Test-Day Tips


A GRE Tutor's Review of Magoosh GRE Videos

If you've looked for GRE videos online, you've undoubtedly come across Magoosh GRE videos. The site offers videos on nearly every possible GRE topic, along with lots of practice questions, vocabulary flashcards, math formula sheets, and other GRE-related info. Magoosh GRE has an active blog with hundreds of articles about the GRE, including lots of GRE vocabulary articles. You can sign up for a one month plan for $129, or a six-month plan for $149.

There is a lot to like about Magoosh's GRE video course. There is a ton of information on their site - a lot of it is free - and the quality is good, in general. But as a GRE tutor who reviews a lot more prep material than the average test-taker, there are several things I don't like about Magoosh GRE that most people may not consider.

1. Watching videos is passive. To really get good at the GRE, I think it's better to struggle through problems on your own. Since there are so many videos on Magoosh and since it takes so long to watch them all, I'd advise that students make sure they're spending much more time working through problems than watching videos. If you have strong reading and/or math skills, reading a text explanation of a problem is markedly more efficient than watching a video explanation.


2. Speaking of problems, Magoosh provides a lot of GRE practice questions - over 1000. But they're Magoosh-written. Instead of working through Magoosh GRE problems, students should be working on ETS GRE problems, which are more complicated and consistent than Magoosh's (or than any third-party company's). If you do use Magoosh, make sure you also master ETS questions, since ETS writes the GRE. I have videos for all the ETS Math questions from its Quantitative Practice book on Youtube.


3. The slick marketing. Just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I've noticed that, in many fields, the true thought leaders do not have flashy marketing. They don't need it, nor do they have time for it. As a colleague of mine says, "There are businesspeople, and then there are educators." Also, Magoosh pays people to refer others to its videos by using affiliate marketing links. Many if not most of the popular GRE blogs I've seen have glowing "reviews" of Magoosh GRE... along with a discount code: if you use the code, the owner of the blog gets a commission. And of course, there are lots of reviews and testimonials for Magoosh GRE... on Magoosh's website. I have noticed that bigger, more popular companies in the test prep industry become entrenched because their size allows them to market to more people, which in turn, increases their size even more.


4. The score guarantee. Magoosh GRE promises you'll improve your total score by 5 points if you buy their premium subscription. But check out the fine print. You have to watch every single video (there are about 230) and do every single practice question (there are 1000+). And then you have to watch the video explanations for the questions you get wrong! That will take you more than 200 hours to do, and puts you in a bad position if you don't like Magoosh and don't have time to do all of that. I don't like that Magoosh ties its guarantee to just watching the videos. Watching is passive; doing GRE problems and reviewing them is what works to get better at the GRE. And a 5 point total score improvement? That's setting the bar pretty low.


5. The indiscriminate video library. For example, Magoosh has more than 30 videos spanning almost 3 hours just on how to do text completion questions! 3 hours?? WTF. Text completion questions are really not that complicated; there is no need to watch 3 whole hours of videos just on how to do them. In fact, I wonder if the average student has the patience to watch the 200+ videos in Magoosh's library. There doesn't seem to be any guidance on which are the most important videos. Quantity is not what should make you select a GRE prep product; quality should.

4 Things To Remember About Magoosh GRE

Despite all the flaws I've mentioned in my review, Magoosh is actually a good product... when weighed against the GRE prep industry as a whole. If you use it as directed, I'm sure it will help you, and if you'd rather watch videos than read a book, I would recommend it, with the following 5 caveats:

1. Check out my 77 Things To Do During Your GRE Prep blog for a complete list of everything you should do during your GRE prep. Are you in college? This blog gives you a year-by-year guide to GRE prep.

2. Remember, watching videos is not a substitute for working through GRE questions from scratch. Magoosh questions are not as complex or challenging as real ETS GRE questions.

3. Force yourself to analyze ETS problems; don't just rely on the Magoosh answer explanations. You need to be able to explain problems in your words and do them without any help, not just follow someone else's explanation.

4. Give yourself several months, since watching videos is a lot slower than reading a book. If you watched all Magoosh's videos, you'd still have a ton of work ahead of you.

5. You're using a one-size-fits-all course; be open to adjusting techniques if they don't work for you.

Vince Kotchian's GRE Video Course

Update: I am now a competitor to the Magoosh GRE video course: LinkedIn / Lynda.com just published my complete GRE video course, so you should take my review of Magoosh's GRE course with a grain of salt. :) But I seriously think my GRE video course is worth considering for a couple of reasons.

1. I get to the point. My GRE video course is a lot shorter than Magoosh's GRE video course, because I explain things a lot more efficiently than they do. To illustrate, my course is about 150 videos; theirs is over 230, and my average video length is about half theirs. They need 30 videos and 3 hours to explain text completions to you; I need 8 videos and you can watch them all in about 20 minutes.


2. Video quality. All my GRE videos were recorded and edited by Lynda.com and are easy to listen to and watch as a result.

The one big difference between my course and Magoosh's course is that I only provide practice questions for math concepts. Magoosh provides them for math and verbal, and attempts to write questions in the GRE's style. For math, this can help you get up to speed with concepts, but for verbal, I'd avoid Magoosh questions and only use ETS questions. And of course, make sure you eventually can do the ETS math questions as well.

A general warning: third-party-written GRE questions invariably don't play by the same rules the real GRE's will. This can make you develop bad habits, introduce confusion, and in general, prepare inadequately for the real test. Magoosh's GRE questions are sometimes harder than the real GRE's (for the wrong reasons, which doesn't help) and easier (which obviously doesn't help).

If you're interested in a GRE video course, you can check out my course here on Lynda.com. Here are a couple of sample videos for you from the course demonstrating some aspects of quantitative comparison technique and sentence equivalence technique.

Quantitative Comparison GRE video

Sentence Equivalence GRE video

I have all my GRE verbal and math technique videos on YouTube for free, as well! Check them out once you're ready to practice with official GRE material.


The Bottom Line

Since it's pretty hard to find a completely unbiased opinion on what material to use for GRE prep, I always advise that people shop around. Wait until you have more information if you're not sure about your decision about what materials or course of study to pursue. And realize that the consensus about certain products is often not very informed. Many reviews are written by people who have only used one or two GRE products and who therefore don't have a very broad perspective.

This can create a vicious cycle of low-information, since the more good reviews from inexperienced GRE studiers a product gets, the better it can seem. Try to also find reviews from multiple people who are experts in the field - once you read some of their thoughts, you'll have a more balanced view. And watch out for "reviews"! If someone is writing a "review" but making money if you click on their affiliate link, then that "review" isn't worth a hill of beans.

The time you spend on the front end regarding developing a smart GRE study plan will be well worth it in the long run. Don't give in to the tendency to make decisions too quickly when you're new to this stuff. Good luck, and happy GRE studying!

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