Best and Worst GRE Books to Prepare From in 2015

Posted by on February 26, 2015 in GRE Book Reviews, Uncategorized | 64 comments

Every day I get many emails, texts, Facebook messages and visits to my office, loaded with queries related to which are the best books for GRE preparation for students in Pakistan. So I decided to write this post – although I do not think there is one single book that prepares you well for the GRE, however a combination of books can be used to ensure that you do decently on the GRE exam. Unfortunately I am yet to see one single book that is all encompassing and that outshines the rest, but every book has its own strengths when it comes to teaching GRE concepts. I would like to state a fact that all books except the GRE official guides are only good enough to teach the concepts but nearly all of them lack good quality GRE level questions; those can only be found in the official guides.

The Best Books


Manhattan Guides – 4th edition

I would advise you to start by preparing from the Manhattan GRE guides (6 Math books and 2 Verbal books). Each book is dedicated to a certain topic of the GRE and at the end of each book there are three sets of practice questions broken down by the order of difficulty – easy, medium, and hard. This is a great book to learn GRE concepts and techniques, and apply them to some really good questions. Explanations of concepts and questions is extremely clear – regardless you must go through all of these 8 guides in depth and spend as much time as you can in understanding everything.

The only drawback is that the 6 Math guides teach you very well but they do not contain many hard questions that will help you get a top quant score – for an average student with little Mathematics background, going through these books would get them a score between 154 and 160 on the GRE.

Another weakness of the Manhattan guides are prevalent in its 2 verbal guides where the questions on the text completions and sentence equivalence rely a lot on hard vocabulary rather than the difficult structure which the GRE actually tests. However, the verbal books are good in terms of giving you sound techniques and reasonable reading practice and techniques. I would say the verbal books would get an average student something in the range of 148 to 155 on the verbal section.

Verdict: You must thoroughly go through all 8 guides and Manhattan books should be the starting point of your GRE prep if you are an average Math and Verbal person.


ETS official Guides, 2012 and 2014 editions

Needless to say, the 3 ETS GRE official guides are the most reliable when it comes to best practice questions for the GRE since the official test makers write them. Moreover the old official guide includes two full-length GRE paper-based tests, along with hundreds of other real questions.

The new official guides (two of them, one for math and the other one for verbal) contain tons of new high quality questions. The new guides not only contain a lot of new questions but they also give 3 practice tests (1 section each) at the end.

Verdict: Do these for practice at the end of your GRE prep.


GRE Big Book

In a way this is the oldest official guide written by the ETS – it follows the old GRE pattern (the one followed before 2011). However the book is definitely worth extra practice but you should not use it as the foundation of your prep. The book contains lots of GRE reading passages and sentence completions along with ample quant practice; but only use it if you have extra time on hands. Skip the antonyms and analogies sections of this book, as they are no longer part of the current GRE exam. The Math practice questions are also easier so you should not bother doing the math unless you are a little weak on Math.

Verdict: Great preparation book for the reading passages and sentence completions.


5 lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems – Manhattan Prep

With around 2000 questions, Manhattan 5LB GRE book is a great practice questions resource for GRE prep. Generally it is exceptionally good on the quant section (especially probability, statistics, inequalities and word problems) but lacks on the verbal section (a lot of focus on vocabulary on the text completions and sentence equivalence) just like the 2 verbal guides I discussed above. Nevertheless you should use it to practice after you are done with learning all the tricks and concepts from the 8 guides.

Verdict: Make sure you do all the quant questions from this book and the reading comprehensions on the verbal section.

Barron’s 1100 Book for Vocabulary, Magoosh Flashcards, Manhattan 500 Advanced Words

I think Barron’s 1100 Words, Manhattan 500 Advanced Flashcards and the 1000+ Magoosh Vocabulary flashcards are an exhaustive list of words that would completely prepare you for the GRE vocab. All of these are pretty solid. In these word lists you don’t immediately get to see the definition of the word. For instance in Barron’s you see a contextual usage (in a paragraph) of that word that you can read to deduce the meaning of the word. There are other fun exercises such as matching words, weekly quizzes and fill-in-the-sentence exercises to help you reinforce your vocabulary.

Magoosh has an app that let’s you look at a word and then decide whether you know it or not. If you don’t it recycles the word randomly later on and keeps on showing it to you until you don’t actually know it. A very impressive way to building vocabulary – Magoosh’s sentences for each word is also culled from diverse sources. Manhattan offers simple but very frequently seen words on the actual GRE. These three sources have many words that are common so essentially you will be learning around 1200-1400 new words if you do all of these together.

Verdict: These 3 are excellent vocabulary tools for self-study and used are much more effective than any other vocabulary list.

2 Power prep Mocks, 6 Manhattan Mocks, 6 Barron’s Mocks

Of course there are no better full-length adaptive mock tests than the 2 provided by ETS in their software, the power prep. Still, I think they are not reflective of the difficulty level of the actual GRE Math section. The Math on the power prep is a lot easier than that being tested nowadays. Therefore if you do well on the power prep Math, do not think it is indicative of your actual performance. The verbal sections on the other hand are almost the same level as that of the actual GRE.

The 6 Manhattan tests are the best in terms of the difficulty level of the Math and better than power prep on the quant section. The verbal sections are not that representative of the actual GRE; Manhattan focuses too much on vocabulary that is not tested on the GRE rather than testing complex structure or passages. Nevertheless overall they are far better than any other unofficial practice tests.

The biggest problem with Barron’s 6 GRE Practice Tests is that they are paper based and not computer based like Manhattan and Power prep.

But it definitely contains quality questions although Math is easier and verbal passages little too hard than the actual GRE. However definitely the third best resource for full-length tests after Power Prep and Manhattan.

Verdict: For any ambitious GRE test taker, these 3 resources are a must have for full-length GRE mock practicing after you are done with all your prep. Make sure you start doing all of these 15-18 days before your actual test.

The Average Books

Nova’s GRE Prep Course Book and the Nova GRE Math Bible

Nova GRE prep course contains a math section and a verbal section whereas the Nova GRE Math Bible only includes the Math section. The math sections in both of these books are almost the same with little differences in the questions, hence you can follow either of the two books or both – it is upto you. Nova is a really good book only for quantitative comparison practice questions and techniques – nothing else. Do not do anything else from Nova as the verbal section includes outdated questions from the old GRE and the 4000-word vocab list is impractical for the new GRE.

Verdict: Use the Nova GRE Prep Course and the Nova GRE Math Bible only for Quantitative comparison questions, especially the hard ones – nothing else on this book is worth spending time on.
1,014 GRE Practice Questions, 3rd Edition by Princeton Review

This is a really good book for extra GRE practice but it has a lot of errors, which makes it very frustrating for new GRE students. Other than that I do recommend this book because some of the questions especially on the Math section are of very high quality – the verbal is a little lacking but definitely there are a few text completions and sentence equivalence questions which have a very convoluted structure.

Verdict: A good book and one must do all of it for some extra GRE practice, particularly its Math.
Princeton Review – Cracking the GRE with 4 Practice Tests, 2014 Edition

Overall, this book is not that great and I would definitely not advise you to read all of it. However the strategies it offers on the verbal topics, the Text Completion/Sentence Equivalence and Reading Comprehensions are very effective. However I would not recommend you to practice any questions from this book, as they are very easy and much lower in difficulty than the actual GRE. Unless you are a very basic GRE learner, I would not ask you to spend much time beyond learning the strategies from this PR book. For someone who is very bad at Mathematics or wants to first practice on basics of verbal, he or she can definitely spend a few weeks finishing this guide.

Verdict: For the more determined and advanced learners, they should go through the verbal strategies only.
Barron’s GRE, 20th Edition

Barron’s is the most widely used and the most readily available book in Pakistan. It is a decent book at best and has some really good questions on the reading passages and the quantitative portion. Stay away from any of its strategies but definitely do all of its questions except the text completion and the sentence equivalence, which are below par the actual GRE. Barron’s Math is a bit advanced for the average student and it is better to do these questions at the end of your preparation for some extra practice. Moreover the AWA strategies are really good and you must use those to write your essays.

Verdict: A good book for extra practice on quant and reading passages especially for harder questions – AWA also a must do.

The Worst Books

Kaplan – GRE Premier 2015 with 6 Practice Tests

Holistically, Kaplan is a below average book for your GRE prep. But the reading passages and the questions are definitely good. Do not read any strategies from this book as they are useless – Princeton is a much better book for that. For extra practice on reading comprehensions Kaplan is definitely a great book.

Verdict: Do the reading passages only and skip the rest.

McGraw-Hill’s GRE 2014 Edition, McGraw-Hill’s Conquering the New GRE Math, McGraw-Hill’s Conquering the New GRE Verbal and Writing, McGraw-Hill’s 6 GRE Practice Tests

The name is misleading – I honestly think this is not a GRE book. All of these books contain very basic non-GRE like questions and strategies to solve them are also irrelevant to what you would need to do reasonably well on the exam

Mastery of the concepts from these books will definitely not help you do any way near average on the actual GRE exam. As a GRE tutor, I would only recommend this book to my students who find basic Math and English a daunting task. These books have hundreds of basic questions that would help you only if GRE Math and English is a tall mountain to climb.

Verdict: Not at all recommended for serious GRE contenders. Definitely recommended for very basic learners.


Gruber’s Complete GRE Guide 2015

Gruber is a very ugly looking book in terms of layout and content. The math section does not reflect the question level that you would see on the actual GRE exam. Just like McGraw this books can be used for basic practice but it will not get you competitive score. Moreover the strategies discussed in this book are also not very helpful. The Verbal section of Gruber’s is even worse. The reading passages are as if taken from a local Pakistani English newspaper and lacks severely on dense passages.

Verdict: Only useful for those who want to first work at the very basic level.

GRE for Dummies Premier 7th Edition

It is not a dry book like Barron’s or Gruber – it has been written in a very student friendly manner but unfortunately it is not a GRE book. The questions are very easy, probably easier than any aforementioned GRE book.

Verdict: Don’t waste your time on this book unless you want to revise some school level Math or do some very easy English passages and completions.


  1. Avatar


    is there any store online ( In Pakistan ) where Manhattan Guides – 4th edition books are available , i found non in Islamabad ?

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      Hey Aftab – none that I know of 🙁

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        Any store in Lahore you know selling these books ?

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          You may check with Variety books Liberty

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    ok i know im late. Can you please give me any book recommendation which can give the most in such short span of time.

    • Avatar

      You can check the ETS official guide 🙂

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    For an average student with little Mathematics background, going through the Manhattan six books would not get them a score between 154 and 160 on the GRE. But instead they will only be able to score in the range of 140 to 145. Actual GRE math questions are much harder than them.

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    Assalam u Alaikum..
    Sir is there any current scholarship opportunity for M.Phil.. I have done M.Sc in Business Statistics & Management (16 years education) with CGPA 3.78/4.00..

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    Dear Talha , I have my GRE exam on 30th June and would require some help. I have an engineering background and a solid grasp on Maths concepts. My English is an average level.
    I would like to ask you that which one of the following 2 study routes would be a better option.

    1) Manhattan Guides followed by practice from Manhattan 5 Lb and ETS practice questions , or
    2) ETS guides followed by Manhattan 5 lb and ETS practice questions.

    I have more than 1 month to prepare and am aiming for a 330+
    Specifically around 167-168 for Quant and 162-163 for Verbal.

    Furthermore , if you have an idea , kindly tell where can I get these books ?

    Best Regards,
    Muaaz Tahir

    • Avatar

      Option 1 is better 🙂 Well if you want let me know and I will have them delivered to you – I just got some for myself from US but do note that the manhattan series (original costs around 200 USD) but if you want the copies I can get them for you.

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        Sir, do you still have those Manhattan guide copies? as i am in need of the latest edition and it would be easy for me if i can get them fast and on a decent price.

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          I do but they are in hard form and for my own use. You can get new ones in about 15 days for 25,000 PKR.

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    I have been told that ARCO GRE series are the best to prepare for GRE exam. Do you have some suggestions about that?

    • Avatar

      Sara – I have not looked at ARCO so will not be able to advise on its effectiveness 🙁

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    Dear Mr. Talha Omer,

    I already have the THIRD EDITION of the entire set of eight books of MANHATTAN PREP GRE Strategy Guides.

    Are they as good as the FOURTH EDITION that you have mentioned, or would it be better to get the fourth edition? As you would know, it is quite expensive to buy these books.

    Please let me know.

    Thank you very much!

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      3rd edition is good enough 🙂

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        Thank you for answering this question; I was going to ask you the same thing.

        Further, I’d like to commend you for this Website. I am not from Pakistan, and even though there are many training centres in my country for standardised exams, I have found your Website to be professional and helpful.

        I have one question, though, and it arose in my mind because you seem to have talked about average GRE scores and average GMAT scores of PAKISTANI students, rather than about the same scores of the worldwide test-taker population. Does this imply that admission-committees in U.S. universities compare the GRE/GMAT scores obtained by an applicant with the GRE/GMAT scores of other applicants from that applicant’s country?

        If you have any insights about this, it would be nice to know!

        Thank you!

        • Avatar

          You are welcome Sureshan and thanks for the encouraging words 🙂 Well in my experience I have not come across such an instance where an individual country’s scores are compared. Usually it is compared with the global averages else the purpose of such exams would be defeated – which is to rank applicants on a universal scale 🙂 Hope I answered your query.

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    dear talha ….i need Manhattan Guides – 4th edition in hard form …if you can arrange then please inform,from next month i am going to start prep for GRE .

    • Avatar

      Hi, We can arrange those but they cost over 25000 for original sets. 🙁

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    I am staring with gre prepration which one will be the best to start.(i am in second year)

    • Avatar

      Depends on your level actually – before you plan to prepare for GRE, give a diagnostic test to evaluate your current level. Once you identify your weaknesses then use a combination of books to prepare 🙂

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    Dear Mr Talha Omer,
    I have lot of questions regarding GRE books and my exams because I think you are the only person to whom I rely on.
    First. I am going to give NTS (Local GRE) exam of common wealth scholarship for Phd which is at the end of next month So, I have almost one month for preparation. Could you please tell me combination of those books which will help me for my preparation.
    Second. GRE consists of three section, which section needs more time.
    Third. GRE & GMAT – which one is for Business Graduates.
    Fourth. When you are going to start you next GMAT & GRE session.

    Please reply as soon as possible.

    Best Regards,

    • Avatar

      Hello Nouman,

      1) Unfortunately I am not apt at Local GRE so would not be able to comment on that.
      2) Which section needs time depends on your weaknesses – maybe you can take a diagnostic test to see where you lack and then focus on those areas.
      3) GMAT
      4) 3rd October

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    Dear Mr Talha Omer.

    I’m actually quite new to this. I wish to give my GRE but honestly know not much about it. I wish to apply for Phd in my previous field Sociology. I have already done MSc in Sociology. Then started working. But i wish to start again. Well i have always wanted to start again but somehow couldn’t.

    My question would be i already googled the books to use to prepare for GRE & i have found 4 books
    ETS (Education Testing Service) GRE the official guide to the revised general test.
    Manhattan Prep GRE Manhattan or Magoosh)
    Barron”s GRE: 21st Edition
    Kaplan’s GRE Premier 2015.

    Problem is i’m currently based in Qatar (Doha) & the books are very expensive here. I might be getting the pirated ones from Pakistan but please guide me. My Maths never had been that great so should i order the above mentioned 4 books or do i need some more or less. please guide me. Thanking you in advance.

    • Avatar

      Hello Annie, Issue is that Manhattan books are good for those who are not too great in Math but the books can’t be found for cheap even in PK – Manhattan is not available in Pirated version even here. 🙁 Otherwise it is a great book to refer to.

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    Hello! I’m aiming for a high Quant score and was told that Nova Math bible is a great source for tough questions. I’m getting done with the MTN course right now, and am considering doing the math bible BEFORE Ets official guide.

    Yet you’ve advised against this, in view of my goals do you think I should still go through it? It will take some serious time dedication and may reduce time given to Manhattan 5lb book. Perhaps I should leave it off until I’ve used up my other options?

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      Well i would say ETS guide at the end – after MTN, NOVA, BARRONS and 5LB 🙂

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        hello talha
        Manhattan Guides – 4th edition or manhattan guides -3th With very different contents Because I do not have access to Version ?? 4
        help me

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    Hi, what about Magoosh? how would you rate their material?

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      There GRE prep module is pretty good. Definitely one of the best after Manhattan

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    Dear talha, I’m currently pursuing my final year in information technology. I have very minimum time for the preparation of gre can you suggest me which book is easy to get ready within 2-3 months for to crack the exam with good score.
    I’m just waiting for your reply and plz give me a suggestion as soon as possible.

    • Avatar

      Manhattan guides are the best

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    Hi Talha, Hope to see you smiling. I’ve done my graduation in Civil Engg. from UET in 2014. My CGPA was 3.195/4.000.I know that’s not much better. But does it get me any where? What percentile should I acquire in GRE to get admission in some reputable University abroad?

    • Avatar

      Hey Noman – I would say CGPA is just one factor focus on GRE and get some quality research work done before applying.

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    Salam dear talha :

    I took GRE this year in feb but scored an average 294, with 147 in each section and 3 in analytical. I prepared for about 2.5 months from Barron’s GRE….

    I want to take GRE again and want to spare myself atleast 7 month time.

    According to me 5lb manhattan book and then ETS book looks fine…Whats your take…

    • Avatar

      WAS Malik – yes these two along with the Manhattan 8 guides are really good to prepare from!

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    Hi Sir, im Mphil biotechnology currently living in KSA i wanna join ur GRE july session as we will visit pakistan then , i want apply for Phd scholarships please tell me when should i need to register myself and will u give ur own notes or have to buy these books u recommended?

    • Avatar

      Hello Anam – Just fill the form on this page and you do not need to buy any books etc.

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        THANKS SIR.
        is this brightlink ds platform is just for fullbright scholarhip or u may help me for other scholarships of PHD too?

        • Avatar

          Hello Anam – we help with any scholarships for US and Canada.

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        thanks Sir.
        form filled but had not any idea of when the august or September session is exactly starting plz let me know and one thing more which confusing me is is your brightlink prep and guidance is only for fullbright scholarship or for any other i mean International GRE prep ?

        • Avatar

          Hello – we will start inshAllah on 16th July. 🙂 Replied to your other query as well!

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    ok sir but im coming on 26th of july so i will attend ur next session InshaAllah plz send me ur next schedule of september probably.

    • Avatar

      InshAllah the September schedule will be uploaded in July.

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    Dear Talha,

    I’m interested in ordering Manhattan series. Which merchant do you suggest?

  20. Avatar


    In sessions offered by Brightlink what kind of stuff is provided to students for preparation? and which book you will recommend for preparation along with class notes?

    • Avatar

      Hello Ahmad, We provide 12 mock exams, weekly quizzes (timed) for both verbal and quant, and assignments weekly with 50-60 questions. We do not recommend any books for prep along with this course. Thanks

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    I have done Electrical Engineering, So I am good at Quantitative Section and Weak at Verbal.So, Kindly recommend me books for Quantitative section and Verbal section as well.

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    Mr Talha I must say you are a great man. Currently I am studying Barrons 20th edition. I am also interested to study from other books/notes too. I have Nova Maths Bible and also planning to get ETS guide. My maths background is good.
    Kindly suggest another book which can really take me nearer to the real GRE test. Please only one other book/source. I have 1.5 month.

    • Avatar

      W.S. Umar – thanks for the message 🙂
      I ll only advise you to study from the Manhattan and the ETS official guides – nothing else

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    I think U not right …Nova contains many maths in ratio proportion chapter, geometry chap and percentage chapter which u could not find even in 5LB book , I would recommend all to do NOva, its mother of all gre quant book. When one is done with nova then he would need hardly 1 week to complete 5lb, onlything i get hard in 5LB is Probability math & some advanced quan questions ..students need first to make strong basic before jumping into hard materials 🙂

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    AOA SIR! I have recently done my Masters in Chemistry and now want to apply for F.B. . I am not aware with the GRE , even not sure that whether for me is GRE general or Subject test which they need from us. Kindly guide a little info about test and it’s application fee and test preparation fee and best way to prepare it at home or in any acadmey. I shall be v thankful to you!

    • Avatar

      W.S. Umar – GRE general test is required for Fulbright. Application fee is 205 USD and test prep fee is 25,000 PKR – You should first try and prepare on your own and then join any academy if you have issues

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    Hi ,
    Where can I get the ETS books from ? ( in. Lahore)

    • Avatar

      It is available at Variety Books in Liberty

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    Well, Sir I am a medical student and haven’t touched maths after Matric and it’s been a long time say 10 years or so. I wonder if I would ever be able to pass maths portion :0. I am pretty good with language though but maths worries me. Is there something you could recommend me?

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      Hello, Well start with O-levels Syllabus D book for Math – it will really help you work on the basics first and you can then go to Manhattan GRE books for further GRE prep.

  27. Avatar

    Is it fine to use Princeton review 2015 edition for GRE preparations

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