Cracking the GRE 2013 – Princeton Review – Book ReviewThe Princeton review is one of the most popular books for GRE preparation in Pakistan. It is also easily available in the local market, hence making it one of the most sought after resource. But is it really worth all the hype? Today I am going to answer this question by breaking down and analyzing the 13th edition of ‘Cracking the GRE 2013’ by Princeton Review.
Princeton review is well known for its GRE strategies. Many students who prepare from this book are comfortable initially – till they come across the questions in the official GRE guide by ETS. I know many students who spent a month mulling over Princeton review but eventually performed poorly on the real practice tests in the power prep software or the official guide.
There is a reason why this happened.
Since Princeton does not have access to actual GRE questions therefore they design all the questions themselves – the strategies that they come up with work brilliantly on their self-manufactured example questions. Students are very happy because they learn and apply these techniques with great success on these questions. However, it takes a lot more analytical thinking to do the ETS stuff. For those of you who use this book as the primary basis of your preparation will be unable to apply these ‘helpful’ techniques on the test day.
This inaccurate representation of actual GRE questions makes the new GRE seem far less intimidating than it actually is. The positive aspect of this shortcoming is for GRE beginners – they can start at a nadir using this book and then work their way up using other sources. However if you are planning to score well on the GRE (which most of you must be) then cracking the GRE is not sufficient.
Since vocabulary is a crucial part of the exam, therefore Princeton review gives helpful tips for learning vocabulary. For instance it stresses contextual learning of words instead of just memorizing. However it then contradicts itself by giving a word list and asks the readers to learn those words. It would have been much easier for the students, had they shown the application and usage of these words rather than simply putting up a word list.
Much of the words in the word list are no longer tested on the new GRE – rendering the majority of the word list useless. The best thing I like about this part is that the author of Princeton review correctly stresses on not learning the words using the root based approach – other books like Barron’s and Kaplan still make this egregious mistake of highlighting and encouraging the root approach of learning words. As I always say that the new GRE loves to exploit this flawed approach – they know books out there encourage this short cut method and the ETS deliberately puts word in place that would catch you on the hook.
Text Completion/Sentence Equivalence
Though the strategies here are useful but the practice questions and exercises are too easy compared to the what you would see on the actual GRE. I would recommend doing these exercises to kick off your preparation but do not spend more than a couple of days doing them. Plus do not expect to get any text completions and sentence equivalence questions of the difficulty level presented in this book.
Again strategies are good but the example passages are too easy. My suggestion is the same – read the strategies, practice and finish off the questions given in this book within a day or so and then move to other sources that offer comprehensions like the one on the actual GRE. Official guide is where you can find genuine passages for practice.
A positive side is that one of the strategies for reading comprehensions in this book requires you to justify and eliminate incorrect answer choices. This is a very helpful strategy when you are unable to locate the correct answer from the given options – in such a situation you can eliminate what you know is not valid to arrive at the correct answer.
If you are one of those who is very weak in math, then Princeton review is the book to start your preparation. This book does a great job in brushing up the basics although the number of practice exercise are not sufficient to consolidate the basics that you will learn in here.
My warning: The questions and practice exercises in this book are nothing compared to the actual GRE questions. As a GRE teacher, I will only use these to help slow beginners in Math. Otherwise I will not waste my student’s precious time practicing these questions.
For those of you out there who are only relying on this book, be wary – for it will give you a false sense of confidence. There are a few errors in this book as well – for example certain answers are marked incorrectly although their explanation are correct. Another error is in the sentence equivalence section – this book has equivalence questions which are two sentence long whereas on the actual GRE they are only 1 sentence in length. There are a few typos here and there as well which can frustrate a GRE aspirant.
Final word: This book has good strategies for the verbal section but the quality of questions is average. The quant section is really poor and it will mislead you into taking the GRE too lightly. If you make this book your basis for GRE preparation you may not get more than 65 percentile on the GRE which is a below par score for most of us in Pakistan.
For those of you who are looking to score at the 50% this book will get you there.