Sunday, November 15, 2009

Free Online Test Prep for GRE. Why? (p. 2)


The modest amount you charge for your Express course certainly doesn't obligate you to keep me abreast of such alterations, and I shudder to think what kind of service I would get if I went with one of those other prep courses. Kaplan, you really do make dreams come true.

Are you.


Kidding me?

Since the e-mail offered no details explaining the reason for this cancellation, like the classroom burned down, or a typhoid epidemic wiped out half the instructors in Western Massachusetts, I can only assume that the reason the class was canceled was that they couldn't fill it, so they tried to herd us like cattle into another class they couldn't fill to achieve maximum cost efficiency.

I'm appalled this note avoided any mention of a refund, even though it's almost certainly illegal for them to deny one, considering they cannot provide the service I paid for. The intention here was clearly to suggest this "adjustment" was obligatory, and that there was no other recourse, in the hopes that people would go out of their way to the location that best suited Kaplan, instead of signing up for the next most convenient test date and location, or simply getting their money back.

This was deception, pure and simple.

I gave myself a day to respond so I wouldn't blow up before knowing I had my money back. But I could taste blood. I was hoping, praying, they would put up a fight.

Sadly, I met no resistance, except that I had to return the prep book first, that piece of toilet paper which should have been my consolation prize -- the least they could do, but whatever. There was also a long delay getting my credit card reimbursed and I had to poke them a few times before it actually went through.

I didn't have to look long after that to discover there are ample resources available, for free, to help prepare for the GRE. And it occurred to me (I can't find the article I read validating this): What you're really paying for with a Kaplan course is structured and guided practice, nothing more. That's the only reason scores go up.

But the keystone to Kaplan's marketing campaign is the "Kaplan method," an implied set of tightly guarded secrets that allow one to exploit the formulaic weakness of standardized test questions, make them transparent, and arrive at the correct answer regardless of whether you're able to solve the problem in a traditional manner.

It's all mystique. There is nothing unique, innovative, or exclusive about the very basic strategies they employ. Here, for instance, is a slide presentation divulging one of their "secrets."

In short, Kaplan is a racket, and an especially deceptive one. If you'll benefit from the classroom structure (I probably would have if my scores mattered more), then maybe it's worth considering. Otherwise, I say avoid this vulture at all costs.

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