A GRE Tutor's Review of Magoosh GRE Videos
Dear reader: Long article ahead about Magoosh's GRE course, but I'll break it up with some funny GRE vocabulary cartoons.
TL;DR: Big brand names like Magoosh aren't good, since their practice questions and tests are unrealistic.
No one product will solve all your GRE needs.
The #1 thing to remember is this: you need to practice with official ETS GRE questions (and avoid Magoosh's questions).
If you've looked for GRE prep videos online, you've undoubtedly come across Magoosh's GRE video course. Magoosh's 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. There's a blog with hundreds of articles about the GRE, including lots of vocabulary articles, and various GRE study plans.
How much does Magoosh's GRE course cost?
As of November 1, 2019, you can sign up for a one month plan for $129, or a six-month plan for $149.
Fun fact: Magoosh is literally always "on sale". Their prices haven't changed in several years - but they know that pretending the prices are a limited-time sale gives people an incentive to buy before fully researching their product.
There are some things I like about Magoosh. They have a ton of information on their site - a lot of it is free - and the quality is good, in general. I especially like their GRE vocab flashcards app. But as a GRE tutor who has been doing this full-time since 2008, and who reviews a lot more prep material than the average test-taker, there are several things I don't like about Magoosh that many people may not consider.
(one of my GRE vocabulary cartoons. Get it?)
Is Magoosh GRE Good?
Here are 5 things I don't like about Magoosh's GRE course.
1. Watching videos is passive. To really get good at the GRE, 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.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that understanding the video explanation means you could do that, or a similar problem, on your own. See if you can do it yourself a day later to make sure.
The point of GRE prep is not to understand videos - it's to build the muscles to figure out complicated problems on your own. So you need to do more than watch.
But the biggest problem I have with Magoosh's videos is that they demonstrate unrealistic Magoosh-written problems - which leads me to my second point.
2. Magoosh provides a lot of GRE practice questions - over 1000. That might sound like a good thing. But they're Magoosh-written questions. This is a bad thing.
A general warning, here: third-party-written GRE questions, like Magoosh's, 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.
They may also drive you a little bit crazy! Magoosh verbal GRE questions can be extremely ambiguous (multiple answers may seem correct); Magoosh math GRE questions are often unrealistically time-consuming and calculation-heavy, and don't offer the logical reasoning opportunities that ETS GRE questions do.
Magoosh does provide 1, 2, 3, and 6-month study plans, but they aren't very objective - all involve heavy use of Magoosh questions. I have 1, 2, 3, and 4-month study plans that focus on official ETS GRE material.
Is Magoosh harder than the real GRE?
Magoosh's GRE questions are sometimes harder (for the wrong reasons, which doesn't help) and easier (which obviously doesn't help).
Comparing Magoosh GRE questions to real GRE questions is like comparing apples to oranges - they're just so different.
Instead of focusing on Magoosh GRE problems, students should be mostly 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.
(Businesspeople usually want to have our riches.)
3. The slick marketing. 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." Magoosh has spent millions on marketing and advertising its products, and was one of the first companies to market with GRE videos. This is one reason their brand name is so recognizable.
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. This is why 99% of the reviews of Magoosh you will find online are positive.
And of course, there are lots of reviews and testimonials for Magoosh GRE... on Magoosh's website, so of course, I am a little skeptical about those. :)
Sidebar: 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. Magoosh, for better or for worse, is one of those companies.
(I like the 2nd penguin's expression)
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. If you're serious, you should be improving 15 points or more.
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 230+ 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.
(I lol'ed when my illustrator sent this one)
4 Things To Remember About Magoosh GRE
Despite all the flaws I've mentioned in my review, Magoosh is actually an ok product... when weighed against the GRE prep industry as a whole. It is better than no prep at all. If you do buy Magoosh, please read these four warnings:
1. 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, so do not use them other than to get repetition with math concepts as needed. Yep, that means do NOT use Magoosh verbal questions at all - use ETS verbal only - and switch to ETS math as quickly as you can.
For math concept repetition, I like the Manhattan 5-lb book a lot better than Magoosh.
2. Force yourself to analyze ETS problems. You need to be able to explain ETS problems in your words and do them without any help, not just follow someone else's explanation.
3. Give yourself 3 or more 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.
4. You're using a one-size-fits-all course; be open to adjusting techniques if they don't work for you. In particular, you may need to talk through verbal questions with an actual human to fully understand them.
(gross, but memorable)
What is the best way to prepare for the GRE?
Part of the reason I'm writing this review is to try to convince you that you can effectively prepare for the GRE by yourself without spending money on anything other than the official ETS GRE books. My study plans are designed to show you exactly how to do that. Big company GRE prep can and usually will waste your time and money.
But I get it - some of you want more guidance. The promise of buying a product that seems as though it will take care of all your GRE problems is really appealing. Unfortunately, Magoosh is not a complete solution - nor is any GRE product - and the sooner you realize that, the better, so you can develop a study plan that actually covers everything you need.
Vince's GRE Course
I am now a competitor to the Magoosh GRE video course: I just published a GRE verbal-only course called GRE Verbal Precision.
P.S. Looking for help with GRE math, too? Try my GRE math customized plan, or for a more affordable option, try Quantum Grad Prep's GRE math video course. Both of our math courses focus on official ETS GRE material.
Sooooo.... you should probably take my review of Magoosh's GRE course with a grain of salt. :) But I think my GRE video course is worth considering for four reasons.
1. I actually use official ETS GRE questions, unlike Magoosh, and unlike any other big GRE course for that matter. (If you sign up, I mail you the ETS Verbal Practice book.)
Using authentic verbal questions to help you precisely understand how the real GRE works is absolutely crucial, and is what sets my course apart more than anything else. This costs me more money but is better for you.
2. I get to the point. My GRE verbal video course is a lot shorter than Magoosh's GRE verbal video course. This is a good thing; quality > quantity.
Remember, Magoosh needs 30 videos and 3 hours to explain text completions to you. I need 7 videos and you can watch them all in about 20 minutes. After doing this for 11 years, I can explain things really efficiently!
3. I include 1400+ illustrated GRE vocab words like the ones you've seen in this article with the course.
4. You get optional weekly office hours with me for one month - and talking through things with someone with a lot of experience can add a lot of value.
You can preview my course here.
(it gives you wings)
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 (ahem... Magoosh...)
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. A great place to do this is the GRE subreddit. No promotion is allowed, so you'll see real people going through the same struggles you are. If you hang out there for a while, you'll also see some tutors' and prep companies' recommendations (Spoiler: ETS material is king, and u/gregmat is a saint).
Also: 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. There are companies that literally make millions of dollars "reviewing" products and services - but you'll notice most, or all, of the "reviews" are quite positive! These companies don't care about your success... they just want you to buy ANY of the courses they review so they can get an affiliate commission.
If you're looking for free GRE material and advice, there's so much good stuff on YouTube - check out my channel for starters.
I have a ton of free GRE info on my blog, as well.
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! Let me know if you have any GRE prep questions.
Ok, one more mnemonic:
(I hope you pick up your dog's poop - if not, we can't be friends.)