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Blueprint MCAT (Next Step) Review
Our detailed analysis of the Blueprint MCAT (Next Step) prep course
In 2020, Next Step Test Preparation merged with Blueprint, resulting in a newly created MCAT prep course now known as Blueprint MCAT. The combination brings together Next Step’s detailed content reviews and deep understanding of MCAT strategies with Blueprint’s supreme video capabilities, award-winning digital platform and advanced analytics. While this all sounds great on paper, the question remains – will this newly combined MCAT test prep product get the job done? We answer that question and much more in this in-depth review of the Blueprint MCAT prep course.
Compared to most other test prep companies, the Blueprint MCAT course options and pricing are very straightforward. They offer just one course – their Online MCAT Course. No live online webcasts, no in-person classes, no lecture halls. Just one simple, self-paced course. Within this course format, you do have the ability to select from three different content access periods depending on your needs. You will have the choice of 6 months, 12 months or 18 months of online content access.
Although the content access periods differ, the content itself does not. No matter which plan you choose, you get access to the same number of practice tests, questions, video-based lessons and more. These three course offerings will cost you approximately $1,800, $2,500 and $3,000, respectively. The base level 6-month course (which is the most popular), is directly comparable to Kaplan’s DIY Course and Princeton Review’s Self-Paced course, both of which cost about same. All three of these competing courses can generally be found within $100 or so of each other.
In addition to the Online MCAT Course, Blueprint also offers private tutoring packages for those students in need of a personalized study plan and 1-on-1 teaching. The Blueprint tutoring packages include access to the same Online MCAT Course, but layer on varying levels of private tutoring time with one of Blueprint’s MCAT experts. You can select from packages of 16, 24 or 40 tutoring hours. These private tutoring + Online MCAT Course options do not come cheap though, ranging in price from $3,200 to $10,000.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Blueprint MCAT Curriculum and Coursework Analysis
Following the merger of Next Step and Blueprint, many wondered what the resulting MCAT prep course would look like. We now know the answer – it is one heck of a good course. The combined MCAT prep package brings together the best elements of both companies. That is, it combines Next Step’s high quality and in-depth content reviews with Blueprint’s knack for creating super engaging video lessons and a killer digital platform.
The newly formed course follows Next Step’s traditional curriculum and course structure (which is a very good thing), but with a twist. Rather than moving from subject to subject in a more traditional manner, Blueprint has rolled the various units into discreet learning modules. Each learning module covers a subtopic of the MCAT, such as lipid metabolism and fluid dynamics, and bundles a series of video lessons with quizzes, drills, strategies and passages. You tackle each subtopic as a standalone task until you master and test out of it.
This integrated approach to learning allows for more effective content retention. You essentially get the same material in a variety of ways all in one sitting, reinforcing your understanding of the content. This method of approaching the coursework is very comprehensive, covering every MCAT subtopic you may come across, and allows for better overall learning. In total, Blueprint provides 160 learning modules, as well as an additional 30 modules focusing on strategy, reasoning and other soft skills.
Within each learning module you are given at least one video lesson. These video lessons are what make this course, and a far cry from the PowerPoint videos of yesteryear. They are engaging, incredibly well-designed, and just plain visually striking. Every video features a Blueprint MCAT instructor teaching in front of a green screen. As they provide their lesson, the screen around them populates with graphics, illustrations and funny little carton animations. In addition, text, notes and varying forms of the actual material you need to memorize appear as well. The production value and overall quality of these videos cannot be overstated.
It is not just little cartoon animations that make the video lessons engaging to watch – they also illustrate the most difficult-to-understand chemical processes and biological functions. This visualization of complex systems and concepts makes learning and memorization much easier. Some students can simply read a few lines in a textbook and memorize the material with no issue. But for many others, you need something to tie that material to in order to improve your recollection of it later. And these illustrated videos do just that. They allow for a helpful visual connection that greatly improves the effectiveness of your recall.
Following each video lesson is a quiz. These quizzes are made up of a nice variety of question types, including multiple-choice, drag and drop matching, ordering, and fill-in-the-blank. In fact, these quizzes are more like comprehensive drills that serve to reinforce what you just learned. And following each quiz question as you go along is a problem explanation. You will know right away whether you got the question right or wrong, and will be given a succinct explanation.
While this is a great feature, these problem explanations are a far cry from the most detailed I have seen. And in fact, I would actually like to see Blueprint offer some more detail around these. Oftentimes there will be just one sentence answer around the correct choice only. It would be nice to get an explanation around the incorrect answer choices as well, explaining how they relate to the matter at hand and work in other circumstances. This would allow for a more fulsome understanding.
However, one aspect of the problem explanations I do quite like is the sample highlighting for passage-based problems. For those questions that follow a lengthy passage, Blueprint shows you exactly where you should have focused your highlighting and strike-through for ultimate efficiency. All in all, the problem explanations, while brief, are nonetheless effective.
In addition to the quizzes following each video lesson, you also get access to Blueprint’s QBank, which contains over 4,000 practice problems. This study tool allows you to access similar practice questions as you see in the quizzes, but with advanced filtering functionality to create custom practice sets. You can narrow your problem sets by question type, difficulty, and number of questions, among other things. This is very useful tool and should be used frequently in conjunction with your learning modules.
All things considered, I was very impressed with Blueprint’s coursework, finding the curriculum to be very comprehensive and well-designed. I particularly like the method of approaching MCAT material through integrated learning modules. For me personally, this was highly effective in improving my material retention and later recall. While the text explanations may have been a little thin, the insanely good video lessons, quality practice problems and handy QBank more than make up for it.
Blueprint MCAT Prep Books
In addition to the awesome video lessons and high-quality practice materials described above, Blueprint will also ship you 6 hard copy books as part of your prep package. These prep books cover the primary MCAT subjects, including Psychology & Sociology, Physics, Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry & Organic Chemistry, and CARS. These books, which have been newly revamped, are integrated with your online course and serve as a supplement to the core curriculum.
In terms of content, the books provide substantive reviews of the primary MCAT subjects, as well as containing end of chapter practice problems and strategies. They are well-written and clearly explain complex and hard-to-understand subjects. I personally found them to be very useful. While not quite as good as the Princeton Review subject review books, these are a very powerful study resource.
Blueprint MCAT (Next Step) Practice Tests
Blueprint prides itself on the quality of its practice tests, both in terms of question content and testing interface. And they should. Their practice tests, which come from Next Step originally, are a dead ringer for the real thing and come as close to official MCAT tests as you can get (apart from the AAMC materials). The testing software is a mirror of the real MCAT, with its highlighting and strike-through functionality, and that funky 1990’s-esque design. Putting them side-by-side, it is really hard to decipher between them.
More important than interface, the quality of the practice test questions is top notch. Blueprint does an excellent job replicating real MCAT questions in terms of question length and difficulty, and content. With respect to quantity, you will get access to 15 full-length practice exams. This is a very respectable figure and bested only by Gold Standard MCAT Prep’s 20 practice tests.
Short of the AAMC tests, these are about the best I have seen. And on the point of AAMC practice tests, 5 of the 15 total practice tests provided by Blueprint belong to AAMC. Don’t be disappointed by this offering – this is a very good thing. The AAMC tests are as good as they come, straight from the makers of the MCAT. Between the 5 AAMC practice tests and 10 high-quality practice exams from Blueprint, you should have ample opportunity to test under exam-like conditions and hone your skills.
Digital Platform and Interface
While not often looked at as a critical component of a prep course, a good online platform can make a huge difference in your studies. If lessons and coursework are hard to find or usability is clunky, it can negatively affect your efficiency and overall learning. Fortunately for Blueprint, they have one of the best digital platforms around.
The interface is clean, modern and super intuitive. Your primary categories of study resources, including your study plan, exams, QBank, analytics and more, are housed in the navigation bar at the top. This makes it incredibly easy to maneuver through the Blueprint portal and find just what you need. By and large, most of your time will be spent in the learning modules, watching video lessons and doing quizzes. These are primarily accessed from your personalized study plan (more on this below) or from the resources tab. In either case, you’re never more than a couple clicks away form your primary materials.
The functionality of the platform is also first-rate. It is snappy and responsive, and feels ultra-modern. If I had to compare it to some other commonly used platform, I would say it is like working in Google’s suite of apps. It is just intuitive and easy-to-use, while still feeling modern. Overall, I give high praise to the Blueprint interface and user platform.
Wait, There’s No Live Classes?
Blueprint MCAT’s prep course is entirely online and driven by self-study. There are no regularly scheduled live online meetings or in-person classes. Everything is flexible and on your timeline.
For students that like self-study and are efficient at learning in a flexible environment, this will be music to your ears. But for those students that need a structured class schedule to hold them accountable and commit them to their studies, this may not be for you. Blueprint’s customizable study tool may get you part of the way there, as it sets goals for every study day to accomplish, but it’s definitely not the same as meeting in person.
In addition to some top flight lessons and coursework, Blueprint provides some excellent supplemental resources to complement its course. The first resource worth mentioning is the customizable study plan. At the outset of your studies, Blueprint will ask you to look at a calendar and specify which days are best for you for studying, as well as days that you need to block off. From there, they will personalize a study plan for your needs, dropping in learning modules, diagnostic tests and practice exams to complete.
The result is a rainbow-colored study planner on an interactive calendar. As life events come up or you finish modules early, you can freely move your daily tasks around. Drag and drop each assignment wherever and however you’d like. This is a great tool for staying on track and tracking your progress through the material. It also serves as your main jumping off point for your daily studies.
Another notable resource isBlueprint’s near daily office hours. These consist of 2-hour study sessions with a Blueprint MCAT instructor 5 days per week. Most sessions take the form of a deep dive into a particular subtopic of the MCAT. The teacher will zero in on the finer points of the subject, answer questions and work practice problems. Other sessions are just open Q&A to talk about any subject or anything MCAT-related generally.
For the most part, these sessions are incredibly helpful. The Blueprint instructors are not afraid to get into the weeds, and are very open to answering your questions. The only time these lessons don’t help is if you’ve already mastered and tested out of a topic. In that case, they are a bit of time waster.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all supplemental resources, are Blueprint’s advanced analytics. Under the analytics tab on the navigation bar, you will find a host of great data on your performance. These metrics go well beyond the simple percentage of questions answered correctly and dive into answer-changing habits, weakness by question sub-type and other more detailed analysis. It is all great data, and in fact, it’s almost too much. A couple of times I caught myself going down a rabbit hole looking at data on performance in these niche areas and looked up to see I had lost 20 minutes. As long as you can efficiently corral this analysis into actionable tips, it is a great resource.
Blueprint Private MCAT Tutoring
If you’re struggling with a handful of subjects or just need some pro tips to optimize your studies, you should absolutely consider utilizing one of the Blueprint MCAT private tutoring packages. The MCAT is a difficult, high-stakes exam and nailing a great score is key to your med school prospects. So while the private tutoring packages may be pricey, so is the cost of not getting accepted and having to push your timeline back a year.
Blueprint’s tutors are all 99th percentile MCAT scorers and trained by Blueprint to efficiently communicate MCAT topics in a way that aligns with the Blueprint curriculum. I personally used a Blueprint instructor during my course and found it to be a HUGE help. He was crazy smart and very open to tackling anything I raised, whether it was substantive content review, strategy questions or study planning.
I did pick up that he himself had an area or two where he wasn’t a complete guru (like physics), but it’s hard to imagine someone being a complete master of every single subject. The MCAT is all-encompassing and tests a crazy mixture of scientific principles and disciplines. So I don’t fault him for that.
Apart from that small issue, he was personable, approachable and a huge help. In contrasting the Blueprint tutoring with Kaplan and Princeton Review’s tutors, I cannot speak to the quality of the others as I did not personally use them. Though I assume they would be good as well.
Despite there being only one real course option, you get your choice of three content access periods – 6 months, 12 months, or 18 months. Obviously longer access periods come with a higher price tag, but choose the duration that you know for a fact will give you enough time to complete your studies. If you’re on the fence about whether to do 6 or 12 months, I suggest you pay up for 12 months, as you never know when you may need to delay or retake the exam. There is a reason other test prep companies like Magoosh offer 12-month course durations.
Is there a Mobile App?
Blueprint does not have a separate mobile app (for iPhone or Android), but has optimized their website to give it an app-like feel. Even when using your desktop to study, you feel like you’re in an app with its mobile drop down in the upper corner. This makes working on material seamless across your desktop, laptop, tablet and phone.
Blueprint’s Score Increase Guarantee
Like most other reputable test prep companies, Blueprint offers a money back guarantee if your score does not increase after taking their prep course. There are some baseline requirements that must be met (like completing all the lessons and taking a diagnostic test), but assuming you meet the criteria, they will give you your money back if your score doesn’t go up. Alternatively, you can also repeat the course at your option.
Blueprint offers this guarantee because their students see a roughly +10 point score increase on average. This fact gives them the confidence to offer such a promise. This is a very nice safety net and I was glad to see Blueprint offered this feature.
Blueprint MCAT’s Refund Policy
Blueprint has very short fuse for requesting a refund of your course purchase – 24 hours. If you don’t call or email them within 1 day of buying their MCAT course, you’re locked in. From a quality perspective, I wouldn’t worry about being committed to this course, as Blueprint is one of our top-rated courses, but if life events come up that may preclude you from studying, this is a short window to back out.
Verdict: Blueprint MCAT Prep Course Review
At the heart of Blueprint MCAT’s extensive curriculum is their package of highly engaging and well-designed video lessons. This is where Blueprint earns their keep. From the moment you hit the play button you are sucked in and stay engaged. Their stellar video lessons are filled with animated illustrations of complex processes and systems, as well as catchy graphics, all of which greatly improve material retention. These video lessons are housed in their integrated learning modules, which provide a smart method of structuring the overall curriculum. In addition, Blueprint offers some top tier practice materials and cool resources like their study planning tool, advanced analytics and office hour sessions.
While we found their problem explanations to be a little thin, particularly when compared to other test prep companies, this was the only real course weakness we could find. By and large, Blueprint offers an incredibly engaging and in-depth prep package that covers every aspect of the MCAT. The video lessons are top notch, their practice materials are applaudable, and they provide an abundance of helpful study resources and content-rich prep books. This is why we rate Blueprint MCAT’s course near the top of our best list.
How much does the Blueprint MCAT course cost?
Depending on the length of content access you need and whether you get private tutoring, the Blueprint MCAT course can cost anywhere from around $1,800 to more than $5,000.
Does Blueprint MCAT offer live classes?
No. The Blueprint MCAT course is 100% online and self-study.
Will the Blueprint MCAT prep course raise my score?
We think so. Between the incredible video lessons, abundance of practice materials and helpful study tools, Blueprint is very likely to raise your score. They think so as well, as evidenced by their offering a score increase guarantee.