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Princeton Review GRE Prep Review
Our detailed evaluation of the Princeton Review GRE prep course, books and practice tests
Princeton Review has been prepping students for the GRE for over 35 years and has a proprietary algorithm in its coursework that replicates the adaptive nature of the GRE. But does that experience and cool technology necessarily mean the course is the best for you? We take a close look at the Princeton Review GRE prep course and books in this thorough review.
For many students, course cost is often one of the most important factors as they evaluate which GRE prep course is the best for them. And for those considering the Princeton Review GRE prep course, know that the cost of this course is right on par with its competitors Kaplan and Manhattan Prep.
Their online only, Self-Paced course prices out at right around $500, but can often be picked up for less with one of Princeton Review’s regular promos (we often see it for around $400). In addition, Princeton does offer this same self-paced course with a 10+ point score increase guarantee, though this will jump the price tag up to around $900.
Princeton’s flagship Fundamentals course carries a price tag in the neighborhood of $1,200, but again, can also regularly be found carrying a hefty discount. Finally, their top shelf GRE 162+ package, which is geared towards students looking to really ace the GRE, comes in at around $2,300.
All of these prices are at the upper end of course cost for the GRE, but are still very much in line with competitors, and we see them as very fair given the level of resources that Princeton Review offers.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Lesson and Coursework Quality
If you are wondering why Princeton Review’s course is on the expensive side of GRE prep, it’s because the quality of their lessons and coursework is top notch. It is clear from the moment you open the coursework section of the online content that they have spared no expense in designing and implementing their GRE curriculum.
The core curriculum is broken down into a clear and repeated structure across 4 sections that generally align with the sections of the GRE:
Within each of these 4 sections there are a number of units based on subtopic (which is grounded in problem type or concept). Within each of these units, Princeton uses the same general structure:
Essentials > Lessons > Drills
They lead off with a short video or two about the basics on the particular subject, usually covering foundational principles that you need to know. These videos usually feature an instructor standing behind a plate of glass, from where they give their short lesson and write in marker on the glass in front of them so that you can see them working problems and making notes. It actually makes for a great effect and keeps you really engaged.
The first time I saw it I actually thought they were writing backwards on their side of the glass so it was readable on the viewers’ side. Then I realized they were just writing normally and the video was flipped so we could read it (doh!). And sometimes rather than the glass/marker setup, there will be a digital whiteboard around the instructor where problems, notes and graphics are displayed. This too is done very well, with a clean and professional look.
All in all, these short video lessons are great. The substantive instruction is super helpful, the delivery is incredibly effective, and all of the instructors are clearly knowledgeable. I was a BIG fan of these “essential” videos.
Within the unit, following the essentials videos, you are given a lesson. Each lesson also follows a similar pattern:
Getting Started – this is generally a brief slide on what you can expect to learn in the following lesson.
Discover – this section is a video lesson that dives deeper into the subject than was covered in the essentials videos and provides detailed explanations with examples. This is the real “lesson” aspect and the videos are nearly identical in form to the essential’s videos. Again, I loved these dynamic and engaging videos and thought the instruction was dead on.
Explore – this portion of the lesson is a series of drills and questions that are designed to reinforce what you just learned from the video lessons.
Stepping Back – this final portion gives you a chance to self-evaluate your skills and knowledge on the subject matter just covered. This allows for you to easily return to the lesson later if you rate your performance poorly.
The last component of each unit is a series of drills. You can either choose to work the drills through Princeton’s proprietary “Drill Smart” program or a dealer’s choice of drills based on difficulty level.
The Drill Smart program (based on their exclusive algorithm) is designed to adapt to your skill level as you progress through the problems. This adaptive tech is intended to operate just like the real GRE. If you crush the first set of drills, they get progressively harder. And if you perform poorly, the program tosses you easier questions to work your way up. It is a very smart and valuable tool, and I highly recommend using the Drill Smart function as you work your drills.
The units are displayed in an order recommended by Princeton Review’s experts, but you are free to jump ahead and complete the modules in whatever order you see fit. Though I’d recommend sticking to their tried and true formula.
In terms of quantity of study material, you will get access to 470+ drills, which are comprised of 3,500+ questions. This isn’t quite as many practice problems as Manhattan Prep (who provides an astounding 100,000+ questions somehow), but is in line with other competitors and has the quality to cover any difference. Across the lessons, drills and practice tests, Princeton review offers over 180 hours’ worth of online tools and prep material.
All in all, I was very impressed with the quality of Princeton Review’s coursework. The structure of the course itself is about the best I have seen, and I love how they provide the basic building blocks in an engaging video form, followed by a dynamic and interactive lesson and drills to hammer home the subject matter. And all of this is wrapped up in a super clean and easy-to-use format. It is clear why Princeton charges what they do.
Princeton Review GRE Practice Tests
All three of Princeton Review’s GRE course options come with 8 full-length, computer-adaptive tests. This is more than any competitor offers and huge a plus for the Princeton team.
They provide GRE exam-style questions and experience through a simulated computer program that looks and feels just like the real thing. The questions are right on point and the adaptive technology employed by Princeton to increase difficulty as you perform well creates a true exam-like experience.
In my personal opinion, Princeton does a great job mirroring the GRE style, content and format. Some other test prep companies struggle with this aspect of prep, but not Princeton. When I got into a test and was rolling, the only thing that reminded me I wasn’t taking the real thing was the dog barking.
Following each practice test you get an interactive score report from Princeton that breaks down your performance in detail. The metrics provided are truly helpful and allow you to filter down by question to assess your strengths and weaknesses. In addition, for all those questions that you want a second look at, Princeton Review provides access to detailed explanations of every question on the exam straight from the score report.
Princeton Review GRE Books
Whether your Princeton Review GRE prep course comes with hardcopy study books totally depends on which course option you go with. The Fundamentals and GRE 162+ packages each come with accompanying printed prep books, while the Self-Paced version does not. If you elect to go with one of the two higher tier packages from Princeton, we found their textbooks to be solid, but nothing worth writing home about. These “manuals,” as they call them, are well-written and fairly comprehensive, tracking with your live lessons. But in terms of overall value that they add, I would say the live instruction, practice problems and drills, and video lectures are more valuable resources. But for those that like to follow along in a book, highlight key points and take notes, these books are a solid text-based tool.
But when it comes to their Self-Paced plan, similar to Magoosh GRE prep, Princeton Review GRE is now entirely online and no longer has accompanying hardcopy textbooks. Hence the lower price point. However, Princeton Review does separately offer a “GRE Premium Prep” study book that you can purchase on Amazon. This prep book is marketed by Princeton Review as being a cheap alternative to its prep course or a supplement, but I really only see this book as a supplement to the course.
It is true that this book does contain some detailed written lessons, practice problems and a handful of practice tests, but it simply doesn’t stack up against the prep course in terms of material for getting you prepared. It lacks the engaging video lessons, adaptive drills, simulated test day experience and a number of other great features you get with the prep course. In my eyes, it is a great supplement to the course that you can haul with you on the train or in your backpack, but you still need the course to maximize your prep.
Dashboard and User Experience
Not only is it clear that Princeton Review has invested serious resources into the content of their program, but it is also evident that they have dedicated a lot of time and money to the online user experience. The online content is professional and easy-to-use. The content is structured very simply, which makes for a pleasant experience. There are easy-to-spot tabs for your dashboard, practice tests, coursework, schedule and resources.
I managed to easily navigate these tabs without any issues at all and had the lay of the land within 60 seconds of logging in. My only complaint would be that the dashboard is somewhat lacking. There is a list of high-level things you should do to prepare for the GRE which takes up a lot of real estate on the homepage. Not only are these tips fairly generic, but they’re not even clickable. I thought they would link to study schedules and resources, but they don’t. There are also a couple small sections about target test dates and a suggested lesson, but that is it.
Overall, I found the dashboard to be a bit of waste, which is too bad, as the homepage generally provides a good opportunity to give the user access to some cool features and resources. The dashboard aside, the rest of the online content was very well structured and designed, and I quite enjoyed the interface.
Princeton Review’s flagship Fundamentals prep course comes with 24 hours of live, in-class instruction (online or in-person). This instruction is in addition to access to the same online materials you would get with the Self-Paced course, and whether you should pay up for the live class totally depends on the type of student you are. If you need structure in your studies, are not confident in your dedication or ability to study alone, or just plain want the extra prep and firepower that comes with taking a live course, this option would likely benefit you.
And with respect to the classes themselves, the classroom experience is just what you would expect from Princeton Review – thoughtfully planned, well managed and effective. The class I took was on the larger side of GRE prep class sizes that I have taken, but the instructor was great. She absolutely knew her stuff and did a great job of communicating some complex math topics. She easily broke down the tougher subjects and spoon fed them to us.
If I had one gripe, it would be that the larger class size resulted in us getting bogged down a bit at times. Inevitably, there is a student or two that just isn’t learning at the same pace as the rest and asks a bunch of questions that everybody else in the class knows the answer to. To our instructor’s credit, she did her best to move the questions along and sidebar as many as possible, but we did get slowed down by this at times. But otherwise, the classroom experience was excellent and I would not hesitate to recommend it to those that favor a live course.
Other Included Resources
Unlike some of its competitors, the Princeton Review GRE prep course is chock full of valuable add-ons that deliver significant value to the course. The first is access to its two GRE Math Fundamentals live online courses. Each course option is given access to these two math lessons, which are two 1.5-hour primers on the most commonly seen math problems on the GRE. I personally found these two supplemental math courses to be extremely valuable. They are offered regularly and the guys that teach them have the lesson down to a T.
You also get access to Princeton’s “Vocabulary Hit Parade.” Understanding a broad vocabulary is absolutely essential to performing well on the verbal section of the GRE, as many of the questions turn on less commonly used words. To help combat this, Princeton Review has put together an awesome vocabulary workbook on the most commonly seen terms (i.e. the “hits”), so that you can be prepared to answer these questions based in vocabulary. It’s long, but definitely worth reading at least once or twice during your studies. It can be a difference maker in your score and is a huge bonus with the course.
Additionally, Princeton Review gives you access to its Test Taking Tips and Practice Test Schedule resources. Both of these resources provide valuable information on when to take your practice tests and methods for successfully taking the test. They are short reads (only a page or two each), but very helpful. These were just another nice little add-on.
Private Tutoring From Princeton Review
If you think you need a little extra 1-on-1 time with a tutor to help get you get the top tier score you’re after, Princeton Review does offer private tutoring packages. Princeton offers two programs – a Targeted Tutoring package that runs around $1,800, or a Comprehensive Tutoring package that comes in at around $3,000. The Targeted Tutoring course offers 10 hours of private 1-on-1 time with a Princeton Review GRE expert, and the Comprehensive package gives you 18 hours.
Both courses are offered in person or online, so if you’re in a remote area with no Princeton experts close by, you can still get that top flight private time – it’ll just be over Zoom instead of face-to-face. While I didn’t purchase any private tutoring from Princeton, I would expect their tutoring to be top shelf.
Princeton employees some of the best GRE teachers out there and if they are anything like the instructor I had, I am sure it would be well worth the money if you’re in need of a little extra attention. My instructor was knowledgeable, very patient, and a great communicator. I would expect nothing less of the other GRE tutors at Princeton Review.
When you purchase Princeton Review’s Self-Paced on demand course, you get 120 days of access to all of the online content described above. And with the more expensive live online and classroom courses, not only do you get 120 days of access, but you also get bonus access during your early enrollment period. So, if you enroll 28 days before your class begins, you get a bonus 28 days of immediate access on top of the normal 120 days.
This is on the shorter end of access periods compared to some of its rivals, but four months should be plenty of access time to prepare for the GRE. The only way this might not be enough is if you lead a busy life and study very sparsely, spreading your studies out over a longer period of time after work and on the weekends. But for most folks, 120 days should be far and away enough time to get your prep done.
Is there a Mobile App?
The answer to this question is yes and no, but mostly no. Princeton Review does not have a dedicated GRE mobile app that is connected to your coursework and helps you prep for the exam. But you can download Princeton’s Conects Q&A app from the app store to help you with certain problems. The app answers questions about problems you’re stuck on, but it is not GRE specific. I found the app to be moderately helpful when I played around with it, but not really worth my time. I found that I was better suited looking up problem explanations within the coursework.
Is there a Score Increase Guarantee?
For those students that are a little unsure about the effectiveness of Princeton Review’s coursework, it is reassuring knowing that Princeton Review offers a higher score guarantee. Princeton stands behind their course, to the point that if you don’t get improvement in your overall GRE score, they will refund your tuition in full. All four options for their GRE course are covered by this promise, with some packages getting guarantees of multiple point increases.
There are some requirements that must be followed in order to be eligible for the guarantee, such as attending all classes and doing all homework, so please read the fine print, but most students should be eligible assuming you do all coursework and take all the practice tests. And for those that want to continue on with their studies if they don’t get a score increase after the first go around, Princeton also offers the option to retake the course, rather than getting your money back.
What is the Refund Policy?
If you decide that a course you’ve purchased just isn’t right for you, Princeton Review offers a fairly generous refund policy, particularly when compared to some of their competitors. As of the time of this article’s writing, all classroom and live online courses are generally 100% refundable before the start of your program. In addition, the self-paced program is 100% refundable within 7 days of enrollment.
Verdict: Princeton Review GRE Prep Course
Princeton Review has been prepping students for the GRE for over 35 years, and it shows. Their course content is spot on from a substantive perspective and delivered in a highly engaging video and interactive module format. The video lessons are thorough, interesting and genuinely helpful. The video instruction covers everything you need to know and is delivered in a highly entertaining and interactive format that helps you to absorb the material. In addition, everything is hammered home with adaptive drills that reinforce what you learn and adjust difficulty levels in a fashion similar to the actual GRE.
Although the dashboard of the online content is somewhat lacking and the class sizes a little large, the course is otherwise a complete winner and worth every penny. So, if you’re looking for a tried and tested formula that clearly works, as well as effective learning tools and the most practice tests of any GRE test prep company, Princeton Review is likely a good fit for you. We didn’t hesitate to put it on our list of best GRE prep courses.
How much does the Princeton Review GRE prep course cost?
The Princeton Review GRE courses generally range in price between $500 and $2,300 depending on the format and level of resources you seek.
Does Princeton Review have a money back guarantee?
Yes. Princeton Review guarantees that your GRE score will increase by prepping with their course, or your money back.
How many total hours of study material do I get with Princeton Review GRE prep?
You will get more than 180 total hours of lessons, drills and other online tools and resources with Princeton Review’s GRE prep course.