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Kaplan MCAT Prep Review
Our in-depth analysis and review of the Kaplan MCAT prep course
For many students, the name Kaplan is near synonymous with the phrase ‘MCAT prep.’ The test prep giant has been helping students prepare for over 80 years and has one of the most comprehensive MCAT prep curriculums on the market. But does a storied history and robust curriculum translate to an effective prep course? We dig in and closely examine the Kaplan MCAT prep course, and all its features, in this detailed review guide.
Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to MCAT prep, Kaplan offers a nice suite of different prep options, all varying in format, content access, and perhaps most importantly, price. Looking at courses alone, Kaplan offers 4 different prep packages for students to choose from:
Tutoring + Online Course
Kaplan’s most affordable prep course option, the DIY Course, will cost you around $1,800. This course is a self-paced, on demand course that allows you to study from anywhere at any time. It is designed for students who require a flexible study schedule and prefer to learn alone. 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 Online Course generally runs for around $2,500 and offers students a set schedule of live online classes. In this course format, you tune in to a regularly scheduled class along with a number other students and watch the instructor give their lesson live. For those students seeking more interpersonal communication and a real group feel, this course will likely suit you best.
If you like the sound of the Online Course, but also want the assurance of some 1-on-1 time with your instructor to address your weak spots and strategize, you can upgrade to the Tutoring + Online Course for about $1,200 more. This guarantees you a block of at least 10 private tutoring hours with one of Kaplan’s MCAT experts.
Finally, for those future med school students 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 everyday lessons 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.
Quality of Lessons and Coursework
At the forefront of most every future med student’s mind when comparing MCAT prep courses is whether they are getting a quality prep package that will get them the score they need. With Kaplan, it is not even a question. Undeniably first-rate, there is a reason for Kaplan’s high price tag.
Kaplan’s MCAT curriculum is all-encompassing and covers everything you need to know in order to fully prepare for the MCAT. Now, the course structure is not designed in a very linear manner, covering different units with smatterings of content reviews. But it’s hard to make coursework for the MCAT sequential given the sheer quantity of different scientific material you must learn. Honestly, it’s just plain difficult to build a course that covers such a wide swath of content and seems like it flows naturally, so I do not fault Kaplan for that. But coursework order aside, the Kaplan curriculum is unquestionably comprehensive and will touch every scientific micro-topic that may appear on the exam.
In considering Kaplan’s online coursework, which serves as the basis of the DIY Course and is accessible by every other course type as well, the curriculum is broken down into units. There are three units in total, with the first two covering substantive content reviews and the third unit being an all-inclusive review and practice test module. The first two units are each divided up across MCAT topic specific sections, such as biology, organic chemistry and physics. From there, the topics are further broken down into subtopics, such as thermodynamics, bonding and chemical interactions, and the endocrine system. It is within each of these subtopic modules that you get the real material, which consists of a mix of interactive video-based lessons, quizzes and book assignments.
The coursework really revolves around the interactive video-based lessons, with the book assignments and quizzes serving to reinforce and build on that material. These video lessons are very high quality and I was personally very impressed with them. Each starts with a nice intro slide and your instructor appearing onscreen introducing themselves and what you will be learning in the session ahead. The video then transitions into the lesson, with a really sharp digital whiteboard presenting the lesson text, instructor notes and various graphics. All along, the instructor verbalizes their lesson over the digital whiteboard.
For visual learners, these 130+ interactive science review video lessons will be absolute money. Every slide in the lesson presentation contains a rich diversity of pictures, graphs, drawings, formulas, and various graphics that make it easy to retain concepts. There is also a short form outline that appears along the left side of most lessons. This allows you to kind of put things in perspective mentally and see how concepts build on each other, and it also tracks exactly where you are in the lesson.
I personally loved the production value and structured feel of these lessons. The quality is very professional, making for a more pleasant learning experience. In addition, because each lesson starts with the same type of intro, even though the content across the units is kind of jumpy, it gives it a structured, well-organized feel.
Additionally, the book assignments and quizzes within each lesson module are very nice complements to the video lessons. The quizzes serve to reinforce the material you learn from the video lessons and book reading assignments, and sometimes even act as diagnostic tools before the material is covered. Between the reading assignments, video-based instruction, and quizzes, the entire online curriculum provides for a formidable prep option.
Beyond the lessons and coursework, Kaplan also gives you access to its adaptive Qbank. This tool allows you to build customized practice problem sets based on question type, timing and number of questions. It contains over 2,900 practice problems and adapts to your skill level, making questions easier or harder depending on your progression. It is a significant value add, as it allows you to zero in on your weaknesses and improve on those topics.
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 the one and only area 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 2,900+ 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.
All in all, Kaplan’s lessons, coursework and practice materials add up to over 700 hours of prep time. Given that the AAMC recommends just 300 to 350 hours of prep time, you should have more than your fill of studying with Kaplan. So if quantity of prep material is one of your MCAT prep concerns, don’t let it be so with Kaplan. You are well covered.
All things considered, 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 it would offer such an extensive and in-depth curriculum. 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 shelf. I was left with very little to gripe about with respect to the MCAT content and coursework.
Kaplan MCAT Prep Books
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 8 hard copy books with the purchase of a prep course. Of these 8 books, 7 are subject specific review books, and 1 is a lesson book.
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. 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. The one lesson book generally tracks with and supplements your coursework. It is a very nice complement to the classwork and provides a slightly different perspective on material through its content.
If you’re big on learning by sitting down with a textbook and just reading, you will love these prep books. I found them to be skillfully 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 16 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 16 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. 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.
For my Kaplan MCAT course, I opted for the in-person format. I am always partial to in-person settings, finding them to be more intimate in nature, which I think in turn allows for greater participation and engagement. But that’s just a personal preference.
In any event, whether you take the in-person class or one of the two live online courses, your curriculum and general course schedule will be the same. You get 12 three-hour sessions with a top tier 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 in formed us that she had scored in the 96th percentile on the exam. Not that high scores always translate to good teaching, but it was nice to know I was getting a master of the MCAT.
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. She was very serious about MCAT prep and staying on pace with our course, but also had a dry sense of humor and did a fairly good job keeping the matter 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 many of the 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.
Dashboard and Interface of Digital Platform
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. Across the top banner you will see the four main sections of online content: Study Plan, Resources Library, MCAT Channel, and Adaptive Qbank.
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. If I have one complaint, it’s that each time you open a lesson, it pops up in a new browser tab. After watching about 10 video lessons, this becomes annoying as your browser gets cluttered and you lose track of which lesson is which if you want to bounce back-and-forth. Apart from that small complaint, I really like the user interface and experience of the Kaplan online platform.
Kaplan MCAT Supplemental Resources
To enhance its already potent core curriculum, Kaplan offers students a number of additional resources to assist in their studies. The best resource (in my humble opinion) is Kaplan’s highly touted MCAT Channel. Through this medium, Kaplan offers students 6 live video lessons each week, as well as 90+ hours of prerecorded video webcasts. Each of these lessons serves to complement the core curriculum and takes a deeper dive into a specific MCAT topic. The thrust of each video is to dig into the nitty gritty of particularly tough subjects and allow students to gain a better understanding of these more complex concepts.
Each MCAT Channel video features a Kaplan instructor live via webcam in the upper corner, with a digital whiteboard taking up the lion’s share of the screen, and live student chat feature along the sidebar. The instructor gives their lesson, making notes on the screen and constantly asking for student feedback and participation. The lesson goes deep into the finer points of the material and challenges students’ understanding of a topic.
I personally really like the MCAT Channel videos, but also recognize that the vast majority of them have limited value for some students. If you are already strong on a certain subject, like electromagnetism for example, watching a one-hour deep dive video on it may not be the best use of your time. But if you need help on that particular topic, these videos can be a blessing. It will really depend topic-to-topic.
In addition to the MCAT Channel, it is also worth noting that Kaplan gives you access to all official AAMC practice materials. Among other things, this includes practice tests, questions and section tests, The AAMC practice materials are of high quality (as they come from the makers of the MCAT) and their value should definitely not be overlooked.
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 DIY self-paced course – so if you’re thinking about tutoring at the outset, factor in that you would get all of the DIY 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 $3,000 for the 10-hour course up to $6,200 or so for the 40-hour course. You can do the math to see that those rates are not inexpensive. 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 5 months of access to their online content. For most students this will be plenty of time to accomplish their MCAT prep, but for some, 5 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, 5 months should be just fine.
Does Kaplan Have a Mobile App?
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 quite 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.
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 that gives you everything you need to fully prepare for the MCAT. 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 through the online platform are top notch, the live classes are effectively packed with high yield subject matter, and you get access to a ton of great practice materials. In total, all of the instruction, book work and practice add up to over 700 hours of prep time.
My only 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 complaints are far outweighed by the otherwise stellar study resources. 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.
How much does the Kaplan MCAT course cost?
The Kaplan MCAT prep options range in price from about $1,800 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.