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Best GRE Prep Service?


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Hey Guys, 

In your opinion what's the best GRE prep service? 

I'm looking to strengthen my profile for the next cycle and I think higher GRE's will do just that. The last time I took it I did fine on the V but bombed the Q, so i'm looking at prep services to get both up, but mainly focus on my Q grade. Anyone have any recommendations for good prep services?

I've heard good things about Princeton Reviews, any one have any personal experience with it? or Kaplan?

Thanks!

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I had to raise my quant score and I mostly used the Manhattan Prep 5 lb book of GRE practice problems.  It’s not expensive on amazon, it has tons of questions, and it has diagnostic tests so you can pinpoint what you need to work on.  It took me from 60th percentile to 90th+.  It didn’t “teach” the concepts so much but the repetition from doing so many problems made it easy to recognize the types of problems and the trick questions. 

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1 minute ago, IcedCovfefe said:

I had to raise my quant score and I mostly used the Manhattan Prep 5 lb book of GRE practice problems.  It’s not expensive on amazon, it has tons of questions, and it has diagnostic tests so you can pinpoint what you need to work on.  It took me from 60th percentile to 90th+.  It didn’t “teach” the concepts so much but the repetition from doing so many problems made it easy to recognize the types of problems and the trick questions. 

Thanks for the advice! and I did try it with a big book the first time, but honestly it didn't help at all, my math score was still pitiful. I was more asking about those pricey tutoring prep services. I am lucky enough to be in the financial situation where I can afford a $1000+ program if it brings results. I am afraid that a book simply wouldn't work with me again.  

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Well at the risk of being a tad obnoxious by giving you a second piece of advice outside of your parameters, I think you might want to consider trying the Economist's GRE Prep online as an intermediate solution between doing a book by yourself and shelling out $1000s for tutoring. I say this just because I think the time and energy might be put to better use in trying to work on your Statement of Purpose and Writing Sample, and really all you need to do is get your GRE scores to an acceptable level.

If you're disappointed about how things have worked out this app cycle and are thinking about applying again next year, the most important bit of advice IMO is this: make sure to take time to really decompress, enjoy yourself, and get out of the application mindset between the end of the first and second cycle.

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1 hour ago, wara said:

Well at the risk of being a tad obnoxious by giving you a second piece of advice outside of your parameters, I think you might want to consider trying the Economist's GRE Prep online as an intermediate solution between doing a book by yourself and shelling out $1000s for tutoring. I say this just because I think the time and energy might be put to better use in trying to work on your Statement of Purpose and Writing Sample, and really all you need to do is get your GRE scores to an acceptable level.

If you're disappointed about how things have worked out this app cycle and are thinking about applying again next year, the most important bit of advice IMO is this: make sure to take time to really decompress, enjoy yourself, and get out of the application mindset between the end of the first and second cycle.

Thanks for your advice! and I will probably check that out, before I do go out and spend that $1000. And I completely agree, the SOP and writing sample are hugely important. And i've already reworked my SOP and have a completely new writing sample that is hopefully going to be published in an undergrad research journal, so hopefully those two aspects are much better then last time. 

The GRE is just a major aspect and one that I can clearly pinpoint as being a problem, so thats why im trying to figure out ways to beat it. 

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I started the application process with a diagnostic score of like 160V/149Q and ended with 168/160. I used Magoosh and a few practice books. I think Magoosh is like $130 for 6 months or something, and I would really look into that. I hadn’t done much math since high school so I needed something more than just practice problems, and the video lessons on Magoosh were super helpful for me (they also have hundreds of practice problems). This is a much cheaper option and worked well for me. 

Also, I just wanted to say that the process for applying to these programs is grueling and often idiosyncratic. I don’t think spending a ton of time reworking your SoP or writing sample now is necessary—just be proud of yourself for putting together a good application and give yourself a break. There’s plenty of time to prepare for next cycle. 

Edited by IR1995
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I purchased Magoosh but I think it did not really help me. What truly helped me was Kaplan. Kaplan has the same quant questions that you will see in the GRE and the same goes for verbal to some extent. Since you have a fat wallet, I think Kaplan would be worth it.

All the best!!!

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This is a somewhat unconventional strategy, but if money is an issue, consider working part-time as an ACT/SAT test prep tutor. The math concepts are basically the same, it's just the complexity of the problems that differs on the GRE. I did this for a couple of years before I took the GRE, and it was enormously helpful. It also gave me a boost in terms of learning to think like the test in a way that I don't think being a student would have.

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I, too, thought the Magoosh math videos were very helpful, and I liked the way the curriculum was presented. Magoosh doesn't own most of the prep materials, they direct you to various outside resources according to your customized plan, then they guide you through utilizing these outside resources (official ETS prep, Manhattan Math, etc.). Their internal sample problems (they do have some of their own questions and full length exams) are generally harder than the test, which some people liked, but that wasn't my favorite. I think before you go the Kaplan route (which might be worthwhile), see what you think of Magoosh. I think they have a 1 week free trial?  I did find ETS materials (brief prep and books with sample problems and past tests) to be by far the most similar to the real test. Magoosh willl help you navigate these. If you can get comfortable with the format of most of the quant questions in these materials, you should score well. I do think most competitive schools privilege a good GRE score (regardless of what they might say), or at least they punish heavily low scores. If you have the time and the determination, why not impress them (or at least not worry them) in this area? If your scores are already v & q =  167+, with a 5+ on the writing, never mind. It's hard to predictably move scores like those, just bc you never know if you'll get a weird version of the test (with respect to your preparation), etc.  Good luck! 

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10 hours ago, IR1995 said:

I started the application process with a diagnostic score of like 160V/149Q and ended with 168/160. I used Magoosh and a few practice books. I think Magoosh is like $130 for 6 months or something, and I would really look into that. I hadn’t done much math since high school so I needed something more than just practice problems, and the video lessons on Magoosh were super helpful for me (they also have hundreds of practice problems). This is a much cheaper option and worked well for me. 

Also, I just wanted to say that the process for applying to these programs is grueling and often idiosyncratic. I don’t think spending a ton of time reworking your SoP or writing sample now is necessary—just be proud of yourself for putting together a good application and give yourself a break. There’s plenty of time to prepare for next cycle. 

Thanks for the advice about Magoosh, ill be sure to check it out!

And I am currently an undergrad finishing up my senior year, so finalizing my SOP and Writing sample now while I have access to the professors and resources just made the most sense to me. But I do totally get what you mean about taking time to re-center after the cycle before starting the new one 

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10 hours ago, Anxiously Hopeful said:

I purchased Magoosh but I think it did not really help me. What truly helped me was Kaplan. Kaplan has the same quant questions that you will see in the GRE and the same goes for verbal to some extent. Since you have a fat wallet, I think Kaplan would be worth it.

All the best!!!

Did you do the online Kaplan, or the in-person classes?

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7 hours ago, PonchoVilla said:

I, too, thought the Magoosh math videos were very helpful, and I liked the way the curriculum was presented. Magoosh doesn't own most of the prep materials, they direct you to various outside resources according to your customized plan, then they guide you through utilizing these outside resources (official ETS prep, Manhattan Math, etc.). Their internal sample problems (they do have some of their own questions and full length exams) are generally harder than the test, which some people liked, but that wasn't my favorite. I think before you go the Kaplan route (which might be worthwhile), see what you think of Magoosh. I think they have a 1 week free trial?  I did find ETS materials (brief prep and books with sample problems and past tests) to be by far the most similar to the real test. Magoosh willl help you navigate these. If you can get comfortable with the format of most of the quant questions in these materials, you should score well. I do think most competitive schools privilege a good GRE score (regardless of what they might say), or at least they punish heavily low scores. If you have the time and the determination, why not impress them (or at least not worry them) in this area? If your scores are already v & q =  167+, with a 5+ on the writing, never mind. It's hard to predictably move scores like those, just bc you never know if you'll get a weird version of the test (with respect to your preparation), etc.  Good luck! 

Thanks for the advice about Magoosh, i'll be sure to check it out!

And I also agree that often times its the GRE that sets apart different applicants or at least gets your application looked at. While I completely hate the tests and that kind of stuff, I do recognize how it's used in application material. But I also know that while GRE's are important, other aspects of your application are equally if not more important. That is why besides the GRE retake and studying I've also re-written my SOP and selected a new (and much better) writing sample to be submitted.  

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Just now, Anxiously Hopeful said:

the online one 

Gotcha, gotcha. So that was effective then? like you felt that it did help to improve your score?

Im thinking of doing either the Princeton review or the Kaplan online ones, if I do go the tutoring service route 

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41 minutes ago, Dwar said:

Gotcha, gotcha. So that was effective then? like you felt that it did help to improve your score?

Im thinking of doing either the Princeton review or the Kaplan online ones, if I do go the tutoring service route 

It was very effective. My score went up by 10 points. Well, there were many other factors responsible for the improvement but Kaplan did help a lot.  

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4 minutes ago, Anxiously Hopeful said:

It was very effective. My score went up by 10 points. Well, there were many other factors responsible for the improvement but Kaplan did help a lot.  

nice, thanks for the info and for sharing your experience!

Honestly a 10 point increase would be amazing, ill definitely look into that form of tutoring. 

Edited by Dwar
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These are just my thoughts with limited experience, and with sort of unusual circumstances surrounding my two(ish) cycles. Mileage may vary. For my first cycle, in 2015-16, my girlfriend (now wife) and I decided I should apply to Duke since she had to stay in NC, but it was pretty late in the season. As such, I only had three days to prepare for the exam from the diagnostic. My V has consistently been around 165, +/- 2 points. However, I was able to boost my Q by about 6-8 points in that time using the Barron's GRE Prep book. I found it was very useful in getting me back up to speed in algebra and geometry in relatively short order, as well as giving test-taking strategies for certain types of questions. In my case, I was quite good at math in high school and early in college, but had just been away from it for about 5 or 6 years prior to the GRE, and I found the Barron's book to be a great refresher. I am pretty sure that if I had several months to prep (We decided, again, late in the season this year. I'm in my late 20s and my wife doesn't want me waiting anymore ?), the book alone would have gotten me closer to the mid-160s. As such, I really can't recommend it highly enough.

IMO it is MUCH easier to raise Q scores than V scores, so I think whatever you do will yield gains in the short-term. And apologies for the soliloquy above. I just figured it would be useful to understand the specific circumstances surrounding my prep, allowing you to judge the appropriateness of the Barron's book for your situation.

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