Kaplan GMAT Prep Review - Financial Analyst Insider
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Kaplan GMAT Prep Review

Kaplan is one of the biggest names in test prep, and as such, it’s no surprise that the company offers a bevy of options to help students prepare for the GMAT. Bolstered by a seemingly endless amount of practice material—including its own web channel for GMAT prep lessons—Kaplan offers a variety classes, tutoring, and self-paced programs so that you can prepare for the GMAT on your terms.

In this article, I will provide a robust look at Kaplan’s menu of prep options, and I’ll share with you my thoughts after spending some time interacting with its free starter pack.

Kaplan’s GMAT Prep Programs

When it comes to GMAT prep, Kaplan has something for everyone. Students can take classes either in-person or online, hire private GMAT tutors, or enroll in a self-guided curriculum.

Let’s start with the similarities. Each program comes with access to Kaplan’s GMAT prep portal, which includes nine full-length practice tests, over 140 hours’ worth of practice and instructional materials, and use of Kaplan’s question bank, which algorithmically adapts question difficulty based on your performance.

Course plans also give you access to The GMAT Channel, which screens both recorded and live-streamed interactive classes on specific GMAT topics. Finally, Kaplan gives its students two prep books and an MBA admissions guide, for those who prefer having a physical book to work with.

Now to the differences. Kaplan partners with Manhattan Prep to offer in-person classes. These courses vary in length, but typically run for 30 hours total over ten weeks, although Manhattan Prep also offers two- and three-week bootcamps for students who want intensive prep.

Unfortunately, Kaplan’s in-person offerings are limited to a few major metro areas. When we checked, classes were being held in or near Boston, Chicago, Houston, London, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Toronto. Nor do the in-person classes come cheap. Regular classes start at $1599, but vary by location, and bootcamps cost $2699 and up—way up.

Course Options

Kaplan offers two primary course options: Instructor led and Self Guided.  Instructor led course options are more structured and follow a traditional classroom format.  Self guided courses are geared for more independent students that prefer to study based on their own schedule.

Self Guided Courses

Kaplan’s self guided course options let you pick and choose from individual study tools or more comprehensive course bundles.

Self Paced

The self paced course options are designed for students who feel confident studying GMAT materials on their own.  The core self paced option includes all the material and content you need to prepare for the GMAT.  Course features include:

  • $799 price.
  • 14 hours of recorded video instruction.
  • Kaplan’s official test day experience.
  • 30 hours of GMAT channel recorded archives.
  • 9 computer adaptive GMAT practice tests.
  • Access to the Adaptive GMAT practice question test bank with 5,000 practice questions.
  • Hard copy of MBA admissions guide and two prep books.
  • Kaplan online access for 6 months.

Self Paced Plus

The Self Paced Plus course includes all the features found in the basic option as well as access to 30 hours of live instruction on the GMAT channel and the GMAT math foundations course.

  • $999 price.
  • All features included in the Self Paced course.
  • 30 hours of live GMAT courses on the GMAT channel.
  • Math Foundations course ($299 cost if purchased separately).

Many students have not spent time practicing GMAT math problems since high school.  The Math Foundation course offers a great guided tutorial to help get you up to speed for the GMAT math problems.  The course includes structured online lessons and a database of practice questions.

Students also get to pick and choose which topics to watch as part of their 30 hours of live instruction on the GMAT channel.  The live course topics range from basic concepts to more advanced topics.

Other Study Tools

It’s worth noting that Kaplan also offers access to parts of its portal, for students who do not wish to purchase a comprehensive course or curriculum.  Available options include:

  • 3 months of access to the adaptive question bank ($99).
  • Practice pack: Question bank access & 8 GMAT practice tests ($149).
  • Study pack: Practice pack + 14 hours of video lessons & MBA admissions guide and 2 prep books ($249).

Instructor Led Course Options

Students that prefer a traditional classroom style program can select from 4 primary options: Live Online, Live Online Plus, In person, and personalized tutoring.

Live Online

Kaplan’s live online course includes the same core features offered in the self paced courses with the addition of  18 extra hours of live instruction.  Course features include:

  • $1,249 price
  • 18 hours of live online classroom instruction.
  • 30 hours of GMAT channel live courses with topics chosen by the student.
  • Official test day experience.
  • 9 GMAT computer adaptive practice tests.
  • Over 140 hours of video instruction.
  • Adaptive test question bank with over 5,000 questions.
  • MBA admissions guide with 2 GMAT prep books.

Live Online Plus

The Plus option includes all the features offered in the Live Online course with the addition of 3 hours of 1 on 1 tutoring and access to the Math Foundations course.  The Plus option offers pretty significant value because the Math Foundations course is $299 and the tutoring is available for $250 per hour.

The Plus option is only $400 more than the standard option and you get a little over $1,000 of extra value.

  • $1,649 course cost.
  • All features included in the Live Online course.
  • 3 hours of 1 on 1 tutoring.
  • Access to the Math Foundations course.

In Person

Students that prefer a traditional in person classroom format will like the In Person course option.  This option is available in Partnership with Manhattan Prep.  If this is something you might be interested in pursuing, make sure you sign up for the free class to test it first.

This option includes:

  • $1,599 price
  • 27 hours of classroom instruction organized into 9 classes.
  • 1 on 1 exam assessments with a professor.
  • Access to 35 supplemental video lessons.
  • 6 computer adaptive full length practice exams.
  • Hard copies of all 13 GMAT study guides.

Tutoring

Students that just need a little bit of extra personalized guidance will appreciate the tutoring options available with Kaplan. The shortest tutoring program involves 10 hours of private instruction, and Kaplan offers 20- and 40-hour programs as well.

Tutors commit to building a unique study plan around students’ strengths and weaknesses, so that time can optimally be spent improving your score. Kaplan offers tutoring online and in-person. Prices for online tutoring are as follows:

  • 10 hours – $2,499.
  • 20 hours – $3,399.
  • 40 hours – $4,999.

Price and availability for in-person tutoring varies by location.

Notable Course Features

In terms of variety and depth, Kaplan certainly lives up to its reputation as one of the behemoths of the test prep industry. The GMAT Channel is an impressive investment on behalf of student success, and will allow you to get extra practice and instruction on parts of the test that you choose.

Adaptive Question Bank

Kaplan’s adaptive question bank also stands out. Although Kaplan is not the only company to use an algorithm to match question difficulty to your performance, this type of feature is on the cutting-edge, and will make your preparation far more efficient.

The question bank’s size is also notable. Kaplan’s portal hosts over 5,000 GMAT questions, about half of which are tied to the adaptive technology, which is far more expansive than some companies offer.

Official Test Day Experience

However, the most unique feature of Kaplan’s GMAT prep is its Official Test Day Experience. Students who purchase one of Kaplan’s classes, tutoring packages, or curricula can take one of their practice tests at a Pearson testing center, emulating exactly the setting and feel of the real GMAT.

This is a highly novel offering, and will be key for students who want their preparation to take on as “real” of a feel as possible.

Which GMAT prep option should I choose?

Given Kaplan’s bevy of options, you may find it hard to decide which suits you the best. If you feel able to plan out and conduct your own prep platform, purchasing one of Kaplan’s partial access plans (such as the “Study Pack”) may be sufficient, as these provide much of what Kaplan offers at a small fraction of the price.

Students who want personal attention, however, may consider enrolling in either the self-paced PLUS or a live online program. Each of these programs offers Kaplan’s comprehensive classroom content, while giving you the chance to ask specific questions and get individualized feedback on your work, whether in class, with a tutor, or during a GMAT Channel live stream.

Of course, tutoring is always the gold standard of test prep—and the most expensive. Hiring a private tutor may be the obvious choice for well-endowed test takers, but for those balancing price and efficacy, the key consideration is how much personal attention you need. Very high- or low-scoring students, or students with a lopsided set of strengths and weaknesses may benefit especially from a tutor’s expertise.

My Experience Using Kaplan’s GMAT Course

Kaplan has a surfeit of test prep options, but they come at a slightly higher price than the industry averages. For these reasons especially, I wanted to see whether Kaplan lives up to its reputation, so I spent several hours using Kaplan’s GMAT starter pack, which offers free instructional videos and practice on the test’s data sufficiency and critical reasoning question types.

Ultimately, it was time well spent. I was very impressed with the professionalism of Kaplan’s product, and would feel comfortable purchasing one of its GMAT prep programs.

One last note before beginning: the instruction in Kaplan’s free starter pack is pre-recorded, so my evaluation probably bears most relevance to the company’s self-paced options. That said, I was able to view excerpts from a live online class and The GMAT Channel, and will try to incorporate my impressions into the review.

Quality of Instruction

Put simply, Kaplan has the GMAT figured out. That was my immediate takeaway after watching five minutes of the first video, and additional viewing did not change my mind.

Data sufficiency and critical reasoning are notoriously tricky parts of the test, but you do not immediately get that sense from Kaplan’s teachers. Rather, they ease you into the question types, first explaining the pedagogical reason for why they are on the test, and then presenting a simple two- or three-step process for approaching each question.

Question Strategies

These strategies are elegantly simple. For the data sufficiency questions, for instance, I was taught to break questions down into values (e.g., what is x?) or binary (e.g., is x > 10?) questions, and figure out what I’d need to answer it.

Then, deciding whether the first expression is sufficient, I can eliminate either two or three answer options without even looking at the second.

This may not seem intuitive just yet, but Kaplan instructors demonstrate the strategy step-by-step, using a posh interactive green screen that lets you see exactly how the strategy is at work.

The only negative I noticed to Kaplan’s instruction—and this was slight—is that the teachers are mere humans like you and I. On occasion, the instructors provide too much or too little information at once. But to be honest, I appreciated this blemish, as it required me to be a more active thinker while watching the videos.

Ease of Use

While Kaplan provides a fully-functional platform, this is where the test prep juggernaut seemed a little weaker, as different parts of the student portal lacked the integration that some other companies provide.

But we’ll start with the good. Both the recorded video lessons and live online classes operate with impressive fluidity. The video lessons are equipped with subtitles for students who need them, and a settings tab where you can slow down or speed up the video to your liking.

Online Classroom Experience

The live online classes are run on an intuitive, if simple, platform. Teachers lecture from a video feed in the upper-right corner and engage students via audio or text chat. The classroom also has a multiple-choice window where you can respond to in-class examples and see how your classmates answered as well.

Regrettably, the classroom did not seem to be equipped with video from the student end, which made the lessons feel a bit stilted.

Using Practice Questions

The starter pack also included question sets, which although non-adaptive, are probably formatted similarly to examples in the larger question bank. If so, there is good and bad to how Kaplan presents its questions.

On one hand, each question has an answer explanation alongside it, which connects back to the basic strategies taught in the video lessons. This cohesion was incredibly helpful. Each question also comes with statistics that show the average time spent and distribution of answers based on prior student performance.

On the other hand, there did not seem to be a way of flagging tricky questions, nor were there links to relevant video lessons. These features are important to getting the most out of your practice, and I was disappointed that Kaplan does not appear to have incorporated them.

Final Thoughts

Based on my experience with its GMAT prep starter pack, it appears that Kaplan lives up to its reputation as a leader in test prep. While parts its user interface are a little dated, Kaplan provides an excellent quality of instruction and its number of unique features is extremely impressive.

Pros

  • Kaplan’s instruction provides elegant and efficient strategies for each part of the test.
  • Kaplan offers several impressive or unique features, including an adaptive question bank, The GMAT Channel, and realistic test day simulations.
  • Lots of different plans to choose from: private tutoring, in-person or online classes, and self-paced programs are all available.

Cons

  • Parts of the user interface are dated or unintegrated.
  • Prices are a little higher than average, especially if you want individual attention.

If your on the fence about Kaplan’s GMAT course, we recommend you test out the free trial option.

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