Kaplan center helps some test takers

Kaplan classes range in cost from approximately $499 to $1,199.

Cati Vanden Breul

Many University students study countless hours to prepare for graduate school entrance examinations such as the MCAT and LSAT.

Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions and other test-preparatory organizations offer classes to help students get ready for the tests.

Kaplan courses teach students how to excel in critical thinking, crisis prevention and content, which Angela Davis, manager of the Kaplan center in Minnesota, called them the “three Cs.”

“It’s our goal to make students into the very best test takers they can be,” Davis said.

Classes range in cost from approximately $499 for the online version to $1,199 for the classroom version. Students can have 35 hours of private tutoring for $3,999, according to the Kaplan Web site.

“There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it – it’s a lot of money,” Davis said.

However, she said, it’s worth making the investment if it takes students where they want to go.

Kaplan communications director Carina Wong said although the courses are expensive, most students who go to graduate school realize they’re an important financial investment to make.

Wong said students who are not satisfied with their scores can retake the Kaplan course for free or get their money back.

Opinion on the worth of test-prep programs is mixed on campus.

“A lot of students feel it’s the best way to get the preparation they need,” said Kathleen Peterson, University faculty adviser for the Pre-med American Medical Student Association.

Students like to have the assurance that they studied the right things, she said.

But Peterson said she doesn’t recommend all students take the prep-courses. Instead, she talks to students individually about what options are available and helps them decide what would be the most beneficial for them.

Lars Loberg, a University senior in the process of applying to law school, took the Kaplan course and said it was helpful.

“It was beneficial, but you need to put in the time to be effective,” Loberg said.

Loberg said that because of his heavy course load, it was hard to dedicate as much time as he would have liked to studying. But he said the course helped him feel comfortable about the test.

However, it was “way too expensive,” he said.

For other students, the course prices also present a problem.

Sophomore Becky Reckelberg said she does not plan on taking any prep courses to prepare for the Dental Admissions Test.

“I’m not taking any classes because I don’t have $1,000 to spend on them,” Reckelberg said.

“If I put enough time into it, I can do the same things myself,” she said.

University Law School professor Brian Bix said the right decision lies with the student.

“The programs are worth what you are willing to spend,” Bix said.

Although they are expensive, he said, he also understands why preparatory courses are beneficial to many students.

“They tend to be helpful in that they give students more confidence,” Bix said.

He said students who feel more comfortable going into the test will do better.

Bix said some students have the discipline to buy the books and do the studying on their own.

Students can also get copies of old tests and time themselves to practice, he said.

Third-year law student Joel Johnson took a three-day prep course offered by one of his professors to prepare for the LSAT.

Johnson said he didn’t feel like he needed to take the Kaplan courses and said they were too expensive.

He practiced with a review LSAT prep-book, and he said it was helpful.

Johnson said he would advise prospective law students to take a practice exam first to see where they stand.

“Maybe they’ll just need to pick up a book. Maybe they won’t need the courses,” Johnson said.

However, some students need the structure the classes offer, Peterson said.

The Kaplan courses give students a review of the material they’ll need to know, but don’t teach new material, she said.

“I’ve gotten some very positive feedback from students,” Peterson said.

Davis said she’s aware that it’s difficult for everyone to afford Kaplan courses.

“We do try to offer financial aid. If there is someone who is very deserving and can’t afford it, we try really hard not to keep them from doing it,” Davis said.

The Minnesota Kaplan center is giving free practice tests for students Saturday.