In 1981, a man named John Katzman prepared 15 students for the SAT in New York City. After realizing how great the need for test preparation was, he created The Princeton Review. Over the course of thirty-eight years, the company has grown into one of the largest and most well known test prep providers in the world. Their services range from helping students prepare for AP Exams to the LSAT. However, I am concerned with one test and one test only: the GRE.
The Princeton Review offers self-paced GRE online programs along with in-person courses and private tutoring. This article will focus on The Princeton Review’s scheduled and self-paced courses, providing you with a summary of what they have to offer, along with an analysis of their test-taking strategies.
Nothing is perfect, and I am a firm believer that every company is fully aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. Hence, if you analyze a company’s website to see what they are choosing to emphasize, odds are it is because that is their strength.
So what does The Princeton Review emphasize? Their cutting-edge technology. Every complete GRE prep program offered to students through The Princeton Review includes access to their adaptive algorithms and practice GRE exams that do a phenomenal job of mimicking the actual GRE.
Overall, The Princeton Review’s courses are filled with state-of-the-art study tools that can optimize a students GRE progress. For example, their DrillSmart technology creates practice questions that match a student’s skill level. The algorithm will auto-generate questions based on what a student needs to improve on the most. Once a student starts answering these types of questions correctly, the system will increase the difficulty level.
This truly does optimize growth because sometimes it can be difficult to pick out your own practice problems that will adequately challenge you. Focusing on problems that are either too easy or too hard is usually why students struggle to increase their score.
Virtually all of the practice GRE drills and full-length exams The Princeton Review has are adaptive to difficulty level, mimicking the actual GRE. Also, students have access to an interactive score report where they can sort by topic, question type, and time spent. This will allow for a more focused test review.
When a student takes a full-length practice GRE, written by The Princeton Review, they will receive a score summary that provides an “analysis overview.” The score summary will tell the student the amount of questions they got right and wrong per section, the amount of time they spent on the entire section, and their average pace for questions answered correctly and incorrectly. Students will also receive a breakdown of the amount of questions answered correctly for specific question types such as “text completion” and “sentence equivalence.”
The Princeton Review practice GRE exams visually look very similar to the ones produced by ETS. I have found that their math questions are sometimes challenging for reasons that differ from the actual GRE. If you ever feel overwhelmed with their quantitative questions that are considered advanced, simply move on without much thought because, odds are, you won’t see anything that hard on test day. If you do, it will be one question.
If you are familiar with my GRE articles, you know I am an instructor who emphasizes strategy. If a company simply walks students through problems without teaching them approach, I will likely not be a fan–and you shouldn’t be either. The Princeton Review not only emphasizes strategy, they communicate it in an easy to learn way that can be directly applied on test day.
An approach that The Princeton Review takes with their students, which is the same approach I take with mine, is to teach them how to tackle the entire GRE before they tackle specific sections and question types. I call this the “think big, then small” method. There are strategies that should be used throughout the entire exam, strategies to use for just Verbal or just Math, and then strategies for specific types of questions. Students should learn these in order.
The Princeton Review starts with test-taking tips that might seem irrelevant but, as a veteran instructor, I can testify that most students do not think of these things when they are focused on re-learning algebra. For example, The Princeton Review will show students how to properly use their assigned scratch paper, effectively implement the mark button on the computer, and maximize the amount of questions they get correct with the “take the easy test first” approach. Also, The Princeton Review has come up with clever phrases for many of the strategies they present in order to help students remember them.
If you are enrolled in an instructor-led course, the teacher will be responsible for showing you the test-taking tips. For the self-paced online program, this information will come in the form modules.
The Princeton Review’s program is made up of modules that consist of PowerPoint-like slides, filmed lessons from instructors who teach strategies and content, and then practice GRE questions for students to implement what they just learned. Personally, I felt the teachers were great on camera–which is not always the case with test prep companies–and I appreciated that they took the time to not only point out the proper way to go about answering questions, but also what students should avoid doing. The questions that The Princeton Review has chosen for the student practice adequately match the strategies they want you to use and reflect the intricacy of ETS questions.
One of the reasons I liked the modules was because they were easy to follow and did not drag on forever. However, sometimes they were a bit too short. For example, one of their strategies for Quantitative questions is to skip the algebra and simply pick numbers to plug in. This is a great tip, but the instructor did not mention the type of numbers you should choose when implementing the strategy. This is actually something a test taker needs to be very aware of. Also, there were times where I felt there were multiple strategies that could be used, but only one was being presented.
Overall, I understand why The Princeton Review has chosen to keep their modules this short. Many students could get overwhelmed with learning different methods and might prefer to simply learn one. With that said, if you are the type of person that asks a lot of questions, just know the instructors do not address what would probably be FAQ to their strategies.
This course will not only prepare you for the entire GRE General Exam, it also includes a complete breakdown of math fundamentals for those who might be a bit rusty with algebra, geometry, and data analysis.
Going through the self-paced course is definitely more economical than enrolling in an instructor-led class. I feel confident you will learn all of the same strategies as well. The downside is you have to be self-motivated and–as I previously mentioned–okay with not being able to ask questions.
The Princeton Review does not offer a just Verbal or just Math class with an instructor. However, The Princeton Review does offer these as self-paced classes. This is a wonderful option for students who have an undergraduate degree, or previous work experience that they feel has prepared them well enough for a particular section. However, you want to take a practice exam first to make sure you do not need a complete GRE course. Many students assume they will do good on Math (or Verbal) and then come to find out that was not the case on test day.
Just Verbal Includes:
Just Math Includes:
The Princeton Review does offer instructor-led GRE prep classes. This is a good option for those who can commit to a weekly class. Also, if you feel you need more one on one attention and the ability to ask questions, having an instructor is important.
Overall, The Princeton Review will provide you with simple strategies and a hearty amount of GRE practice questions in order to prepare you for your real exam. I will say, they are not the most affordable test prep company, especially if you are considering their private tutoring. With that said, if you have the budget to enroll in one of their courses, I doubt you will be disappointed.