In this Princeton Review vs. Kaplan face-off, we pit two of the biggest test prep companies against each other to see which offers the best ACT prep.

From instructor qualifications to price, online platform, guarantees, and other features, discover which is the best ACT prep service.

Both Kaplan and the Princeton Review offer test prep in many different formats, so we’ll cover their group ACT classes, one-on-one tutoring, video on-demand courses, and all of their test-prep add-ons.

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Princeton Review vs. Kaplan Overview

Live group ACT courses:

Princeton Review’s ACT Essentials CourseKaplan’s Live Online ACT Course
Cost of basic ACT live group course$949$549
Instructor qualificationsNone specified, but some trainingNone specified, but usually 90th-percentile
Class sizeVaries, average around 12 studentsUp to 30 students
Practice tests and study materials11 practice tests + 140 hours of additional video lessons to review individual concepts + question bank5 practice tests + question bank
Access to materials12 months6 months
Option to add tutoringPurchase separately for $150–190/hour; pack of 3 hours is $540Live Online Plus Course: additional $300 for 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring ($100/hour)

Pre-recorded ACT courses:

Princeton ReviewKaplan
Cost of pre-recorded video ACT prep course$499 SAT and ACT (no ACT only)$199
Practice tests10 practice tests5 practice tests
Access to materials1 year6 months
Includes AP materialsLimited video lessons for US Government, US History, World History, English Language, and Chemistryno
Cost of 10 hours add-on tutoring$200 (discount add-on rate, so $699 total)$1999 (no discount rate)

Private ACT tutoring:

Princeton ReviewKaplan
Tutoring rate$150–420/hour$120–150/hour
Minimum tutoring package$540 for 3 hours$749 for 5 hours
Instructor qualificationsNone specified, but some trainingNone specified, but usually 90th-percentile
Score increase guaranteeElite 34+ option, $7560, $420/hour: if you don’t score a 34+ or improve your score by 5 points, get 50–100% back Higher score (could be just 1 point higher)


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan: Group ACT prep classes

The flagship ACT prep options for both Princeton Review and Kaplan are online group classes. This might be what most people think of when they imagine ACT prep: a group of students all learning the basics of ACT concepts and an introduction to the test format, taught in real time by a single instructor.

Let’s dive into the differences between the group ACT courses from Kaplan and the Princeton Review!

(It’s worth restating that there’s no connection between Princeton Review and Princeton University.)

There are several options from each company for this type of course, so we’ll summarize them here:

Princeton Review live online group classes for ACT prep

Kaplan live online group classes for ACT prep

  • Kaplan Live Online ACT course, $549 — live group classes and practice
  • Kaplan Live Online Plus ACT course, $849 — same as the Live Online course, plus 3 hours of individual tutoring
  • Kaplan Unlimited Prep course, $1999 — same as the Live Online course but with access to course materials until December of senior year, plus material for PSAT, SAT, and select APs

How do these compare against each other? Let’s take a look at them one by one.

student working on online SAT prep

The basic course: Princeton Review ACT Essentials vs Kaplan Live Online ACT

Princeton Review’s ACT Essentials CourseKaplan’s Live Online ACT Course
Cost of basic ACT live group course$949$549
Instructor qualificationsNone specified, but some trainingNone specified, but usually 90th-percentile
Class sizeVaries, average around 12 studentsUp to 30 students
Practice tests and study materials15 practice tests + 140 hours of additional video lessons to review individual concepts + question bank5 practice tests + question bank
Access to materials12 months6 months
Option to add tutoringPurchase separately for $150–190/hour; pack of 3 hours is $540Live Online Plus Course: additional $300 for 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring ($100/hour)

Kaplan’s Live Online ACT course is their flagship offering for ACT prep. The course includes 9 sessions of 2 hours each for $549. This is $400 less than the basic ACT course offered by the Princeton Review, which is their ACT Essentials Course ($949).

How do these two courses differ from each other, and is Princeton Review’s course worth the increased price?

Instructors

The most important factor for educational quality is always the teacher. Neither Princeton Review nor Kaplan have any specific qualifications for their ACT instructors, which isn’t great. This means that instructors did not necessarily score highly on the test themselves. They don’t need to have teaching experience or a degree from a top school.

We do know that the ACT instructors at the Princeton Review tend to be more highly trained. Kaplan, on the other hand, tends to hire instructors who scored in the 90th percentile — good scores, but not high enough to get into the Ivy League or most of the top-50 schools.

Class sizes

One significant flaw of Kaplan’s ACT classes is that all of them tend to be large classes with up to 30 students. In fact, Kaplan is notorious for canceling classes if enrollment isn’t high enough to protect their profit margins.

Kaplan tries to deal with large class sizes by including a second instructor present in the online chat for each class, available to answer questions without disrupting the main discussion. While this is a neat feature, we prefer having smaller class sizes to begin with. After all, one of the main reasons why students learn better from a live class compared to a pre-recorded class is that the instructor can answer questions in real time and adapt to the needs of the students.

Princeton Review’s ACT classes, on the other hand, tend to be a more reasonable size, averaging around 12 students per class.

Practice tests and study materials

Practice tests and study materials for both Kaplan and the Princeton Review live group classes are the same as their materials for self-directed courses, discussed below.

The Princeton Review offers more ACT practice questions and more full-length practice tests than Kaplan does. 

However, these materials aren’t as helpful as one might think. The best practice materials are always real ACT questions from past tests. While companies try to mimic the test style as best they can when creating these proprietary question banks, they’re never exactly the same as the real ones. Over the years, we’ve found many questions from the Princeton Review’s question banks that do not accurately reflect the real ACT.

Same for the full-length practice tests: we strongly recommend using real ACT tests for practice, not fake tests created by an outside company. A top-notch tutor or ACT prep class can help students navigate how to use the existing real ACT tests most effectively. 

Access to materials

One significant downside of Kaplan’s On Demand ACT prep course is that it’s only available for 6 months. After that, there’s no way to extend access to the test materials. Given that most students take the ACT more than once, and it can be ideal to take the ACT for the first time early on to reduce time pressure, 6 months is not enough time for many students.

The Princeton Review gives students 12 months to access course materials. This is much more helpful for students and more standard for the test-prep industry.

Option to add tutoring

One thing that we liked about Kaplan’s ACT course was the option to add 3 hours of one-on-one tutoring at a discounted rate compared to their usual ACT tutoring. Although 3 hours isn’t much time, this option allows students to get some additional help with a few specific problem areas.

The Princeton Review does not have a specific add-on tutoring package, but families can purchase tutoring packs starting at $540 for 3 hours.

However, as we discuss below, Kaplan’s ACT tutors do not necessarily have strong credentials for teaching the ACT, so students might be better off working with a more experienced ACT tutor.

The verdict: the basic course from the Princeton Review is a bit better than Kaplan’s version, as students get 12 months of access to study materials and a smaller class size. However, neither course is worth the high price tag, since there are other options from smaller companies that offer more individualized attention and more experienced instructors with Ivy-League degrees and top-1% scores themselves.

student doing test prep on laptop

The deluxe course: Princeton Review 31+ ACT vs Kaplan Unlimited Prep 

Princeton Review’s 31+ ACT CourseKaplan’s Unlimited Prep Course
Cost of deluxe ACT live group course$2199$1999
Instructor qualificationsNone specified, but more training and experienceNone specified, but usually 90th-percentile
Class sizeVaries, average around 12 studentsUp to 30 students
Practice tests and study materials10 practice tests + additional video lessons to review individual concepts + question bank5 practice tests + question bank + AP materials
Access to materials12 monthsUntil December of senior year
Score increase guaranteeFor qualifying students who start with a 26+, guarantee of 31Higher score (could be just 1 point higher)

Both the Princeton Review and Kaplan offer an upgraded version of their basic ACT group course. However, each company took this “deluxe” option in a different direction.

Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep

For Kaplan, their Unlimited Prep course provides students with materials for several different tests they might take as high school students. In addition to ACT classes, students can take classes for the SAT and specific AP tests:

  • AP Biology Review Course
  • AP Calculus AB Review Course
  • AP English Language and Composition Review Course
  • AP English Literature Review Course
  • AP Human Geography Review Course
  • AP Psychology Review Course
  • AP US History Review Course
  • AP World HIstory (Modern) Review Course

In addition, Kaplan used this upgrade as a chance to fix one of the most common complaints about their more basic courses, namely the 6-month cutoff to view course materials. WIth Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep course, students can access course materials until the December of their senior year. 

Unfortunately, while this date is fine for ACT and SAT prep (the latest possible date to take these tests for college applications is in December), this means that students can’t use Kaplan’s Unlimited Prep materials for AP review in May of their senior year, the most common time for AP tests.

The Princeton Review’s 31+ Course

The Princeton Review, on the other hand, took their course upgrade in a different direction.

Their 31+ ACT Course is significantly longer than their basic course, with 36 hours of live instruction (versus 18 hours for their ACT Essentials Course).

The instructors who lead the classes for the 31+ ACT Course are the Princeton Review’s top teachers. However, we’ll note that the Princeton Review does not have any specific qualifications for their instructors, so even these “top teachers” might not have top scores themselves or elite college degrees.

Most famously, the Princeton Review’s 31+ Course also offers a beefed-up score guarantee. For students who already have at least a 26 on previous ACT tests, they guarantee that students who complete all course materials and classes will score a 31 on their next ACT.

That’s attractive to many students, although we will note that there is a LOT of fine print involved.

We’ll also mention that a 31, while quite good, is usually not a high enough score for applications to the Ivy League or most of the top-tier schools.

The verdict: for students who specifically want to focus on the ACT, the Princeton Review’s deluxe offering is better, with a longer course, better teachers, and a stronger guarantee. The Kaplan Review’s upgrade, on the other hand, gives students access to basic classes not just the ACT, but also for the SAT and a handful of AP tests. 

Either option is fine for students who specifically want to work with a large test-prep company. However, students who want to work with top-tier instructors who have extensive experience, Ivy-League degrees, and top 1% scores themselves might consider a smaller tutoring company like PrepMaven, Elite Ivy Tutors, or the Tutoring Service of New York.


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan: On-demand video ACT prep courses

Princeton Review and Kaplan are two of the biggest test prep companies, both with thousands of instructors helping students to prepare for a variety of important tests.

(Note that there is zero connection between the Princeton Review and Princeton University. Their name refers to the town of Princeton in New Jersey, and they just happen to benefit from the confusion.)

Until recently, the Princeton Review did not offer any pre-recorded video courses for ACT or SAT prep.

However, they’re just launched a new set of offerings for self-paced video courses, taking advantage of their resources as a huge company.

Of course, “self-paced” and “on demand” are just other ways of referring to pre-recorded video lessons. These self-directed courses are best for students who are capable of managing their own schedules and tracking progress without the assistance of an instructor.

For both Princeton Review and Kaplan, these On-Demand courses are the least expensive option for ACT prep. Both offer a mix of short video lessons paired with practice questions and short quizzes.

At the moment, Princeton Review offers their pre-recorded ACT class only as a bundle with their SAT class. There’s no way to purchase just the ACT class by itself.

(Of course, the most effective way to prepare for both tests at the same time is to work with an experienced tutor who can highlight areas of overlap between the tests, as well as key differences that could surprise students. Smart study will avoid overlap and confusion and maximize success on both tests. With the right tutor, it’s certainly possible to prepare for both the ACT and the SAT at the same time.)

Princeton ReviewKaplan
Cost of pre-recorded video ACT prep course$499 SAT and ACT$199
Practice tests10 practice tests5 practice tests
Access to materials1 year6 months
Includes AP materialsLimited video lessons for US Government, US History, World History, English Language, and Chemistryno
Cost of 10 hours add-on tutoring$200 (discount add-on rate, so $699 total)$1999 (no discount rate)

For Kaplan’s course, we particularly like the video explanations that accompany each of the quiz questions, although there are fewer of these videos than we’d like, since Kaplan’s course has only a handful of questions per concept.

For the Princeton Review’s course, we like that students will get a custom study schedule after they take a diagnostic test. Of course, this is produced by an algorithm and will be less nuanced and personalized than an individual study schedule created by an experienced tutor, but it’s still more customization than offered by Kaplan, which has a more rigid structure.

student working with online tutoring

Practice tests and study materials

In terms of sheer volume of ACT practice questions, the Princeton Review also wins by a significant margin. However, we’d point out that the best practice materials are always real ACT questions from past tests. While companies try to mimic the test style as best they can when creating these proprietary question banks, they’re never exactly the same as the real ones. Over the years, we’ve found many questions from the Princeton Review’s question banks that do not accurately reflect the real ACT.

In addition, both the Princeton Review and Kaplan provide students with full practice tests.

However, just as we said about the individual practice questions, we strongly recommend using real ACT tests for practice, not fake tests created by an outside company. A top-notch tutor or ACT prep class can help students navigate how to use the existing real ACT tests most effectively.

Access to materials

One significant downside of Kaplan’s On Demand ACT prep course is that it’s only available for 6 months. After that, there’s no way to extend access to the test materials. Given that most students take the ACT more than once, and it can be ideal to take the ACT for the first time early on to reduce time pressure, 6 months is not enough time for many students.

The Princeton Review, on the other hand, gives students 12 months of access to course materials. While this is still not as good as the lifetime access offered by some competitors, it’s significantly more helpful for students preparing for the tests over the course of junior year or from junior spring to senior fall.

Extras and add-ons

One of the main differences between Kaplan and Princeton Review’s pre-recorded video courses is that the Princeton Review offers several extras and add-ons that may be helpful.

All of the Princeton Review’s packages for pre-recorded ACT prep include a limited number of review videos for 5 AP tests: US Government, US History, World History, English Language, and Chemistry. For students who happen to be taking one of those AP classes that year, this is a nice bonus, though not essential.

(Note that many common AP subjects are not included, such as AP Calculus, AP Physics, AP Statistics, AP Biology, AP European History, AP English Literature, and AP Spanish.)

The Princeton Review’s course also gives students access to their videos and question bank for the SAT. Given that many students take both tests at least once, this could be helpful for some students.

(Of course, the most effective way to prepare for both tests at the same time is to work with an experienced tutor who can highlight areas of overlap between the tests, as well as key differences that could surprise students. Smart study will avoid overlap and confusion and maximize success on both tests. With the right tutor, it’s certainly possible to prepare for both the ACT and the SAT at the same time.)

Finally, for an additional $200 ($699 in total), students can add on 10 hours of on-demand ACT tutoring at a very reasonable rate. This is one of the biggest benefits of Princeton Review’s new program, since individual tutoring is a great way to address problem areas for students.

However, this add-on ACT tutoring is much lower-quality than we’d like. The Princeton Review uses a different tutor pool for their “on-demand” ACT tutoring, and tutors are less trained and experienced than their higher-end tutors. In fact, there are no required qualifications for these ACT tutors — tutors aren’t required to have scored well on the ACT themselves or have teaching experience.

student working on online test prep

Princeton Review vs Kaplan On-Demand: Our verdict

In the end, the pre-recorded video courses from both Princeton Review and Kaplan are fine, but not great, ways to brush up on concepts covered by the ACT and do some practice.

Kaplan’s course is significantly less expensive ($199 compared to $499), but given the additional 6 months of access, SAT content, and bonus AP videos, we’d choose the Princeton Review over Kaplan.

Nevertheless, we would not recommend either course to students. This is because for self-directed ACT preparation there are already great study materials available completely for free from the makers of the ACT and the educational non-profit Khan Academy

Students can do a full practice test online or on paper for free from the ACT. On Khan Academy, students can create a dashboard to track progress through their test prep, watch videos reviewing key concepts, and do targeted practice.

Students familiar with Khan Academy might point out that their materials are developed for the SAT in partnership with the College Board (creators of the SAT), not for the ACT. 

However, while the SAT and the ACT are obviously different tests, there’s a lot of overlap. (The main difference is that the ACT has more advanced math — we compare the tests in detail here.) Especially for families on a budget, working through these high-quality free test-prep materials on Khan Academy is a great place to start. Magoosh’s ACT prep course is pretty good value, too.

If students need more help than offered by these free resources, then it’s likely that a live course with access to an instructor or one-on-one tutoring will be more effective than a pre-recorded video course.

This is also true for high-scoring students who are aiming for an amazing score that will help get them into the Ivy League/Stanford/MIT/etc. Typically the best fit for high-scoring students is private tutoring with a top 1% instructor.

Winner: the Princeton Review’s course is better, but we recommend the completely free Khan Academy over either option!


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan: Private ACT Tutoring

Princeton ReviewKaplan
Tutoring rate$167–420/hour$120–150/hour
Minimum tutoring package$540 for 3 hours$749 for 5 hours
Instructor qualificationsNone specified, but some trainingNone specified, but usually 90th-percentile
Score increase guaranteeElite 34+ option, $7560, $420/hour: if you don’t score a 34+ or improve your score by 5 points, get 50–100% back Higher score (could be just 1 point higher)

In addition to pre-recorded courses and group classes, both the Princeton Review and Kaplan offer individual ACT tutoring.

Individual tutoring might be an especially good fit for students who need more than a quick review of core concepts. This has been especially true after Covid, as there has been an unprecedented drop in student’s math and reading skills due to interruptions in schooling.

Individual tutoring is also a great idea for students who are pursuing very high scores (31 and above), and who might feel bored in a general class aimed at the average student. High-achieving students should make sure that they’re working with a tutor who got a top score on the ACT themself. 

That said, one-on-one tutoring can be a good fit for any student! Individual tutoring sessions tend to be more impactful in a shorter period of time, since they can hone in on the specific weaknesses of that student, so they’re great for busy students who want to make the most of their ACT study time. 

An experienced tutor can also make sure to create individualized homework assignments that target the areas the student needs to strengthen to improve their ACT scores.

How do Kaplan and the Princeton Review compare for ACT tutoring?

Their one-on-one tutoring offerings are fairly similar in quality.

The minimum cost of starting tutoring is slightly different between the two companies. 

The Princeton Review now offers a smaller package of 3 tutoring hours for $540 ($180/hour). This is a steep price, and 3 hours isn’t very much time for students to learn, but it’s at least more accessible to families.

Kaplan’s smallest package for ACT tutoring is $749 for 5 tutoring hours ($150/hour).

Are either of these tutoring services worth the high prices?

We found both Kaplan and the Princeton Review to be significantly overpriced compared to other options for ACT tutoring.

These costs of $150/hour or $200/hour are very high, especially considering that their tutors have no required qualifications like high scores themselves or degrees from top schools!

Neither the Princeton Review nor Kaplan requires any specific qualifications for their ACT tutors — instructors are not required to be top scorers on the ACT themselves or have graduated from a top-tier university.

Harvard University
Harvard University

In contrast, several other ACT prep providers hire only top 1% scorers (in the 99th percentile), which means scoring a 35 or 36 on the ACT. (This is definitely a competitive score for the Ivy League and any other top school.) Students might consider PrepMaven (Ivy League and top 1%), SoFlo Tutors (top 1%), or Prep Expert (top 1%).

The verdict: unless families specifically want to work with a large test-prep company, we definitely recommend looking elsewhere for ACT tutoring. Both the Princeton Review and Kaplan are significantly overpriced for ACT tutoring. Several smaller test prep companies (like PrepMaven, SoFlo, Elite Ivy Tutors, Tutoring Service of New York, or Prep Expert) provide ACT tutoring with more highly-qualified elite tutors, often at lower rates.

Learn more about one-on-one ACT tutoring with an Ivy-League and top 1% tutor


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan Review: Online Platform

The experience and abilities of the tutor or instructor are without doubt the single most important factors in the overall quality of the educational experience for a live class or tutoring, but for online classes and tutoring the platform itself also has an impact.

The Kaplan online platform visually is pretty nice. Students have a home dashboard from which they can navigate to individual study units and practice tests. While other test prep platforms might have an individualized learning plan, Kaplan’s courses are more rigid and are not customized to meet the particular strengths and weaknesses of individual students.

Many clients have reported technical problems with the platform, which are compounded by difficulty reaching customer service.

Overall, it seems that Kaplan’s online learning platform leaves room for improvement.

The verdict: Princeton Review’s online platform is stronger overall, as Kaplan’s is known to have frequent technical difficulties.


Kaplan Review: Customer Service

When speaking with families, the most common critique of Kaplan’s educational services was actually about their lackluster customer support.

Many clients reported that it was impossible to reach Kaplan’s customer support or technical support. Emails and messages went unanswered, and phone lines required wait times of several hours.

The verdict: Princeton Review’s customer service has a better reputation than Kaplan’s. 


Princeton Review vs. Kaplan Review: Final Verdict

The Princeton Review (no connection to Princeton University) is one of the biggest and most well-known companies. Their tutoring is pricey, but a solid option. Instructors go through a more extensive training process than at many other competitors, but there’s no requirement for instructors to be graduates of top schools or high scorers themselves.

When choosing between Kaplan and the Princeton Review for ACT prep, we found the Princeton Review to be better overall.

However, unless families specifically want to work with a large test-prep company, we recommend considering other test-prep services that offer higher-quality courses and tutoring for comparable or even lower prices.

For families on a tighter budget, we’d suggest looking for an independent tutor on Wyzant. It’s a tutoring marketplace platform, so the quality varies hugely and there’s no oversight or qualification requirements, but you might find a decent tutor under $40/hour.

Students preparing for the ACT should also check out Khan Academy. This online educational platform is completely free and is the only service to partner directly with the College Board, the makers of the SAT. The ACT and SAT are different tests, but there are enough similarities (especially at the beginning of studying) that students can use this high-quality free SAT prep to get started with the ACT as well. For students with enough self-discipline to stick to a study schedule, Khan Academy can be a powerful tool.

Princeton University
Princeton University

We don’t recommend paying for self-guided courses unless students have already exhausted the resources available for free from Khan Academy and the College Board.

For one-on-one tutoring, PrepMaven is the best out there both in terms of tutor quality and price. Starting at just $79/hour, students can work with current undergraduates at Princeton, Harvard, and other Ivy-League universities to prepare for the ACT. Families can also work with experienced, professional educators and Ivy-League graduates at $149/hour. As a boutique tutoring service, PrepMaven offers careful attention to each student and boasts amazing customer reviews.


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Emily

Emily graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and holds an MA from the University of Notre Dame. She was a National Merit Scholar and has won numerous academic prizes and fellowships. A veteran of the publishing industry, she has helped professors at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton revise their books and articles. Over the last decade, Emily has successfully mentored hundreds of students in all aspects of the college admissions process, including the SAT, ACT, and college application essay.