Kaplan is a very popular study option for the MCAT. No surprise there, they are one of the giants in 3rd party test prep and their MCAT content material is solid.
But what about their MCAT practice tests?
Are they accurate to the actual exam? Are they more difficult? Are the scores you get representative of what you will get on the MCAT?
These are important questions because at the end of the day we want to make sure we are studying the right material and taking the right practice tests.
Let’s dive deep into answering these questions so that you can decide how you want to proceed with your MCAT studying.
Are Kaplan’s MCAT Practice Tests Harder Than The Actual MCAT?
Most premed students agree that Kaplan’s MCAT practice tests are much harder than the actual MCAT. So much so that it often leads to overthinking and questioning one’s abilities.
There are two factors that make these exams difficult:
- Lots of recall-type questions: These are questions that require you to remember something from your studies with no clues in the passage. These types of questions are found on the real MCAT but not nearly as much.
- Very detail-oriented: Not only are they asking you a lot of recall-type questions, but they are also asking about rather minute details from your studies.
Are overly difficult MCAT practice tests a problem? On the one hand yes, they can discourage students. This can lead to pushing back the MCAT unnecessarily or giving up completely. Negative thoughts are never good in the premed world.
But on the other hand, they can challenge your content understanding leading to more thorough studying. You just need to make sure you don’t fall into the trap of overstudying for the MCAT.
The key is to understand that Kaplan’s tests are significantly harder than the actual MCAT exam and you should not be discouraged by a lower score.
Was Your Actual MCAT Score Higher, Similar, Or Lower Than Your Kaplan Test scores? (Survey)
We surveyed 13 students who used Kaplan to study for the MCAT and the answers were unanimous. They all scored better on the actual MCAT than on their Kaplan practice tests.
Every student was able to tell us how many points they scored higher on the real MCAT. We took the average of all 13 and found that the average student scored 8.25 points higher on the actual MCAT than on their final Kaplan practice test.
Can you guarantee that you will do this much better? No. There are other factors at play such as:
- Some students switched to taking the official AAMC practice tests after taking Kaplan’s exams.
- Some students pushed back their test dates.
- Some students suffer more from test anxiety than others.
But it is safe to say that you should perform better on the actual MCAT than you did on Kaplans.
Personally, I took some of Kaplan’s practice tests and I can confidently say that I did much better on the real deal.
How Accurate Are Kaplan’s Practice MCAT Tests?
Much like The Princeton Review MCAT practice tests, Kaplan tends to focus a lot on recall and minute details.
With the actual MCAT, there is a lot more focus on taking information from the passages and using reason with an understanding of the science to answer the questions. Sure you need to be able to recall some facts and equations, but it is not as much as you would think.
Just a quick side note, if you don’t like memorizing things like me that’s completely fine. But I can’t stress it enough, you need to memorize the Amino Acids' names, groups, and structure. You will end up with questions that require you know this information.
To summarize, Kaplan is not the most accurate MCAT practice test out there. They definitely try and there is value in taking them, but you can’t rely solely on their practice material.
Are Kaplan’s Test Scores Deflated?
Yes, they are. Kaplan’s MCAT exams are more difficult but the scores are also deflated on top of that. Hence the average 8.25 points discrepancy I mentioned above.
However, there is something else we should consider. It is very common for students to first take several 3rd party MCAT practice tests and then switch to the AAMC’s official practice tests closer to the exam.
Therefore, part of this score deflation might be a result of increased practice after having taken the most recent Kaplan 3rd party exam.
We still believe Kaplan’s scores are deflated but not as drastic as it looks on paper.
Which MCAT Practice Exams Are Most Accurate?
If you are feeling unprepared due to low scores on Kaplan’s MCAT practice tests, you will want to consider taking the AAMC’s practice tests.
These exams are much more accurate to the real deal because they are actually made by the creators of the MCAT.
We wrote an entire post on how the AAMC MCAT practice tests compare to the actual MCAT.
Take a couple of AAMC practice tests and see how it compares to your Kaplan MCAT tests. If you see a huge increase in score, it’s because you fell victim to score deflation with Kaplan.
Conclusion: Are Kaplan Practice Tests Good For The MCAT?
Kaplan’s practice MCAT tests are not the best out there. But they’re still good.
The Kaplan team has put a lot of effort into making their MCAT exams as accurate as possible. As a company, they are motivated by your success since their business model relies on their students doing well.
Although they are not the most accurate, they still are good for testing your content understanding. Use Kaplan’s test for that, don’t use it as a metric on how ready you are for the exam.
Take Kaplan’s practice test earlier on to really dive deep into understanding the material. Then you’ll want to take more accurate exams such as AAMC’s practice tests and Blueprint (formally NextStep). This will help you nail down the way the AAMC words things so that you are truly prepared on test day!