Review of the GRE Big Book by ETSMany GRE students in Pakistan have recently started to ask me a very common question – can we use the big book for practicing GRE questions? To answer this question, lets discuss a review of the GRE big book by ETS.
Students argue that the since the new GRE is not significantly different from the old GRE, therefore it is pertinent to use this book. However I disagree to a larger extent. The new GRE is at a much higher level than the previous one – both in terms of difficulty and newer topics. The new GRE has become increasingly tricky on both the quantitative and verbal portions. On the later, it has geared itself towards testing convoluted sentence structures and application of arcane vocabulary. Whereas on the quant, exacting question types such as word problems and data interpretation are prevalent.
In short, I think you would waste a bit of time if you decide to study from the GRE big book by the ETS; if you are starved off great GRE content (which I hope you are not) then it makes some sense to consume it.
For those of you who are not aware, the big book has 27 actual GRE tests from the old GRE pattern – therefore for many students preparing for the GRE, it is enticing to practice these timed tests. I would warn you to not be tempted by the plethora of tests big book has to offer. If I am not harsh already let me use acrimonious words – I think compared to the new GRE questions, this is a 20-year-old book.
On the verbal it lacks syntactical and stylistic variety. It has overwhelming focus on vocabulary compared to the new GRE pattern. Antonyms and analogies no longer come on the new GRE so it’s a waste of effort in that direction. The quant is so simple that you would make a fool of yourself on the test day if you practice questions from the big book.
Moreover the explanations are awful and will only frustrate you. I have seen people who use it bang their heads in the wall just to get a clear explanation of what is going on. To your chagrin, it is hardly available for free anywhere – and online it is being sold for a ridiculous $150.
My advice: buy the much cheaper and slimmer ETS official guide for the revised GRE and your preparation will be far better.