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Prep101 vs Kaplan MCAT
Our in-depth comparison of the MCAT prep courses from Kaplan and Prep101
Trying to decide between Prep101 and Kaplan for your MCAT prep? We know it can be tough. On the one hand, you’ve got Kaplan, the old school, tried and tested MCAT program that’s been around for decades. Then on the other hand, you have Prep101’s MCAT course, which is relatively new, but also getting a ton of buzz. So we get that the decision can be hard. In this guide, we stack these courses up side-by-side and break down everything you need to know about each course.
Let’s start this article by discussing price, which is pretty simple with these two courses. While Kaplan offers four different course options ranging from $2,000 up to $3,300, Prep101 has just one offering.
The standard Prep101 course is a live course package, and it can be taken a couple different ways (namely, flex or fixed schedule). Nonetheless, it’s ultimately one product at one price—and that price is around $2,300. That said, it does seem to vary a little based on season and current discounts.
Thus, this all boils down to your MCAT prep budget. If you’re simply looking for the cheapest course between these two companies, Kaplan’s On Demand course is your answer.
You’ll likely save around $300 to $500 after discounts by opting for Kaplan’s self-paced, standard package.
However, when you compare Prep101’s package against the most comparable package from Kaplan (their Live Online bundle), and you factor in discounts, the prices are about dead even (as they both frequently run sales). So it really just depends on what type of course you’re looking for.
MCAT Course Similarities
In terms of structuring this comparison, I am going to start by first looking at where these two MCAT courses are similar, since there are a number of parallels between them.
From there, I’ll then dive deeper and get a little more granular on where their diverge, as that’s likely most important to know. But let’s start with those similarities.
At the core of each MCAT program, they offer the same general slate of features: live classes, AAMC materials, homework assignments, workshops, prep books, and a few other small tools and resources.
I would say that they are further similar in that the backbone of both courses is the live classes they offer (note: Blueprint also offers top-notch live MCAT classes as well).
Both curriculums generally revolve around the live classes, with homework assignments, full-length exams, and other practice work falling around those classes based on a personalized schedule that each student gets.
And even at that, both Kaplan and Prep101 offer a flexible class schedule, meaning you generally have assigned classes during the week that you need to attend, but you can take them whenever you want.
Kaplan and Prep101 each offer the same live class multiple times per week and provide this quasi drop-in and drop-out class schedule. I personally think this is cool, because it can fit just about any schedule.
They’re the only two MCAT companies that I’ve seen do this, and I think it’s an awesome feature. Beyond this commonality, however, is where the two companies start to diverge and you can really see the differences in approach.
Kaplan MCAT Advantages
Now that you have an idea of pricing and similarities between these two prep companies, let’s discuss the main advantages of using Kaplan to help you prepare for the MCAT as opposed to Prep101.
Live Online Workshops & Office Hours
The first major win for Kaplan has to be the unlimited live online workshops and office hours. Basically, Kaplan runs nightly webinar sessions that give you a chance for extra study time.
These sessions generally take a deep dive into an MCAT topic like CARS strategies or biology content review, and get way into the weeds.
The floor is then opened up, and you can ask questions about almost anything. Personally, I think these sessions are great for capping off a day, finding some juicy nuggets you don’t get from the main coursework, and getting the chance to ask questions. They seem to add a lot of value.
And it’s important to note here that even students who purchase Kaplan’s On Demand course receive access to these workshops and office hours. That’s a big plus for students working with a limited budget.
It’s also worth noting that like Kaplan, Princeton Review offers unlimited access to live workshops and office hours too.
The next big difference and win for Kaplan is their performance metrics. Kaplan simply provides better score reports and analysis than Prep101 (and Blueprint and Princeton Review as well).
Their performance metrics are super useful for analyzing your weak areas, spotting answer changing habits, and getting an overall gauge on how you’re progressing.
A major highlight of the Kaplan course is their revamped video lessons. These new video lessons are simply awesome, and bring them in line with Blueprint for some of the best in the space.
They’re engaging and have all the key elements we look for: on screen instructors, helpful visuals and graphics, short length, and high-yield content. They’ve got it all.
Plus, at just 8 to 12 minutes long on average, they are very bite-sized and digestible. These are night and day difference from their own videos from a couple years ago, and they are very good.
Compared to Prep101’s video lessons, I would take Kaplan’s 10 times out of 10.
Practice Problem Video Explanations
My final noteworthy win for Kaplan is the series of video solutions they provide.
One of the few knocks we have on Prep101 is that their video solutions, which they provide to explain a number of the AAMC problems, are just a little slow moving, and frankly, a little boring.
By contrast, the video breakdowns that Kaplan provides are quicker moving and much more engaging. When you’re trying to plow through a review session quickly, this can make a big difference and we give Kaplan the win here.
Practice Exam Superiority
Lastly, the final advantage Kaplan has over Prep101 is practice tests. I’ll start by noting that Prep101 does offer more practice exams than Kaplan (20 to 17), but our team actually likes Kaplan’s exams themselves better.
In considering non-AAMC practice tests, Kaplan’s are simply more realistic. Though Prep101 uses some of the Altius practice exams (which we really like), Kaplan’s in-house passages are simply better. They are a very close match for the content, difficulty and length of real MCAT passages and problems.
Now that we’ve covered the areas in which Kaplan wins, it’s only fair we turn the tables and discuss the main advantages of selecting Prep101 to help you prepare for the MCAT exam.
Way More Live Class Time
The first big major difference is the level of live instruction. While both companies provide live classes, Prep101 provides a total of 138 hours of instruction to Kaplan’s 42 hours.
This is a pretty significant difference (almost 100 hours), and you can definitely feel it over the duration of the course in terms of depth and detail.
With Prep101’s course, you take 3 classes per week, for 11 weeks, and each class session is usually around 4 hours long. These classes are very in-depth and very good.
The next major manner in which these companies are different is with respect to MCAT coaching. While Kaplan is more self-guided, Prep101 connects you with an MCAT coach who holds your hand throughout the length of the course.
They help you develop your study schedule, go over any substantive questions you may have, and generally keep you on track and making progress. It’s a very cool buddy system that I think adds major value.
The third highlight for Prep101 is the annotated notes and class companions you get for every class session. When you sign up with Prep101, they ship you a massive set of books, and many of these books are class companions, which are workbooks that track with live lessons.
That in itself isn’t anything super special (you also get workbooks with Kaplan), but where the difference comes in is that with Prep101 you also get annotated notes.
These are basically the notes and added detail that the instructors themselves think are most important and include for your benefit.
I personally think these notes are super beneficial, as they fill in the cracks and direct you where to focus.
After using and reviewing each MCAT course, and having considered all the different factors at play, our team believes that Kaplan offers a superior MCAT prep program. Between their revamped video lessons, integrated and modular course structure, and stellar live instructors, we simply prefer Kaplan’s course.
While Prep101 has a lot going for it with their annotated notes and immersive live class schedule, we simply found Kaplan to be more effective. Given that the price of these two MCAT courses is roughly the same, we would recommend Kaplan here.
In our team’s opinion, this comes down to quality vs quantity. Prep101 offers more live class time than Kaplan (138 hours for Prep101 vs 42 for Kaplan), but Kaplan’s classes offer superior content review and strategies. We also liked Kaplan’s instructors better.
Which MCAT course is cheaper, Kaplan or Prep101?
Whether Kaplan or Prep101 is cheaper for MCAT prep totally depends on which package you opt for, as well as current sales. These two MCAT courses are fairly comparable in terms of cost.
Is Prep101 worth it over Kaplan MCAT?
Likely not, but it depends on what type of learner you are and what features you’re after. If you need deeper live classes and some personal coaching, then Prep101 might well be worth it.