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Barron’s vs Princeton Review
Our detailed comparison of the prep books from Barron’s and Princeton Review
Whether you’re studying for the SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, or even your high school AP exams, Barron’s and Princeton Review are about the biggest names in exam prep. Both companies offer top rated prep books packed with content review, test taking strategies and practice questions. So how do you decide which prep book to go with? Our team of education experts has purchased and thoroughly reviewed the prep books for every major higher education exam from both companies and posted our thoughts here, so you can make a decision on which is right for you.
Outline: Princeton Review vs Barron’s
As both companies offer prep books for a number of exams, we have broken down our comparison guide by test:
Once you’ve decided to take the SAT over the ACT (or maybe both, as many students do), the next hard decision is which prep company to go with for the book that will guide your studies. It may not be an easy decision for you, and it wasn’t easy for us with either.
After thoroughly reviewing each company’s seminal SAT prep book, including reading their subject reviews, working practice problems and playing with their online extras, our verdict is that we like Barron’s for SAT prep.
In terms of features, both courses offer comprehensive subject reviews, SAT test taking strategies, full-length practice tests, and a number of online resources like flashcards and drills.
Where Barron’s specifically shines is their test taking strategies and practice problem explanations. The SAT can be a challenging exam, with pacing difficulties and complex question stems; however, Barron’s actionable strategies make life much easier.
Barron’s offers tried and tested strategies that we’ve seen before, as well as some we’ve never heard of, but we found to work well.
In addition, their problem explanations are rock solid. You ALWAYS need to review missed problems on practice tests and in drills, and their explanations are first rate. We found them to be detailed, analytical and written in a very clear, easy to understand way.
All this gushing about Barron’s isn’t to say we don’t like Princeton Review’s SAT book. We actually do very much, and in terms of content review and realism of practice tests, we prefer them.
Their practice exams are incredibly well done, offering excellent practice opportunities (including one more simulated exam than Barron’s, with 8 currently). But at the end of the day, we give Barron’s a slight edge on SAT prep.
Again, both companies offer eerily similar features and coverage in their prep book, including subject reviews covering English, math, reading, science, and writing, as well as exam strategies and practice materials. In terms of quantity, Princeton Review would seem to win.
Their book is (slightly) beefier and they offer 2 more full-length practice tests. In addition, they pack in a few more online extras like flashcards, drills and other exercises.
However, quantity is just one factor in our evaluation of these books, and we prefer the quality of Barron’s material. Their detailed content reviews are a bit more comprehendible, and we loved their practice problem explanations.
That said, we actually preferred the Princeton practice tests – not because of the quantity but because of the realism. We found the content, difficulty and length of the Princeton questions to be a better match for real ACT exam questions.
This wasn’t a huge disparity, but if you’re an experiential learner (i.e. you learn by doing), these Princeton book and practice materials may better suit you.
As both Barron’s and Princeton Review each cover a range of AP exams, including US History, Chemistry, Calculus, Physics, English Language and Composition, Biology, and more, we’ll cover the differences between the books of these two test prep giants generally for this category.
For purposes of our analysis, we evaluated both the US History and Physics 1 prep books from each company, offering a nice side-by-side comparison.
Offering nearly identical features, this is a really tough category to call. Both companies offer in-depth content reviews, test-taking strategies for approaching the exam’s multiple-choice, short answer, and essay-based questions, and multiple full-length practice exams, including bonus online content. On the surface, you would almost think these prep books are carbon copies of each other.
But peeling back the onion, each company has its strengths and weaknesses. For our team, we preferred Barron’s content reviews to those offered by Princeton, but liked Princeton’s practice tests and explanations better.
Starting with Barron’s, we found their content reviews to be deeper and more clearly articulated. We loved the callout of key points, balance of detail with brevity, and overall straightforward language used.
That’s not to say Princeton Review’s content lessons were bad; we actually quite liked them. Just given the choice between the two, we prefer Barron’s.
On the flip side, we liked Princeton Review’s practice exams and answer solutions better. Though it varies test to test, on average, Princeton Review seems to offer more practice tests than Barron’s. But more than just quantity, we found Princeton Review’s practice questions and essay prompts to be more realistic of actual AP exam problems.
In addition, we liked their text explanations. Reviewing the answers you missed (as well as the answers you get right) is the most critical component of learning with practice work, and Princeton’s explanations are top notch.
In short, we don’t think you can really go wrong with the prep books of either company for your AP exam prep, but at the end of the day, we give the nod to Princeton Review in the AP category.
Their content reviews are a close second to Barron’s, but their practice tests, problem explanations and bonus online resources (like extra exams and drills) win the day.
While the undergrad-related prep books of both companies (AP, ACT and SAT) offer fairly close races, where students would likely be fine going with either company’s prep book, the same cannot be said for GRE prep.
When talking about Barron’s vs Princeton Review in the context of the GRE, Princeton Review wins by a mile, in our team’s opinion.
Princeton’s coverage of each of the three sections for the GRE – Verbal, Math, and Analytical Writing – go much deeper than Barron’s in terms of informational overviews, strategies, tips and examples of how to work sample problems.
There is nothing wrong with Barron’s coverage of these sections, touching on many of the same points, but Princeton’s review is just so much more robust. They provide more demonstrative problems and thoughtful analysis.
In addition, not only does Princeton Review provide more full-length practice exams than Barron’s (6 to 3), but we also found the quality of Princeton Review’s practice tests to be better.
These Princeton simulated exams more closely mimic real GRE questions, and the accompanying text explanations with each question offer impressive insights. Given that problem review is a massive part of studying with a prep book (as opposed to a prep course), this is a major advantage.
We see Barron’s GRE prep as a second to Princeton’s – though one idea may be to get both books. If you are looking to really nail the GRE and get a top tier score, or if you do best by working practice questions as opposed to reading, the variety between the two companies’ practice questions provides an excellent learning opportunity.
Given the subtle differences between their questions, drilling on both sets of practice materials may provide more comprehensive prep. Just a thought.
Determining whether Barron’s or Princeton Review is the better GMAT prep option turns completely on what type of learner you are. After a thorough review of both books, our team concluded that we like Barron’s detailed test taking strategies, but Princeton’s practice material.
This generally means that for those students that want solid strategies for how to attack the various questions types and prefer to learn by reading, Barron’s is going to be the preferable choice. But for students that are experiential learners and love to learn by “doing,” Princeton Review’s book will be the better option.
Starting with Barron’s, the highlight of their book is the series of step-by-step approaches they provide to each question type.
For all of the different problem types, Barron’s provides a detailed roadmap of how to attack the problem – traps to watch out for, assessing the call of the question, and more.
They provide clear guidance on how to understand the underlying concept being tested, and what answer the test makers are looking for.
Additionally, we really liked Barron’s targeted review problems. These bonus question sets address the tested areas that most frequently give students fits.
Barron’s has identified the roughly 8 or so toughest obstacles for most students and tackles those areas head on, providing extra practice and explanation. We like that they do this, as it provides focused repetition and some easy point gains.
Turning to Princeton Review, we absolutely loved their practice exams and accompanying review solutions. The practice questions on their tests are highly realistic of actual GMAT questions, and they provide several more practice tests than Barron’s.
Moreover, our team was incredibly impressed with the text explanations. Each problem solution covers each answer choice in detail, discussing why the choice was correct or incorrect. These explanations dive into some pretty deep detail and we think offer some of the best learning opportunities.
So if you’re the type of student that loves to gobble up practice work and likes seeing the incremental improvements that come with every practice test and review session, Princeton will be your better bet.
Trying to pick between the prep books from Barron’s and Princeton Review can be tough, and will generally turn on what exam you’re studying for, as well as what type of learner you are.
Our team has taken a deep dive into the prep books from both companies across these 5 major exams (counting AP exams generally) and has concluded that both companies offer excellent prep options with differing strengths and weaknesses. We hope this comparison guide has been helpful, and good luck with your studies!