One of the toughest decisions students face while studying for the GRE, is figuring out how to kick-start their preparation. While some prefer good old private tutoring or in-person coaching classes, others think that an online prep course is the order of the day. Some even believe that self-study is the only way out.
What about you? Are you still trying to decide which route you should take? Are you confused between in person classroom coaching or study from home online prep? Here are some of the benefits of online GRE prep to help give you a more detailed picture, so you can choose wisely.
1. Flexible and Convenient
Today, most GRE aspirants have one major constraint when it comes to studying: time. You spend almost 10 to 12 hours every day on college, social life, extra-curricular activities, travel, volunteer commitments, hobbies, parties, family obligations, and other personal commitments. Having so much on your plate already, the last thing you want to do is choose a time-intensive GRE prep course. Opting for an intensive in-classroom GRE coaching means that you will have to sacrifice some of your daily “rituals” so you could find those extra two or three hours for GRE classes.
And in case you miss a few classes due to unavoidable reasons, you cannot retake them. Studying for the GRE when the clock is after you is going to be quite a challenge, and to keep up with the rigorous syllabus and competitive class environment isn’t going to be easy. After all, your time is precious, and in whatever little time that you have, you will not only have to study for the GRE, but also take care of other things like college applications. And because you cannot skip a class on any day, you have no choice but to attend, irrespective of whether you have the time or energy to do so.
But, choosing an online GRE prep course means that you can prepare your own schedule, study whenever and wherever you want, skip classes on days you don’t feel like studying or when you don’t have the time, and finish as much syllabus as you want any day. You can be at your home, or at a friend’s place, or a coffee shop, or the park; doesn’t matter, you can study wherever you want to.
2. Personalized Learning
What happens when you are in a class and the teacher is explaining something you already know very well? Can you ask them to just skip that part and move on to the things you really “need” to learn? No. If you are already a math champion, or if you don’t need coaching on how to solve essay questions, you still can’t help but go through the class, just because your classmates need to learn them. But, can you afford to waste your time for their sake?
In order to cut down on the time you spend prepping, you would want to spend all the available time and energy on the things that you need the most. Smart students make sure they spend their time effectively. You can tailor your course to meet your needs, choose to learn only the things you want, and skip off the rest. An online GRE prep can help you better manage your prep time and make the most out of it.
3. Radio vs. iPod
If you are struggling with a concept or a question and need help, you probably won’t get it while you are in class. Often times, the tutor will not repeat a concept or a lesson unless most of the class doesn’t get it. The coaching institutes have their time limits, and hence the tutor cannot afford to spend ten minutes explaining one question to you when he can use that time to finish a new concept. Which is why you will have to meet your tutor separately after class, or at a time when s/he is available, and get your doubts clarified.
With an online GRE prep, you can pause a lesson whenever you want, take down notes at your will, and repeat a particular topic as many times as you need, at a time of your choice. No extra fee, or extra effort is necessary. If you have a query you need to resolve, you can speak with mentors at any time of the day.
To make things a bit clear, let’s look at this analogy: it is like listening to your favorite song on the radio vs. on your iPod. While you can repeat the song as many times as you want, when you want on the iPod, you simple can’t do the same on the radio.
When you are in a class of 10-15 students, it can be tricky for the tutor to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how to maintain your strengths, while improving on your weaknesses. Since there are many students the tutor has to cater to, you will not be their number one priority, and you will sometimes be neglected.
With an online GRE prep course, however, technology streamlines the process for you. Online courses employ adaptive technologies and algorithms that adapt to your performance, and help you target your weaknesses while strengthening what you already know. As a result, you get a course that adapts continuously to you, based on how you perform, and hence help you get a higher score on the GRE.
5. Cost effective
There is a great variety of in-classroom GRE prep courses, and most of them are quite expensive. Ranging from $500 to $5000, in-person coaching can set you back by a lot, depending on where you live, and what type of program you choose. And don’t even get me started on private one-on-one tutoring; they cost as much as $500 per class, depending on how good and how experienced the tutor is.
If registering yourself for the test costs you 195$, imagine how costly these prep courses can get. Now, when it comes to online GRE prep, the price tags are much lower, and offers a great opportunity to get a score of your dreams, while still saving your pocket. Most online prep courses cost less than $200, and you can save tons of money that you will need to spend on applications (while cost around $60-$100 per university) and other expenses like admissions consulting and the such.
So, don’t spend unnecessarily on coaching classes, while you can learn the same stuff online at a lighter price. However, if you are concerned that an online course may not work for you, pick a course with a higher score guarantee, or a money back guarantee.
6. Up-to-date Content
If you take a look at most in-classroom test prep companies, the material doesn’t change much, if not at all. Most of their questions and lessons stay the same from year to year. However, online prep courses have the flexibility to alter existing questions and lessons based on data analysis. The product developers and expert trainers use real-time performance data provided by you when you use the online course, and continually improve the content in lessons and questions, and the scoring algorithms of the practice tests.
What this means to you is, the quality of the content (questions, explanations, reading passages, videos) doesn’t stay stagnant. It is an ever improving process; a quick process. Now I don’t mean to say that offline, in-classroom coaching institutes don’t change their data. They do, but it takes a lot of time, and often times, the benefactor won’t be you, but someone in the next batch/year. On the other hand, when it comes to online courses, if developers find that something needs to be changed, the problem can be fixed in a few minutes, and you benefit out of these changes.
7. Social and Community Support
Social interaction isn’t usually something that occurs to you, when you think of online GRE prep. And there is a common misconception that an in-person class is more interactive and social than an online course. But in many ways, an online GRE course isn’t where there is only you staring at the computer screen for hours together.
Actually, an online course is more social and interactive, when compared to a classroom. Online GRE prep courses have social features like message boards, forums, groups, and private chats that not only are fun to use, but also give you more ways than you would expect to interact with other students, instructors, assistants, and sometimes, students who have used the service previously. You will even find yourself asking questions you would be too embarrassed to bring up in a classroom, because when it is online, you don’t have to face the embarrassment. Nobody knows who you really are, and you can put this anonymity to good use by not only asking questions and getting your doubts clarified, but also by helping others out with their problems.
Also, these forums and message boards help you in more ways than the GRE. They are a community, where you can find friends who have a similar interest so you all can meet and study together. Also, you can find students who are looking to join a similar course, or the same college, which helps you in learning and coordinating things.
8. Test-like Environment
Think about it. The GRE itself is a computer adaptive test. And whether you appreciate it or not, it is going to stay that way. Whether you enjoy taking a test on the computer or on paper, the GRE is available only on the computer (except in a very few countries). So, if you think about it, it makes sense to study on the computer, solve questions on the computer, and take practice tests on the computer. You’ll not only get used to reading complex questions and passages on the screen, but you will also get used to the rigor of taking a 4 hour long test on the computer, working on your scratch paper, and not lying on the couch, watching TV, while solving problems. This will help you a great deal on test day, as you are already used to such an environment for quite a while now.
9. Saving Mother Earth
Although saving the earth may not seem like an immediate priority to you now, especially when your GRE is fast approaching, you can rest assured that by choosing an online GRE course, you won’t be adding to the carbon footprint at all. No books and no papers, means you will not only save money, but also a few trees. By choosing an online prep, you’ll be doing a world of good to the planet, while actually sitting at home. Who knows? Maybe this good karma will reflect on your GRE score. 🙂
10. Performance Tracking
Picture this. You take a test at the coaching center over the weekend, and go home. You’ll only know the result in the next class, or maybe the next day. In contrast, the GRE gives you an instant score. And there is another catch here. Often times, you will only receive the score report, but not an analysis. Sure, the tutor might give you some tips and strategies to avoid mistakes, but how does s/he track it? Forget about them; how do you track your own performance? How can you remember what mistakes you made in a test that you took six weeks ago? How do you know whether you have improved your skills or techniques compared to the previous week when all you have are some numbers (scores)?
This is where an online GRE prep comes into play. The moment you finish a test, you receive a full analysis of your performance along with the areas where you are strong and weak at. And this data is going to be there, even after several weeks, so you can actually compare your performances over the course of time. This not only helps you gauge your performance, but also allows your mentor/tutor to analyze your strengths and weaknesses with a single click. This not only helps you improve faster, but also fosters a great way of learning, about both the GRE, and your performance.
11. One-on-One Mentoring
Almost all coaching institutes don’t have a solid mentoring system, and no dedicated mentors (apart from your tutor) to coach you on your weaknesses. And more often than not, in-classroom coaching has a particular sequence that every institute follows: The tutor teaches the lessons, gives you homework, and gives you solutions in the next class, and starts a new topic or a lesson. This cycle repeats on and on. But the problem with such an approach is, you would expect constant support from the tutor, especially when you are stuck with a problem at home. There is no point in clarifying your doubts the next day or even maybe the next week. If I were a student practicing problems and I am stuck somewhere, I would want to clear my doubts then and there. If I had to wait until the next class, I would rather ask for help on forums online.
But when you subscribe to an online program, you will be assigned a dedicated mentor, who is always in contact with you via phone or email, so that you can seek help whenever you need. Also, the mentors practice a one on one approach, which means you will receive their undivided attention when you need it the most.
Now It’s Your Turn
So those are the differences between the conventional way of GRE prep and the more reliable and useful online GRE prep.
What do you say? Do you agree with what we said, or do you have any other opinions?
Which mode of prep do you think suits you better? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.