Dear PoPville – Where to Take GRE Courses?

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“Dear PoPville,

The recent post about suggestions on where to take affordable classes made me think your readers might know about affordable GRE courses or tutors. I looked online at Kaplan and Princeton Review which of course are very expensive. I’d like to know how other people in DC have studied for the GRE.”

36 Comment

  • I saved the cash and bought a couple of books instead. The programs that come with the books are really helpful. Studying on my own and repeatedly taking the practice tests worked for me. I didn’t think the class would offer anything else worth the money, and I ended up satisfied with my scores.

    • +1,000

      The courses are so overpriced. Better to get a book. I recommend the “100 things to know” series for both math and vocabulary sections.

    • Yup, ditto on the books approach. Save your cash for when you’re a poor-ass grad student.
      My experience was that the test was like any other, if you’re good at taking standardized tests, you’ll do well. If not, lean on your grades and experiences. Don’t sweat the test, just get it over with asap.

  • Books and practice tests worked for me, too!

  • Princeton Review and Kaplan courses are expensive because they have to pay for access to old GRE test questions, pay instructors, and make a handsome corporate profit. These courses will improve your score though! I have taught for Kaplan and taken the Princeton Review course. Both companies offer tricks and techniques that will improve your score, but the PR course is better.
    Before taking a course, ask yourself:
    1) How good would I do on the GRE without the course?
    2) Do the programs I’m applying to even give a rats ass about GRE scores (mine didn’t)?
    3) How good am I at studying on my own vs learning from an instructor?
    If you are good at self study, find someone with a copy of the GRE books which contain old questions. You might even be able to find these free online. I suspect that the Kaplan and PR test materials have been leaked, but I dunno.
    If you need an instructor, you will probably need to shell out some money. Alternately, try finding a private tutor that will work for cheaper than the Kaplan/Princeton Review prices.

    • I know Princeton Review offers an online only version. One thing to remember is the books you buy in the stores aren’t the same as the ones they use in class. Even the class versions leave out a lot that is suppose to be filled in by the instructors.

      One suggestion is to put an ad on craigslist looking for a tutor. I know as a former teacher when I tutored I got about 1/3 of what the company charged. Split the difference and you might find some takers.

  • If you were in school recently, you probably still have the right study skills to prepare without professional help. Buy some books and take old GRE exams, even if they are on paper (I think the real exams are all electronic nowadays). Really, the most important thing you can do is know what the test will look like, and what kind of questions to expect.

    Some years ago, I taught the verbal sections for SAT, GRE, and GMAT prep for a little while, and yes, there are some good tips you can learn from a course, but the books will probably teach you the same.

  • I would suggest not taking a course for the GRE. It is not like the LSAT where there are specific strategies you need to master, and where you will encounter questions that are unlike other tests you have taken in the past–it’s pretty straight forward. I got two books–one Baron, one Kaplan. I read one of them cover to cover (the Baron one–I recommend this highly if you want a math refresher, it’s a lot of math I hadn’t done since high school since I am a humanities person). Kaplan was more helpful for verbal, and the flash cards are very helpful. Besides being insanely expensive (and thus unethical in my opinion, but that’s another discussion), for the GRE I think they are somewhat unnecessary.

    • You don’t need a class for the LSAT, either! Most test strategies you can easily learn from a book. I took the LSAT without a class and did better than 90% of my friends who took the Kaplan course.

      I’m studying for the GRE now and am hoping that my refusal to pay for classes works for this exam as well.

      • Just because you didn’t need the LSAT class doesn’t mean others don’t need it either.

        I studied on my own, took the LSAT, then took a class and took the LSAT again and I increased my score by 12 points. As a result I got into a school to which I hadn’t previously even thought about applying.

        My class was at Strategy Prep.

      • That might be true. I am just speaking from the folk wisdom (that I’ve heard) of law school students and hopefuls that says you HAVE to take a class to do well on the LSAT, and it will raise your score by a bunch, which is why I think the whole thing is unethical. If you can afford to drop a grand, or a few, you will get a better score and get into a better school. Seems pretty shitty.

        • Yeah. If you can learn a strategy by someone explaining it to you in a class, you can learn the same strategy by reading it in a book. That’s what I did. It took a ton of studying, but it was was well worth the money I saved.

          Oh, except then I decided not go to law school. 🙂

  • A friend says that the DC libraries have access to a lot of test prep also (including some online according to her). I didn’t find out til after I took the test, but could be worth checking out.

    • They’re definitely worth checking out. DC Public Library has 2 different databases offering multiple GRE practice tests, and why buy expensive GRE practice books when you can get them at the library for free?

    Sherpa prep is good and cheap (450). If you get amigos to sign up, it’s even cheaper. With regard to books, avoid Princeton review because they’re terrible. Kaplan has the best books by far.

  • There are a number of great universities in town that don’t require GREs (Hopkins, Catholic). Know which program you want to apply to before wasting your money!

  • I don’t think you need to study or take a course at all. I got a book out from the library and took a sample test just to get a feel for it. As long as you read and use basic math occasionally you don’t need to teach yourself anything new.

  • What about GMAT? Do the books suffice?

    • I guess it depends on how you learn. I took the GMAT prep class from Kaplan. It’s nice to have an instructor walk you through specific problems you can’t figure out. It also helps establish structure and discipline into your study time, in case you want to do their “greater score guarantee”.

    • Veritas worked wonders for me. Took an intensive math class (10 hours a day for a saturday and sunday) one weekend and took the exam the following week, raised my score by 50 points.

    • Without a doubt, the most useful thing I did in preparation for the GMAT was tutor middle/high school kids. GREAT practice in math fundamentals and vocab, and a good deed at the same time! Definitely takes some forethought and commitment though.

  • I know some former kaplan instructors, and they all say that what makes the company’s strategies work (hence the higher-score guarantee) is that they actually make you sit down and do the work. You only get the money-back guarantee if you come to EVERY class and turn in EVERY SINGLE homework assignment. If you can be that disciplined working from a book on your own, you’ll save a lot of money.

    • Exactly! I think it is the discipline of the class is what makes people do well. If you actually sit down and work through an entire book or two and take regular practice tests, you can get just as good a score.

  • I took a course from Clayborne Education in Charlottesville, VA. My mother knows the main tutor there and he said he could tutor me via SKYPE and also using an online whiteboard system. As someone who could not do math to save my life, his one-on-one tutoring really turned my score around (raised it 300 points!). I took a Kaplan course for the SATs back in my high school days, and I really prefer the personal tutoring I got from Clayborne. He was really great at assessing my strengths and weaknesses and compared it with the course and school I wanted to get into. 40 hours of tutoring was $900. I don’t know if that’s out of your price range but I felt like it was worth it for me.

  • first off, I apologize that life makes you take this truly horrendous exam. I took it twice, and loathed every second.

    but this helped – also free!

    practice questions, helpful tips, and also tracks how well you’re doing and what you should be focusing on. it helped me a lot!

  • El Sok beat to recommending Sherpa Prep – I’m really happy with the GRE class I’m taking from them right now. While a Princeton Review book worked for me ten years ago when I was still in college and accustomed to taking standardized tests, I needed a class this time around and I was pleasantly surprised to find they have good instructors and materials at half the cost that Kaplan charges.

  • I am terrible at standardized tests but my gf and i got the books and took practice tests. the math workbook is especially helpful

  • Griffon Prep at Q & 16th! I took their GMAT class and it was excellent. Small class sizes, really bright teachers and a very well organized structure. It’s a small company, but well worth their somewhat high asking price for a 10 week class (~1100$). It’s a really good way to get one on one and small class instruction on the nuances and strategies of standardized testing.

    PS – I swear I don’t work for them

  • austindc

    I studied for the GRE with a book from Princeton Review, and it was helpful. I think it was most helpful for the essay section–it gave me a lot of good points on how to construct my argument.

    I personally don’t think the classes add that much, but if you are going to go with someone, go with Kaplan who is pretty much the only company that can demonstrate that their classes help improve scores (on average in their population of students), though only a little bit. Most of what you’re going to learn is about test taking strategies, especially for GRE, which is a computer adaptive exam.

    And I’ll just add, as a dude who works on standardized tests for a living, the GRE is pretty well designed and has good predictive validity for correlating with first semester graduate school GPA, though they had those scoring problems a few years ago–yikes!

  • I had the barron’s book and studied on my own and would tear apart every practice test question to understan not only why an answer was right but also why it was wrong.
    I carried a little notebook of words around for months to bone up on GRE vocab.

    I did take an LSAT course and it was fantastic and my score was worth the investment – though I didn’t end up going to law shcool (thank god!)

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