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Kaplan vs Princeton Review SAT & ACT
A detailed, side-by-side comparison of the Kaplan and Princeton Review SAT & ACT prep courses
When comparing SAT and ACT prep courses, Kaplan and Princeton Review have numerous similarities. Both are test prep giants, offering extensive curriculums with video lessons, live lectures, printed prep books, and more. They both also offer similar course options and are in the same price ballpark. So when the two packages you’re looking at for your SAT/ACT prep are as similar as these two courses, how do you choose? We take a close look at both the Kaplan and Princeton Review SAT and ACT prep courses in this comparison guide so you can make an informed decision on which course is best for you.
Unlike other SAT and ACT prep companies that offer just one or two options to choose from, Princeton Review provides a whopping four course formats for their students. And this is for good reason. Each is very different in terms of features, price and more, accommodating every learning style and budget. The four choices include:
SAT 1500+ Tutoring
The Self-Paced course, Princeton Review’s entry level package, runs for just under $200 for SAT or ACT only, or around $300 for the combined SAT/ACT dual package. For reference, this is $50 more than Kaplan’s comparable self-paced course. This package offers video lessons, practice questions and practice tests, but not books or live classes. I do note here that you get more practice problems (2,000 SAT / 1,200 ACT) and practice tests (15 SAT / 8 ACT) with Princeton than with Kaplan.
Directly comparable to Kaplan’s Live Online course, Princeton Review offers its Essentials package. This course is Princeton’s flagship offering and carries a price tag of $900. And just like Kaplan, this package offers the same materials as the self-paced version but kicks in 18 hours of live class work and hard copy books. It’s really weird just how similar these offerings are. The main difference is just price ($300 difference) and that you get more practice work with Princeton.
Unlike Kaplan, however, Princeton offers a couple of unique packages built around score guarantees. Their 1400+ and 1500+ SAT prep courses and ACT 31+ package promise scores of at least those respective amounts. That is, the 1400+ course promises a score of at least 1400 on the SAT and the 31+ score promises a score of at least 31 on the ACT. Now, there are some requirements around this guarantee, such as a threshold initial score, but this is pretty cool. These packages accomplish this promise through additional live class work and 1-on-1 tutoring, with a focus on the toughest subjects. In terms of price, these packages start at around $1,600.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Princeton Review Curriculum & Study Materials
Very similar to Kaplan, Princeton Review offers an extremely comprehensive SAT and ACT curriculum, with the same general study resources as their main rival. That is, live classes, video lessons, practice questions, prep books and practice tests make up the foundation of this course. However, the biggest difference between these two courses is that where Kaplan shines on video, Princeton shines in the classroom. Do not get me wrong, both courses provide excellent instructional material in both areas, but that is just where the two courses win, respectively.
The Princeton prep work starts with their 135+ video lessons. We did find the Kaplan video lessons to be slightly better, but Princeton definitely holds its own. Taking a different approach than Kaplan, Princeton Review employs a video format of your instructor standing onscreen before a plain white background. As they deliver their lesson, written notes and practice problems are superimposed on the screen around them. Specifically, the text is actually superimposed in front of them.
This allows the teacher to use a marker to write on the screen and mark up the written text and onscreen practice problems as they see fit. This creates a really engaging and dynamic experience that does a nice job of holding your attention. Additionally, like Kaplan, these videos are quite short – generally just 5 to 15 minutes in length depending on the subject.
Beyond the video lessons, Princeton Review provides some notch practice work. In terms of volume, Princeton Review beats Kaplan almost across the board. They provide 2,000 SAT and 1,200 ACT practice questions, to Kaplan’s 1,000 SAT and 2,000 ACT problems. In addition, Princeton provides somewhere between 15 and 25 SAT practice tests and 8 to 14 ACT simulated exams, to Kaplan’s 8 SAT and 5 ACT exams. But in terms of quality, the two courses are about the same, both offering superb practice material, with maybe a slight edge to Princeton Review. Princeton’s practice questions, like Kaplan’s, closely mirror official SAT and ACT questions, and I had a hard time discerning between Princeton’s practice problems and real exam questions when side-by-side.
Princeton Review also provides some top shelf textbooks. I found these books to be extremely well-written and clear. The content review and testing strategies contained in the primary course book, the SAT Manual (ACT Manual for the ACT course), were drafted in an easily understandable fashion and sprinkled with great example problems.
The highlight of the Princeton Review SAT/ACT course is their live instruction. Whether you’re in the Essentials, ACT 31+ or SAT 1400+ course, you’re going to get some first-rate live lessons. I found the Princeton Review instructors to be about the best around. The Princeton Review instructor of the course I took was smart, a great communicator, and very funny. He was always open to questions and seemed to know the exam as well as the test makers themselves.
In addition to some best-in-class instructors, Princeton Review’s live classes also deliver a great structure and excellent content. The lessons are jam-packed with all of the most important SAT and ACT details, covering both content review and test taking strategies. Princeton gives you some helpful shortcuts and techniques for getting to the correct answer as efficiently as possible. Further, the content portion of the lessons truly cover everything that may come upon the exam. When you factor in the total hours (between 18 and 36 depending on your course), with the quality of the instructors and content of the lessons, these live classes are absolutely first-rate.
Between the two courses, Kaplan offers the slightly simpler menu of prep packages, giving students three course formats to choose from, as compared to four from Princeton Review. The three Kaplan course options are as follows:
The On Demand course is Kaplan’s most basic package and carries a price tag of just around $150. This package includes 50 or so video lessons for SAT (30 for ACT), 1,000+ practice problems in the question bank (2,000 ACT) and 8 full-length tests (5 for ACT). As such, it is really a barebones prep package. But as far as SAT and ACT self-study courses go, this is a pretty affordable option. In fact, it is about $50 cheaper than Princeton’s comparable offering.
At the next level up, Kaplan offers its Live Online course. This is their flagship offering, and generally regarded as their “standard” package. This course includes the same materials as the Self-Paced package, but adds in 18 hours of live class work for SAT (16 for ACT) and a set of hard copy prep books. At roughly $600, this offering is still a bargain for the resources and about $300 cheaper than Princeton’s analogous course.
Finally, Kaplan offers its Unlimited Prep package for students that need extended content access and PSAT prep. This package is basically the same as the Live Online course, buts grants students unlimited, full access to all of Kaplan’s PSAT prep material and SAT/ACT Live Online classes until December of their senior year. This package carries a price tag of around $1,300.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
The Kaplan Lessons and Coursework
Kaplan provides an all-round stellar SAT and ACT curriculum that is rivaled only by, you guessed it…. Princeton Review. Their course structure is extensive and covers every conceivable testable point on both entrance exams. They provide this coverage through live classes (unless you’re a Self-Paced enrollee), video lessons, drills, practice questions, practice tests, books and more. This is a lot of study resources.
The highlight of the Kaplan prep course is their series of 50+ video lessons for SAT prep (30+ for ACT). More on this below in the video lesson section, but these videos are about the best in the space. And complementing these video-based lectures as the other half of Kaplan’s instructional work, Live Online and Unlimited Prep students get 18+ hours of live instruction (16 for ACT). These classes take place in a digital classroom, with an instructor that is a top SAT or ACT scorer and has been vetted by Kaplan for communication and teaching skills. My personal experience in the Kaplan Live Online class was very positive. The classes were detailed, engaging and the instruction was excellent. The classes also provided a deeper dive into the material than you get with the video lessons.
Beyond the video lessons, Kaplan provides students with a couple hundred drills and 1,000+ SAT practice questions and 2,000 ACT problems to test the material you learn. The drills generally take the form of “select all that apply” type questions and fill-in-the-blank. These do an excellent job testing what you learn in different ways, increasing comprehension and retention. The drills are backed up by thousands of test-like practice questions.
The Kaplan questions closely resemble real SAT and ACT questions, and are generally very high-quality. And each question is accompanied by a thorough text-based solution. My one real complaint with the Kaplan SAT ands ACT prep course is that they don’t provide a corresponding video solution with every practice question like they do with the quiz questions. If I could ask for one thing, that would be it. And interestingly, this is the same singular issue we had with Princeton Review’s course.
In addition to the lessons and practice work, Kaplan also provides 8 full-length SAT practice tests (5 for ACT). This is not nearly as many as you get with Princeton Review (15 to 28 SAT, 8 to 14 ACT, depending on course selection), but they are quality simulated exams. In fact, 4 of the Kaplan SAT practice exams are official College Board SAT’s, meaning they contain real, previously used questions. This is a major benefit.
Finally, Kaplan also provides a set of very respectable SAT and ACT prep books. The Kaplan “Course Book” in particular is worth noting, as it contains a boatload of great testing strategies and content review, interlaced with graphics and practice problems.
As referenced above, the highlight of the Kaplan course is their video-based instruction. These video lessons are seriously next level. Rather than some prerecorded lecture with grainy footage that you get with other prep providers, you get a series of short, engaging clips that take a very casual approach to teaching. Your instructor sits on a couch (sometimes with a Starbucks coffee in hand) and teaches the lesson in a very conversational manner. It kind of feels like you’re listening to a friend tell you a story.
Additionally, as the instructor speaks, animations, catchy graphics and text appears around them for increased understanding. But it is not just a casual chat in these videos. From time to time the screen will cut to a digital whiteboard where your instructor will work a practice problem to exemplify a point. The instructor still appears on screen in the bottom corner with their tablet and stylus, but the focus becomes how to work through the example question step-by-step. These interspersed problems keep the lecture light and varied.
This format, combined with the short length, makes for a very engaging lesson that grabs and holds your attention. It really surprised me how much valuable content their instructors could share in such a short and light-hearted lesson. In terms of lecture effectiveness, I can’t see it would get much better than these Kaplan video lessons.
As you can see from the above, the Kaplan and Princeton Review SAT and ACT prep courses are very, very similar in terms of features, content and delivery. This can make choosing between the two extremely difficult. That said, after a full review and analysis of both courses, our team gives the overall edge to Princeton Review as our favorite here.
We hope our analysis above has been helpful in teasing out some of the subtle differences between these two courses. But if you still need a tie breaker, here is our final verdict point-by-point:
Course Options and Price – Edge: Kaplan. While Princeton provides more overall course options to choose from, Kaplan’s pricing simply wins out. At each package level, Kaplan manages to beat out Princeton Review with more affordable price points.
Curriculum and Study Materials – Edge: Kaplan. This was a very close call, but ultimately our team of test prep experts gives the ever-so-slight nod to Kaplan. Though their overall quantity of practice material and video lessons is less than Princeton Review’s, Kaplan wins out with quality. The shining star of the Kaplan core curriculum is their series of video lessons, which are head and shoulders above the rest.
Classes – Edge: Princeton Review. Though Kaplan’s live classes are good in their own right, the Princeton Review classes are about as good as they come. Taught by some of the best in-class instructors, Princeton delivers engaging live classes jam-packed with content review and testing strategies.
Books – Edge: Princeton Review. Another close call, Princeton Review’s books edge out Kaplan’s. Both are very similar, but the content contained in the Princeton Review SAT Manual and ACT Manual is too comprehensive and detailed to overlook.
Practice Tests – Edge: Princeton Review. This one comes down to quantity (and a little bit of quality). Both Kaplan and Princeton Review each offer similar, high-quality practice tests, but it is Princeton’s volume that takes the day, as they offer roughly 3x the practice exams of Kaplan.
User Experience and Interface – Edge: Kaplan. You will love the simplicity and clean layout of the Kaplan digital portal. Their online platform is intuitive, simple and aesthetically pleasing.
Online Content Access Period – Edge: Princeton Review. This one was easy to pick a winner. 1 year > 6 months. Princeton Review’s 1 year of content access beats Kaplan’s 6-month duration. That said, 6 months will generally be enough study time for most students.
Which SAT/ACT prep course costs more – Kaplan or Princeton Review?
On average, Kaplan provides the more affordable course. Their course options range in price from $150 up to $1,300, while Princeton Review’s cost somewhere between $200 and $1,600.
What’s the biggest difference between the Princeton Review and Kaplan SAT & ACT prep courses?
While the two courses are very similar, the largest difference surrounds instructional material. Kaplan shines with some first-rate video lessons, while Princeton Review’s highlight is their live class work.
Do Princeton Review and Kaplan both have higher score guarantees?
Yes. Both Princeton Review and Kaplan each offer their own form of higher score or your money back guarantees.