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Kaplan vs Princeton Review GRE
A thorough side-by-side comparison of the Kaplan and Princeton Review GRE prep courses
When it comes to GRE prep, Kaplan and Princeton Review are similar in so many ways. They both offer tried and true formulas for prepping students, with robust curriculums and live classes, and have helped tens of thousands improve their GRE scores. So, when the two courses you’re considering are as similar as Kaplan and Princeton Review, how do you choose? We help you make an informed decision on what is best for you in this detailed guide comparing the two courses.
While the Kaplan course options generally differ by course format, the Princeton Review prep packages generally differ by level of content and instruction. Princeton offers three prep options:
The Self-Paced course is Princeton Review’s budget option, offering on demand, online only learning for around $500. There are no live classes and fewer practice questions. The Fundamentals course on the other hand is Princeton’s flagship GRE offering and gives students approximately 24 hours of live instruction – in-person or live online, you choose. This course is most comparable to Kaplan’s Live Online class and prices out slightly higher at roughly $1,200.
Finally, Princeton offers something Kaplan doesn’t – the GRE 162+. This course format is aimed at students seeking top tier scores to get into elite graduate programs. It focuses primarily on the math section of the GRE, as most students find that portion of the exam most difficult, but also covers verbal in detail as well. This course option boasts 45 live class hours and an extra 500 or so practice problems over the Fundamentals course. It runs in the neighborhood of $2,300 and should be strongly considered by those students targeting a top 5-10% score.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Princeton Review Lessons and Coursework
Princeton Review’s lessons are not so unlike Kaplan’s. Both offer first-rate video instruction with similar methodologies. As Kaplan instructors use a marker with luminous ink to work problems right before the viewer, Princeton instructors also use a dry erase marker on a plate of invisible glass between the student viwers and teacher to work out their practice questions and write notes. The two deliveries are eerily similar, and both really effective.
But where Princeton Review stands out is their more robust course structure within modules. Princeton employs a repeated structure of Essentials > Lessons > Drills. They start each module with a quick video lesson or two on the foundational principles of the subject, which helps students to establish a baseline knowledge. They then jump into a highly developed and repeated lesson structure where they provide video instruction followed by practice problems and a wrap up summary to recap the lesson.
The module is then finished off with a series of adaptive drills that hammer home the concepts just learned. When looked at as a whole, the entire lesson plan and coursework is quite impressive. While the lesson quality and topics covered are almost identical between the two test prep companies, the Princeton course structure just feels more robust than Kaplan’s curriculum.
As noted below, Princeton does offer fewer practice questions than Kaplan, providing a little over 3,500 practice problems. Despite the disparity in number of practice questions, the quality of the Princeton Review problems cannot be disputed. These are expertly designed problems that provide solid replication of real GRE questions. And for many students, 3,500 questions may be plenty of practice to achieve their goals.
Princeton Review Wins on Practice Tests
While Kaplan may win on number of practice questions, Princeton Review wins on number of practice tests. Princeton offers 8 full-length simulated exams while Kaplan offers 7. I know some of you are reading that thinking, “c’mon, that’s just one more.” But the truth is that every practice test counts when you have access to less than 10 in total.
If this were LSAT prep with every prep company offering 80+ practice tests, I’d be a lot less concerned. But with so few practice exams available, these small things can make a difference, particularly to those students that prefer to learn by doing. So if you are one of those students that are looking to maximize the number of tests you get, think Princeton. But do check out Kaplan’s “test day experience” – an exclusive feature that allows you take one of their practice tests at an actual Prometric center to simulate a real GRE test setting.
With respect to quality of practice tests, both Princeton Review and Kaplan offer rock solid practice, and it is hard to differentiate between the two. They both use high-end digital platforms for their test taking and adaptive technology that mirrors the real GRE. We couldn’t really find a winner on this aspect.
Kaplan offers students three different course options, which generally differ by format:
As you may suspect, the price of each prep package generally goes up with the level of interaction and instruction provided. As such, the Self-Paced course option is the most affordable and can generally be found for around $450.
The Live Online course includes scheduled live classes, where you meet regularly with your instructor and fellow students in a virtual classroom for lessons. This course runs about $1,000.
Finally, Kaplan’s in-person course is priced slightly above the Live Online course at around $1,200, as it offers more personalized attention and instruction. These course costs are generally in line with Princeton Review’s pricing, but do vary somewhat, as shown above.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
The Kaplan Lessons and Study Material
Kaplan’s online video lessons and coursework are undeniably top notch, and a huge factor in why they land on our best GRE prep courses list. The 40+ hours of online lessons are carried out through a Kaplan instructor, who appears onscreen and provides some traditional classroom style instruction. However, rather than writing on an old whiteboard with their back to you, there is a digital whiteboard behind the instructor that follows along with the lesson and dynamically rolls through text, notes and graphics.
In addition, the Kaplan instructor periodically picks up a marker and writes notes onscreen in an eye-catching illuminous ink. They work practice problems right in front of you and break down concepts as they go. The production value is plainly high-quality, and the mixed media approach to teaching makes for an incredibly effective experience.
Following each video lesson is a short quiz that serves to reinforce what you just learned. If you miss any questions, you’ll be prompted to go back and read the problem explanation. We found Kaplan’s problem explanations to be very valuable. While shorter and more succinct than Princeton Review’s explanations generally, they give you all the detail you need to see why the correct answer was right and the incorrect answer choices were wrong.
And the Kaplan problem explanations have to be concise, as Kaplan offers over 5,000 practice problems, each with its own explanation. This is roughly 1,500 more questions that the comparable Princeton Review course offers, so for those students that are looking for the most practice material, take note.
Beyond the video lessons and accompanying practice problems, for those students taking a live class, Kaplan offers some of the better in-person instruction that our team has seen. Their instructors are GRE gurus and you get over 21 additional hours of interpersonal instruction that you just won’t get with the on-demand course. The class size of the course we audited was slightly larger than the norm, but the instructor was fantastic. He was a GRE master and a great communicator, who also kept the class very light. We would expect other Kaplan instructors to be of the same quality and personable nature.
One area where Kaplan gets a clear edge over Princeton Review is in coursebooks. Kaplan offers some awesome prep books to accompany their course which track with and supplement the core curriculum. These hardcopy books, which we are huge fans of, are exceedingly detailed.
In fact, they are almost too detailed. Kaplan wallops you over the head with material in these printed workbooks to the point that you almost have too much information. Depending on your perspective, this can be a good or bad thing, but for those students looking for max study material, this is going to be a blessing. And for those that need to efficiently allocate their study time, you’ll need to smartly sift through the coursebooks to make sure you get everything else done. Either way, these books are packed with info.
One of the nice things about the books also is that they track the lessons. You can take notes and highlight key points in these books as you follow along, as well as work practice problems that correspond with each module. Combined with some effective instruction, it makes for a really powerful learning combo. The Princeton Review prep books are solid in their own right, generally tracking with the live lessons and offering well-written strategies, but in our opinion, the Kaplan print books simply win out.
It can be hard to make a decision on which prep course to purchase when the two options are as similar as Kaplan and Princeton Review. They offer nearly identical prep packages, both in terms of price and in content. That said, we hope this comparison guide has given you some insights on the differences between the two options. If you still need helping making a call, check out our recap below.
Study Materials – Advantage: Princeton Review. In terms of quality of study material, it’s close between these two test prep giants, but Princeton gets the nod. Both offer premium quality video instruction, which is similar not only in the material covered, but also the format in which the lessons are delivered. Where the courses are differentiated though is course structure and quantity of practice. Kaplan wins outright on the quantity front with 5,000+ practice problems (all with accompanying text explanations), while Princeton Review wins on course structure and quality, which at the end of the day, is most important. We prefer the structure of Princeton’s curriculum and think it offers a more robust study plan.
Classes – Advantage: Princeton Review. We found it hard to give the edge one way or another to either Kaplan or Princeton Review with respect to live instruction, but ultimately lean Princeton based on smaller class sizes and slightly better teachers. Both employ some of the highest quality instructors in the industry and boast similar class sizes and teaching styles. Additionally, both offer similar packages in terms of total live instruction hours (Princeton at 24 hours, Kaplan at 21 hours). After sitting for both courses, we cannot find much to complain about either, except maybe class size for Kaplan.
Books – Advantage: Kaplan. While Princeton Review’s prep books hold their own with detailed strategies and well-written reviews, Kaplan is the winner here. Kaplan provides its students some first-rate hardcopy prep books that follow their lesson plans and contain complementary drills and practice. These books are loaded with detail and a significant value add.
Course Options and Price – Tie. Princeton Review and Kaplan offer very similar price points for their GRE prep offerings, with their self-paced courses both coming in within $50 of each other. However, Princeton Review does offer a higher-end prep course called the GRE 162+, which is geared towards those seeking top tier scores and guarantees a score of 162 or better on the exam. That course will run you around $2,300.
Practice Tests – Advantage: Princeton Review. It’s all about quantity when it comes to practice tests on the GRE. Princeton offers students one more practice test than Kaplan at 8 full-length practice exams. While one extra may not seem like much, it can be a difference maker in the world of GRE.
User Experience and Interface – Advantage: Princeton Review. Both Kaplan and Princeton Review each boast some category best interface and user experience. Each digital platform is very professional, easy-to-use and intuitive. The Kaplan platform may be a bit more outdated, with less bells and whistles, but is not far behind (if any). And like so many things, user experience is really a matter of personal preference at the end of the day.
Online Content Access Period – Edge: Kaplan. Like practice tests, this category is all about quantity. For roughly the same price points, Kaplan gives its users an extra two months of access to its online content. Kaplan users get 6 months, while Princeton students only get about 4 months.
Which GRE prep course costs more – Kaplan or Princeton Review?
The Kaplan and Princeton Review GRE prep courses are in roughly the same price range, though Princeton Review’s courses are a bit more expensive.
What’s the biggest difference between the Princeton Review and Kaplan GRE prep courses?
While both courses are extremely similar in many ways, the main difference between the Princeton Review and Kaplan GRE prep courses is that Kaplan offers more practice questions (roughly 1,500 more), while Princeton Review offers more live instruction class hours on average.
Do both Princeton Review and Kaplan have score increase money back guarantees?
Yes. Both Kaplan and Princeton Review each offer guarantees of your money back if you don’t score better after using their GRE prep course.