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Princeton Review vs Altius MCAT
Trying to decide between Princeton Review and Altius for MCAT prep? Don't worry, we've used both courses
Princeton Review and Altius are two of the most popular and widely-used MCAT prep courses on the market. However, despite their similar price points and score promises, the two are very different in terms of how they design their curriculums and approach the prep process. In the guide, we outline how each course works, what features you get, and where we see each prep option winning over one another.
Let’s begin this post with an overview of how each MCAT program works, as I think this will help set the stage for my thoughts on these two companies. And I’ll begin with Princeton Review.
Princeton offers a very traditional MCAT prep course built around most of the standard features that you would expect, such as live classes, video lessons, a structured study schedule, practice problems, mock exams at sequenced intervals, review sessions, and more.
You work through a series of learning modules that are each based on a different topics tested on the MCAT, as well as test taking strategies. You keep knocking down assignments within a module until you move on to the next.
Honestly, in terms of features and design, it’s not so different from Kaplan or Blueprint, and probably not even that far off from what your SAT or ACT prep course was like if you took one a few years ago.
It’s a pretty standard slate of features and structure for a prep course.
But that’s not to imply it’s a bad thing. There’s a very good reason that Princeton Review, Kaplan, Blueprint and a bunch of other MCAT mega providers use this standard structure.
They do so because it works, and it’s been vetted for decades.
Without getting too much into the detail (I’ll save that for the section below on what I specifically like and don’t like about this course), that’s generally it a nutshell for Princeton Review.
Then there’s Altius, which takes a pretty unique approach to MCAT prep. Rather than basing their course around on-demand video lessons and online learning modules with drills like Princeton, the Altius course is built around two things: 1-on-1 tutoring sessions with a dedicated mentor and small group classes.
Basically, Altius’ focus is on taking a much more hands-on and personalized approach to MCAT prep with more of a human touch. Their coursework is built around intensive review sessions with a mentor, where you go over questions about content, CARS and test testing strategies.
You also review practice problems together, modify your study schedule based on strengths and weaknesses, and a bunch more.
Then the other half of the Altius equation is small group-based learning sessions. These live classes meet once or twice over week over Zoom, and are where a good chunk of your learning takes place.
The classes are capped at just 6 to 8 students, so they feel sort of workshop-like, and each session is led by one or two Altius experts.
These instructors cover a certain topic tested on the MCAT, review practice problems, and answer questions.
Essentially, the classes tee up the meat of your learning, then you work through assignments on your own, and then reinforce and recalibrate with your mentor.
From a high level, I’d say the biggest difference is that Princeton Review sets up their course for you to be responsible for your own studies and drive your own gains, while Altius leans more on mentor support and guidance.
Anyway though, that’s how the two courses compare from a high level. Now, let’s jump into a quick cost breakdown before giving you my thoughts.
Pricing & Course Options
In terms of pricing, Princeton Review gives you four packages to choose from:
a self-paced, on demand course that runs for $2,000;
a live online package with live classes that runs for $2,800;
an MCAT 513+ course, a more intensive option that guarantees a score of at least 513, which runs for $3,500; and
a 515+ immersion course, their ultra high-end, immersive course that guarantees a score of 515 or better, which runs for roughly $7,300.
Altius, on the other hand, offers about a million different course formats: Self-Paced, Elite, Silver, Gold and Platinum, and all in varying lengths.
Then in terms of cost, they range all over in price, from as low as $1,000 for the self-paced course up to $7,000+ for the Platinum package.
However, my personal advice for Altius is this: don’t even bother with their self-paced course. If you want an on-demand package, Princeton Review is the way to go between these two. Their self-paced package is a 100x better (more on this below).
Altius is known for their mentoring-based, live courses. And of these, their Elite package, which is their most popular, flagship course, costs $3,000.
So in terms of cost, if comparing the standard courses between these two companies (Princeton Review’s live online vs Altius’ Elite course), it’s essentially a dead tie, $2,800 to $3,000.
If you are seeking a more affordable MCAT prep course, you may want to check out the options from Magoosh.
Reasons Why Princeton Review MCAT Wins
Now that you have some background regarding pricing and study materials, let’s get to the main advantages for each course, beginning again with Princeton Review.
Superior Video Lessons
In short, Princeton offers some very good video lessons, while Altius does not. As noted above, that is not Altius’ strength, and their video lessons can’t even compare with Princeton Review’s on-demand video lectures (or Kaplan’s for that matter).
Whether you’re considering volume, production quality, or content, Princeton is superior in this category.
Bottom line, if you’re a visual learner, and self-driving your studies with video lessons is going to be a big part of your study plan, go Princeton Review.
Comprehensive Course Design
Next, I prefer the overall course design of Princeton Review’s program. To be clear, I like Altius’ framework and the approach of learning through small group classes and regular mentor meetings.
Their material is grouped into learning modules, where they clearly direct you through you daily work. You move from video lessons into practice problems, to drills, then review sessions and quizzes. It’s got a great flow.
Not to mention, the material itself is structured pretty smartly by subject matter grouping. So overall, I love the design the of the Princeton Review MCAT course.
Third, I like Princeton Review’s problem explanations a bit better than Altius’ explanations. Outside of the AAMC practice material (which both companies use),
I actually prefer Altius’ in-house practice exams themselves better. To be clear, the exams, not the solutions.
However, in terms of how problem solutions are broken down, I like the way Princeton Review does it. They’ve beefed up the AAMC explanations with their own analysis, and the rationales they provide with their own proprietary practice questions are really solid as well.
Princeton Review’s problems seem to have deeper reasoning and are more clearly explained than Altius’ explanations. And this is a pretty important, as a lot of your learning will come from reviewing your missed practice questions in MCAT prep.
Prep Books For Text-Based Learners
Finally, if you’re seeking prep books, Princeton Review wins. If you’re a text-based learner and plan to rely on workbooks and physical study tools, there’s no doubt that you have to go with Princeton Review.
They ship you 11 hardcopy prep books (7 covering content review of the major MCAT subjects and 4 being course-related workbooks), while Altius ships you just 1. Yes, 1 book.
The Altius book is an alright study resource, but really, it acts more like a reference manual. In contrast, the Princeton Review books are ultra-comprehensive and very well integrated in your assigned coursework.
Now that we’ve covered the advantages for Princeton Review, let’s flip the script and cover the major advantages in favor of Altius.
Smaller, More Personalized Live Classes
When it comes to live classes, we give Altius the edge. While we actually really like Princeton Review’s live classes (you get 40–123 hours of class time with a rotating team of subject matter experts), you just can’t beat Altius’ small group classes at the end of the day.
With the classes capped at 6 to 8 students, they have a very small and workshop-like feel to them. You get very close your with instructor and peers, and the classes seem to make a lot more progress in each session – likely because the class size is smaller and everything is more streamlined.
Across 100+ hours of class time (depending on which Altius package you go with), there is just a ton of value in these live classes.
1-on-1 Mentoring Adds Value
Our second noted win for Altius, not shockingly, is the mentor sessions. Having a dedicated mentor that you meet with every week adds a ton of structure and support to your study plan.
As noted above, these sessions cover a ton of ground and provide lift where you need it most. You can ask substantive questions about hard content, talk pacing strategy, review practice tests, discuss CARS strategies, whatever.
Your mentor is basically there to make sure you’re understanding everything you’re learning in the course, keep you on track, and ensure your study plan is optimized.
It’s a really cool and unique feature that other MCAT prep companies don’t have, and something we really like.
Better Practice Exams
Lastly, in comparing non-AAMC practice material between the two companies, we prefer Altius. They offer 10 proprietary full-length exams that are very, very good (the Blueprint MCAT exams are realistic as well).
These practice exams are so good in fact that other MCAT pep providers buy them off Altius to give to their students. They are very close to the real MCAT in terms of problem difficulty, length and content.
Thus, if you’re a learn-by-doing type of student and plan to burn up a ton of practice work as you go, then Altius could be a good choice, as you’ll get all the AAMC materials plus a bunch of their high-quality questions.
Verdict: Altius Or Princeton Review For MCAT Prep?
That about covers all the detail, so time for my final verdict: should you go with Princeton Review or Altius for your MCAT prep?
Well, after having a chance to use and thoroughly test out both of these prep programs, our team prefers Princeton Review.
While we like Altius’ personalized and supportive approach with their 1-on-1 mentoring and small group live classes, as well as the quality of the mock exams, at the end of the day, Princeton Review’s MCAT course is just so much more comprehensive and well-rounded.
With their smart course design built around learning modules, which integrate all of your materials (video lessons, live classes, drills and full-length practice tests), it just has a much more complete feel to it and overall, is more effective. So for us, we give Princeton Review the overall edge.
What's the main difference between Altius and Princeton Review?
The primary difference between Altius and Princeton Review is that Altius takes a much more hands-on and guided approach to prep with a human touch, while Princeton Review allows students to drive their own gains and operate independently.
Is Altius better than Princeton Review?
In our team’s opinion, after having a chance to take and review both MCAT courses, Princeton Review is better than Altius. Although we love Altius’ approach to prep, Princeton Review is a more well-rounded and comprehensive course.
Do Altius and Princeton Review both have live classes?
Yes, both Altius and Princeton Review each offer live classes in a range of options. The Altius packages offer anywhere from 60 to 200 hours of live class time, while Princeton offers 40 to 123 hours of live class time.