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Princeton Review GMAT Prep Review
Our comprehensive evaluation of the Princeton Review GMAT prep course and books
Students have relied on Princeton Review for decades to help them get top marks on the GMAT, and for good reason. Princeton offers some first-rate test prep materials that cover every nook and cranny of the GMAT, and their instructors are some of the best around. Nevertheless, should you opt to go with Princeton Review’s GMAT course just because you heard that a friend of a friend had success with it? In this review we take a close look at the Princeton Review GMAT prep course and help you make that call.
Princeton Review offers three GMAT prep packages for students to choose from, which generally vary by format and level of accessible resources. They include:
For those students that prefer to study on their own schedule or on the go, the Self-Pacedoption will likely be your best bet. Princeton offers this budget friendly course at the very approachable price point of right around $800, which is on par with self-paced courses from rivals Manhattan Prep and Kaplan.
The classic Princeton GMAT prep course that will come to mind for most everybody is the Fundamentals course. This course option offers 27 hours of live instruction (online or in person) and will cost right around $1,400. This is more than Kaplan charges, but is lockstep with Manhattan Prep.
Lastly, Princeton offers a fairly unique course – the GMAT 700+. This course is targeted towards students seeking scores in the top 10-12th percentile, aiming to get into a top 25 MBA program. Held live in a classroom setting or live online, it is much more intensive than the Fundamentals course and guarantees students a score of 700 or better (assuming some baseline metrics are realized). It also caps class sizes at 10 students and offers 4 hours of private tutoring. While a robust offering, this course will run you somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,900. Top scores don’t come cheap.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Quality and Quantity of Coursework
The first thing that jumps out about the Princeton Review GMAT online content is the depth and nature of its coursework. The Princeton course curriculum is broken out among exam strategies, integrated reasoning, quant and verbal – approximately tracking the sections of the GMAT. Within each section there are modules, if you will, with each covering a different topic that will be covered on the test.
As you scroll through the various modules of the Princeton coursework, it seems like it will never end. You scroll, you scroll, and you scroll. They don’t say exactly how many individual topics are covered through these modules, but it has to be well over 100. The take away from this is that Princeton Review covers every little niche that could possibly come up on the GMAT and you’re not likely to see something on the real GMAT that you haven’t seen somewhere in your prep.
With respect to the quality of the of the prep materials offered by Princeton Review, it is unquestionably good. The lessons are thorough, the problem explanations are detailed, and the adaptive drills are incredibly powerful for prepping the way you will test. My only real negative with respect to the study material quality is with the production quality and delivery of their video lessons. Unlike other Princeton Review courses we have reviewed, the GMAT prep course utilizes video-based lessons that do not have onscreen instructors.
Rather than having an instructor looking back at you and working practice problems or explaining a concept, you instead watch a slide that is updated with notes as a teacher voices over. It’s not an ineffective delivery of content – there are some nice interactive features around it – it’s just not as good as we’ve seen with other courses. The instructor’s voice is a little tinny and slides are somewhat pixely, making for a dated appearance. Putting production quality and delivery method aside, the content is spot on. I especially liked the interactive questions asked at the beginning of each module lesson.
The “quick review” lessons that precede many of the full lessons are great little snippets of information. They serve to provide quick hit refreshers on a topic so that if you’re just looking to brush up on material, you don’t have to dive in head first. I am a big fan of these little video and text lessons.
Princeton is not afraid to dig deep in their efforts to make sure you understand the material and have seen every problem type that may appear on the exam, even if just once. In short, the quality of the substance is fantastic; the quality of the video-based lesson delivery, not so much.
As for quantity of practice, Princeton delivers over 3,000 practice problems (4,400+ for the GMAT 700+ premium course), each with its own accompanied text explanation. This is more than competitor Kaplan offers and places Princeton near the top of its class in terms of study material. The text explanations that go hand in hand with each practice question are also of top-notch quality. Each breaks down the problem at large and thoroughly explains why the correct answer choices are correct and the incorrect choices, well, incorrect.
Another advantageous facet of the Princeton Review course is the adaptive nature of the drills. Through Princeton’s “DrillBuilder” tool you can customize your own practice problem set, or simply click “optimize” and have one built for you. Either way, Princeton’s proprietary algorithm will adapt the practice set as you work it. Meaning, just like the real GMAT, questions will get harder as you answer them correctly, or ease off as you miss some problems. This is a fantastic tool and adds real value to your studies.
Overall, I was impressed with both the quality and quantity of the Princeton coursework. I personally found the DrillBuilder to be of significant value, as well as the in-module drills. But I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the Princeton video-based lessons. They just lacked the modern features you get with other courses, such as dynamic whiteboards and instructors working problems onscreen with digital markers. That said, you can’t knock the quality of the content – Princeton nails the substantive stuff.
Princeton Review GMAT Practice Tests
Along with the lessons, coursework, drills and other resources, every student gets access to 10 full-length practice tests. These tests are computer-adaptive (mimicking the real GMAT) and hosted through Princeton’s digital platform. And to be honest, the practice exams are dead matches for the official GMAT. Princeton does an incredible job of nailing that 1990’s style digital interface. Beyond the interface, the substance of the practice tests are on the money as well. The questions are spot on in terms of content and structure, and I couldn’t tell the difference from practice questions and those on the actual test.
With respect to quantity, Princeton offers a category-best number with 10. Kaplan comes close, but if you’re looking to maximize your opportunities to take mock tests and simulate test day, Princeton will likely be for you. Following each practice test, you will get a detailed report, outlining where you performed well and where you need work. These score reports hold huge value and should not be quickly scanned and filed away. Princeton goes to great lengths to provide some great metrics around your performance, and you should take full advantage.
Princeton Review GMAT Prep Books
Rather than spinning their wheels designing their own prep books, Princeton Review goes straight to the source – the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) for materials. Princeton gives each student access to the GMAT Official Guide from GMAC, which contains over 1,000 real GMAT questions and strategies from the makers of the GMAT. The GMAT Official Guide from GMAC, along with its sister book, Official Guides Quantitative Review and Verbal Review, are considered the written authorities on GMAT prep and are very valuable to the Princeton prep course.
These books do not necessarily track with the Princeton Review curriculum and should be looked at as a complement to the actual prep course. Their primary value lies in their official questions, supplementing the practice questions already provided by Princeton Review. In fact, I would suggest focusing on the Princeton Review questions first, and the GMAT Official Guide questions second. The Princeton Questions go deeper and often cover more ground. Overall though, I love that Princeton provides this guide to its students.
Princeton Review delivers the goods with its overall user experience and digital platform layout, but drops the ball at the 1-yard line with its dashboard. The site structure is so intuitive and straightforward, a child could you use it. And to complement that, the interface is clean, snappy and very professional looking. However, the dashboard is a waste of space and missed opportunity.
Other test prep companies like Magoosh maximize the dashboard by incorporating some awesome features right onto it and using it as a springboard. However, Princeton’s dashboard is basically a welcome doormat with a couple target dates and basic info. With that said, I don’t want to make too big of a deal over their dashboard – it is only one aspect of an otherwise solid and engaging user experience.
The Live Instruction
While Princeton’s video-based lessons are somewhat lacking, their live instruction classes are anything but that. Led by top GMAT scorers who have all undergone 37+ hours of training, Princeton delivers some top shelf live classes. Throughout the 27 hours of live instruction, you will be presented with some great GMAT strategies, all broken down by problem type. In addition, the in-class problem breakdowns are especially helpful. The live class curriculum uses some great problems to help explain concepts and you are always free to ask questions.
Unlike some other companies’ courses, this in-person material is different from and in addition to the online content, so there is real value in taking one of Princeton’s live courses. This is the reason the live courses cost so much more than the on-demand package – there is true added benefit and extra material.
Furthermore, the Princeton Review instructors are truly top notch and some of the best in the GMAT game. The instructor in my class was crazy smart. She was a 99th percentile scorer and knew her stuff inside and out. She wasn’t the most gregarious person I’ve ever met, but she was still a great communicator. She was all business in going about delivering us the course content but was always patient and was happy to slow down and take questions or explain something a different way. Overall, I was very impressed with the Princeton Review live course I attended.
When considering which GMAT prep course is best for you, you should always consider what additional resources you get with your prep package. While some prep courses just give you the base course and call it good, Princeton Review provides access to some helpful (and some just okay) resources. Among these extras you will get:
Live interactive GMAT explanation sessions
Teacher email assistance
One 1-hour tutoring session (except for GMAT 700+ which provides 4 hours)
Test taking tip sheets
Of these bonus features, my favorite was definitely the GMAT explanation sessions. These extra live online courses occur about once or twice per week and take a deep dive into one particular problem type. The session is live and led by a Princeton Review instructor who discusses one particular topic at great length. If you happen to struggle on the chosen subject matter, you’re in luck, because you are going to get a very custom lesson where you are free to ask questions. If the session hits a topic you’re already comfortable with it may be a waste, but for the most part, these sessions are great.
One other resource worth mentioning is the instructor access for live class participants. You can email your instructor about anything and they’ll get back to you within a day or so. I tested this promise and it works, so don’t be afraid to use (just don’t overuse it).
Private GMAT Tutoring From Princeton Review
Princeton Review offers private tutoring packages starting at around $1,800 (for a 10-hour package). While I personally didn’t utilize any personal tutoring in my course, if the tutor you get is as knowledgeable as my instructor, you’ll be in good hands. I would strongly expect all of Princeton’s tutors to be solid, as they are hand-picked and well trained.
It also worth mentioning that Princeton Review’s tutoring rates are among some of the most affordable. At $167-180 per hour. You might find tutoring options cheaper on Facebook or Craigslist, but good luck with that. Compared to some other test prep companies whose rates run up into the $200’s per hour, Princeton looks pretty good.
Despite all of its great features and highlights, Princeton Review offers a somewhat disappointing 120 days of access to its online content. This lags behind many of its competitors, such as Magoosh and Kaplan who each offer 6 months or more.
Generally speaking, 120 days of study should be plenty for most students, but for those studying at night or on weekends and taking it slow, this is a short enough fuse that you may need to think twice. Princeton offers a significant amount of study material, so you will need to move somewhat efficiently to get through it all in 4 months.
Does Princeton have a Mobile App?
Princeton Review does not offer a direct mobile app to complement its GMAT prep course. They do give access to Conects Q&A, but this isn’t the most effective app. Conects more generally answers math and verbal problems, but isn’t necessarily tied to your Princeton GMAT coursework.
That said, through your GMAT Official Guide you will get access to GMAC’s mobile app, which is pretty decent. That app allows you to work problems from the GMAC book and provides problem explanations as well. I personally found the GMAC app to be of more value and use than the Conects app, noting that the two are a little different in how they work.
Is there a Score Better or Money Back Guarantee?
Yes. Princeton Review strands behind its prep course to the point that it will refund your money if you don’t improve your score. There are some technicalities about setting a baseline score to compare to, among other things (there is always fine print), but generally, Princeton will give you your money back if you don’t see your score jump after using their course. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to repeat the course because you feel you could do better a second time around, Princeton is happy to simply reactivate your account as well.
What is the Refund Policy?
Generally speaking, Princeton Review has a fairly liberal refund policy. If you’re not happy with your GMAT prep course for whatever reason, you can call them up and get a refund within 7 days of purchase. This is a pretty nice safety net, as some prep companies won’t even give you 24 hours.
Verdict: Princeton Review GMAT Prep Course
As expected, Princeton Review delivers a tried and true, traditional approach to GMAT prep. Their online content is highlighted by adaptive drills covering 3,000+ questions, each with a rock-solid text explanation following it. In addition, the content covered is crazy comprehensive and covers even the most remote problem types. While the quality of their video-based lessons was underwhelming, with lackluster explanations and poor production value, the course structure around the videos was about the most robust we have seen.
In addition to the online content, Princeton delivers some top-notch live classes with instructors that are masters of their craft. The lessons were thorough and thoughtfully planned, with great use of example problems. Overall, the Princeton Review did not disappoint, even with high expectations to begin with. If you’re looking for a proven test prep formula at a reasonable rate, Princeton Review may be a solid fit.
How much do the Princeton Review GMAT prep courses cost?
Depending on which course option you select, you can expect to pay anywhere from $800 up to $1,900. The course varies widely in format and scope, so select a course that best fits your needs.
How many hours of live instruction do you get with Princeton Review?
With the Fundamentals course, Princeton’s bellwether prep package, you will get 27 hours of live instruction. And with the GMAT 700+ you will get 47 hours of live classroom time.
How many practice questions come with the Princeton Review GMAT prep course?
You will get access to over 3,000 practice questions with the Self-Paced and Fundamentals course options, and 4,400+ practice problems with Princeton’s GMAT 700+ course.