Choosing the best GRE prep books can be trickier than when you were pulling SAT or ACT prep books from the shelves without much thought as to what they could offer. When you were preparing to take the SAT or the ACT, you were a full time student and studying was a way of life, a part of your daily routine. When you’re taking the GRE, it’s a different story because most exam takers have already been out of school for years and are already working full time in their chosen fields. Getting back on the horse aka burning the midnight oil studying for an exam might need you to oil those rusty gears and the best GRE prep books should be able to help you do that along with earning you a lot of extra points. Unfortunately for most of us, studying to take an exam like the GRE won’t be like riding a bike, especially for the mathematics section. But with a set of GRE prep books that have been chosen for its strengths that complement your weak spots as a student, you should be able to ace the GRE (or at least get a higher score that you need).
1- Manhattan Prep GRE Set of 8 Strategy Guides
The goal of the Manhattan Prep GRE set is to be comprehensive and they have succeeded. If you are looking for an all-in-one prep guide with a complete set of practice tests, strategies, and a reintroduction into the subject matter then the Manhattan GRE prep set is your best bet. Authored by Manhattan Prep’s own GRE instructors, the practice tests and study guides don’t suffer from being too general and instead focus on very GRE-specific topics.
The strengths of this GRE prep set is its friendly and content-driven approach, making it a good investment for those who haven’t taken a qualification exam in years and don’t have a lot of time they can devote to studying. The strategy guides – and there are more than a few in this set – also do a good job in preparing you for the different question formats used for the GRE.
Also, if you are looking for a strong math prep guide, the Manhattan GRE prep devotes a lot of time to mathematics, with most of the eight books reserved for mastering the mathematics subjects. These books cover algebra, fractions, geometry, number properties, word problems, and quantitative comparisons.
This prep guide will not help you learn the subjects for the GRE from the ground up. It focuses on the test, how the test works, and what questions and topics are usually covered in the test.
Some people also feel that the coverage of the math-related subjects is overkill but the prep guide was designed with the assumption that a lot of test takers will struggle with math much more than they will with the other subjects.
2 – Kaplan GRE Premier 2016 with 6 Practice Tests
Made by Kaplan, one of the best known publishers of prep books for a lot of standardized tests, their GRE prep book is worth investing in if you need a basic primer for the GRE and you’re looking for a one size fits all kind of prep guide. With the strategies and practice tests contained with the book along with online material and a DVD, the Kaplan GRE Premier offers great value for your money and it goes into detail in discussing how the test is scored and offers strategies like how to properly pace yourself when taking the GRE.
The biggest downside of the Kaplan GRE Premier is its practice tests which a lot of people feel are much too easy compared to the actual questions in the exam. This gives those taking the practice tests an unrealistic view of their performance and may leave them unprepared. This was particularly evident in the quantitatve practice test contained in the book.
Again, this GRE prep book by Kaplan is more of a basic primer, something you can use to get you started. I would definitely recommend supplementing it with other guides in this list of the best GRE prep books that particularly cover your weak spots as a student and test taker, particularly in the last leg of your studying.
3 – Official GRE Super Power Pack
There is always a lot of value in using the official prep guide released by the official test makers of the standardized exam because they are in the best position to give realistic, relevant practice test questions and study guides. In the case of the GRE, this would be the Official GRE Super Power Pack prep book.
Technically, this GRE prep book is also a comprehensive and all-in-one study guide that contains strategies for mastering the exam, online material, supplementary CD-ROMs, test-taking tips, and a review of the GRE format and how it works. But the real strength of this GRE prep book is in its practice tests and the realism that they offer.
The practice tests contained in the Official GRE Super Power Pack are the closest to the real thing and can give you a really good look at your potential performance for the GRE and how much more improvement and studying that you need to get the scores that you want. While other prep books may offer the same level of difficulty for their practice tests as the real thing, they may not capture the same nuances and complexities of the GRE test questions in the same way that this official guide can.
The value of the Official GRE Super Power Pack is in its practice tests but you may want to supplement this prep book with other study guides that can lend more focus to studying for subjects that you consider your weak spots. The study guides that it provides are more general and basic and don’t really hash out the subjects as much as I would like. Buy this GRE prep book for the practice tests but use other prep books for your studying.
4 – 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems (Manhattan Prep GRE Strategy Guides)
Another GRE prep book by the leading tutoring group, Manhattan Prep, this 5lb book picks up where the Manhattan Prep GRE Set of 8 Strategy Guides leaves off. Aside from giving your arms a workout, this notably heavy book is designed to give you a mental workout and is meant to be a supplementary book to your strategy guides. It will provide the drills, the practice tests, and the rest of the building blocks that you need after you have covered the basics to get you that extra mile.
The 5lb Book of GRE Practice Problems works exactly as advertised. It offers tons of practice questions that come with excellent and easy to understand explanations in the answer section. Just like its sister book, the Manhattan Prep GRE Set of 8 Strategy Guides, it is particularly strong in math and offers very detailed step-by-step solutions for the quantitative questions.
It is not a comprehensive study book, it will not help you understand the GRE and its question formats, it does not offer any strategies for studying or for mastering the test. It is a GRE study book of practice problems, nothing more or less.
This book is a supplementary book and does not stand alone. I would recommend buying it if you have already covered the strategies and studying for the subjects and are looking for drills that can drive the lessons home. This is also a good investment for those who want to improve their performance in mathematics.
5 – GRE Prep 2016 Study Guide: Test Prep Book for the GRE Exam
If you are looking for a more ‘bag of tricks’ kind of GRE prep book, then the GRE Prep 2016 Study Guide. It will help you understand the GRE, offer insights on what each subject sections are actually looking for, and offer some top tier test taking strategies.
The language used in this prep book is also friendly and easy to understand, making it easy to read and go through. It never gets long winded or too tedious which some GRE prep books can suffer from.
This book is great as an introduction to the GRE, to help you break down the different sections along with concrete examples, and presents learning ideas in very simple forms.
This book doesn’t go far beyond being an introduction. While it does a good job of introducing test takers to the GRE and covers basic strategies, it is far from a standalone GRE prep book. It is also a very slim book and the mini lessons and sample questions don’t compare to full length practice tests that other GRE prep books offer.
I would recommend that you buy this GRE prep book if you haven’t taken a standardized test for years and studying as a student has become a very dim memory. A light introduction that helps you focus but also relax is exactly what this prep book offers.
6 – The Princeton Review: Cracking the GRE with 4 Practice Tests, 2016 Edition
As comprehensive GRE prep books go, the Princeton Review’s Cracking the GRE is a very good one. It tells you how to organize your approach to studying the exam and how to stay organized during the exam, how to make use of pacing strategies and how to save time, and how the test works and what each section is actually asking of you. Written well and in a concise way, this GRE prep guide cuts to the chase and goes to the meat of the matter.
Part of this GRE prep book’s strength is how easy it is to read, staying very clear of boring and tedious. It manages to be engaging and interesting as it helps the reader navigate through subject matter and the learning process. Unlike most prep books that students dread reading, Princeton’s Cracking the GRE is easy to go through from cover to cover.
As a comprehensive GRE prep book, Cracking the GRE can do a better job of helping students go more in-depth for specific subjects. A lot of readers pointed out that the math questions in the practice tests were a lot easier than in the actual GRE but the prep book performed a lot better in the verbal sections.