Ever wondered what it’s like studying for the GRE? Chances are you envision a giant pile of textbooks or a floor submerged in crumpled-up scratch paper. But did you know you can also study for the GRE using your smart phone? GRE apps allow you to hone your test-taking skills anytime, anywhere. And some of them are completely free, too.
Follow along as we take a look at the top four GRE prep apps and the unique benefits they offer test takers. We’ll also go over what makes a good GRE app and give you tips on how you can integrate apps into your studies.
GRE Apps: An Overview
Let’s face it: technology is changing the way we study. More and more test-prep companies are working to appeal to a young, tech-savvy audience, and, as a result, GRE apps, like SAT apps and ACT apps, are steadily growing in popularity.
But what do GRE apps offer? Well, flexibility and convenience, for one. Many apps are available for both iPhones and Androids, allowing you to study for the GRE any time you want in any place you want.
In addition, a lot of quality GRE apps are completely free to download, or at the very least free to try. As is the case with other types of apps, the more comprehensive a GRE app is, the heftier price tag it’s likely to carry.
The big questions for you, then, are these: can you study using only an app? What GRE apps should you download? And how can you ultimately use apps to study effectively? Read on for answers to these questions and more.
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Why You Can’t Use Only GRE Apps
We already know GRE apps are handy tools, but here’s the deal: they can’t offer everything a GRE book, tutor, or prep course can. Therefore, it’s best to use GRE apps as supplements to your primary study method.
Why? Many apps have extremely limited content. Often, apps won’t offer enough questions or vocab words to practice with, and they’ll pale in comparison to the content available in GRE prep books. Or, an app might be completely devoid of good test-taking strategies.
Furthermore, some apps lack explanations for GRE questions or fail to elaborate on important Verbal and Quant concepts, such as how to identify the overarching topic of a passage or how to analyze data correctly.
Next, we believe prepping entirely on your phone is limiting. Remember that you’re taking the computerized GRE on a desktop computer, with its own specific format. Thus, before you take the GRE, you should get used to this format. Prepping on a larger device screen (like a laptop or desktop) allows you to read longer passages and answer explanations more easily.
Finally, GRE apps tend to offer little to no customization and are unable to cater to users’ individual strengths and weaknesses. You want to prep in a focused way customized to your own needs, not in a rigid one-size-fits-all way.
What Makes a Good GRE App?
A good GRE app will offer most or all of the following features.
#1: Loads of Realistic Practice Questions
Any regular GRE prep app can boast a couple of practice questions, but only the best GRE apps house extensive libraries of hundreds of original GRE practice questions.
And it’s not just the quantity of questions to look out for but also the quality. Good GRE apps contain realistic practice questions that mimic actual GRE questions in content, form, and difficulty — so much so that it should feel as if you’re taking the real GRE (but on a phone, instead).
Moreover, a good GRE prep app provides thorough answer explanations to practice questions, helping you understand how to find the correct answer as well as how to recognize (and effectively solve) similar questions on the test.
#2: Comprehensive Content
In addition to compiling a large number of practice questions, a good GRE app is extremely comprehensive. You can judge the thoroughness of an app by looking at whether it offers useful test-taking strategies and sufficiently elucidates difficult topics.
In other words, newbies to the GRE should be able to learn basic GRE concepts from scratch using a GRE app. If you’re confused about an answer or are consistently making mistakes because you don’t understand how a specific concept works, ditch the app and look for a better one. Good apps are always easy to follow and learn from.
#3: User-Friendly Interface
Time to get technical. A GRE prep app should be intuitive and easy to use, with a user-friendly interface. No bizarre layout or illegible text, and no annoying pop-up ads that’ll prevent you from being able to use the app properly.
Basically, the app should be responsive. If you’re hitting buttons repeatedly and nothing is changing, or if you’re experiencing persistent glitches and crashes, consider opting for a more efficient app.
#4: Practical Organization
Lastly, the app should follow a logical organization that includes clear categories and subcategories. A good GRE app allows users to find and study the material they want, quickly and without hassle.
More specifically, lessons, practice questions, and tips should be categorized by GRE section (e.g., Quant and Verbal), with subcategories used to address narrower topics, such as sentence completion and geometry.
The 4 Best GRE Apps
Curious about what GRE apps are worth checking out? The following list contains the four best GRE apps available on the market today. And the best part? Most are completely free to use (or at least free to try out)!
The Official GRE Guide
The only app created by ETS (the designers of the GRE), The Official GRE Guide offers users authentic GRE questions for Verbal, Quant, and Analytical Writing, as well as detailed answer explanations and helpful test-taking tips. You can also quiz yourself by question type and track your progress by category.
Although the app isn’t free, you can choose a cheaper version to get a feel for it. The $4.99 starter pack comes with 25 Verbal questions, 25 Quant questions, and two Analytical Writing prompts, whereas the $19.99 expansion pack features an additional 250 Verbal and Quant questions, four extra Analytical Writing prompts, a GRE math review, and a section on mathematics conventions.
The biggest drawback is the price and the fact that all of the prep info is taken directly from the The Official Guide to the GRE General Test. So if you’re studying with the book already, there’s no need to splurge on the app.
Manhattan Prep GRE
Sporting a clear and simple interface, Manhattan Prep GRE is a highly rated app, offering strong content and a handy flashcard system. For each flashcard, you declare “Know,” “Somewhat Know,” or “Don’t Know,” allowing you to customize the app to have it target your weaknesses. All flashcards offer detailed answer explanations, too, so you’ll always know why an answer is correct or incorrect.
Additionally, you can select the specific skills you’d like to work on by filtering practice questions based on how difficult they are (using the “Know” and “Don’t know” functions). You can also test what you’ve learned by taking Verbal or Quant quizzes on Easy, Medium, or Hard.
Unfortunately, the resources section is fairly skeletal and just regurgitates common GRE info without providing any unique tips or strategies. Furthermore, the app only offers a free trial version for 24 hours; after that it’ll cost you $19.99 for the full package. But the paid version comes with a ton of features: 1,000+ practice questions and 500+ vocab words.
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Ready4GRE is a popular GRE prep app geared toward game-loving test takers that offers a lot of content for free.
With this app, you earn points by studying and taking quizzes. In other words, the more points you earn, the higher up on the leaderboard you’ll move. The app also offers a question-of-the-day feature, uses analytics to track your strengths and weaknesses, and provides you with an estimated GRE score.
The most impressive part of the app, however, is its customizable approach to studying. Users can either activate Verbal and Quant lessons on a rigid step-by-step path using the “Smart Guide,” or study topics at random using the “Browse Topics” function.
The drawbacks are financial and technical. On the technical side, questions sporadically repeat on practice tests (likely a glitch), and several users have reported crashes and freezing. Money-wise, you’ll need to spend $29.99 for full access to the app’s features, which is a big price to pay for an app.
Completely free to download, GRE Prep by Varsity Tutors is a comprehensive app and one of the best resources for GRE practice tests. Hundreds of quizzes are available by concept (e.g., exponents, one-blank texts, etc.) to help you target specific Verbal and Quant skills. Moreover, the app contains a gigantic stockpile of realistic diagnostic tests, from short 15-minute refreshers to tests more than two and a half hours long!
The app also features detailed answer explanations, a question of the day, and a “Test Results” overview section.
Drawbacks of the app revolve mostly around its teaching methods. The “Learn by Concept” and “Flashcards by Concept” sections don’t go into enough detail to adequately teach users difficult concepts from scratch; they’re basically just questions with answer explanations — not actual lessons. Additionally, the home screen is nothing more than a tutoring ad for the company.
How to Use GRE Apps for Efficient Studying
You’ve downloaded a GRE prep app and are excited to study for the GRE with it. Great! Here’s how you can effectively integrate the app into your GRE prep.
#1: For Extra Practice Questions
Already read through all of your GRE books? Already took the official ETS practice exams, too? Then use your app to drill additional practice questions. Apps’ questions and practice tests are especially helpful if you’ve already studied the core concepts of the GRE and are looking for other ways to brush up on your test-taking skills.
Always start with official material, or The Official GRE Guide app, and then move on to other apps boasting a bunch of practice questions such as GRE Prep.
#2: To Improve Your Weak Spots
Apps allow you to narrow your studies to single concepts or sections of the GRE you’re struggling with the most. For example, if you’re having trouble remembering GRE vocab, you can review definitions using Manhattan Prep GRE’s 500+ flashcards. You can also test your math knowledge by drilling Quant practice questions on GRE Prep or by retaking certain Quant lessons on Ready4GRE.
#3: As a Backup Study Method
Forgot your GRE prep book? Can’t make it to a tutoring session? No problem. Most people carry their smart phones everywhere they go, so you’ll always have a backup GRE study method readily available.
Just remember, apps aren’t exhaustive enough to replace your major study methods, but it’s OK to use them as temporary substitutes. After all, studying with a GRE prep app is still a lot better than not studying at all!
#4: On-the-Go Studying
Got a long commute to school or work? Or got some extra time at lunch to brush up on your GRE skills? Instead of lugging around a book, use your smart phone for GRE studying while you’re on the go.
Apps are excellent refreshers for those who travel or leave their primary study areas often. And they’ll keep your mind sharp and GRE-ready every day, no matter what you’re doing or where you are.
#5: To Mix Up Your Routine
Looking for a quick energy boost? Sometimes all it takes is a little variety in your study habits. GRE apps are interactive and fun to toy with. Ultimately, spicing up your routine can motivate you to study more and will likely help you better retain the GRE concepts you’ve learned.
GRE Apps: The Final Word
GRE apps can be a great resource for studying if used as supplementary study aids. In other words, don’t use apps as your primary study method; instead, use them as refreshers and to reinforce ideas you’ve already learned.
Also, don’t pay for an app if you’re not going to use it a lot. Plenty of free GRE apps offer just as many features and strategies, if not more.
At the end of the day, try a couple of GRE apps and see what’s right for you. Above all, choose the ones that’ll best help you prepare for test day. Good luck!
Want additional resources for GRE practice? Then check out our guide to the best GRE prep books. You can also read our article on how to use GRE official practice tests.
Confused about what exactly is tested on the GRE? Read our guide to learn about the major features of the exam, from timing to question types.
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If you enjoy GRE apps’ question-of-the-day features, you’ll love these GRE question-of-the-day websites.