Review of the GRE Big Book by ETS

Posted by on January 6, 2013 in GRE, GRE Book Reviews | 6 comments

ETS Big Book Review

ETS Big Book Review

Many 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.

Good Luck!


  1. Avatar

    I have recently taken revised GRE. I have gone through almost all the GRE books and the practice tests. After taking real GRE test I came to conclusion that GRE Big-book has a lot to do with revised GRE. I saw few questions directly taken from GRE Big-Book. I found these questions on both the sections i.e. Verbal and Quantitative section, especially short RCs and the Data Interpretation questions. I would advise that one should first learn the strategies from the books like Barron’s, Kaplan, Manhattan’s 8 guides, and “the ETS Official Guide for Revised GRE”, then practice logical reasoning and data interpretation questions from Big-Book GRE if not RCs.

    Revised GRE doesn’t measures one’s rote learning of the vocab unlike old GRE, but it measures the contextual usage of the words. You shall see that Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence may appear difficult even though they contain the ordinary words. Therefore, it’s necessary that after learning the strategies you should give a lot of time to practice…
    Since revised GRE is stage adaptive, therefore you shouldn’t loose your temper even if your first verb or quants section go wrong. There is fair chance that you can raise your score in subsequent sections.

    Good Luck for your GRE test!

    • Avatar

      I agree with you.. even in power prep and paper based test given at the back of the New GRE ETS Guide, there are some questions that were directly taken from Big Book, especially the short RCs and one blank TCs. In ETS guide most of the one blank TCs are taken from Big Book. By the way.. what was your score?

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      Hello can you please help me with solution of Big Book questions? I would be grateful to you

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        Hi khan, Unfortunately we ourselves don’t have written solutions of the GRE big book – we have solved it on our own but have not compiled any solutions for it.

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    aoa, sir can u please help me regarding the books or model papers one should prepare for GRE, secondly sir how can we get guidance from you, since your classes are only in lahore.

    • Avatar

      WAS Udah – You can check the Manhattan GRE guides for your prep and ETS guides and power prep for the model papers. Unfortunately to seek guidance from us you will have to be in Lahore since we are only based. here.

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