My Rating of the Barron’s GRE 20th Edition

Verbal : 3/10
Quantitative : 5/10

Barron’s GRE is one of the most popular GRE preparation books amongst Pakistani aspirants. Barron’s is one of the oldest players in the GRE test prep industry and has decades of experience preparing students for this exam, but still their book is not the best one around. Last year I did a review for the Barron’s 19th edition and I did not like it particularly except for a few features. Unfortunately, Barron’s 20th edition has just a few improvements over the 19th edition and most of the content and practice questions has not been changed.

SEE ALSO: Review of GRE Official Guide by ETS

Features of Barron’s 20th Edition

Barron’s has been known for decades for its 3500+ GRE word lists that students all over the world and in Pakistan used to cram till the last word. In the 19th edition of this book, a big shocker was that Barron’s completely eliminated this word list. However in 20th edition a new 3000 word vocabulary list has reappeared – though I am not a big fan of learning vocabulary through lists but still most of these words are pretty common on the GRE and one should spend time going through as many of these as possible. Moreover this updated GRE book includes:

  1. One diagnostic test with an answer key and answer explanations.
  2. A verbal reasoning review with practice questions and explanations.
  3. An analytical writing review with scoring guidelines and practice topics.
  4. A quantitative reasoning review that includes general math strategies, discrete quantitative questions, quantitative comparison questions, and data interpretation questions.
  5. Two full-length model GRE tests with answer keys and answer explanations.

SEE ALSO: Is Kaplan GRE Book Good Enough?

Apart from these features everyone who purchases this book gets access to a free online GRE course available on the Barron’s website. It includes:

  1. A diagnostic test and a personalized GRE study plan along with expert video lessons with solutions to help you master difficult concepts.
  2. Additional practice quizzes and extra questions.
  3. A comprehensive GRE skill and analytics report.

A 3000 Word List can Thwart Your Preparation

Old GRE used to be more vocabulary focused and cramming word lists made a lot more sense. But if you start cramming a 3000 word list for the new GRE, then you are going to be needing an extra 2 months for preparing for the GRE. Moreover there is no need to learn 3000 words anymore to ace the GRE – with just 1000 high frequency words you can do even better.

SEE ALSO: Review of Barron’s New GRE Book 19th Edition

Plus there is no flashcard program to learn these 3000 words. This book has just given a list of words with meanings and sentences (sentences are a good way of memorizing words though) which can be very boring to study. A flashcard app or online tool would have definitely improved the effectiveness of these words.

Lack of Focus on Important Quantitative Topics

Just like the old book, the 20th edition devotes literally no attention to important Stats, combinatoric and probability topics. The emphasis is on arithmetic, algebra and geometry only without much practice on word problems either. Data Interpretation has some good questions but from an overall perspective this book is incomplete when it comes to holistically preparing students for the kind of quant they will see on the GRE test day. Nevertheless it does have many tough and GRE like questions on algebra and arithmetic. I would definitely suggest GRE students to practice math questions from Barron’s 20th edition GRE book.

Verbal section does not mimic actual GRE questions

The verbal section contains detailed explanations to very simple questions whereas it breezes through harder questions. The 20th edition, like its predecessor, contains sentence equivalence and sentence completion questions that focus on convoluted vocabulary and lack the concrete sentence structure. This is the same problem found across other books as well such as the Manhattan 5LB – Barron’s just like the 5LB has simple sentence structure which is not what the actual GRE is like. On the actual GRE, the focus is on understanding the sentence rather than knowing difficult words.

SEE ALSO: Book Review of McGraw-Hill’s Conquering the New GRE Math

That said, I do like the reading comprehension passages on the Barron’s book – the difficulty level and explanations are above average and one should definitely do the passages from the 20th edition of Barron’s.

Regarding the analytical writing section, this is probably one of those books that doesn’t give importance to it at all. Therefore refer to some other source for the AWA.


The new improvements fail to assuage the legacy of weaknesses of previous editions. In other words, the book’s disadvantages make it less likely to be graded as a top GRE book. However, being very cheap to purchase, I would still recommend that people should spend their money on it, especially for the quant practice questions.