Updated July 21, 2020
If you’re practicing English as a foreign language, there’s a chance that you’ve run into an unexpected bump on the road to your academic or career goals: how do you prove that you know the language well enough to succeed? Employers and admissions offices may have asked you to take a standardized test, such as the IELTS or TOEFL exams (though they accomplish a similar goal, there are differences between the two). These tests work to prove your proficiency with English, but navigating your way through their structure and requirements can be difficult without some sort of guidance. That’s where companies like Kaplan come in.
Kaplan is one of the largest and oldest test prep companies in the business, and their IELTS courses are top-of-the line options that live up to the name Kaplan has created for themselves. With these courses, Kaplan has a specific goal: to provide students with a large number of premium, modern test prep features for a competitive price. In our eyes, they accomplish this through resources like their flashcard deck, quality videos, and more.
Below, we look at how Kaplan’s IELTS courses incorporate those unique resources and strategies to help you score high on the IELTS, as well as some of the downsides you might find when choosing one of their courses. If you finish our review and decide that Kaplan isn’t the course for you, you should head to our comparison page of the Top IELTS Prep Courses of 2020—we’re sure you’ll find something that works for you there.
Please note Kaplan is one of our affiliate brands, and as such we receive a small commission at no cost to you if you choose to purchase this prep course. Only use our links if you find this review helpful.
1. New IELTS Vocab Flashcards
For their IELTS courses, Kaplan has introduced a brand new interactive flashcard feature to help you with your English vocabulary. There are 200 flashcards in total for you to practice, which span a broad range of categories: from crime and justice to nature and the environment. New flashcards are introduced per topic each day, so you won’t feel like you’re going over the same stuff over and over again (at least for a little while.)
After you see a flashcard, you’ll select whether it was easy, not too hard, or whether you’d like to practice it again. Your answer determines when you’ll see that card again as you proceed through the flashcard deck. Then, your answers are recorded by your course dashboard, which presents them as an easy-to-read report that shows your overall progress through the deck.
2. Smart Reports Technology
Part of making progress is just keeping yourself aware—you’ve got to know where you’ve come from, where you want to go, and what pitfalls you want to avoid. Kaplan makes keeping track of things and making progress easy with their Smart Reports technology. After each of your full-length IELTS practice tests, you’ll see a section-by-section report that shows you exactly how you did on the test, using graphs and charts. With their report, you’ll see not only which sections (reading, speaking, listening, or writing) you need to work on, but which types of questions you struggle with the most (Matching, True/False/Not Given, etc.). The structure of the IELTS exam is pretty detailed, but Kaplan makes their score report just as detailed, so you can see exactly what types of questions and concepts you need to study, can concentrate your efforts on those areas, and can make real progress.
3. Live Online Option
Studying any subject online without personal guidance can be hard for some students, but studying a language can be especially hard because interacting with native speakers is what helps you learn fastest. Unlike most of its competitors, Kaplan offers a live online version of their IELTS course. With this version of their course, you get all the same material as the self-paced course—so you can watch videos, use flashcards, and take practice tests—but you also get to participate in live-streamed class sessions led by a top-level English instructor.
This feature will be incredibly helpful for those that want to hone in their conversational skills for the speaking section of the IELTS. You’ll get to discuss ideas using the exact techniques and standards that the IELTS section requires, giving you more real-life speaking experience than you’d get with a self-paced program.
4. Mobile Compatible
Most students taking the IELTS exam aren’t going to be studying full-time; you’ll have plenty of other things on your plate. Having a busy schedule makes studying on-the-go a great feature to have, and Kaplan’s IELTS course delivers. Their course is fully compatible with your mobile phone, making it easy for you to log in, watch videos, use flashcards, and see your Kaplan score reports wherever is most comfortable for you!
Taking one of their practice IELTS exams still requires using a pencil and paper to record your answers before you enter them into an online grid, so that might be easier for you on a larger device. Other than that, every feature of your Kaplan IELTS course is available to you no matter where you are.
5. Quality Video Material
Most of the major IELTS courses offer video material with their self-paced packages, but Kaplan’s video content is particularly polished and effective, and they’ve got a lot of it. They include over 140 on-demand videos for you to review (18 hours of footage), each taught by expert instructors. Kaplan created their IELTS course in collaboration with Cambridge University (one of the top higher education institutions in England, and in the world, for that matter), who helped design and produce a lot of the course’s content. With Kaplan’s large IELTS video selection, you know that you’re getting instruction from some of the most experienced teachers out there.
6. Writing Review
The IELTS test has a writing section that some students may find particularly challenging, but it’s difficult to grade writing samples with an online course, so a lot of IELTS courses don’t include quality writing review as a standard course feature. Out of all the best IELTS courses, Kaplan is one of only two to offer writing reviews with their cheapest course option (the other is BestMyTest IELTS).
A course may advertise that they provide comprehensive prep for the IELTS test, but if it doesn’t include a detailed writing review, it won’t truly prepare for you for everything you’ll see on test-day (and on your score report). But, with Kaplan, you’ll get a detailed writing response after all 4 of the practice IELTS tests you’ll take even if you’re taking their cheapest IELTS program—not all courses can say that.
1. No Guarantees, No Refunds
Many test prep companies offer a score improvement guarantee for their courses, which give students great peace of mind. With these guarantees, if you’ve taken the IELTS already and don’t get a higher score after taking the course, you can get all your money back or even retake the course entirely. Kaplan offers a higher score guarantee with most of their test prep courses, but their IELTS course is an exception.
Their IELTS website indicates that they have a strict no refunds, no guarantee policy—once you’ve used any portion of the IELTS course, they won’t provide you a refund in any circumstance. It’s worth noting that the score guarantees we mentioned aren’t used all that often, because most courses do increase students’ scores, but this policy is still one thing to keep in mind as you look for the best IELTS course for you.
Although Kaplan’s self-paced online course is on the pricier side, it isn’t much more expensive than the rest of the top IELTS courses we’ve reviewed. Their IELTS Live Online Preparation Course, on the other hand, is the most expensive package of any IELTS course we’ve seen, costing $190. As we see it, there are other IELTS courses that can give you fantastic instruction for a much lower price, such as those from BestMyTest and Magoosh.
With Magoosh’s IELTS online prep, for example, you’ll get 6 months of instruction and a +0.5 band score improvement guarantee, all for only $79—in our eyes, this is the best value you’ll find of any IELTS prep course. Though Kaplan’s live online IELTS option may provide you with synchronous classes, we think other courses provide you with a better overall instructional value.
When compared to other IELTS courses, Kaplan’s classes are on the pricier side and don’t include a guarantee. Still, their top-notch course features can provide students with a great learning experience as they study for the IELTS exam. You can study on-the-go, practice with their new flashcards feature, receive detailed writing feedback, and see a Smart Report analysis for each practice IELTS exam that you take. In general, other courses just don’t offer that amount of resources. If you’re looking for quality, easy-to-use IELTS study resources at a competitive price point, Kaplan IELTS may be the course for you.
If Kaplan’s IELTS class doesn’t seem to be exactly what you need, there are plenty of other options that may be better suited for you! Check out our comparison of all the best IELTS prep courses, where you can see the unique features, prices, and formats offered by each, and choose which one works best for your specific needs.