Sunday, November 15, 2009

Free Online Test Prep for GRE. Why?

Because Kaplan sucks. That's why. Here's a story for you.

Taking the GRE is required for entrance into most MFA programs, and while the score itself is not a huge factor, I figured that bombing it might make an otherwise respectable application appear suspicious. I signed up to take a test on September 29, and didn't even consider taking advantage of the test prep resources available for free online.  Instead  I looked into pay-for prep courses, figuring it was worth two or three hundred bucks to relieve myself of having to develop my own study plan.

I almost vomited when I found out the standard month-long course at Kaplan, consisting of nine 2.5-hour classes, was $1,200. Now before I go on, can we just take a second to do some fun calculations (think of it as practice for the quantitative section).

If the Kaplan prep book by itself is is $30, then that means I’m essentially paying 1,169 dollars for (9 x 2.5 =) 22.5 hours of classroom instruction, or 52 dollars per hour. Must be one hell of a teacher.

Especially when you consider how much revenue this guy rakes in! Let’s assume a classroom of 20 students, $52 times 20... that's over a $1,000 per hour. Wow! This must be like having Socrates as a mentor!

Considering how little the GRE’s factored in to my application, twenty-plus hours and twelve hundred dollars seemed too big an investment to have somebody take me through a workbook. Thankfully, Kaplan also had an Express course -- $399 for sixteen hours over one weekend. This I could stomach, so I signed up (and paid) for a course in Cambridge (easy to get to) on Sept. 26 and 27, two days before my exam so I’d be fresh from practice.

On September 11th I get a voicemail and an e-mail from the local Kaplan Center. They both said the same thing, and the e-mail read as follows:

Dear Kaplan GRE Student,

Hello! My name is [Jerk Face] and I am the Associate [Jerk Face] at Kaplan. Thank you for choosing Kaplan to prepare for your GRE exam! I'm excited to meet you and begin working with you as you strive towards your highest possible GRE score.

I am writing today to inform you of an adjustment [my emphasis] that we have had to make to your Kaplan GRE Class schedule. Your first class is now Saturday, September 19th instead of September 26th, and will be held at the Boston Kaplan Center located at... instead of at the Cambridge Kaplan Center.

It is not often that I am faced with changing a class on such short notice... but my hope is that this inconvenience is minimal and that we can still help you to prepare for your GRE and entrance into the graduate school and program of your dreams! Please don’t hesitate to [blah, blah, blah] and I look forward to [blah, so polite and professional, blah].

Sincerely,

[Jerk Face]

Well, hel-lo to YOU! You are so kind to alert me to this adjustment. Now I have ample time to cancel my weekend trip to Maine, or my house inspection, or my visit to my dying grandmother, or whatever lower priorities I'd foolishly scheduled when I should be keeping my weekends flexible in case something like this should happen. God forbid I had scheduled something I couldn't cancel, I might have had to go into my scheduled GRE exam (250 dollars non-refundable) completely unprepared!

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