Nad Recommends Kaplan PMBR Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims for Bar Exam Prep Test; Finds Support for Summer Pass Rate Claim

New York, New York – August 31, 2009 –The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Kaplan Inc., provider of the Kaplan PMBR Bar Exam Preparation supplemental and full service bar review course, modify or discontinue certain claims for the bar review course. NAD determined, however, that the results of Internet surveys, offered as evidence, did support a claim related to the summer passing rate of students who took the PMBR course in addition to a traditional bar exam preparation course.  

Advertising claims made by Kaplan Inc., were challenged by West Publishing Corporation BAR/BRI, the provider of the BAR/BRI full service bar review course.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined advertising claims that appeared print and Internet advertising, including the following claims:  

Print:

  • “Kaplan PMBR vs the national average for summer par pass rates: 90%* vs. 73% BarBri is NOT Enough.”  *Students enrolled in our MBE 6-Day Foundation Review Course and/or MBE 3-Day Final Review Course reported a 90% pass rate in the summer of 2007 and the summer of 2008.
  • Kaplan PMBR has a 90% pass rate for the summer bar exam:
    • The national average for the summer bar is 73% and BarBri claims to prepare the “vast majority of test takers.”
    • BarBri’s course has always included MBE prep, yet hundreds of thousands of their students came to Kaplan PMBR to prepare for the MBE.
    • Students agree that our practice MBE questions are more exam-like.**  **In a November 2007 and 2008 survey Kaplan PMBR alumni reported that they found Kaplan PMBR questions to be more like the actual MBE than those of any other bar review course.
  • “Over 100 Years” combined bar review and test prep experience.
  • “Want a 90% chance to pass the Bar? Kaplan PMBR students had a 90% pass rate last summer!  BarBri claims that “the vast majority of bar exam takers choose BarBri,” yet the national pass rate is only 73%! Maybe that’s why hundreds of thousands of BarBri students chose to take Kaplan PMBR to prepare for the MBE. Hey – 90% is better than 73%! Why wait?”
  • “Yes, we have a 90% summer pass rate! We know it’s hard for BarBri to believe, but it’s true.  We’ve always known that the most exam-like questions would produce impressive results.”

Internet: 

  • Helpful Tips When Selecting Your Course …
  • Taking the FL, NJ, or NY bar exam?  We offer Complete Bar Review for each   section of the bar exam (also available online).  With personalized and        structured review, and a test-focused approach, you will pass the bar –   guaranteed or your money back!
  • Need MBE-only Prep? We’ve got you covered! With courses available     nationwide or online, we fit your schedule and study style.
  • We have a 90%* summer pass rate two years in a row! BarBri claims that the          “vast majority of bar exam takers choose BarBri” and the national pass rate for summer is only 73%! 
  • “Kaplan PMBR offers comprehensive preparation for the Multistate portion of the Bar Exam.  By combining Kaplan’s 70 years of test preparation experience with PMBR’s 31 years of bar exam expertise we provide our students with a test-focused approach and a 90% pass rate as well as the most exam-like questions.”

Both the challenger and advertiser – widely respected providers of bar preparation materials – noted that law schools generally do not prepare their students for the bar examination, the licensing test for law school graduates. As a result, most students enroll in a course to prepare them for the exam, which consists of two parts: A state portion, which covers the applicable laws of the state in which one seeks to become licensed, and the Multi State Bar Exam, or MBE, which contains 200 multiple-choice questions covering contracts, torts, constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, evidence, and real property.

In reaching its determination, NAD examined evidence that included the results of consumer survey evidence offered by the advertiser and an analysis of the survey and its methodology, provided by the challenger.

Following its review of the evidence, NAD determined that the advertiser’s 2007 and 2008 Internet surveys provided a reasonable basis for the claim that references the advertiser’s 90 percent summer passing rate, which the challenger was unable to overcome, either by showing that the advertiser’s evidence was fatally flawed, or by presenting more reliable evidence that demonstrated a different result.  

Further, NAD determined that all Kaplan PMBR advertisements using the 90 percent claim should include a clear and conspicuous disclosure that states the claim is based upon a survey conducted in 2007 and 2008, by Kaplan PMBR, of Kaplan PMBR students enrolled in the MBE-6 Day Foundation Review Course and/or MBE-3 Day Final Review Course. NAD noted that the disclosure should appear in a form that is easy for consumers to notice, read, and understand.

NAD further recommended that, in advertisements that promote both Kaplan PMBR full service and supplemental courses, the advertiser modify the 90 percent claim to expressly state that only the Kaplan PMBR MBE preparation/supplemental course has a 90 percent passing rate.

NAD recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the claim that students consider Kaplan PMBR questions to be “more exam-like,” or modify the claim to expressly state that it is based on a 2007 and 2008 survey of PMBR students and may not be representative of the current year’s questions, due to the recent changes to the question format of the 2009 MBE Exam.

Further, NAD determined that the claim “90% v. 73% BarBri is NOT Enough” conveys a misleading and unsupported message that BarBri students do no better than the national average. NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.  To avoid the potential for consumer confusion, NAD recommended that, in future advertisements, the advertiser better separate these concepts to avoid conveying an unsupported message concerning the passing rate for BarBri.

Finally, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its use of the “Over 100 Years” symbol, which NAD determined conveys the unsupported message that Kaplan PMBR has over 100 years experience in Bar Exam preparation.

Kaplan PMBR, in its advertiser statement, said the company “respects the NAD’s decision and will take the NAD’s recommendations into account in any future advertising.  Kaplan PMBR thanks the NAD for its professionalism and courtesy throughout this review process.”