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Best GRE Prep Courses
Our comprehensive guide to the best GRE prep courses
Getting a top tier score on the GRE is often critical to getting into your graduate school of choice. And to get that top score, you will very likely need a prep course – but which one is right for you? In this guide, we provide our ranking of the top GRE prep courses available based on a thorough review and evaluation of each by our team of education experts.
There was never a doubt from the moment we reviewed the Kaplan GRE prep course [Insert Link] that they’d be near the top of our best GRE courses list. Kaplan is one of the most recognizable names in test prep and they have a tried and tested formula for prepping students for most any standardized exam, but their GRE prep package is particularly outstanding.
Their core online curriculum is led by a collection of extremely high-quality video lessons, where your instructor works through problems onscreen in illuminated ink as notes roll across a digital whiteboard behind them. These videos are immediately followed by well-designed quizzes that reinforce the material from the lesson, and each has an accompanying detailed text explanation breaking down the problem with great clarity. Kaplan also impresses with respect to quantity of study material by providing over 5,000 practice questions, 7 full-length practice tests, and a host of drills and other coursework in their prep books. In short, the Kaplan GRE package is an all-around homerun of a prep course in terms of both quality of coursework and level of resources.
The QBank of Practice Problems
One of our team’s favorite features of the Kaplan course is their QBank. The Kaplan QBank is a tool that allows you to create customized quizzes based on problem type, difficulty, timing and a bunch of other factors. This allows students the chance to zero in on their weaknesses and work through extra problems to improve in those areas. The QBank also draws from Kaplan’s library of over 5,000 practice questions, so you have tons of fresh problems to work. In addition, the QBank is super easy to use, and you can be jumping into a highly personalized practice problem set within seconds of logging in.
Awesome Hardcopy Prep Books
It seems that every year more and more test prep courses go away from the traditional printed workbook. Everyone is going digital – everyone that is, except Kaplan. Okay, not everyone is going digital, but we love how Kaplan has stayed strong in providing a set of first-rate textbooks with its GRE prep course. Their books are exceedingly detailed, well written and use a host of well-timed example problems to help explain concepts. The Kaplan books generally track with and supplement their core curriculum for both the online and live classes. It is really nice to be able to follow a lesson along in a hardcopy book and take notes, highlight important concepts and dogear pages. Adding these wonderfully thorough prep books to an already formidable prep course makes for a formula that can’t miss.
One of Manhattan Prep’s signature marketing claims is that they make studying for the GRE fun. Their video lessons are sprinkled with skits, jokes and playful little cartoons. But despite being the “fun” prep course, the study resources offered by Manhattan Prep are no laughing matter. Their classroom instruction is thorough and delivered by top 1% scoring instructors with a knack for communicating tough topics.
Additionally, Manhattan’s online video lessons are well designed and keep your attention from beginning to end with interactive features and quizzes. And beyond the video instruction, they offer a TON of practice problems, drills, study tools, and a good number of full-length practice tests. All of this serves to make Manhattan Prep’s GRE course one of the most well-rounded prep packages on the market.
Systematic Approach to Learning
One of the most effective tools in the Manhattan Prep study toolbox is their course structure. They employ an extremely effective approach to learning through their repeated sequence of lessons, drills, and quizzes. Manhattan labels this as their “Learn It, Drill It, Prove It” approach, and it definitely works. In the “Learn It” portion of each module, you’re given an interactive video lesson that delivers all of the content you need to know for that particular topic. Then, in the “Drill It” section, you are given sets of flashcard-like problems to work through, helping the material you just learned to sink in. Finally, in the “Prove It” portion of the module, you are quizzed on the subject matter and must get a passing score to move on. This effective structure ensures you are not only getting delivered the material that you need, but that you are also learning and retaining it.
Crazy Amount of Study Material
The number of practice problems that Manhattan Prep provides its students simply dwarfs the level of questions other test prep companies offer. At over 100,000 practice problems, Manhattan Prep offers more than 20x the next closest competitor. This still boggles our team’s collective mind and we wonder how it’s even possible – but it is. If you’re the type of student that likes to learn by doing, Manhattan Prep is likely your course. With over 100,000 practice problems, you’ll never run out of study material. And that’s before you even get to the lessons, books and practice tests.
When it comes to bang for your buck, Magoosh [Insert Link] is the clear winner. At a fraction of the cost of other GRE prep courses, Magoosh cannot be touched in terms of price. But while the cost of the course may be a fraction of other’s offerings, the study material definitely is not.
Magoosh delivers a very respectable amount of quality study material with over 1,200 practice problems, 3 full-length practice tests and 100+ short video lessons, all with months of user access. True that Magoosh doesn’t offer a comprehensive curriculum or crazy levels of study material – but that isn’t their game. You know what you’re getting with Magoosh – value, flexibility and a generous slate of targeted resources provided through a sleek digital platform. If you’re working on a budget or just need a somewhat limited review, our recommendation would be Magoosh.
As discussed above, Magoosh is always going to be known for their value. They won’t give you heaps of resources like other prep companies, but with their most expensive GRE prep package running around $179, you can’t really expect them to. Comparable budget self-paced options from competitors can run up close to $500, so Magoosh dominates the price game. However, while it is not surprising they are the king of cost, the quality and level of their resources is eye opening for that price point.
Custom Practice Sessions
For many students, working practice problems is at the heart of their go-to prep plan. And while Magoosh doesn’t offer as many practice problems as other companies, they do offer a superb means of working practice problems. Through their custom practice function, you can customize practice problem sets however you’d like. You can narrow the scope of questions by type, difficulty, number, timing and much more. This feature is not unique to Magoosh, but is generally one of the most beneficial aspects of a prep course and Magoosh does it VERY well. In addition, each practice problem is followed by a thorough video and text explanation. These explanations, particularly the video versions, do a great job of breaking down each problem and clearly articulating why an answer choice is correct or incorrect. This custom practice tool in combination with the quality video explanations really boosts Magoosh’s value.
When it comes to video instruction, Princeton Review [Insert Link] is king. Others come close, but our team agrees that the video lessons offered by Princeton Review are a clear #1 in the GRE test prep category and land Princeton a spot on the best list.
The videos are engaging, thorough and achieve an excellent balance of lecture and interaction. In addition to their first-rate video instruction, Princeton also reigns supreme when it comes to number of full-length practice tests offered. They provide students a category best 8 practice tests, all taken through their proprietary and adaptive platform.
Top Notch Video Lessons
As referenced, it is Princeton Review’s video lessons that really shine. They are thoughtfully designed and written, and even better executed. The instructor appears onscreen and works through their lesson in front of a really sharp digital whiteboard that is constantly updating with text, notes and graphics. Often throughout the instruction, the instructor will pull out their marker and start working a problem or making notes on an invisible plate of glass that is between the viewer and instructor (so the text appears before them). The combo of digital whiteboard and transparent marker board make for an incredibly engaging lesson that keeps your attention. Beyond the delivery, the content of the lessons is also exceptional. All in all, between the first-rate production quality and spot on substantive material, Princeton Review’s lessons propel it onto the best list.
Best Practice Test Offerings
In addition to some superb video instruction, Princeton’s practice test offerings also help it to stand out. Princeton Review offers a best in category 8 full-length practice tests, beating all of its rivals. This is likely very important to the type of student that prefers to learn by doing. For some, there is no better means of prepping than to take practice tests under exam-like conditions, and Princeton Review offers more opportunities to do so than anybody else. Additionally, Princeton employs some proprietary adaptive technology that replicates the adaptive nature of the official GRE. When taking the real GRE, the sections get progressively harder or easier depending on your performance on earlier sections. Princeton Review’s practice test technology does a fantastic job mirroring this function. In addition, its overall practice test platform looks and feels just like the real thing.
Somewhat of a newcomer to the GRE prep space, PrepScholar brings the same effective playbook that they have used with great success in the SAT and ACT prep space to the GRE. Offering a 100% online, complete prep package, PrepScholar should get your attention for a few reasons. The primary reason PrepScholar makes our best list, and why we really like their course, is due to their algorithm that optimizes your study plan. More on this below in greater detail, but their smart tech makes the most of your precious study time.
Additionally, PrepScholar offers one of the most robust packages of lesson work available. Now, much of their instructional material is text-based (and digital text at that), so you have to be the type of student that doesn’t mind a little reading. But assuming you’re okay reading for a portion of each lesson, their detailed and well-crafted lessons offer some of the best insights and test taking strategies in the game. In addition, you get access to 2,000+ practice questions and 2 full-length practice exams. While these numbers may pale in comparison to other prep courses like Manhattan Prep, we still really like the quality of their practice material and accompanying explanations.
Maximum Efficiency in Your Studies
As mentioned, one of the biggest selling points of the PrepScholar course is their ability to design a totally personalized and efficient study plan. If you have limited time to study, or just want to get in and knock out your prep as quickly and efficiently as possible, PrepScholar may be a great fit for you. It starts with their 60 question diagnostic exam at the beginning of the course. The results of this diagnostic are evaluated through PrepScholar’s propriety “CustomPrep” algorithm, and the output is a study plan tailored to your needs.
Their smart software pinpoints your weaknesses and strengths, and designs your studies to maximize gains around them. In other words, if you are already really strong on a subject, they don’t waste your time trying to get small, incremental gains – they go for the big gains where you are currently weakest. This is how you make the big point jumps on the GRE. And as your progress through your studies, the study plan constantly updates and changes to account for your ever evolving GRE knowledge base and skills. It is a really cool feature that our team absolutely loved.
7+ Point Score Increase or Money Back
One other feature that cannot go without mention is PrepScholar’s score increase guarantee. Essentially, PrepScholar promises that if you complete all of your lessons and do all your practice work, and your score does not increase by at least 7 points, they will give you your money back. No questions asked. There is some fine print to qualify, but the bottom line is that this guarantee will apply to most students and is an incredible insurance policy to protect your investment in this course. +7 points guaranteed is nearly unheard of in the GRE prep space, so PrepScholar clearly believes in the prowess of their prep materials. For us, this was the icing on top of an already sweet cake.
The GRE stands for “Graduate Record Examinations.” It is an exam administered by the Educational Testing Service to assess a candidate’s readiness for graduate school. The GRE is often required by graduate programs as one main components of a candidate’s application.
GRE Test Structure
The GRE is a computer-based, standardized exam that consists of multiple-choice questions. The overarching goal of the exam is to measure an individual’s ability to evaluate data, think critically and solve problems. The GRE exam is split into three different sections:
The analytical writing portion of the exam consists of two, thirty-minute tasks. Individuals will essentially be asked to write two different essays during the exam. One essay will focus on analyzing an issue and the other will center around analyzing an argument. The analytical writing section is scored on a 0 to 6 scale, with the average score equaling 4.
The verbal reasoning portion of the exam is composed of two, 20 question sections. Individuals will receive 30 minutes to complete each individual section. Of the 20 questions, 10 relate to reading comprehension, six relate to text completion and four relate to sentence equivalence. The verbal reasoning portion of the exam is scored on a 130 to 170 scale, with the average score equaling 151.
Like the verbal reasoning portion of the exam, the quantitative reasoning portion consists of two, 20 question sections. Test takers will receive 35 minutes to complete each section. Of the 20 questions, 12-13 will relate to problem solving and 7-8 will relate to quantitative comparison. The quantitative reasoning section is also scored on a 130 to 170 scale. The average score for this section is 153.
GRE Study Tactics
Most people take anywhere between one to three months studying several hours per week to prepare for the GRE. Therefore, on average, we’d say expect to set aside 50 to 100 hours in total to ensure you’re ready for the exam. Naturally, the next question is how you should spend those allotted hours studying? Below is our five-point plan to ensure you’re preparing efficiently.
Take a practice exam – this should be the first thing individuals do so they can get a feel for the test and discover what areas they need to improve upon.
Review the results from the practice exam – Take an hour or two and closely examine what types of questions you missed, what types of questions you rushed through and what types of questions you nailed.
Set a study plan – After analyzing the results of your practice exam, you’ll be able to identify the exact areas where you need additional assistance and allocate study hours accordingly.
Imitate actual GRE test conditions – It’s important that you study under the same conditions that the test is administered. This will help calm your nerves and make your more focused come test day.
Take another practice test & repeat – You should take practice tests regularly so that you can measure the effectiveness of your studying. After each test, repeat the steps above so you can continually improve upon your weak areas.
Do I need a GRE prep course?
For the vast majority of students, a prep course will be required to get a great score on the GRE. A prep course will provide you the study material and relevant content that you need in order to excel on the exam.
How much does a GRE prep course cost?
GRE prep courses can cost anywhere from $150 up to $2,500 – it all depends on what type of format you prefer to learn in and how many resources you need. For most students though the average course will cost around one thousand dollars.
Will a GRE prep course raise my score?
In the context of using a prep course to study vs. not using one, you will almost always score better on the exam having studied with a dedicated prep course. And if you don’t, most prep companies will give you your money back through their score increase guarantee program.