Alumni Create Website to Help Students Prepare for GRE Exam

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It all started with a test.

When three UC Berkeley graduate students saw dozens of undergraduates struggling to study for the sheer breadth of materials covered by the GRE exam, they realized they could use their backgrounds in math to increase students' efficiency in studying for the exam. Thus, Dranb.com - a website that offers free practice tests using algorithms to predict GRE questions - was born.

The company - fully launched this past fall by 2008 UC Berkeley alumni Meng Chen, Peter Lin and Phoebe Lin - uses algorithms and statistical surveys to analyze a database of questions taken from practice GRE tests as well as questions from the test submitted by students who have taken it in order to determine which topics have a greater probability of showing up on the test.

"We were all graduate students and know how important the GRE is," Chen said. "We help students study for the right material."

While studying as graduate students - Chen in engineering and Peter Lin and Phoebe Lin in computer science - the three realized the potential that algorithms could have in helping students study for the GRE. At the time, Chen was also interested in Internet-based companies because he was working for the online Movoto Real Estate.

They spent a year and a half developing the algorithms and gathered information by asking students who had taken the test to compare practice questions as well as their own questions to the real test.

They designed the website in the spring of 2010, started compiling their questions into test prep materials to sell online and have been working with students since the end of last semester. Since its launch, the site has helped over 500 students nationwide, and users have an average score of 1520 out of 1600 on the general test. Chen said the founders worked closely with other math and computer science graduate students to develop the algorithms.

"We can use a search engine as an analogy to explain the algorithms and surveys," Peter Lin said in an e-mail. "Search engines index websites on the Internet and use different factors and attributes to determine the authority, relevance, and importance of a website. Our algorithms analyze a database of GRE words and questions and decide which of those are most likely to show up on the real exams."

Dranb.com also asks students to provide feedback after they take the actual GRE exam. The founders then use this feedback to further improve the algorithms. Initial responses have been positive and encouraging, Peter Lin said in the e-mail.

"People have found the free practice questions on our website useful," he said in the e-mail. "With each wave of students who provide us feedback, we are able to further refine the algorithms and keep them up to date."

In addition to free practice tests, Dranb.com offers their own test prep books ranging in prices from $19.99 to $500. Their $500 course book contains 10 full-length GRE tests, 240 analytical writing topics, 3,000 antonym and analogy solutions, as well as a vocabulary list of 1,500 important words.

Peter Lin said they are also considering offering classes but first must see whether this fits into their long-term strategy: They are planning to build an online community around the website so that students can discuss GRE questions, preparation tips and graduate school admission in general. Several private testing companies have also expressed interest in buying their books in bulk, according to Peter Lin.

Tags: GRE


Contact Neetu Puranikmath at [email protected]



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