Why Kaplan is Leading the Test Prep Industry

Best ACT prep course review Kaplan
Kaplan: Leading the Test Prep Industry Through Innovation and Driven by Results

Looking through our Best Test Prep Reviews lists, you’ll find one company consistently near the top: Kaplan. The company, whose test prep division is based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, offers over 35 test prep products ranging from high school entrance exams to professional licensing and certifications. Their products include traditional in-person prep courses, online classes, and blended learning prep options to meet the demands of every type of student.  In 2016, they had over 350,000 test prep students generating $286 billion in revenue.

While their commercial numbers are impressive, they also made the Forbes Magazine Top 100 Places to Work in America list. This shows that they are not only successful at meeting the ever-changing needs of their customers, but that they value their employees. They have created a working environment that fosters innovation and cross-functional teamwork. Motivated and satisfied employees do great work, and Kaplan’s corporate culture and value system help drive their commercial success.

Kaplan was founded over 75 years ago by Stanley Kaplan, who began tutoring immigrants seeking the American dream in his parent’s basement in Brooklyn. Since then, they have grown into one of the world’s largest education providers with a presence in over 30 countries. They maintain relationships with over 1,000 school districts, colleges, and universities. They currently have 1 million students and 19,000 employees across their three main operating divisions: Higher Education, International, and Test Prep.

Higher Education

Kaplan operates Kaplan University through their Higher Education division, which offers undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as professional certifications. While they do operate some brick and mortar schools in the Midwest and Maine, 95% of their students are enrolled in their online classes. They also are very focused on helping our military achieve educational success.  26% of their students are active duty military or veterans. Students can earn degrees or certifications in a wide range of fields including Human Services, Accounting, Business Administration, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Nursing, Cybersecurity, and Information Technology.


Kaplan International Higher Education focuses on distance learning and English language education. They have partnered with colleges and universities across the US, UK, Canada, and Australia to drive enrollment of qualified international students to their programs. They also offer immersion experiences as part of the English language education programs, including special experiences for teens.

Test Prep

Kaplan’s Test Prep division is actually the smallest of the three, accounting for 18% of Kaplan’s overall revenue in 2016. This part of the organization grew out of the rising popularity in standardized tests, which started to be widely adopted in the US following World War 2. At the time, test makers didn’t think you could coach people to improve their test scores. Kaplan’s philosophy was that anyone can improve their score with the right preparation. Thus, the test prep industry was born. Today, programs ranging from elite secondary schools, traditional colleges and universities, post-graduate schools and programs, and professional certifications rely heavily on standardized tests to support admissions and test competency. Kaplan is still leading the industry it founded over 60 years ago.

Success Factors

But what makes them such a dominant force in test prep courses?

Their success starts with their product development philosophy. They base all of their instructional design for every test-prep course on evidence-based research that focuses on successful student outcomes. This research informs them of the best way to build and deliver their curriculum to different types of learners using the latest technology. Developing products based on proven research drives success. While this may seem like the logical way to do things, not all companies go through this rigorous research phase in their product development lifecycle.

They also pilot all of their products in the field. These real-world pilots allow them to evaluate the product, get feedback from students, and test results. They can then make any adjustments needed before a full product launch. Once their product clears pilot and any adjustments are made, they can rapidly scale the product for full launch because of their experience and existing infrastructure. This means they can bring the product to market quickly and efficiently.

Their infrastructure and company culture also means that if they find success with one product element, they can easily replicate it in other products. A great example of this is their online classrooms, which are the best in the industry from a technology perspective. They perfected the virtual classroom technology in one product, then integrated it across their other test prep products where appropriate. Their initial investment helps drive the success of several other products in their test prep line. This type of product innovation is also further evidence of their collaborative working environment that helps drive their success.

Kaplan’s company values include Support, Knowledge, and Opportunity. These values drive them to develop smart, effective tools that support their customers and give them the opportunity to achieve their educational and career goals.

Their values also include Results. They feel they are only successful if their customers are successful. Many of their test prep courses boast 95% acceptance ratings to top choice schools for students completing their test prep courses. They also offer money-back guarantees.  They truly want their customers to succeed.

Our favorite value though is their value of Integrity. This is a company that holds itself to the highest educational standards, values their employees, and is driven by student success. It really is quite clear why they are often found at the top of our Best Test Prep courses lists.

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