Many of us might be familiar with The Economist when it comes to their weekly publication that covers World News, Politics, Economics, Business, and Finance. I am always telling my students to subscribe in order to start familiarizing themselves with the types of reading passages and vocabulary words they will encounter on the GRE.
What is less well known is The Economist GRE Tutor. This is their program meant to prepare students for the GRE General Test. When compared to other online test prep options, this program is relatively new. For the most part, it is a wonderful option for students who are new to GRE content and need to prepare for the exam on a budget.
The Economist GRE Tutor offers three different courses that vary by length of access. All prep options will cover the Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing sections. The classes take the form of online, self-paced programs that can adapt to mobile devices.
The Economist Tutor is made up of lessons that cover what students will see on their GRE General Test, GRE practice questions and explanations, along with full-length practice exams.
Personally, as I was going through the GRE Tutor program it felt as though I was interacting with a chatbot. As you go through a lesson, a slide will pop up with information and then prompt you to press continue in order to move on to the next slide. After several slides, a question will appear that you will need to answer correctly in order to move on. Don’t worry, you get more than one attempt. The tone of the questions and slides are conversational, hence why it felt like a chatbot to me.
The lessons are mapped out on the home page in a manner that looks similar to a board game. This interface allows students to see the lessons they have completed (finished lessons will have a check mark next to them) along with the upcoming lessons.
There are several aspects to The Economist GRE Tutor that are unique and highly beneficial for students. One of these resources is the “Ask-a-Tutor” feature. This will be displayed right on the dashboard and provides students with the opportunity to ask a tutor specific academic questions and get clarifications based on what they are currently working on. It is important to note this is not a direct message or chatroom. Students type up their questions and submit them. Therefore, you will need to wait for a response.
For larger academic issues and material-related questions, students can schedule live one-on-one sessions with GRE instructors. These sessions take place on your account and are similar to Skype. This feature, along with the Ask-a-Tutor, is very valuable for a self-paced program. It is unlikely a student can prep for the GRE without ever having additional questions. Unlike the programs that are instructor-led, self-paced courses can leave students frustrated if they cannot get clarification on specific topics. This personalized attention can ensure you have a solid foundation of knowledge.
Along with GRE tutors who will be there to help you along the way, the prep course provides tech supporters who are very quick to assist with any system malfunctions.
The program will ask you to put in your GRE test date (if you already know it) and will put together your lesson plan accordingly. Essentially, you will be prompted through the entire course. This takes the burden of trying to figure out what you should be working on, or which content you should prioritize, off your shoulders. All you have to do is press “Next” and answer the questions presented to you.
Your estimated GRE score and overall progress is displayed on the Dashboard. You can statistically track your learning process and see how much of the course you have completed along with how well you performed in each section. This feature will permit you to be able to quickly identify your strengths and weaknesses.
A huge con for me was just how structured the course was. Although students are prompted to either move on to the next section or continue with the content they are already learning about, there were times when I pressed “skip” and the program would not let me.
For example, the lesson was taking me through an overview of how the GRE is scored. This is something I am familiar with–and many students probably are as well–so when asked if I wanted a more in-depth explanation or if I wanted to skip ahead, I pressed skip. A slide popped up essentially saying “too bad,” and made me go through the slides providing an in-depth explanation to the GRE scoring process. I was not 100% sure why the system gave me the option in the first place if the algorithm was going to decide for me.
Overall, the program does not provide much flexibility when it comes to the order in which you learn information or picking and choosing lessons to cover versus lessons not to cover. If you are on a strict timeline, and want to prioritize a given portion of the GRE such as Math, or you are already familiar with parts of the exam, this will probably be frustrating to you.
With that said, the fact that the Economist GRE Tutor essentially makes students stay on track is beneficial for students who are truly just starting out with their GRE prep and feel lost on where to begin studying.
I did not find The Economist GRE Tutor to be nearly as engaging as other self-paced programs such as Manhattan Prep. There are no video lessons or filmed explanations throughout this course. All information is presented as pop-up paragraph explanations. Furthermore, the paragraphs had no clear structure.
For example, when learning about Text Completion, I wanted to be able to skim the paragraphs to quickly pass through the information on what these types of questions are in order to see what strategies The Economist Tutor was suggesting. There were no headers such as “Strategies.” I had to read through the paragraphs in order to find them.
It is essential that you can stay engaged by reading on your laptop, or mobile phone, if you are going to find success with this program.
The Economist Tutor offers up to six practice GRE exams–written by them, not ETS–that are meant to simulate the actual GRE. Students are able to track their results and see explanations to all of the questions that appear on the tests. For the most part, the questions reflect those that appear on the actual GRE and the explanations are clear and thorough. However, you will still want to make sure you take the practice POWER PREP exams, written by ETS, in order to get a true understanding of what the questions will look like on test day.
Furthermore, the exams not only provide the Analytical Writing (AW) section, but feedback from instructors referred to as “essay markings.” This feature is extremely rare among self-paced GRE programs. Unfortunately, many companies do not focus on preparing students for the AW section, and therefore students don’t always receive a score that is as high as their Verbal and Math.
Self-paced GRE programs are great for those who cannot commit to a scheduled weekly class. However, it is essential you are able to create your own schedule–even if it changes week by week–and stick to it. I always suggest planning out when you will be going through lessons, reviewing missed practice problems, and taking full-length exams for the upcoming week Sunday night. You should treat these scheduled times as if they were work and you cannot be late.
There are quite a bit of online self-paced GRE programs that offer video lessons and explanations such as Magoosh. The GRE Tutor is not one of those programs. You will be reading through lessons, test-taking strategies, and explanations. If you do not enjoy reading on your computer or phone (personally I am not a fan of reading on screens) this program is probably not a good fit for you.
Speaking of screens, this is an online program. It is essential you have a stable connection to the internet in order to keep up with the lessons and a computer or phone that you can clearly read on.
This course will start from square one when it comes to the GRE. If you have no idea what the exam tests, how long it is, the amount of questions per sections, etc., The GRE Tutor will change that! However, they make it very challenging to skip around. It is likely that if you are already familiar with the GRE and have been studying on your own, you will feel your time is wasted as you are forced to go through information you already know. On the other hand, if you don’t know much about the GRE, you can rest assured this program will not skip over valuable information.