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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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The Next Generation of Test Preparation

For years, Kaplan and Princeton Review have been able to charge students hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, for their test preparation classes. For example, Kaplan’s GMAT classroom program costs $1,449. Princeton Review comes in a little cheaper at $1,249, but that still isn’t very appealing for the budget conscious.

Now let me add that for those prices, you generally have part-time instructors teaching the material, or in the case of online classes, a self-serve program where the teaching occurs through videos and multiple choice exams. With some programs, you may be able to communicate with the instructor during live online classes. However that feature varies by program, and is not offered with every online program.

Now imagine a test program that only costs $690 and provides you access to courses taught by instructors, many of whom hold doctorates, and also allows you to ask questions during the lessons and receive answers in real-time through in-class teaching assistants. By the way, did I mention this all takes place from the convenience of any compatible internet connected computer?

While this concept sounds too good to be true, it is a reality known as Knewton, a test preparation company founded in early 2008.

According to Chris Rosenbaum, the  director of Test Preparation at the company, Knewton was founded to make it possible for technology to catch up with adaptive learning. While the 30 full-time staff is only a fraction of the upwards of 10,000 teachers employed by Kaplan, in most cases, you can expect the lesson quality to be higher, because Knewton hires 15-20 teachers for all their programs.

By employing a “Team teaching model,” Knewton is able to offer lecture-like classes, similar to those in a traditional university setting. However, they manage to enhance the learning process by having teaching assistants to answer questions during the class, and the professors teaching the online lessons also offer office hours – a feature which stands out from many other testing services

One of the key features of the online learning model is the “adaptive learning engine” in the background, which according to Rosenbaum, is able to give students questions and relevant content as needed. In particular, this feature is utilized in their GMAT materials so the preparation is better able to hone into the strengths of students. This engine, however ,does not apply to the LSAT, due to the different structure and objectives of the exams.

While all of this sounds great, you must be asking how a newcomer to the test preparation field can assure its quality. Kaplan and Princeton Review offer guarantees that you’ll perform higher than the score on their initial practice exams.  Knewton guarantees an improvement on the GMAT of at least 50 points, and at least five points on the LSAT.

Rosenbaum pointed out that Knewton is better equipped to handle moving forward and offering innovative online learning, because they don’t have to support legacy models of learning – a fancy term for classroom learning. Without having the need to manage thousands of branches and also employ hundreds, if not thousands, of staff, Knewton is better able to focus solely on online learning.

While online learning is not the best option for everyone, if cost is a concern and you have the discipline to focus on class even while outside the classroom, then Knewton is a worthwhile alternative for consideration if you have test preparation needs.

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