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Kaplan vs Princeton Review MCAT
A detailed comparison of the Kaplan and Princeton Review MCAT prep courses
For students who have done their homework in researching MCAT prep courses, their analysis often leads to a choice between Kaplan and Princeton Review. Both test prep companies offer strong curriculums, countless hours of study material, and proven results. So how do you choose which course is best when they are similar in so many ways? We give you all the information and analysis you need to make an informed decision in this side-by-side evaluation of the two MCAT prep packages.
Since this is a lengthy and detailed comparison, above find jump-to linksfor easy navigation.
Video Review: Kaplan MCAT or Princeton Review MCAT?
In the video above, John from Test Prep Insight team walks you through the major similarities and differences between the Kaplan and Princeton Review MCAT prep courses. Keep reading for even more detail.
To fairly compare the MCAT prep courses from Princeton Review and Kaplan, you first need to understand of all the different study materials and features that each company offers, as well as how each program works. Let’s start by discussing Kaplan MCAT and the advantages of using this program.
Our Evaluation: The Kaplan MCAT Study Materials
When it comes to MCAT prep course curriculum, Kaplan might be the most comprehensive course on the market in terms of depth. Their course covers every inch of the MCAT in insane detail, yet also offers some optionality as to what to study, giving the course some nice flexibility.
In total, all of the instruction (live and on demand), practice material, and other study resources adds up to over 700 hours of prep time. Put simply, that is a ton of MCAT prep. Here’s the thing though, you’ll never end up actually studying that much.
The AAMC and other sources recommend you study about 300 hours (or in other words, about half the hours of what Kaplan provides). So what they offer is by definition overkill.
However, the nice thing I discovered about Kaplan is that they have basically ranked all of their study material in terms of importance and priority, and leave only lower-yield material for further into the course.
So in other words, they curate the course from top down based on importance and high-yield content, and I loved this structural approach.
In any event, assuming you take one of the course offerings with a live class component, Kaplan’s live instruction is very, very good. I do like how Princeton’s classes leverage a rotating team of subject matter experts for different topics, but Kaplan’s instructors are great at communicating some of the tougher subjects and are incredibly approachable.
Plus, they use dual instructors, where one instructor works the chat function while the other teaches. This frees the teaching instructor up, so students can get questions answered on the side quietly without distracting others. That was really useful. I’ve been in other MCAT classes where that’s not the case and it sucks.
But more importantly than anything, Kaplan has also switched up their live class format, so nothing is fixed anymore. Rather than having to attend class Tuesday/Thursday at 6:00, you can pick and choose when you want to go to class each week (like how Prep101 does it).
Kaplan offers the same class several times per week, and just attend a session during that week when it works for your schedule. This has been an awesome update.
Beyond the live class instruction though, there is also an online module for every subtopic covered on the MCAT, each complete with interactive video lessons, homework assignments, and quizzes. All these seemingly separate resources tie into each other very nicely.
That said, Kaplan’s video-based lessons are likely the highlight of their overall prep package. I discuss them in more detail below, but they might be my favorite video lessons in the space now (right up there with Blueprint MCAT).
In addition to this online instructional work, you will also get access to over 3,000 practice problems and 17 full-length practice tests.
The practice questions, which are partially AAMC materials and partially written by Kaplan’s team of MCAT experts, are accessible through the Qbank. The Qbank is a tool that allows students to create custom practice question sets, narrowed down by question type, difficulty, etc.
It is a very useful resource for targeting your areas of weakness that need improvement. And the full-length practice tests do a very nice job of mirroring the real MCAT. That’s been a nice upgrade by Kaplan from their old tests.
If there is one issue with Kaplan’s MCAT course across both practice questions and practice tests, it’s that the text explanations that follow each question are a little thin. Ideally, I’d like to see some more detail around these succinct explanations.
With respect to content review and instruction, Kaplan’s on demand video lessons are very good. Though perhaps not quite as good as Blueprint’s MCAT videos, they are night and day difference from Princeton Review’s video lectures. For one, the production value of the videos is excellent, with a sharp picture and crisp audio (which Princeton doesn’t always have).
Additionally, the videos include a very cool digital whiteboard, engaging onscreen graphics, and a number of other factors that make the videos worth their weight in gold. Plus, they are usually just 8 to 13 minutes long, giving them a nice quick feel.
Looking past the video format though, the content itself that is delivered via the video lessons is even better. Each lesson dives into a deep review of the particular topic that it covers (such as electromagnetism or thermodynamics), and gives a great refresher from your undergrad classes (and then some).
The Kaplan online instructors also provide some handy mnemonics and analogies to help you recall formulas and other required information. Plus, the “application” videos that focus on strategy are awesome.
If you prefer learning through video over textbook, which will mean most visual learners, you’ll love these on demand videos. When used in conjunction with the live instruction, it is a very powerful instructional combo.
Kaplan Course Options & Pricing
Before moving on to Princeton Review, I want to quickly cover cost, as this is an important factor when choosing a course.
Kaplan offers five prep course packages, which all vary based on format:
On Demand Course
Live Online Course
In Person Course
Private Tutoring + Live Online
The On Demand Course is Kaplan’s budget option and targets students who want to do all of their prep online and at their own speed. There is no classroom component – just online video lessons and coursework, plus hard copy books. This option will run students around $1,900, slightly cheaper than Princeton Review.
Then there’s the most popular option for Kaplan, the Live Online course. This course will run you right around $2,400, about $400 cheaper than Princeton.
From there, prices start to escalate quickly, especially if you want to add some private 1-on-1 MCAT tutoring to your package. However, at every comparable package level, Kaplan tends to beat Princeton Review by a few hundred dollars.
Now that you have a good idea of what Kaplan has to offer, let’s turn the tables and discuss the major highlights of the MCAT prep course from Princeton Review.
Our Evaluation: The Princeton Review MCAT Coursework
Similar to Kaplan, Princeton Review provides a very robust and well-developed MCAT curriculum. Their coursework touches about every subtopic you could possibly encounter on the MCAT, and all in great detail.
Yet, with respect to the structure of each company’s curriculum, I actually prefer Kaplan’s course organization and approach to Princeton Review’s.
The Princeton coursework structure takes a more grouped approach, which gives it a jumpier feel. It doesn’t have the best flow, and it’s hard to get into a good daily study groove. Don’t get me wrong—it’s not that bad at all—but I do prefer Kaplan’s more natural progression.
With respect to instruction, Princeton Review’s live classes are superb, while their video-based lessons don’t necessarily move the needle. In fact, the videos kind of stink compared to Kaplan’s on demand video lessons.
Starting with the live classes (whether in-person or live online), the sessions are led by a a rotating team of 4 to 6 subject matter experts. I like this setup quite a bit.
This is a well-designed approach to ensure students get top-tier instruction from experts in their field, rather than a generalist who may only have surface level knowledge on a topic.
But with respect to video instruction, however, Princeton Review falls a little flat. While there are tons of on demand video lessons online in their portal (500+), they just lack the quality of production and content of Kaplan’s video-based lectures.
From a format delivery perspective, the Princeton videos are a little pixelated and have a kind of metallic audio. And on the content side, they are dry and to-the-point, lacking any real engagement with the student.
If you want all business videos with no fluff or frills, these videos will get the job done, though overall, I rate them out as average (or maybe even a hair below).
Turning to practice material, Princeton Review offers 2,500+ practice questions and 16 full-length tests, both of which are right on par with Kaplan. Beyond the simple quantity of material, the quality of the Princeton Review practice material is excellent as well.
Princeton Review relies heavily on the AAMC practice materials, as well as some practice material generated in-house. This is similar to Kaplan, and a smart call.
Obviously the AAMC material is as good as it gets (being from the makers of the exam), but even their proprietary questions are very well-written and replicate the official MCAT content nicely.
This places Princeton Review right in line with Kaplan in terms of realism, as Kaplan also uses AAMC materials. In short, both test prep companies offer superb practice problems, both in terms of quantity and quality.
That said, I think there is one differentiating factor between the two around practice material. While I was not the biggest fan of Kaplan’s MCAT practice problem explanations (finding them a little brief), I personally liked Princeton Review’s practice question explanations.
Their explanations are thorough and well-articulated, breaking down problems to their core components and clearly explaining why answer choices are right or wrong. They are easy to read and understand, and provide actionable takeaways.
The content review books are specifically noteworthy. Each is incredibly detailed and provides easily understandable reviews of otherwise complex topics.
They are truly well-written and provide awesome refreshers from your undergrad courses that you may have long forgotten. For students like me who learn effectively via textbook, these books will be a blessing.
The point of this section is not to imply that the Kaplan prep books are not good. Not at all. In fact, I personally really like the Kaplan hard copy books that accompany the course and think that they are a very close to second to Princeton Review’s books.
I would take the Kaplan books over just about every other MCAT prep course’s books out there (especially the Altius books). The point of this mention is simply to showcase the significant value offered by the Princeton Review prep books.
Princeton Review Course Options & Pricing
As I did with Kaplan above, I want to finish with a discussion of cost, as this is very important. Princeton Review has four course options:
MCAT 515+ Immersion
The Self-Paced Course is Princeton’s value course, designed for those students who want the benefits of flexible self-paced study. It prices in at around $2,000, making it slightly pricier than Kaplan’s directly comparable On Demand Course.
Moving up the ladder, Princeton Review’s Live Online Course is generally regarded as their flagship program. The Live Online Course typically costs around $2,800, which is about $400 or so more than Kaplan’s Live Online Course.
Moving up from there, Princeton Review offers some special programs that Kaplan does not – the MCAT 513+and the MCAT 515+ Immersion. These prep packages, while very similar to the Live Online Course in terms of instruction, content and access, are distinguished by their score guarantees.
While very attractive, these courses are not cheap. They start at $3,500 and go up from there.
Simply put, neither MCAT prep provider is particularly cheap between these two, though Kaplan does have a distinct pricing advantage.
Verdict: Princeton Review or Kaplan For MCAT Prep?
With the MCAT being such a high-stakes exam and prep courses costing a small fortune, there is little room for error in selecting the right MCAT prep course. The choice is made even tougher when you’ve narrowed your selection down to courses as similar as Princeton Review and Kaplan. Both offer top-shelf MCAT curriculums and overall practice materials.
In the end though, Kaplan gets the edge in our rankings, and I believe that they offer the better MCAT course. With their upgraded video lessons, flexible live classes, modular approach to course structure, and engaging instructors, I was really impressed. Between these two companies, I would likely go with Kaplan.
Which MCAT prep course costs more, Kaplan or Princeton Review?
The Princeton Review MCAT prep courses cost a bit more on average than Kaplan’s prep courses. That said, they also carry some unique score guarantee features that you do not get with Kaplan.
What’s the biggest difference between the Princeton Review and Kaplan MCAT prep courses?
The primary difference between the Kaplan and Princeton Review MCAT offerings revolves around live instruction. Kaplan provides a flex class schedule (allowing for drop in and drop out), while Princeton Review’s classes are fixed, but led by a rotating team of SME’s.
Do the Kaplan and Princeton Review MCAT courses each come with hard copy prep books?
Yes. Both Kaplan and Princeton Review each provide sets of hard copy prep books with their MCAT prep packages. Kaplan provides 8 books, while Princeton Review offers a bundle of 11.
Which MCAT prep course is better, Kaplan or Princeton Review?
It is very close to call and we give both courses high ratings, but overall, we prefer Kaplan’s MCAT prep course to Princeton Review’s. Kaplan has superior video lessons, a better live class format, and their practice tests are more realistic.