The 21st century is one full of mobile devices. Our iPhones and Androids have evolved from a means of communicating through phone calls and text messages to keeping in touch with long lost high school friends via “likes.” Now, we have the option to use our devices to socialize and prep for the GRE.
There are so many available apps on the market, finding the right one can be overwhelming. This article will review the best GRE apps and provide you with the proper guidance on how to integrate one into your study plan.
As a GRE instructor, I highly advise against studying for the GRE only using an app. Simply put, it will not adequately prepare you for the GRE in its entirety. It is vital students take full-length online practice exams (to familiarize themselves with the structure and timing of the test) and dive deep into prep books (so they can truly work through the nitty-gritty complex problems that make up the GRE).
With that said, I understand that we are all busy adults. I am sure most everyone reading this article has a weekly schedule consisting of classes, a job, or kiddos (or perhaps all three). Hence, a resource that can be utilized on-the-go can definitely be a GRE score booster.
Many of these apps were created by companies that also have GRE prep books. Their apps are essentially made up of the practice problems from their books. Hence, it can be redundant to go through a single company’s prep books and app. Also, I don’t feel it necessary for anyone to have multiple GRE apps; one should suffice.
An app should be a supplemental resource to your GRE prep books, so pick out your study books first; they are the most important. Once you have decided what books you want to utilize in your prep (see our article on Best GRE Prep Books), then pick an app that was either created by a different company or doesn’t overlap with the books you have. This way, you will optimize the number of GRE practice questions you get to work through as opposed to doing the same ones in a book and on an app.
When I first meet with a student and ask them what GRE material they have, many students tell me they have some type of app on their phone. My follow-up question is always “Awesome-how do you like it?” and you can bet your bottom dollar their response is “Well, I haven’t really used it.”
If you know you are the kind of person who downloads apps but doesn’t like to use them, then exit now. Apps are not for everyone and many of them cost money. So who should use an app?
If you are busy throughout the day, but have random moments of free time and like to spend it on your phone, then purchase an app. It can be much easier to go through GRE practice questions on your phone when you are at work or school eating lunch than pulling out a big prep book. Apps are great when you have under 30 minutes to study. However, if you have 30 minutes or more, I would advise using this time to work through a prep book.
Apps do not provide as many in-depth explanations as practice books and require spending time constantly clicking, scrolling, going back to questions or passages, etc. Also, every app on the market has several reviews from people claiming the app at some point was glitchy and required people to restart it (I think this is just the nature of apps sometimes).
The time spent navigating an app–or trying to make it work– is time that could be spent mastering GRE concepts. That is why I advise only using one if you have under thirty minutes to spare.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the best GRE apps available now.
Manhattan Prep offers a GRE prep app that includes a free three day trial (will be auto charged after the trial if you do not cancel subscription).
The app has a friendly user interface; the features of the app are organized and clearly displayed on the home page. There is a Quantitative Reasoning sections with 605 questions that are organized by math content. For example, you would click on “Algebra” and then “Inequalities and Absolute Values” before starting to work through questions.
The Verbal Reasoning section has 398 questions that are divided by question type, such as “Text Completion.” One challenging part about this portion of the app is the inability to view a critical reasoning passage and the question(s) at the same time. However, the app allows you to eliminate answer choices, which I thought was a wonderful feature because this is an important technique when taking the exam.
Whether or not a student misses a question, the explanation will appear on the screen. This feature is helpful, especially if you had guessed and got lucky. However, I do feel it best to be able to answer a few questions as opposed to constantly starting and stopping. Also, the explanations are very brief.
If you need a lot of help building your math fundamentals, this app is not going to help you. There isn’t a portion for students to study quantitative reasoning concepts and the math explanations are too simple to truly learn algebra, geometry and data analysis.
Another feature of this app is it has customized quizzes and vocabulary words that are divided up into “advanced” and “essential.”
Your progress is tracked in an easy-to-understand manner. The questions that make up this app are pulled from the Manhattan Prep 5 lb. Book of Practice Problems. Therefore, there is no need to work with that book and the app.
ETS, the creators and administrators of the GRE, have an app for students to utilize. The practice questions on this app will be as realistic as you can get seeing as ETS wrote them. This app allows students to quiz themselves on a single question type or multiple question types. Also, it provides category specific results that allow you to track your progress.
The questions come from the ETS Official Guide to The GRE General Test, 2nd edition. If you are going to purchase any type of prep books to prepare for the GRE, The Official Guides by ETS are the ones you should be getting.
Therefore, I only suggest this app for those of you who truly prefer to do things on your phone (get the Expansion pack). This app is also good for those of you who might be unsure if you actually want to take the GRE. Perhaps you would like to familiarize yourself with the exam a bit before purchasing prep material (get the Starter Pack).
The Starter Pack $4.99 Includes…
The In-app Expansion Pack $19.99
The GRE prep app by Magoosh is free for partial access. It is not as visually appealing as Manhattan Prep. Personally, I felt it had the feel of a newspaper or magazine app. With that said, there are a lot more resources for students to utilize regarding how to study for the GRE, putting together a prep plan, etc. that come in the form of articles.
Also, the Magoosh app offers video lessons for Math, Verbal and Writing. I felt this was a wonderful resource, especially for those who struggle to read long texts on their cell phones (personally, my eyes are hyper sensitive to screens due to being near and farsighted…yes, this is what requires bifocals).
After you complete a series of practice questions, you are able to view data on your performance such as the percent of questions you answered correctly, your average pace vs. other students’ average pace, along with the ability to see questions categorized as easy, medium or hard.
Unlike Manhattan Prep, the Magoosh app provides math fundamentals for students who need to build up their knowledge of algebra, geometry, and data analysis.
The Galvanize GRE app starts off by having students answer questions about their GRE test date, score goals, and current schedule (i.e. “I work full-time,” “student,” etc). Then you have the choice to practice Verbal or Math.
When you miss a question, the app will tell you if you got in wrong or not. Then, you have the option to review the question or move on. I appreciated this because I think it is important to work through several questions at a time before stopping to review explanations. Also, you will be able to see how long you spent on a question which can help you get a feel for properly pacing yourself.
The questions do not mimic the actual GRE questions as well as Manhattan Prep or Magoosh (visually or textually). With that said, the questions can definitely be good practice, particularly for those who just need to focus on working through math problems before they tackle GRE Quantitative Reasoning questions.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Galvanize GRE app was the ability to link your account to a friend’s (almost as if they wanted it to have a social media feel). You can see not only your progress, but your friend’s progress as well. If you have someone you are prepping for the GRE with, this tool can definitely help you stay accountable in your studying.
Just like the Galvanize GRE app, you will start off by answering questions regarding your GRE background, desire score, and target school. The interface of the READY4GRE app looks like a game board. It has a “map” that tracks your progress.
Students start off with an assessment test that will provide you with an estimated score for Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning and allow you to view explanations of the questions. The explanations are brief and do not emphasis test-taking strategies. However, they are easy to understand.
One wonderful aspect to this app is the math fundamentals it provides. Unlike Magoosh, the information comes in the form of text. After you finish reviewing a specific topic, you can then take practice questions where the app will track your time. As you go through the app and complete assignments, you will be awarded points. This also gives the app a type of online gaming feel.
The app can be free; however, advertisement pop ups will appear on the screen which can be very distracting. There is the option to upgrade, which I assume would make the advertisements disappear.
Another interesting aspect of this app was the list of tutors they have for you to look through. You are able to see where the tutor is located and request information regarding their rates through the app.
Remember, apps are not for everyone. However, if you have chosen to embrace modern day millennialism and enjoy completing tasks on your cell phone during a busy schedule, using one of the above apps can go a long way in your GRE prep.