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Princeton Review MCAT Prep Review
A detailed breakdown and evaluation of the Princeton Review MCAT prep course and books
With the MCAT being such a high stakes exam, future med school students do not want to take any risks in choosing their test prep. That is why many turn to Princeton Review – a no-nonsense, instructional-heavy, proven MCAT prep course. But do countless hours in the classroom and traditional methods of instruction always mean results? Discover more about Princeton Review’s MCAT prep course and thoughts from our education experts in this detailed review.
Princeton Review offers four primary prep options to students, which vary based on level of instruction, course intensity and level of access. Included within these course formats, Princeton Review makes a number of guarantees related to score increases, as discussed further below. The four prep packages include:
MCAT 515+ Immersion
Beginning with their most affordable option, Princeton’s Self-Paced course gives students the chance to learn at their own speed, DIY style. This package opens access to Princeton’s wide range of online content and hard copy books, but no live classes. This course runs right around $1,700, which places it a hair cheaper than Kaplan’s analogous course and approximately 8x or so more expensive than value prep company Magoosh’s online course.
Moving up the ladder, Princeton Review’s most popular prep option, the Ultimate course, gives students the chance to learn through live scheduled classes, in-person or online. This course packs a whopping 120+ live instruction hours and costs around $2,800. Once again, this is in line with the price of rival Kaplan’s flagship in-person course, and the two can often be found within $100-200 of each other.
At the next tier, Princeton Review offers an option that really assures students a chance to get results. Their MCAT 510+ program guarantees a score of 510 or better on the MCAT, assuming you start with a base score of 500 or better and finish the course. If you have a base score less than 500, than the course simply guarantees a +10 point jump. In either case, this prep package will run you about $3,400 – though we often see it on sale for less.
Finally, Princeton Review’s most intense option – the MCAT 515+ Immersion course – is the granddaddy of them all, boasting 860+ total hours of instruction, practice and guided prep across 5 long weeks. This course is not for the faint of heart; nor is it for the penny pincher. This bootcamp-style prep course will cost you around $7,000, which is on par with other intense MCAT summer immersion programs. That figure may make your head spin, but rest in knowing that it includes room and board and a guaranteed score of 515+ (with some limitations).
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Analysis of Princeton Review’s MCAT Coursework
One of the first things that jumps out about Princeton Review’s coursework is the sheer quantity of prep they provide. Princeton gives you access to 500+ detailed video lessons, 2,500+ practice problems, 16 full-length practice tests, and 123 live instruction hours (assuming you’re taking a live course). That is a TON of prep material and time, so for those students seeking to maximize the amount of prep they get for their money, this should catch your eye.
Their curriculum is divided up by MCAT subject, such as biology or organic chemistry, for a total of 6 sections. Each subject is then broken down into classes, with each class covering a certain subtopic of the more general category. Within each of these classes you then have three components:
Before Class – This is a primer for what is to come in the meat of the lesson. It generally includes a diagnostic exam, reading assignment from your subject books, and some practice questions.
Class – The class itself consists of a series of “MedFlix” videos. These video-based lessons get right to the heart of the material and serve as your primary instruction.
After Class – This material serves to reinforce the content reviewed in the class lessons and takes the form of drills and workbook practice.
The on demand video lessons in the online portion of the course are generally short in duration (around 5-20 minutes) and cover topic specific instruction. They take the form of digital whiteboard with a voice-over by the instructor. The instructor verbalizes their lesson as the onscreen whiteboard updates with text, notes and different graphics. There are no real interactive elements and the instructor moves quickly through the content.
In my opinion, the quality of these video lessons was just okay. The production value was a little subpar, with grainy footage at times and tinny audio, and the Princeton instructors move very quickly through the material. There is never any real attempt to engage students or make the material light – they are all business and cut through the agenda with robotic-like drive. So for those students that like funny, engaging instructors and presentations that keep the material light, this will not be for you. But if you’re just looking for the good old meat and potatoes (i.e. straight content with no fluff), these videos will be right up your alley.
With all that said, I did love the analogies and mnemonics the Princeton instructors incorporated into the video instruction. There were a number of times the teacher would use a little story or mnemonic to help you remember a formula or concept, which is always super helpful. You have a ton of material to memorize for the MCAT, so anytime you can take a shortcut to improve recall, it’s a win. I also really liked the graphics used throughout the video lessons – these helped with material retention as well.
Beyond the video lessons, you get access to 2,500+ practice problems across all of Princeton’s online content. There are hundreds of drills and diagnostic exams surrounding the classes, and each practice problem within these components has an attached explanation. The practice problem explanations are incredibly thorough and I was personally very impressed with them. The explanations dive into great detail, breaking down the basis of the question, as well as giving a thorough analysis of each answer choice. These explanations add serious value to the course and should be reviewed after each missed question.
I also found the subject specific diagnostic exams within each class to be incredibly useful. These diagnostic tools establish your baseline skill level and track your progress from there as you move through the course. These give a great opportunity to analyze your weaknesses and put extra work towards those areas. The results of your diagnostic tests can be found under the Reports tab and should be reviewed frequently.
To cap off the lessons and coursework, Princeton Review additionally provides access to all AAMC official practice materials. This isn’t necessarily a special or exclusive feature (Kaplan and Gold Standard MCAT Prep do this as well), but most every student searching out the best MCAT prep course will expect this, so it’s nice to see Princeton rise to the occasion. These AAMC materials, consisting of practice tests, flashcards and online practice, are all top notch and are a huge benefit to the overall prep package.
All things considered, I was very impressed with Princeton Review’s curriculum and coursework. The quality of their MedFlix video lessons in the online portal was lacking and the material dry, but they were definitely effective and covered every nook and cranny of MCAT material. I separately really liked the quality and quantity of drills and ancillary coursework around the class sessions. In sum, there should not be any doubts about the nature of Princeton Review’s MCAT coursework – you absolutely get what you pay for with this course in the best of ways.
Princeton Review MCAT Prep Books
In addition to the online video instruction, drills, assigned readings and other digital coursework, Princeton Review provides students with 11 hard copy prep books. Of these 11 books, 7 cover subject specific content review, spanning the subjects of biology, general chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry, physics and math, psychology and sociology, and CARS. The other 4 books consist of various course-based workbooks. Combined, they make for an extremely comprehensive and valuable resource.
The subject specific review books are worth their weight in gold. They cover each topic in extreme detail, with excellent explanations and helpful graphics. They dive into details you don’t get through the instruction alone and act as a very nice complement to the core coursework. The workbooks are also very useful, serving as extra practice and a means to reinforce the content you’ve learned (or likely re-learned).
My personal opinion is that the Princeton books are worth almost as much as the online content itself. I learn particularly well through reading textbooks, so for me personally, these books are a blessing. They are well-written, clearly articulated, and do a great job breaking down complex material. All together, they are a powerful study resource.
Princeton Review MCAT Practice Tests
In total, Princeton Review offers its users the opportunity to take up to 16 full-length practice tests. Given the importance of practice when it comes to the MCAT, this is an incredibly valuable offering. With respect to pure numbers, 16 is a very generous figure and is less than only Gold Standard MCAT Prep when it comes to quantity (Gold Standard offers 20 practice tests).
However, just as important as the quantity of practice tests is the ability to practice under exam-like conditions. To be fully prepared, it is critical that students practice like its game-day, so practice tests must match the real MCAT in terms of question content, structure and format. Fortunately, Princeton Review does a great job on all fronts.
Their practice test problems are amazingly close to the real questions you will see on exam day. Honestly, I could hardly tell the difference, and the digital platform Princeton employs to administer the practice tests is a very good representation of the actual software you will see. Together, the near identical questions and testing software make for a true exam-like experience.
Following each practice test, you are given an interactive score report. These reports are extremely detailed and break down your performance by subject and subtopic. This gives you a clear view into where your weaknesses lie, allowing for further practice in those areas. You can also jump into individual missed questions from the score report to review problem explanations. I found these score reports to be extremely well-designed and very beneficial for purposes of reviewing mistakes. I especially like how you can dive into specific questions to see where you went wrong.
If you elect to take one of the Princeton Review MCAT courses with a classroom component, you will be treated to an abundance of live instruction hours. The Ultimate and MCAT 510+ course offerings each boast 123 hours of live instruction. Yes, you read that correctly – 123 hours.
That is more than 3x the number of classroom hours that you get with Kaplan, and is frankly a little mind boggling. And if you really up the ante for Princeton’s 515+ Immersion course, you will get close to 200 hours of live classroom time. Whatever path you take, that is a lot of classroom time. And while more class hours don’t necessarily mean better scores, I believe the extra time dedicated to learning from a MCAT pro certainly helps.
Rather than the course being led by one instructor, the classes are taught by a rotating team of subject matter experts. You will usually get a mix of four to six different Princeton experts, who are masters of a particular field. This ensures that you are getting specialists teaching your classes rather than generalists who maybe only have a surface level knowledge of a particular topic.
I took the Ultimate course and had 5 different instructors across my classes. They ranged widely in personality and teaching style, but all had the common trait of being very approachable and knowledgeable. Each seemed incredibly invested in making sure we all understood the material they were teaching.
It really seemed like each took a sense of pride in their work and making sure they were doing a good job. As part of that, all the instructors were very open to questions and comments, and sidebar conversations during breaks. I frequently would ask a quick question 1-on-1 during a break and the instructor had no issue at all giving up 60 seconds of their break time to answer my questions. They were all truly friendly and open.
Following each class session, you will be assigned some personalized homework. The homework is a mixed bag and can be anything from reading assignments to drills to diagnostics. And don’t think the homework is a light load that you can breeze through while watching TV – it often took hours to complete.
User Experience and Interface
It is clear that Princeton Review has dedicated considerable time and resources to perfecting its digital platform. The online portal that houses a majority of your coursework is clean, professional looking and very intuitive. I would not say that it is sleek or modern, but it is certainly aesthetically pleasing.
The layout is also very easy to use and maneuvering through the portal is a breeze. The navigation bar at the top serves to direct you to the various sections of resources and study material in a very easy to understand manner. And the drill-down functions and organization of online classwork simplify the tracking down of a desired resource.
To the extent the video-based lessons make up part of the user experience, that aspect is significantly lacking. I understand that it is difficult and expensive to produce 500+ high quality videos with great production value, but these videos just don’t make the cut. They were often pixelated and the audio sounded metallic. I would just expect better on that front. But apart from that aspect, the overall user interface and experience of the Princeton Review online content is visually appealing and easy to use.
While not always at the top of students’ priority lists when it comes to features they are looking for in a MCAT prep course, supplemental resources are always a nice bonus. Fortunately, for Princeton Review students, the test prep behemoth offers a few really valuable add-ons.
The most important and useful resource offering is Princeton’s “MCAT Topic Focus.” This resource is generally only available to MCAT 510+ and MCAT 515+ Immersion students. It is a series of teacher office hours-type sessions that cover various subjects on the MCAT. There are over 12 sessions offered per week, where instructors dive into deeper detail on particular topics and allow students to ask questions. This is a nice resource for students seeking more knowledge on a certain subject or a chance to ask some follow-up questions from class.
Princeton’s Ultimate MCAT Student Guide is also a helpful feature. This 20+ page downloadable PDF covers everything students needs to know about the MCAT in general, the Princeton Review prep course, how to effectively prepare for the MCAT, med school admissions and more. By and large, you can think of it as your go-to manual for MCAT prep.
Lastly, through your Princeton Review MCAT prep course, you will also get access to Princeton’s Med School Admissions Advantage sessions. These video sessions offer advice from Princeton med school admissions counselors and experts on tips for optimizing your med school admissions application and qualifications, among other things. Together with the MCAT Topic Focus, Student Guide and other ancillary resources available through the portal, Princeton offers a nice bundle of resources.
Princeton Review Private MCAT Tutoring
For those students seeking out some personalized attention from an expert on the MCAT, Princeton Review offers a couple different private tutoring packages. The two packages are as follows:
MCAT Targeted LiveOnline Tutoring – 10 Hours
MCAT Comprehensive LiveOnline Tutoring – 60 Hours
The 10-hour package costs right around $2,000, while the 60-hour package will run you an eye-popping $11,000. Yes that is a crazy, crazy number, but when you break it down across 60 hours and factor in that you are also getting access to all of the same content and materials as the Self-Paced course students (a roughly $1,700 value), it is actually a fairly decent rate per hour for top tier tutoring. I know the absolute dollar figure is still nutty to contemplate spending, but if you’re going to be buying the Self-Paced course anyway and really want to invest in getting into a top school, this would likely be your ticket.
It is a little odd to me that Princeton jumps from a 10-hour package to a 60-hour package with nothing in between. Given that large gap in hours with no packages, I would just note that Blueprint MCAT also offers some very high-end tutoring packages in that in-between range. I have personally used their tutoring services and found them to be top shelf.
Content Access Period
Princeton Review boasts one of the more favorable content access periods in the MCAT test prep space. For online only, Self-Paced course students, you will get access to your online materials for 270 days. That means you get roughly 9 months of study time, which should be ample opportunity to get yourself ready for the MCAT.
For all other course options, you will get the same 270 days PLUS any enrollment period before your class begins. So if you enroll 30 days before the first class session, you get a bonus 30 days of access to your content. This is a really nice feature and in theory, you could squeeze out 10-12 months of access to your study materials. Compared to other test prep courses, these access periods are quite generous.
The Princeton Review Mobile App
Keeping up with other test prep companies that offer MCAT prep courses, Princeton Review has rolled out its own MCAT mobile app. While this may perk your ears, do not get too excited about the content it offers. The mobile app is limited to 550 content-based flashcards. There are no practice quizzes, problems, video lessons or anything else from your actual coursework on the app.
Personally, I would like to see Princeton Review connect their mobile app with your coursework, and allow you to do practice problems and watch video lessons from your phone. That would be a true add in value. Don’t get me wrong, I like the flashcards and think they are great in their own right, but I just would like more. The flashcards make for some great quick-hit studying while on the train or killing time, but they are not game changers.
Does Princeton Review Have a Score Increase Guarantee?
Princeton Review offers a score increase guarantee for all of its courses, with a particularly strong guarantee for the MCAT 510+ and MCAT 515+ Immersion packages. For the Self-Paced and Ultimate courses, Princeton guarantees that your MCAT score will increase with the use for their course (noting that some restrictions apply). However, it is the two upper echelon courses where the real guarantee kicks in.
For the 510+ program, Princeton Review guarantees that you will get at least a 510 or better. Now, to qualify for this promise, you must have a baseline score of 500 or better. Otherwise they simply guarantee a score jump of +10 points (which is still pretty liberal in its own right). And for the 515+ Immersion program, there is a similar promise. Score 515 or better or your money back – assuming you started with a 505 score or better. If you start below a 505 score with that offering, you get the same +10 point increase guarantee.
Each guarantee requires that you complete all your coursework, along with some other requirements, but the same is expected from any company’s guarantee program. Overall, the Princeton guarantees are quite generous.
Princeton Review Refund Policy
Generally speaking, if you choose to withdraw from your Princeton Review prep course for any reason within 7 days of purchase, you will get 100% of your money back. Beyond that 7-day period, however, you will be out of luck. This refund policy applies to tuition costs only and not shipping expenses, which will not be reimbursed. Note that this liberal refund policy does not apply to the 515+ Immersion program though, so check those requirements closely.
Verdict: Princeton Review MCAT Prep Course
If you’re looking for a tried and true, proven MCAT prep formula that is almost certain to raise your score, Princeton Review is likely your course. They offer an absolute mountain of prep resources and study time through 120+ live instruction hours, 16 full-length practice tests, 2,500+ practice problems, and one of the most robust curriculums we have reviewed. The practice problem explanations are thorough, the drills hammer home the most important MCAT subjects, and the lessons target high-yield topics. Overall, I was very impressed with Princeton’s course.
All that said, I did have issue with their online video-based lessons and mobile app. The production value of the video lessons is not great, having a grainy picture and tinny audio; however, they are nonetheless effective, cutting to the point of every subject and covering every MCAT subtopic imaginable. And while I don’t care for the usefulness of their mobile app, it is a small feature in an overall strong package. For students that want results and little risk when spending their money on a prep course, I would not hesitate to pull the trigger on Princeton Review’s course. It’s a surefire prep option.
How much does the Princeton Review MCAT course cost?
The Princeton Review MCAT prep options range in price from around $1,700 on the affordable end for their Self-Paced offering to close to $7,000 on the expensive side for their intensive 515+ Immersion program.
How many live classroom hours do I get with Princeton Review?
If you opt for either the Ultimate course or MCAT 510+ offering from Princeton Review, you will get 123 live instruction hours, in-person or live online.
How long do I get access to my online study materials with Princeton Review?
You will get at least 270 days of online access to all of your study resources with any Princeton Review course. That equates to roughly 9 months and should provide plenty of study time to prep for the MCAT.