If I were still preparing to take the GRE, I would start by purchasing study guides from a company that seems to have a grasp of basic logic. That company would not be Kaplan. See, Kaplan assumes that none of their customers are using Windows Vista. You know, the latest commercial release of the world’s dominant home computer operating system. At least, that would explain why their practice test software doesn’t work on computers running Vista, and their tech support staff don’t seem terribly concerned.
Vista user and aspiring grad student Abby wrote us, a month before her GRE test date, with her sorry tale.
Three months ago, I broke down and bought a Kaplan GRE 2009 Premium Program test prep book, which comes with an online syllabus and companion software for practice exams. The online program is supposed to provide six months of online study tools and real-feel practice tests. I logged on to the online tool, checked it out, and then buried my nose in a math review book on and off for three months. Today, exactly 31 days until I take the GRE, I tried to log on to the online syllabus again. That’s where the trouble started.
First, my online account alerted me that my membership had expired. Hmmm, that’s funny, I was pretty certain half a year had not flown by since April, but, hey, that’s why I have this handy cd-rom to install, right? Wrong again. When I popped the disc into my Toshiba laptop there were error messages galore about “missing MCI drivers.” I hopped online to google said drivers and found dozens of messages on Microsoft and other tech support servers from other users of Kaplan software asking about these same drivers for their computers running Vista. The questions started coming up around March, apparently, and not one question on one forum had actually been answered. The Kaplan tech support FAQ’s were also strangely lacking this apparently frequently asked question.
With all of my online options exhausted, I called the Kaplan tech support line and was put through to a real person. Success? Nope. He asked if I would like to leave a message for tech support. Me: “Well, no, sir, I’d actually like to just wait and talk to someone so I can use my scheduled Sunday afternoon study time.” Him: “I’m sorry, all phone lines to the Kaplan customer support center are down. So they’re having us take messages instead.” Me: “So you work at the Kaplan customer support center?” Him: “Yes, I do.” Me: “Then how exactly are you answering the phone?” He had no answer for that one, just like my tech support questions.
I relented and left my contact information. He informed me that I would be contacted in about a week to help with my software problems…meaning I will have exactly 24 days to prepare for my exam. If, that is, they can help at all. I realize no one likes Vista, but if you’re going to ask people to shell out $40 for your books and software while claiming to be the leader in test prep, you can at least make sure it’s compatible with the operating systems that are out, right? Or learn how to count months. Or respond to the dozens of forums requesting help with the topic.
Maybe I’ll just skip grad school and join the circus instead…take this all as a sign.
No, no, go to grad school! I bet the circus isn’t even hiring right now.
Yeah, yeah, it’s her own fault for using Vista, whatever. That’s not the point. There are a lot of computers running Vista out there, and it’s not unreasonable to expect a popular study aid to actually run on a computer running such a common OS.
(Photo: Jeff Keen)