Kaplan vs. Princeton Review MCAT Comparison

If you’re studying for the MCAT, which prep course brand is better: Kaplan or Princeton? Both are premium brands with superior options, but there may be enough differences to let you choose the best for you. 

In the entire prep course industry, there’s no doubt that the Kaplan and Princeton Review brands stand at the top of the heap. Kaplan has been around for the last 80 years, and it’s the pioneer of the entire test preparation field. Princeton Review isn’t a newcomer either, as it was established way back in 1981. 

Both are excellent options when it comes to MCAT prep courses, as they’re similar in many ways. They offer a wide range of services, and the services they offer are virtually the same in quality. Both of them aren’t cheap, either. 

But you can at least be sure you’re getting your money’s worth by opting for any of the 2 brands. But which one’s better? While you’re definitely the best person to answer that question, we can point out certain features that can help you make that choice. 

A Quick Overview

Kaplan Princeton Review
Founded in 1938 Founded in 1981
Guarantees higher score Guarantees higher score in basic course, but other courses guarantee 10-point increase or a score of 510 or 515
6-month access 12-month access
$1,799 for DIY course $1,499 for Self-Paced course
130 interactive Science Review videos and at least 90 hours prerecorded lessons 500 video lessons
At least 2,900 practice questions At least 2,000 practice questions
36 hours of live online instruction, for an extra $700 123 hours of live online instruction, for an extra $900
16 realistic full-length practice tests, with 11 revised exams lasting 5 hours and 45 minutes each 16 realistic full-length practice tests, with 2 shortened exams lasting 5 hours and 45 minutes each
Bootcamp option for $6,999 MCAT 515+ Immersion for $6,499
10 tutoring hours for $1,200 10 tutoring hours for $2,000
8 books 10 or 11 books (3 or 4 exclusive books)

 

Kaplan at a Glance

Kaplan has a nice filtering set of questions for you to answer, and your replies can help identify the most suitable MCAT prep course you can use. Each program generally offers 6 months of access. 

Here are your main options:

DIY Course

This is the self-paced program you can use at any time, and it will cost you $1,799. Your package includes:

  • 130 interactive Science Review videos
  • The MCAT Channel, with at least 90 hours of prerecorded lessons plus live online lessons 6 days a week
  • The Qbank, with a customizable set of at least 2,900 practice questions with detailed answers
  • A Lesson Book along with 7 books in the MCAT Subject Review set
  • All the official AMMC practice materials
  • 16 realistic full-length practice tests, with standard 7½-hour exams along with 11 revised exams lasting 5 hours and 45 minutes each  
  • A guarantee that you’ll score higher than your previous MCAT score, or else you get your money back

DIY Course Plus

You get all the features in the standard DIY Course, but as you pay $2,299 ($500 more) your money gets you the following extras:

  • 3 hours of personalized one-on-one tutoring
  • MCAT Biochemistry Audio Review, MCAT Foundations of Behavioral Science, MCAT Foundations of Biochemistry
  • Specialized help for admission to medical school

Online Course

This will cost you $2,499 and you get everything that’s part of the DIY package. So, what do you get for your additional $700 (compared to the DIY)?

What you get is a team of carefully chosen MCAT experts, who then gives you 12 live online classes. Each class lasts 3 hours long, so they’re fairly intensive and comprehensive. 

At the end of each class, you also get homework assignments that have been customized on your current strengths and weaknesses. 

Online Course Plus

This costs $2,999 and you get everything that’s in the Online Course. Your extra $500 also gives you the same extras you find in the Plus version of the DIY Course: 

  • 3 hours of personalized one-on-one tutoring
  • MCAT Biochemistry Audio Review, MCAT Foundations of Behavioral Science, MCAT Foundations of Biochemistry
  • Specialized help for admission to medical school

Tutoring + Online Course

This has a $3,699 price tag, and you get extra tutoring on top of what you get from the Online Course prep package. You get 10 hours of personalized tutoring, so that you can focus properly on the specific subject matter that you need to concentrate on the most. 

That boils down to $1,200 for 10 hours of tutoring, or $120 per hour. That’s not bad at all, as lots of tutoring options these days are more expensive. 

You also have more options if you feel you need more tutoring hours:

  • $4,799 for 20 hours, so you’re paying $110 per hour for the extra 10 hours
  • $5,899 for 30 hours, also $110 per hour for the extra 20 hours
  • $6,899 for 40 hours, which boils down to less than $107 per hour for the extra 30 hours

Bootcamp

If you’ve left your MCAT preparation a bit too late, then you may need this truly intensive program. It offers 5 to 6 weeks of grueling preparation, with weekday classes lasting 1½ or 3 hours. You then end up with 3 to 6 hours of total class time each day. This will really keep you from even contemplating goofing off. 

The good news is that you also have access to all the DIY prep materials, and that access will last until the next scheduled MCAT. 

The bad news is that this isn’t cheap—you’ll have to pony up $6,999. 

Other Options

If you’ve already taken another MCAT prep course but you’d like to supplement your studies, you can go with some of the more affordable options that Kaplan offers:

  • Platinum practice bundle. $399. Qbank, 6 practice tests, 7-book set
  • Gold practice bundle. Qbank, 3 practice tests
  • Qbank. $49 a month
  • Practice test 3-pack. $179

Princeton Review at a Glance

Princeton Review also offers a premium set of MCAT prep courses, and one of these may perfectly suit your needs. 

Self-Paced 

This time, you pay $1,499 for what’s essentially the Princeton Review version of Kaplan’s DIY course. Your money gets you:

  • More than 500 video lessons
  • At least 2,000 practice questions
  • All the AAMC materials
  • Also 16 full-length practice tests, with 2 shortened version lasting 5 hours and 45 minutes each
  • 10 MCAT books, including 3 books exclusive to Princeton Review
  • Higher score guarantee

Ultimate

This has a $2,399 price tag and you also get all the prep materials in the Self-Paced program. To recap, these include the 500 video lessons, thousands of practice questions, 16 practice tests, and all the AAMC prep materials.

What’s new? Well, you also get 123 hours of live online instruction. The team of 4 to 6 MCAT expert instructors will give you: 

  • 33 hours for Biology and Biochemistry
  • 12 hours for Organic Chemistry
  • 18 hours for General Chemistry
  • 18 hours for Physics
  • 21 hours for Psychology/Sociology
  • 21 hours for Critical Analysis and Reasoning Section (CARS)

And then after each lesson, you receive assignments that are meant to shore up your weaknesses so that you improve your MCAT capabilities each time. 

  • This option also gives you a total of 11 MCAT books, with the extra book also a Princeton Review exclusive. 
  • This package also includes the MCAT Topic Focus, with 12 sessions designed to identify and correct your current weaknesses.
  • The guarantee here is that you will get an MCAT score of 510 or you will increase your previous MCAT score by at least 10 points. If you don’t do either, you get your money back. 

510+ Course

This costs $2,899, yet it’s also Princeton Review’s most popular option. The explicit score guarantee does help with that popularity, of course, though it’s really no different than the guarantee you find in the Ultimate Package. 

What’s different here from the Ultimate Package is the inclusion of the 1-on-1 study manager to the Ultimate Package. That’s what you get for your extra $500. This study manager closely checks on how you’re doing and improving, and they make sure you put your efforts in the specific subjects you need to concentrate on. 

This study manager is basically your mentor, and that means you won’t have to feel adrift at any time. You always know which subject matter to tackle next. 

MCAT 515+ Immersion

This is very similar to Kaplan’s Bootcamp option. For $6,499 you get: 

  • All the online study materials
  • 860 hours of instruction
  • 195 hours of live online instruction
  • Strategy lessons for each MCAT section
  • A guarantee of 515+ score on the MCAT, or an increase of at least 10 points

This does seem a bit expensive, but if you get 515 on the MCAT that puts you in the 92nd percentile. That can really boost your applications for topnotch schools like Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins University. 

Comprehensive Admission Counseling Program

This is for students who realize that the MCAT isn’t the sole factor in getting into the med school they want. For $3,500 you get a more holistic program, which also includes the 1-year access to the online MCAT study tools. 

The coach can help you:

  • Improve your academic records
  • Devise a strategy for your letters of recommendation
  • Help you pick the right med school for you based on your interests and strengths
  • Assist you in writing your application letter, including writing mechanics and your personal statement
  • Get you ready for the interview

Other Programs

  • Private Tutoring. You pay $2,000 for 10 hours of tutoring and nothing else. However, you can pay just $1,000 for all the online study materials and get the books too for $299. 
  • MCAT Comprehensive Private Tutoring. This is hugely expensive at $11,000. But then you get all the books and all the online study materials, plus 60 hours of tutoring. If you think about it, that’s cheaper than the $200 per hour Private Tutoring rate. Also, you get a money-back guarantee if you don’t improve your MCAT score. 
  • MCAT Topic Focus. Normally part of the Ultimate package, you get 12 group sessions designed to identify and correct your current weaknesses. It’s yours for $399. 
  • CARS Accelerator. This focuses on the Critical Analysis and Reasoning section of the MCAT, which is generally the most difficult of all the sections. This costs $499. 

Comparison

So how does Kaplan compare to Princeton Review directly?

Let’s check out the specific factors:

Prestige and Longevity

Kaplan has been around since 1938, and they’ve maintained their pioneering spirit all these years. 

Princeton was established in 1981, and it’s another old name in the industry. 

Winner: Kaplan (slightly)

Guarantees

Kaplan offers a money-back guarantee that you’ll improve your previous MCAT score. 

Princeton Review offers the same guarantee for the basic Self-Paced course, but offers an increase of at least 10 points (or getting 510 or 5150 on other courses. 

Winner: Princeton Review

Access Period

Kaplan gives you 6 months of access. Princeton Review offers a whole year. 

Winner: Princeton Review

Prices for DIY and Self-Paced Courses

Kaplan charges $1,799. Princeton Review charges $1,499. 

Winner: Princeton

Video Lessons

With Kaplan, you get 130 interactive Science Review videos and at least 90 hours prerecorded lessons from the MCAT Channel. 

Princeton Review offers 500 video lessons. 

Winner: Princeton Review

Practice Questions

The Kaplan Qbank offers at least 2,900 practice questions. 

Princeton Review offers at least 2,000 practice questions. 

Winner: Kaplan

Live Online Instruction

Kaplan presents 36 hours of live online instruction, for an extra $700 (from DIY to Online Course). So that’s about $20 for each hour. 

Princeton Review offers 123 hours of live online instruction, for an extra $900 (from Self-Paced to Ultimate). That’s $7.14 for each hour. 

Winner: Princeton Review

Practice Tests

Kaplan gives you 16 realistic full-length practice tests, with standard 7½-hour exams along with 11 revised exams lasting 5 hours and 45 minutes each. 

Princeton Review also offers 16 full-length practice tests, but with 2 shortened version lasting 5 hours and 45 minutes each. 

Winner: Tie (depending on whether you prefer the longer or the shortened versions)

Tutoring 

Kaplan lets you tack on tutoring hours to their Online Course, with 10 tutoring hours for $1,200. 

Princeton Review offers a separate Tutoring Service, with 10 hours costing $2,000. 

Winner: Kaplan

Intensive Program

Kaplan offers the Bootcamp option for $6,999. 

Princeton Review gives you the MCAT 515+ Immersion for $6,499. 

Some say the MCAT 515+ Immersion is better, since it also comes with the 515-score guarantee (or getting 10 points higher). 

Even if they’re of the same quality, the MCAT 515+ Immersion is definitely cheaper. 

Winner: Princeton Review

Books

Kaplan offers 8 books in total. 

Princeton Review offers at least 10 books with 3 exclusive books. In some cases, you get 4 exclusive books. 

Winner: Princeton Review

Conclusion

It’s that for most of these sections, Princeton Review comes out on top. The most notable advantages here are that Princeton Review Courses are less expensive, plus you get 12 months of access instead of just 6 months. 

However, it’s also true that Kaplan remains among the top brands in the industry because of the quality of their programs. Thousands of people have taken the courses and attest to how they’re worth the money. 

Of course, it’s up to you to decide which one is ultimately better suited for your needs. The good news is that whichever you choose, you have a top-notch MCAT prep course to help you become a doctor in the future!