Magoosh Unveils a Video Bible for the Newly Revised GRE

It’s the beginning of GRE season—the period from September to November when hundreds of thousands of college students and others considering applying to graduate school take the Graduate Record Exam, administered by Princeton, NJ-based Educational Testing Service (ETS). But this year’s GRE is a completely new animal. In August, ETS rolled out the biggest changes in the test’s content and scoring system in its 60-year history.

Gone, for example, are the antonym and analogy questions in the verbal reasoning portion of the test: now students have to demonstrate reading comprehension, rather than just how well they’ve memorized vocabulary words. Similarly, math problems on the quantitative reasoning portion of the test now require test-takers to supply actual numerical solutions, rather than selecting from multiple-choice answers. And that’s just the beginning. ETS says the point of the revisions is to “better reflect the kind of thinking you’ll do in graduate or business school.”

All those changes are creating a challenge for the $1 billion test prep industry, which is already in upheaval thanks to the emergence of startups taking on the traditional giants, Kaplan and the Princeton Review, with lower-cost online prep materials. Two of those startups—Grockit and Magoosh—are right here in the Bay Area, and both have been working fast to overhaul their test-prep curricula to reflect the new GRE.

Last week I caught up with the founders of Magoosh, who may be the first to market with such a curriculum. The Berkeley startup plans to announce later today that it has finished an all-new GRE curriculum built around 900 short videos and 700 practice questions, all tailored for the revised test.

The Magoosh team. L to R: Hansoo Lee, Margarette Jung, Chris Lele, Zach Millman, Bhavin Parikh

“We’ve stayed closer to the market than our competitors,” says Hansoo Lee, Magoosh’s co-founder and CEO. “There really isn’t anything on the market like this for the new exam.”

I first wrote about Magoosh last summer, right after they’d won a seed capital competition organized by North Bridge Venture Partners of Waltham, MA, and San Mateo, CA. At the time the company’s video-driven study guides were focused on the GMAT business school admission test, and the startup was just getting started on materials for the GRE. Lee, who finished his MBA studies at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in May, says the startup spent its first year not only developing the GRE prep modules but studying how customers use the GMAT product, in order to perfect its approach to online video lessons.

“Our early thesis was that video is the killer app in education,” says Lee. “That has been validated. In the form that we are presenting it, it isn’t a recording of somebody giving a lecture, but rather a more intimate experience of walking through a problem and a concept.”

Salman Khan’s short video lectures at Khan Academy, which are typically no longer than 10 minutes each, have been a big inspiration for Magoosh, Lee says. “We see lots of interesting features on the other [test prep] products out there, but ultimately no one who … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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