If you’re applying for graduate school, you’ve probably seen that many programs require applicants to submit GRE scores. GRE stands for Graduate Record Exam, which is a standardized test that helps schools estimate academic skills that are important for success in rigorous higher education programs.
A variety of degree subjects will require you to submit GRE scores. These include but are not limited to degrees in the humanities, science and engineering. Since your GRE score can make or break your application to many top schools, you will need to study in order to earn as high a grade as you can.
What’s on the GRE?
The GRE has three sections: analytic writing, quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning. Each of these sections is designed to show your aptitude as a student under pressure.
The analytic writing section allows you to show off your composition skills, including the proper use of grammar and logical argument design. The quantitative reasoning section is composed of multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank math problems that rely on your understanding of logic and reasoning as well as your computational skills. The verbal reasoning portion tests your vocabulary and your reading comprehension skills.
Most of the material on the GRE requires higher-level analytical skills that must be developed over time. However, on some parts of the GRE, you will benefit from rote memorization. Using one of the following best GRE books will help you learn the skills necessary for acing the test and will help remind you of other information you can memorize to boost your score.
The Best GRE Books
Not all GRE study books are worth the money. Some only contain part of the information you need to do well on the test, and others include either no practice material or only a limited amount. The best GRE study books are inexpensive and include tips, study guides and practice materials you can use to prepare for the test.
Before you go out and buy a book, though, remember that Educational Testing Services, the administrator of the GRE, offers free practice materials on its website. Check out these materials before you spend money on additional practice books. At the same time, the practice materials you will find online are not comprehensive, so you may benefit from using additional materials, especially if you don’t usually do well on tests.
One of the best books you can buy to prepare for the GRE is ETS’s "The Official Guide to the Revised General Test." Other books that are worth the money are Manhattan Prep’s "5lb Book of GRE Practice Problems," Kaplan’s GRE book and the Princeton Review’s GRE book. Each of these books has its own advantages and drawbacks, so you may benefit from purchasing or borrowing more than one.
ETS’s "The Official Guide to the Revised General Test"
Since the ETS is the maker and administrator of the GRE, it makes sense to start with their study book. ETS’s "The Official Guide to the Revised General Test" is the only official guide to the GRE. Aside from that, there are still more reasons why "The Official Guide to the Revised General Test" is one of the most recommended GRE study guides.
"The Official Guide to the Revised General Test" is the only study guide that will help you understand what the real GRE test will look like because it comes with four full-length, real practice tests. You can take these online, simulating the actual testing conditions of the GRE.
In addition to offering real practice tests and problems, "The Official Guide to the Revised General Test" gives descriptions of each section, helping you understand the details and nuances of the test that any unofficial guide cannot offer. The only real drawbacks to "The Official Guide to the Revised General Test" is that it does not include test-taking strategies, and if you use the guide frequently, you may run out of practice questions before you’re ready to take the test.
Manhattan Prep’s "5lb Book of GRE Practice Problems"
One solution that many studiers use to solve the limited material problem of ETS’s "The Official Guide to the Revised General Test" is to buy this popular book that contains so many practice problems that they’re measured by weight. Manhattan Prep’s "5lb Book of GRE Practice Problems" is more than 1,000 pages long and includes upward of 2,000 practice problems and more than 1,400 GRE vocabulary words.
This detailed and weighty guide will help you study topics like geometry in more depth than the average test prep book. Since it only costs $20, you can write in the book itself to complete the problems. Manhattan Prep’s "5lb Book of GRE Practice Problems" is the ideal purchase for test takers who learn best by repetition, especially those who need more help on the quantitative math section than anything else.
While it does contain a multitude of practice questions, the only major drawback to this test preparation book is that it doesn’t include any full-length practice tests. When you’re rehearsing for the GRE, replicating the test environment as close as possible is a vital step in your journey toward a high score. You can’t replicate the feeling and timing of the official test with only individual problems, so it’s a good idea to supplement this test book with a book that includes multiple practice tests.
Kaplan’s GRE Book: "GRE Prep Plus 2019"
Kaplan’s GRE book, "GRE Prep Plus 2019," includes one thing that both the Manhattan Prep and ETS books don’t: strategy guides. This makes this book an ideal supplement for test takers who feel solid in their understanding of the test content but less secure in how to complete the test itself. Of all the test books mentioned so far, Kaplan’s GRE book is the most comprehensive.
In addition to more than 1,000 practice problems, Kaplan’s "GRE Prep Plus 2019" also includes two full-length online tests. Unlike the other books mentioned thus far, Kaplan’s "GRE Prep Plus 2019" comes with video tutorials designed to help students learn better test-taking strategies. As a bonus, the online package comes with videos that will help you with your graduate school applications as well.
Need another reason to buy Kaplan’s book? They have one: a money-back guarantee. If you don’t score higher on the GRE after using this book, Kaplan will refund your purchase price.
The Princeton Review’s GRE Book: "Cracking the GRE Premium Edition"
The Princeton Review’s GRE book has a long name: "Cracking the GRE Premium Edition with 6 Practice Tests, 2019: The All-in-One Solution for Your Highest Possible Score." However, you don’t have to remember the whole thing to know this book works. Of all the books mentioned, this one gives the clearest explanations and walk-throughs of difficult problems.
"Cracking the GRE" offers tips and tactics that will help you complete the GRE with ease. It also includes six full-length practice tests, drills for each type of question and help interpreting your practice results. Many test takers have found this book to be the most comprehensive of all the GRE test-prep books. You may only need to supplement it with official ETS materials.
Rebecca Renner is a teacher and college professor from Florida. She loves teaching about literature, and she writes about books for Book Riot, Real Simple, Electric Literature and more.