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Blueprint vs Princeton Review MCAT
Determine which prep course is more ideal for you in this Princeton Review vs Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step) comparison
The journey to becoming a doctor all starts with getting a high score on the MCAT. However, with so many options out there, how do you choose which prep course or study plan to go with? In today’s comparison, we compare two heavyweights in the MCAT prep space (Princeton Review and Blueprint/Next Step) to make your decision a little easier.
The recent merger between Next Step Test Preparation and Blueprint into the MCAT prep course now known as Blueprint MCAT, brings together the strengths of two dynamic prep course providers. The new Blueprint MCAT prep course combines the detailed curriculum and test-taking strategies developed over the years by Next Step, with the incredible video lessons, engaging graphics, advanced scoring analytics, and user interface that has made Blueprint a major player in the prep course space.
The new Blueprint MCAT provides very simplified and straightforward course options and pricing. Depending on your learning preference, Blueprint offers their Online Course, Live Online or Tutoring packages.
The Online Course is Blueprint’s self-paced course providing a customizable study planner that includes 160 learning modules integrating content videos, strategy, quizzes and assessments; with 30 learning modules focused exclusively on statistical reasoning skills. The Online Course also provides the ability to skip content you already know by passing the pre-module assessment, access to live-online office hours 5 days a week, 15 full-length MCAT exams, and Blueprint Qbank – which now includes 4,000 discrete questions, problems and passages. Pricing for the Online Course is solely dependent on your choice of content access periods: 6 months for $1,799, their most popular 12 month program for $2,100, or 18 months for $2,500.
For those students who need the accountability of live instructors and a class schedule, Blueprint offers their Live Online course. The Live Online course provides the same high-quality curriculum as the Online Course, but with over 40 hours of live classroom instruction from two master instructors, individuals who have scored 519 or higher on an official MCAT exam, engaging in dynamic back and forth discussions synthesizing and breaking down complex concepts and strategies. The Live Online course is available as a 6-month package for $2,499.
Lastly, for those students who wish to work closely in a 1-on-1 learning environment, Blueprint offers their Essential (16 hours), Comprehensive (24 hours) or Intensive (40 hours) tutoring packages. Each tutoring package includes 6 months of access to Blueprint’s Online Course, plus a detailed and personalized study plan designed by your tutor based on a diagnostic assessment, weekly meetings incorporating personalized homework and/or practice test assignments, developing strategies to meet specific needs, and 10 full-length practice exams. These tutoring packages range from $3,600 for the Essential program, $3,850 for the Comprehensive plan, up to $5,600 for the Intensive package.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Blueprint MCAT Study Materials Analysis
The Blueprint MCAT study materials closely follow Next Step’s traditional curriculum of quality in-depth content, but now with Blueprint’s masterful video sessions and digital platform. The study materials are comprised primarily of discreet learning modules that cover a subtopic of the MCAT.
Within each module are a bundle of video lessons, quizzes, drills, strategies and passages. Students are required to master each module and test out of it before moving on to the next subtopic.
While most other online MCAT courses simply offer PowerPoint videos or pre-recorded lectures, Blueprint’s videos are purposely designed with illustrations, vibrant graphics, and animations that help students visualize complex chemical processes and biological systems. The videos are designed with the dual goals of holding your attention and retention of the material, and we found them to be an excellent teaching tool.
Following each video session are a series of quizzes, detailed problem explanations – with sample highlighting of passage-based problems, and access to Blueprint’s Qbank – a unique reservoir of over 4,000 additional practice questions and problems which you can specifically filter to create custom practice sets. The quizzes and problem explanations are so thorough they act as comprehensive drills to reinforce the learning process, and our team found this core course work to be extremely relevant and high quality.
In addition, Blueprint also provides every student with 6 hard-copy prep books that cover the primary MCAT subjects, including Psychology & Sociology, Physics, Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry & Organic Chemistry and CARS. The prep books do an excellent job of tracking and supplementing the core curriculum, are well written and are extremely useful in breaking down complex concepts and dense subject matter. While maybe not as detailed as the Princeton Review subject prep books, they are nevertheless a powerful resource.
Following in Next Step’s footprints, the Blueprint MCAT practice tests comes as close as possible to the real deal. Their practice tests are excellent at replicating real MCAT question content, length and difficulty. Blueprint prides itself with its testing software, and its highlighting and strike-through functionality closely mirrors the official MCAT’s somewhat antiquated design. Students have access to 15 full-length practice exams, which we found more than acceptable and standard for industry. Blueprint also uses advanced practice test scoring analytics, which quickly diagnose the underlying patterns in what you got wrong and why, so you can spot your weaknesses faster and raise your score quicker.
Blueprint’s digital platform and interface is a critical component of its’ study materials, and quite frankly, it is the best we have seen in the MCAT prep course space. All the primary study resources are in the navigation bar at the top, which is incredibly easy to maneuver through the Blueprint portal and find exactly what you need. The transition between each element is seamless and smooth. The functionality of the user platform is simple, intuitive, and responsive. Overall, we found the Blueprint interface and user platform to be ultra-modern and at the top of its class.
Highlight: Interactive Video Lessons
Blueprint’s video lessons are a stroke of genius and creativity, and are the highlight of their course curriculum. The videos are fast paced and designed with illustrations and animation to make the study experience visually engaging, and to help you learn more effectively and retain the material more thoroughly.
Every video features a master instructor teaching in front of a green screen, which populates with graphics, illustrations, cartoons, notes and varying forms of the actual material you need to memorize. The instructors are engaging, entertaining and insightful, and are masters at holding your attention with humor and wit. The videos are not only incredibly well designed and visually striking, but are also a powerful teaching tool in helping visualize complex concepts and subject matter in a way that textbooks, PowerPoint slides and canned lectures simply cannot. The value and overall quality of Blueprint’s video lessons in the learning experience cannot be overstated.
Princeton Review is considered by many to be one of the heavyweights in the MCAT prep course industry. They have been helping aspiring medical professionals get into the medical school of their choice for decades. Due to their depth of experience, they offer a full range of MCAT prep courses for every type of learning preference.
Princeton’s basic online course is referred to as Self-Paced, and provides students the opportunity to learn at their own speed. The course includes an extensive library of over 500 detailed on demand videos covering the entire core MCAT content (“MedFlix”); and intensive practice tools comprising thousands of passage based questions and detailed explanations, 16 full-length (and 2 shortened) practice tests and 10 MCAT prep books. The Self-Paced course is priced at a competitive $1,700, very similar to Blueprint’s 6-month Online Course.
Princeton’s next step up for students who want the live classroom experience is their Ultimate course. This course contains the same “MedFlix” extensive library of core video content, intensive practice tools and practice tests as the Self-Paced course, but adds in 123 hours of either in person or LiveOnline classroom coursework with a team of 4 to 6 subject matter experts, and personalized homework as determined by diagnostic exams. The Ultimate course also includes 11 MCAT hard copy prep books and costs around $2,800. Although slightly more expensive that Blueprint’s Live Online course, Princeton offers over 80 more hours of classroom instruction.
At the next tier, Princeton offers their most popular MCAT 510+ course to virtually guarantee students the opportunity to get the result and score they want. Medical Schools entrance data consistently indicate that going from a 500 to a 510 MCAT score triples acceptance rates; and the MCAT 510+ guarantees a 510 or better on the MCAT, provided you start with a diagnostic exam base score of 500 or better and complete the course.
The MCAT 510+ offers all the same benefits of the Ultimate course, but with the additional tailored resources of their MCAT Topic Focus program to quickly eliminate areas of weaknesses, and their 1-on-1 Expert Study Manager – comprised of a series of classes and exercises designed to identify and fix any MCAT problem areas. The MCAT 510+ course price typically comes in at around $3,400, but Princeton often offers discounts.
Lastly, Princeton offers their MCAT 515+ Live Online Immersion course for students looking to obtain the absolute best score possible in their quest to get into one of the nation’s top medical schools. The MCAT 515+ is a 12-week long bootcamp-style prep course boasting over 860 hours of instruction, including 195 hours of live instruction from 6 subject matter MCAT experts, a full array of content and strategy lessons, on-demand tutoring, the 1-on-1 Study Manager, MCAT topic focus groups, and 16 full-length (and 2 shortened version) MCAT practice tests. The MCAT 515+ Immersion course guarantees a score of 515 or better with certain limitations and is priced at around $7,000, which is in line with other intense MCAT summer immersion programs.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
How The Princeton Review Study Materials Compare
Princeton Review is known for leaving no stone unturned in their students’ preparation, and that is reflective in the sheer quantity of prep study materials they provide. There are over 500 detailed video lessons, over 2,500 practice problems, 16 full-length practice tests, and over 123 hours of live classroom instruction (if you opt for that package).
The study materials are divided into the 6 MCAT subject areas, with each subject then broken down into classes for each subtopic. In each class students move through three study components – before class, class, and after class – each with individualized instruction, practice problems, drills and testing.
The video lessons cover subtopic specific content, and typically take the form of a digital whiteboard with a voiceover by the instructor. The videos are usually short, and the instructors move quickly through their lecture material as the onscreen whiteboard updates with text, notes and graphics. Although there is very little or no interactive elements or attempts to lighten up the material, the instructors are skillful at using analogies and mnemonics to help with retention of the subject matter.
To the extent that the video lessons comprise such a large part of the course curriculum, we found the videos to be just average. At times, the video production quality appeared a little subpar, the footage grainy, and the audio tinny.
After each video lesson, Princeton provides access to practice problems, drills and diagnostic exams. We found the practice problem explanations to be very detailed and of high value; breaking down the basic elements of the question, and providing a thorough analysis of each answer choice. The diagnostic exams are also incredibly useful at providing a baseline and continuingly tracking your progress.
Princeton also provides each student with 11 hard copy prep books, 7 covering the primary MCAT subjects (1 more core subject prep book than Blueprint, as Princeton breaks down general chemistry and organic chemistry into 2 books), and 4 workbooks containing various course related materials. The subject specific books are absolute solid gold, covering each topic in exacting detail and providing a nice complement to the core coursework.
The prep books are so well written, thorough, and do such a good job of breaking down complex concepts and material that we found them virtually equal in value to the online coursework itself. The workbooks also nicely supplement each class and study component, and are designed to reinforce the subject matter.
An invaluable component of any MCAT prep course are the practice tests. Princeton offers the opportunity to take up to 16 full-length practice tests under exam like conditions. It’s critical to success that students practice like its game-day, and Princeton does an excellent job of matching the real MCAT in terms of question content, structure and format.
Similarly, their digital testing platform is an excellent representation of the actual MCAT testing software and makes for a true exam-like experience. After each exam Princeton provides students with a detailed interactive score report. The reports are well designed, extremely detailed, and do an excellent job of breaking down your performance by subject and subtopic area, giving you a clear idea of where your weaknesses lie.
Tying all of Princeton’s study materials together, and guiding you through the study protocols, is their digital platform. Much like Blueprint’s user interface, maneuvering through the online portal is a breeze, and the navigation bar at the top smoothly guides you through the various resources and study materials in an easy and understandable manner. While not as sleek or modern as Blueprint’s, the overall user interface is nevertheless visually appealing and easy to use.
The true heart of Princeton’s MCAT prep course is its classroom component. It is almost overwhelming in its scope and content. With the Ultimate and 510+ packages you get a whopping 123 hours of live classroom instruction, and with their 515+ Immersion program an incredible 195 hours of live classroom work.
Further, the live instruction is not just with one instructor, but, from a team of 4-6 subject matter experts who are also MCAT specialists. Our 5 instructors were all very professional, friendly, extremely knowledgeable and totally invested in every one of their students’ success. The instructors also made themselves available for questions and comments during breaks, and had no problem spending some 1-on-1 time answering my numerous questions. Overall, we found the quality and sheer quantity of Princeton’s live instruction to be well above and beyond its competitors; and makes for an invaluable learning experience that is well worth the investment.
Verdict: Princeton Review vs Blueprint MCAT Comparison
Both Blueprint and Princeton Review offer excellent MCAT prep courses, and the decision of which course may be best for you may prove difficult. Ultimately, we believe it boils down to the type of learning environment that best suits your learning preference. To assist in this decision making process our recommendations in a few specific curriculum criteria areas follow.
Study Materials – Both Blueprint and Princeton Review provide an excellent core curriculum. The flow and structure of the coursework is effective and well designed. While Princeton overwhelms with the quantity of its coursework, Blueprint excels with its fact filled and entertaining video lessons. Slight edge – Blueprint.
Price– Price is always an important consideration when evaluating prep courses. Both Blueprint and Princeton are very competitive in their online self-paced and live classroom price structures. But, since more students opt for a classroom component, you get a bigger bang for your buck with Princeton.
Books– Blueprint’s prep books are certainly adequate and an excellent supplement to its’ course curriculum, but Princeton’s prep books are worth their weight in gold. Extremely thorough and comprehensively detailed, the books virtually outshine Princeton’s online content. Edge – Princeton.
Practice Tests – This category is a virtual tie. Blueprint offers 15 full-length practice exams, while Princeton offers 16. Both do a great job of replicating the real MCAT questions in content, length and difficulty. For our team, however, Blueprint stood out with its advanced test scoring analytics. Slight edge – Blueprint.
User Experience & Interface– Both Blueprint and Princeton put a lot of emphasis and resources into the user experience and their digital platforms. Our team found the digital interface for both to be very intuitive, visually appealing, and easy to maneuver. But overall, we found Blueprint’s functionality to be slightly ahead of Princeton. Advantage – Blueprint.
Classroom Component – Since Blueprint was founded by a group of teachers, their bloodline runs to the classroom experience. All their classroom instructors are MCAT masters, are strenuously trained in content and communicative skills, and keep you totally engaged with humor and wit. Nevertheless, the Blueprint classroom component pales in contrast to the sheer quantity and top-tier quality of Princeton’s live classroom instruction. Winner – Princeton.
Extra Resources– Both Blueprint and Princeton offer students more supplemental resources than other MCAT prep providers. Princeton’s MCAT Topic Focus, Student Guide and Admissions Advantage sessions are just a few of the excellent bundle of additional services. Blueprint correspondingly compliments its core course material with, among other services, a Customizable Study Plan, expanded office hours, and an array of focused advanced metrics and data. And the winner is – Tie.
Online Content Access Period – Princeton’s Self-Paced course offers students access to online content for 270 days, and for all other course options you get the 270 days plus any enrollment period before your class begins. Blueprint’s Online Course allows you to choose access periods of 6, 12 or 18 months, to which you can then add in the live classroom instruction or tutoring packages. Overall our team voted this category a – Tie.
Refund Policy & Score Guarantees – Both Blueprint and Princeton Review offer refund and score guarantees. The Blueprint refund is for a very short fused 24-hours after purchase, while Princeton gives students 7 days. Blueprint also offers a score increase guarantee, with certain conditions, but overall their students typically see roughly a 10-point increase on average. Princeton has an equally strong score increase guarantee, particularly with their 510+ and 515+ Immersion packages. Again, these refund policies and score guarantees come with a lot of conditions and qualifiers depending on a variety of variables and course selection. Be sure to read the fine print. Overall, we give the advantage in this category to Princeton.
Which prep course is better - Blueprint or Princeton Review?
It largely depends on what type of learner you are. If you’re seeking a ton of live instruction, Princeton Review is likely the answer. If not, Blueprint and their super engaging video lessons and sleek interface may be better for you.
Which prep course is more affordable - Princeton Review or Blueprint?
Both companies offer multiple MCAT prep options so it ultimately depends on which course you select. With that said, Princeton Review technically offers the cheapest course.
Do the Blueprint and Princeton Review MCAT courses come with prep books?
Yes, both Blueprint and Princeton Review offer hard-copy prep books with their courses. In our opinion, Princeton Review gets the win in this department.