Best GRE Prep Books 2020 / 2021

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The GRE General Test can be overwhelming for a lot of students, and that’s understandable. It’s not an easy exam, and everyone knows that the preparation for it is crucial and must not be taken lightly.

Choosing a good GRE prep book is vital in preparing you to ace the test to get into the graduate school of your choice.

Because GRE prep varies per person’s learning style, and the time they have before the exam, we’ve listed down reviews of the best prep books on the market, 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 2020: Practice Tests and Proven Strategies + Online
  2. 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems: 1,800+ Practice Problems in Book and Online
  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 Study Book and Practice Test Questions for the Graduate Record Examination 2020-2021 
  8. GRE (Barron’s Test Prep)
  9. 1,027 GRE Practice Questions: GRE Prep for an Excellent Score
  10. Our Choice: Mometrix GRE Prep 2020 and 2021: GRE Study Book, Full-Length Practice Test, and Detailed Answer Explanations

Best GRE Prep Books Reviewed

1. Kaplan GRE Prep 2020: Practice Tests and Proven Strategies + Online

The first on our list is GRE Prep 2020 by Kaplan. It’s a complete prep guide with two full-length practice tests, one included in the 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.

The book has a lot of good practice problems 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 vocabulary guide with synonyms at the end of the book, which is superb.

Although Kaplan is one of the most popular 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:

  • Comes with lots of online supplementary materials
  • Online test is 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: 1,800+ Practice Problems in Book and Online

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

This 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 study.

This book is perfect for those who already know the contents of the GRE and only need practicing. It’s 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 problems are also detailed and well-explained, and the book comes with a vocabulary word list.

However, because the 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. 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, this is a superb book for consistent and daily practice. You never run out of practice problems.

Pros:

  • 1,800+ practice problems
  • Comes with online learning modules
  • Perfect for daily practice and preparation

Cons:

  • No indication of question difficulty
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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 GRE test. This book is a complete guide 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 product thoroughly reviews each section of the GRE and mentions four full-length practice tests, two of which are included in the book, and the other two, which are computer-adaptive tests, are available in their GRE PowerPrep software.

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

Additionally, the 3rd and the latest edition of the 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 practice tests between the two editions are the same, and the 2nd edition came out four years earlier. The book doesn’t provide many test-taking strategies.

Despite the guide not being updated a significant amount since the 2nd edition, this is still the closest you can get to an authentic testing experience for the GRE. You get a comprehensive review of each section, and you get questions that are accurate to the ones that will show up in the exam. The free PowerPrep software from ETS is also a big plus.

Pair this guide with a book like Manhattan’s 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 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 tests, the GRE Prep by Magoosh book contains some of the best practice questions they have, along with strategies and even a study schedule for the GRE General Test. It also includes a full-length practice test with an answer key 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 exam better. It’s a lightweight book, but the included schedule helps maximize your study time.

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

However, the verbal section of the book needs work. It’s not as detailed and comprehensive as other prep 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 questions available in the 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 books that focus on different topics, so this is for you if you need brushing up on the fundamentals.

Each 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.

These guides 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 practice questions. There are only enough in each book to apply the strategies for each topic. However, you can pair these strategy guides with Manhattan Prep’s 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems and you will be well on your way to acing the exam.

Pros:

  • Includes access to six online GRE practice exams
  • 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 All-in-One Solution for Your Highest Possible Score

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 book, and four more online, all with in-depth explanations.

The premium edition package also comes with access to exclusive online content such as information about grad school admissions, video tutorials of test-taking strategies, and even additional study guides. The 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 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 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. GRE Prep 2020 and 2021: GRE Study Book and Practice Test Questions for the Graduate Record Examination 2020-2021

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

There’s a section of the book dedicated to strategies in overcoming the exam, which is especially important because some questions can be tricky. Each section 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 book, unfortunately, does not have a full-length mock test, but ETS has a free and realistic one anyway. It’s also not a book for practicing because it doesn’t have a lot of practice questions.

Pros:

  • Offers ways to tackle difficult and tricky questions
  • A comprehensive and detailed review of the whole GRE test
  • Free 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 guide with everything you need to know about the GRE General Test. It has reviews of each section with diagnostic tests and two full-length GRE tests. All of these tests come with answer keys and detailed explanations within the book.

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

However, this prep book is lacking in several aspects. There are concepts, specifically in the quantitative section, that show up in the GRE that are not properly tackled in the guide. There are not enough information and practice 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 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 math section doesn’t fully explain some concepts.
  • Some explanations are rather complicated
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9. 1,027 GRE Practice Questions: GRE Prep for an Excellent Score

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 an excellent GRE score.

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

This book breaks down math and verbal concepts to better help you get into the problem-solving mindset, even when faced with tricky GRE questions. There’s also a bonus online vocabulary content for further prepare you for the verbal section of the exam.

However, despite being released in 2018, it has the same 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: GRE Study Book, Full-Length Practice Test, and Detailed Answer Explanations

The last on our list is Mometrix’ GRE Prep 2020 and 2021. It’s a complete 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 tests for each of the three sections of the GRE to help you master them before taking the actual test.

The 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 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 a prep book, 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 sections that you need to understand and read about before starting studying.

Next, take a practice test on the GRE website to check what areas or sections 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 a GRE prep course 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 prep book. For self-studying, some books go over the full scope of the GRE test in detail, while some focus more on practice questions and even give special attention to harder sections of GRE. Some books also come with CDs for those who are more adept at learning visually.

Additionally, if you’ve already attended prep classes, 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 book with a ton of practice problems.

Features

A good GRE prep book will have all the features and 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 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 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 offers a free practice GRE test 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, books that contain test-taking strategies and 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

Is it better to buy prep books online or in-person?

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 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 practice 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, or is a guide book enough?

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. Still, buy a guide book to supplement your classroom learnings.

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 prep books do I need?

If you find a prep book that has everything you need, then you’ll be fine with that one book. However, that’s not the case most of the time.

Some books prioritize fundamentals and comprehensive explanations more than practice problems, and some books focus on practice problems without going over the sections of the GRE.

With these 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 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 a 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 and most appropriate GRE prep book much easier for you.

 



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