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Kaplan Edges Into the Free-PSAT-Prep Market

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Kaplan Test Prep has announced a new, free online preparation course for the PSAT, adding another such service to an expanding field of test-prep offerings aimed at lower-income students. 

Officials of the test-prep service announced Tuesday that from Oct. 1 through Oct. 17, students will have access to a series of eight livestreamed, interactive lessons online. Half of the one-hour sessions, which will be taught by Kaplan teachers, will focus on math, and the other half will focus on reading, writing, and language. Each lesson will be live online twice, and students who miss them can use recorded versions online later.

Kaplan already has a line of test-prep products for the PSAT, including a $299 self-paced online course, a $499 in-person classroom course, and a 1-to-1 tutoring program, at home or online, for $2,399. The newest offering will add a free service to that line of paid prep services.

The company includes online teaching in its line of paid SAT-prep products, as well. It doesn't offer a free, multi-session SAT prep course, but it periodically offers free stand-alone sessions, such as a live 12-hour "prep-a-thon" last winter on tackling the newly redesigned SAT, said Lee Weiss, Kaplan Test Prep's vice president of college admissions programs.

Kaplan spokesman Russell Schaffer declined to say how the free PSAT-prep program is being financed, saying only that it is "our investment in [students'] success."

Weiss cast it as a way to help students nab the attention of colleges who are looking for early ways to identify promising students, and to help students compete for National Merit scholarships, which are based on PSAT scores. He said that reaching low-income students is one of the aims of the new program, although "students of all socioeconomic backgrounds" could find it useful.

Earlier this year, Kaplan Test Prep partnered with ACT Inc., to add a live-teaching element to ACT's own online prep course for the ACT college-admissions exam. That service was a collaboration between ACT Inc. and Kaplan Test Prep. The free PSAT-prep course announced Tuesday is a Kaplan-only affair, not endorsed by the College Board.

The College Board has its own line of free PSAT practice products. Students can download a sample test on paper, or practice with questions online. It also offers free SAT and PSAT prep as part of a partnership with Khan Academy. College Board spokesman Zach Goldberg said that the company will offer free, live instruction for the PSAT on Facebook Live during this school year, too.

The two testing rivals have long jockeyed for dominance in college-admission testing, and that competition has spilled into the test-prep space as well. When ACT announced the addition of live-teaching to its prep course through Kaplan in April, the College Board issued an unusually combative response, accusing the ACT of trying to "replace" classroom teachers with long-distance instruction.


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