With a name that evokes the Ivy league, ivory towers, and the scenic concrete vistas of the Garden State, the Princeton Review is a household name of test prep for many reasons. Like its namesake university, the Princeton Review is one of the oldest and most established players in the test prep game. Its longevity is owed in part to the success of its students. If you’re looking for a GMAT test prep course that covers the basics and the bases, you’ll want to consider the Princeton Review.
I give the Princeton Review’s GMAT prep course 3.5 out of 5 stars, and have previously graded it a B- for accessibility, cost, and comprehensiveness in comparison to other test prep options. The review that follows explains why.
The Princeton Review has been in the test prep game long enough to know that most students are looking for diverse course offerings. Across their test prep courses for the ACT, SAT, AP Exams, the GRE, and the GMAT, the Princeton Review offers test-takers a survey of requisite content through online, in-person, and private formats.
Across most review platforms, customers and students were satisfied with their Princeton Review experience, but noted the material and content was fairly basic and “covers the bare bones of what you need to know” to succeed on the GMAT. Some reviewers even went as far as to claim that the materials were too basic “to be competitive.” While the actual content may lack the depth and variance in difficulty of some of their competitors, the Princeton Review’s GMAT prep course offers test-takers variety across intensity, instructional type, and cost.
The Princeton Review offers GMAT prep course options ranging from $149 to $1800, which are as follows:
Like many of their competitors, the Princeton Review also produces test prep books for the GMAT. What’s strange is that they don’t offer students these books as part of their GMAT test prep courses, and instead opt for the books produced by the GMAC, the group responsible for the GMAT. While this checks out—I personally prefer the official GMAC books—it might give potential test-takers pause when they’re comparing test prep course options.
They also have a score guarantee. Though, unlike some of their competitors (Magoosh comes to mind), the Princeton Review operates like any institution with enough of a history to get away with whatever they want. The guarantee is incredibly difficult to actually collect on if you’re not satisfied and bulwarked by legalese and conditions that probably make it an unattractive option to pursue if you’re actually annoyed.
Additionally, like several competitors, the Princeton Review’s prep course options offer computer-adaptive tests and dynamic, reactive score reports. These features allow students to flex their schedules, what they study, and how frequently they reference the official GMAC bundle. Similarly, the video lessons and explanations fill in key gaps that really aren’t fillable through self-study or beating your face into a book you ordered off Amazon three days prior.
The main highlight of the Princeton Review’s GMAT course is that it is extremely accessible for a wide range of test-takers. This highlight, however, is also the main drawback (discussed below). If you’re a test taker returning to studying (maybe you’ve been in the workforce for a while, and maybe your employer has suddenly started offering tuition matching for MBA programs and a commensurate salary increase your wife is forcing you to consider) or just want to get in on the ground floor of what’s covered on the GMAT, the Princeton Review has got you covered.
Across all of their course options—online, in-person, self-study—the Princeton Review relies on the fundamentals to get their point across. The material isn’t fancy, but it gets the job done. For test-takers who need to brush up on Quantitative and Verbal skills (what do you mean you don’t remember Geometry?), the Princeton Review’s scaffolding approach ensures that you understand at least the most basic level of information necessary to perform on the GMAT.
Unfortunately, the scaffolding provided by the Princeton Review is for just a one-story building. To get to the upper floors (and upper scores), you really have to take the lead yourself.
When you set out to identify and select test prep materials, a study course, or even a regimented class to study for the GMAT, the Princeton Review is a likely first option. They come up on the first page of Google for “best GMAT prep,” and the name evokes the hallowed halls of the Ivy League and the top-tier ranks of the ivory tower. The Princeton Review’s materials certainly come with an Ivy League price tag, but with some sort of financial aid—they aren’t cheap, but they aren’t the most expensive in the field—they really only give you an entry-level look into the content on the GMAT. You’re taking a campus tour but not enrolling in classes or graduating with that sweet, sweet Princeton degree.
For some students, this might not actually be a drawback. One of the major strengths of the Princeton Review materials is that they take you back to basics. This course can help you reinforce existing skills, relearn concepts you may not have touched since high school, and get a handle on the main GMAT topics. You certainly can reach the score you want with the Princeton Review, but their materials might be better for students that just need a simple refresher.
If you are trying to push yourself and your score, consider pairing the Princeton Review’s GMAT prep course options with some of the harder and more varied content offered by GMAC or Manhattan Prep.
I’ve previously ranked GMAC’s Official Advanced Questions as Best in Show of GMAT prep books for pushing yourself. It stands out as the clearest way to improve your score on the more difficult Verbal and Quantitative sections. With an additional 300 difficult questions across the Verbal and Quantitative question categories (the ones students struggle with most), explanations, strategies, and an Online Question Bank for when you want to push even further, GMAC’s Official Advanced Questions certainly compensates for the Princeton Review’s lack of difficulty.
Like all GMAC materials, the website and app experiences are horrific and you should not overly rely on them. The book itself rings in at an affordable $27.55 and might be just the right thing to push your score over the threshold for that dream school (you already bought the sweatshirt, you might keep up the spending).
The Princeton Review might rely on its name recognition more than it should. Across a variety of instructional options and price points, the GMAT prep course offerings provide the bare minimum. I agree with most reviewers: The content does not offer the range of difficulty necessary to progress from a “well I got in somewhere” score to a “getting into my dream school” score.
Fortunately, the Princeton Review makes up for this by having an accessible range of options for students on the go. While I like their in-person, online, and self-study plans, the combination of a narrow breadth of difficulty and a price point that doesn’t compensate for what the course offers earns the Princeton Review’s GMAT course options 3.5 out of 5 stars.