The Princeton Review ACT Review

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The Princeton Review is one of the most reputable test-prep companies around. Other online programs may be more realistic, more individualized , or more entertaining, but The Princeton Review offers exceptional expertise and a long track record of success. If you like the idea of combining modern test-prep software with tradition and industry contacts, The Princeton Review may be the perfect choice for you.

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Princeton Review’s Online ACT-Prep Options

After decades in business, the Princeton Review still offers traditional in-person classes and tutoring. But most of its modern test-prep programs do their teaching online and combine it with automated tools.

Here are The Princeton Review’s three main ACT prep options: 

  1. SAT & ACT Self-Paced
  2. ACT Ultimate
  3. ACT 31+

1. SAT & ACT Self-Paced

The Self-Paced course is (almost) completely automated. The package gives you access to on-demand practice materials for both the ACT and the SAT.

Included are:

  • 280+ video lessons covering both academic content and test strategies
  • 3,200+ practice questions
  • 377 drills
  • Short, single-section practice tests 
  • Four real College Board practice SATs
  • Full-length practice ACTs
  • Personalized assignments and lesson suggestions 
  • The Chat With a Teacher feature (access to a human tutor any time you feel stuck, for up to three hours of total chat time)

2. ACT Ultimate

ACT Ultimate is The Princeton Review’s most popular ACT course. It gives you access to all the Self-Paced practice tools above, plus:

  • 18 Live Online classroom instructions
  • 140 additional video lectures
  • Three proctored practice tests
  • Customized homework assignments

In addition, Live Online events are participatory group classes offered by video. When you register for ACT Ultimate, you’ll pick a weekly class schedule that works for you. There are also pre-recorded video lessons that you can watch whenever you want.

You do need to agree to attend those classes, plus you’ll have homework after each session. If the weekly time commitment feels too stressful, consider opting for the Self-Paced program instead, maybe with a few hours of a la carte tutoring added. 

3. ACT 31+

Students enrolled in the ACT 31+ program are guaranteed a final composite score of 31 or higher.

To qualify, you must:

  1. Have taken the ACT before and scored at least a 28
  2. Attend every scheduled class session in the ACT 31+ program and complete all the assignments

Students are sometimes frustrated by these conditions (especially when the company puts them in fine print). But it’s only reasonable to require everyone accepted into the course be capable of reaching a 31, and that they work their hardest to achieve it.

Included are:

  • Personalized study plans
  • Full-access, automated Self-Paced materials
  • 36 hours of Live Online classes spread over 6-8 weeks 
  • Unlimited access to tutors
  • Four proctored practice exams
  • Eight single-section tests
  • Guarantees for a composite score of 31 or above

The Pros and Cons

Over my years as an ACT instructor, I’ve heard a range of comments from students about their impressions of The Princeton Review. Here’s a (totally unscientific) rundown of the ones that come up most often:

The Pros

“My instructor was excellent.”

The Princeton Review understands that in order to learn, you need to feel confident, relaxed, and successful. They seek out teachers who are experts in ACT content while also being friendly, supportive people.

“I appreciate the 31+ guarantee.” 

As far as I know, The Princeton Review is the only test-prep company to offer a concrete score guarantee like this (though there’s a similar one for SAT-takers). It shows how confident they are in their instructors and in the curriculum that they’ve developed over time.

“I never ran out of questions.”

Some online test-prep courses don’t include enough practice questions to keep a hard-working student busy. And because there’s no database of questions specifically reserved for practice tests, some students find that there are no practice tests available to them because they’ve already burned through all the questions. None of this is a problem with The Princeton Review.

The Cons

“There are mistakes in the books.”

My students and I stopped using Princeton Review books some time ago for this very reason. Typos and outright errors kept popping up in both math and verbal practice questions. 

“The practice problems felt unrealistic.”

Students taking the ACT often notice a difference between the Princeton Review materials and the actual test. That’s because Princeton Review practice questions are written in-house and don’t always match the style and content of the real ACT. If you choose to work with Princeton Review, I strongly suggest that you supplement the program with a copy of The Official ACT Prep Guide 2019-2020 by ACT Inc. Work through some questions and take at least one authentic practice test (there are five of them in the book). That way, there won’t be any surprises lying in wait for you on test day. 

“The book was tough to get through.”  

In addition to the errors in Princeton Review books, some students find their answer explanations confusing.

“There’s no app.”

Unlike most of their competitors, The Princeton Review doesn’t offer a mobile app. In addition, students taking the ACT Ultimate and ACT 31+ courses are required to work with three full-sized printed books. All this means that Princeton Review courses aren’t quite as portable as some others. 

“There wasn’t enough individualized attention.”

This is a common frustration among students who are already scoring high and want to move up closer to a composite score of 36. It’s a fact of life that classes are geared to the needs of the group. If individualized attention is important to your progress, consider purchasing one-on-one tutoring instead.

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Final Thoughts

Many students love The Princeton Review. Others feel it’s not for them. 

Your experience will depend to some extent on which program you choose, how much time you have to prepare, and who your instructors are. 

Consider signing up for a Princeton Review course if:

  • You know you want to prep with a large, well-established company 
  • You’ve used Princeton Review books before and liked them
  • You’ve studied with Princeton Review for another test (maybe a PSAT or SAT) and achieved good results
  • You prefer a setting that’s a little more corporate and a little less cozy
  • You’re looking for a prep-partner that offers lots of detailed information about colleges in general, and about the application process in particular