Magoosh is an online test-prep company that supports prospective exam-takers primarily through online audio and video lessons. Courses are very thorough, and many include a guaranteed improvement on a previously received exam score. Some of the exams Magoosh helps students prepare for include the IELTS, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, SAT, and ACT.
The material seems to be mostly very accurate, and the interface is well-designed, but the video lessons could be more engaging.
Lessons and practice exercises include extremely thorough instruction with plenty of examples and explanations.
It’s one of the more affordable options and doesn’t seem to cut any corners, but watching videos is time-consuming.
- Super detailed explanations.
- Digital note-taking capability.
- Realistic practice test.
I Don’t Like
- Video lessons are time-consuming.
- Users have to self-evaluate speaking and writing exercises.
One month subscription for $79
Three months subscription for $99
Six months subscription for $149
Three months subscription for $69
What in the world is a Magoosh? Maybe it’s the name of a traditional eggplant dish of some kind, or the sound a boot makes in a muddy creek bed. Okay no, not quite.
From their website, “Magoosh is a play on the Persian word “magush”, one who is highly-learned, wise, and generous.” Aha! That’s much cooler.
The Magoosh company has been offering online test-prep services since 2009. While at first the focus was on helping people prepare for the GMAT and GRE, the company has since expanded their offerings to cover a wide variety of exams, including the IELTS and TOEFL.
My Experience with Magoosh
Since the platform is popular among English-language learners who are preparing for exams, we decided to see what some of the courses are all about. For this review, I tried out both the IELTS and TOEFL courses.
There’s no getting around the fact that I am a native English speaker, someone who would never be required to take either of these exams. I did my best to keep this in mind while testing the resource.
While I don’t have any previous experience with the TOEFL exam, I do have some experience giving mock oral IELTS exams to students from my days teaching at an English language center. This doesn’t mean I can fully put myself in the shoes of an actual test taker, but it does mean I’m aware of some of what students preparing for these exams go through.
While using the platform, I tested out various lessons from both courses, took the full IELTS practice test, and tried out the TOEFL practice exercises.
Both the IELTS and TOEFL courses at Magoosh are made up of a ton of video lessons that you can progress through at your own speed, going in order or picking and choosing specific lessons.
I can’t overstate how much video content there is. I didn’t add up the total playtime of the well-over-100 videos, but I’m guessing it’s at least 20 hours. And this doesn’t count the many additional video explanations that accompany specific practice exercises.
There are both Exam Lessons, relevant to the exam you’re studying, and English Grammar Lessons, which are mostly the same for both the IELTS and TOEFL courses.
These lessons look at the particular elements of an exam. In both the IELTS and TOEFL courses, lessons examine the types of questions you’ll come across in the Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing sections of the exams along with strategies for completing them.
The lessons, while informative, aren’t very engaging. I was initially excited that all of the lessons were presented as videos, but quickly realized that the videos are essentially a bunch of slides with text, the occasional image, and squiggles from the narrator’s red pen.
Again, I tried to stay aware of the fact that I’m a native speaker of English and I’m not actually preparing to take an exam. I’m sure that motivated learners will find the information in the videos more interesting because of this, but I still think the videos are quite dry. I would have preferred to at least see someone talking at some point.
Fortunately, learners do have the option to manually change the video playback speed as well as turn captions on or off. You’ll also have access to a transcript of the lesson, links to related blog posts, and a section for taking notes.
It’s important to add that I thought the lessons all covered important information in detail. They may not be very fun to watch, but the examples and explanations seem to be thorough and well thought out.
Mechanically, the grammar lessons are exactly the same as the exam lessons. The differences are that they deal with broader English grammar tips that aren’t specific to an exam, and that a different teacher narrates the lessons.
I found the video delivery to be just as bland as with the exam lessons, but the format is used effectively in terms of clearly demonstrating grammar points through examples and explanations.
In addition to the video lessons, the Magoosh practice exercises are a central component of the course. There are two main types of practice: custom practice and practice test.
This type of practice allows users to practice a specific skill, and it’s the type of practice you’ll probably use the most.
Along with selecting one of the four exam sections to practice (Reading, Listening, Speaking, or Writing), you’ll also get to tweak several other settings to get just the type of practice you’re looking for.
The practice tasks are different for each exam section, and they reflect the format of the actual exam. We’ll look at an example of each from the TOEFL course.
Note: the screenshots taken of the custom practice activities come from the TOEFL course. The IELTS practice activities are similar but slightly different.
This is the first type of exercise I tried out on Magoosh. It involved answering several multiple-choice questions based on a provided text. I did find a small error in the text, which was slightly disheartening, but it was the only one I came across while using the resource.
There’s a timer for each question, and, if you selected the “practice mode” option, you’ll get to see the correct answer and some explanations immediately after answering each question.
This feedback is where Magoosh really shines in my opinion. For every practice exercise, there’s a video explanation of the correct answer, a text explanation, and links to relevant lessons for extra practice on questions of the same type.
I think it’s super helpful to get detailed, relevant explanations after trying to engage with a task on your own. The explanations do a good job of picking apart questions to make it clear why the correct answer is correct and what makes the other answers incorrect.
The listening section features tasks that are pretty straightforward: listen to a piece of audio and then answer related multiple-choice questions.
The feedback provided at the end of a listening task is similar to what you receive after a reading task. There’s a video explanation, a text explanation, and the audio script for reference.
The speaking and writing exercises are a little bit different because they require more than a multiple-choice response. Completing a speaking task involves recording yourself speaking.
Since the scoring of these tasks is nuanced and requires a human listener, you’ll have to provide your own grade.
Magoosh has prepared a detailed scoring rubric along with sample responses and their scores to help you score yourself.
This may be less helpful than getting feedback from a qualified tutor, but it isn’t without merit. Magoosh points out that the act of scoring yourself and interacting with the rubric “will help you understand what makes a good response, so you can improve!”
Remember also, that you’ll still get to see video and text explanations of the best approaches to completing the task. The narrator walks you through the completion of the task and provides an example, which I found very helpful.
Another productive skill, the writing tasks involve typing out an essay response and then providing yourself with feedback.
It may feel kind of silly writing out an essay that no one but you will ever read, but I definitely think that it’s worth it. You’ll still get to compare your process and essay to the explanations provided at the end of the lesson in addition to the sample response.
For students preparing for the IELTS, there’s also a subscription plan that includes essay grading. This is a feature I was able to take advantage of, and I’ll talk about it in detail later on.
Finishing a practice session produces a summary report of your performance with lots of detailed information.
In addition to the custom practice activities, users can take a practice test on Magoosh that simulates the actual test experience. Like the real thing, this mock exam is time-consuming and requires sustained focus. It’s recommended that users set aside about 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete the test. I opted to take the IELTS practice test.
The practice test includes tasks from all four sections, and users can take breaks between the sections, but not during. Once you’ve started a section, the timer runs until you’ve completed the entire section or run out of time.
Beware of the timer in the upper right corner! I made the mistake of assuming the countdown would start when I played the audio and wasn’t able to answer all of the questions in time because of it.
The above image shows a listening task in which the user is responsible for listening to a conversation and filling in gaps to questions. The mechanics feel a bit clunky, as you’re supposed to write your answers down while listening and then transfer them into the answer fields afterward, but it works well enough.
Below is an example of a reading task in the IELTS practice test.
The reading tasks involve reading passages and answering various questions before the time runs out. One feature that I found particularly helpful here is the note-taking and highlighting tool.
This simulates what you’d be able to do with a paper-based exam and is super helpful in enabling easy note-taking.
The speaking and writing portions of the exam do require you to give yourself feedback, but they otherwise function similarly to the listening and reading tasks. In the speaking task, you’ll record yourself taking part in an interview with a video.
My subscription to the IELTS course included the grading of an essay, so I took advantage and submitted the one I wrote in the practice test to be graded.
Unfortunately, after submitting my essay and receiving the message, “We’ll grade your essay and send an email with feedback…” I waited more than two weeks for a response!
In hindsight, I probably should have followed up with the Magoosh support team much sooner. I sent them a message about my essay the day before my subscription expired and received a quick, helpful response.
The support team responded the next day, apologized for the fact that my essay had slipped through the cracks, extended my subscription, and fast-tracked the grading process. I received an email with my score by the end of the next day.
The actual grading of my essay was exceptional. The essay grader gave me band scores that felt accurate and justifiable in each category, as well as an overall score.
I was also able to see things I had done well and areas in which I could improve to raise my score, all in detail. There were plenty of specific examples that referenced what I had written and provided better alternatives.
I was relieved that the feedback was so personalized and didn’t feel like a form response.
The email with the essay grade also contained links to extra resources to practice specific skills and for improving my score in each category.
In short, I think the graded essay provides significant value, especially if you’ve never gotten detailed feedback on an IELTS essay before. I feel confident that I could obtain a higher score if I were to write another essay, based on the feedback I received.
Magoosh guarantees to help users improve their IELTS band score by 0.5, offering a full refund if they don’t. The TOEFL course comes with a similar guarantee, promising an increase of at least four points on a previous exam score.
There are some reasonable-sounding stipulations attached to these guarantees, although it’s unclear to me whether or not you’re required to have watched all of the video lessons, performed all of the practice questions, and watched all of the video explanations for questions you answered incorrectly.
These actions are listed under “recommended,” but a later sentence on the guarantee page seems to suggest that you need to have completed these steps in order to get a refund. It would take an incredible amount of time to actually complete all these activities on Magoosh — something worth considering.
There are a variety of subscription options and prices on Magoosh. A limited free trial is available for both the TOEFL and IELTS plans.
For those that don’t have a time constraint of fewer than six months, I don’t think it makes sense to sign up for a three-month subscription to the IELTS course, considering the price difference.
Is a graded essay worth the extra $20? I think it will be for some people, especially if they’re struggling to improve their writing scores. Other sources for getting essay feedback seem to be priced similarly.
Magoosh isn’t the only option for learners looking for online test-prep options. We’ll list some of the more popular alternatives here, including some free resources.
A big name in test-prep, Kaplan offers both IELTS and TOEFL preparation courses online, among others. The company has been around for a while and has a reputation for providing quality education to learners. One of the advantages of the IELTS course is that it comes with a new flashcard feature, though the course doesn’t come with a score improvement guarantee.
BestMyTest is a popular resource offering online IELTS tutoring. It comes with a score improvement guarantee, lots of practice videos, and 50 practice tests. It’s also one of the less expensive options. Another big difference between this one and Magoosh is that BestMyTest doesn’t use as much video-based instruction. Instead, practice happens mostly through interactive practice test questions.
Udemy is a library of online courses that anyone can contribute to. This means you can find courses for just about anything, including IELTS and TOEFL preparation. Since anyone can create a course, it’s wise to read comments and ratings before purchase, as quality can vary. It’s also worth noting that courses are often on sale at dramatic discounts — be sure to wait for one if the course you’re interested in is priced too high.
Another source of online courses, edX connects users to free, online versions of university courses. These courses benefit from the structure you could hope to find in a university course, though you’ll have to pay a fee if you’d like a certificate upon completion.
YouTube is another great source of free education when it comes to test-prep for the IELTS or TOEFL. There are tons of channels on the subjects, and those listed above are just two of the more popular options. They each have lessons on best strategies for completing the exams as well as example exercises.
Magoosh seems to be a really solid resource with an excellent interface and design. I was impressed with the level of detail in the explanations and in the video lessons, but I didn’t enjoy navigating through the sea of unexciting videos to find specific information.
I’m also of the opinion that a solid customer support team is worth a lot, and I was impressed with the way Magoosh handled the issue I had with receiving a graded essay. It’s comforting to know that you’ll be taken of if you need support!
The video lessons might not make it the most exciting resource out there, but I’m confident that the serious learner will get plenty of quality test-prep with Magoosh.