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Kaplan GMAT Review
Our in-depth review of the Manhattan Prep GMAT prep courses powered by Kaplan
When admission to an elite MBA program is on the line and a GMAT score will make or break the decision, students often turn to Kaplan. This is for good reason – Kaplan recently merged their GMAT courses with Manhattan Prep’s, making their GMAT packages even stronger. So really, the only question that remains is whether the new and improved Kaplan GMAT courses are worth the money? Let’s find out in this detailed review.
As this is a pretty lengthy review that covers a number of topics, above find a helpful jump-to table of contents for your convenience.
Video Review: Kaplan/Manhattan Prep GMAT Prep
In the video above, John from the Test Prep Insight team (who scored a 700 on the GMAT) walks you through the major pros and cons of the Kaplan and Manhattan Prep GMAT prep courses.
Keep in mind, since this video was published, Kaplan removed their courses, and instead adopted the Manhattan courses as their own.
Kaplan GMAT Course Options & Pricing
One of the first components of a GMAT prep course that students consider is price. Kaplan offers students four different prep options, all varying in cost, format, and intensity. The three prep packages include:
On Demand (aka Manhattan’s Interact Course)
The On Demand course is Kaplan’s mainstay online-only course. Your curriculum is delivered entirely through Manhattan’s innovative digital platform (named Atlas), and includes video-based lessons, practice questions and tests, problem explanations and more.
This package will cost you around $1,000 for the full version of the course. At roughly $1,000, this is a little expensive for a self-paced on demand course.
For reference, rival Princeton Review markets their self-paced online only course for roughly $200-$300 less, and budget friendly test prep providers Magoosh and Target Test Prep offer their value GMAT courses for approximately 25% of that amount.
That said, the quality of Manhattan Prep’s interactive video lessons makes up for the cost disparity, as discussed further below.
One tier up from the On Demand GMAT course, Kaplan offers its bellwether Live GMAT Course for right around $1,600.
This course gives you access to all of the online-only Interact content PLUS 27 hours of live instruction (in-person or online). So for $600 or so more than the on-demand course, the Live GMAT Course is a real bargain, considering you get all the same online content plus a ton of high-value classroom time.
Additionally, if you only have a short time frame in which to study, Kaplan’s GMAT Bootcamp may be a good option. This highly intensive course lasts only 2-3 weeks and covers 35 hours+ of live instruction, plus simulated test time and more.
The Bootcamp course costs right around $2,600, which may seem high, but is actually reasonably priced given the resources and time dedicated to each student.
Lastly, there is Kaplan’s Advanced Course, which is specifically designed for students already scoring 650 or above. This course option costs right around $1,400.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Review Of Kaplan’s GMAT Coursework
When you consider what makes the Kaplan/Manhattan Prep combination different from other test prep companies like PrepScholar, think video-based lessons. The quality of Manhattan’s online video instruction can’t be matched.
The lessons are interactive, adaptive and just plain cool. The lessons start, stop, ask you questions, adapt to your knowledge on a subject, and are sprinkled with quirky little cartoons. The 35+ lessons across Manhattan Prep’s online platform are truly well-designed and an incredibly effective teaching tool.
Part of the reason these video-based lessons are so effective is that the video production quality is first-rate. It is abundantly clear Kaplan and Manhattan thinks that video is the future of test prep, as they have invested heavily in the quality and scope of these video-based lessons.
A Manhattan Prep instructor appears onscreen frequently giving a quick verbal lesson on a subtopic while notes appear around them. Then when the instructor is not onscreen, you are shown an aesthetically appealing digital whiteboard that illustrates a point or concept. The overall quality is fantastic (better than Magoosh and Princeton Review).
I personally found that due to the unique way in which the material is conveyed, it really sticks with you.
After watching a lesson on a certain topic, if I later came across a practice problem that touched on the same matter, my mind was drawn back to the video. It really improved my recall ability, so I tip my hat to the curriculum designers on that aspect.
Not only is the delivery of the lesson remarkable, but the substantive content is as well. Manhattan Prep has done their homework (pardon the studying pun) when it comes to designing their curriculum.
The lessons span every concept that will be tested on the GMAT and are very detailed. Not only that, the flow of the curriculum is natural and builds on itself, making for an effective means of learning. The material is thorough, well-structured and all-around dead on. The bottom line here is that the lessons are top shelf.
Beyond the lessons, the remainder of the coursework is solid, though not as remarkable as the video lessons. Kaplan provides access to over 4,000 questions through its practice question bank. These practice problems closely track real GMAT questions and I couldn’t pick up on any real difference between the two.
While there was nothing truly special about them, I think that is a good indicator of a well-designed practice problem. You want to prep like it’s gameday, so if you can’t really discern between official problems and practice ones made by the prep company, you’re in good shape.
Surrounding the practice problems, Manhattan Prep utilizes a program called GMAT Navigator to provide problem explanations and track your progress. This useful tool breaks down each problem and provides clear explanations of why a correct answer is correct and why an incorrect answer is incorrect.
That said, while I found Manhattan Prep’s insights to helpful, the explanations were not quite as good as Princeton Review’s comparable explanations. They were spot on, but just didn’t seem as detailed or well-articulated.
Overall, I was really impressed with the quality of Kaplan and Manhattan Prep’s GMAT lessons, curriculum and coursework – particularly the lessons.Their video-based instruction is currently the pinnacle of digital content in the GMAT test prep space and should serve as a road map for other test prep companies as they upgrade their video lessons.
Kaplan GMAT Practice Tests
Kaplan and Manhattan Prep’s practice tests are a little peculiar. While the substance and feel of their simulated exams are dead on, visually it just looks different from the real GMAT.
While other test prep companies, like Princeton Review, put effort into matching the exact look of the real GMAT, it just feels like Kaplan/Manhattan didn’t bother with that aspect.
Don’t get me wrong, the test is structured the same as the real thing, and acts just like it – it’s just the aesthetics that are a little off. The real GMAT has this very retro feel and it’s almost like Manhattan didn’t want to sacrifice its swanky user experience and interface to match it. That’s okay though. As mentioned, the substance of the questions is dead on and systematically it operates all the same.
In total, Kaplan and Manhattan Prep provide access to 6 full-length practice exams through their platform. This is 4 less than category-best Princeton Review, but 4 more than value course Magoosh, placing it somewhere in the middle of the pack.
I personally would like to see Kaplan offer a couple more practice tests to be closer in line to rival Princeton Review, particularly given that Kaplan is more expensive with respect to its On Demand course.
For students who love to prep by doing (i.e. practice tests), this will be disappointing. When considering which GMAT prep course is best, this is often a big factor.
Kaplan GMAT Prep Books
In addition to great digital content, including video lessons and practice problems, Kaplan also provides hard copy prep books to all of its students. These books include:
All the GMAT Strategy Guide
Foundations of GMAT Math
Foundations of GMAT Verbal
The GMAT Official Guide
Advanced GMAT Quant eBook
Test Simulation Booklet
These GMAT books together make for a powerful prep resource. Combined, they cover overall test taking strategies, GMAT section-specific techniques and tricks, lessons on foundational principles, practice problems and more. I am a huge fan of these prep books from Manhattan.
While each covers different material, across all books you get coverage of every possible angle for attacking the GMAT – substantive material, strategies and practice. They are thorough and well written, and provide a significant value add. Not every test prep company provides course books, and very few provide hard copy books with such robust coverage.
Following suit with their online video instruction, the Kaplan/Manhattan Prep user interface and experience is top-notch. Their dashboard is very modern and clean, and easy to navigate.
Handled through a platform called Atlas, the Kaplan/Manhattan digital platform reminds me of a high-end gaming system multiplayer lobby. For those that aren’t gaming nerds, that’s a good thing. It’s dark, sleek and very responsive. It is very pleasing visually and I love the snappiness as you click through features.
In addition, the platform is very easy to navigate. Everything is steered through the bar on the left side of the screen. You are clearly directed to lessons, practice tests, resources and more.
If I had one quibble with this layout, it’s that the buttons that link you to the various landing pages aren’t labeled – they’re just icons. It would be a little easier if they were labeled with text, but it’s not the end of the world.
Kaplan’s Live GMAT Classes
For those of you contemplating taking Kaplan’s Live GMAT Course with live instruction, I have some simple advice for you: Do it. The first reason do to so is price. While some prep companies charge an arm and a leg more for their live course over their self-paced course, there is only about a $600 difference between the two courses at Kaplan.
So, for a few hundred dollars more, you get all the same content plus some really good in-class instruction.
Kaplan’s classes are taught by some of the best instructors in the business. They are all 99th percentile GMAT scorers and have undergone additional teaching training with Manhattan.
And in my personal experience, all Kaplan/Manhattan Prep instructors seem to have a humorous side – I am not sure if that is a hiring criterion for the company, but it kind of seems like it. I’ve taken multiple Kaplan/Manhattan courses and this seems to be a constant.
You may be thinking “why do I care if my instructor is funny?” – good question. I think it’s critically important that instructors keep the material they are teaching light and interesting. If you have some monotone instructor at the front of the classroom lecturing at you, you’re not going to remember a thing (think Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).
Moreover, you get 27 hours of live instruction across 9 sessions, so you want to make sure you have an engaging teacher, as that’s a lot of time together.
As mentioned, my recommendation would be to ante up for the Live GMAT Course with Kaplan if possible. My virtual classroom experience was very positive. The class was fairly small and I was lucky to have some pretty smart and interesting classmates.
There was no real ego among the students, so it made for a great experience. The instruction was first-rate, the discussions were lively, and I got access to material and side tips I otherwise wouldn’t have.
Extra Study Resources
On top of some great lessons, books and general coursework, Kaplan offers some pretty decent additional resources to students as well. Among these extras, you will get:
Essay grading software
1:1 pre-and-post exam assessments with a GMAT instructor
Seven hour Foundations of GMAT Math workshops
Of these supplemental add-ons, the most beneficial is likely the seven hour workshop classes covering GMAT math. This workshop is very instructive about some of the most basic math concepts that you will see time and time again on the quant section of the exam.
These workshops are offered frequently, so they are very well-designed and vetted at this point.
The student forums are also a nice feature, but likely not as beneficial as you think. It’s kind of like a sub-reddit for GMAT and the responses seem a little slow.
The feedback from Manhattan Prep’s instructors on these message boards is definitely detailed and well-articulated, but it’s just not the same as having direct access to your teacher.
Kaplan GMAT Private Tutoring
Kaplan offers a range of private tutoring options for those students seeking more personalized attention from of their GMAT experts. The packages range from 10 to 30 hours, and cost anywhere from around $225/hr to $245/hr.
You can also pay a la carte for tutoring as well, though those rates can climb up to $250+ per hour.
These costs are certainly more expensive than you will find with other test prep companies. But the kicker is that you get full access to all of the On Demand content and resources.
This includes video lessons, books, practice problems and more. So, while the price per hour is seemingly high, you have to factor in that you’re getting roughly a thousand-dollar course to boot with your private tutoring.
Online Content Access Period
Manhattan Prep generally provides 6 months of access to its online content. This applies to the On Demand Course, Live GMAT Course and Bootcamp. Notice something missing there?
Oh yeah, if you purchase a private tutoring package through Manhattan Prep, they’ll give you a bonus 3 months of access to their online content (for a total of 9 months). These access periods are generally on par with other test prep companies.
Kaplan’s GMAT Mobile App
Of all the prep courses that say they offer a mobile app, very few actually offer anything of note. Most apps are clunkers that serve the purpose of allowing the company to say they have an app. But not Kaplan/Manhattan Prep, at least with respect to its GMAT mobile app.
The Manhattan Prep mobile app is well-designed and genuinely helpful. It offers practice questions (the same you will find in your online content), as well as quizzes, flashcards, progress trackers and strategy lessons.
Manhattan does a great job packing a lot of content and practice into a little app. For those on the go and with downtime on buses or between classes, this is a fantastic tool. Unlike others we’ve seen, it adds true value.
Does Kaplan Have a Score Improvement Guarantee?
Unfortunately, Kaplan and Manhattan Prep do not offer a score improvement guarantee for their GMAT prep courses. This is somewhat disappointing given that other test prep companies offer such assurances, but Kaplan/Manhattan believes score improvement falls on the shoulder of the student, not their course.
What Is Kaplan’s General Refund Policy?
Similar to the score improvement guarantee issue, Kaplan/Manhattan Prep also does not offer a general refund policy. Again, other test prep companies offer very generous refund policies – some allowing up to 7 days for you to rethink your purchase – but Kaplan/Manhattan doesn’t buy in.
They stand by their prep courses, but claim that due to class sizes and instructors’ salaries they can’t offer refunds. I would like to see them offer at least a 24-hour cool down period here.
Verdict: Kaplan GMAT Prep Course Review
Kaplan and Manhattan Prep’s GMAT prep courses are epitomized by their video lessons. Their interactive and adaptive video based-instruction changes the game when it comes to how you learn and retain GMAT material.
You don’t just watch a pre-recorded lecture – instead you answer questions, drag and drop onscreen icons, and dynamically interact with this high production value video instruction.
In addition, with every prep package you get an entire set of ultra-thorough prep books to accompany your online and in-class content. These books are rock solid and some of the best we have seen.
Where Kaplan/Manhattan Prep slip a little is on practice problem explanations and practice tests. Their practice question explanations are somewhat unremarkable, and the number of practice tests they offer is pretty weak compared to others (as well as having some average testing software).
However, they compensate for these minor weaknesses with top shelf video instruction, killer prep books, and some best-in-category instructors. All in all, I was extremely impressed with the Manhattan Prep GMAT courses powered by Kaplan and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to students seeking comprehensive instruction.
Are the Kaplan and Manhattan GMAT prep courses the same?
Yes, although Kaplan has owned Manhattan Prep for years, the company recently adopted the Manhattan Prep GMAT courses to be their own (i.e. the old Kaplan GMAT courses no longer exist).
How much does the Kaplan GMAT prep course cost?
The Kaplan GMAT prep packages range in price from around $1,000 to north of $2,500 depending on format, level of access and whether tutoring is involved.
How many live classroom hours do I get with Kaplan?
If you purchase the Live GMAT Course from Kaplan, you will get 27 hours of live online instruction across 9 sessions. Their GMAT Bootcamp offers 35+ hours of live classroom time.
Is the Kaplan GMAT prep course worth it?
Yes, although their GMAT prep packages are somewhat expensive, our team thinks Kaplan offers some of the best GMAT courses on the market.