Kaplan’s arguably the most recognizable name in standardized test prep. As of writing, it’s currently sitting on a 4.6/5-star rating on the popular review site TrustPilot. Let’s briefly sketch out each of Kaplan’s SAT prep programs before diving into greater detail coming up.
About Kaplan SAT Prep
Kaplan offers a pretty wide variety of on demand and live online classes that can suit any student prepping for the SAT (check that your college requires the SAT). New to their repertoire of study options is their Unlimited Prep course, which bundles together prep for the ACT, SAT, AP, and PSAT that can be accessed up until December of your senior year. This can be a great deal for students early into their high school career who plan on taking the PSAT, AP classes, and either the ACT or SAT.
Content Access Period
My Thoughts on Kaplan’s SAT Course
Let’s break down Kaplan’s SAT prep courses based on the quality of video lessons, the platform and user experience, the study materials, and some extra benefits of the prep.
User Experience & Platform
As far as polished digital platforms and intuitive user experience go, Kaplan simply can’t be beaten. I’ve spent my fair share deep in the workings on online courses and I can definitively declare that there is no other prep company that holds a candle to Kaplan in this department.
Each course comes with a detailed Study Plan, accessible on the platform and serving as essentially your “homepage” that you can refer back to at will to track your progress and, if necessary, access previous content to review.
One of Kaplan’s SAT prep strengths (among many) is the streamlined lesson design that squeezes the most productivity out of the time that you put into prep.
Kaplan’s subject-specific modules are modeled on the “Learn It, Drill It, Prove it” methodology, which goes like this:
- “Learn it.” The lesson is presented via online video instruction, lasting no more than a quarter-hour each. The lessons are both entertaining and educational, employing impressive graphics and animation throughout to hold the viewer’s attention. Pair the engaging content with the exquisite production value and you’ve got a winning formula.
- “Drill it.” The student works through a series of drills referencing the materials presented in the video instruction.
- “Prove it.” Take a quiz covering the learned materials to wrap things up and demonstrate that you’ve absorbed the material.
If you opt for the live instruction course, Kaplan adds (as the name suggests) live instruction to supplement all the on-demand material. (Skip to the “Kaplan Live Classes” section for more detailed info.)
The biggest drawback of the Kaplan user interface and platform is that, for unexplained reasons, the company has yet to develop a usable mobile app for its prep materials, so all of your online coursework is going to have to be on a PC or laptop.
Quality of Lesson/Videos
The video component of SAT prep is where Kaplan sets itself apart from competitors. Its short videos (spanning 10-12 minutes) feature the perfect ratio of casual, engaging banter and hardcore instruction without ever being too tedious or too light on content. The meat is there, but – to the extent this is possible with test prep – the videos feel more like entertainment than instruction. In my experience, the best prep companies invest in adding a flair of lightheartedness to their videos to break the monotony of classwork.
In other words, Kaplan has very clearly crafted its video lessons to cater to teenage sensibilities and attention spans.
The lesson content is broken down into modules based on topics. Following each video lesson, you then drill the info you’ve just learned in the video lesson to ensure they’ve absorbed the material. This portion usually consists of about a half dozen drills.
After the drills comes the quiz portion of the module to test your newfound proficiencies, which includes about five questions that are designed to mimic the format of those on the actual SAT test. Each quiz question is accompanied by a video explainer to make sure you’ve digested the concepts at hand.
After the quiz, Kaplan also charts your success to identify areas of strength and areas of weakness (what Kaplan euphemistically terms “areas of opportunity.”)
As you can see, math was never my strong suit!
Overall, the lessons flow nicely. Their short duration and straightforward design make for easy learning. The video production value is sky-high, totally unparalleled to the course alternatives (which we share at the end of this review).
SAT Practice Tests & Explanations
The practice tests are fully comparable to the actual SAT test – they’re even timed to mimic the temporal pressure that you’ll feel on test day.
Then, once you’ve finished the practice test, the platform will prompt you to go back on a question-by-question basis and review any incorrect answers. In the review portion, each question comes with a complete explanation of the correct answer with helpful strategies you can use to work through future similar questions.
Four of the eight practice tests are actually College Board SAT practice exams, so the quality is unquestionable.
Kaplan Live Classes
When you upgrade to the Live Online package from the On Demand package, the biggest perk is the live classes. In total, you get 18 hours of live instruction broken up into 9 sessions lasting about two hours each.
Kaplan’s live classes dovetail with the content in the On Demand course, but the expert instructors inject their own personalities, tips and teaching methodologies into the instruction.
The instructors are all vetted SAT pros, so they have a plethora of wisdom to share. Yes, the live instruction is notably more expensive than the On Demand course, but you get what you pay for in the form of highly skilled teachers who really do add value to your test prep that you’ll ultimately see reflected in your SAT score.
If you really want to take your prep game to the next level, and you require more intensive, personalized instruction, then Kaplan offers tutoring services to augment the live instruction coursework.
You can elect to add either 10, 20, 30, or 40 hours of personalized, individual-level tutoring with one of Kaplan’s SAT aficionados.
The biggest beneficiaries, in my estimation, of tutoring would be students who have unique learning styles, particular learning disabilities, or idiosyncrasies that don’t lend themselves well to group instruction.
Kaplan SAT Books
Call me old-fashioned, but I love the tactile sensations of a physical book in my hands. The internet has digitized nearly every aspect of our lives, but, so far, it hasn’t entirely replaced paper.
- 0 physical books with the On Demand course
- 4 physical books with the Live Online course
- 10 physical books with the Unlimited course
If all you really want is books, you can skip the whole course and buy Kaplan’s standalone SAT prep books online at Amazon. I wouldn’t recommend this approach because Kaplan’s lessons provide some structure and added instructional materials that you can’t get from a book alone, but that’s your decision, of course.
The SAT prep books are highly reviewed on Amazon, earning between 4-5 stars. I concur with this generous assessment of their quality.
What’s Student Support Like?
Kaplan’s student support is excellent. Unlike other less well-resourced prep companies out there, Kaplan has the staff on hand to answer any questions – whether they are related to the actual curriculum or they pertain to a technical issue like login problems – in a timely manner.
Whatever your preferred method of communication – via phone, social media, or email – Kaplan has you covered. Hit their contact page to figure out how to get in touch.
What’s the Refund Policy?
One of Kaplan’s main selling points is its substantial Higher Score Guarantee (HSG). In a nutshell, here’s how the guarantee works:
- The student establishes a baseline SAT score with a diagnostic test at the beginning of the course
- The student finishes all required course material
- The student takes the actual SAT
- The student contacts Kaplan within 60 days to upload the official test score
If, after completing the entire course work (not part of it), the student fails to improve his or her score on the actual SAT, Kaplan offers either to reactivate the login credentials to take the course again or your money back.
Important stipulations and conditions apply, so be sure to read the fine print if the refund policy is a sticking point.
What Are the Free Trial Options?
It’s always nice when you’re comparison shopping to be able to test-drive a potential SAT prep course before opening up your wallet. Give the 7-day On Demand free trial a whirl to get a better idea of what Kaplan SAT prep is all about. Also, check out these other free resources:
- SAT On Demand practice test
- SAT Live Online Trial Class and other free online events
- Kaplan SAT Practice Question of the Day delivered to your inbox
Click here for more free SAT practice tests.
Kaplan SAT Course Options
Here we’ll survey your three basic course options to choose from, with a brief overview of their key features. Bear in mind that you can always add 1:1 tutoring to any of these programs for extra prep work.
At $199, the On Demand course is definitely Kaplan’s most basic SAT prep. The pre-packaged content entirely is hosted online on Kaplan’s platform and does not feature any live instruction. What you do get is 50+ instructional videos plus over a thousand practice questions.
With the $699 Live Online program, you enjoy access to the 16 hours of on-demand material available at the lower price point plus 18 hours of intensive live online instruction from a human. Kaplan throws in an extra 15 hours of video as well as four hardcopy SAT prep books.
At $1,999, the Unlimited course is the most robust both in terms of materials and access period. The package offers prep materials for both the SAT and ACT for preppers who are unsure which test they will ultimately take. It also comes with no fewer than ten hardcopy books and almost a dozen prep courses for AP classes.
Who Needs the Kaplan SAT Course
Here’s the kind of student who I think would benefit most from a Kaplan SAT prep course:
- Visual learners who absorb material best when it’s presented graphically or illustratively
- Students who already feel confident but want an affordable review program (for the $200 On Demand course)
- 9th and 10th graders who might not be sure which test (ACT vs SAT) they’ll ultimately take and who might also want to prep for the PSAT (for the Unlimited course)
- Students or parents who want their investment protected with the score guarantee
Kaplan SAT Course Alternatives
Here we’re going to briefly compare and contrast Kaplan’s SAT courses with competitors’ test prep programs. For a more fulsome exploration of the respective pros and cons of various SAT prep courses, check out our Test Prep Nerds’ rundown of the best SAT courses.
The Princeton Review
The Princeton Review is generally regarded as the second-most-popular test prep company.
Here are the comparative highlights:
- Princeton offers 20+ practice tests compared to Kaplan’s 8.
- Princeton offers 3,000+ practice questions compared to Kaplan’s 1,000+
- Kaplan is better reviewed on TrustPilot
- Kaplan’s courses are more affordable
For more details regarding the comparative breakdown, skip over to Test Prep Nerds’ Kaplan vs Princeton Review SAT review.
Imagine having the confidence to land a 1400 on the SAT.. well now you have that opportunity with a guaranteed 1400 by The Princeton Review.
Prep Scholar is another major test prep company that offers its own SAT courses. Here’s how they compare to Kaplan’s:
- ACT and SAT prep available (Kaplan only features SAT prep)
- Over 7,000 practice questions from Prep Scholar dwarf Kaplan’s 1,000+
- No physical books available from Prep Scholar
- At $397 for its basic course, Prep Scholar is almost twice as expensive as Kaplan’s on demand course
We dive deep into more of the similarities and differences between these two courses in our Kaplan vs PrepScholar ACT/SAT Comparison.
Learn more about what this company offers via our Prep Scholar ACT/SAT review.
Kaplan SAT FAQs
Here are some brief answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) pertaining to Kaplan and its SAT prep programs.
Is Kaplan Unlimited SAT prep worth it?
It depends. If you require extensive study, then yes. The on-demand course is sufficient for many preppers.
Will Kaplan SAT courses help raise my score?
Yes. If you complete the course materials and/or attend all live instruction, then your baseline score is extremely likely to increase.
How long do I have access to my Kaplan SAT course?
The standard access period is six months, but the Unlimited course grants extended access.
The Bottom Line on Kaplan SAT
We’ve obviously covered a ton of ground here. Let’s boil this review down to a few key takeaway points:
- Unparalleled video instruction quality
- Realistic, official practice tests
- Renowned, industry-leading expert live instructors
- Fewer practice questions than competing SAT prep providers
- No mobile app available (an inconvenience for on-the-go study sessions)