The TOEFL exam may seem like a daunting task, as many non-native English speakers have to pass the exam in order to begin their career or schooling in an English-speaking country. If the test is stressing you out, you may have considered a couple options already: you could take the IELTS exam instead of TOEFL, a similar standardized test that may suit your needs, or maybe you could go with a TOEFL prep course. But if you want to go with a prep course, how do you choose which one?
Kaplan is one of the biggest names in test prep worldwide—they’re an international company based in the United States, and as such, they have plenty of experience preparing students from around the world for American tests like the TOEFL exam.
Some companies prioritize making their TOEFL prep affordable, while others may value having various course schedules for students. When it comes to their TOEFL prep course, Kaplan, too, has a specific goal: to provide students with a high amount of premium TOEFL prep material that’s guaranteed to improve your scoring potential. Below, we dive into the details of what makes Kaplan TOEFL a unique product, one that might be the best TOEFL course option for you. If you read through Kaplan’s course features and feel that another course might suit you better, head over to our comparison page for all the best TOEFL prep courses—you’ll find something that fits you perfectly.
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. Practice Tests
Before jumping into a prep course, you might want to look into how the TOEFL exam is scored; it has a pretty complicated structure made of several sections that incorporate listening, reading, and writing responses. That’s what makes practice tests an essential part of any quality TOEFL prep course—you can’t just familiarize yourself with English, you have to get a feel for the test itself. To help you accomplish that goal, Kaplan offers 4 full-length TOEFL tests that include each section of the exam, an above-average amount. That way, you won’t find yourself caught off guard by the TOEFL’s structure and sections when you take the TOEFL test.
2. Higher Score Guarantee
If you’re taking a prep class, it may be because you took the test already but didn’t get the score you needed. Lucky for you, Kaplan offers a higher score guarantee with their self-paced TOEFL course! With this guarantee, you’ll either score better on the TOEFL after taking Kaplan’s class, or you’ll get all your money back. Guarantees like this provide students with great peace of mind, though they do require you to both present qualifying previous TOEFL scores and complete the course according to Kaplan’s standards, so make sure you do some research and provide all the necessary materials in order to take advantage of this offer.
3. 6 Months Access
For most students, preparing for the TOEFL exam—or most standardized tests, for that matter—should take about 3 months. This number isn’t set in stone, of course, as plenty of students would rather prepare bit-by-bit over a longer period of time, while others might prefer to take on their TOEFL studying in one concentrated effort over a short period of time.
Kaplan’s TOEFL course gives students the freedom to take any amount of time they need by providing 6 months of access to their course materials. Some TOEFL preparation courses offer as few as 3 months (or even a month and a half) to study, so getting this much access isn’t a given. With such a long access period, students could potentially take the TOEFL iBT twice, with plenty of time to study for each attempt.
4. Incorporates eBook
Today, test prep courses of all kinds are moving toward entirely-online classes. Kaplan has always provided some of the best reading material for their test prep courses, and instead of following the current trend, they’ve continued to provide high-quality prep books with many of their prep programs. With Kaplan’s TOEFL course, students use their provided book (available as an ebook and as a physical copy) to learn lessons and practice problems that they’ll see on the TOEFL exam. Then, they move to their online Kaplan dashboard, where they can see in-depth video explanations, listen to audio resources, and take their TOEFL practice tests. This printed resource isn’t all that common, and can really help people who struggle to study with video-based learning.
5. Emphasis on Stress Management
Taking a standardized test like the TOEFL isn’t just about managing the English language—you also have to manage your own nerves on test day. Kaplan’s TOEFL course incorporates lessons that help you cope with test anxiety and the stress of studying, instructing you on how to effectively manage your time both as you prepare and while you’re taking the tests. After taking Kaplan’s TOEFL course, you’ll have both the English-language techniques and the time-management (and stress-management) skills that you need in order to succeed.
6. Extensive Audio/Visual Material
Kaplan’s self-paced TOEFL class has over 190 video lessons that you can access at any point, in any order—more video lessons than any other TOEFL course! These lessons serve as reviews and explanations of concepts that you’ll read about in your Kaplan TOEFL book; hearing someone explain how a question works can be just what you need to lock in a concept you’ve struggled to understand while reading.
On top of this video content, you’ll also have access to plenty of TOEFL audio recordings that replicate what you’ll hear on the actual exam. These recordings range from realistic everyday conversations to recordings of professors talking about academic concepts. With Kaplan, you’ll have access to enough material to really get a feel for what you’ll see, and hear, when you take the TOEFL exam.
Kaplan’s only TOEFL course option—the Self-Paced Course for TOEFL iBT—is the most expensive class of all the major TOEFL prep courses we’ve reviewed. It costs $349, but the course may be worth the price when you consider its above average 6 month access period and 4 practice exams. Still, with such a high price, we’d expect to see other bonus features like speaking reviews and online practice tests and question banks.
Even though Kaplan is on the pricier side, its unique features could still make it the best course for you, so don’t let the cost scare you off before you’ve considered it. If you’re thinking that a cheaper course might be what you need, take a look at our reviews for some of Kaplan’s competitors, BestMyTest TOEFL and Magoosh TOEFL.
2. Online Experience
Kaplan’s company website is pretty and easy to navigate, but that doesn’t mean all of Kaplan’s courses are the same way. Many TOEFL students will be adding their course to an already busy schedule, which means the ability to study on-the-go could be a lifesaver, but Kaplan isn’t the best for that style of learning.
Kaplan’s course depends heavily on their TOEFL prep book—their online resources are more about reviewing and testing rather than learning and quizzing—so it isn’t easy to get the full course experience without taking your physical book with you everywhere or trying to navigate your lengthy ebook. Kaplan’s TOEFL course also isn’t supported by the Kaplan study app, so it isn’t as easy to study using a tablet or mobile phone (though it certainly isn’t impossible). Lastly, even when you are using the course as intended (on a desktop or laptop computer), the resources that you have aren’t as up-to-date as courses from Kaplan’s competitors, or even as some of Kaplan’s more popular courses. The video lessons aren’t the highest quality, and the student dashboard doesn’t have the state-of-the-art design and usability you’ll see with some of Kaplan’s other classes.
Without a mobile app or up-to-date interfaces and lessons, and with a course that depends heavily on their book, the online experience users will have with Kaplan TOEFL isn’t as polished as what they’d have with other courses. For students looking for the best online usability features, check out the courses on our best TOEFL prep courses comparison page, which shows you which courses have mobile apps, video instruction, and more.
Kaplan has been used by millions worldwide, and their standardized test experience certainly carries over to their TOEFL prep course. Other companies may have unique features that you’re looking for, but Kaplan has a time-tested dependability that you’d be hard-pressed to find with any other company.
Although it’s on the pricier side and lacks some online usability features that are nice to have, Kaplan’s TOEFL course includes a good number of practice tests, a great amount of video lessons, and a higher score guarantee, all of which make it a course that every TOEFL student should consider.
If you think that other TOEFL preparation courses might be a better option for you, look at our comparison of the top TOEFL prep courses—there are plenty of options with different features, schedules, and prices that you may be looking for.
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Bryce Welker is an active speaker, blogger, and regular contributor to Forbes, Inc.com, and Business.com where he shares his knowledge to help others boost their careers. Bryce is the founder of more than 20 test prep websites that help students and professionals pass their certification exams.