Research conducted by Emily Kierkegaard, PhD, and expert-reviewed by Kevin Wong, PrepMaven Co-founder

Kaplan is one of the giants in test prep, and their courses and tutoring for SAT prep are well-known. 

Considering using Kaplan for SAT prep? Read this in-depth review first.

We did the hard work of researching all about Kaplan to get all the information you need to find your best fit for test prep.

For more SAT prep options, check out our list of the 12 best SAT prep courses and the top 15 SAT tutoring services.

Kaplan Review: Fast Facts

  • Kaplan is one of the largest companies for educational products — they have about 12,000 teachers and staff around the world, and they publish dozens of books on test prep
  • Kaplan offers several different plans for SAT prep, including pre-recorded video courses, live group courses, and individual tutoring
  • SAT prep with a live instructor (not just pre-recorded videos) starts at $799
  • Kaplan’s group classes are much larger than those of competitors, with up to 30 students per class — and Kaplan tends to cancel classes if not enough students sign up
  • Instructors are less-qualified than many competitors, and they’re assigned by Kaplan with no option to choose a specific class instructor or tutor
  • Kaplan is known for having unresponsive customer service, with clients reporting waiting hours on hold or sending emails and messages that go unanswered
student working on online SAT prep

Kaplan Review: SAT Prep Options & Pricing

Kaplan has three main options for SAT prep:

  • Kaplan On Demand SAT course, $199 — pre-recorded video lessons and practice questions, but no contact with an instructor
  • Kaplan Live Online SAT course, $799 — live group classes and practice
  • Kaplan Live Online Plus SAT course, $1099 — same as the Live Online course, plus 3 hours of individual tutoring
  • Kaplan Unlimited Prep course, $1999 — access to course materials until December of senior year, and access includes other tests as well (PSAT, ACT, and select APs)
  • Kaplan SAT Tutoring, $1999 for 10 tutoring hours, $2899 for 20 tutoring hours, $3799 for 30 tutoring hours, or $4599 for 40 tutoring hours ($115–200/hour) — one-on-one tutoring 
  • Kaplan Premium SAT Tutoring with 99th percentile instructors, $2999 for 10 hours, $4299 for 20 hours, 5799 for 30 hours, 6999 for 40 hours ($175-$299/hr)
  • These prices are high given the instructors’ lack of credentials (more on that below). 

Kaplan’s SAT prep courses are twice as expensive as the similar offerings from Magoosh ($399). They’re a similar price to the prep courses offered by Princeton Review ($949) with smaller class sizes or the SAT masterclass from PrepMaven ($995) with the company’s founder (a Princeton grad) and more individualized attention, including additional help outside of class time.

Kaplan’s tutoring rates makes them more expensive than higher-quality tutoring services with top 1% and Ivy-League tutors — for example, families can consider tutoring with elite Ivy-League tutors at PrepMaven starting at $79/hour, with top scorers at SoFlo ($75/hour), or with graduate students from the Tutoring Service of New York ($112–160/hour).

What’s especially strange is that Kaplan expects you to pay even higher rates to guarantee a qualified tutor. Most companies charging upwards of $100/hr require their instructors to have scored in the 99th percentile. At Kaplan, you won’t get that unless you’re willing to pay a roughly 50% premium.

We also definitely don’t think that the On Demand course is worth the $199, given that Khan Academy offers a very similar service completely for free (keep reading to learn more).

Rating: 5/10

Kaplan Review: On Demand SAT course

Kaplan’s least expensive course is their On Demand SAT course for $199. Of course, “on demand” is another way of referring to pre-recorded video lessons.

This type of self-directed course is best for students who are capable of managing their own schedules and tracking progress without the assistance of an instructor.

Each of the video lessons is short, never more than 10–12 minutes long. These videos are slickly produced, though students may find them a little cheesy. Each video explanation is followed by 6–7 practice questions and then a short quiz with 4–5 questions. This is Kaplan’s “Learn It, Drill It, Prove it” system.

One of the best parts of the course is the video explanation that accompanies each of the quiz questions. These are definitely helpful content, but as there are only a handful of questions per concept it’s more limited than we’d like.

In addition to this program, students enrolled in Kaplan’s On Demand SAT course also have access to Kaplan’s “Qbank,” or question bank. This is a library of multiple-choice questions that mimic the kind you’ll see on the SAT.

While additional practice questions are helpful, we find that they’re less effective for raising your SAT score than working with real questions from actual past SAT tests. That’s because while Kaplan’s authors will try to mimic the test, they’re always going to have slight differences in style compared to the real SAT.

SAT answer sheet

One significant downside of Kaplan’s On Demand SAT prep course is that it’s only available for 6 months. After that, there’s no way to extend access to the test materials. Given that most students take the SAT more than once, and it can be ideal to take the SAT for the first time early on to reduce time pressure, 6 months is not enough time for many students.

In the end, Kaplan’s On Demand SAT course is a perfectly fine way to brush up on concepts covered by the SAT and do some practice. Is it worth the $199 price tag, though? In our opinion, no. 

A very similar set of practice questions — but this time created in partnership with the College Board, the makers of the SAT — is available completely for free from Khan Academy. Similarly, 6 full real SAT tests are available from the College Board or on Khan Academy. These resources are available forever, with no 6-month cutoff.

If students need more help than offered by these resources, then it’s likely that a live course with access to an instructor or one-on-one tutoring will be more effective.

That’s also true for high-scoring students who are chasing that amazing score that will help get them into the Ivy League/Stanford/MIT/etc. Typically the best fit for high-scoring students is private tutoring with a top 1% instructor.

Rating: 4/10

Kaplan Review: Live Online SAT courses

Kaplan’s Live Online SAT course

Kaplan’s Live Online SAT course is their flagship offering for SAT prep. The course includes 9 sessions of 2 hours each for $799. (Payment plans are also available.)

One advantage of Kaplan’s version of the course is that students can sign up for the class times that work for them, and can easily switch time slots. This is great for students with busy and ever-changing schedules.

That said, Kaplan is notorious for canceling classes to protect their profit margins if not enough students are signed up for them.

“We enrolled my daughter for Unlimited Prep. We expected to have one live classroom, but we never get that. They are always canceled due to low enrollments.”

“Canceled our ACT class twice causing us to have to push back our test date. Could not offer a viable alternative class and refused to refund the full fee. Horrible business practices and totally unreliable!”

Another common complaint from clients is that Kaplan’s SAT prep has a fairly rigid structure and isn’t customized to the needs of each individual student. Many students have commented that the classes moved too quickly for them:

“I told them the program did not work. I bought the Bootcamp program. It was too fast and my kid could not follow along. No one helped her, no one checked in, no one cared. She just felt like she wasn’t smart enough to get it. The whole experience was awful from start to finish.”

frustrated student

In addition to the course, students receive access to the pre-recorded video explanations and quizzes from the On Demand course. They also get several hard-copy books. As we’ve mentioned, these practice materials are fine, but they’re not the best out there for SAT practice.

One interesting feature of Kaplan’s Live Online course is that for each class there is a second instructor present in the online chat, available to answer questions without disrupting the flow of the class. 

However, this feature is likely necessary because Kaplan’s class sizes are quite large, up to 30 students at a time! These classes are much larger than those offered by competitors. Indeed, smaller class sizes are highly endorsed by teacher organizations, such as the American Federation of Teachers, which recommends class sizes under 20.

While the chat function is great, it might be better to have a smaller class where students are able to ask the instructor questions directly during the lesson, and not written separately. In general, we found Kaplan’s SAT prep classes to be less adaptive to the needs of the individual students.

Who teaches these classes? Kaplan does not require any specific qualifications for its SAT instructors and tutors — unless you shell out for the “Premium” tutoring, instructors are not required to be top scorers on the test themselves or have graduated from a top-tier university.

We’re heard that Kaplan hires instructors who score in the 90th percentile and above on the SAT, although they don’t publish this cutoff, so it may not be a strict requirement. This means that instructors are above-average, but they’re not necessarily at the top. 

A 90th-percentile score is about a 1350 on the SAT (out of 1600). This is a strong score, but it’s not nearly high enough to be competitive for an Ivy-League school, where the average score is between 1450 and 1570. In fact, a 1350 isn’t good enough to be competitive at hardly any of the top-tier schools in the US.

In contrast, several other SAT prep providers hire only top 1% scorers (in the 99th percentile), which means scoring about a 1550 on the SAT. Students might consider PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), Magoosh (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%).

Finally, it’s important to note that like Kaplan’s On Demand course, all of these materials are only available for 6 months, and the only way to extend this is to purchase the Unlimited Prep option for $1999. This is not enough time for many students, especially considering that most students take the SAT more than once.

Rating: 2/10

Kaplan’s Live Online Plus SAT course

Kaplan also offers a Live Online Plus option for $1099. This is identical to the Live Online course, but with the addition of 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring. That comes out to $100/hour for the tutoring portion, which is a discount on the price of their tutoring if purchased separately.

We like that this option allows students to get some additional help with a few specific problem areas.

However, as we discuss below, we wish that Kaplan’s tutors had stronger credentials for teaching the SAT.

Rating: 5/10

student working on online SAT prep

Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course

Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course ($1999) is its most deluxe option. For an additional $400, families can add 6 hours of individual tutoring.

If students find the large group classes to be a good fit for their learning style and want more of the same, it might be a good fit — it’s the same as the basic Live Online class, but it allows students to access the classes and practice questions until December of their senior year, rather than only 6 months. Many students report that the 6-month cutoff for the Live Online or Live Online Plus courses isn’t enough time, and this option remedies that, albeit for a hefty price increase. 

The other difference with the Unlimited Prep course is that students also get access to live group classes for the ACT, PSAT (though this prep is identical to the SAT), and a handful of common AP tests:

  • AP Biology Review Course
  • AP Calculus AB Review Course
  • AP English Language and Composition Review Course
  • AP English Literature Review Course
  • AP Human Geography Review Course
  • AP Psychology Review Course
  • AP US History Review Course
  • AP World History (Modern) Review Course

(Note that other AP courses like AP Physics, AP Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, AP Spanish, AP Political Science, and AP European History are not included.)

Each of the AP review classes have 8 2-hour classes that review important concepts for the tests. They don’t come anywhere close to teaching the entire AP subject, but they could be a good review before the test in May.

The catch? Unfortunately, Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course expires in December of the student’s senior year. That means that students do not have access to the materials in the spring of their senior year, when many students are taking AP tests for potential college credit.

Is Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course worth the $1999 price tag? It depends. For a student who is taking several of the 8 AP subjects covered by Kaplan as a sophomore or junior, and who plans to take both the ACT and the SAT, and who likes the large class format, sure.

However, as we’ve seen, the instructors for Kaplan have significantly fewer credentials than those from other top test prep companies like PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), Magoosh (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%). The quality of the teacher is the single most important component of the educational experience, and Kaplan does not have the best teachers.

In addition, families should note that tech problems with Kaplan’s online course platform and unresponsive customer service have impacted the overall learning experience.

Rating: 6/10

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Kaplan Review: SAT Tutoring

In addition to their large group classes, Kaplan also offers one-on-one SAT tutoring.

Individual tutoring might be an especially good fit for students who need more than a quick review of core concepts. This has been especially true after Covid, as there has been an unprecedented drop in student’s math and reading skills due to interruptions in schooling.

Individual tutoring is also a great idea for students who are pursuing very high scores (1400 and above), and who might feel bored in a general class aimed at the average student. High-achieving students should make sure that they’re working with a tutor who got a top score on the SAT themself. 

That said, one-on-one tutoring can be a good fit for any student! Individual tutoring sessions tend to be more impactful in a shorter period of time, since they can hone in on the specific weaknesses of that student, so they’re great for busy students who want to make the most of their SAT study time. 

An experienced tutor can also make sure to create individualized homework assignments that target the areas the student needs to strengthen to improve their SAT scores.

Is Kaplan a good choice for SAT tutoring?

We found it to be significantly overpriced compared to other options.

student working with an online SAT tutor

Kaplan offers four tutoring packages of different sizes. Their minimum purchase is a package of 10 tutoring hours at $1999. This is a very large minimum purchase, much higher than those of PrepMaven, Prep Expert, SoFlo Tutors, or Wyzant

Their minimum comes out to $200/hour for tutoring, which is a very steep price — especially considering that their tutors have no required qualifications like high scores themselves or degrees from top schools!

Their hourly rate does decrease if one purchases a large tutoring package ($4599 for 40 tutoring hours), but it’s still on the higher side.

Is this higher price tied to higher quality?

Unfortunately not. As with Kaplan’s group class instructors, Kaplan does not require any specific qualifications for their SAT tutors — instructors are not required to be top scorers on the SAT themselves or have graduated from a top-tier university.

We’re heard that Kaplan hires tutors who score in the 90th percentile and above on the SAT, although since they don’t publish this cutoff, it may not be a strict requirement. This means that instructors are above-average, but they’re not necessarily at the top. 

For context, a 90th-percentile score is roughly a 1350 on the SAT (out of 1600). This is a good score, but it’s not nearly high enough to be competitive for an Ivy-League school, where the average score is between 1450 and 1570. In fact, a 1350 isn’t good enough to be competitive at any of the top-tier schools in the US.

In contrast, several other SAT prep providers hire only top 1% scorers (in the 99th percentile), which means scoring about a 1550 on the SAT. (This is definitely a competitive score for the Ivy League and any other top school.) Students might consider PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), SoFlo (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%).

Cornell University
Cornell University (Image: Dantes De MonteCristo/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Note that if high-achieving students are aiming for a National Merit award, they’ll need a top 1% score on the PSAT, the version of the SAT that students take in October of their junior year. Every year, $35 million in scholarships are awarded through the National Merit program, and some colleges offer full-ride scholarships and other perks to National Merit students. An elite SAT tutor can help with preparation for the PSAT and this competition as well as the SAT.

Rating: 4/10

Kaplan Review: Online Platform

The experience and abilities of the tutor or instructor are without doubt the single most important factors in the overall quality of the educational experience for a live class or tutoring, but for online classes and tutoring the platform itself also has an impact.

The Kaplan online platform visually is pretty nice. Students have a home dashboard from which they can navigate to individual study units and practice tests. While other test prep platforms might have an individualized learning plan, Kaplan’s courses are more rigid and are not customized to meet the particular strengths and weaknesses of individual students.

Many clients have reported technical problems with the platform, which are compounded by difficulty reaching customer service:

“They are very glitchy, and they barely have customer service. There have been days that I just spent trying to figure out their site, and I have had to cancel plans because of it.”

“The website was a jumbled mess — the website is constantly broken and will make you want to rip your hair off. Disappointingly, a lot of the course is just telling you what you already know if you are actually prepping for the standardized tests. Also, some of their methods don’t even work or are just inefficient. Sorry to say, but mom and dad just wasted a **** ton of money. Save yourself your time and frustration and go somewhere else.”

“Adaptive QBank was not functioning for 2 weeks. I called and emailed several times and received responses that were unhelpful at best and rude at worst.”

frustrated client

“I’ve just stopped using the app all together and I tell people I do not recommend Kaplan for this reason. I have an ongoing tech issue with the app where it doesn’t load because of a test I generated, the result is an app that just gives me the spinning wheel of death nonstop, non resolving. I’ve done everything to try and resolve the problem, even offloading the app and reinstalling. Nothing works.”

“I thought this would be a helpful test prep experience… boy was I WRONG. Their website is a disaster and removes sections randomly so you cannot access them. Their website also deletes work consistently despite troubleshooting from customer service. Now on to customer service… Everyone I spoke to gave me an attitude despite issues being with their system. It sounds as if these customer service reps have never met a kind person in their life. I would run like the wind from Kaplan test prep!”

Overall, it seems that Kaplan’s online learning platform leaves room for improvement.

Rating: 5/10

Kaplan Review: Customer Service

When speaking with families, the most common critique of Kaplan’s educational services was actually about their lackluster customer support.

Many clients reported that it was impossible to reach Kaplan’s customer support or technical support. Emails and messages went unanswered, and phone lines required wait times of several hours.

“Waited on hold with customer service for 4 hours on two different occasions!! Can’t get an actual HUMAN to help with my courses. So frustrated and will never be using this company again. Will also tell EVERYONE not to ever use them especially if you need assistance from their customer service. Don’t use this company! Not worth it!”

“HORRIBLE! The course itself was fine but the lack of customer service is disgusting. If you ever need help, plan on not receiving it — no matter how urgent. No one answers the phones, the live chat doesn’t work, and emails go unanswered for weeks. I wanted to renew my subscription but decided to go with another test prep service who actually cares about helping their customers.”

“I didn’t like their customer support. I bought the wrong package and tried to change for what I needed and they just told me I couldn’t even though I was willing to pay the difference. For me it ended up being a waste of money.”

student frustrated with laptop

“No response to support emails. I’ve reached out via email, chat, social media, and had no response whatsoever.”

“POOOOOOR customer support. Expensive, system does not work easily and tech support does not answer. Phone number does not understand simple words, it’s an automated service. It is a piece of junk.”

“The study material and courses were good. I have not taken the test but I am confident I will do okay. My issue is with their customer service department. At the end of every class, they always mention their email address and encourage you to reach out if you have any questions. Well I have reached out twice, and I have also messaged them directly through their online portal. I have gotten zero responses.”

Kaplan does offer its students a higher score guarantee for any of its live SAT courses. There are a lot of rules for this guarantee, and they’re known for avoiding it on technicalities, so make sure you read all of the fine print.

Note that this higher score guarantee means only a score that is higher than the previous SAT score, even if only by the smallest point increment. If you score a 1030 the first time, spend six months studying, and then score a 1040, you cannot make a claim on the guarantee. Many other SAT services offer stronger point increase guarantees of 100–140 points.

Rating: 4/10

Kaplan Review: Final Verdict

Kaplan is one of the giants of the test prep industry, and so their SAT prep products, courses, and tutoring are well-known.

However, we found that they were overall overpriced and of lower quality than other options. As one client said,

“This is a large corporation chiefly concerned with profit. It can meaningfully improve your score yes, but you are far better off buying prep books and paying a private tutor. Don’t buy into a system that rips off students, instructors, and publishers.”

Their online learning platform has been reported to have tech problems, and their customer service is very hard to reach.

Their instructors and tutors do not have specific credentials, whereas other companies can boast top 1% or Ivy-League instructors.

Some of their online materials might be helpful to students studying for the SAT, but they’re not as good as real SAT questions, which are available for free elsewhere.

Ultimately, any amount of practice will help students prepare for the SAT, but there are many other options that will teach students more effectively, at better prices. 

If students are looking for a top-notch SAT prep class, but with smaller classes, more individualized attention, and top 1% instructors who hail from the Ivy League, we recommend PrepMaven’s SAT Masterclass. If families are specifically interested in one of the large test prep companies, we recommend Princeton Review over Kaplan

For families on a budget, we cannot recommend enough Khan Academy’s free SAT materials created in partnership with the College Board, creators of the SAT. Magoosh’s SAT prep course is pretty good value, too.

Princeton University
Princeton University

If students and families are looking for a more hands-on tutoring company with carefully selected Ivy-League tutors with prior teaching experience and specific training, we recommend working with a more selective tutoring service like PrepMaven ($79–349/hour) or Elite Ivy Tutors ($200–300/hour), where all of the tutors are from the Ivy-League with impressive backgrounds, and where the quality of instruction is consistently very high. 

Overall Rating: 5/10

What is the SAT?

Each year, roughly 2 million high school students take the SAT, according to College Board.

Along with the ACT, the SAT is a key component of college admissions. Colleges use test scores to gauge a student’s college readiness.

While many schools have gone test-optional in the wake of Covid, the most competitive schools still like to see SAT or ACT scores. In fact, according to reporting by New York Magazine, some elite schools–like MIT–are once again requiring submission of standardized test scores.

And, according to a report by CBS News, Yale and Dartmouth have recently joined MIT as well, saying that required standardized test scores will actually help poorer applicants.

Even for schools that don’t yet require the SAT, looking at the Common Data Set information for top schools like MIT and Princeton shows that SAT and ACT scores are still an extremely important part of the admissions process.

In addition to college admission, test scores can be used to earn scholarships or placement in special programs. Many schools that are test-optional are still using test scores for scholarships, so good scores can be an important way of avoiding student debt.

Younger students can also use test scores for admission to gifted and talented programs.

For students whose grades may have slipped during high school, test scores can also be used to show admissions officers your potential.

Finally, test scores are a handy tool for students to figure out where they might be a competitive applicant. Wondering if you have a chance at getting into Harvard? Not sure if University of Illinois is a reach school or a safety school for you? Test scores can help you there.

Check out our other posts for more information about how the digital SAT is scored, SAT test dates and deadlines, and how the SAT is different from the ACT. We also have many free test prep resources. For more test prep guidance, schedule a call with Jessica or one of our founders today!

Princeton University
Princeton University

Why take an SAT prep course?

You may want to consider a SAT prep course if you:

  • You have no idea where to start in order to prepare for the SAT
  • You feel overwhelmed by all of the different SAT prep books and materials and don’t know which to choose
  • You have a hard time keeping yourself on track and want an external structure to hold you accountable
  • You’re not sure what counts as a “good” SAT score
  • You’re not sure exactly what’s on the SAT
  • You’ve been practicing on your own but your gains have plateaued
  • You have a limited amount of time and need to be efficient in your studying
  • You want to learn techniques for managing test anxiety
  • You want insider tips about test strategies
  • You’re not sure how to track your progress
  • You’ve been practicing on your own but your gains have plateaued
  • You have a limited amount of time and need to be efficient in your studying
  • You want to learn techniques for managing test anxiety
  • You want insider tips about test strategies

In our SAT prep course, we typically see students increase their scores by about 100–300 points. This can have a significant impact on college admissions and scholarships.

Stanford University
Stanford University

What makes a good SAT prep course?

Guidance with SAT prep comes in two main forms: group classes or individual tutoring. Many students combine the two, following an SAT group class with one-on-one tutoring to focus on a tailored approach for that student’s strengths and weaknesses.

In this post, though, we focused on SAT group classes.

These days, many courses are online. This allows students to seek out the best classes regardless of their physical location, which is great! It’s up to the individual student and their situation to decide whether in-person classes or online classes are the best fit.

PrepMaven SAT class

The most important aspect of a good SAT prep course is the teacher. Excellent classes should be taught by experienced instructors who know the test inside and out and have many years helping students. The instructors should be people who scored highly on the test themselves, ideally in the top 1%

Classes should begin with a diagnostic test and a detailed score report to analyze a student’s starting point.

A good SAT prep class will also encourage students and help them reduce their test anxiety. If your prep course is making you feel anxious, it might not be the right fit!

All good SAT prep courses will review the content covered by the exam as well as test-taking strategies

Now more than ever with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, many students have gaps in their knowledge where their schooling was interrupted. A good SAT class will fill in these gaps by teaching fundamental math and grammar concepts.

Classes should provide students with study materials and guide students in using them effectively

Many good SAT prep courses will assign structured homework so that students can practice constructively with official test questions. There are a limited number of official practice tests, so it’s important to make the most of them! 

Good classes will help students work through missed problems and answer students’ questions.

The best SAT prep courses can also help students to make a holistic study plan and keep them on track, so that parents don’t have to be involved directly. 

Schedule a free 15- to 30-minute consultation with Jessica or one of our founders.

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Emily graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and holds an MA from the University of Notre Dame. She was a National Merit Scholar and has won numerous academic prizes and fellowships. A veteran of the publishing industry, she has helped professors at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton revise their books and articles. Over the last decade, Emily has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.