Transcender, SelfTest Software, and Kaplan IT Training: What’s in a Name?

April 24, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Kaplan IT Training news | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet…

You may have noticed the changes afoot on our new website, but as the immortal words of Shakespeare suggest, despite our new appearance, we are still your friendly neighborhood test preparation provider.

We have a new name—Kaplan IT Training—but to clarify, this was merely a name change and not an acquisition. While we’ve officially (and finally) rebranded to the Kaplan name, we’ve actually been a part of Kaplan for over fifteen years, and the same in-house content experts have been developing our products for more than a decade.

In short, the new logo is nothing to worry about. What has changed for the better is our website, test engine, and customer experience (as we’ll explain in a future post).

Early beginnings: SelfTest Software and Transcender

The team now known as Kaplan IT Training began over 25 years ago as two separate companies: SelfTest Software and Transcender. In 1992, SelfTest Software (STS, informally known as Big Red Self Test) launched a completely new product for the digital age: practice test content presented in an engine that emulated the live exam experience. STS focused on exams for Oracle, IBM, and Novell (remember them?).

Shortly thereafter, a company called Transcender also jumped on the test prep bandwagon. Their flagship products were for a new certification program named the Microsoft Certified Professional program (remember when it was small, intimate group of candidates?), first released in 1993.

Old STS Logo

STS Logo Circa 1996

Old Transcender Logo

Transcender Dude
Circa 1997

The Kaplan acquisition, 1999-2003

From the time Stanley Kaplan founded Kaplan Test Prep, the company’s mission was to help students pass standardized tests in a then-novel way: by teaching exam strategies that showed how questions would be asked as much by tutoring the content.

Realizing that IT certifications complemented their line of test preparation products, which were then geared towards the SAT and CFA certifications, Kaplan purchased SelfTest Software in 1999 and rebranded it as Kaplan SelfTest. They later expanded the product line when Kaplan SelfTest bought Transcender in 2003.

2003-2017: the dual branding years

By the time Kaplan bought Transcender, the Transcender brand name was well established in the marketplace and had earned a loyal following. Some of our older customers may remember the “You don’t know Spike” ad campaign from the mid-2000s:

Advertisement featuring the Spike character.

The “Big Guy” Spike ad campaign for the Transcender brand.

For that reason, we decided to continue selling Transcender tests separately from the Kaplan SelfTest / SelfTest Software brand. Although we discussed merging the brands several times, customers proved fanatically loyal to one or the other product, so we maintained two separate sites. Besides having a different look and feel, the main difference between the two was that SelfTest products were smaller and budget-oriented, while Transcender offered a longer, premium-priced test prep. But several eagle-eyed customers spotted that we were making slightly different dishes out of the same chicken, as they were written by the same team of content experts.

(When we say “the same team,” we mean that literally. Robin Abernathy began as an original SelfTest Software developer 18 years ago. George Monsalvatge, Troy McMillan, and Josh Hester are long past their ten-year anniversaries with Transcender, and they continue to develop expert items for our assessments, along with several newer folk we’ve acquired along the way.)


STS Logo – Blueish
Circa 2005


Transcender – Blackout
Circa 2005


STS Logo – Purple Phase
Circa 2007

transtop_logo (1)

Transcender – Red Hue
Circa 2008

We branched out from practice tests by adding other products, including Perfect Access Sphere, STTrainer, and the performance-based product PerformIT. These products reflected our overall shift away from certification test prep into overall IT skills. Informally, Kaplan Professional began to call us Kaplan IT, and then (mostly to stop people confusing us with the help desk) our official name became Kaplan IT Learning in 2013.


By that point, though, things were a bit crazy on the back end.  Every time we developed a test, we had to create separate products for SelfTest and Transcender and maintain separate customer databases. Even though we announced that we were owned by the same company, the longer we kept the brand names separate, the more customers and partners saw them as different products. For that reason, after years of planning, we sunset the SelfTest Software brand in late 2016 and transferred our customers to Transcender. (This changeover primarily affected Oracle test prep customers, as the SelfTest Software brand was the authorized practice test provider for Oracle exams.)

Because we knew we’d leave behind the Kaplan IT Training name eventually, we did a transitional rebranding in 2017 to “Transcender, Powered by Kaplan IT Training.” In early 2018, we swapped the leads and called ourselves “Kaplan IT Training, Formerly Transcender.”

Moving forward: from test prep to training and beyond in 2018

The goal of this blog post isn’t just to put our history in the rear view, but really to acknowledge that we’re bigger than just practice tests. As Kaplan IT Training, we offer full-fledged e-learning courses, industry-leading webinars, cloud-based labs, and both online and offline standard assessments—which, throughout years of industry changes, have proven to be the product our loyal customers return to again and again to ensure their certification success.

In closing: there wasn’t some big takeover, or at least not in this decade. While we’ve changed the surface, it’s the same quality content underneath.

Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

Happy training AND certifying,

Josh Hester

Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: