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PrepScholar vs Kaplan SAT & ACT
Our detailed comparison of the SAT and ACT prep courses from PrepScholar and Kaplan
For many people, when they think of test prep, they think of Kaplan. They are almost always the first company to pop up in search results, and everybody has a sister or a friend who’s used them to prep for some exam. However, in recent years, a number of smaller companies, including PrepScholar, have made waves in the test prep world for their combination of affordability and effectiveness. In this side-by-side comparison, we see how the SAT and ACT prep courses from Kaplan and PrepScholar stack up against one another.
Given this is a long, detailed comparison, we’ve included jump-to links above for your convenience.
Video Review: PrepScholar or Kaplan?
In the video above, John (from the Test Prep Insight team) covers how the prep courses from Kaplan and PrepScholar stack up, and delivers our team’s thoughts on which one is ultimately better. For more information, be sure to continue reading our full written comparison below.
To most effectively see how the SAT and ACT courses from Kaplan and PrepScholar stack up, we think it is best to highlight the specific study materials and features in which each company wins over one another.
With that in mind, let’s first discuss the advantages of choosing Kaplan over PrepScholar to help you prepare for the SAT or ACT exam.
Quality Of Curriculum & Coursework
Kaplan and PrepScholar take vastly different approaches to their SAT and ACT curriculum. PrepScholar takes a very traditional approach to instruction of “learn, practice, review.”
You may be able to guess how this works, but essentially you get a text and video lesson on a given topic, then hammer practice problems to test your knowledge following the lesson, and finally review solutions to the problems to reinforce your learning.
This simple, yet effective instructional design is backed by learning science, and our team loved its use in this course.
By contrast, Kaplan uses a much more modern approach to teaching its SAT and ACT material by trying hard to appeal directly to teenagers. Kaplan uses video lessons that feature an instructor sitting on a couch with a coffee in hand, speaking causally to the camera like you were an old family friend.
Kaplan’s overall course structure is cohesive and well-designed, but it’s this modern component that really jumps out.
Our team found both approaches to teaching to be highly effective; however, at the end of the day, our team gives Kaplan the nod in this category. We just think Kaplan’s new-age, engaging learning framework is the way to go, especially among the high school demographic.
Pricing & Course Options
Believe it or not, Kaplan actually offers the more affordable SAT and ACT prep courses.
Kaplan provides on-demand courses that run for right around $200, as well as more robust course options with live classes that range in price from around $700 to $800.
On the flip side, PrepScholar offers its flagship “Complete Course” (a self-paced option) for a shade under $400, as well as a course option with live classes for around $900.
So all in all, you’ll likely save around $100-$200 by going with Kaplan. Plus, Kaplan seems to be more aggressive with sales and discounts, so there is a chance you’ll be able to save even more.
When it comes to video lessons, Kaplan is the clear winner (in terms of both quality and production value). Their picture and audio quality are supremely good, and the use of sharp and well-timed onscreen graphics is superb.
Plus, I’m also a fan of the approach that Kaplan takes within its video lessons. Most videos either feature an instructor sitting on a couch, casually chatting with you like you’re a friend, or an instructor onscreen with an actual student walking through some lesson in a friendly, engaging way.
Overall, I think this approach is ideal for high-school aged students. The videos are not too formal, yet they are still extremely helpful and insightful.
By contrast, PrepScholar’s lessons are all business (and somewhat boring if I’m being honest).
They take the form of a classic PowerPoint-style slideshow, and the instructor gives their verbal lesson while updating the slide with notes in red ink. There’s just no engagement factor. Therefore, Kaplan easily gets the win in this category in my opinion.
When it comes to live classes, Kaplan wins on all fronts. Not only does Kaplan offer more live class hours than PrepScholar (18 vs 9), but our team also thinks Kaplan has the edge as far as quality of instruction goes.
We found Kaplan’s live classes to be highly effective, with clear and helpful instruction from some awesome teachers, as well as a fantastic digital classroom setup (Prep Expert offers outstanding live classes as well).
All in all, our team walked away very impressed by Kaplan’s live SAT and ACT classes.
This category is a pretty easy win for Kaplan. And that’s because Kaplan provides prep books in both hardcopy and digital format, while PrepScholar does not provide any.
To be clear, PrepScholar does provide their written lessons, which are detailed and insightful, in printable format, but they are not written like books.
Whether this will matter to you depends totally on whether you are the type of student that need prep books. Personally, I’m a big fan of hardcopy prep materials. I love being able to study on-the-go, so for me, it is a big deal and I think Kaplan’s prep books are some of the best in the entire SAT prep space.
User Experience & Digital Platform
In an increasingly digital world, user interface and experience are becoming more important than ever for ACT and SAT prep courses. Having a platform that is intuitive, easy to use and clean can even make a difference in the efficiency of your studies. And on this point, Kaplan wins.
Their overall user interface, like their video lessons, is modern and cool.
It is also extremely easy to use, with clear direction on what to study and when. This is not to say PrepScholar’s user interface is bad – it is perfectly serviceable and we actually quite liked it – but it’s just not as good as Kaplan’s.
Most notably is definitely Kaplan’s SAT Channel and ACT Channel. This “Channel” is meant to act like a sort of television channel that you tune into every night.
In reality though, it’s more of an office hours style lesson. A Kaplan instructor takes a deep dive into one particular topic for the night and covers everything you need to know from test taking strategies to advanced content review.
Bottom line, it’s a super helpful resource for students. I’m a big fan.
PrepScholar offers a combined 11,000 SAT and ACT practice questions to Kaplan’s 3,000, and 16 combined practice tests to Kaplan’s 13.
That makes the volume side of the equation an easy call. Therefore, if you’re the type of student who prefers hammering practice set after practice set over watching video lessons or live classes, then PrepScholar is an excellent option.
With that said, when it comes to quality, it’s a tie. We found the question content, length, and difficulty from both companies to be a close match for real exam questions.
PrepScholar gets the easy win in this quantitative category by offering 1 year for access to their prep materials, as compared to 6 months of access with Kaplan.
So if you plan on studying for an extended period of time, or you plan on taking the SAT or ACT exam multiple times, then this might push PrepScholar ahead of Kaplan for you.
Oddly enough, Kaplan provides a score guarantee for their SAT prep program, but not their ACT prep program. Given that their prep curriculum for the two exams is nearly identical, this oneleft me scratching my head a bit.
In any case, Kaplan’s SAT prep course comes with their usual “higher score guarantee.” Meaning, they guarantee you’ll score at least one point higher on the real exam than before you started studying.
Not much of a promise, and a little disappointing in a category that we always put heavy weight on.
By contrast, PrepScholar’s SAT prep course has a 160+ point increase guarantee, and their ACT program comes with a 4+ point increase guarantee. These are two of the highest guarantees in the industry, and we were quite happy to see this.
While we found the SAT and ACT prep courses from both Kaplan and PrepScholar to be effective, we ultimately give the nod to Kaplan as our preferred prep option.
PrepScholar certainly scores points in a few key categories (namely practice material, content access period, and score guarantees), but ultimately, Kaplan offers the more complete and effective prep courses.
Our team prefers the learning framework, video lessons, live classes, prep books, and digital platform that Kaplan offers. It’s just too much for PrepScholar to overcome. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Kaplan technically offers the more affordable prep courses as well.
Which prep course is better, PrepScholar or Kaplan?
After thoroughly reviewing the SAT and ACT prep courses from Kaplan and PrepScholar, our team prefers the prep options from Kaplan. That said, there are some key differences, so make sure to read our full analysis.
What’s the main difference between PrepScholar and Kaplan?
The clear difference between Kaplan and PrepScholar is each company’s approach to video lessons. Kaplan takes a casual, conversational approach to video lectures, while PrepScholar relies on a more traditional, PowerPoint style presentation.
Do both PrepScholar and Kaplan have score increase guarantees?
PrepScholar offers extremely generous score guarantees for both its SAT and ACT prep courses (+160 points and +4 points, respectively), while Kaplan oddly guarantees a “higher score” for its SAT/ACT courses only.