Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

cascade
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Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby cascade » Fri Jan 15, 2010 11:15 pm

Hello everyone,

I'm a current junior attending college in Los Angeles. I'm signed up to take the LSAT in June. My current schedule for classes leaves me with no classes on Tuesdays or Thursdays. I was looking into taking an "LSAT Extreme" course through Kaplan (85 instructional hours, 6 practice exams, 4 hours tutoring) but I've read that the Kaplan course is geared towards those shooting for 160's on the LSAT, whereas Powerscore and Blueprint courses aim to get you into that 170 range, which is what I am looking for out of my June LSAT. The problem is that the Powerscore and Blueprint courses begin in late March and run twice a week until June, essentially cramming a lot of hours into a short amount of time. The Kaplan course works much better with my schedule, offering the same 100+ hours of preparation, but it begins at the end of this month. This allows me to balance the LSAT prepwork with my undergrad classes and maintain my GPA. I am an ROTC cadet as well as a Division I athlete, so spreading 100 hours of prep from January to June is much more manageable than 100 hours between the end of March and June. Either way I plan on getting the Powerscore Bibles and reading through those thoroughly. Is the 160's rep that the Kaplan course gets associated only with the basic 35 hour course, or is the "Extreme" class just more of the same stuff? I've got my eye on schools like NYU, UVA, and Duke, with UCLA and Texas as safety options, so I'm doing everything in my power to kill the LSAT in June and get into one of my top choice schools. Any recommendations you could send my way would be greatly appreciated.

crm
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby crm » Fri Jan 15, 2010 11:23 pm

I just joined to actually respond to this although i've been visiting TLS for a long time now. I took the kaplan extreme and improved my score 19 points while working full time, but not going to school. It's definitely possible and my teacher was awesome. But, that said, I did work really hard and studied a lot in order to get that much improvement. It's nice to have all the materials and a teacher for guidance, but it's really you that will determine how much improvement you actually get from it. Plus I only had a little under two months to study and during which was Thanksgiving and my 21st birthday (which I was not about to study on). So if you start in March or whenever you said you were going to (soon) you will for sure be able to break into the 170s if you stick to it and study hard.

tomwatts
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby tomwatts » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:43 am

As far as I can tell, someone just made up that line about certain courses being intended to get you into certain score ranges. It doesn't seem to relate to anything in reality. Now, there are some differences among the companies. But this is not one of them. (I say this as a Princeton Review teacher who doesn't much like Kaplan... but then, I don't much like PS or BP either.)

Bear in mind that studying intensely for three months is different from studying moderately for five months, and you may need to set aside some serious time for intensity at some point. (Say, in May, shortly before the test.) You'll want to be able to clear up your schedule enough that you can do several hours of LSAT per day, four or five days per week, for a few weeks or a month near the end of your studying. You may not need to! Doing moderate studying for a few months might be good enough. But you'll regret it if you find you need to do some intense studying at the end and can't.

acdisagod
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby acdisagod » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:45 am

Using their strategies I went down a few points. Forgetting their strategies and self studying with their incredible resources I went up 17 points. Dont do the course, just try to get the books and the PT's.

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nixxers
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby nixxers » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:46 am

I took Kaplan, had a great teacher, and achieved the score I had set for myself as a target. for me, most of the little kaplan techniques really worked - and I just didn't use what wasn't working for me. I think what matters most is logging the hours, doing the 5-section practice tests (i did around 30 full length tests iirc) and being able to identify which techniques are working and which ones aren't.

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sarlis
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby sarlis » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:50 am

Kaplan was really helpful for me. My teacher was fantastic, the people at the center were very helpful, they had the books and answers at the center whenever i wanted them, and, the most important thing, I improved my score 20 points above my diagnostic.

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sarlis
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby sarlis » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:52 am

Also, Kaplan's online portion of the course was very helpful.

crm
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby crm » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:52 am

sarlis wrote:Also, Kaplan's online portion of the course was very helpful.


agreed.

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nixxers
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby nixxers » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:53 am

crm wrote:
sarlis wrote:Also, Kaplan's online portion of the course was very helpful.


agreed.


+1

am060459
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby am060459 » Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:54 am

in terms of rank i see it as follows:

Testmasters
Powerscore
Blueprint
Kaplan
Princeton
others

Kaplan is better than Princeton in part due to the books offered by it (i.e. kaplan mastery)

i would also suggest you get the bibles (as you mentioned)

arewhyaen
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby arewhyaen » Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:35 am

I'm being offered a Kaplan course for free. However, I am also turned off by the bad word of mouth. Would it be better to fork over the money for testmasters, or take the offer?

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Vincent Vega
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby Vincent Vega » Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:41 am

I improved from 157 -> 165 with Kaplan, and I didn't study nearly as much as I could/should have. With more dedication, I think I could have gotten to 170 with Kaplan's study/practice plan. I certainly don't put the blame on them. I obviously can't compare them to anyone else based off of first-hand knowledge, but I would at least moderately recommend them.

Connelly
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby Connelly » Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:49 am

Former Kaplan LSAT teacher here. Not a shill by any means, as Kaplan has both its pros and its cons.

To clear a few things up, there are not courses that are designed to just get you into the 160s. Kaplan's approach is that you need to master some of the basics first. Once you start scoring ~160+ on practice exams, then they have you focus on other strategies. I saw diagnostic scores in the 120-140 range regularly. It was rare to find a diagnostic score over 150 in a class a lot of the time. The student trying to bring their 142 up is just not going to get a ton of benefit out of learning the nuances to get the absolute hardest questions right.

Even in the normal classes, if you start scoring in the 165 range on diagnostics, Kaplan provides additional materials for you to focus on. It was very rare that I suggested students use these, because I did not see this that much (I was not in a major city, so maybe our talent pool was not the best). Extreme classes are more about volume than anything (longer classes that cover more material and extra classes that let you focus on question types). However, some of the classes are basically running through 4 star (the most difficult) questions with the teacher, so this could help students looking to score high, but the course is designed for all students. LSAT Extreme teachers have scored at or above the 95th percentile.

Kaplan also offers LSAT Advanced classes whose teachers scored in the 99th percentile. You have to qualify to get in these courses with a 158 on either an actual LSAT or a diagnostic. I don't know if all centers offer these, because the demand is not always there, and it is sometimes difficult getting teachers to qualify.

I think the Kaplan methods are fine, with their methods for the LR section being the most beneficial to me, followed by the LG section and then the RC section. Their RC methods just felt like common sense and not much more, but that was my weakest section, so maybe I just sucked at it. They break down the LR questions into categories that let you quickly focus on how to solve each question. I can also support their LG method. When I first qualified to teach the LSAT (I was originally teaching the SAT, GRE, and GMAT), my best section was the LG section. However, after teaching it for a few weeks, I went back to take another diagnostic exam, and I completely froze on the LG section - I had completely forgotten how I had solved those questions previously. So I taught myself the Kaplan method and quickly (over a couple of weeks) got to the point where I would regularly score perfect LG sections under timed conditions using the Kaplan methods.

I think if you feel comfortable attacking standardized tests with copious materials available then going with just their materials would probably be better for you. If at all possible, try to get a reference for a particular LSAT instructor - the quality will vary greatly from center to center and teacher to teacher. Kaplan is run like terrorist cells - each center feels very isolated to me, and it felt like we would just occasionally get directives from the clerics, er, national people. Our center did extremely well on student surveys relative to other centers, and I believe that was due to the quality of teacher trainers and management that we had. Considering the lack of quality control, I could easily see how different centers could have different reputations. And there is a difference between an LSAT instructor teaching their first or second course and one who has been doing it for years. Again, try to get a reference if you decide to take a class.

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fathergoose
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby fathergoose » Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:58 am

The class itself was rubish. The books were helpful. Just do every pt and section you can get your hands on.

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MF248
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby MF248 » Sat Jan 16, 2010 2:24 am

I went from a 155 -> a 177 with the Kaplan Advanced course. I've posted before that I don't think my experience was typical and I have a very seasoned teacher that also helped develop parts of the books Kaplan uses for the LSAT. I've also mentioned that I don't know how accurate my 155 diagnostic is because I did not bother filling in the blanks on questions I didn't know the answer too -- I wanted a score that showed me my actual ability, not my guessing prowess.

The differences between the regular, extreme & advanced courses isn't that much. You get the same books (I think extreme may actually use slightly different books) but the advanced & regular books are the same. The only difference is that if you are in a regular course the instructor will only cover sections A & B, and ignore section C for each lesson. The point of this is that they assume parts covered in those section are too minor to help get big jumps in points for people that are still struggling with the basics. If you're in the advanced course the teacher will go over section C assuming that you have the basics down and your time will be well spent going over the more advanced materials even though it may not cover as many question types/scenarios as the A & B sections.

If you're in a normal class you can show up to advanced classes if you want, and you can go over the section C materials on your own or do the section C stuff online, so whichever class you go with the same material will be available.

The advanced course is for people that are already doing well and don't want to be bogged down in a class with people that can't figure out what an assumption is. There were still a lot of dimwits in my advanced class (Of course wearing a Northwestern and Yale hoodie all the time -- go figure), so I didn't really see that as being too beneficial, but then again who knows how those regular classes would have been.

The extreme course is pretty similar to the advance course in terms of what's covered but I think it's a little longer and a bit more expensive. When my instructor explained the price breakdowns he said Kaplan tries to put people in the place where they're most likely to benefit which is why the advanced course isn't much more than the regular course but the extreme course is more costly because it's basically giving people what they want even if it's not going to be beneficial. They don't want to deter anyone from the course that is actually going to help them & get good feedback regarding Kaplan because of price, but they will charge extra for the people that are demanding extra treatment etc. just because they want it and not because they're in a position where it would be beneficial to be spending an instructors time on rare games instead of simple games. (Someone with a 145 is going to be better off working on basic LR instead of being overwhelmed with an extremely complex or rare hybrid game they probably won't see on test day)

I know their LG strategies get a bad rap but I think they were fine. LR made sense but I rarely had to use it -- that came naturally to me. Their RC was garbage and I ended up scrapping it for common sense.

I think the biggest benefit from Kaplan was all of their advice about test day & the mock LSAT administrations they would give to help settle all the nerves before the test. And the fact that my teacher was a walking LSAT encyclopedia helped reassure all the doubts about the test.

lawduder
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby lawduder » Sat Jan 16, 2010 3:36 pm

I posted this in another thread a while ago talking about my experience with Kaplan.
It has less to do with teacher requirements and more with the Kaplan method and their approach to their classroom experience. Kaplan's goal is not to have you scoring at 170+ if you're in the regular classroom course. Instead, instructors are often told to discourage you from looking at harder material that you would otherwise have access to in their "Stratosphere" course (otherwise known as high-scorer's course). Having done the class before I can say that the course itself moves along very slow and by the third or fourth class you're already feeling like you've learned all you can from Kaplan. Aside from the experience itself, Kaplan's methods are at odds with Powerscore, the makers of the Bibles.

As far as LR is concerned, my first gripe with Kaplan is that they do not differentiate between sufficient and necessary assumptions when dealing with assumption questions. Kaplan also loves to use "out of scope" as an explanation for almost half of all the wrong answers on the test which can be a problem for someone trying to understand why answers are wrong. Kaplan does, however, promote reading the question stems before the stimuli during the LR sections which I think is the best way to approach questions (Powerscore does not recommend this).

Kaplan's method for LG works for some people, but for others like myself, it is disastrous. The problem here is that Kaplan does not recommend showing what the LGB refers to as "Not Laws." These are rules that show you what does not go in certain places in a particular game which can often help people visualize the game more clearly. Not Laws are the single most important thing I took away from the LGB and I have went from -8, -10 on games to -0/-1. While Kaplan's LG methods are generally bad for me, I do feel that their pure-sequencing games method is superior to the one presented in the LGB because it is simply more manageable and easier to visualize.

The Kaplan experience for me was not one I would recommend to anyone, but I do not attribute this to bad instructors. The fuss about Kaplan hiring people that score in the 90th percentile is unmerited a lot of the time. What is important is that your instructor is able to teach you what you need to know. There are many stories of people PTing above 170+ and then scoring at 164 on the "real deal." Does that mean they have no idea what's going on? Absolutely not. I loved my instructor but he was bound by the Kaplan method. The important thing is having someone who is able to teach. Regardless, as I stated before, Kaplan is not looking to help you to improve to a 170 unless you are enrolled in their Stratosphere course, in which case I would assume their instructors have a different score requirement.

FWIW, I came into Kaplan with a 146 cold score and I left with a PT high of 163 and ended up scoring a 157 in June. In December, after I abandoned the "Kaplan method" I scored a 167. Did Kaplan do something for me? Probably. But how much of that was simply becoming more familiar with the test? I can't say.

HereIDreamt
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby HereIDreamt » Sat Jan 16, 2010 4:00 pm

.
Last edited by HereIDreamt on Wed Jun 23, 2010 5:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

2011hopeful
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby 2011hopeful » Sat Jan 16, 2010 4:12 pm

HereIDreamt wrote:Your teacher may not have taken a real LSAT-- unfortunately, Kaplan allows teachers to cross train into different tests and just take a test without any real pressure. I think that this can be a problem for a variety of reasons. Secondly, the person may have gotten a 165 on test day and then retook with Kaplan (and I think that it is hard to control whether teachers have seen the tests before when Kaplan chooses to do this) to get the 170 required to teach your extreme course. The reason why this is a problem is that when your real comfort area is a 166, for example, I think that it is really hard to correct the reasoning of people as he/she approaches your score. That means that teacher might top out at being able to really "teach" and mold you at about a 164. This is why most people say that Kaplan preps people for the 160s, because the teacher requirements are not very stringent.


viewtopic.php?f=6&t=73727

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SJU2010
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby SJU2010 » Sat Jan 16, 2010 5:09 pm

Kaplan is great. I am scoring 20 points above my diagnostic. I dont think I would have improved as much as I did in such a small period of time w/o Kaplan. They give you a lot of material to work with, plenty of tricks and tips. A big help for me was their Online material. They have whats called smart reports and after you take your PTs or timed sections you plug the answers in there and it tells you what question types were your weakest, what areas to improve to increase your score the most, and a lot more. I had a fairly large class and I liked being able to exchange tips and ideas with class mates. I picked up on a few great strategies from my classmates. You must watch out for your teacher though. I had a great teacher and once took a make up class with the worst teacher ever. So ask around about the teachers. Also, they dont have some of the Latest tests in the course materials so you will have to buy them separately.

Gluck

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SJU2010
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby SJU2010 » Sat Jan 16, 2010 5:14 pm

sarlis wrote:Also, Kaplan's online portion of the course was very helpful.


agreed

and the four hours of private tutoring is a huuuge help. take it after you have all the basics down and you are in your 160's. oh and make sure you get a good tutor. The first time i took kaplan i got a tutor who i was tutoring in formal logic lol. the second time I took it I thought the guy could star in A beautiful Mind (the movie)

holborn
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby holborn » Sat Jan 16, 2010 5:22 pm

I took a Kaplan class. The methods for LR and LG worked for me, esp LG. I had a good teacher also. My problem is that the classes seemed to be geared for people trying to score in the 150s and 160s. The questions we would do in class seemed absurdly easy and I wasnt motivated to study at home. So my diag was a 159, and my in class tests after that went 160, 158, 161. I was upset, to say the least. The class wasnt helping me score higher.
However I spent most of september self studying but using the Kaplan materials, which are, in a word, FANTASTIC. The Kaplan mastery book gives you hundreds of questions for each specific question type. Like not just LR, but 100 high-difficulty, strengthen/weaken LR questions. Same for all the other types. Self studying using their methods and materials, I brought my score to a 172. So, in the end the classroom time didnt do it for me but i wouldnt call it a waste of money either.

cascade
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby cascade » Sat Jan 16, 2010 7:49 pm

To be more specific:
-Considering the Kaplan center in Westwood
-Have final exams during first week or May, so after that week I have an entire month to live, eat, and breath LSAT prep. However, during finals week I'm not sure that I'll be able to handle 8+ hours of LSAT class combined with my finals that week, the 4 hours a week of the Kaplan seems a lot more manageable.

ashdiamond
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby ashdiamond » Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:27 pm

YES - DO TESTMASTERS INSTEAD. I took a shitty Kaplan course, was pretty dissatisfied, left halfway, asked around for better prep options...literally ALL of my friends who were either Ivy-grads getting ready for law school or were 1L's at the Top 5 schools, endorsed TestMasters (.net, not .com; beware, they are two different companies). On top of that, two extremely bright people I know from high school have actually taught for TestMasters, both are at HLS now.

Anyway, here's my opinion on TestMasters v. Kaplan:

1) Better methodology/curriculum:
TestMasters has a really unique, if complicated, way of breaking down question types on the Logical Reasoning portion of the exam. They break LR into fourteen different question types (way more than Kaplan does, which tells me that TM is able to draw finer distinctions in terms of what is actually being asked by the testwriters), including two ways of treating any assumptions found within the prompts. Learning this method was a complete breakthrough for me and totally changed the way I looked at the LSAT.

Also, I really like the different types of drills offered in the workbooks - not just practice problem after practice problem; I thought these drills were fun and really helpful (Sorry for not elaborating more - I know I'm being paranoid but I don't really feel like getting sued for revealing trade secrets etc, ha).

Futhermore, the amount of class time spent on each question type is weighted to match, as precisely as possible, the frequency any particular question type actually appears on the LSAT.

2) Better teachers:
Kaplan has no minimum LSAT score requirements for their teachers. I took a Kaplan course in my city, and while my regular teacher was a nice--if passive and monotone--guy, I had some really awful substitute teachers who were COMPLETE IDIOTS (and I don't like to talk disparagingly about people) and were unable to explain to students the logical fallacies underlying their incorrect answer choices. One teacher literally started yelling at a student, "The right answer just IS 'b', okay?" The student wasn't being obnoxious or annoying or anything; you could just see the teacher's frustration at himself for not being able to come up with a suitable answer to the question. Unacceptable.

Compare to TestMasters. First of all, their founder, who is very personally involved in the process, takes the LSAT (which he consistently aces - you can see his track record on the website) at least once a year to keep up on any changing trends in the material. He requires all his teachers to do the same. All TestMasters teachers must have an LSAT score of 170 or above. All the teachers I had (including substitute teachers) were all super-smart, young, fun, and really good at thinking on their feet and accepting challenges from their students.
*
But I will be perfectly frank with you. I agree with whomever posted above, that Kaplan is probably the best fit for someone trying to improve from a 150 to a 160, whereas TestMasters is best suited for someone aiming for high 160's, 170+ etc. My TestMasters class was full of super-smart people who made the class engaging, challenging, and even FUN to attend, but there were a few people in the class who were really obviously struggling with the material and I felt kind of bad for them - it's definitely more complex than Kaplan. I think maybe I was able to keep up because I wasn't starting from zero with TestMasters - I'd already worked through some practice problems and gotten a broad overview of the test, and what to expect, from Kaplan.

WOW that was long. Either way, best of luck to you! And just make sure that whatever test prep you choose, for the two weeks before the test, take one strictly-timed practice test every single day, score it, and go through your answer choices. Eat well, see friends, exercise and sleep, so you don't fall into an anxiety vaccum and feel all disoriented before the test. Wish I'd taken that advice the first time around when I took my LSAT. =) Good luck!

Connelly
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby Connelly » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:18 pm

Just a couple of responses to the previous poster. As mentioned, I am a former Kaplan instructor, so I can only shed light on what I know about Kaplan.

ashdiamond wrote:TestMasters has a really unique, if complicated, way of breaking down question types on the Logical Reasoning portion of the exam. They break LR into fourteen different question types (way more than Kaplan does, which tells me that TM is able to draw finer distinctions in terms of what is actually being asked by the testwriters), including two ways of treating any assumptions found within the prompts.


I don't know when you took your Kaplan course, but Kaplan does break the LR section down into just about as many types (if not more). Personally, I found the LR portion of the Kaplan curriculum to be the best (compared to LG & RC). Maybe TestMasters is better, but Kaplan does not seem to be deficient in the ways you indicate (at least anymore - they may have just gotten better).

Futhermore, the amount of class time spent on each question type is weighted to match, as precisely as possible, the frequency any particular question type actually appears on the LSAT.


We tried to do the same with class time at Kaplan, but it can be difficult, as there is a minimum amount of time you have to spend with any question type to get students proficient at it.

2) Better teachers:
Kaplan has no minimum LSAT score requirements for their teachers.


Kaplan requires a 90th percentile score on a real LSAT or one taken under test conditions. And, for the latter, that is usually for teachers who have already qualified for and taught other classes. There are also 2 other options with Kaplan - Extreme and Advanced classes - where the teachers are required to get scores at the 95th and 99th percentiles respectively. Where this may come unhinged is in the "cell" nature of Kaplan. Different Kaplan centers could be run VERY differently. I saw nothing that guaranteed performance outside of the center manager.

Also, a quick comment on the "minimum score to teach" standard. I think a minimum is very important, but a higher score, after a certain point, does not necessarily mean a better teacher. With the LSAT, going from a 165 to a 178-180 is about practice for most people. What would be worth more time - getting a teacher who scored a 170 on their diagnostic (I have seen this) to put in the time to get to a 175-180, or getting that teacher in the classroom dealing with real problems? I understand that it is debatable, but some of our best teachers who could handle any material thrown at them never put in the time to go back and get a high-99th percentile score. They should be able to do so, and obviously doing so is proof of that, but there are other routes.

I took a Kaplan course in my city, and while my regular teacher was a nice--if passive and monotone--guy, I had some really awful substitute teachers who were COMPLETE IDIOTS (and I don't like to talk disparagingly about people) and were unable to explain to students the logical fallacies underlying their incorrect answer choices. One teacher literally started yelling at a student, "The right answer just IS 'b', okay?" The student wasn't being obnoxious or annoying or anything; you could just see the teacher's frustration at himself for not being able to come up with a suitable answer to the question. Unacceptable.


I agree that this is unacceptable and also the biggest problem with the Kaplan product. As mentioned above, there is very little quality control from a national level. We had many fantastic teachers, but, with a different center manager, I could see where our product could have been much worse. I strongly encourage anyone looking for LSAT prep to get references no matter where you go.

alabamabound
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby alabamabound » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:23 pm

For the OP:

I live in LA and took a class at Kaplan's Pasadena Center. Quality control of employees seemed very good and my teacher was excellent (no subs). I really like the Kaplan methods and their online tools but agree that a good teacher is pretty critical.




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