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Prep101 vs Kaplan MCAT
Our in-depth comparison of the MCAT prep courses from Kaplan and Prep101, with coverage of all the important topics
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 off by discussing pricing, which is pretty simple in terms of these two courses. While Kaplan offers about a half dozen different course options ranging from $2,000 up to $7,000, 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 somewhere in the low- to mid-$2,000’s.
I place a range on that because it does seem to vary a little based on season and current discounts. Generally speaking though, compared to Kaplan, Prep101 is a few hundred dollars cheaper.
When you compare Prep101’s package against the most comparable package from Kaplan (their Live Online bundle), and you factor in discounts, you’re likely going to save $200 or more by going with Prep101.
Moreover, on that point of discounts, do note that both companies regularly run sales and special promotions, especially Prep101, so do be sure to check for coupon codes before buying.
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 their cores, both companies 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. Both curriculums generally revolve around the classes, with homework assignments, full-length exams, and other practice work falling around those classes based on a personalized schedule 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 sort of start to diverge and you can really see the differences in approach.
Prep101 MCAT Advantages
So let’s get into those differences, starting first with Prep101.
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.
Practice Exam Superiority
Lastly, the final advantage Prep101 has over Kaplan is practice tests. For one, Prep101 offers more practice exams than Kaplan (20 to 16), but our team also likes Prep101’s exams themselves better.
In considering non-AAMC practice tests, Prep101’s are simply more realistic. This is due in large part to the fact that they use the Altius practice exams, which outside of AAMC materials, are about the most realistic in the MCAT prep space. They are a very close match for the content, difficulty and length of real MCAT passages and problems.
Now that you know where Prep101 differs from Kaplan and wins, let’s get to where Kaplan wins out.
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.
The next big difference and win for Kaplan is their performance metrics. Kaplan simply provides better score reports and analysis than Prep101.
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.
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 a little 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.
Having discussed all the detail, let’s get to the final verdict. Should you go with Prep101 or Kaplan for your MCAT prep? Well, after using and reviewing each course, I personally think Prep101 is the better option.
Yes, Kaplan has the name recognition and some solid pros in its column, such as unlimited nightly workshops and video breakdowns; however, we see Prep101 as being the better structured and more comprehensive course.
Their live classes go deeper and offer more value; the annotated notes and other written material they provide are more practical and helpful; their MCAT coaching is a major value add; and even their practice test bundle is better. So in the end, I see Prep101 as being the more effective, comprehensive course, and who I would recommend.
In our team’s opinion, Prep101 offers better live classes than Kaplan. Because of the major disparity in total hours of live instruction (138 hours for Prep101 vs 42 for Kaplan), Prep101’s classes go deeper and offer more content review and strategies.
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. Though Kaplan’s self-paced package is cheaper than Prep101’s only course offering, every other Kaplan MCAT course product is costlier.
Is Prep101 worth it over Kaplan MCAT?
Honestly, although Kaplan has the bigger name in MCAT prep, we actually think Prep101 is better. Their classes are much deeper, and their other study materials (including Altius practice exams and Examkrackers study guides) are better.