Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

swimbrad
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby swimbrad » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:24 pm

I took kaplan's only course and improved 13 points. It's nice b/c it's contolled (they know exactly how the teachers teach b/c they are pre-recorded) and you can do it whenever you feel.

hth

KDLMaj
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby KDLMaj » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:37 pm

ashdiamond wrote: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!


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typ3
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby typ3 » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:05 pm

Kaplan gives you quite a bit for the money imo. No prep company is a silver bullet. TM does waste too much time on LG's imo. LR is the most important section point wise. Furthermore, a lot of LR concepts carry into RC and LG. Kaplan is nice because of the extensive resources and generous guarantee.. You can access classes indefinitely if you want. And the 164+ prep material is as good if not better than PScore's.

JasonR
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby JasonR » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:14 pm

KDLMaj wrote:What this person is neglecting to mention is that Test Masters spends *70%* of its course focusing on logic games.


Nice blatant lie to start your post off. I'm sure there's no misinformation in the rest of it.

JOThompson
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby JOThompson » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:26 pm

I took the Kaplan course, twice. I saw a minor rise. If you're on a budget and have some discipline, use the PowerScore books. Much better strategies (at least for me) and I experienced a seven point jump.

KDLMaj
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby KDLMaj » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:40 pm

JasonR wrote:
KDLMaj wrote:What this person is neglecting to mention is that Test Masters spends *70%* of its course focusing on logic games.


Nice blatant lie to start your post off. I'm sure there's no misinformation in the rest of it.


You're correct- I heard this from a former TM student/current Kaplan Student and never verified it. I just checked the syllabus- it looks as though they deal with logic games almost as much as they deal with LR (In about 70% of their sessions- which is clearly what the student meant), however, and devote only a little more than half of that to RC. It's still a grossly skewed course. Of course students love that- games scare the pants off of them. But it isn't generally in their best interest to overfocus on them (something I spend a lot of time communicating to students)

JasonR
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby JasonR » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:58 pm

KDLMaj wrote:
JasonR wrote:
KDLMaj wrote:What this person is neglecting to mention is that Test Masters spends *70%* of its course focusing on logic games.


Nice blatant lie to start your post off. I'm sure there's no misinformation in the rest of it.


You're correct- I heard this from a former TM student/current Kaplan Student and never verified it. I just checked the syllabus- it looks as though they deal with logic games almost as much as they deal with LR (In about 70% of their sessions- which is clearly what the student meant), however, and devote only a little more than half of that to RC. It's still a grossly skewed course. Of course students love that- games scare the pants off of them. But it isn't generally in their best interest to overfocus on them (something I spend a lot of time communicating to students)


Your former student was grossly exaggerating, and, consequently, your comments are still completely incorrect. Did you really assume that by looking at the TM online syllabus you can ascertain the proportions of a given lesson devoted to this or that topic?

The course is not "grossly skewed." It's not "skewed" at all. The TM instructors emphasize from the beginning that the test subjects are covered in proportion to their weights on the test itself. LG shows up on a number of the days, but it's usually only covered for 1-1.5 of the 4 hours in a lesson. RC may appear to be underemphasized, but that's simply because it's almost always taught in 2-hour blocks. In the end, LG and RC receive the exact same number of hours of coverage, and half of the lecture hours are devoted to LR.

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lebob
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby lebob » Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:12 pm

Not awful, but Testmasters is better (for me). I know that there is controversy surrounding TM recently on these boards, but I'm just going to talk about what I got out of the courses, to help you make the best decision.

Kaplan's process is unnecessarily complex (for me).
I signed up for Kaplan, went to a few classes and quit halfway through.
I signed up for Testmasters and started from scratch.

NOW, after taking Testmasters and going back through my old Kaplan books/explanations, I see just how superior the Testmaster methods are. Testmasters fundamentally breaks down the thought process behind the questions. At Kaplan, they try to do the same, but for me, it didn't click.


***Here are some specifics off the top of my head, going off of hindsight***

For me...
1) Kaplan RC: Their RC tactics are HORRIBLE. They suggest underlining/circling so many things, and even making written notes on the sides of paragraphs. They call it the "roadmap." The teachers send you copies of their passages (which are seriously riddled with symbols and underlines and circles) to show you how to do it, but you shouldn't be doing this because it just wastes SO MUCH TIME (and generally, just unnecessary!). Mark as little as possible. It took me FOREVER to unlearn this.

2) Kaplan LR: They don't explicitly differentiate between 2S and 2N questions (well, that's what they're called at Testmasters). I'm referring to assumption questions, and these are a good chunk of your LR sections. And even if Kaplan did do this (which I'm soo sure they didn't), I obviously didn't get it through their methods. It was only at TM that I truly had the differences shelled out me, part by part. The difference between these types: For one type, you're finding a necessary assumption that must be true for the argument to hold true, while in other type you're looking for something (anything) that will be a sufficient link to make the conclusion true. Confused? Take testmasters and you'll get this stuff sorted out like it's nothing. Kaplan never made this distinction for me. They just told me that "they're similar... just look for the missing assumption...blah blah." Looking back, this ONE difference is so huge that it'd be a deal breaker for me.

3) Kaplan Teachers: Um, but the teachers are great! lol. I think it's a shame, because you have these great qualified teachers forced to teach inferior methods.

buzzbee
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby buzzbee » Sat Mar 13, 2010 12:53 am

self studying => definitely much much better.

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typ3
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby typ3 » Sat Mar 13, 2010 1:11 am

buzzbee wrote:self studying => definitely much much better.



Disagree, different strokes for different folks.

Some people can't break 160 without serious help. Although I will say going from the 160's -- 170's takes a lot of individual work. That's the same regardless of who you take a class from. Classes can help motivate people and some instructors can help in analyzing poor mistakes / habits.

KDLMaj
Posts: 145
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Re: Are Kaplan courses really that awful?

Postby KDLMaj » Sun Mar 14, 2010 4:29 am

lebob wrote:
***Here are some specifics off the top of my head, going off of hindsight***

For me...
1) Kaplan RC: Their RC tactics are HORRIBLE. They suggest underlining/circling so many things, and even making written notes on the sides of paragraphs. They call it the "roadmap." The teachers send you copies of their passages (which are seriously riddled with symbols and underlines and circles) to show you how to do it, but you shouldn't be doing this because it just wastes SO MUCH TIME (and generally, just unnecessary!). Mark as little as possible. It took me FOREVER to unlearn this.

2) Kaplan LR: They don't explicitly differentiate between 2S and 2N questions (well, that's what they're called at Testmasters). I'm referring to assumption questions, and these are a good chunk of your LR sections. And even if Kaplan did do this (which I'm soo sure they didn't), I obviously didn't get it through their methods. It was only at TM that I truly had the differences shelled out me, part by part. The difference between these types: For one type, you're finding a necessary assumption that must be true for the argument to hold true, while in other type you're looking for something (anything) that will be a sufficient link to make the conclusion true. Confused? Take testmasters and you'll get this stuff sorted out like it's nothing. Kaplan never made this distinction for me. They just told me that "they're similar... just look for the missing assumption...blah blah." Looking back, this ONE difference is so huge that it'd be a deal breaker for me.

3) Kaplan Teachers: Um, but the teachers are great! lol. I think it's a shame, because you have these great qualified teachers forced to teach inferior methods.


In all honesty, if the Kaplan RC method wasn't working for you, you weren't using it correctly. The Kaplan RC method is amazing- I routinely see some of my biggest score increases in RC with my students in the beginning- but it's very difficult to teach (it's difficult to teach reading in general) and requires students to fundamentally alter the way they read (to a way that is required in law school, so it's well worth it). It's not the circling of keywords that matters- it's spotting them and learning what they mean.

I will agree that Kaplan's glaring weakness is in the fact that they teach assumption questions as scope shifts when many of them are also alternative explanation arguments. Having said that, this applies to maybe 4 questions on any given exam. It's not exactly a huge deal. Alternative explanation is taught with strengthening/weakening questions (which are virtually synonymous with it) and in flaw questions (where it's also very popular). So while it's problematic, it's not half the issue you're making it out to be. I do hope it's fixed soon though.




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