprint and Kaplan, and both have their relative strengths (many) and weaknesses (few), choosing between these two high quality MCAT prep courses is like choosing between two nice red apples – difficult. They both are going to provide all the elements you need to perform exceptionally well on the MCAT. Hopefully the following quick subject area comparison may help make this tough decision a little easier.
Study Materials – Kaplan’s curriculum is extremely impressive, and is overwhelming in sheer quantity and quality. It is time tested and rock solid. Blueprint’s coursework is equally compelling, and its’ integrated learning modules are forward thinking. Yet, it is Blueprint’s brilliant video lessons and attention grabbing graphics and animation that set it slightly above the competition. Edge – Blueprint.
Price – Both Blueprint and Kaplan are very competitive with each other on price points. Their 6-month self-paced and online classroom courses are priced virtually the same with nearly identical resources. However, Kaplan has a few more options in their tutoring programs, and Blueprint has nothing to match Kaplan’s intensive Bootcamp immersion program. Slight edge – Kaplan.
Books – Blueprint provides 6 hard copy prep books (all specific MCAT subject related) to all of its’ students, while Kaplan provides 8 prep books (7 subject matter related). All are extremely thorough, well written, do an excellent job of breaking down complex concepts, and closely track the coursework. I just personally felt the natural flow and structure of Kaplan’s prep books made them a little more user friendly. Slight edge – Kaplan.
Practice Tests – Blueprint provides 15 full-length practice tests, while Kaplan provides 16. Although you would think this would give the edge to Kaplan, our team found Blueprint’s practice tests were slightly more representative of the actual AAMC exam, its’ testing interface more functionally identical to AAMC’s, and their test scoring analytics more detailed and helpful. Edge – Blueprint.
User Experience & Interface – Slight edge to Blueprint. While this component is often overlooked when evaluating prep courses, fortunately both Blueprint and Kaplan have excellent online platforms. Simple, clean and super intuitive. Maneuvering is a breeze with either platform, and you’re never more then a few clicks away from your primary materials. Functionality is darn near equal, but for our team, we felt Blueprint’s ultra-modern sleek feel gives it the slight edge.
Classroom Component – In my opinion, there is some differentiation between Blueprint and Kaplan on this metric, and your preference probably depends on your learning style. Blueprint’s instructors are all MCAT masters, are strenuously trained, excellent communicators, and through their free-flowing lecture style keep you constantly engaged with humor and wit. Kaplan’s instructors are also high MCAT scorers, very knowledgeable, vigorously trained, but in contrast, rarely deviate from their script and follow the curriculum to a ‘T’. For me, given the heavy nature of the content, I preferred the lighthearted approach. Edge – Blueprint.
Extra Resources – Both Blueprint and Kaplan do an excellent job providing students with ancillary resources outside of their core study materials. Kaplan has its’ highly touted and effective MCAT Channel, access to all AAMC practice material, and for a slight upgrade to the Plus advantage program, an excellent medical school admissions assistance program. Blueprint compliments its course offerings with a customizable study plan, near daily office hours, and advanced metrics and data. And after heated discussions, and close evaluation of several hanging chads, the winner is – Tie.
Online Content Access Period – Kaplan offers students for most of its’ course options access to online resources for 6 months after your course start date. Blueprint has more flexibility with its’ Online Course allowing you to choose access periods of 6, 12 or 18 months; but their other course options typically contain only the 6-month period. Fortunately, most anecdotal test prep data seems to indicate that 6-months of prep is the typical sweet spot for most candidates. Overall our team voted this category a – Tie.
Refund Policy & Score Guarantees – Both Blueprint and Kaplan offer refund and score guarantees. The Blueprint refund is for a very short 24-hours after purchase. In contrast, Kaplan is more generous refunding 100% of the tuition if you cancel within 3 days of purchase, and 75% if cancelled within 4-7 days. Blueprint also offers a score increase guarantee, with certain conditions and qualifiers, but overall their data typically indicates that most students see roughly a 10-point increase. Kaplan’s score guarantee is a little more vague, simply offering to refund your tuition, or let you retake the course, if your score does not increase. Both are nice safety nets, but again come with a lot of conditions and qualifiers depending on a variety of variables and course selection. Be sure to read the fine print. Again, we rated this category a – Tie.