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Kaplan Bar Review
Our in-depth evaluation of the Kaplan Bar prep course
When considering which bar review course to take, Kaplan is one of the first names that comes to mind. They offer comprehensive bar prep classes in every state, each with a robust curriculum, detailed lessons, and mountain of practice material. But does a prestigious name, abundance of resources and history of success with other students mean this course is right for you? We take a close look at the Kaplan Bar Review course and rate all of its features in this detailed guide.
Although Kaplan offers a slightly different bar review course in every state (except for full UBE states, which have the same course), they generally offer just two standard prep packages. These offerings include:
Complete Bar Review
The Complete Bar Review course is Kaplan’s mainstay package. You get all of the practice materials, video lessons and other resources you would find with just about any self-study course, as well as 160+ hours of live instruction from a team of Kaplan experts. This prep package may be taken live online through near daily scheduled webcasts or in-person. This offering currently prices out at around $2,200, depending on your state and promos.
Next up, Kaplan’s Convenience Package offers everything but the kitchen sink. For roughly $1,800 more than the Complete Bar Review course, you get the addition of prep materials for a second state of your choosing, as well as a set of Kaplan’s MBE flashcards, among other things. This is the deluxe package for the student looking for the whole kit and caboodle. For those future lawyers who plan to practice law across state lines and do not get reciprocity, seriously consider this option for the second state materials.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Evaluation of the Kaplan Curriculum and Coursework
When evaluating which bar review course is best for their needs, students frequently look to the nature of the prep companies’ bar curriculum. Are the lessons engaging and comprehensive? Are the prep books detailed? Is the practice work high quality? These are very important questions, and should all be answered in the affirmative before dropping thousands of dollars on a course. Fortunately for Kaplan, they nail every one of these vital categories with a resounding YES.
Kaplan’s bar review curriculum is undeniably thorough and high-quality. Crafted by their team of licensed attorneys, in-house MBE experts and knowledgeable instructors, the Kaplan study plan will absolutely leave you prepared for the exam if completed.
Your syllabus (which doubles as the online dashboard) will serve as the backbone of your course. It directs you to all of daily tasks and serves as a jumping off point for practice. Everyday you will be assigned 5-7 hours of work across several tasks. These daily tasks generally span four main categories – Learn, Practice, Review, and Catch Up.
The “Learn” section of the daily lesson plan centers around your daily lesson. It covers a particular bar topic (such as Torts II or Crim Pro III), and gives you a printout of slides from the lecture plan, as well as fillable notes. The notes are essentially just an outline of the relevant material with additional space to make your own comments.
The “Practice” section then serves to reinforce what you learned in the “Learn” section. It consists of a series of quizzes, practice problem sets, and sometimes practice essays and performance tests. Working practice problems and reading problem explanations takes up a large chunk of each study day.
The “Review” section provides a recap of the day’s material through reading assignments, exercises online and in your coursebooks, livestreams and other functions. It is a valuable means of looking at the content from a different perspective and helping it to sink in.
Finally, the “Catch Up” section is simply there to give you time to wrap up other modules that remain unfinished. Inevitably during your studies you will have days where you can’t get to all of the assigned tasks for one reason or another. Those tasks then carry over as incomplete and populate daily for you to finish if time remains. I always hated seeing these “unfinished” assignments, worried that I was missing something that could be critical, so I never let them hang around for long.
As I discuss the live class component in further detail below, I’ll cover the video lectures here. The video lessons generally cover the same material as the live lectures, and are intended to replace them when you have to miss a live class. These Kaplan video lessons are extremely well done. They are thorough and generally very engaging. Each features your Kaplan instructor on the left side of the screen delivering your assigned lesson in a fashion very similar to a law school class (minus the Socratic-style questions), while a PowerPoint slideshow appears on the right side of the screen. As the instructor speaks, the slides update and change, tracking with the verbal lesson.
In terms of quality, the overall production value is very strong. The picture is sharp, the slides are clean, and the lessons are wrapped up into nice little segments. If I had one complaint about the video quality though, it is that the audio was not great at times. Sometimes the audio was sort of grainy and metallic sounding, like you would hear over a microphone at a local pancake breakfast or something. That audio element was just a little off in a good number of video lessons.
With respect to content, the videos are also rock solid. The lessons are extremely comprehensive and cover every little thing you’ll need to know for the bar. They were actually more expansive than the material in the coursebooks, which is a huge plus. And while I found them to be a little dry (reminding me of being back in law school), I did find them engaging. I am not sure if it is because you frequently have different instructors, or the rotating slides, or the new material daily, or just what exactly, but my attention never really faded. Overall, I was personally very impressed with the Kaplan video instruction.
Beyond the video lessons, Kaplan provides stacks on stacks of practice material and study resources. Their question bank contains over 4,000 MBE questions, each with an accompanying explanation. While these are not NCBE-licensed real bar questions like you get with other bar prep companies like Bar Prep Hero and Quimbee, they are darn good simulated questions. Again, Kaplan has an army of in-house bar experts, who carefully craft these questions to mirror the real MBE as closely as possible. So the question of quality, while not the real thing, is very good.
The text explanations that accompany each practice problem are also quite good as well (like those from AdaptiBar). These explanations are very detailed, providing a thorough analysis of each question. The explanations start by providing a general breakdown of the question and the reasoning behind why the correct answer is correct. They then go into further detail, explaining why each incorrect answer choice was wrong. These explanations when read as a whole allow for a deep understanding of the legal principles at play in the question, as well as related issues that may commonly appear.
These practice questions can either be accessed through your daily assigned quizzes and practice problems sets, or directly through the Qbank. The Qbank allows you to create customized practice question sets filtered by topic, difficulty, timing, and more. This additional practice allows you to hone your skills in areas that need improvement. I found that while this function is useful, I didn’t use it as much as I thought I would. By the end of every day, after having completed a ton of practice already, I just didn’t have it in me to proactively hit some bonus question sets. For those that have the gumption, that’s great, because this is a helpful tool.
In addition to the Qbank, you also get access to Kaplan’s essay bank. This is a library of past essay prompts with model answers. You can choose to just read and review the past essays for your own knowledge building, or you can work the samples yourself for practice. If you choose to write some practice essays yourself, you can submit them to Kaplan for a free grading by one of the staff attorneys, as many times as you want. That’s right, you get unlimited essay feedback.
I did this on a couple occasions myself and found it to be moderately helpful. The feedback I got on my essays was fairly brief, but did hit the major points I needed improvement on. To be honest, I actually think I got more out of just practicing the essay writing than I did from the feedback itself. But the feedback did help to some extent.
Another aspect of Kaplan’s practice that I liked was the “Qformative.” This function is essentially a series of exercises on a particular bar topic that tests a deeper layer of understanding. Rather than just giving you replicated MBE questions, it gives you one MBE question, followed by tangential questions around that one question. These follow-on questions include queries such as “what is the underlying main issue?” or “what legal principle is being tested here?”. These types of questions make you think deeper about the content being tested and help build a more comprehensive knowledge base.
All things considered, I was personally very impressed with Kaplan’s lessons and coursework. The video instruction, while not perfect, is very high-quality and covers just about everything you need to know for the bar. The audio and instructor enthusiasm levels were a little lacking at times, but by and large these video lessons are rock solid. In addition, as no surprise, Kaplan’s abundance of practice material also passed muster. The questions are well written and buoyed by some stellar problem explanations. Altogether it makes for a great bar review curriculum.
Prefer to learn by doing, and just need practice problems? Check out our review of AdaptiBar’s practice-focused course.
Kaplan Bar Review Books
As part of their first-rate coursework, you will get 4 hard copy prep books when you sign up with Kaplan. If in a UBE state, these books will include MEE-MPT Subject Memorization & Review, MEE Outline Materials, MBE Subject Memorization & Review, and MBE Outline Materials. If you’re in a non-UBE state such as California, rather than getting the MEE and MPT books, you will instead get two state-specific books keyed to your state’s essay and performance test subject matter.
These coursebooks generally track with and complement your daily assignments. You will take these books with you to class, as they contain much needed content review, exercises, practice problems and drills. You don’t have to take all 4 each day – check out what you will be working on in your daily syllabus (or more likely your instructor will tell you the day before) – but you will have to haul these around.
Overall, I really like the Kaplan books. The content portions of these books are extremely well-written and provide some great acronyms and mnemonics to help you memorize necessary material. In addition, they aren’t filled with fluff. They cut to the most important parts of what you need to know and keep things concise while still delivering all the necessary detail. The books additionally contain really helpful exercises and drills. They are well-designed and serve as a really nice supplement to lectures and online practice.
Practice Tests and Diagnostics
At no point during your studies will you sit for a full-length, two-day practice bar exam. And frankly, you shouldn’t. While that could help you condition your mind and body for the grueling task ahead, it wouldn’t be as effective at helping to learn the material. Instead, Kaplan has you take periodic diagnostic tests to measure how you’re progressing and a couple simulated exams, but only in one-day increments. You will either have a day for a simulated MBE exam or a simulated essay/performance test, and not back-to-back.
Kaplan wants you to be able to review each practice exam in detail and take away learning points. And doing full-length, two-day bar exams makes that tough. So you take the simulated exams in chunks and immediately review all your answers. This is a tedious task, but very necessary. In total, you end up having around 3 simulated exam days.
The quality of the diagnostic tests and practice exams is just like the practice questions in the Qbank. That is, it is very good. The questions you will see, while perhaps not official questions from past exams, are very close in resemblance to the real thing. More importantly than the practice quality I think though, is the review sessions that follow. This is where the real learning and chance for improvement takes place. You will learn from every mistake you made and get a feel for where the bar examiners try to trick you with trap answers.
User Experience and Digital Interface
Given that you will spend a significant portion of time in Kaplan’s online portal, it’s important that their digital platform have a visually appealing and highly functional interface. Fortunately, Kaplan’s platform is very user friendly and offers a pleasant user experience. Their various course materials and resources are housed in four primary and easy to find groups, categorized as Syllabus, Practice Bank, Writing Center and Support Center. Under each of these main tabs are easy to find subcategories like the Qbank, video lessons and flashcards.
Besides being very intuitive and nicely organized, the digital platform also offers an agreeable user experience. The design is modern, yet clean and simple. And the functionality is great, with quick responsiveness and fast load times. In addition, all video quality is excellent, with the exception of a little grainy audio here and there.
If I had one complaint though, it is that every video lesson and quiz pops up in a separate browser tab. While not a huge deal, it does get annoying when you spend a full day studying. By the end of the day you have several tabs open and need to jump back and forth across them, sometimes losing track. Again, a minor gripe, but worth noting.
Kaplan Bar Review Classes – Our Thoughts
If you elect to go with Kaplan’s Complete Bar Review course option, you will be treated to 160+ hours of live class time. Basically, you will meet up in a classroom with your instructor and a gaggle of other students everyday for two months straight, Monday through Friday, for 4-6 hours per day. It is an intense grind, more so than law school, but is definitely rewarding.
While the material covered in class is generally the same as that covered in the video lectures, you get the benefit of being able to stop and ask questions, getting a second and different perspective on issues from your teacher, and a number of good side tips from a bar exam pro. This makes the in-person (or live online) lessons feel deeper and more powerful.
And to me at least, the classes were much more engaging than watching the video lectures at home. I do like the Kaplan video lessons, and found them to engaging in their own right, but not like the class. You can’t afford not to be engaged in the class. Your instructor calls on students for answers frequently (not like in law school though, don’t worry) and solicits feedback often. It just isn’t the same as self-study.
All in all, I really liked my in-person bar review course. The course offered many of the benefits discussed above, including some awesome acronyms and mnemonics for memorization that weren’t in the book and side tips from the instructor. The lessons moved quickly, but still felt deep and offered a comprehensive review. And our instructors were really, really good. We had a few different instructors rotate in and out based on the topics, but all were extremely knowledgeable and approachable.
My only real complaints about the class were that the class was crowded and that students sometimes asked dumb questions that slowed us down. Honestly, it’s going to happen in almost any kind of class you are in. A student or two persistently asks questions that 95% of the class knows the answer to; you roll your eyes; the teacher answers the question; and you move on. It is inevitable. But it does sometimes mess up the groove of the class. But by and large, our instructors did a great job managing those slowdowns and keeping things moving.
Unlike some other bar review courses that offer thin supplemental resources to the primary course, Kaplan offers a host of cool add-on tools. The first of note is their email support. If you have a question on any topic, you can email their team of staff attorneys and you will get a response within 3 business days. I know, 3 days is not exactly lightning fast, though in my personal experience the turnaround was often more like 1-2 days. Though that can still seem like an eternity when you want an answer now.
I actually found I was better off looking through their massive library of previously answered questions. Oftentimes that catalog already had the same question asked and answered, and I didn’t even have to bother sending in a message.
The next resource worth mentioning are the online flashcards. Kaplan provides thousands of digital flashcards covering every major bar exam subject. They are pretty much what you would expect – a term or legal concept on the front, and a detailed definition or explanation on the back. These flashcards are quite detailed though and I liked how Kaplan keeps them succinct and clearly-articulated. I also was a fan of how you can bucket the cards based on how confident you are with them, making for easy review later.
The final resource worth noting is Kaplan’s data on topic weighting by state. Based on analysis of your state’s past bar exams, they will give you historical data on what concepts are tested and in what frequencies. This is actually pretty useful when trying to decide where to allocate your time. Should you spend that extra hour on inchoate crimes or civ pro venue issues? Look to the chart and see what is tested more often, and let that guide you.
Online Content Access Period
Access to your online materials is generally tied to the length of your bar prep, so around three months. This makes sense. You’re really not going to need the prep materials much sooner than graduation, and then you shouldn’t (hopefully) need them again after you’ve taken the bar. So the window in which to access the lessons, syllabus, practice materials and everything else online is quite short. The materials will unlock a few months prior to the bar date and you follow your syllabus until test day.
Does Kaplan Have a Mobile App?
Yes! Unlike some other bar review companies, Kaplan provides a mobile app to complement its course. And a very good one at that. Perhaps bested only by BarMax, whose mobile app is their primary selling point, Kaplan’s mobile app is very high quality. Rather than just offering a few token flashcards so they can advertise that they have an app, they give you access to your study materials through your phone or tablet.
This is a huge benefit. If you’re on the go, or having laptop issues, or just plain like working on your iPhone, you can access all of your resources on the app. And the handoff between desktop and app is actually quite good. While I personally don’t really like to use my phone for studying, for those that do, this will be a big value add.
Kaplan’s Pass or Money Back Guarantee
Kaplan offers a really nice safety net through its bar passage guarantee. Complete a minimum threshold of work and they guarantee you will pass the bar, or your money back. Not bad, right?
The basic requirementsfor qualification are as follows:
Attend 90% of lectures
Complete all assigned multiple-choice questions, simulated exams, and quizzes
Complete required practice essays and personalized homework
That’s it. Do the assigned work you’ve already paid for and are going to do anyway, and get some nice insurance. This is a fairly generous policy compared to other companies.
Verdict: Kaplan Bar Review Course
For those students seeking a full-scale, comprehensive bar review course that is almost sure to get you across the finish line, Kaplan is likely the right prep package for you. This course does carry a high price tag, but you get what you pay for. Kaplan is a trusted name and has a track record of success in helping future lawyers pass the bar. Their bar review curriculum is first-rate, and they will wallop you with lessons, reading assignments, practice questions and tests, flashcards, and more. The prep will be intense, with heavy daily workloads and tons of memorization, but this is a good thing. The bar exam is one of the most grueling tests on the planet and you need this level of preparation. For students who need more than just a bundle of practice materials or a few books, and are looking to pay up to get into that upper echelon of bar review courses to ensure they pass on the first try, we highly recommend Kaplan.
How much does the Kaplan Bar Review course cost?
Kaplan’s Bar Review course is not cheap, ranging in price from around $2,200 to $4,000 depending on your needs. That said, it is one of the most comprehensive prep packages on the market and one of our highest rated courses.
Is Kaplan Bar Review worth it?
In our team’s collective opinion, yes. Kaplan offers a very robust curriculum and first-rate practice materials. While a little pricey, Kaplan gets results.
Does Kaplan write their own bar exam questions?
Yes and no. Kaplan’s team of in-house bar experts write their MBE-style questions, while the essays in Kaplan’s essay bank have been previously used on real, past bar exams.