If going back to textbooks is a drag, BenchPrep comes in handy. This mobile app, featuring preparatory material for GRE and SAT is free.

With more and more students gong to the United States for undergraduate and graduate study, there can never be enough preparatory material for the GRE and SAT tests. Times have changed, the new GRE format is here and so are new ways to study. BenchPrep (https://benchprep.com/) launched in July 2011, claims to be “the world's only interactive course library that you can access on your computer, iPhone, Android, iPad, and Kindle.” Essentially, its study material is right at your fingertips completely at your convenience!

For anyone who has done test preparation on the computer, going back to textbooks can be a drag. The BenchPrep mobile app can be downloaded for free from the App Store, Google Play or the Amazon store. Registered users then use a log-in name and password to access the content. The BenchPrep Library subscription provides access to over a hundred courses across high school, college and graduate studies with new ones being added. In case you do not see a course of your choice, an email to the support team may ensure its addition soon.

The app can be used without an Internet connection, so spotty net connections are not a bother any more.

Rupal Chatterjee, University of Texas, Austin, loved the fact that she could look at the GRE word list on her phone on the way home from college. “I didn’t have to carry flashcards and then worry about losing them,” she says. Preparations are synchronised across platforms, so if you take a test on your phone you can review the answers on your computer. It does not quite work so well on the Internet Explorer browser, so using the Safari, Chrome or Firefox browser is recommended.

Variety of subjects

BenchPrep students who watch a minimum of 60 per cent of the video content in a course increase their scores by an average of 15 per cent, says the site, leading, of course, to improved grades and higher acceptance rates. The content in BenchPrep courses is provided through partnerships with publishers such as McGraw-Hill, John Wiley and Cengage Learning. Besides the usual word lists and worksheets, the app has different interactive study tools, and detailed diagnostic reports. But BenchPrep is not just about the usual standardised exams. It has matter on e-marketing, accounting, learning to use Microsoft Word better and courses on becoming a Power Point expert as well. As the site explains, “A project manager studying for the PMP can enrol in a Microsoft Vision or Excel course and learn new technical skills.” Besides some courses for example, “Elementary Algebra by Schaums,” can be used by even those in high school.

Students pay a monthly fee of US$30 per month (Rs. 1,500) to access all the courses available. The rationale here is simple. As the site explains, they did not want students worrying about paying for every course they access. This payment plan allows users to mix and match course from different publishers. This has a distinct advantage. As BenchPrep explains, “Under the new subscription model, a student having difficulty in GMAT math can enrol in an algebra or probability and statistics courses to improve their performance.” Since it is a monthly payment plan, students can enrol in as many courses as they like and create a customised portfolio of skills. A seven-day refund is available as is a free two-week trial option.

Easy to use

Rajat Sharma from University of Southern California used BenchPrep to study for his GRE. “The interface is friendly,” he says. “The presentation of content is uncluttered, so accessing material on the phone is not irritating to the eye. The GRE practice tests have lots of questions and you will have matter to work all areas you want to score.”

But BenchPrep is not just about lessons. Its blogspot has study tips and discussion forums about the GRE and other entrance exams as well as what to do after graduation and the right diet on the exam day. The post on “Last Minute GRE Prep: A 7 Day Study Guide” has some practical advice. Point number two was interesting: “On day five before the test, take a break from practice on your weakest areas, and devote time to the areas you are already fairly strong in but still have room to improve.”

BenchPrep is not flawless. Its Faceboook page has many complaints from new and old users. Sometimes the apps do not work and passwords whether for its email or online learning sites could be an issue. But BenchPrep promises quick resolution of issues. All it needs is an email to the support team. And all complaints on Facebook have garnered a response. BenchPrep says feedback from its students matter, and there can be no better evidence.