11 Best GRE Prep Books (2021-2022)

Best GRE Study Books

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a prerequisite for many of the graduate programs offered to students in the United States. It follows a format close to standardized tests both in high school and after.

Students looking to secure top placements in competitive schools, as well as access to scholarships and grants, would do well to ace the GRE as part of their overall graduate application package. Studying and preparing for the test gives you the best chance of a good score across the board.

This list of test prep books for the GRE gives you practice with the different sections of the book as well as tips and tricks for test-taking and solving challenging questions. Let’s take a look at the study materials that could help transform your score from average to stellar.

Best GRE Prep Books – The Official List

Here are our favorites for GRE prep, both comprehensive options and targeted ones designed to beef up scores where your skills are weak. These are the best places to get started when you have a GRE deadline looming.

1. Manhattan Prep 5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems

A comprehensive overview to help students study for the GRE

Publisher: Manhattan Prep Publishing

Year: 2018

Number of pages: 1056

Our Final Grade: A

Manhattan Prep isn’t kidding about this book being a clunker. It’s a massive collection of GRE prep designed to provide both strategies for success, study guides, and plenty of practice. It works for all levels, and questions increase in difficulty, mimicking the real test.

Purchasing the book gets you access to Manhattan Prep’s online resources as well, including a practice test bank. The practice is realistic, and students also have access to general questions about the GRE.

Pros

  • Over 1800 practice questions
  • Detailed analysis after each practice question
  • Covers all question types thoroughly

Cons

  • Not many flashcards for vocabulary
  • Could use more practice with sentence completion

2. Kaplan GRE Prep Plus 2021

A full-length study guide from an industry giant

Publisher: Kaplan Grad Test Prep

Year: 2020

Number of pages: 708 pages

Our Final Grade: A

Kaplan takes a traditional approach by focusing on formulas and proven test strategies. While there aren’t deep dives into the concepts themselves, the 500 question quiz bank and sections focused on each of the GRE components give you a good overview.

The book contains one full mock test, and more online resources are available for students. It includes multiple ways to learn and apply the GRE strategies, and questions are ranked according to difficulty, so you have an idea of your ability level.

Pros

  • Focuses on formula and strategy
  • Full-length practice test
  • Practice questions are arranged according to difficulty

Cons

  • Some students could benefit from more math instruction than this book
  • Less focus on concepts

3. Manhattan Prep Strategy Guides

Targeted resources for each type of question on the GRE

Publisher: Manhattan Prep Publishing

Year: 2014

Number of pages: 1920 pages total

Our Final Grade: B+

Manhattan Prep’s guides are a series of books designed to address each type of question and task on the GRE. Taken as a whole, they offer a lot of specific guidance for each section and make a great set of guides if you have a lot of time to prepare.

If you’re struggling with just one type of section, they can provide extra practice in addition to other GRE prep books. They contain detailed explanations and varied questions with increasing difficulty to help you prepare.

You also gain access to six online practice tests to gauge your strengths and weaknesses. These are an excellent resource for either complete or targeted practice.

Pros

  • Detailed explanations for each type of question
  • Can buy together or separately
  • Offers six full-length practice tests

Cons

  • More expensive route to buy the series
  • Requires a series of books

4. ETS’s The Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test

Official test prep book from the test-makers themselves

Publisher: McGraw Hill

Year: 2016

Number of pages: 608

Our Final Grade: B

The latest edition of ETS’s book features robust explanations for both the reading and math sections of the GRE. The new edition also has a beefier math section with more fleshed out explanations and tricks than previous versions.

Test takers have access to four different official practice tests designed to introduce you to the fundamental test with no overlap. This gives you plenty of preparation if you’ve got some time to study.

ETS texts are a bit dry, and the resource focuses on the explanations rather than offering tips and tricks for how to think about questions. It’s a straightforward option, however, if you’re familiar with how standardized testing works, and you’re here for the material breakdown.

Pros:

  • Lots of practice questions
  • Four full-length tests
  • Improved math section

Cons

  • Focuses more on practice questions than explanations
  • You’ll need another resource for test strategies

5. Barron’s Essential Words for the GRE

Crush the notoriously tricky vocabulary of the GRE with this study guide

Publisher: Barrons Educational Series

Year: 2020

Number of pages: 416

Our Final Grade: B (A+ vocabulary only)

One of the biggest challenges students face with the GRE is vocabulary. The vocabulary section itself is filled with lesser-known words, and the rest of the sections make use of highly academic vocabulary that could stump students who aren’t prepared.

Barron’s Essential Words book is designed to broaden a test taker’s overall vocabulary bank, allowing students to build a robust academic vocabulary designed for success on the GRE. The set includes the 800 most common words used for the GRE plus sample questions to improve skills.

This book is excellent to boost your vocab skills, but you’ll need a full-length GRE prep book for help with the other sections. However, it can help get your vocabulary up to par for a better overall score.

Pros

  • Word bank of 800 most common GRE words
  • Builds critical skills for answering vocab questions
  • Slim, accessible volume

Cons

  • Not a comprehensive study guide
  • Requires supplemental materials for other sections

6. Princeton Review Cracking the GRE

All-purpose overview with online tests (provided you purchase a new book)

Publisher: Princeton Review

Year: 2018

Number of pages: 528

Our Final Grade: B

Princeton Review offers a study guide that focuses on strategies as well as detailed explanations of how to approach some of the trickier sections of the GRE. Princeton Review is a big name in test prep, and their volumes are comprehensive.

Students can expect tips on timing their test-taking as well as strategies to avoid common traps and take the test more efficiently. Purchasing a new book also provides access to online practice tests in a full-length format.

The study guide is a bit dry, but it does tackle both explanations and strategies. When you invest in a new book, you also receive money off Princeton’s full line of online GRE prep resources.

Pros

  • Tackles both explanations and strategies
  • Includes test-taking tips
  • Plenty of online resources

Cons

  • Online resources aren’t all free with the book purchase
  • Material is a little dry

7. GRE Prep by Magoosh Review

Includes question stats and an overview of the analytical writing section

Publisher: RTC Publishing

Year: 2017

Number of pages: 468

Our Final Grade: B

Magoosh’s test prep blends classic strategies with detailed explanations of challenging question types in one comprehensive overview. Students can see statistics about question types alongside explanations, and the book includes a lot of practice.

Magoosh also goes above the norm by providing tips and tricks as well as examples of the analytical writing section. Most books focus on the multiple-choice sections of the exam, so this is an excellent overview of what’s expected in the writing portion.

It has just one full-length practice test and 130 practice questions. It would be nice to see more, but this is a good option if you’re pressed for time during your preparations.

Pros

  • Includes a section on the analytical writing
  • Offers detailed stats about question types
  • Comprehensive enough yet brief – suitable for quick study sessions

Cons

  • Only one practice test
  • Not enough practice questions

8. Test Prep Books GRE Prep 2021-2022

Fresh content for the latest version of the GRE

Publisher: Test Prep Books

Year: 2020

Number of pages: 177

Our Final Grade: B

Test Prep Book’s new guide takes the latest version of the tests and applies strategies and tips to each section of the GRE. Clear instructions and guidance help students build realistic test-taking strategies and understand challenging questions.

The book does contain some practice questions, but it focuses mostly on the tips and strategies as well as explanations. Publishers designed the text to teach and introduce concepts with practice second, and students can opt into a free test-taking strategies DVD with the purchase of the book.

It’s clear, concise and would make a useful study tool for students who need a concept refresher before the GRE. Combine it with a full supplemental set of practice questions so that you can apply strategies before the day of the test.

Pros

  • Concise text
  • Provides clear explanations
  • Overview of the latest version of the test

Cons

  • Doesn’t offer much about the test itself (aside from the DVD supplement)
  • Not as much focus on practice questions or full-length test

9. Mometrix GRE Test Prep

Highly detailed yet accessible study guide for all sections of the GRE including analytical writing

Publisher: Mometrix Media LLC

Year: 2020

Number of pages: 144

Our Final Grade: B

Mometrix is a full length, comprehensive study guide for GRE test-takers who need a lot of support. It features a logically laid out guide to each of the sections with explanations and practice questions. Students receive both strategies and training in foundational skills.

The book also offers links to online videos for further clarification on concepts. Students can watch problem exercises step by step to solidify the concept and to understand the process. It’s comprehensive and could be a bit overwhelming if you don’t have plenty of time to work through it.

For students with at least three months to practice, this provides an all in one solution to GRE prep. Students hit all the highlights and have in-depth explanations where needed. Combine it with a supplemental set of practice questions, and you have an excellent resource.

Pros

  • Includes both practice and strategy
  • Goes over the analytical writing
  • Provides access to online videos for step by step access

Cons

  • Overwhelming without enough prep time
  • Could use more practical questions and practice

10. GRE Prep 2020-2021

Includes a full length, four-hour practice test

Publisher: Independently Published

Year: 2020

Number of pages152

Our Final Grade: B-

GRE Prep takes the latest test versions and introduces vital concepts to overcoming challenging passages and thinking like a high scorer. Each section includes full explanations and worked problems designed to give you not just the fundamentals but the vital strategies as well.

Students receive a full practice test styled after the real GRE, including time limits. The book is a good overview of the different sections of the GRE, as well as including an introduction to overall test-taking strategies.

This is an excellent choice for students who need a boost, but it also has useful information for what to do the night before the test and what to do the day of to ensure your nerves don’t get the better of you.

The practice problems could be more helpful, however, and the new addition still has a few typos that may confuse things. It’s good if you need support on test-taking in general.

Pros

  • Offers test strategies, including the night before and test day
  • Provides an overview of all sections
  • Includes a full-length practice test

Cons

  • New edition includes typos
  • Practice problems are limited

11. Apex 2020 GRE Prep Tutor

Straightforward test prep with test strategies

Publisher: Apex Test Prep

Year: 2020

Number of pages:139

Our Final Grade: B-

Apex provides another well-rounded test prep book designed to introduce the test as well as test-taking strategies. Students receive instruction on all three sections of the GRE as well as practice problems to apply the newfound knowledge.

It includes practice questions with detailed explanations so that you always know why you got a question wrong. The material dives into the concepts behind the problems as well as strategies for dissecting challenging questions.

It could use a full-length practice test or online resources for more practice. However, overall it offers a good introduction to the test itself as well as detailed training with explanations to help guide your thinking on future questions of similar type.

Pros

  • Straightforward prep material
  • Includes detailed explanations with practice questions
  • Addresses strategies for content and test-taking

Cons

  • No online resources available
  • Doesn’t include a practice test of full length

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to take the GRE?

While it’s becoming more common to find a graduate program that doesn’t require the GRE, most still do. Admissions departments use it to determine if you’ve got what it takes for rigorous academics and use it to help with financial awards.

Is the GRE important?

Admissions departments consider the GRE as part of an overall admissions application. It’s best to check with the department because many release average GRE scores for accepted students. You’ll want to hit those averages and, ideally, go above and beyond to have access to things like scholarships or financial awards.

How long should I study for the GRE?

Your study methods will depend a lot on your comfort with the material. That said, the majority of students spend one to three months studying at the rate of a few hours a week. Focus your study efforts on your areas of weakness.

What are the score ranges?

The GRE has three sections, and each score is factored into the overall GRE score:

  • Verbal Reasoning: 130-170 in one-point increments
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 130-170 in one-point increments
  • Analytical Writing: 1-6 in half-point increments

Students can combine their best scores for official reporting as long as scores happen within the past five years.

I’m a hopeful math graduate student. Do I need to score well on verbal (and vice versa)?

While your chosen program may prioritize one section over the other, this is no reason to abandon your comprehensive preparation. High overall scores open you up to scholarship opportunities and other awards.

How do I prepare for the GRE?

Allow yourself time for preparation — at least four weeks to three months. Take a practice test to get an idea of overall weaknesses and strengths. Once you find the right prep materials from our list, create a plan to work through the content and review.

Is the GRE easier during some months?

A persistent myth is that the GRE test is easier during the month of January, but this isn’t true. ETS officials administer the test in the same manner as the rest of the year. Study carefully and don’t fall for this myth.

Is the GRE difficult?

The math on the GRE is tested at a lower level than the standard SAT. However, combined with more challenging reading passages and a higher vocabulary, this test is still considered more difficult. Questions can be tricky, and it’s just as important to understand the strategy behind the test as it is to know the material.

How long does the GRE take?

The GRE is a four-hour test with time added in for breaks and checking in. GRE prep resources that offer tips for handling such a rigorous test are valuable, especially if you’ve never taken a computerized test.


Acing the GRE

Gathering the right materials for your test prep can give you a competitive edge on your GRE score. The test is just as much about strategy as it is sheer knowledge, so your best chance is a test prep resource that goes over both.

One of the best things you can do is give yourself time to prepare and become familiar with the GRE content. Refresh your memory for math concepts and learn tricks to take the test more efficiently. Delve into strategies for breaking down challenging reading material and set up a plan to learn vocabulary.

Our list of resources can help you gain the skills and familiarity you need to do well on the GRE. Whether you need to practice certain sections or gain valuable experience with the test overall, these test prep solutions could be just the help you need to ace the test.

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Brett Gordon
 

Founder of ExamCave.com