ExamPAL GMAT Review: A More Efficient Option?
ExamPal is a GMAT and GRE prep company that provides online courses and tutoring. The company sets itself apart with a unique curriculum that highlights the three different ways of approaching GMAT problems and an algorithmic question bank that helps students master these approaches.
In this article, I will provide an overview of ExamPal’s offerings, and share my thoughts after having used its free trial for a week.
- ExamPAL Free Trial
GMAT Prep Approach
ExamPal’s primary offering is an online course based around 24 video lessons and a 1,500 adaptive question bank.
Although 24 videos may not sound like a lot, most are 30 minutes or more in length. Together, they cover everything you’ll need to succeed on the GMAT. Lessons begin with a funny introduction from the company’s founder, and proceed to teach both the substance of each topic (remember: zero is an integer!) and the different strategies of solving GMAT questions on that topic.
What Does PAL Mean?
The GMAT strategies are divided into Precise, Alternative, and Logical approaches. After each lesson, you will work on a battery of questions, each of which is best suited to one of the three strategies. Depending on how you do with each strategy’s questions, the adaptive algorithm will select practice problems meant to strengthen—but not overwhelm—your ability to execute each strategy.
Notably, ExamPal uses a credit system to cap your access to its materials. Each practice question costs 1 credit, PDF downloads are 5-10 credits, practice tests are 120, and one-on-one tutoring sessions are 300. This gives students some flexibility over how they use their ExamPal access, although it runs the risk of placing too much emphasis on course-planning as opposed to coursework.
ExamPAL GMAT Course Options
ExamPAL offers students three primary course options. The most basic course providers students with access to the quantitative section. The mid level course option includes full program access to all 3 test sections. The premium course option includes 1 on 1 tutoring.
The quant course is geared for students that just need some additional prep work on the math section of the GMAT. This option will appeal to students that may already have study material, but need to attack the quant section from a different angle.
Course access is available for $369 and it includes the following features:
- Complete access to all Quant study material.
- 6 months of access.
- 4 GMAC tests.
- 675 credits for use towards supplemental study material.
The premium course option includes all core material and additional course credit. Notable features are included below:
- $489 course access for 6 months.
- Full access to all 3 sections of the GMAT exam.
- 4 GMAC practice tests.
- 3 essay reviews.
- 60 minute admission consultation.
- 70 point success guarantee (improve your score by 70 points or you can receive a cash refund).
- 1,110 credits for study material.
The Genius course includes all features included in the premium option along with the following premium features:
- All features included in the premium course.
- 3 video based 1 on 1 tutoring sessions.
- 2 Expert assessments to evaluate your progress.
- The 3 essay reviews include inline notes evaluating your essays.
- 2,580 credits for on demand study material.
Notable Features & Benefits
ExamPal is most notable for its PALgorithm. It’s clever wordplay, because in addition to being your “pal,” each question is best suited for a Precise, Alternative, or Logical approach to answering it. The algorithm tracks your ability to answer questions of each strategy type, and in each content area, and optimally selects questions that take your ability to the next level.
I was also impressed with the amount of personal attention in ExamPal’s full-course offerings. The admissions consultancy will be useful to many students, and the one-on-one tutoring in the Genius plan is not at all expensive compared to other companies.
Which Course Should I Choose?
Unless you know that you only need to study for the Quantitative section, it makes sense to spend the extra $120 on the full course. This gives you an extra 435 credits, which can be used on tutoring or practice questions, and allows you to get feedback on your essays and your MBA admissions strategy.
The Genius plan is certainly more expensive, but for the attention it provides, it may be worth the extra money. The generous helping of credits itself (2,580) can pay for a couple extra tutoring sessions, in addition to the three that come with the plan.
The credit system is also something to keep in mind when making a purchase. For students who like to do lots of practice questions, the 1,110 credits offered in the regular, full-course plan may not be enough. On the other hand, for students who know what they need to work on, the credits provide the flexibility to plan your course as you see fit. It’s worth noting, also, that more credits can be purchased if you run out.
My Experience Using the Course
ExamPal may be the most ambitious GMAT prep course I’ve tried yet, and I admire the work that its creators put into the platform. The company boasts good instruction and an innovative curriculum, but the course also has one or two drawbacks. Here are my impressions after spending a week using ExamPal’s free trial.
Quality of Instruction
The backbone of ExamPal’s course is its 24 video lessons. Time and again, I found myself thinking: “Wow, what a smart way to describe that!”
It was clear to me that ExamPal has invested a lot in its instructional material, and from both substantive and strategic perspectives, ExamPal’s videos convey everything you’ll need to get a high score on the GMAT.
Applying the PAL Strategies
The most innovative curricular decision is ExamPal’s emphasis on its PAL strategies: precise, alternative, and logical.
In a nutshell, the “precise” strategy is most straightforward. It is used when a question tests a concept or rule that will lead to the correct answer when applied.
The “adaptive” strategy is more roundabout; as an example, using number plug-ins to find the right answer on an algebra problem.
The “logical” approach involves methodically eliminating wrong answers to arrive at the correct response.
The PAL strategies are generally useful. The tricky part of test-taking is that often, it’s not the substance of a question that’s difficult, but rather the way in which a question is asked. The PAL typology addresses this conundrum head-on, showing you how to orient your thinking on different types of questions.
Using the Strategies in Different Sections
On the other hand, the differences between the PAL categories sometimes felt confusing. PAL seemed to make most sense in the Quantitative section, where it was often intuitive whether to answer a question directly (precise), plug in numbers (alternative), or eliminate bad answers (logical).
But in the Verbal section, I often had trouble delineating a logical from an adaptive approach on sentence corrections, and all three blurred together to me on reasoning questions. While the PAL emphasis certainly works from a branding perspective, I sometimes found it to be distracting. However, over time, its very easy for the approach to become a regular habit.
The PALgorithm is ExamPal’s most defining technological feature, and a feature that I like. Sometimes I am leery of companies’ claims to have an “algorithmic approach.”
Machine learning can be poorly done if it’s not trained on the right data, and when companies are mum on the details, I generally assume they only have three or four difficulty levels across a few question types. Selection of such data may speed up the learning process a little, but by no means does it optimize students’ time.
A More Transparent Algorithm
ExamPal is much more transparent, and the data it collects seem to be rather fine-grained. Even if it’s not the best way of explaining questions, the PAL typology differentiates questions very well, and does so across each of the 24 topics.
That means that students are placed at a difficulty level for each topic-PAL combination—72 in all—which is an impressive level of statistical depth. The PALgorithm truly deserves applause.
Ease of Use
ExamPal has a very clean user interface, which centers on a “roadmap” that shows your progress through the entire course. Videos can be sped up, and they save your progress if you close your browser and come back later.
My one qualm with ExamPal’s UI was that video lessons would be interrupted by questions—an effective technique unto itself—that would sometimes freeze the tab.
Overall, I cannot help but applaud the course and platform that the ExamPal team has put together. Although a few minor problems exist, the quality of instruction is excellent, the platform is as interactive as any self-directed course can be, and the pricing is very reasonable.
- The video based instruction offers high quality and interactive instruction.
- The PALgorithm optimally helps you prepare for the different types of questions you’ll see on exam day.
- More personalized attention and a unique and differentiated approach to attacking question types.
- Ability to pick and choose study material most relevant to you with the credit based system.
- Extensive material with a lower relative price point.
- The PAL strategy naturally fits within Quant, but sometimes is harder to relate with the verbal question types.
- Students need to monitor their credit balance and plan their course prep around their anticipated usage. Additional credits can also be purchased if necessary.
The best way to see if ExamPAL’s unique approach to GMAT prep will work for you is to utilize a free trial of the software.