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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 05/16/2010

Princeton Reviews takes down ad claims

By Valerie Strauss

The Princeton Review test prep company has voluntarily agreed to stop making certain advertising claims about how many points it can help students improve on various school admissions tests.

The move was taken after a review by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which reviewed claims made in print, direct marketing, social media and Internet advertising. The division declared the Princeton Review’s actions as “necessary and appropriate” and released the decision to the public.

The review was sparked by a challenge to Princeton Review’s advertising claims by Kaplan, a competing test-prep company that is owned by The Washington Post Co., and that has itself been called on the carpet by NAD.

The National Advertising Division, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, has no power to actually enforce its decisions, but it can send complaints to the Federal Trade Commission if a company refuses to implement its recommendations.

The National Advertising Division released the decision by Princeton Review and said the claims at issue included:

* MCAT: Our students improve their MCAT score by an average of 10 points. In fact, the top quarter of our students average 12 points improvement.
* Our students improve their scores – and we can prove it. Princeton Review Students boast an average 10 point score improvement of the MCAT. In fact, the top quarter of our students average a 12 point improvement. We don’t just make these numbers up – they are independently verified by an outside company.
* GMAT: In fact, our students improve their GMAT scores by an average of 90 points.
* GRE: Our students Improve Their GRE Scores an Average of 206 Points.
* SAT: Our SAT Ultimate Classroom students average a score improvement of 255 points.
* LSAT: Our Hyperlearning LSAT students average a score improvement of 12.8* points.

Kaplan had challenged these claims, saying that they were not based on improvement from one exam to another but rather on the difference between results on an initial “diagnostic” test created and scored by Princeton Review, and students’ self-reported scores on the exam that they took after completing a Princeton Review course.

Princeton Review said in a statement to the division that it was confident “our claims of average score improvement were supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.” But it agreed to discontinue the challenged score improvement claims.

Kaplan, for its part, has also been called on the carpet before by the National Advertising Division.


Last year, the division ruled in a dispute between Kaplan and another rival test prep company, BARBRI. It said that Kaplan had presented statistics in a way that wrongly suggested that BARBRI’s success in helping students pass bar exams was lower than it really was.

The division also said that Kaplan could continue to advertise its 90 percent passage rate--which had been challenged by BARBRI, but that Kaplan could only use the stat in connection with its supplemental courses and not its full-service courses as it had been doing.

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By Valerie Strauss  | May 16, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions, Standardized Tests  | Tags:  Kaplan and ads, Princeton Review, Princeton Review and ads, claims by Princeton Review, claims by test prep companies, college admissions, getting better scores on tests, improving test scores, standardized tests, test claims, test prep companies  
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