The GRE isn’t easy, nor is finding the best GRE prep course. There are so many options, comparing all of them can feel as complex as a critical reading passage filled with words you wouldn’t even know were in the English language. However, if looking at the bigger picture (as any good reader should) you would notice most of the GRE prep courses are similar in price and structure.
The big test prep companies providing top GRE courses are in competition with one another. They have to keep their courses comparable if they are going to survive. This article will review the classes The Princeton Review and Manhattan Prep have to offer.
Due to the sheer size of these companies, their GRE courses are well-oiled machines that definitely can get students where they need to go with their GRE prep. However, the courses are not cheap–at least in my opinion. Therefore, I will also be reviewing a more affordable option.
Each company does have an aspect to their program that allows them to stand out. Overall, Manhattan Prep prides itself on compassionate, fun instructors who provide clear test prep strategies. Also, they have more diverse program options and make their courses as convenient as possible for students.
The Princeton Review focuses on their state-of-the-art technology that is constantly adapting to students needs and skill levels. Furthermore, their courses are known to go on sale during the slower seasons of GRE Prep. I am currently writing this article in March and their General Prep GRE class is discounted.
Manhattan Prep offers a General GRE Prep course with online, in-person, or self-paced versions. I feel the characteristic that separates Manhattan Prep courses from other companies is their practicality– especially for a working adult or current college student.
One aspect I highly appreciated was the payment plan options Manhattan Prep has to offer. Although the price of the courses are comparable to its competitors, the cost is not cheap. For an aspiring graduate/MBA student who might not have anywhere from $400-$1400 to spend at once, entering a monthly payment plan could be the difference between enrolling in the course and not enrolling.
Manhattan Prep’s self-paced online course offers videos that are highly interactive and adapts to what students need to work on. The program is made up of three levels that cover Math and Verbal that increase in difficulty. At the end of each level, students take a full-length practice test. Each level is made up of three components: Learn It, Drill It, Prove It.
In the Learn It section, there will be an instructor walking students through the topics, which definitely trumps simply listening to a voiceover. The Drill It section will start with very basic questions that will allow students to feel comfortable with the underlying strategies before moving on to GRE type questions in the Prove It section. As a GRE teacher, this is exactly how I structure my lessons with students.
Manhattan Prep prides itself on comprehensive classes that emphasize test-taking strategy, taught by fun instructors. As mentioned earlier, they also value convenience. Manhattan Prep makes it easy for students to sit in on make-up classes and also offers filmed versions of the classes for students to review.
Manhattan Prep ships the course materials to the student prior to class. Their courses not only include their books, but also The GRE Official Guide by ETS. The fact Manhattan Prep values this book enough to make sure it is included in the curriculum shows they have the students’ best interest at heart.
Kaplan is known for the high volume of materials they offer their students. Although their classes are not the most affordable, students receive an abundance of useful GRE prep resources: one of the most valuable being Kaplan’s Official Test Day experience. This is an opportunity for students to take full-length GRE like exams, written by Kaplan, at one of Kaplan’s testing centers. The testing conditions Kaplan creates will mimic your actual test day almost to a T.
Another resource I highly value is part of Kaplan’s online GRE Prep course. The class is lead by a single instructor, but there are multiple tutors leading group chats and can also answer your questions in a one-on-one chat box. Often, asking questions in an online class can be awkward as you can’t necessarily just raise your hand and be seen. Kaplan has found a way to address this problem.
Below is a list of what is included in Kaplan’s complete GRE courses. However, they do offer upgrades that include private tutoring sessions and self-paced math prep programs for those of you who might need to brush up on your math fundamentals.
One cool tool The Princeton Review has created is DrillSmart, producing drills that match s student’s skill level. It will auto-generate questions where students show they need improvement. Once students masters these types of questions, the algorithm will increase the difficulty level. I think this is a wonderful tool. Sometimes it can be difficult to pick out your own practice problems that will adequately challenge you. This is one of several tech-savvy aspects of their program.
The Princeton Review also has an interactive score report that allows you to easily see your strengths and weaknesses. This allows for a more focused test review.
This course will not only prepare you for the entire GRE General Exam, it includes a complete breakdown of math fundamentals for those who might be a bit rusty with algebra, geometry, and data analysis.
As mentioned earlier, I have noticed these courses can go on sale. This is definitely something to consider when choosing a course that works for you.
Although Magoosh only offers self-paced GRE online programs, they are comprehensive and will prepare you for Verbal, Math, and Analytical Writing. Similar to The Princeton Review, their course is known to go on sale.
Out of all of the self-paced prep programs, Magoosh definitely has one of the most flexible and easy-to-navigare interfaces. Every student has a dashboard with the option to pick their video lessons in any order or skip lessons altogether.
Students can also take a full-length exam whenever they are ready. This structure is wonderful for a student who does not feel they need help with every section of the GRE. However, if you are worried that there is too much course flexibility–don’t fret. Magoosh provides a weekly study plan for those who need more structure.
After every lesson, students have the option to take a lesson quiz. Students can also choose to customize their own quiz by picking the sections they want to be quizzed on, the number of questions, and length of time. A wonderful aspect about the quizzes is the ability to flag questions you know you would like to practice again at a later date.
However, after you submit an answer, the system will show you data on the difficulty level of the question along with your pace vs. the pace of other students. A written explanation and video explanation will also appear on the screen. I am a huge fan of data, but I also think it is important to answer questions without stopping to immediately view an explanation or mentally take in statistics. Processing unnecessary information between questions can exert mental energy. Personally, I feel it would be best to show this information after the quiz.
The Economist GRE General Prep, known as “GRE Tutor,” is a self-paced online comprehensive course. The program will focus on fundamentals, techniques for answering specific types of GRE questions, and test-taking strategies.
The GRE Tutor is similar to The Princeton Review in that they pride themselves on their tech-savvy program. The Economist GRE course uses artificial-intelligence technology to analyze your progress and prompt you with hints if you get stuck. The adaptive system will choose what to teach you and the difficulty level by analyzing your past performance.
Unlike the other self-paced programs, the GRE Tutor does not utilize video lessons. If you like videos, this is a con (and if you don’t, this would be a pro). However, the program includes one-on-one tutoring sessions, which is not common for most self-paced GRE courses.
On the student dashboard, there are different topics/lessons to click on. Once you click on a topic, such as Text Completion, the system will prompt you through the lesson and ask you questions along the way (it has a feel of talking with a chatbot).
There are three options for students to choose from. The most common course is the Premium.
If you have strong reading comprehension skills, and simply need to focus on GRE math, this class will be more economical than the GRE Complete Course.
Although this course does cover all portions of the GRE General Test, the emphasis will be on advanced mathematics topics–seeing as a high Quantitative Reasoning score goes a long way when applying to an MBA program.
Neither Manhattan Prep nor The Princeton Review offer a just Verbal class with an instructor. However, The Princeton Review does have a just Verbal course that is self-paced.
Most students who are preparing for the GRE are well aware of LinkedIn–the social media platform created for professionals and companies to build networks. What many people don’t know is that LinkedIn has “In Learning.” This is an online platform that offers video courses on a budget. The instructors who make these classes are experts in their field (some of the instructors who created the test prep classes offer private tutoring for $200-$300/hr).
One of the video courses they offer is a GRE test prep class for $34.00. This class will start from step one by explaining what the GRE is and break down the structure/scoring of the test. Then the teacher will discuss building a preparation schedule and cover the three portions of the GRE: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. The class focuses on test-taking strategies, which are presented in a clear and concise manner.
The videos are short and to-the-point, but you do not see the instructor (only hear his voice). Personally, I did not find it hard to stay focused as he was still very engaging. Keep in mind, it will be imperative you purchase study material (see our review on the Best GRE Prep Books) to work through in addition to this class.
The following programs are worth mentioning but did not quite make the list of best GRE prep courses.
Target Test Prep only offers online self-paced GRE Quantitative Reasoning prep. There are three options for students that simply differ in length of access to the program. The reason I found Target Test Prep to not be as competitive as Manhattan Prep’s math classes is primarily due to how Target Test Prep has structured its program.
The math lessons are not filmed videos led by an instructor– they come in the form of text. There are videos of instructors working through example GRE-like math problems; however, I found some of these videos to be very short. Furthermore, I feel Manhattan Prep’s written questions reflect the intricacy of those written by ETS a bit more than Target Test Prep.
With that said, while Manhattan Prep does offer in-person and online instructor led GRE math classes they do not offer a self-paced GRE math course. Manhattan Prep’s self-paced GRE class includes Math and Verbal prep. Hence, if your schedule will only permit you to take a self-paced math course, Target Test Prep is the next best option.
ExamPAL offers GRE online self-paced prep courses that include well-made, interactive videos led by an instructor. ExamPAL claims to be different than other test prep companies because of their algorithm, known as The PALgorithm. This computer program is designed to gather data on how you answer questions.
This data is then used to create a personalized program that can identify exactly why you are missing questions and correct your logic along with suggesting the best strategy for answering the question quickly.
My problem with ExamPAL was how it gathered the data. After every single practice question, students have to take the time to answer questions about their experience answering the practice question (even if they got the question correct).
Personally, I was so frustrated not being able to just go through several practice questions without having to answer questions regarding my method between each one.
The data you provide is used to suggest strategies to other students. Hence, the more data ExamPAL can gather from you, the better for them. I felt gathering this data was of higher priority than me being able to practice GRE questions.
If you have decided to take an online GRE course you will have two options: a scheduled online class that is pretty similar to an in-person class–everyone just logs into the “classroom” virtually– or a self-paced course that has no instructor.
GRE Online Classes
I am a firm believer that a student’s progress is only as great as their teacher. The most important element of any good GRE course is having an instructor who is able to convey complex information in a clear and engaging way. I cannot stress enough that not all masters are educators.
Working with a teacher who can consistently walk away with a perfect test score will not guarantee your own GRE score increase. The best way to get a sense of an instructor’s teaching style is to read past students’ reviews or try to get the instructor on the phone for a quick chat. An instructor should come off as compassionate and also stress that they teach both content and test-taking strategy. All of the companies I have recommended emphasize the value of a fun instructor.
Furthermore, curriculum will be a priority in any class that is worth taking. The class should include either books or online resources that will provide you with the opportunity to work through GRE-like practice questions.
GRE Self-Paced Courses
Since a self-paced course does not include an instructor, the most important element of the program will be the “lectures” that teach you GRE content and test-taking strategies. Some companies have self-paced programs filled with PowerPoint-like modules and some have videos. Regardless of the format, you should make sure the information is presented in an organized and clear way. A reputable test-prep company will allow you to get a sample of the lectures prior to purchasing the course.
Furthermore, you should look for a self-paced GRE course that allows you to easily track your progress and mastery of the material. All of the self-paced programs mentioned in this article will continuously update and display a student’s strengths and weaknesses somewhere on the dashboard.
Whether you decide to enroll in an online GRE class or self-paced GRE program, you should expect the course (if it’s a good one) to provide you with an abundant amount of practice materials. For an online class, this will probably come in the form of assignments you will need to complete between classes. If you are in a self-paced program, the practice material will come in the form of an assignment and/or quiz to complete before you move on to the next lecture.
Essentially, if you choose to enroll in a GRE course you should expect to spend a significant amount of time working through the practice GRE materials it provides. For those of you who want to take an online class, the instructor’s job is to give you the tools necessary for you to conquer the GRE. However, it is your job to practice the material and get comfortable with the tools they give you. You have to be willing to study between classes: memorize math formulas, complete practice reading passages, solidify all of the vocabulary definitions, etc.
For those of you who want to enroll in a self-paced program, you still need to be prepared to study independently from the course. You can complete a Geometry lecture and then work through some practice questions, but that will not mean you have all of your formulas memorized. Students who are not willing to put in at least several hours of studying every week will see little GRE score increase.
The downside of a GRE online class is the group setting and the inability to receive a lot of one-on-one attention. The downside of a self-paced GRE program is not being able to get any attention. In both cases, there might be a topic you need some extra help with but have no one to turn to.
The upsides to classes are they usually are more affordable than private tutoring, materials tend to be included, and students will be exposed to–at the very least–most of what they will see on test day. For these reasons, it is usually a good idea to start off taking a class or self-paced program before purchasing private lessons. Most of the companies that have been mentioned in this article provide in-person and online private tutoring (online being the most common).
After the completion of the class and once you receive your official GRE score report, you can use it to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. The sections you scored lowest in are probably the topics you needed a little extra help with. You can now purchase private lessons with clarity on what you and your tutor need to work on.
This is by far the hardest question I get as an instructor. All I can say is it depends! As mentioned, if you are not studying and completing homework assignments between classes it is likely your score will improve little. If you are putting in the work, your score should improve decently.
For the GRE, it is not uncommon for classes to strictly cover the Verbal measure or the Quantitative measure. Your goal should be around a 5-8 point score increase in the section that your class focused on. For example, if you took a Verbal course and your Verbal score went from a 150 to a 156, your class was a success. If you take a class that covers Math and Verbal, you should probably expect the same score increase just divided up between the two sections.
With all of that said, I urge you not to compare yourself to others and what appears to be the “average” score increase. We are all different and some of us might need more time to hit a particular target score. Try your best and give it all you got. Whatever the outcome is, be proud of yourself.
Hopefully, what might have felt like an overwhelming task–finding the best GRE prep courses–now feels a bit more manageable. I highly advise that you consider the information above, but also look into other options if none of these classes are exactly what you are looking for.