Jump to content
kimchijajonshim

Review of Resources Used: Magoosh, Manhattan Prep Practice Tests, and GRE Official Guide / PowerPrep

Recommended Posts

Just for future reference. I had to cram my studying into 3 weeks, so I had a hell of a time finding good, solid resources on a quick timeline. I supposed it worked, as I scored well and improved significantly from my first (untested) diagnostic test.

 

It's late, I'll edit this in the morning, but it gets my initial thoughts out.

 

Manhattan Practice Tests - 1 Year Access ($30)

6/10

+ Adaptive computer practice tests

+ Questions randomly pulled from a pool on the fly

+ Six unique practice tests guaranteed, but unlimited tests for a 1 year period

+ One free trial test

 

You cannot do questions in isolation, only in the context of practice tests. The inability to break questions out from practice test setting was annoying. You can't "re-do" questions until you've done at least 6 tests, at which point you can reset the questions and hope you come across a particular question again. In that respect, far inferior to Magoosh.

 

These were the first resource I used. Honestly it freaked me out. I was scoring in the high 150s, low 160s, which was significantly lower than I expected. As it turns out, these questions are WAY, way harder than those on the actual test. On the Power Preps and the actual tests, I would finish up quant with may 5-8 minutes to go. With these, I was running out of time and often just throwing out guesses on questions. The tests are a great training tool because they are harder than the questions on the GRE, but they're a poor diagnostic tool because it's not accurate.

 

Be warned, their data analysis questions are terrible. Flat out terrible. Their questions are ambiguous, their charts are poorly laid out, "approximated" answers are too close together, and their charts are often too large to comfortable see and compare. I had to often scroll back and forth between two charts, which you will NEVER have to do on the GRE. I even saw a few typos. Really, really poor showing in that respect.

 

They provide a lot of data about questions, but it's not presented intuitively or in a manner that's particularly useful. For example you can isolate by question difficulty or by question, by not by question difficulty THEN by question type. You can play with them in Excel to make this work, but they really should do this for you. The UI they use to generate score assessment reports is also not very good.

 

Magoosh Premium  ($99)

9/10

+ Hours of video for verbal, quant, and AWA.

+ Video explanations for each question.

+ 585 quant practice questions, 545 verbal questions

+ Can generate "practice tests" from the pool of practice problems

 

By far the most useful LEARNING resource I used. I zoomed through the math video content really quickly (in a couple days, over the course of maybe 3-4 hours). The math videos were very helpful with useful tricks and tips. Even when I knew how to do things, I learned a few neat tricks I found really helpful.

 

Their practice questions are great, on average significantly harder than what's on the test. Each question has a video explanation and links back to the relevant lessons, so it's quite simple to work through. They also have a much more robust, intuitive data analysis tool than Manhattan that lets you identify your weaknesses and mess around with settings on the fly.

 

Similar to Manhattan, my practice tests with Magoosh underestimated my score. But I as a practice tool, it was much more on point. The questions themselves seemed better, and I could more easily repeat specific questions I either got wrong or "flagged" as particularly difficult.

 

I didn't go through a ton of verbal, but their verbal questions don't seem to be as on point as their quant. I got roughly 20-25% of questions wrong, whereas on the official materials I got more like 10% wrong. Can't put my finger on it, but they were for me at least much harder than actual verbal questions.

 

Magoosh Vocabulary Builder Android App (Free)

2/10

To me, this app was useless. It's set up like a game, where you are given a word and then given 4 possible definitions. If you get it wrong, you will see that word 3 more times before you "master it". I found this really pretty much useless. First, you're never going to see a word like this on the GRE, except MAYBE in a reading comp question. More likely you need to be able to see a word and know its meaning, rather than identify its meaning from 4 choices. Additionally, the meanings were often truncated and it had no way of dealing with words with multiple meanings. I went through the entire thing and learned very little. Time wasted. Should have gone straight to the flash cards app.

 

Magoosh Flashcards Android App (Free)

7/10

This app could be great with a few tweaks, but as is it's just a useful but flawed tool. Great for a free tool, I suppose. It's similar to the Vocab Builder in that it repeats vocab words you don't know. You see a "flashcard," "flip it", and either pick "I knew this word" or "I didn't know this word." If you didn't know the word, you will see it 4 more times and you must "know" it before you "master" it. Really, really useful tool for improving vocab. The biggest issue with this is the way that you can't flag particularly hard words. For example, each flash card deck is 50 words or so. But you can't flag words that are giving you trouble and mix them in with other words from other decks. Worse than that, the algorithm for showing words is random, so you might see the same word three times in the span of six cards, even if you've "mastered it." So rather than being able to go through just maybe 2 troublesome words in a 50 word deck, you have to go through not only the entire 50, but 100+. And you could go through those 100+ and still not see the 2 words you need to learn. Great the first time through, but really frustrating on a refresher. 

 

Official Guide to the GRE Revised Test, 2nd Edition (~$20)

2/10

I breaking this out into two sections, the guide as a didatic book and the guide as a practice tool. As a teaching tool, this thing sucks. It's not in-depth enough to teach it from scratch, but too in-depth to be a good just general overview kind of guide. I thought in particular the whole "union" of two data sets (A B) versus the "intersection" of two data sets (A ∩ B) thing was particularly laughable. It takes a relatively simple, intuitive concept and then throws in a bunch of technical math terms and unnecessary abstraction.

 

GRE Official Guide Tests / Power Prep

9/10

The GRE comes with 2 paper tests (more questions and more time than computer, non-adaptive) and 2 tests on disc. These computer tests are also available for free download as Power Prep II software.

 

I found this to be the most useful diagnostic tool. I don't know what to say except these were the most accurate representation of what was on the test, because they were made by ETS. They put my mind at ease because I scored much better on them than on Manhattan and Magoosh equivalents.

 

One caveat, if you are a high scorer (high enough to get the "hard" section your second time through), you will probably run into harder problems on the real test than on Power Preps. I don't believe the Power Preps are adaptive, and I recall at least 3-4 questions on both quant and verbal which were significantly harder than anything I remembered from Power Prep. It's not a gamechanger, but something to be aware of. If you receive the medium or easy section, it should be a relatively good representation of what you'll see on test day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting this. I am taking the test in a couple weeks and have been preparing with all of the material you mentioned as well. I am pretty happy to see that someone else agrees that the Manhattan prep tests are much harder than ETS questions; it seems, based on this site, that most people think the Manhattan tests are pretty interchangeable with the official material, but I agree with you in that they are harder - at least from a technical perspective. I recently picked up the new official Quant and Verbal practice books from ETS (I wanted more official questions) and these on the whole I find MUCH easier than Manhattan and obviously Magoosh. I feel like ETS involves more tricky "logic" but require less mathematical knowledge, if that makes sense. 

 

I was also freaking out after taking my 5th Manhattan practice test with disappointing scores - I do much better on the ETS material. 

 

One question though; did you work out the relationship between the percentage of correct answers on the Score Conversion Table in the "Official Guide to the GRE Revised Test, 2nd Edition"? It seems that, with 70% of correct answers on Quant (i.e. 35/50 correct) only gives you a score of 158. Is this reflected on test day?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for posting this. I am taking the test in a couple weeks and have been preparing with all of the material you mentioned as well. I am pretty happy to see that someone else agrees that the Manhattan prep tests are much harder than ETS questions; it seems, based on this site, that most people think the Manhattan tests are pretty interchangeable with the official material, but I agree with you in that they are harder - at least from a technical perspective. I recently picked up the new official Quant and Verbal practice books from ETS (I wanted more official questions) and these on the whole I find MUCH easier than Manhattan and obviously Magoosh. I feel like ETS involves more tricky "logic" but require less mathematical knowledge, if that makes sense. 

 

Yea. I don't see how the Manhattan tests are "interchangeable." You could maybe make the case that they're not "harder," just more time consuming... but again, that changes a lot in times of the experience and time management. If I were doing it again, I would probably give myself at least 20% extra time on Manhattan tests, period. And I agree with the ETS having trickier "logic" than Manhattan. I think Magoosh is much, much better about emulating this, although Magoosh takes it to an extreme sometimes with tricky little details like the distinction between "numbers" and "integers", zero being an even number, etc. I don't remember that being relevant once on the test.

 

One question though; did you work out the relationship between the percentage of correct answers on the Score Conversion Table in the "Official Guide to the GRE Revised Test, 2nd Edition"? It seems that, with 70% of correct answers on Quant (i.e. 35/50 correct) only gives you a score of 158. Is this reflected on test day?

I didn't work a specific relationship and I didn't get a score breakdown on test day, so I couldn't tell you what percentage nets what. I think a lot of it depends on the specific test, particularly with the paper tests. If you'll notice, the scoring rubric on Paper Test 1 is much more lenient than Paper Test 2, which is likely because it's harder. A note: I scored a bit lower on the paper tests than I did on test day, Power Prep was by far the most accurate predictor for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does Magoosh offer any free math prep that you are aware of? I also wasn't happy with ETS and my test is in a week so I feel stuck.

They have math flash cards (https://gre.magoosh.com/flashcards/math/decks), but I can't imagine those being terribly helpful. Knowing the concepts is one thing, being able to apply them is completely different.

 

If you have the time to grind away on math questions over the next week (minimum say 2 hours a day, ideally more like 3-4) I'd suck it up and just buy the math-only Magoosh package ($80). Little pricy, but that's basically the price of one application and it'll be worth it if it bumps your score by any appreciable margin. The Magoosh math questions were by FAR the most useful tool for drilling and learning math, and I jumped about 10 points thanks to them.

 

A cheaper option is Manhattan's "challenge problems" (http://www.manhattanprep.com/gre/store/item/gre-challenge-problems/) for $8. These are 150 apparently stupid hard questions that the Manhattan curriculum guys geek out over (not sure what the quant to verbal break down is). Given that Manhattan questions are ALREADY significantly harder than what's on the actual test, I don't think this would be all that helpful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will vouch for the Official Guide to the GRE, particularly the writing sections, which was my weakness.

 

They give great sample responses to the prompts and do a fantastic job explaining the reasoning behind the scores. From reading their 6-score responses, you can deconstruct each paragraph to create a basic template for how to write your essays. I got a 6 on both essays, and my weakness is actually in writing essays. Well, that and maybe a few reading comp questions ;)

 

I took the computerized version of the test, so the PowerPrep CD that comes with the book was particularly useful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.