Best GRE Prep Books in 2020 / 2021 (With Buying Guide)

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The GRE General Test can be overwhelming for a lot of students, and that’s understandable. The GRE is not an easy exam, and everyone knows that the preparation for the GRE is crucial and must not be taken lightly. Choosing the best GRE prep books is vital in preparing you to ace the GRE to get into the graduate school of your choice.

Because GRE prep depends on your learning style, and the time you have before the exam, we’ve listed down reviews of the best GRE prep books on the market in 2020 and 2021, along with a buying guide to help you choose the best GRE prep book for you.

Best GRE Prep Books at a glance

  1. Kaplan GRE Prep 2021
  2. 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems
  3. The Official 3rd Edition Guide to the GRE General Test 
  4. GRE Prep by Magoosh
  5. Manhattan Prep GRE Set of 8 Strategy Guides
  6. Cracking the GRE with 6 Practice Tests 2020
  7. GRE Prep 2020-2021 by Test Prep Books
  8. GRE (Barron’s Test Prep)
  9. 1,027 GRE Practice Questions
  10. Our Choice: Mometrix GRE Prep 2020 and 2021

Best GRE Prep Books Reviewed

1. Kaplan GRE Prep 2020

The first on our list of the best GRE pep books is GRE Prep 2021 by Kaplan. It’s a complete GRE prep guide with two full-length GRE practice tests, one included in the GRE prep book and one online, with the latter patterned from the same computer-based test on the GRE.

It also comes with chapters on each GRE test section with practice questions for each chapter and several online supplementary materials.

This GRE prep book has a lot of good practice questions with varying levels of difficulty, and the explanations that come with the answers are concise. It gives techniques in approaching difficult questions to make them more manageable. There is also a GRE vocabulary guide with synonyms at the end of the book, which is superb.

Although Kaplan’s GRE book is one of the best GRE prep book, we noticed that some online supplementary materials have decreased in number and quality in the more recent editions of the book.

Pros:

  • Kaplan’s GRE prep comes with lots of online supplementary materials
  • Two full-length practice tests
  • The online practice tests are similar to the official computer-based GRE test.
  • Gives techniques in approaching difficult questions

Cons:

  • Recent editions have fewer online materials.
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2. 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems

If you’re looking for a GRE prep book that focuses on GRE practice problems, then Manhattan Prep’s 5 lb Book of GRE Practice Problems is what you need.

This GRE prep book boasts over 1,800 practice problems that are meant to mirror the content and style of the ones found on the GRE. It also comes with Manhattan Prep’s interactive online learning modules for a supplementary GRE study.

This GRE prep book is perfect for those who already know the contents of the GRE and only need practicing. The Manhattan prep book is divided into chapters that focus on a specific question type, so you can aptly catch the momentum of each type before moving on to the next one. The solutions to the question are also detailed and well-explained, and the GRE book comes with a vocabulary word list.

However, because this GRE prep book focuses on practice problems, you’ll need to get another book if you have yet to review the components and sections of the GRE. In Manhattan GRE Prep, there is also no indication of question difficulty in the book, so that may demotivate you if you suddenly get a hard question that you can’t solve as quickly as the previous one.

Overall, the Manhattan prep GRE book is a superb GRE book for consistent and daily practice.

Pros:

  • Manhattan Prep includes 1,800+ practice problems
  • Comes with online learning modules
  • Manhattan Prep is perfect for daily practice and preparation

Cons:

  • No indication of question difficulty in Manjattan Prep
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3. The Official 3rd Edition Guide to the GRE General Test

Nothing beats The Official Guide to the GRE General Test, especially if it’s a prep book from ETS—the people who make the actual GRE test. This GRE prep book is a complete guide to the GRE that helps you manage your test-day expectations and tell you exactly how the test is scored—and with its authentic practice questions and online resources from ETS, there is nothing more reliable than this.

The PowerPrep practice tests are free and accessible by anyone with an account in ETS, and there’s no need to buy the GRE book to take the online GRE practice tests.

Additionally, the 3rd and the latest edition of the GRE prep book is barely revised from the 2nd edition, apart from a few extra pages here and there. The CD from the 2nd edition is gone, but there’s the GRE PowerPrep software as supplementary material anyway. We noticed that the GRE practice tests between the two editions are the same, and the 2nd edition came out four years earlier. The GRE book doesn’t provide many test-taking strategies. You get a comprehensive review of each section, and you get questions that are accurate to the ones that will show up in the GRE exam. The free PowerPrep software from ETS official GRE is also a big plus.

Pair this GRE study guide with a book like Manhattan Prep 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Questions, and you’re armed with everything you need for the GRE General Test.

Pros:

  • Has the most authentic questions
  • Comes with the GRE PowerPrep software from ETS
  • The two online GRE practice tests are computer-adaptive

Cons:

  • The 3rd edition is almost identical to the 2nd edition
  • Doesn’t provide many test-taking strategies
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4. GRE Prep by Magoosh

While Magoosh has an online GRE Program with a wide array of learning materials and full-length GRE practice tests, the GRE Prep by Magoosh book contains some of the best practice questions they have, along with strategies and even a GRE study schedule for the GRE General Test. It also includes a full-length practice test with detailed answer explanations and in-depth explanations.

Each question has statistics of its difficulty rating and how many students get the question right to manage your expectations for the real GRE exam better. It’s a lightweight book, but the included schedule helps maximize your GRE study time.

It has also done a great job of dissecting the GRE quantitative reasoning practice questions to help to develop your intuition for such questions.

However, the verbal section of the GRE prep book needs work. It’s not as detailed and comprehensive as other GRE books. Additionally, the pacing of the questions seems to be all over the place. After an easy problem comes a difficult one, and it can mess up your momentum.

Lastly, there aren’t a lot of practice GRE questions available in the GRE book. It’s more for building knowledge and intuition than for practicing.

Pros:

  • Provides plentiful mobile and online learning resources
  • Questions come with statistics and difficulty ratings.
  • Great quantitative section focus

Cons:

  • The verbal section needs work.
  • The pacing of the difficulty of questions is all over the place.
  • Not many practice questions
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5. Manhattan Prep GRE Set of 8 Strategy Guides

If you’re looking for a complete, content-driven guide, then this Set of 8 Strategy Guides by Manhattan Prep is what you’re looking for. It contains eight GRE books that focus on different topics, so this is for you if you need brushing up on the fundamentals.

Each GRE prep book contains comprehensive and detailed explanations of the topic at hand and tackles each question according to difficulty. It helps build the mindset you need to answer difficult questions without getting overwhelmed, and it’s complete with all the topics in the GRE.

The guides in these GRE books are easy to understand, and they also come with access to six online GRE practice exams and other online learning materials.

This set is not for you, though, if you’re looking for a wide range of GRE practice questions. There are only enough in each GRE book to apply the strategies for each topic. However, you can pair these strategy guides with Manhattan Prep 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems and you will be well on your way to acing the exam.

Pros:

  • The GRE books include access to six online GRE practice tests
  • Comprehensive and easy to understand
  • A complete guide for brushing up on fundamentals

Cons:

  • Not many practice questions
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6. Cracking the GRE with 6 Practice Tests 2020

The Princeton Review’s Cracking the GRE Premium Edition claims to be the all-in-one solution to acing your GRE General Test. It includes thorough math and verbal section reviews and even includes six full-length practice tests, two found in the Princeton Review GRE prep book, and four more online, all with in-depth explanations.

Cracking the GRE premium edition package of the Princeton Review also comes with access to exclusive online content such as information about grad school admissions, video tutorials of test-taking strategies, and even additional GRE study guides. The GRE book also teaches you tactics in managing difficult questions and your time during the GRE.

Despite the all-in-one solution claim, the practice questions and math topics in the book are often too easy and straightforward compared to the real GRE questions. The verbal section does an excellent job of explaining the technique, but the practice questions are still not similar to the ones in the GRE.

There are also GRE math concepts that might show up in the GRE that is not tackled in this book. That is a big deal-breaker because you want to study topics and problems that are as close to authentic as possible, and anything that isn’t is a waste of time.

Pros:

  • Includes six full-length practice tests
  • Access to online exclusive premium content

Cons:

  • Lacking math concepts that might show up in the GRE
  • Practice questions may be too easy
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7. Test Prep Books: GRE Prep 2020 and 2021

This GRE Prep Book by Test Prep Books is another complete and comprehensive study guide to the GRE General Test. Test Prep Books includes a breakdown of the contents of the GRE, and it also gives strategies in tackling the questions that will show up. Plus, Test Prep Books includes a free Test Taking Tips DVD.

There’s a section of the GRE prep book dedicated to strategies in overcoming the exam, which is especially important because some questions can be tricky. Each section of this GRE test prep book is comprehensive, and it explains every topic straightforwardly, and it also explains answers in detail and gives suggestions, helping you understand what and where you went wrong.

This GRE prep book by Test Prep Books, unfortunately, does not have a full-length mock test, but ETS official GRE has a free and realistic one anyway. It’s also not a GRE book for practicing because it doesn’t have a lot of practice questions.

Pros:

  • Test Prep Books offers ways to tackle difficult and tricky questions
  • A comprehensive and detailed review of the whole GRE test
  • Free GRE Test Taking Tips DVD

Cons:

  • Does not include a full-length mock test
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8. GRE (Barron’s Test Prep)

Barron’s GRE is a GRE guide with everything you need to know about the GRE General Test. It has reviews of each GRE section with diagnostic tests and two full-length GRE practice tests. All of these practice tests come with detailed answer explanations and detailed explanations within the Barron’s GRE prep book.

The people who purchase the GRE book also gain access to two more full-length exams online, which are accessible on any platform.

However, this GRE prep book is lacking in several aspects. There are concepts, specifically the GRE quantitative reasoning practice questions, that show up in the GRE that are not properly tackled in the guide. There is not enough information and problems given, and explanations are not given in full detail.

Additionally, some explanations are more complicated than they need to be. They go through unnecessary steps that could have had a simpler workaround. The practice questions in this GRE prep book are also far from the difficulty of the real GRE.

Pros:

  • Access to four full-length GREs
  • Up-to-date and comprehensive GRE review
  • Detailed explanations

Cons:

  • The GRE math section doesn’t fully explain some concepts.
  • Some explanations are rather complicated
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9. 1,027 GRE Practice Questions

The GRE Prep book by The Princeton Review is another book filled with practice questions that are aimed to help you practice your way to the best GRE score.

Apart from the problems and drills, there is a diagnostic test included in the Princeton Review to help you gauge how prepared you are for the exam, and a full-length practice test available online.

This GRE prep book breaks down math and GRE verbal reasoning practice questions to better help you get into the problem-solving mindset, even when faced with tricky GRE questions. Princeton Review has also a bonus online GRE vocabulary content to further prepare you with the GRE verbal reasoning practice questions.

However, despite being released in 2018, this Princeton Review has the same GRE questions from the 2014 edition, which is available for free online. There are also several incorrect math answers in the book, and the practice questions are much easier than the ones in the GRE.

The quantity of the problems helps in practicing, but the explanations are subpar and might confuse the learner instead of helping them.

Pros:

  • 1,027 practice questions
  • Access to an online full-length practice test
  • Bonus vocabulary section

Cons:

  • Explanations can be confusing
  • Questions have not recently been updated
  • May be too easy for the GRE
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10. Mometrix GRE Prep 2020 and 2021

The last on our list of the best GRE prep books is Mometrix’ GRE Prep 2020 and 2021. We think this is the best GRE prep book on the market. It’s a complete study guide with section reviews, detailed answer explanations, a full-length practice test, and even strategies and step-by-step video tutorials for difficult concepts.

It handles the topics straightforwardly and simply and gives comprehensive explanations of the concepts at hand. Apart from that and its drills and practice questions, it also includes GRE practice tests for each of the three sections of the GRE to help you master them before taking the actual GRE test.

This GRE prep book puts a lot of attention to the psychology of the students who are planning to take the exam. It teaches you strategies and tips on overcoming obstacles before and during the test. Not only does it arm you with the subject fundamentals, but it also gives you the confidence boost you need to face the GRE. You can tell that the book was made with thoughtfulness in mind.

However, no matter how complete this GRE study guide is, it’s not going to be enough, and you might still need to buy a separate book if you need to focus on practicing answering questions. But overall, this is an excellent prep book—one of the best out there.

Pros:

  • In-depth, comprehensive, and complete GRE prep book
  • Access to step-by-step video tutorials
  • Straight-forward and simple explanations

Cons:

  • Great for learning, not for practicing.
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GRE Prep Book Buying Guide

Before getting around to buying the best GRE prep books, it’s important to assess where you need to get started. If you only recently learned about the GRE and didn’t know much about it, then your first step is to gather resources that let you know what goes on during the exam day and what comprises the GRE. It has three GRE sections that you need to understand and read about before starting studying. Next, take practice tests on the GRE website to check what areas or sections of the GRE you need to improve on. This will help you focus on the subjects you know you’re having trouble with and will make finding a prep book easier for you.

As mentioned earlier, GRE prep varies from person to person. You can either take GRE prep courses on PrepScholar or find a suitable book that works best for your circumstances, consider the following factors:

Content

Think about your learning style and what you’re looking for in a GRE prep book. For self-studying, some GRE prep books go over the full scope of the actual GRE test in detail, while some focus more on practice questions and even give special attention to harder sections of GRE. Some GRE prep books also come with CDs for those who are more adept at learning visually.

Additionally, if you’ve already attended GRE prep courses, you can get a book that was made specifically to follow up or to supplement what you’ve already learned. If you need to focus on practicing, look for a GRE book with a ton of practice questions.

Features

The best GRE prep books have all the features and GRE sections that will help you ace your test. First, it should have an overview of the exam along with the mechanics on how it’s scored and what you need to do during the test day. It should also contain detailed and comprehensive reviews of each section included in the test.

Most GRE prep books will have a full-length mock GRE test, but if you can find one that comes with a computer-adaptive one, it’s going to be more worth it because it simulates the real exam. Some GRE prep books also come with a question bank for difficult question types, and some come with extra online or mobile resources that can help you study.

Diagnostic tests are also convenient so that the learner can assess their current level of preparedness. Additionally, ETS official GRE offers free practice tests on their website, along with other free learning resources as long as you have an account.

Take note of this, too, when you’re looking for a prep book. Lastly, GRE prep books that contain test-taking strategies and the best GRE study tips are a big plus.

Your Time

Consider how much time you have left before you’ll have to take your GRE, and buy a book that you know you can finish within the GRE time range.

It’s important to study your prep book from front to back in great detail, so there’s no reason to overshoot or even over-prepare by buying a big book and then finding out that you can’t finish it.

FAQs

Should I buy GRE prep books online?

If you’re buying online, make sure to check the reviews of the book you’re going for. There can be a lot of reviews, but you might find that there won’t be many comprehensive ones.

Otherwise, it’s better to go to a bookstore to buy them in person so you can better check the contents for yourself. Look through the GRE prep books available and choose one or a few that work best for you.

How much time do I need to study for the GRE?

Of course, it’s going to vary per person how quickly you learn and how much of the fundamentals you remember, but the more time you allot for studying, the better.

Spend as much time brushing up on the basics of the topics as solving problems over and over. Also, spend time internalizing test-taking strategies to make your time management during test-day easier.

The more information and knowledge you absorb before the GRE, the better armed you are to take it.

Do I need to take prep classes?

That will depend on you and your learning style. If you learn and study better in a classroom setting, then a prep class will be well worth your time. There are also online prep classes available if time flexibility is what you’re looking for. Magoosh GRE is one of the most popular online GRE prep course service.

But if you are good at studying by yourself, and especially if you prefer learning that way, then there’s no need to take prep classes. Visual but self-study learners can also pick up GRE prep books that come with CDs.

How many GRE prep books do I need?

You have to find the best GRE books that have everything you need and suit your learning style. Some GRE prep books prioritize fundamentals and comprehensive explanations more than GRE practice problems, and some GRE prep books focus on GRE practice problems without going over the sections of the GRE.

With these GRE prep books, it’s often one over the other, and you can either choose one that fits your circumstances best or simply buy more than one prep book. You’re going to benefit more from grabbing multiple GRE prep books with different strengths than picking up one book that might lack in content. You may find some of these textbooks as digital textbooks for 80% cheaper on RedShelf.

Conclusion

Choosing the best GRE prep book is a crucial step in studying for the GRE General Test. It can be overwhelming to browse because of the full range of options available in the market, but we hope this guide makes finding the best GRE prep book much easier for you.

 



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