ValerOn1820 wrote:guys, what do you think about Illinois: Kaplan has today an impressive discount, total will be somewhere at 2k.
I took and passed Illinois with Kaplan, but I think I would have passed using any well-structured commercial prep program (i.e. not self-study). Not sure about how well I did because IL doesn't release scores to those who pass. Overall I was unimpressed with the quality of the Kaplan materials but I think that they are sufficient. I would probably do Kaplan if my firm wasn't paying but BarBri if they were.
First issue is clearly price. I paid $1,320+return shipping for books for Kaplan, no negotiation necessary I just responded to a promotional e-mail received through my school's list serve (sent in Feb of same year as exam). BarBri in IL was $3,900+ at rack rates and I was never offered a discount so I never bothered. Lots of points to Kaplan for being significantly cheaper and very low-hassle.
I did the completely online Kaplan course. The lectures all look like they were recorded in a 1980's public access cable channel basement, but they do the job. Some of the materials were clearly a few years old but it seemed like they updated when they needed to.
I watched every lecture video that they offered because I found it easier to absorb the info that way than to read the materials. The quality of the lecturers varies a lot but I found they ranged from terrible (Fed. CivPro was awful) to really good. Kaplan offers the ability to watch or listen to lectures at 1.5x speed, but I really wished they would have offered the ability to do 2x like BarBri does. The website design is clunky, old, and at times unaccessible (getting error messages is really annoying) but you can deal with it. The IPad/Iphone app is really nice but it was brand new and still had some bugs when they rolled it out mid-way through this summer. At the time I used it there was no Android version of the app which was kind of unfortunate.
The service component of of the bar prep was probably the worst. The essay grading was truly awful and unhelpful. The graders only checked your answer against a model prepared by Kaplan that was clearly only a sample and not complete or even entirely accurate. Someone else claimed that Kaplan used model answers from the board of bar examiners as their "model" or template, which seems awful and lazy of them and would lead to the results I experienced. I never independently verified that claim though. All of the essay prompts do come from prior exams though, so the content of the practice essays seems to not entirely line up with recent trends in tested subjects. To make things worse it took forever for Kaplan to grade the essays you submitted, particularly the mid and final practice exams. I felt very much on my own in preparing for essays. This was the worst part of the course.
A few times I wrote to the Kaplan administrators for IL and asked or complained about content that seemed wrong or inconsistent. These e-mails didn't get properly followed up on and no one seemed to care that their materials were inaccurate or inconsistent. This was really disheartening and would deter me from buying the service if the price weren't so much better than BarBri.
In contrast to essays and customer service, I found that the "ask an expert" function was very helpful the few times I used it.
The MBE Q-bank was probably the best feature of the prep. It has around 2,200 available questions and they are very helpful in both learning how to approach MBE questions, but also in learning the parts of the law that you didn't get in the lectures. I did a lot of MBE questions and I think it probably saved me if my essays were as crappy as Kaplan thought they were.
Overall I think when you're selling a preparation product it should be accurate, but Kaplan doesn't seem overly concerned with accuracy. They get 95% of the law right, which is probably fine for you to pass the bar, but I lost a measure of confidence in them after their unsympathetic response to complaints.
I really hated bar prep and didn't really want to talk about it with friends doing BarBri in my time off from studying. I don't know whether BarBri has similar issues, but based on their reputation they probably have far fewer errors in their materials. I would probably choose BarBri if I had to do it over again and knew my firm would reimburse me for whatever course I chose. Otherwise I think the annoyances are probably worth $2,600+.
I might consider Themis at $1,695 too, but i didn't know much about them and figured at the time I bought that Kaplan was at least as good based on name recognition/reputation.