Passing the 7,5h long MCAT with flying colors is far from easy.
That’s why many students decide to go through a prep course like the one from the Princeton Review. But is this type of course actually worth the money? And what kind of benefits can you expect once you sign up?
There’s a lot of marketing hype out there, and sometimes it’s difficult to make up your mind about the right thing to do. That’s why I analyzed the main features, pricing, and the effectiveness of the Princeton Review MCAT courses and now I bring you the findings.
Below you’ll find lots of valuable data, including a feature comparison table, and how TPR stacks up against the competition in terms of pricing. I hope you’ll find this review valuable.
The company currently offers three different MCAT prep options (check for current discounts):
But which one is best and what are the particular features you should look out for? You’ll find all the info below.
Related content: Top 3 MCAT Prep Courses To Take
#1: MCAT 510+
Includes 123 hours of live instructions conducted by MCAT experts, thousands of practice questions, 16 full-length practice tests, guarantee of score 510 or higher, and more.
This is a flagship MCAT course with a guaranteed result of 510 points or more. It also comes with the highest price, but if you don’t get the score you need, you’ll get your money back.
Obtaining a score of 510+ will dramatically improve your chances of getting admitted to your med school of choice. The average acceptance rate in the US is 42%, but with a score of 510, it raises to 62,4%.
And this course is designed for you to get that score. It’s packed with amazing features (see the comparison table below). It’s 123 hours long, broken down into 3-hour long sessions you can attend either in-class or through an online dashboard.
To improve your chances of success, you’ll have to complete the “study manager missions”. This means attending all the classes, completing diagnostic tests, homework assignments and eight full-length tests.
It’s an intense ride, but ultimately it’s worth the premium price. No other course will give you this amount of features and motivation to study hard.
Who is this course for?
- Students who want a guaranteed return on their investment and get 510 points or more on the MCAT.
- Students who need a bit of a push and extra motivation to complete all of their study tasks.
- Students who are willing to pay a bit more for comprehensive prep.
- Students who need a bit of help with the medical school admissions process.
#2: MCAT Live-Online “Essentials”
Includes: 123 hours live instruction, 11 MCAT books, extensive video library, and intensive practice that includes 16 full-length online practice tests.
This course is $500 cheaper than the “510+” one, and it’s almost the same as the premium option. The difference here is that you won’t get the enticing money-back guarantee, and the “study manager missions”.
Other than that, you’ll get access to all the live-online sessions, 11 books and other study materials such as 500+ instructional videos.
But here you have to assume full responsibility for your results. You’ll need to discipline yourself to complete the practice questions and full-length tests without anyone pushing you to go harder.
That’s why the “510+” option is better in my opinion. It makes you work under pressure but is ultimately more effective. I think that paying the extra $500 for the premium option is a wise decision.
Who is this course for?
- Students who want to receive 123 hours of live preparation, but without having to attend every single session.
- Students who are self-disciplined enough to go through study materials without too much supervision.
- Students who want to save $500 on their prep and still get a comprehensive MCAT course.
#3: MCAT Self-Paced Course
Includes access to 500+ video lessons, thousands of free-standing and passage-based questions, 16 full-length practice tests, and 10 MCAT books.
This course gives you more flexibility as you won’t attend the live online classes. It’s a viable option if you can’t fit regular classes into your current schedule.
You’ll still get access to all the materials, including MedFlix on-demand video content, 16 full-length tests, thousands of individual questions with explanations, as well as 10 MCAT prep books.
You’d also get a standard “better score guarantee”. This means that if you don’t improve your score after taking the course, you can get your money back. There’s also a 7-day refund policy enabling you to test the materials without too much risk.
The only thing here is that you’d have to create your own study plan and discipline yourself to follow it diligently. Overall, this self-paced option is user-friendly, but in the end, it’s better to invest a bit more and get a comprehensive prep with guaranteed results.
Who is this course for?
- Students who feel confident that they can manage their study journey on their own.
- Students who like to crack the books on their own schedule.
- Students who already have other commitments and don’t have time to attend the live-online sessions.
MCAT is a huge, 7.5-hour-long test that requires a lot of preparation. That’s why you’ll get 123 hours of instruction with the live courses. But there’s also a price to pay for such a comprehensive course.
- The MCAT 510+ course costs $3,149
- The Ultimate course (which is the same as 510+ but without the specific guarantee) is $2,649
- And the self-paced course is $1,549
You can get discounted prices if you apply the promo codes available on the Princeton Review’s website. Oftentimes, there are also extra discounts on occasions like Black Friday or Xmas so you might want to take advantage of that. Just remember that all the fees have to be paid upfront.
Overall the prices from TPR are comparable with other comprehensive courses available on the market.
The prices of other popular MCAT courses are as follows:
- Kaplan – $2,499
- Examkrackers – $3,900
- Altius – $2,499
- Gold Standard MCAT Prep – $1499 (but it’s a self-prep course)
In the final analysis, you won’t get 123 hours of instruction anywhere else for that price. That’s why I think that Princeton Review has the top offer right now.
There’s a wide range of features included with the different course options. Overall the “Ultimate” course is really similar to the “510+” one.
The difference here is that with the 510+ you’ll get the “510+ score or your money back” guarantee, as well as exclusive access to MCAT Topic Focus (12 extra study sessions focusing on the core content areas).
However, both courses give you access to the “Medical School Admissions Advantage” sessions. These sessions are designed to help you beat the average 42% acceptance rate by consulting with Anita Paschall MD, Ph.D. who’s a med-school admissions expert. In the final analysis, the 510+ course seems to be the best option worth the extra $299.
Here are all the features of the three Princeton Review MCAT courses:
|MCAT 510+ Course||MCAT Live Online “Ultimate” Course||MCAT Self-Paced Course|
|Price||Check the price here (including discounts)||Check the price here (including discounts)||Check the price here (including discounts)|
|Live classroom time||123 hours||123 hours||Fully self-paced|
|Books||A set of 11 books (including 4 exclusives)||A set of 11 books (including 4 exclusives)||A set of 10 books (including 3 exclusives)|
|Full length online practice tests||15 practice tests, including all AAMC materials||15 practice tests, including all AAMC materials||15 practice tests, including all AAMC materials|
|Personal live 1-to-1 coaching||0h (but available at an additional cost)||0h (but available at an additional cost)||0h (but available at an additional cost)|
|On-demand instructional videos||500+ hours of on-demand video||500+ hours of on-demand video||500+ hours of on-demand video|
|Practice questions with explanations||10.000+ practice questions||10.000+ practice questions||10.000+ practice questions|
|Guarantee||MCAT 510+ guarantee option. Improve your score by at least 10 points or get at least 510, or your money back.||Regular money-back guarantee. But you can get the 510+ guarantee for extra $500.||A regular, better score guarantee.|
|Study Manager Missions (gamification of the course)||Yes||Yes||No|
|Email assistance||Yes (technical)||Yes (technical)||Yes (technical)|
|Access to MCAT Topic Focus Sessions||Yes||No||No|
|Medical School Admissions Advantage Sessions||Yes||Yes||No|
1. The best performance-based guarantee in the market (510+)
Getting the 510+ guarantee is one of the main reasons why anyone would want to go through this course. I couldn’t find any other company in the market that would offer something like this.
If you do not improve your previous score by at least 10 points (if your first score was below 500) or if you do not equal or exceed 510 (if your first score was 500 or higher), you’ll get a full refund on your tuition.
Of course, there are certain conditions you need to meet to be eligible and I suggest you familiarize yourself with them before signing up. The main thing is that you’ll have to complete all of your study sessions as well as 8 full-length practice tests.
Without you going through the paces, the company simply couldn’t promise huge improvements in your score. So you’ll need to commit to hard work, but you can expect great results in the end.
2. Study manager missions to keep you motivated and on track
This is another way in which Princeton Review ensures that you actually do all the work necessary to achieve a score of 510 or more.
A virtual study manager will consistently track your progress and make sure you complete your assignments on time. You’ll have to attend all the classes, complete your diagnostic tests, do your homework, and take 8 full-length online practice tests.
This is perfect because students always perform better under external pressure. It’s also something to get used to before going into medical school.
3. Help with the Med-school admissions process
This is another feature that you won’t find anywhere else (at least not as a part of a regular course). With the 510+ option, you’ll get access to the medical admissions advantage sessions. These are led by an admissions expert with almost 20 years of experience.
Over the years Princeton Review guided that more than 10,000 pre-med students and helped them to get into the school of their choice. Passing the MCAT is one thing, but navigating through the maze of the admissions process is something different altogether. Here you’ll receive help with that as a part of the course package.
4. You’ll take 8 full-length online practice tests
Completing the full-length practice tests is the best way to get better over time and get the score you’re aiming for. But it’s hard to discipline yourself to beat the 7.5 hour monster time and again.
But with the “study manager missions,” you’ll be obligated to complete the practice tests or you won’t be eligible for the 510+ money-back guarantee. So yes, you’ll have to go through the wringer, but for a good reason. After completing 8 tests, the real exam is going to be much easier to pass.
1. The price could be just a little bit lower
The MCAT courses are quite pricey in general, and paying over $2,500 will surely be too much for some students (and parents).
The self-paced course is cheaper, but it won’t give you the same experience, following a structured class and being guided by an expert instructor. I wish there was a way to get a payment plan, but unfortunately, the fees have to be paid upfront.
2. Some of the instructors may lack the proper experience and go off-topic
Most of the Princeton Review’s instructors are knowledgeable, helpful and have been working with students for many years. But some of them tend to go off topic and then are unable to finish the class on time. This might be a bit frustrating, but there’s always the human factor involved and some teachers are simply better than others.
3. You’ll have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the 510+ guarantee
First, you would need to present TPR with your previous MCAT score or go through one of their practice tests. That’s quite understandable, because if your first score is abysmal, you may not be able to get 510+ even after this intensive course.
Also, to be eligible, you’ll have to complete all the study sessions assigned. These include “topic focus” sessions which may be scheduled later in the evening.
What I like about the courses from TPR is that they provide you with a ton of different books to work with. So if you’re a natural bookworm, this should be a good fit for you.
You will get a set of 11 different books as a part of each of the live-online options (you’ll get 10 with the self-paced option – excluding the one used in-class). These books will help you to review the core concepts you need to understand before taking the test.
There’s a review book for biology, biochemistry, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and math, psychology and sociology, critical analysis and reasoning skills. That’s a lot of knowledge for you to absorb.
There are also four exclusive titles that are not available for the general public. These include MCAT science workbook, MCAT science review questions, and solutions, in-class compendium, as well as CARS workbook. Overall, it’s a nice package that will serve you well for many months of preparation.
As you probably already know, there are a couple of other companies that specialize in MCAT prep. These include Kaplan, MCAT Next Step, Examkrackers, Altius MCAT prep, and Gold Standard MCAT Prep. Feel free to check them out on your own or to read my overview of the top MCAT courses available.
But at least in my estimation, you will come to a conclusion that no other company provides a more thorough preparation than the TPR.
No matter which course you decide on, you can still supplement your efforts with extra materials available online. There’s the free MCAT course available from the Khan Academy, which is recommended by many students.
There are also inexpensive MCAT prep books available online. They will give you access to extra practice questions and even full-length tests. And never forget about taking advantage of all the materials provided by AAMC.
Lastly, there are hours of great MCAT-related educational material available on YouTube. Make sure to check it out and learn from the experiences of other pre-med students. Here’s an example:
There is a multitude of different MCAT prep courses available online. But Princeton Review has consistently stood out as the top option worth investing in. You won’t get 123 hours of expert instruction with any other option available in the market right now.
The course is far from cheap, but it’s priced similarly to what you would get from other big players in the test prep industry. Spending money on education is a worthwhile endeavor because it will allow you to get into the med-school of your choice and earn much more in the future.