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We know better than most how daunting test prep can be, and one of the number one issues we’ve had students tell us about is the problem of choosing test prep materials. After all, how do you decide what book can teach you what you don’t know yet?
Well don’t fret, we’ve compiled our master list of go-to resources for the GRE and we’ve even broken down some details about what the resources are best used for and why you might choose to use them.
A few points before we dive in:
- It is often the case that the best test prep resource is the one that comes from the maker of the test. This is true pretty much across the board, and you can see below that the “Official” books make it onto all of our lists. When you use materials from the makers of the test, you increase your chances of seeing familiar content and structure on test day, which typically leads to a higher score. Win win! There are also often good supplements to the official books, and those are the other entries you’ll see in each section.
- There are an awful lot of good free resources out there, and there are an awful lot of bad free resources out there. We’ve listed free resources here that we know and trust. Definitely feel empowered to branch out and search out your own resources too, just keep in mind that you want to do your best to judge the quality before you go all in on a particular source from the internet. If you have questions about anything you come across out there in the wide world, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org! We’re always happy to answer questions about materials.
- When you’re preparing for a test, think carefully about how much time you’re budgeting for preparation, and let that help inform how many materials you get. For example, if you’re cramming for 3 weeks before the test, you likely won’t be able to make it through 4 test prep books in that time, and even if you did, you likely wouldn’t be retaining what you need to succeed.
- Our best advice is to start by taking a practice test to pinpoint where you need to prepare the most, then think about your schedule and choose what you need from this list of recommendations to help you succeed. Good luck with your preparation!
- Purpose: Content + Strategy
- How to Maximize Your Use: The Official Guide is laid out section by section with good information about content and strategy. This means you can easily go to targeted sections to practice without wading through content you’ve already mastered. In addition, the book has sections with practice sets ranging from Easy to Difficult so you can build up with your practice and mastery. Their explanations are generally good, but the Guide does not come with excessive practice questions (which some students need more than others). This is why we recommend the full power pack, which includes two supplemental books: Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions book and Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions. If you’re not sure you need the full bundle, you can also buy each of these three books separately.
- Purpose: Content
- How to Maximize Your Use: This is our best recommendation for building vocabulary for the GRE. Of course we always hope that our vocabulary will be nice and robust without any effort, but unfortunately this is only true for an estimated .000000001% of people! For the rest of us, we need to figure out how to build our vocab during our test prep time. ETS does not release vocabulary lists to work from, so test prep companies have come up with ways to compile words that are used most. While no book will be guaranteed to contain all the words you’ll see on test day, this resource is great for directing your focus to words that will actually help (and you can always supplement by adding your own words in when you come across an unknown on a practice test). What you do to learn the words will depend on your personal learning style. You can choose from good old-fashioned flashcards, mobile apps where you can input the words, or challenging yourself to use new words in conversation and writing. We also recommend using Quizlet, a platform where you can use other people’s lists of vocab (even our own Emily Swenson has a list of Barron’s Essentials already loaded!), or create your own lists to use. Try to use a multi-modal technique if you can: type the word and definition in yourself rather than copy/paste; read the words and say the definition out loud when you practice; use the words in conversations when you’re not “actively” practicing. And whenever possible, do not try to cram your vocab!
POWERPREP by ETS
- Purpose: Practice
- How to Maximize Your Use: The makers of the GRE (ETS) have put together quite a few free resources on their site, including 2 free full-length practice tests that simulate exactly what you’ll see on test day. And now that you can take the GRE Online from the comfort of your own home, this simulation is even truer to form. Since there are only 2 free tests, choose carefully when you decide to use them (or budget to purchase 3 additional ones through POWERPREP PLUS). We often suggest taking official practice tests as close to test day as possible to really get in the zone, but it can also be useful to use an official practice test to establish your baseline when you start studying.
- Purpose: Content, Strategy, & Practice
- How to Maximize Your Use: Magoosh has a lot of great resources. They also have solid blog content (gotta give credit where credit’s due), and many of their blog posts contain questions with explanations. Finding quality practice questions can be challenging, but Magoosh offers plenty of great content with great callouts to both content and strategy. It’s an all-around wonderful resource to leverage.