Princeton Review is one of the biggest college admissions and test preparation companies in the world. It started in 1981 and now employs over 300 full-time workers as well as 4000 teachers across the US and Canada.
Princeton Review – An introduction
The company had a few market leadership issues over the years, as many new test-prep companies emerged in the digital world. But in 2017 it was acquired by ST Unitas, a South Korean ed-tech company for around $87 million. Since then, Princeton Review looks to be back on track with strong branding and an improved offer.
The test prep market is saturated at the moment and all companies struggle to remain competitive. Now, Princeton Review’s aim is to create a global online learning platform that’ll be better suited to the needs of modern students. In summary, its aim is to be cheaper, more effective, and fully-mobile adapted.
The company also works on creating a “local learning environment” and providing students with a more personalized study approach. The emphasis is put on live interaction in an online classroom as well as a big student portal where pupils and teachers interact.
This is now the strongest element of TPR’s offer. In the digital world, students need live communication to gain knowledge, but also to decrease anxiety and improve confidence. In other words, it’s not only about high-technology but also about personal relationships.
Now let’s review the 10 aspects of Princeton Review test-prep that’ll help to determine if the company is right for you.
1. The pricing of the courses
Many consumers see Princeton Review as a premium brand. And they’re right, but this doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible to an average consumer. Yes, across the test preparation landscape, TPR courses tend to be slightly higher priced than the competition. But usually, the difference is small (around $100 tops).
The thing is that “in-person” and “live-online” courses are more pricey in general.It’s because companies need to pay instructors, rent the classroom and cover other costs. But in the end, the service is more valuable and that’s why some high-end courses are priced between $1500 and $2500.
What most consumers don’t know, is that Princeton Review also offers a lot of self-paced courses that are affordable for most parents and students. Of course, you won’t get the benefits of the live instruction, but you’ll receive access to all the online materials, tons of on-demand videos, as well as printed materials.
Here are the current prices of the popular live-online and self-paced courses from TPR:
And here’s a pricing comparison between Princeton Review and other popular test-prep companies (self-paced):
2. Opinions and reviews from students who took the courses
The Princeton Review has a solid standing in the student community. It has a 4 out 5 score on Trustpilot with over 500+ reviews submitted. You may go there to get more information.
You’ll see that the majority of students are happy with the courses. But a few others had a bad experience – mostly due to a canceled course or some misunderstanding about the features of the course.
Below you can read a couple of honest opinions and reviews from students who participated in the Princeton Review courses. I pulled some of them from Quora and student forums:
TPR is great for prep. It covers all the theory you’d require in a friendly format. If you solve the questions provided in each chapter, you’ll have covered the syllabus. – Maitreyi Kale, 1540 (SAT), 35 (ACT)
It’s not “bad”, it just doesn’t really prepare you to get really good scores. The materials can prepare you to get up to a 30 (ACT) equivalent. Beyond that, you have to do a lot of your own studying outside of their provided materials. – Flatbear
I self-studied mainly with TPR and got a 516 (MCAT). I agree that the Psych and Soc need some work, but Khan covers that weakness. I bought extra tests, but the best were the AAMC question packs and the practice test. – Raidrette
I chose TPR over Kaplan because I heard (for the old one) content was better with TPR, though the interface was a bit glitchy at times. – Trad
Took the in-person course and I definitely recommend TPR. Obviously, the instructors are very area-dependent, but I had an excellent experience. The important point to understand is that regardless of what company you use, it’s a lot of self-directed studies. Princeton Review adds structure to the schedule, but it can only take you as far as you are willing to go. I received a 517 on the new MCAT – YCP
Books and tests by Princeton Review are really good for the preparation of GRE, GMAT, GMAT, etc. I felt they quite successfully simulated the actual exam environment and came close as far as the difficulty level of the questions were concerned. – Ishita Bhandari
I also took Princeton Review and recommend it highly. I felt they quite successfully simulated the actual exam environment and came close as far as the difficulty level of the questions were concerned. – Maribel Morrison
3. Is Princeton Review worth it?
Many students and parents are wondering if a premium option like Princeton Reviewis actually worth the money. As you saw above, there are a couple of lower-priced options on the market and after all, you can always decide to buy books and do the prep on your own.
That’s true, the live-online courses are pricey, but that’s nothing compared to average college tuition. If you pay $500 more for prep, but as a result, you get admitted into a top college in the US or Canada, that’s a good deal in my opinion.
Achieving a high score on the standardized tests is also a gateway to multiple merit-based scholarships. There are dozens of them ranging from $1000 to $15,000. And if you score high on a test and boast a great GPA, you can apply and pay your way through college without getting into debt.
Most students had positive experiences with the Princeton Review, and improved their scores significantly. Moreover, a company like TPR will also counsel you on the college admissions process which is worth a lot for many students.
But what about the other companies that offer prep courses? Their services are often of comparable quality (especially Kaplan). Also, you can always hire a private tutor for around $50 per hour. It all depends on your unique situation and needs.
But one of the best features of the TPR’s offer is the “improved score guarantee”about which you’ll find out next.
4. The score improvement guarantee
The improved score guarantee reduces your risk of participating in test-prep. If the course doesn’t deliver and you don’t improve on your previous score, you get your money back or you can take the whole course one more time at no extra cost.
This is a standard guarantee, offered by a couple of different test prep companies.
But the good thing about Princeton Review is that with some of their courses, they promise a specific score improvement that would put you in the top 20% of exam takers. This is much more powerful than the regular guarantee.
For example, with the MCAT course, you’ll get a guarantee of at least 510 points. For ACT, you’ll get a guarantee of 31 points, and for SAT 1400 points. Unfortunately, these sorts of guarantees are not available for GRE/GMAT or LSAT.
5. The pros and cons of Princeton Review courses
- High-quality live-online and self-paced courses for all major standardized tests.
- A great mobile app, including the “student portal” and the “parent portal”.
- Big-data, technology-driven approach to learning which automatically recognizes areas where you can improve the most.
- Thousands of practice questions, and dozens of full-length practice tests (including proctored ones).
- Good books including extra materials and strategies.
- Assistance with college admissions and rankings.
- Strong, performance-based guarantees.
- Essay-review services included with certain courses.
- Lack of good in-person, classroom courses.
- Sometimes classes get canceled and you have to wait for another date.
- Slightly higher prices than the competition.
- Sometimes lacks prompt customer service.
- You won’t always get a teacher with many years of experience.
- Access to the online platform could be a bit longer (usually it’s around 4 months).
6. Live-online vs. self-paced courses
The live-online courses from Princeton Review are priced at around $799 to $2500, depending on the test you’re preparing for. The self-paced courses usually come at half the price of the live-online ones and you can get them from $200 to around $700.
The only difference is the amount of live instruction you will receive. With live-online options, you can count on 18h to 127h of instruction (depending on the course).
With the self-paced options, you won’t get the live action, but you’ll have access to all the other course materials. This includes study plans and hundreds of mini instructional videos which you can watch on a computer or a mobile device.
It’s difficult to say which option is better because it all depends on your individual needs. Think if you really need the assistance of an instructor or not. This is usually required when the student lacks math skills, or simply prefers working in a person-to-person manner.
7. Books and study materials from Princeton Review
There are lots of prep-books in print from Princeton Review. They receive good reviews from the majority of students, although sometimes they contain a few errors.
The books are priced at around $15 to $30 apiece, and you can use them as a standalone tool for self-preparation. That’s because except for hundreds of pages of materials, you’ll get access to many practice questions and a few full-length tests as well.
The books are revised every year to cover all the updates in tests as and new practice questions.
8. How does Princeton Review compare to other courses available on the market?
In most comparisons, Princeton Review comes out on top as one of the leaders of the test-prep industry. Their courses are a bit pricier but offer more features and extra materials.
The company is mostly compared to Kaplan which is the first, and biggest test-prep company ever. Kaplan is definitely stronger when it comes to in-person courses and the quality of instructors. But overall, Princeton has a stronger offer and a more “high-tech” approach.
Other companies in the market are cheaper but they only offer self-paced courses.The most budget-friendly company nowadays is Magoosh, which offers self-paced courses for around $99 dollars. Then there’s also Khan Academy which offers good courses for free.
9. The length of access to the courses
The access to an MCAT course is 6 months, and the access to other courses is 4 or 12 months. You’ll get the longest access to SAT/ACT courses.
You can always find how many days you have left by accessing the student portal’s dashboard. You’ll get a notification when you only have 30 days left. If you need it, you can extend access to the course at an additional fee.
- $99 for 1 year for ACT, SAT and PSAT courses
- $199 for 120 days for LSAT, GMAT and GRE courses
- $499 for 120 days for MCAT courses
Usually, the courses are designed so you’ll get intense prep over a short period just before the exam date. This is the case with most test-prep companies.
10. The Princeton Review mobile apps
After signing up for any course, you’ll be able to login to the student portal. It serves as an online hub for students and you can access it through any mobile device including your phone and a tablet.
Through the student portal, you’re able to attend live classes, ask questions directly, check performance reports, share files, communicate through an instant chat, share your screen with the teacher, and easily watch the recording if you’ve missed your class.
There’s also the parent portal (a separate app) through which you can monitor the progress your child with practice tests and homework.
The Princeton Review is a large organization and one of the market leaders in the test prep industry. Taking any educational course always involves a bit of risk. But hopefully, by reading this review you’ll have more information about what’s on offer. And you always take the “better results guarantee” which protects you as a client.
Most students achieve great success if they fully commit to their prep and work on a tight schedule. These courses will help you do exactly that by giving you a path to run on. Of course, the company has its flaws, but you can’t expect perfect service every single time.