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SAT Preparation Software Reviews

Kaplan RoadTrip for the SAT (1997)


See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other SAT Preparation software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of PC and Mac versions.


Reviewed on:
Children's Software Screen Shot Pentium90 with 16MB and a 2XCD

Description
Kaplan Roadtrip for the SAT is based on Kaplan's well-known SAT preparation course. Roadtrip destinations include lessons and practice drills for the three types of verbal questions on the exam (sentence completion, analogies, and critical reading), the three math question categories ("regular" math, quantitative comparisons, and grid-ins), and "secrets of the SAT." Roadtrip also includes several full-length practice tests, drill games, math and vocabulary flashcards, and a college score comparison tool.

Ease of Install / Use
SuperKids' reviewers reported no difficulties installing Roadtrip on their test machines. One thing to watch out for, however, is that although the installer examines your system for other versions of QuickTime, it does not recognize version numbers. Our test machines already had version 2.1.0.42 installed, but the installer wanted to install another identical version. Users should also note that Roadtrip is not a small program -- it requires 17MB of hard disk space -- and it does not come with an uninstaller for Windows 3.1.

Our testers reported no serious difficulties using the software -- even without looking at any printed documentation. "The introductory tour was pretty helpful," wrote one reviewer. but another noted that, "Considering the 'roadtrip' title, I expected a clearly defined path of study. Instead, I found that I could tackle subjects in any order." This flexibility has an unintended downside -- several of our reviewers never took the diagnostic tests that supposedly help customize each user's 'road map.'

Methodology
When the program is first run, the user completes a profile form that asks for previous score results, the amount of time available before the exam, and if the user wishes to focus on verbal or math. This information, combined with the results of a set of diagnostic tests, determines the order and selection of lessons presented to the user. Interestingly, the profile form appears to be of greater importance in determining the 'personalized' study plan, than previous scores the user provides. For example, we input two different users: the first, our future engineering major, reported a previous score of 800 in math, and 450 in verbal; the second, a future english major, reported the exact opposite results. The 12 point study plans created by Roadtrip, however, only reflected one difference.

Lessons begin with a short video, apparently designed to reduce the student's anxiety through the use of humor, as well as impart an overview of the question type. For example, the Analogies section begins with a voice asking, "Have you ever looked at your little sister and said, 'What a pig!' You haven't just insulted her -- you've used an analogy!" The voice then tells the user that the 19 analogy questions of the exam are worth a potential 150 points (out of the 800 total verbal points).

Each lessson explains the types of questions that will be encountered on the exam, and provides multiple approaches for intelligently attacking them. For example, analogies should be attacked by, "making a bridge - a short sentence that explains how the two words are related. The best answer is the one with the same bridge." Other sections on analogies included: tweaking, how to handle sneaky questions, and handling analogies with words you don't understand. Lessons contain two drills of five questions each. Each question has a hint button if the user gets stuck, and provides immediate feedback: correct answers are rewarded by a chorus of cheers; errors get a broken glass crash sound.

Roadtrip also includes electronic flashcards and drill games. "I liked the flashcards because they were short, and to the point," noted one of our young testers, "but most of the games were frustratingly fast, and didn't seem all that relevant." The games are cross between the Tetris video game, and the old Concentration gameshow -- users must try and match multiple flashing questions and answers moving randomly around in a matrix board.

The practice tests in the program have an interesting feature - they come complete with audio distractions like airplane noises, dogs barking, and lawnmowers! After taking the tests, users can look at an analysis of their work that includes information on results of answer changes (did they change an answer from right to wrong?), how they did on the questions they spent the longest time on, plus explanations of all answers. This latter feature is especially valuable, because it can help the student understand the test writer's thinking process.

Finally, the program includes an admissions planning calendar, and a college SAT score comparison tool. These provide information that can also be found in other traditional sources, but are conveniently packaged on the CD.

Best for...
Kaplan Roadtrip for the SAT is best-suited for students who are reasonably self-motivated (i.e. they don't need a teacher and homework assignments to ensure that they prepare), and prefer the interactivity of a humorous computer program to a book. One limitation we should note: this is a single-user program -- a new user deletes the previous user's profile and testing data.

Bottom-Line
Kaplan Roadtrip for the SAT is a solid SAT preparation tool that focuses on helping students understand the exam questions, and how to tackle them. While the program takes a traditional approach to the exam, the clear explanations and liberal use of humor in each section should make the studying process more tolerable.


See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other SAT Preparation software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of PC and Mac versions.



Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Windows 3.1 or higher; Win95 System 7 or higher
CPU Type and Speed 486/50 or faster 68040 or faster
Hard Drive Space 17MB
Memory (RAM) 8MB 8MB
Graphics 256 color, 640 x 480 display 256 color, 640 x 480 display
CD-ROM Speed 2X 2X
Audio sound card and speakers speakers
Other Needs QuickTime SW (incl) QuickTime SW (incl)

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