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Kaplan MCAT Prep Review
Our in-depth analysis and review of the Kaplan MCAT prep course
When it comes to MCAT prep, Kaplan is about the biggest game in town. They’ve been helping students prep for over 80 years, and have one of the most comprehensive MCAT prep curriculums on the market. But does a robust curriculum and years of teaching to the MCAT mean this prep course is the best? We dig in and closely examine the Kaplan MCAT prep course and all of its features in this detailed review.
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Video Review: Is Kaplan MCAT Worth It?
In the video above, John from the Test Prep Insight team covers the major pros and cons of the Kaplan MCAT prep course. For more detail, be sure to continue reading our full written review below.
Kaplan MCAT Course Options & Pricing
To help set the stage for our evaluation of the Kaplan MCAT course features, I think it’s most helpful to quickly run through the different prep packages that Kaplan offers at each level.
In short, Kaplan offers 4 different prep packages for students to choose from: On Demand Course, Live Online Course, In Person Course, and Private Tutoring + Live Online Course.
Kaplan’s cheapest prep option, the On Demand Course, will cost you around $2,100. This course is self-paced and allows you to study from anywhere at any time. In terms of how this pricing stacks up, this course format does run about 8x the cost of budget test prep provider Magoosh’s MCAT prep package, but as discussed below, the difference in quantity and quality of study material is huge.
At the next level up, the Live Online Course and In Person Course generally run for around $2,700 and $3,100, respectively. They offer students a series of live classes, whether online or in person. For those students seeking more interpersonal communication and a real group feel, this course will likely be your best best.
Then there’s the company’s Tutoring + Live Online Course, which as its name implies adds private 1:1 tutoring in 10, 20, 30 or 40 hour increments to the Live Online Course. These packages start around $3,300.
Finally, for those dead set on crushing the MCAT, Kaplan offers an intensive Bootcamp course. This course is not for the faint of heart, lasting 5-6 weeks during the summer, with lessons every day and strict schedules. It does not come cheap though, pricing in at around $7,000.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Evaluation Of Lessons & Coursework
Now that you have the lay of the land in terms of prep options, let’s get down to my thoughts on the Kaplan MCAT course. And I won’t hide the ball until the end here.
I’ll just start by saying that I generally loved this MCAT course. It’s undeniably first rate in terms of content, structure and delivery—though it did have a couple shortcomings as discussed further below.
Whether you’re taking the self-paced on demand course or the live online course, everything with Kaplan MCAT revolves around your schedule. In short, the entire program is driven by a study schedule in calendar form that tells you exactly what to do everyday.
Honestly, when boiled down, this is the crux of the course. Almost everything is on your schedule: learning modules, AAMC practice sessions, live classes, full-length practice exams, practice test review sessions, optional workshops, and more. In this respect, the study schedule will be your guiding light.
As for the meat of what’s in your study schedule, most days will be about learning modules. Kaplan calls these “content refreshers,” and each one goes like this. First, you start with a brief placement quiz (usually about 15 to 20 questions), which sets your baseline for the module.
In fact, if you score high enough on the placement quiz, you can actually test out of the module and move right onto the next assignment. However, assuming you don’t hit that high threshold, you then watch a number of video lessons, usually 2-3 on average per module.
These videos are generally on the shorter side, with most being in the 8- to 13-minute range, though some are as short as 5 minutes and others are as long as 20 minutes. Due to the fact that they are shorter in nature though, if you feel like you need a deeper dive, Kaplan gives you the chapter of the prep book that aligns with that video lesson so you can jump over and get some detailed notes.
For visual learners, these interactive video lessons are absolute money in my opinion. Every lesson gives you a rich diversity of pictures, graphs, drawings, formulas, and various graphics that make it easy to retain concepts.
I personally loved the production value and structured feel of these video lectures. The quality is very professional, making for a more effective learning experience (better than Jack Westin).
After you’re done with the video lessons in your module, you finish with a review quiz. Those are similar in length to the placement quizzes at the front end of the module (about 15 to 20 questions). And that’s it for the “content refresher” modules. It’s a pretty simple formula: placement quiz 👉 video lessons 👉 review quiz
Then, outside of the modules, you also get sequenced mock exams, AAMC and CARS practice assignments, and practice test review sessions on your calendar.
Besides the placement and review quizzes in the modules, as well as the full-length tests, most of the practice work is housed in the Qbank, which isn’t directly assigned in your schedule. For this practice work, it is more so on you to jump into the Qbank between modules and work practice problems that align with what you’ve learned.
The Qbank contains over 3,000 practice problems and has some very useful advanced filtering functionality. It is a significant value add, as it allows you to zero in on your weaknesses and improve on those topics.
Not to mention, accompanying each practice problem is a text explanation, breaking down the question and explaining why each answer choice is correct or incorrect.
These explanations were one of the areas of the coursework I was not totally satisfied with. While the explanations were effective in communicating why my answer choice was correct or incorrect, the level of detail was just a little subpar.
The text was brief and to the point, which is understandable given that Kaplan needs to write 3,000+ of these explanations, but I just expected more. It would have been nice to see some more detailed analysis, even if it went further than the immediate issue.
How Kaplan leverages the Qbank is similar to how Kaplan employs their books. The readings aren’t directly assigned in your schedule. Again, it’s more on you to supplement the video lessons with the prep books where needed.
This is actually a good pause point to share a love-hate thing I had with the Kaplan course. For positives, I really like how Kaplan has integrated all their materials. The video lessons, prep books and Qbank all tie into one another.
For example, if you’re watching a video lesson on Isomers, but feel like you need more detail, Kaplan will direct you over to chapter 2 of the Organic Chemistry Review book.
Then, if you want to work practice problems that target what you learned about Isomers post-video lesson, you can create a custom quiz in the Qbank that only has Isomer problems. Essentially, all the material is grouped in order by topic, and all ties in with itself, which is an awesome organizational system that really helps.
However, this almost makes the Kapan MCAT program too flexible. There are just so many elements of this course that are optional: (1) optional reading with each video lesson; (2) optional practice problems in the Qbank; (3) optional workshops each night; and (4) optional flashcards. It’s a long list.
Yet the problem with this is that, while the flexibility is good because it accommodates so many different learners, it can also be a little overwhelming. It just becomes hard to figure out exactly what to do each day. When given too many options, it just makes things feel a little disorientating.
I think one area where Kaplan could improve this is firming up assignments in terms of these optional materials, and more precisely tell people what to do. But I digress.
This brings me to the final element of the course—the live sessions. If you take the live online course, you also get a series of live classes which you will see on your study schedule. These classes are three hours long each and generally cover the same material in the content refresher modules, albeit with more detail and some test taking strategy elements.
Plus, the cool thing about the live classes is that you don’t have fixed days and times. It used to be that way with Kaplan, but they’ve switched that up. They now have flex classes, where the class sessions are offered multiple times throughout the week and you just have to attend one of the sessions where it fits your schedule. That’s been a really nice improvement.
Lastly, there’s the live workshops. These are open to both the live online and self-paced students. Everyday, Kaplan has at least a couple live online workshops or office hour sessions where you get a very deep dive into one particular topic and can ask questions.
For on demand students, these workshops are incredibly valuable, as they’re almost a pseudo class replacement. Though again, they’re all totally optional.
To sum this up, Kaplan’s lessons, coursework and practice materials add up to over 700 hours of prep time. At least that’s what they say, and honestly, I ‘ll have to take their word for it because it was more than I could ever get through.
All things considered tough, I was extremely impressed with the Kaplan coursework and lessons. I knew going into my class that Kaplan would offer a solid prep course, but I had no idea how in-depth and comprehensive it would be.
I was almost overwhelmed at times with the pure amount of study material Kaplan throws at you. But it was more than just quantity—it was also the quality.
Kaplan’s live classes (discussed further below), online video instruction, quizzes and everything in between were all top-notch. I was left with very little to gripe about with respect to the MCAT content and coursework.
Kaplan MCAT Prep Books
As mentioned, in addition to your online content (and live classes, assuming you purchase a course with classroom component), Kaplan also offers some top tier study books.
In total, Kaplan will ship you seven (7) hard copy books with the purchase of a prep course. Plus, you will get a useful Quicksheets guide (essentially a cheat sheet).
As you may expect from Kaplan, these books are all extremely thorough and well-written. Each subject review book covers a major MCAT topic (such as organic chemistry or biology) and goes into great detail (similar to Princeton Review).
These are not light reads by any means – they are content heavy, comprehensive prep books designed to cover every nook and cranny of MCAT material.
And that is another small complaint I had with this course – the books are so detailed that reading can be tedious at times. But it’s also a necessary evil given the amount of material you need to learn.
If you’re big on learning via text, you will love these prep books. I found them to be really well-written and structured. The books flow naturally and the concepts within the subject review books in particular, are very well-articulated.
Kaplan MCAT Practice Tests
For the students who prefer to learn by doing, practice tests are critical – and are often at the heart of their analysis when considering which prep course is best for their needs. All in all, Kaplan gives students access to 17 full-length practice tests.
This is a very respectable number of practice exams and is bested only by the Gold Standard MCAT Prep, which provides 20 tests. While 17 exams doesn’t sound like much, at 7 hours+ per exam, that is a lot of hours spent simulating the real MCAT.
The quality of Kaplan’s MCAT practice tests are above average. They are not so exceptional that I would flag them as a course highlight, but they are more than serviceable and do a fairly nice job of mimicking the real MCAT (just like the Magoosh MCAT practice tests).
It is clear that the questions are expertly written and the practice test platform is very realistic with respect to mirroring the real MCAT. The bottom line is that I had no qualms with the quality or quantity of the Kaplan practice tests.
So if you sign up for the live online option with Kaplan, you get 14 three-hour sessions with a Kaplan instructor.
Kaplan doesn’t say anywhere on their website whether all of their instructors have scored in a certain percentile or better on the MCAT, but my teacher let us know that she had scored in the 94th percentile.
Not that high scores always translate to good teaching, but it was nice to know nonetheless.
Our instructor followed the Kaplan curriculum to a “T”, never deviating from the script, except to provide some quick side tips and insights not found in the lesson book. These were always super helpful and I was sure to note them on a separate pad of paper.
I’ve reviewed a number of MCAT courses at this point, and I would say on the whole that the Kaplan instructor generally stuck to the script more and offered less “side” notes than other MCAT classes (such as Prep101). But this also kept things streamlined in class.
She was very serious about MCAT prep and staying on pace with our course; however, she also had a dry sense of humor and did a fairly good job keeping the material light. The MCAT is content heavy and it’s hard to keep people focused, so you need that lighthearted element from time to time.
After most class sessions, I left with my brain feeling like oatmeal. Kaplan throws a ton of material at you in three hours and you are expected to stay engaged and soak it all in. It can be tough at times, but I definitely felt like I was getting money’s worth out of every three-hour session.
Like most everything else Kaplan does, they did their online content portal the right way. Kaplan’s online platform has a great layout and some of the best functionality I have seen, rivaled only by Princeton Review.
The dashboard is clean and simple, yet very professional. Down the left hand side, you will see the main sections of online content: My Schedule, Activity Library, Qbank, Performance, History, and Flashcards.
This layout makes the portal incredibly easy to navigate and I never had any issues. In addition, the drill-down method of locating lessons, quizzes and the like is very intuitive.
Overall, Ireally like the user interface and experience of the Kaplan online platform.
Kaplan 1-on-1 MCAT Tutoring
If you are struggling with a few particular topics and need some specialized attention to get a quick score boost in those areas, private tutoring may be a consideration. For those students who need it, Kaplan does offer private 1-on-1 tutoring packages.
These packages are not cheap, but do include access to the Kaplan On Demand Course – so if you’re thinking about tutoring at the outset, factor in that you would get all of the On Demand Course access and materials with such a purchase.
The Kaplan packages provide 10, 20, 30, or 40 hours of private tutoring. They range in price from around $3,300 for the 10-hour course up to $6,000+ or so for the 40-hour course. You can do the math to see that those rates are not cheap. But just keep in mind that its not just tutoring you getting – it’s also the on-demand course access.
While I didn’t personally use Kaplan’s tutoring services, I would imagine that they would be quite strong. Their instructors are generally regarded as some of the best MCAT experts around.
I would fully expect them to be more than serviceable as private tutors. If you’re looking for tutoring from a separate source, I would note that I have used Blueprint MCAT’s private tutoring services previously, and found that program to be exceptional.
Content Access Period
With the purchase of a Kaplan MCAT course, you will get 6 months of access to their online content. For most students this will be plenty of time to accomplish their MCAT prep, but for some, 6 months may be pushing it. The AAMC recommends 300 to 350 hours of study time prior to sitting for the MCAT.
As such, if you’ve got a busy life and need to study around work and school, that 300 or so hours could take you 6+ months.
If that’s the case, you may need to think hard about the Kaplan access period. For others, 6 months should be just fine. Keep in mind, you can always lengthen your content access period with Kaplan for an additional fee.
Does Kaplan Have A Mobile App For MCAT Prep?
The short answer is yes, though its value is dubious. Kaplan does offer a mobile app for MCAT study; however, it contains only 1,000 study flashcards. While other test prep providers such as Magoosh offer mobile apps that connect with your online account and provide access to your core study materials, the Kaplan app simply provides an ancillary study resource.
With that said, the Kaplan flashcards on the app are pretty good, covering a wide range of MCAT topics. You also get access to a performance tracker through the app, so you can measure your progress and overall stats to see where you need help.
For quick hit, on-the-go studying, the Kaplan mobile app has some value, but apart from that, I don’t see it as a main study resource.
Recently, the company also added a virtual reality study app as well covering over 1,000 science topics. You’ll need a Meta Quest 2 headset though for this app. 👎
Kaplan Higher Score Guarantee
As some of you may have noticed plastered all over their website, Kaplan does provide a higher score guarantee.
If your MCAT score doesn’t improve after having used the Kaplan prep course, they will give you 100% of your money back, or let you retake their course. There are some requirements around this promise that must be met, but if you qualify, this is a really nice safety net to have.
Kaplan Refund Policy
If you’re not totally satisfied with the Kaplan MCAT course or just change your mind in the first 3 days after purchasing, Kaplan will give you 100% of your tuition back. And if you change your mind in the 4-7 post-purchase day range, they will give you 75% of purchase price back. In either case, that refund does not include the cost of shipping the hard copy books to you (which you must return).
This is a fairly generous policy and offers students a nice cool-off period after making such a large purchase. Note though that these policies do not generally apply to the Bootcamp program.
Verdict: Kaplan MCAT Prep Course Review
The Kaplan MCAT course is an all-around, rock-solid prep package in my opinion. It gives you everything you need to prep for the MCAT. Now, it is a little pricey when standing up against other prep options, but the quality and quantity of study material you get with Kaplan cannot be disputed.
The video lessons are incredibly strong, the live classes are effectively and efficiently packed with high-yield subject matter, and you get access to a ton of great practice materials. Plus, the course structure is very easy to follow and logical.
My main two negatives with the Kaplan course center around the brevity of the practice problem explanations and the lack of usefulness of their mobile app; but I feel that these two main complaints are far outweighed by the otherwise stellar study resources.
Bottom line, if you’re looking for a tried and true, results-driven prep course that you know you can rely on to get you fully prepped for the MCAT, I think Kaplan is a great selection. I was a big fan.
The Kaplan MCAT prep options range in price from about $2,000 on the inexpensive end for their self-paced program, all the way up to around $7,000 for their intensive, 5-week bootcamp course.
How many total hours of study material do I get with Kaplan?
All of Kaplan’s MCAT guided instruction, book work, practice material and resources total up to over 700 hours of prep time. Given that the AAMC recommends 300 to 350 hours of study time before taking the MCAT, this is more than double the recommended amount of prep.
Will the Kaplan MCAT prep course raise my score?
Taking the Kaplan MCAT prep course will very likely boost your score. Compared to self-studying, the level of practice material and resources you will get with Kaplan will almost certainly have a positive effect on your overall MCAT score.