Affordable Online Test Prep [Episode 198]
We are now getting calls from applicants who plan to plan to apply in the summer, fall, and winter to matriculate in 2018. A few have all their ducks lined up – test score in place, school visits planned, a GPA they’re proud of, and maybe they’re just rounding out their profile to put icing on the application cake. Others wish they had the test score they wanted. And still others are studying for, or more likely, planning to start test prep to take their particular exam for the first time. Those applicants – the ones still dealing with aptitude exams – are probably the majority of applicants preparing to apply in the upcoming application cycle.
Because so many people are thinking about test prep, I’ve invited Bhavin Parikh, CEO & Co-Founder of Magoosh back to Admissions Straight Talk. His company is an innovative leader in the online test prep industry. Magoosh is, according to its website, “an affordable online test prep company the offers study programs and apps for the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, SAT, ACT, TOEFL AND Praxis.” Bhavin attended Duke University where he earned a joint BS/BA in Economics and Computer Science. He then worked for Deloitte Consulting for 5 years and attended UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business where he earned his MBA and co-founded Magoosh with three others. Welcome, Bhavin!
What does Magoosh provide? [2:10]
We help students prepare for standardized tests. The broader mission of the company is helping people overcome barriers at various points in their careers – standardized tests are one of those barriers as people enter college or grad school.
We offer a web-based product – people can sign up for a free trial. Our courses include short video lessons explaining concepts, and then people can do practice questions. We also provide a service where people can reach out with questions.
Is it a monthly subscription? Or a fee for a set period of time? [3:18]
It’s a set fee, generally for six or 12 months. Most of the products are $100 or $150.
Is Magoosh intended to be a standalone course, or a supplement to other study methods (such as classes or tutoring)? [4:05]
When we started seven to eight years ago, it was meant more as a supplement. Now it’s effectively standalone. But given our price-point, many people do use it as a supplement to a class.
What is distinctive about Magoosh? [5:18]
We have in-house content experts who’ve been tutoring this material for years, and we update our content based on data from our users. Since our content creation is in-house, we can see where students are getting stuck and where we can improve.
So you’re looking at data as well as qualitative feedback? [6:40]
Yes. We collect both qualitative and quantitative information. For example, we collect a “like” rate on each video, so we know how students are responding. But we also track requests for help – if we get a lot of requests for help on the same video, we know we need to update something or add an explanation.
Are you using AI or adaptive learning? [8:45]
We’re using some adaptive learning technology. Since the early days of Magoosh, we’ve used an adaptive algorithm that contributes to our product and makes sure students are provided questions at the right level for them to learn what they need to. The GMAT is adaptive itself, and that was part of our impetus early on.
We focus on content first, then technology, but the adaptive element is important.
When do you recommend people start preparing for exams? [11:10]
Our experts recommend three to six months. We have study schedules that guide people on a one month, three month, six month study plan – but for your schedule/sanity, it’s most manageable if you have three to six months to study.
It also depends on the test and your starting level. We have a team of tutors who can provide a personalized estimate.
How much does it cost? [13:30]
Most of our services are between $100-150.
We generally respond to questions within one to two weekdays. We want to provide high quality service at a fraction of the cost of a class. We also have one month plans at a lower cost.
How does access to a tutor work? [14:40]
It’s email access. You can email our help email. There’s also a “help” button on every page – then our tutors can see the question/page you were looking at.
You just released a GRE prep book. Can you tell us about that? [15:50]
We realized some students wanted something physical to work from – they might not always have web access, or some people just prefer to have a book sometimes.
Our content has been used by tens of thousands of people – we’ve collected that data and created a book. We thought it would be a great way to reach more people. If you buy the book, you get a discount for the online product.
Is the book a supplement to the online course? Or a replacement? [17:40]
It’s not a full replacement for the online course – there are no videos or access to tutors. So it’s more of a supplement.
Can you tell us about the new MCAT product? [18:25]
It’s new, so we don’t have practice questions up yet. But we do have videos. Currently the price is $49. That will go up to $100 once we add the practice questions.
MCAT prep is often very expensive, so this is a product we’re very excited about.
We hired an MCAT expert – we always have an in-house curriculum manager.
Is there anything else new at Magoosh? [20:30]
We’re releasing an IELTS product soon – in about a month. About two million people worldwide take the IELTS each year.
We’ve also realized that a portion of the population wants more personalized guidance, so we’re experimenting with tutoring sessions. That’ll be more than our basic $100, but less than typical tutoring rates.
There’s a lot of ferment in the ed tech world. Is there anything you see in the future for Magoosh? [22:20]
We try to think about what will serve our students best. For tutoring, it’ll be some kind of video chat. We’ve been expanding our use of apps. We’ve also been expanding our use of voice apps: for those who have an Amazon Alexa, we have a vocabulary game in the Alexa store for people to practice their vocabulary.
What really matters is the student who’s studying for one of the most important exams of their life – an entrance exam for college or grad school.
On a personal note, it’s now about 7 years since you earned your MBA at Haas and nine years since you started Magoosh. What’s your perspective on the value of the MBA and your Haas experience now? [26:00]
I would not be where I am today – and Magoosh would not exist – if not for my Haas MBA. The education, network, and professional opportunities were so important.
You get a really strong, broad education in how to run a business – so when you come out, you have those tools at your disposal. The Haas network is so important in terms of building partnerships, recruiting, etc. (We have some Haas MBAs on our team.) In terms of professional opportunities – as an MBA student, you have the chance to meet people and build your career. We were able to meet investors and raise capital.
What keeps Magoosh going? [30:40]
The people: the team is wonderful. Everyone really cares about the students and the mission. Seeing the company grow is really exciting and motivating.
Any advice for applicants preparing to take standardized tests? [32:05]
Don’t wait until the last minute, like I did! Check out our products – we also offer lots of free material.
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