Kaplan vs Princeton Review: The Contenders
In the MCAT prep world, there is a major battle going on. We like to call it Kaplan vs Princeton Review: The Battle of the Leviathans. The issue is, of course, revolving around the question of should take the title of the best MCAT prep book, the study guide published by Kaplan or the one that is from The Princeton Review. For the reasons below, in our opinion, Kaplan emerges as the champion in the Kaplan vs Princeton Review fight.
Kaplan and The Princeton Review are leaders, both generally in the provision of test preparation services, and more specifically, in the provision of test preparation assistance for the MCAT. Thus, the confidence level when working with materials from either company already begins at a good level. Yet for those of us with limited funds, it may be difficult to draw from both Kaplan’s and Princeton Review’s fountains of knowledge (which would be the ideal solution), meaning that a difficult decision must be made at the outset of preparation for the MCAT.
In other words, should one choose materials from Kaplan or Princeton Review?
- Best MCAT Classes
- Self-Paced Study: $1999
- Classroom Instruction Course (Live or Online): $2499
- Personal Tutor: $3999
Industry powerhouse Kaplan understands how to deliver top-notch classes for high stakes test prep, and they don’t disappoint with their top-notch MCAT prep courses. Kaplan offers customized study plans that put emphasis on your weak areas, 14 full-length practice tests, and their proprietary MCAT Channel, an online resource that is available 24/7, giving you the flexibility to fit studying into your busy schedule. They are at the top of our Best MCAT Prep Courses list though because of their live, interactive classes, strong reviews by former customers, and the best MCAT prep materials.
Kaplan offers 540 hours of instruction and practice with their Classroom Instruction Course, which includes in-person or online classes, 14 full-length practice tests, and additional recorded video lessons. Their live-streamed classes are the best we’ve seen in any high stakes test prep course. With Kaplan’s technology, you can raise your virtual hand to questions. Off-camera instructors will answer your questions during class, giving you the instant clarification you need, just like in a traditional classroom. Kaplan also offers the most flexible scheduling options for their classes of any MCAT prep course we reviewed, which helps you fit taking this course into your busy life. Even if you miss a class, they offer recorded make-up sessions on their MCAT Channel. You can upgrade your classroom course to include three hours of personal tutoring if you would like that extra, personalized support.
Kaplan also provides a self-paced course, which includes over 100 hours of instruction through on-demand videos. This course has 14 full-length MCAT practice tests, which is a great way to not only assess your knowledge prior to test day, but it helps you build your stamina and confidence for taking the grueling six-hour long exam. With the self-paced course, you can access their MCAT QBank, where you will find additional practice questions and a library of study materials. You can upgrade the self-paced course to include their MCAT Channel or personal tutoring for more instruction, which is great way to customize your course.
If you are short on time, they offer a six-week summer immersion course, which can be taken in-person or online. This is a very intense session, but you will be fully prepared to take – and ace! – your MCAT and get accepted to your school of choice.
Overall you can’t go wrong with Kaplan. They are an industry leader for a reason. They simply deliver outstanding test prep materials. If you learn best with classroom instruction, this is the best MCAT prep course for you.
- Flexible study options for busy schedules
- Self-Paced Course: $1,699
- Live Online Course: $1,999
- Classroom Course: $2,499
Coming in a very close second on our Best MCAT Prep Courses list is Princeton Review. Their self-paced course offers tremendous flexibility. If you are concerned about fitting studying into your busy schedule, this is the course for you! Their self-paced course includes 500 hours of on-demand video lessons covering all topics on the MCAT. Because they are on-demand, they can be taken at any time! You can also decide which lessons are even necessary for you to review based on your knowledge of the test subjects. Skip the videos you don’t need to manage your study time more efficiently. This course includes 14 full-length practice tests, including tests released by the AAMC, the maker of the MCAT. These practice tests and Princeton Review’s other practice resources will help you determine your weak areas, allowing you to focus on improving them before test day. Their self-paced course is available for 270 days, giving you plenty of time to study.
Princeton Review also offers in-person or online live-streaming classes with their expert instructors. We liked that each class includes a pre-class diagnostic test, which will help you assess your weak areas prior to the instruction. You will know what subjects you need to pay particularly close attention to in class in order to improve! Their classroom course includes 123 hours of live instruction, 14 full-length practice tests, and 500 on-demand video lessons that you can watch at a time most convenient for you.
We also like that they offer a variety of courses. In addition to their self-paced and classroom courses, they offer Private Tutoring, a Summer Immersion class, a Cram Session, and a CARS Accelerator course. CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills) represents a portion of the MCAT. The CARS Accelerator course is included in their Classroom course, but you can also take it as a stand-alone session.
With their flexible options, we are confident you can find a course with Princeton Review that will fit into your busy life!
Kaplan’s main selling point is its experience. As Kaplan, itself notes, “more people get into medical school with a Kaplan MCAT course than all major courses combined” and Kaplan claims it has condensed its test prep course into this 7-book package (containing a total of 3192 pages).
Kaplan’s Complete Review comes with 7 books, covering each of the essential aspects of the MCAT in standalone books. The set comprises:
- Biochemistry Review
- Physics and Math Review
- Biology Review
- Organic Chemistry Review
- Behavioral Sciences Review
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Review
- General Chemistry Review
Kaplan’s overall approach is to offer sufficient detail on difficult conceptual topics and this approach is well reflected over the course of its seven books. Each of the books breaks down its material into detailed yet easy to read chapters and each of the chapters is followed by a number of MCAT-style practice questions which are designed to assess comprehension of the chapter’s materials.
The books also offer a number of unique, yet helpful devices. For example, sections of chapters are followed by “concept checks”, open-ended questions that help ensure mastery of key concepts before further information is introduced. They also offer a number of useful sidebars, ranging from the presentation of mnemonic devices to ‘bridges’ that create connections between topics to ‘MCAT expertise’ which details how information may be tested. Chapters are also ranked (from one to four) as to how many ‘testworthy’ facts they contain. This is a useful device in helping test takers focus their energy on material that is more likely to be found on the MCAT. It also offers three full length MCAT practice tests online.
On the downside, there is a tendency for the Kaplan books, overall, to offer too much detail and overly complicate certain areas. Nevertheless, Kaplan offers an excellent foundation for MCAT preparation in this encompassing and through set of books.
As with Kaplan’s Complete Review, Princeton Review’s MCAT Complete Box Set contains seven books (a total of 2832 pages). It also offers online access to four three full-length practice MCATs.
The seven books include:
- Biochemistry Review
- General Chemistry Review
- Organic Chemistry Review
- Physics and Math Review
- Psychology and Sociology Review
- Critical Analysis
- Reasoning Skills Review
Overall, Princeton Review’s approach is to provide somewhat more depth than simply teaching to the test. However, it does not subscribe to Kaplan’s approach of providing encyclopedic knowledge of materials and this philosophy can be seen throughout the seven books, although in varying degrees.
The books are helpfully organized and provide in-depth glossaries as well as end-of-chapter review sections and MCAT-style practice passages. They also provide well put together chapter summaries which are efficient for rapid review as well as tips and strategies. Still, the books could benefit from a greater number of practice passages as well.
Overall, Princeton Review does not capture the depth of Kaplan. At the same time, it tends to offer certain details that distract from an efficient study mechanism. If given the choice, therefore, we prefer Kaplan’s “all in” approach, which gives everything one could ever need to succeed on the MCAT and then more, leaving it up to the student to decide what they need to focus on based on their own skills and knowledge.
Kaplan vs Princeton Review: The Winner
While both Kaplan and Princeton Review have produced great MCAT sets, given its depth as well as the number of useful sidebar devices it contains to highlight key points, Kaplan wins this MCAT book battle. Princeton offers the same amount of online MCAT practice tests (three) as Kaplan but is shorter in terms of pages and contains fewer practice questions. This, and Kaplan’s edge in terms of graphics and visual presentation over its competitor, lead to Kaplan’s win in the epic battle of the MCAT titans.
Want more options? See our full list of MCAT books.