“So many books, so little time.”― Frank Zappa.
And just like so many books, there are so many opinions regarding so many books!
Jokes aside, picking books for GRE preparation is one of the most confusing tasks for a GRE aspirant. Not only there are hundreds of articles suggesting hundreds of books(this blog will be adding to that list!), there are also fellow GRE takers, relatives, friends of relatives, friends of friends, everyone suggesting a different book for your GRE prep.
But there is a reason for this happening. Realistically speaking, having one best/common book for scoring well in the GRE examination is quite an impossible task. You see, the definition of the best book varies from person to person. While you might be comfortable with a particular level of quant questions, someone else might find them too difficult. And hence, the book he/she suggests might seem insufficient to your needs.
In this article, we will not be presenting another list of good GRE books. Neither will we be providing our reviews for the books. Rather, we will be trying to give a structured approach for choosing books for the GRE exam depending upon your level of preparation and natural proficiency.
We believe that is what makes the difference and also the confusion!
GRE Preparation Books for Overall Preparation
While doing your GRE preparation start off by learning about the GRE exam pattern, syllabus, and question formats. If possible, give one or two diagnostic tests for understanding your preparation level. Then move to practice different kinds of questions extensively. As you start doing that, you will realize which section is your forte, and which section needs special attention. Then move to specific books for improving those areas.
1.ETS Official Guide (OG) – for GRE.
This is a no-brainer. It is the official book written and compiled by actual paper setters of GRE. And hence, a must-have book for the GRE exam. The book will give a very clear idea about the paper pattern, type of questions, and formats. It also has 4 practice tests which are quite comprehensive in terms of content.
How the ETS guide helps:
- It has a very clear and easy to follow structure, that readily shows what the book has to offer and makes it effortless for the student to navigate to desired sections
- Since it is an official source, it familiarises you with the actual pattern of the GRE exam. The type of questions you see in the book are the ones expected to appear in the exam.
However, preparing for the GRE examination is not just about practicing questions and giving mocks. The paper is prepared with an intention to confound students and that is why strategizing is one of the most important skills in order to score well in GRE. And this is not present in the ETS Official Guide.
So use this book for familiarizing yourself with the paper pattern and question types.
2.BARRONS NEW GRE (19TH EDITION)
Once you are done with understanding the basic GRE exam pattern, it’s time to give a diagnostic test to assess your preparation level. This is where this book will come into use. It is one of the most frequently used books for GRE exam. The Diagnostic Test of the Barrons Guide will help you to gauge your preparation. Besides, the content for both the Verbal and Quant section is comprehensive. However, the difficulty level of questions in this book is not at par with the actual GRE exam. So it is recommended to use this book as a supplement.
3. GREKing Free GRE eBooks
The third step in your GRE Preparation as related to study material is extensive practice. From the previous two books, you will get the overall picture as well as the foundation of GRE questions. It’s time to deep dive into each topic and solve all question formats. The content of these e-books is designed keeping in mind the actual GRE exam paper. The questions are of different difficulty levels to help you from an amateur stage up to the pro level.
Some of the Ebooks are:
1. GREKing 50 Most Repeated Words
2. GREKing 50 Must Solve Text Completion Questions
3. GREKing 50 Must Solve Sentence Equivalence Questions
4. GREKing 100 Must Solve Quantitative Comparison Questions
5. GREKing 100 Must Solve Arithmetic Questions
6. GREKing 100 Must Solve Geometry Questions
7. GREKing 50 Must Solve Reading Comprehension
8. GREKing 555 Most Repeated Words
9. GREKing AWA Guide – 10 Solved AWA
10. GREKing 50 Must Solve Data Analysis Questions
11. GREKing 100 Must Solve Algebra Questions
12. GREKing 50 Most Important AWA Topics List
They are free and you can get them here.
These books cover the core preparation for the GRE examination for any student. Let us move to the next stage.
While practicing these questions, you realize you are not particularly doing well in a specific section. Here are some books to help you in that scenario.
Problem Area- Quant
The main issue with GRE Quants is the extensive syllabus. The questions are rudimentary, however, the duration for the quant section is very limited. Because of the variety in question topics, solving 20 questions in 35 minutes becomes difficult. So if you are not performing up to the mark in your Quantitative reasoning, you should look for books that not only has enough questions but also strategies. Some of the books which will help in acing this section in the GRE exam are:
1.Nova’s GRE Math Bible
Before buying this book, remember it is based on the old syllabus. However, except for the numeric entry type questions, there isn’t much change in the syllabus. This book for the GRE exam is most beneficial for building concepts. Each chapter starts with the fundamental concepts and the questions are divided into three levels- easy, medium, hard. Try to buy a second version of this book, if you are buying.
2. Manhattan Prep 5 lb Book of GRE Practice Problems
This book has enough questions to not only help in quantitative reasoning but the whole syllabus for the GRE Exam. However, quant is where it truly shines. It has a math diagnostic test and over 800 practice problems covering all quant topics. The solutions mention several tricks to solve the problems in lesser time.
3. Princeton’s Math Workout for the New GRE
This book provides many strategies & shortcuts to help solve the problems. However, the questions might not be at the GRE examination level. This is a good book if you want a quick brush-up of the math concepts and learn some tips for solving faster.
Problem Area- Verbal
The Verbal Section is where the GRE examination packs a punch. It is tough, no denying there. However, the difficulty is not only because of the extensive use of vocabulary. The answer choices in Text Completions and Sentence Equivalence are designed to confuse test-takers, the topics of Reading Comprehension are obscure and lengthy, etc. Some books for scoring well in the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE exam are as follows:
Also Read: GRE Verbal Section- Do’s and Dont’s
1.ETS Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions
This book offers 150 actual GRE Verbal Reasoning questions with complete explanations and is designed by ETS. It is specifically designed to help students get a higher score in the Verbal Reasoning section. The level of difficulty is same as that of the actual GRE examination. The questions are also arranged according to the difficulty level.
2. Kaplan GRE Verbal Workbook
This is a good book if you are looking to improve your Verbal scores. The questions might be slightly more difficult than the actual GRE exam paper, however, the solutions involve strategies and short cuts.
3. GRE Verbal Grail – Aristotle Prep
Buy this book only if you need additional practice in Reading Comprehension. This book contains GRE level RC questions along with detailed methods to approach the different question formats.
Books for other sections of the GRE Exam
While we focused mostly on the GRE Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning, there are two other areas with respect to GRE preparation.
AWA or Analytical Writing Ability tasks is an underrated GRE section. However, it can majorly affect your chances of admission to graduate schools. GREKing’s free ebooks contain books for this section of the GRE Exam, however, some additional resources are:
- ETS Topic Pools, Argument, and Issue
- Vibrant’s GRE Analytical Writing: Solutions to Real Essay Topics Books
The other important part of GRE Preparation is learning Vocabulary words. You can check out the Free PDFs by GREKing for learning important words. Some other good books are:
- ‘Word Power Made Easy’-by Norman Lewis. (For Vocabulary)
- Manhattan Prep GRE: 500 Essential Words
Always Remember, the plan is to solve any book you buy completely, rather than solving bits and pieces from multiple books. The rest of the preparation has to be done beyond books. It will involve giving regular mocks and analyzing results for improving yourself, strategizing to avoid irrelevant topics, and interaction with expert mentors for increasing your score.
All the best!