Kaplan is one of the oldest and most reputable organizations in the test prep industry. For decades, they’ve provided tutoring and test preparation services that help students further their academic goals; millions around the world use these services today. They’re one of only a few long-standing giants of test preparation, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been too settled down to innovate and evolve. Kaplan is both a well-established business and a cutting-edge industry leader, and these qualities are the foundation of every test prep service they provide, including their SAT prep courses.
The SAT prep classes and products that Kaplan sells feature a trove of test strategies and concept explanations, invaluable practice tests that simulate the SAT, customizable quizzes with thorough score reports, and plenty of other features that reaffirm Kaplan’s place as a premiere company. These features don’t just serve to make Kaplan look good, obviously—instead, Kaplan’s SAT offerings all come together to fulfill a specific goal: to give students a wealth of affordable course options and distinct features so they can pick an ideal solution for their SAT needs.
While other, newer companies may stick to one or two course styles, Kaplan has courses in every format imaginable, using multiple schedules and resource types to give students options. There are certain desirable features that Kaplan doesn’t provide, such as a top-tier score guarantee and lengthy course access periods, but these features are wants more than they are needs. In Kaplan’s eyes, what students need when it comes to SAT prep is accessible, high-quality instruction that’s guaranteed to bring results; this, they provide.
If you’re interested in seeing how Kaplan compares to other major SAT prep courses in more detail, you should definitely see our list of the Best SAT Prep Courses of 2020.
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. Course Variety
Today’s test prep courses come in a variety of formats. There are the more traditional in person classes, and then there are various online SAT prep courses, which can be self-paced by the student or conducted through live online class sessions. Smaller, newer prep companies often sell more self-paced online test preparation because it’s easier to create content that others access at their own leisure than it is to hire an expert instructor to teach content in real time. Instead, Kaplan has enough resources to offer all types of SAT prep instruction: students can take their On Demand (self-paced) course, their Live Online course, an In Person course, or even purchase an Unlimited Prep option that includes all the content of the On Demand and Live Online classes. There’s also Kaplan’s SAT Tutoring option—the priciest of all their SAT prep products—which is perfect for those who need intensive 1-on-1 instruction as they study for the exam.
The wide selection of options doesn’t end there. Their Live Online package includes three different course schedules, so students can choose a course that matches their ideal studying timeline. With Kaplan’s Live Online SAT prep, students can take 1, 2, or 4 classes a week, which make the course last for 2 months, 1 month, or 2 weeks, respectively. If none of those schedules work, students can always take the On Demand SAT prep course, a budget-friendly package with lessons that are designed to be tackled in as few as 30 minutes of work each day. Schedule variety like this allows you to prepare for, and take, the SAT according to your timeline—you won’t have to register for the SAT on an undesirable date because your prep course only takes place at a certain time of year. If you want to see how Kaplan’s multiple schedules can benefit you when it comes to actually registering for the SAT, check out our page on SAT registration.
Most of the SAT prep courses that Kaplan offers—Live Online, In Person, & Unlimited Prep—comes in a ‘Plus’ version as well. With the plus version of each course, students can get top-of-the-line features like private tutoring options, extra Math instruction, or even a full suite of ACT prep resources.
In the past, Kaplan has been known for having high prices when compared to other SAT prep courses. In recent years, though, they’ve cut prices down while maintaining their signature quality, and they now offer their SAT prep courses for far less than what their competitors charge. Their On Demand course is currently listed at $149.
If you take a look at our list of the Top 7 SAT Prep Courses, you’ll find that 5 out of those 7 courses are well-over Kaplan’s $149 price, the most expensive coming in at more than 3x that number: $499.
Even Kaplan’s Live Online course—a great balance between having personal instruction and convenience—comes in at $499, hundreds less than comparable SAT prep courses which cost $799 or even $899. Though this hasn’t always been the case, you’re not only getting quality SAT prep instruction when you go with Kaplan—you’re getting a bargain.
One of Kaplan’s most prized test prep features is their Qbank, their specially-designed customizable quiz system. Other SAT test prep courses feature quiz banks, but Qbank’s level of customizability and the detailed insight it provides are truly unmatched. Qbank holds thousands of SAT prep questions designed by Kaplan’s expert instructors. Students taking their SAT courses online can then use those questions in any way they like to create custom quizzes, so you’re only taking quizzes that test your skill in the areas you need to practice.
Once a student completes their Qbank quiz, they’ll receive a detailed score report that reveals how they did on the quiz overall, which questions they took too much time on, and even which questions were switched from right to wrong answers (and vice versa, if you’re lucky).
4. Realistic Practice Tests
For high school students, the SAT can be a stressful task, to say the least. When nerves enter the picture, getting familiar with what’ll happen on test day can be the difference between success and failure for even the most talented test-takers. Kaplan understands that taking a test like the SAT is just as much about managing your test strategies as it is about knowing academic content, so they incorporate high-fidelity practice tests into each of their SAT prep courses. For example, students who take the On Demand course (again, their cheapest SAT package) will take up to 3 timed practice tests, guided along by a video that features realistic SAT proctoring.
Kaplan’s practice test questions are modeled after sample SAT exams provided by the College Board. Their tests even include essay prompts that students can use to hone in their writing abilities, and students’ essay responses are then graded by Kaplan’s very own SAT experts. If you take any of Kaplan’s more expensive courses, you’ll have access to far more than just 3 practice tests. With their Life Online courses, for example, you can take as many as 8, if you really feel the need! Their practice tests are designed to emulate the real SAT, which has a fairly complex scoring system and structure (if you’re interested in learning more about the details of the SAT, check out our SAT scoring article). With realistic proctoring videos and personally-reviewed essay responses, students who take Kaplan’s practice tests will certainly have a leg up when test-day finally comes around.
With all of their courses, Kaplan SAT prep provides students with some of their top-notch reading material. For a long time, massive books were the only way that students could prepare for complicated tests like the SAT without taking some expensive, far-away, in person class. Kaplan was one of the kings of test prep books in their hayday, but even though much of the test prep industry has moved online, they’re still providing students with all the quality reading material they could need.
Students who purchase Kaplan’s Tutoring, Live Online & Unlimited Prep SAT courses will receive Kaplan’s SAT prep books as supplementary material, but each course includes a different book package. The Unlimited Prep option, for instance, comes with a series of 4 books, while the Live Online prep package comes with less.
It’s important to note that even though Kaplan has some of the best SAT prep books on the market, these books are not nearly as effective as a full SAT prep course would be for most students, so don’t think that buying a book on its own will be the best way to improve your SAT score. Instead, consider these books as valuable complementary content for Kaplan’s other instructional material. If you ever have trouble understanding one of their videos, there will always be a thorough text explanation that might read a bit more clearly.
6. More Access to Expert Instructors
There are plenty of courses out there that boast expert-level instructors for their standardized test prep services. However, even though those instructors are on a company’s payroll, actually getting 1-on-1 access to them isn’t all that common, despite how beneficial that access can be for most students. Kaplan makes reaching your SAT instructors more attainable in their courses, particularly through their ‘Plus’ packages.
For their Live Online Plus package, students get 3 hours of 1-on-1 tutoring from one of their Kaplan SAT instructors—those who buy an Unlimited Prep Plus package get 4 whole hours! Still, students don’t need a Plus package to get more access to Kaplan’s instructors than most other companies will provide. With Kaplan’s standard Live Online package, for instance, students that are in a live class session will have access to no fewer than 3(!) instructors at any given time. One instructor teaches the class, another instructor proctors the class’s group chat, and a third instructor will always be available for 1-on-1 live chat support for students who have questions.
1. Not the Best Score Guarantee
Kaplan, like many top SAT prep courses today, includes a score improvement guarantee with their class packages. However, even though this Higher Score Guarantee might be a lifesaver for some students, there are other courses out there that have better, more specific conditions for their guarantees.
Test prep score guarantees require that you take your exam (the SAT or PSAT, in this case) before you take the course you’ve purchased. Then, after you’ve taken the course, if you don’t reach a certain score increase when compared to your previous test attempt, you can retake the course for free or even get a full refund. Many companies offer specific numbers for your promised score improvement (+100 points, +150 points, etc.) but Kaplan’s guarantee is only a ‘higher score guarantee.’
This means that even if you only score a single point higher than you did on a previous attempt, you are no longer eligible for a guarantee.
In our eyes, this isn’t a dealbreaker. Many companies offer similar higher score guarantees for their cheaper courses, but also include more enticing guarantees with their premium course packages. You can see how Kaplan’s guarantee stacks up against its competitors here:
Although these guarantees can give you some peace of mind, they aren’t used all that often, as it’s very rare that a student completes a course like Kaplan’s and doesn’t score at least somewhat better after the class. Even then, some companies don’t include any such guarantee with their courses, so although Kaplan’s could be more robust, it’s certainly better than nothing.
If you’re really looking for the best score guarantee out there, it’s clear that you should go with Magoosh SAT, Prep Expert SAT, or The Princeton Review SAT. Although these score guarantees do give you some peace of mind, they aren’t used all that often, as it’s very rare that a student completes a course like Kaplan’s and doesn’t score at least somewhat better after the class. Plus, some companies don’t include any such guarantee with their courses, so although Kaplan’s could be more robust, it’s definitely better than nothing.
2. Short Access Period
Many students today have incredibly packed, complicated schedules that make them more interested in self-paced online courses like Kaplan’s On Demand SAT prep course. Some courses offer long access periods for their self-paced courses, which allow students with even the busiest of schedules plenty of time to take on the course bit-by-bit, or to start studying intensively whenever their calendar opens up.
When compared to other some companies’ year-long or lifetime-long access periods, Kaplan’s 6-month access period for their On Demand course isn’t as impressive. Still, 6 months should be plenty of time for students to prepare for their SAT attempt. In fact, we advise that students take around 3 months to study for the SAT, so Kaplan provides more than enough time by that standard. Plus, if the 6 month period is clearly not enough, students who ask Kaplan to extend their course access within 90 days of the end of their class can get 12 additional weeks to use Kaplan’s materials.
Kaplan has been one of the biggest names in test prep for decades, and that reputation is well-deserved. Their materials effectively explain both test strategies and complex academic concepts, and thanks to their resources and industry expertise, they can provide those resources through several course packages so everyone can find a Kaplan SAT course that suits them perfectly.
There are few cons to Kaplan’s SAT prep products, and they’re not dealbreakers in any sense of the term. Top-of-the-line features like their innovative Qbank and realistic practice tests are excellent evidence that they’re keeping their place at the forefront of the test prep industry, where they’ve been for some time. If you’re unsure if Kaplan fits your needs
If you’re unsure whether Kaplan is the best SAT prep course for you, make sure to check out of Top 7 Best SAT Prep Courses comparison and see how they stack up against the competition.