App maker: Don’t just play on your smartphone–study, too

Students in 20 countries use Watermelon Express.

When Ashish Rangnekar wasn’t studying for his business school entrance exam, he played games, perused websites, and checked eMail on his iPhone. Now he – and 75,000 other students – can do both simultaneously.

Rangnekar is the cofounder of Watermelon Express, an application available for the iPhone, iPad, and desktop computer that helps students prepare for high-pressure exams such as the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and SAT using game-playing features, competitions with peers, and analytics showing precisely where students need to improve.

Watermelon Express uses reams of educational and test-prep content from books and open-source websites to create questions for seven subjects.

“There’s a lot of content out there, but when you interact with it, you realize how one-dimensional it really is,” said Rangnekar, who passed the GMAT and is now a student at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. “So we start from where [publishers] leave off.”

Bringing study questions to the smartphone screen students glance at every few minutes has caught on in the educational app marketplace. CrushThatTest, an app launched last year, has free digital flashcards as a supplement to students’ textbooks in nine subjects, ranging from U.S. history to psychology.

“I realized I spent too much time on my iPhone just sort of playing around — not the best use of a student’s time,” Rangnekar said. “I knew it would be valuable if I could study on my iPhone … so there was no big vision to begin with. I just wanted to make the engagement part less restrictive.”