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Manhattan Prep GRE Review
Our comprehensive analysis of the Manhattan Prep GRE prep course
While some prep courses are all business, Manhattan Prep breaks the mold by delivering engaging and genuinely entertaining content that is still high quality and thorough. Their coursework is interactive, and their instructors funny and knowledgeable. But does breaking free of the old school test prep formula necessarily translate to an effective course? We look at this question and all the features of the Manhattan Prep GRE prep course in this detailed review.
Manhattan Prep offers students four course options that vary widely in price, resource access, and format. The four course options and approximate price tags are as follows:
GRE Interact – $349
GRE Just Math – $799
GRE Complete Course – $1,399
GRE for MBA – $1,599
There is obviously a big discrepancy in price between the GRE Interact – Manhattan Prep’s basic, on demand and self-study course – and their courses with live class components. Assuming you need more than just math prep (most students do), you’re looking at close to a one thousand dollar difference in price between the Interact course and Complete course. This is a very wide gap and whether the difference is worth it will completely turn on what you need as a student.
If you need any of the following in your studies, you should strongly consider the Complete course (or any of the course options with class component):
You need commitment and to be held accountable to study
You need structure in your study schedule or are not confident you can study alone
You want more personalized instruction or learn better in a group setting
You are seeking a top tier score and need the extra instruction and resources that come with the full course
If you fit into any of the above categories, we’d suggest strongly considering upping the ante for a classroom course. In addition, you’ll get extra resources with such course options (more on that below).
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Quality of Study Materials
Now to the most important part – the quality of the lessons, drills and other coursework provided by Manhattan Prep.
The structure, content and delivery of Manhattan Prep’s coursework is second to none. Their on demand course, GRE Interact, which also serves as the basis of much of the online content for their other more expensive course options, is truly remarkable. The video lessons are engaging, interactive and really effective in communicating GRE topics.
You are essentially given a number of modules to complete across three levels. Each level offers progressively more difficult topics and is followed by a full-length practice test to reinforce what you learned in that level and to track your progress. Within each level, there are anywhere from 16-30 modules, with each module focusing on a particular subject (such as exponents and roots, or text completions).
Within each module, Manhattan Prep follows a systematic approach to learning. The structure goes like this:
Learn It > Drill It > Prove It
The “Learn It” section always comes first and is the core of your lesson work. But before you dive into the lesson, you are given a quick diagnostic question or two, just to gauge where you’re at on a particular subject before starting.
Once this baseline is established, the Learn It section provides an interactive video lesson on the particular topic. Most of the time one of Manhattan Prep’s instructors, who are all top 1% GRE scorers, appear on screen in front of a digital whiteboard and walks you through the lesson. As they speak, notes and graphics fill the whiteboard around them, showing how they would a work a problem or expanding on a concept. The production quality of these videos is superb and the design makes for a very effective form of teaching.
In addition, you’re provided intermittent quiz questions to make sure you’re paying attention and understanding the concepts. This is a nice interactive feature that keeps you engaged and paying attention, which I personally found to be one of the most important aspects of the lessons.
And occasionally the lesson will cut to a cartoon or short skit intended to provide comical relief. This is where Manhattan Prep tries to differentiate its lessons from its competitors. They try to keep everything light and playful with these breaks and bits of humor from their instructors. For the most part their attempts are successful, and I enjoyed the breaks from the dry and difficult subject matter. But I’ll also say I enjoyed the jokes and little cartoons like I enjoy my dad’s corny jokes and old stories. It is not exactly bend over laughing material, and does feel a little forced at times. But all in all, I appreciate the attempt.
In the “Drill It” section, you are provided flashcard-like drills to hammer home what you just learned. You are given a problem, work through it on scratch paper or in your head, and then check your answer on screen. You work through a series of these drills before moving on to the “Prove It” section, which is essentially a quiz. You are tested on everything you learned in the module and need to hit 90% before you are allowed to “pass.” You can obviously skip ahead if you’d like, but the intent here is for you to master each topic before moving on.
In my opinion, the three sequenced sections of the modules make for an extremely effective means of teaching a topic. You are given a top-notch interactive video lesson to give you the content, repeatable drills to master the material, and finally a quiz to give yourself a confirmation that you’re on the right track. I really liked the overall structure and design of the modules.
In terms of quantity of study material, across all of its modules, Manhattan Prep says it provides over 100,000 practice questions. That is an astounding number (to the point that I had to do a double take when I first read it), especially given that all of their competitors offer numbers in the low four-figures. And there is no way for us to independently verify that – I mean I don’t think I could work 100,000+ practice problems if I tried. But if true, this is an insane amount of study material that absolutely bolsters the appeal of the Manhattan Prep course.
In addition to the crazy amount of practice problems, Manhattan Prep also delivers some great problem explanations. Each explanation gives a detailed breakdown of the problem and why each answer choice is right or wrong. My one complaint here though is that such explanations are not immediately accessible within the modules as you work drills and quizzes. I wish you could jump straight into an explanation if you were hung up.
My overall impression of the Manhattan Prep lessons and coursework is that they are of top tier quality, and perhaps the best in the GRE prep space. Between incredibly effective and cool video lessons, thoughtful course structure, and the sheer number of practice questions, it is a formidable course curriculum.
Manhattan Prep Practice Tests
No matter which course option you select, Manhattan Prep provides access to 6 computer-based, adaptive practice tests intended to closely mirror the GRE. The GRE is an adaptive exam that adjusts the difficulty based on a student’s performance, which can make it a hard test for some prep companies to replicate. However, Manhattan Prep does a good job.
Their simulated test program feels and acts like the real thing, and the adaptive nature built into their code felt very close to the difficulty jump you experience with the actual GRE. I was pretty happy with their practice test functionality all things considered. In terms of the number of practice tests, Princeton Review provides more practice tests with 8 in total, but 6 is a respectable number and is in line with other competitors.
Following each practice test, you get a detailed score report that provides some decent analytics around your performance. It can be filtered and narrowed down so you can see where you performed well and where you need work. This type of feature is fairly common across GRE prep courses, but Manhattan Prep’s score report is nicely done.
Manhattan Prep GRE Books
Getting hardcopy prep books with your course is important to many students, and actually has a fairly significant influence on how we rank our best GRE prep courses. Fortunately, for those that are wondering, Manhattan Prep provides a comprehensive set of hardcopy books with the purchase of its Complete, Just Math and GRE for MBA courses. The GRE Interact course only gets you access to their online content, but all other course options will deliver you a set of their fantastic hardcopy strategy guides. In addition, you’ll also get one of Manhattan Prep’s signature 5 lb. books of practice problems.
It’s nice to see that while some other test prep companies move away from traditional textbooks that Manhattan Prep is holding strong with a set of rock-solid study books. In terms of substance, I found their GRE books to be a HUGE value add. These books track with and supplement the classroom work for live courses and add excellent study material that you don’t otherwise get through just the Interact course.
You get clearly communicated strategies and techniques for taking on particular problem types, as well as tons of practice problems. Though I will say that the practice problems are of middling value given the loads available through Interact and the fact they aren’t computer-adaptive. But all in all, the books from Manhattan Prep are very well written with relevant content, and offer significant value.
User Experience and Interface
Similar to the quality of the interactive video lessons, the overall user experience and interface of Manhattan Prep’s online content is first-rate. The dashboard has a clean and professional look, with snappy responsiveness. It is also easily navigated, though not as easily as some others, like Kaplan. The bar along the left side of the dashboard isn’t the most descriptive and you have to hover over buttons to see what you’re about click on, but once you click on each a couple times you remember the icon and are set.
The function is also nice, as the lessons and drills appear in pop up windows within the same browser tab. Other test prep companies will open such features in a new tab, which can get annoying. So I liked that it is all housed in one page that you can flick back-and-forth through. And in terms of the interactive nature of videos and lessons, as I discussed ad nauseum above, I thought this functionality was excellent, particularly looking at it side-by-side with some competitors.
Overall, it’s clear that Manhattan Prep has invested in their dashboard and user experience, leaning on their “Atlas” platform as one of the mainstays of their content. While not perfect, it is definitely modern, easy to use and just plain cool.
The Classroom Experience
While the online content of Manhattan Prep’s GRE prep course is undeniably well-designed and beneficial, whether you will like or get benefit from their classroom course totally depends on the type of student you are. If you need a commitment to follow through on studying, learn better in group settings, or just plain want the extra content and instruction that goes along with it, then the classroom course may be a great fit for you.
But one other aspect to consider with Manhattan Prep’s live courses is the class size. Manhattan Prep does not utilize old school lecture style classes where the instructor lectures at you for 3 hours and you head off to do your homework. Their class sizes are small and participation is basically mandatory.
So, if you’re the type of student that likes to hide in the back or is squeamish about participating, you may need to think twice. These class sizes are very intimate, you will definitely get to know your classmates well, and you will participate often. Now for most students this is probably a big plus, as you will get personalized attention from a 99th percentile instructor and serious engagement, but I just wanted to raise the issue.
My overall impression of the Manhattan Prep class I took was that it was well worth the money. The classes have a workshop-like atmosphere and feel like you’re collaborating on a group project rather than taking a class. And the teacher is very hands on, slowing down and speeding up as they need to based on the group of students. I had some very bright classmates in my group, so we flew through lessons and had extra time with our instructor to ask questions about more difficult problems and general test taking tips. It was a great all-around experience and I wouldn’t hesitate to take the classroom component again.
A couple final notes. You will be assigned 10-15 hours of homework between class sessions, so make sure you have enough time between classes to get it done. You will be called on a lot and want to make sure you’ve done your assignments and know what you’re talking about. And also, if you miss a class session, there’s no need to get notes from another student. Manhattan Prep has pre-recorded lessons from other class sessions (on the same topic) that you can watch at anytime and get caught up.
Extra GRE Resources
In addition to all of the coursework described above, Manhattan Prep offers a pretty nice suite of extra resources. These include:
A comprehensive and interactive syllabus
A 50-page vocabulary workbook
Daily vocabulary emails
Almost too much to list, right? The level of supplemental resources provided by Manhattan Prep is truly impressive. My personal favorite is the flashcards. You’re given access to 500 vocabulary flashcards that are great for filling in study time. If you’re sitting in the quad killing time or have a few minutes before your shift at work starts, these flashcards provide a great quick hit exercise that you can pick up and put down whenever. They give you a word’s definition, usage and related words, and you can flip through them quickly.
With so many resources, there is not enough time or room to go into detail about each, so I’ll just say that there is absolutely no shortage of online tools with Manhattan Prep. Where some other courses are thin on the extracurriculars, Manhattan Prep goes above and beyond.
Manhattan Prep’s Tutoring Packages
While not one of their mostly highly marketed products, Manhattan Prep does offer private tutoring packages. If you need a little extra 1-on-1 attention from one of Manhattan Prep’s GRE experts, the option is definitely there.
You can either pay by the hour (with a 2-hour minimum), or purchase a package that comes with 10 to 30 hours of private tutoring. The 10-hour package starts at roughly $245 per hour (so $2,450 total) and gets progressively discounted per hour from there as you get up to 30 hours.
To be clear, the Manhattan Prep private tutoring packages are not the most affordable we have seen. That said, if you’re looking for top tier personalized instruction, you probably can’t do much better than Manhattan Prep’s experts. They are all top 1% scorers on the GRE and have been vetted and trained by Manhattan Prep to ensure they are excellent communicators. Though expensive, the quality of tutoring with Manhattan Prep is top shelf.
The duration of your access to Manhattan Prep’s online content turns on which course package you purchase. When you buy the GRE Interact course (the on demand package), you will get 1 to 6 months of access from the day you enroll, depending on which plan you buy (they offer 1-, 3- and 6-month packages for Interact). This puts their on demand course right in line with the Magoosh GRE course.
For all other course options that have a live class component, you will get access to their digital platform for up to 6 months from the date your course ends. This is a significant period of time, particularly when compared to some competitors, and should be plenty of time to prep for the GRE.
Is there a Mobile App?
Yes. Manhattan Prep delivers a surprisingly good mobile app that is connected with your coursework. It is easily found in the app store (for both Apple and Android) and contains some great resources. You’ll get access to:
1,000+ practice problems and explanations
500 vocabulary flashcards
6 GRE quizzes
Alerts and feedback
This is a lot of content and resources packed into a little mobile app that you can take anywhere with you. I personally like the hardcopy books that come with Manhattan Prep’s course as my “haul-with-me” resource when I’m away from my computer, but was pleasantly surprised with this app. I think it’s a great resource for people with busy lives that need to make the most of those little gaps in their day.
Does Manhattan Prep have a Score Increase Guarantee?
Unfortunately, Manhattan Prep does not offer any form of money back guarantee if your score does not improve. This is kind of disappointing given that almost every other major test prep company offers at least some form of guarantee these days, but you take the good with the bad. Manhattan Prep does offer reduced prices if you need to repeat their course following a bad score, but that is about as good as it gets.
What is the Refund Policy?
Despite the high price tag of some of their courses, Manhattan Prep does not offer any sort of refund policy. You don’t even get a 24-hour cool-off period to think about it. So, you better be dang sure you’re ready to make the call on Manhattan Prep when you buy. Luckily though, they do offer a great 7-day free trial to test drive their GRE course before purchasing. This trial period offers great access to most of their features, so you can get a good feel for what you will be getting with the full-fledged course.
Verdict: Manhattan Prep GRE Course
The hallmark of Manhattan Prep’s GRE course is their online content, which is delivered through their GRE Interact program. This digital platform, which they clearly have spared no expense on, delivers interactive and engaging video lessons, thousands of practice problems and drills, practice tests and all kinds of resources. It is cool, thoughtful and absolutely effective in conveying the content you need to know to ace the GRE. And you seemingly never run of study material. The live classes are solid and the instructors are funny and knowledgeable, but it’s all about the online platform with Manhattan Prep.
If I had to knock two things about the Manhattan Prep course, it would be that the problem explanations are not easily accessed directly following each problem and the small class size can feel a little overwhelming to more bashful students. That said, the problem explanations are there all the same (and in fact quite good); you just have to dig for them a little bit. And while the small class size may be a negative for some, many more will appreciate the focused attention and more intimate setting. Aside from these two small gripes, this is an excellent all-around prep course that breaks the mold with an engaging and modern online platform that delivers all the resources you could possibly need.
How much does the Manhattan Prep GRE prep course cost?
The Manhattan Prep GRE course options range in price from around $350 up to $1,600 depending on what level of access and course format you want.
How many practice problems do I get with Manhattan Prep?
You will get access to over 100,000 practice problems through Manhattan Prep’s online GRE prep content.
Will my score increase with Manhattan Prep’s GRE prep course?
While Manhattan Prep does not guarantee a score increase like some other test prep companies, their high-quality lessons and tons of study resources give you a very good chance of improving your baseline score.