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Kaplan: Biology & Chemistry Essential Review

Encore Software

Ages 14 to 18

Rating Scale
5 = great,    1 = poor
Educational Value
Kid Appeal
Ease of Use

Kaplan Biology & Chemistry Essential Review Box Shot System Requirements

PC / Mac Price Survey

Product Support

Kaplan Biology & Chemistry helps high-school students to review and memorize important terms in these subjects. The program opens with a main menu through which a student can choose the field (biology or chemistry) in which she is interested. Kaplan offers a diagnostic test in each of these two areas. The tests evaluate the accuracy of a student’s responses and then divide results by topic so the student can identify areas on which she needs to focus.

Educational Value
Kaplan Biology & Chemistry has a large number of definitions and screens of information on various topics in biology and chemistry. But the definitions are not helpful explanations of concepts – they do not include demonstrations or analogies. The program provides students with information they can memorize rather than helping kids understand and become versatile with concepts.

The topics section of the program reads like a textbook but does not include diagrams, schematics or photographs that would help the many students who learn in visual and interactive ways. A few diagrams are available in the charts section of the program but these pictures have small type and address a few random topics. The chemistry section includes a virtual chalkboard with equations and graphs, but the program does not explore the rich meaning of these mathematical relationships in detail. Biology and chemistry software would ideally include animated diagrams so students could see the continuity and complications of biological processes. The Kaplan material instead presents organisms, cells and chemical reactions as static entities.

The Kaplan program offers an "Idea Creator," which allows the user to map out her ideas for an essay. The software then generates an essay outline from the user's map. The program also provides a bibliography creator. This portion of the software prompts for the user for information -- author, title, publication date, etc. -- and then formats the information accurately depending on the style of bibliography the user prefers. This feature enables a user to expend his energy on the content of his paper and on identifying sources instead of his spending hours placing commas in the correct places.

Kid Appeal
Kaplan Biology & Chemistry is appropriate for high-school students who want to review Biology and Chemistry to prepare for standardized tests. The software is not engaging and will not inspire a student to be interested in science. Nowhere in the program will a student feel that the natural and chemical worlds are amazing in complication and function. The program instead suggests that biology and chemistry are subjects that involve memorization of written material. In this program, students must simply sift through numerous screens of information-laden pages that are not particularly interactive.

Families interested in preparing their children for standardized tests may choose this product because it provides practice in learning terminology and multiple-choice experience. Teachers could use the software to provide definitions for terms, though it is not clear how this program would be preferable to a textbook with a glossary. Teachers could not use the program as a source of pictures because the type surrounding the pictures and the illustrations themselves are small and uninspiring.

Ease of Use / Install
The product can be installed on either Windows or Mac. On an Apple, installation simply involves following clear instructions. Options in the program load slowly. When a user is shifting from screen to screen, he will most likely be impatient with the speed of the program.

Best for... / Bottom-Line
Kaplan Biology & Chemistry is best for students who are willing to read a computer screen for several hours to prepare for a standardized test. The program will help students test their recollection of memorized definitions. But science is so much more exciting than this program leads a student to believe! The reason students learn science is because it offers understanding into how things in the universe work. The universe is colorful, animated, complex and surprising; none of these adjectives describe the content of this Kaplan program.

Have your child explore fun science activities from a science magazine. Have your child find web sites that show the geometry of molecules as they rotate through space. Have your child browse through movies that show the division of a cell as an animated process and also allow your child to examine the division frame by frame as prophase, anaphase, metaphase and telophase. Once your child has explored the world with all its amazing educational resources, and if a glossary and paper practice tests don’t suffice, you can have her memorize definitions through Kaplan software. But most likely your child will not need Kaplan Biology & Chemistry if she develops a genuine interest in science through other resources.

See SuperKids' comparisons with other science software titles, and the Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.

System Requirements
PC: Windows 95/98/ME/2000, Pentium 266 MHz or faster cpu, 5 MB hard drive space, 32 MB RAM, 800 x 600 16-bit high color monitor, 4X or faster CD-ROM, 100% Sound Blaster, compatible sound card .

Mac: System OS 8.1 or higher, Power PC required-200Mhz, Power PC recommended-266Mhz, 5 MB hard drive space, 64 MB RAM, 800x600 – thousands of colors display, 4X or faster CD-ROM .

Reviewed on:

  • Mac OS 9.0.4, 192 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, 800 x 600 color monitor
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