Out of all of the mainstream test-prep companies, The Princeton Review and Kaplan are the most similar. Overall, their GRE program formats, teaching styles, test-taking strategies, and pricing run parallel to each other. If you are looking to enroll in an instructor-led class that will prepare you for the entire GRE, I do not feel one class will necessarily be more or less beneficial than another. However, if you are interested in a self-paced option, there are some differences.
This article will provide you with an overview of the GRE prep courses The Princeton Review and Kaplan have to offer and point out the minute differences between the two companies.
Kaplan offers a wider range of prep options for students. Although Kaplan is more expensive, they allow you to purchase individual elements of their program opposed to the entire course. For example, if you have worked through numerous test-prep books and are simply looking for additional practice questions, Kaplan sells access to their Qbank filled with custom quizzes. Also, Kaplan outshines The Princeton Review when it comes to helping students build their math fundamentals.
The Princeton Review does not sell individual elements of their program: only the courses in their entirety. Hence, they might not be as economical for students who do not need help with every section of the GRE. I do feel that The Princeton Review offers better test-taking strategies than Kaplan in their self-paced video lectures.
The Princeton Review emphasizes their cutting edge technology. No matter what program you choose to enroll in from the options below, you will have access to The Princeton Review’s adaptive algorithms and practice GRE exams that come as close to mimicking the actual GRE as you can get outside of ETS.
There are Targets, and then there are Super Targets. Kaplan is the Super Target of test prep companies. They have so many resources for you to choose from–my two favorite being the GRE Channel, providing live instruction, and the Qbank, where you can make custom quizzes. If you are looking for a GRE program with diverse prep options, Kaplan is the company for you.
In addition, I have always felt that Kaplan has one of the best math books for students who need help with their fundamentals. Kaplan’s online prep classes are no different. In order to prepare for the Math section, Kaplan provides students with 3 options: the Rapid Review Live, Math Foundations, or an Advanced Math course. These courses are all sold separately, giving students an economical way to target their GRE test prep.
As mentioned, Kaplan provides a variety of test-prep options for students that The Princeton Review does not. Therefore, I will only be doing a side-by-side comparison of the courses they both offer.
Just Math – $299
Just Verbal – $299
Both – $499
6 Month Access – $899
Online – $1,199
In-Person – $1,299
Online – $999
In-Person – $1,299
The Princeton Review’s program offers Modules made up of PowerPoint-like slides, filmed instructors, and follow-up questions. They are very interactive, short, and to the point. The instructors–who I felt are great on camera, which is not always the case–will sometimes point out not only what they want you to do on test day, but what not to do. Also, the questions that The Princeton Review has chosen to demonstrate how to use their strategies are almost identical to what you would see on test day.
Kaplan is interesting in that part of their program is made up of The GRE Channel that has live instruction. While this provides an abundance of tutoring for students without paying for one-on-one prep, you might run the risk of having a variety of instructors (some that you might like better than others).
I sat in on one of their live instruction classes and I will say the instructor rambled a bit and had a hint of arrogance. Based off of what I saw in the chat room, I was not the only one who felt this way. With that said, that teacher was one of many teachers and I might have had a different experience had it been someone else.
The Princeton Review’s programs are filled with state-of-the-art study tools to optimize GRE progress. For example, their DrillSmart produces practice questions that match a student’s skill level. The algorithm will auto-generate questions where students show they need improvement. Once a student masters these types of questions, the system will increase the difficulty level. I think this is effective because sometimes it can be difficult to pick out your own practice problems that will adequately challenge you.
Furthermore, The Princeton Review has an interactive score report that allows you to easily see your strengths and weaknesses. This will allow for an optimized test review.
Kaplan does not focus so much on tech-savvy resources for their students. What Kaplan offers is options. Whether you are new to the GRE or already far along in your prep, Kaplan will have an option for you that can aid in increasing your score. Specifically, Kaplan has outshined its competitors with the math resources it provides students. Not only do they offer programs for Math foundations and Advanced Quantitative questions, Kaplan has a GRE Channel where instructors live stream math tutoring. You will also have access to all previous videos in their archive and can watch them as many times as you need.
When it comes to GRE practice questions, Kaplan has more to offer. However, The Princeton Review’s questions go through their DrillSmart technology, making them adaptive to difficulty level.
Out of all the categories discussed, practice questions are where The Princeton Review and Kaplan are most similar. Both companies have written GRE practice questions that come pretty close to reflecting the ones written by ETS. The questions will test students on the same content and visually look like what you will see on test day. Also, both companies are at fault for writing questions that are harder than the actual GRE.
I will often have students text me two days before their exam in a panic about a practice question they have come across in a Kaplan/Princeton Review book. I always calm them down by reiterating they will not see anything that challenging on test day. If this ends up being you, take a breath and move on without thought.
Both Kaplan and The Princeton Review have done an immaculate job making their GRE online full-length practice tests visually replicate what you will see on test day. Some of their test questions will require background knowledge needed for quantitative reasoning that is a bit more extensive than the actual GRE, so just keep that in mind.
A unique product Kaplan offers is their proctored exam called “The Official Test Day Experience.” This provides the opportunity for you to take a full-length GRE–written by Kaplan–at a designated testing center. The entire procedure will reflect what you will experience on your actual test day. Also, you will receive a scored Analytical Writing section, which is definitely not common amongst test-prep companies.
The Princeton Review does not offer proctored exams but they do provide detailed score summaries to your full-length GRE exams (written by The Princeton Review). This “analysis overview” will tell the student the amount of questions they got right in the section, the amount they got wrong, the time they spent on the section, and their average pace for questions answered correctly and incorrectly. Also, you will receive a breakdown of the amount of questions answered correctly for specific question types such as “text completion” and “sentence equivalence.”
I always tell my students when starting to prepare for the GRE, you want to think big then small: learn how to approach the exam as a whole and then narrow in on strategies for the individual sections and types of questions. The Princeton Review takes the same approach.
They start off with test-taking tips that might seem oversimplified, but as a veteran tutor I can vouch that most students do not think of these things when they are overwhelmed with re-learning Algebra. For example, The Princeton Review will show you how to properly use your scratch paper, effectively implement the “Mark” button on the computer, and optimize the amount of questions you get correct with their “take the easy test first” approach. They have come up with clever phrases for many of the strategies they present in order to help you memorize them.
Kaplan presents its strategies as “The Kaplan Method.” They are very short, bullet points of the method they would like students to use when solving particular types of questions. While Kaplan’s strategies are useful, they are not terribly clever or revolutionary. For example, for a Text Completion question, they will tell you to find context clues and predict the word that should go in the blank prior to looking at answer choices. This is a standard strategy that most companies will exercise.
As mentioned, Kaplan leads the pack when it comes to helping students build their math fundamentals. They truly break down Algebra, Geometry, and Data Analysis concepts in an easy-to-understand way for beginners.
If you know you will need a lot of help building your Algebra, Geometry, and Data Analysis fundamentals, I would suggest going with Kaplan. Also, if you do not feel you need prep for Math and Verbal, or simply want to access practice questions, Kaplan will provide you with the options to do this.
However, if you are looking for a company that will fully prepare you for the entire GRE, I would suggest going with The Princeton Review due to their clever and efficient test-taking strategies.