The Graduate Records Examination (GRE) test is a standardized examination used to evaluate whether someone can be successful in graduate school. It is usually seen as a pretty difficult test, and in order to pass it with good scores people who are planning to take it should prepare extensively.
There are hundreds of GRE preparation books, materials, and resources both online and in physical form. It is quite difficult to assess which one to use and which one best fits every individual.
You need to spend a lot of time looking at each book to see whether it has everything you need to successfully pass the GRE.
Criteria for choosing the best GRE prep book
In essence, the best GRE prep book will help you get a high GRE score. But because there are so many prep materials in the market, there are certain criteria you need to have in order to select the best GRE prep book.
Test taking strategies
Any book or material you study from needs to outline the strategies you should use for the GRE sections.
To get high scores in the GRE, you do not only need to know how to solve the problems presented there, but you also need strategies such as:
- Time management
- Making a good guess for a question you don’t know
- Spotting the correct answer as quickly as possible
The book should have strategies about the overall test, but it should also give you pointers on how to best perform on each of the three sections of the GRE.
If your prep materials don’t have any strategies to help you get the best out of the GRE, then you should definitely not study from them and save money and time.
Realistic GRE Example Questions
Besides the official GRE test maker and administrator, which is ETS, no one else has any idea of what the actual test questions are. However, all publishers and GRE prep book writers try to come up with questions that mimic the official test. Some do a great job at it, while some include questions that are much easier or much more difficult than the actual GRE.
So the best GRE study materials will have questions which are similar to the test and they evaluate you on the concepts of the GRE.
Detailed Answer Explanations
Almost all GRE prep materials have practice questions and problems on them, but few have good explanations on how they came to the right answer.
The best GRE prep books and study materials will outline in detail how a verbal or a quantitative reasoning question was answered correctly and will give you the strategies that you can apply in similar questions.
Complete Practice Tests
To give you a realistic GRE testing experience, the best GRE prep book should also contain full practice tests with all three sections. This helps test takers simulate the real testing environment. Those who are preparing for the GRE should look for books which give you computer based full length tests.
For people who are planning to take the GRE test, there is no one perfect book for everything. Instead we have taken the four criteria and filtered out the 8 best GRE study materials.
Looking at the reviews and your level of preparation, you can figure out which ones best fit your needs and can help you get the score you want.
You can purchase each prep book online and have it delivered to you, you can buy used copies, or you can even go to the library and look for them there.
So without further ado, here are the 8 best GRE study materials
Best GRE prep books
Official GRE Super Power Pack
The ETS who compiles and administers the test publishes the three books that make up the Super Power Pack.
This pack contains:
- The Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test
- The Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions, and the
- The Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions with Analytical Writing Practice
Because the ETS is the official authority on the GRE test, the practice questions that these books contain are real GRE questions that have previously been used on the test. The books also come with a CD which has the PowerPrep practice tests.
The Official Guide includes overall tips and strategies for the test, as well as explanations on each section. The Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning books go into more detail on how these sections will look like in the test and give practice questions for the test takers to solve.
The Super Power Pack is updated each year with new strategies and questions, so if you are planning to only purchase one set of books, this should definitely be on your list.
- The biggest advantage of these books is that they are published by ETS, the maker of the GRE test. They have all the inside information about the test that other GRE prep material publishers don’t.
- The books include real GRE questions so they are the best way to get familiarized with the structure and format.
- The strategies in the book are quite generic. You can find such strategies in any GRE prep website or book. This is because ETS does not want to give too much information on how to beat the test since they are the ones compiling it.
- The explanations of the answers are not too thorough, so the readers might not always have a clear picture of how ETS got to the correct answers.
You can purchase the books here.
The Manhattan GRE Series (MGRE)
The MGRE is comprised of eight books, each on a specific topic of the GRE. They are all preparation and strategy books, and they all include practice questions within them. Out of the eight books, six of them deal with the Quantitative Reasoning section, going through the content and the question types such as:
- Algebra (decimals, fractions, percents)
- Word Problems
- Number Properties
- Data interpretation and quantitative comparisons
The rest of the books are on writing the GRE essays and reading comprehension, and the other is on sentence equivalence and text completion.
It is recommended to purchase the entire packet of eight books, but the publishers also give the option of buying individual books.
If you buy the whole pack, you also get six free online tests that simulate the official GRE test. Overall, the Manhattan prep GRE strategy guides are helpful for any level of the GRE test taker.
- The books are comprehensive with a lot of practice questions and strategies for each question
- The answer explanations are extremely thorough and easy to understand
- The six free online tests are computer adaptive just like the real GRE test which makes for great practice.
- The books are mostly focused on Quantitative Reasoning, so if you are struggling with Verbal or Writing, then you should find other sources too.
- There are too many strategies in the books, which might be overwhelming and overly specific, but you should try them and see what works best for you.
You can purchase the books here.
Magoosh GRE Book
Anyone who is planning to take the GRE is aware of Magoosh, the company which helps students with standardized test preparations. Their work is mostly online, but if you combine it with this physical book, then the magic happens. The Magoosh GRE book has a comprehensive content review and claims more than 130 practice questions for the GRE sections.
The book contains a detailed study plan that will help you to keep track of your studying, and lessons on each of the GRE sections. In addition, it includes one full length GRE test to help you simulate the real GRE.
- It is comprehensive and does a great job in explaining the content of the GRE in understandable and simple terms
- It contains a high number of practice questions and the practice test
- The included study plan is great for those who are struggling to study on their own
- The book is made to be paired with the Magoosh online GRE preparation so you need both to have the complete guide
- The answer explanations in the book could be improved to provide more details on how they got to the correct answer
You can purchase the book here.
Princeton Review: Cracking the GRE
The Princeton Review book is one of the best GRE prep book for those struggling with the Verbal and Writing sections. It offers comprehensive and detailed reviews and practice questions, which help students immensely.
The book has five parts, with the first part containing strategies for the test, the three next parts go over the three sections of the GRE, and the last part has practice problems and four practice tests. These practice tests can be accessed online and if you purchase the premium edition, Princeton gives you access to six online tests.
- It gives some of the best reviews for the Verbal and Analytical Writing sections
- The practice questions are quite similar to the real GRE test and they give great answer explanations
- The practice tests generate score reports which include the writing section scores too unlike many other prep platforms
- The Quantitative section is not the greatest. It is quite confusing so if you are struggling with math you should find other resources
McGraw-Hill’s Conquering the New GRE Math
This is probably one of the best GRE study materials for successfully completing the Quantitative section of the test. It starts from the basic concepts that you need to master and provides you with practice questions for them.
The book is great for those who struggle with basic math and algebra so if you have not grasped the basic concepts, then this book is for you.
- Has applicable and easy strategies to use for the GRE Quantitative section
- Gives simple and understandable explanations for basic GRE math concepts
- Offers a ton of GRE practice problems for specific concepts and question types
- The book is mostly for math beginners and will not give you the difficult problems that you can find in the real GRE
You can purchase the book here.
Nova’s GRE Math Prep Course
This book is for people who have already mastered basic concepts of the math used in the GRE. It goes over the concepts, but then gives easy, medium, hard, and very hard math practice questions.
- Large number of practice questions
- The difficulty marked questions help students go from one level to the next and build the Quantitative section stamina that they need for the real GRE test.
- There are little to no strategies provided in this book
- The math questions in the “hard” level are much harder than the actual GRE questions, so there is not much use going into the “very hard” level.
- The book assumes that people reading it already have a solid foundation of math, so the book is not for those who have not yet understood the basic math concepts
Barron’s GRE 21st Edition
Barron’s book is somewhat similar to the Princeton book in the sense that it contains the five parts and tries to give information encompassing all the GRE sections. The first part details the format of the GRE and some strategies, and the rest include going over each GRE section and two full practice tests with answers at the end.
When you buy this book, you will also gain some online content from their website.
- The practice questions are great and they mimic the real GRE style questions
- The vocabulary in this book is extensive with around 3000 words and definitions
- The questions are not in the maximum difficulty of the GRE, so if you are trying to get a high score, you need to use other resources too.
You can purchase the book here.
Magoosh Free GRE eBooks
All the materials mentioned in this article are some of the best GRE study materials but they all need to be purchased. If you are still unsure on which books to get, you can begin with free resources such as the Magoosh Free GRE eBooks.
These books offer beginning concepts and strategies and are a great way to get used to the format and structure of the test. Since they are eBooks, they will also help you get used to reading and doing problems on screen rather than in physical copies of books.
Besides being great introductory books and free, the books do not offer much in the way of detailed study and comprehensive content review. You will need to get other resources if you are aiming for a higher score.
You can find the eBooks here.
In addition to the best GRE books and materials, you can also access other online materials and resources such as: