Review of Kaplan's SAT Classroom Prep Course

Learn About One of Kaplan's Most Popular SAT Prep Courses

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Kaplan has long been a leader in the test preparation industry, and the company's online delivery system makes courses convenient and accessible. In the spring of 2012, I was able to eavesdrop on and interview a high school junior who was taking Kaplan's SAT Classroom course. The review below is based on both my own and the student's impressions of the course.

What You Get for Your Money

At $749, Kaplan's SAT Classroom package isn't cheap. However, students do get quite a bit for the investment (note that some of the details have changed slightly since 2012--Kaplan is constantly updating and evolving their products):

  • An orientation session to get enrolled students logged into the system and to introduce them to the software, instructor, and teaching assistants
  • 6 live, online 3-hour classroom sessions. These sessions include live streaming video of your instructor, an online whiteboard for problem solving, a chat area supported by the teaching assistants, and frequent student polling.
  • 8 full-length practice tests with score analysis
  • Timed practice exams with detailed review and explanation of answers
  • Access to "The SAT Channel" that includes live streaming videos and interactive prep with Kaplan's instructors. Kaplan notes that they "offer more hours of live instruction than any major prep provider."
  • Kaplan's Higher Score Guarantee. Kaplan's guarantee is two-fold. If your SAT scores do not go up, you can get your money back. If your scores don't go up as much as you had hoped, you can repeat the course for free.

The Class Schedule

The student I observed took SAT Classroom over three weeks from February 14th to March 8th.

The class met Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sundays from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (a bit longer for the proctored exams). That's a total of 11 class meetings -- the orientation session, the six three-hour classes, and the four proctored exams.

Kaplan has a lot of options that work with different student schedules. You can choose from classes that meet one, two, three or four times a week. Some options are during weekdays only while others are just on the weekends. Kaplan times the classes to end right before an SAT test date. Note that the class does have homework, so the more compressed class schedules can be very demanding on a student's time (before each classroom session, students must take quizzes on what they have learned and watch videos on what they will cover in the next class).

The class I observed looked like this (again, the exact class content has changed since 2012, especially with the new SAT, but this overview should give a good sense of what a course might look like):

  • Session 1: Orientation. Meet your teacher, teaching assistants, and learn about the tools.
  • Session 2: Proctored full-length SAT used to establish your strengths and weaknesses
  • Session 3: Classroom session. Sample problems and an introduction to Kaplan strategies.
  • Session 4: Classroom session. Critical Reading.
  • Session 5: Proctored full-length SAT.
  • Session 6: Classroom session. Math.
  • Session 7: Classroom session. Writing.
  • Session 8: Proctored full-length SAT.
  • Session 9: Classroom session. Math.
  • Session 10: Proctored full-length SAT
  • Session 11: Classroom session. Vocabulary; Final test-taking tips.

Student Feedback

After the course was over, the student I observed wrote up some feedback on his experience with SAT Complete Prep. Here are the highlights:

Pros

  • "Great techniques"
  • "Smart Track is a great place to check performance and do homework"
  • "Teacher is very likable and you feel as though she really does care about how you do" (I'll second this -- Katie was an excellent and personable online instructor)
  • "The classroom is well designed"
  • "Practice tests are great and help to show you that these techniques are useful"
  • "With the proctoring, you feel as though you are truly taking the SAT"
  • "Course book is well thought out and good to look back on to review strategies"

Cons

  • "Homework does take a minimum of 3 hours which can be a problem with other homework from school"
  • "Smart Track is great but navigation takes a little getting used to"
  • "Some classes you only get about 10 sample problems done within three hours"

The student noted that he would recommend the course to a friend.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

I was more impressed with this course than I thought I would be. As a professor who likes a physical classroom and interacting with my students face-to-face, I've always been resistant to online learning. Seeing the class in action, however, made me reconsider that position. Since the class had a teacher and two TAs, multiple students could be getting individualized help simultaneously -- something that can't happen very easily in a physical classroom. Also, Katie was an engaging and interactive instructor, and the video/chat/whiteboard classroom space was pleasingly effective.

I'm also someone who is skeptical about the need for spending hundreds of dollars on test prep, and I still believe it is not necessary. You can spend $20 on a book and teach yourself quite effectively, including Kaplan's test-taking strategies. That said, the $749 price tag isn't bad for the number of instructional hours and the level of personalized feedback you'll receive. So if the price doesn't create hardship for you, the course provides excellent instruction and feedback.

Perhaps more important, it provides a concrete structure and study plan. Many students aren't disciplined enough to put in a sustained and focused effort when they go the self-taught route.

As with any class, there were moments that dragged as the instructor and TAs helped students who were struggling with a particular concept. The students who aren't struggling end up waiting around at these moments. Of course, the only way to avoid this issue is to get individual tutoring, and then you'll see the price tag go way up.

The student I observed saw his scores in the practice tests go up 230 points from the beginning of the course to the end. His confidence and test-taking skills certainly improved. When he retook the actual SAT at the end of the course, however, the improvement wasn't as remarkable: a 60 point gain (still much better than the 30 point gain that some studies show as the average for SAT test prep courses).

Overall, I feel SAT Classroom is an excellent product. I'm not thrilled that the college admissions process tends to place so much weight on a single exam that courses like this are necessary, but the reality is what it is, and this course can truly help students earn the scores that will help them get into a selective college.

Learn more about the course features and scheduling options on the Kaplan website: SAT Classroom

What SAT Scores Will You Need?

To know what SAT scores you're likely to need for your dream college, these articles can help guide you:

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Grove, Allen. "Review of Kaplan's SAT Classroom Prep Course." ThoughtCo, Feb. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/kaplan-sat-prep-review-788587. Grove, Allen. (2017, February 28). Review of Kaplan's SAT Classroom Prep Course. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/kaplan-sat-prep-review-788587 Grove, Allen. "Review of Kaplan's SAT Classroom Prep Course." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/kaplan-sat-prep-review-788587 (accessed November 19, 2017).