SAT Prep Courses Fight

Kaplan Contests Princeton Review's Ads

A private arbitration panel ruled last Friday that the well-known test prep company The Princeton Review can no longer make its claim of an average "110-160 point" improvement when advertising its SAT course.

The decision came in the wake of a lawsuit brought by competitor Stanley Kaplan Educational Center contesting Princeton's test improvement claims.

The panel also found that Princeton Review must use lower improvement figures for its MCAT, GMAT, GRE and LSAT courses.

"This supports what students have long known--that Princeton Review has been misleading students for years," Kaplan President and CEO Jonathan Grayer said in a press release.

The Princeton Review disputes Kaplan's view of the panel's findings, maintaining that the panel did not consider recent studies that showed improvement for those who take Princeton courses.


In a press release, The Princeton Review alleged that it "has won an eighteenth-month legal battle with Stanley Kaplan," asserting that Princeton Review "can claim higher average test score improvements for students taking its SAT [and MCAT] courses."

In a recent study conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide, a polling organization, Princeton Review's SAT prep students were found to have improved their scores by 127 points, MCAT students by 6.5. These results were not considered by the panel and are currently being contested by Kaplan.

"We've always known that The Princeton Review is the best in test preparation," said Boston Executive Director of The Princeton Review Brett A. Gordon.

Kevin T. Baine, counsel to Kaplan, expressed outrage at these claims. "I don't know how they can get off suggesting that the panel has upheld their new SAT and MCAT improvement claims. This press release is unbelievable."

Gordon said the most important result of the arbitration was the establishment of a "preferred" method to determine average improvements in test scores.

The Princeton Review had previously conducted studies of its improvement rates by sending post-cards to all of its students asking them to respond with their exam score.

According to Baine, low response rates and the tendency of only the highest scorers to reply led to unrepresentative findings. The panel agreed with Kaplan's allegations and decided that this method was flawed.

The "preferred" method, which Kaplan employs, consists of sending postcards to a randomly selected sample of students, and then following up the mailing with telephone calls.

Measuring the companies by this new standard, Gordon said, the victor in this round of arbitration is Princeton Review.

"Before we weren't comparing apples to apples," Gordon said. "Now you know who has the better apple."