The only GRE Books you will Ever need in 2017!

Posted by on April 29, 2017 in GRE Book Reviews | 6 comments

Here at Brightlink Prep, students email me, confused about how and where to prepare for the GRE. I understand that there is a plethora of resources, books and vocabulary lists available for GRE preparation and as a result there is a risk of subpar prep (if one choses the wrong books) or over prep (if ones choses too many books, which is inefficient). I don’t know the exhaustive list of books available in the market globally but I tried once and came across at least 27 different publishers and sources of GRE prep. Now that is intimidating and extremely confusing if someone is starting to prep on their own. Regardless of your initial level, if you go through these resources thoroughly, you are bound to increase your score many folds. Moreover make sure that you do all of these books and resources before taking your actual exam.

*Note: You only need to do these books and exams and NOTHING ELSE to score well on the GRE exam. Don’t waste time on other resources.

6 Quantitative Manhattan Strategy Guides 4th Edition

There is an 8 book Manhattan Strategy Guides set which provides comprehensive and in-depth review of both the quantitative and verbal sections. 6 books pertain to the quantitative section which cover the following math topics: algebra, geometry, fractions, decimals, percent’s, number properties, word problems, quantitative comparisons and data interpretation. For the verbal section there are two books; one for reading comprehension and essays and the other for text completion and sentence equivalence. These books are ideal for those who want to review all the concepts tested on the GRE, especially the quantitative ones – the verbal ones are not as good and focus a bit too much on vocabulary.

*You can choose to totally skip the verbal guides of Manhattan if you want.

While the 6 books provide good tips and strategies for attempting different types of questions, they contain only a limited number of practice questions. Moreover, the ‘check your skills’ questions in the text are limited in quantity and slightly easier as compared to the questions in the actual exam.

*Note: If you are at a beginner level in Math or hate Math or struggle with it or or have not studied Math for a long time, then the basic Math book by Manhattan will be a good starting point. First finish the basic guide and then move to these 6 Manhattan guides.

To have a look: Go here

Manhattan 5 lb. Book 2nd Edition

The 5 lb. book provides 2000+ practice questions to work through along with thorough explanations. The questions are mainly divided by topic and a greater proportion are from the quantitative section as compared to the verbal section.

The book is intended to be used as a supplement to the 8 guides and therefore does not contain a review of the topics. Hence it cannot be used alone to prepare if you want to revise the test content as well. I will definitely advise all students to practice all quantitative questions from all sections of this book and skip the verbal section altogether.

I wrote a detailed review on Manhattan 5 LB over here.

To have a look: Go here

The Princeton Review, Cracking the GRE, 2017 Edition

Over years I have realized that for the verbal section, there are no such clear strategies or techniques like those in the quant section. Improvement in the verbal section can only be made by doing lots of practice and of course by knowing some overall, high-level strategies. This book by Princeton review is definitely good at doing that. The general strategies on approaching reading passages (both large and small), text completions and sentence equivalence questions are useful. The questions on the other hand are easy – Princeton Review also takes an effort to explain and eliminate wrong answer choices which is good as it helps you to understand why certain choices are not right. So you should definitely learn the strategies from this book but do not use it to practice verbal questions.

A long time back, I wrote a detailed review on Princeton Cracking the GRE over here.

To have a look: Go here

The GRE Big Book by ETS

Although I do not advise covering the GRE Big book by ETS in your GRE prep, but it has tons of reading passages. The Big Book is very helpful for only doing the reading comprehensions but you should skip everything else. The passages are hard and tricky and the associated answer choices of questions are very close so as to create confusion – which will definitely help prepare you for the GRE. I keep saying this again and again, but I can’t stress about the importance of practice in case of GRE reading comprehensions. At bare minimum, one must do 100 passages and the big book provides that much practice. This can be frustrating but it’s worth the effort. Time and accuracy are very important in attempting GRE passages – with this much practice you will hit your desired target.

For a detailed review on the BIG book by GRE please go over here.

Barron’s 1100 Words You Need To Know ‘or’ Magoosh App

Having a good vocabulary can be immensely advantageous in the GRE exam and the best source to prepare for them is the Barron’s 1100 words list. If you get bored studying for Vocabulary from a book you can also get hold of the Magoosh flashcards app. So either study vocabulary from Barrons 1100 words or the Magoosh app – but not both. These provide you with the words you are most likely to encounter in the exam and having a command on these would help not only in the text completion and sentence equivalence questions but also in the reading comprehension ones. Magoosh presents words along with sentences containing these and Barrons helps you to learn with not only sentences but also short exercises where you can test the new words learned. While Magoosh can be used easily by the last minute learners, Barrons demands more time and will be best suited if you start preparing early.

To have a look: Go here

Optional – Norman Lewis – Word Power Made Easy

Learning vocabulary can be demanding as well as frustrating. If you are unable to retain the words you are learning from Barron’s or Magoosh, then you can use this book. It is based on learning words by learning their roots (which is easier to retain) and actually makes learning interesting thing to do. Specifically it is not a GRE book but can be supplemented with Magoosh vocab or Barron’s vocab. Nearly all of the words in Magoosh/Barrons are covered in this book by Norman Lewis.

To have a look: Go here

Official ETS guide + Official verbal reasoning practice questions + Official quantitative reasoning practice questions

These three books by the ETS are no doubt the most reliable source for up-to-date questions and are created by the makers of the GRE themselves. The questions in the books are a great tool to practice, however, there is only a limited number of questions available. Therefore I advise you to practice questions from these guides once you are done learning all the GRE strategies, concepts and techniques from other aforementioned prep sources.

The verbal reasoning practice book has a chapter dedicated to the analytical writing section of the GRE and is an amazing source to prepare for it as there are actual sample-graded essays provided as well. Each official guides has 2-3 full-length paper based practice tests at their end. However, the downsides to the books are that these alone cannot be used to prepare fully – if you want to review the concepts, you will require supplementary material available in the books I just discussed before. There are simply not enough test taking strategies and tips that will help you tackle different types of questions in the exam.

Always save these until you are done with all the above material and before starting with the mock exams, finish all of these.

For a review on the ETS Material please go here.

To have a look: Go here

To have a look at verbal review: Go here

To have a look at quant review: Go here

2 Power prep ETS GRE Exams

There are no better and realistic full-length GRE practice exam than the 2-Computer Adaptive full-length GRE tests offered by the ETS in their Power Prep software. Although ETS has not updated them in over 5 years now, still they are the most authentic source of gauging your true performance. These include very old and retired GRE questions, and look & feel just like the real GRE test does. The quant sections are a bit easy than the actual GRE but the verbal section is highly correlated to the actual GRE test Nonetheless it is an extremely useful way of knowing the overall feel of the test, the interface and the structure.

*In Pakistan, you can also take the power prep exams in the official GRE test centers located in Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi.

For a detailed ETS GRE exams review please go here.

To download: Go here

6 Manhattan GRE Full-length Online Tests

The online and adaptive Manhattan practice tests are the best GRE practice tests after power prep exams and the paper based GRE tests at the end of the GRE official guides. The quantitative is really up to the mark of the actual GRE and is a reliable measure of your performance. The verbal section questions on the other hand are slightly below par but they are still the best compared to other unofficial practice exams. These 6 tests must be supplemented with your GRE Power prep practice exams.

For a thorough review on these 6 exams by Manhattan, please go here.

To have a look: Go here

Conclusion: To sum up, the 3 ETS guides and the power prep exams are a must for anyone taking the GRE exam as it gives an idea about how the actual questions are like. Manhattan strategy guides are best suited to study quantitative topics, however you will need the 5 LB book to supplement your quant practice. For developing a strong vocabulary you can turn to Barrons or Magoosh but be sure to work on these early in your preparation as cramming vocabulary at the eleventh hour seldom helps. For overall verbal strategies turn to Princeton and for verbal practice, use the ETS Big book and the verbal official guides. Top it up with 6 practice tests by Manhattan and the 7th test should be your actual GRE exam. 🙂

Good Luck!


  1. from which source we can get these books??

    • You can buy them online on amazon. Thanks

  2. We have to go through all of these books or just any one of these?

  3. You mean to say all of these? How much time would that reasonably take?

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