Sunday, November 20, 2011

Comparison: GRE Prep Books

Figuring out how to prepare for the GRE is so overwhelming. There are tutors, courses, online courses, online practice tests, official ETS practice tests, and a huge range of preparation books. When I realized I would have to take the test this summer, I knew I wasn't willing to pay the high price for an actual prep course. I ended up relying on two books and the official ETS practice test online.

My first book was Kaplan. This book contains 2 full practice tests with an additional test online. I found the math sections to lack much actual review of math concepts. I hadn't studied math since high school, and using this book made me feel like I should know much more than I did which made me feel very nervous.
The verbal practice is very challenging in this book. At first, the difficulty really harmed my morale. But all the other verbal practice I did seemed easier in comparison.
The essay strategies in this book are much better than the Baron's book.

I got this book with about a month left before my test because I realized in a moment of panic that I needed more practice! Immediately, I appreciated the encouraging tone of the Baron's book. It explained things in a way that made me feel capable of not failing the test! It includes a pre-test and two full practice tests. There is a quite thorough review of all the types of math on the test.
The essay review is kind of lacking. The verbal was easy throughout the book, and then the practice tests were pretty hard. Ultimately, I thought the practice tests were super hard, and lowered my morale.

I also used the practice test provided on the GRE website. The best resource, I've heard, is the Powerprep program which simulates the real testing software, BUT IT IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH MACS. Therefore, I had to take the practice written test, which was still helpful. It was easier than the practice tests in the two books I used and made me feel much better. Most of my GRE practice was about psychological morale.

Interestingly, both Baron's and Kaplan had more than one mistake in either problems or answers that made me generally suspicious as I was checking answers. I think these books will improve as people get used to the Revised test.

Other free websites I found helpful: Endless Reading Comprehension Practice, Free Practice sets, Magoosh GRE Prep (I found some of the free lessons helpful like for example, the one on exponent rules.)