- Series: Graduate School Test Preparation
- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Princeton Review; 2017 ed. edition (May 24, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 110191971X
- ISBN-13: 978-1101919712
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1.2 x 10.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 473 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #493,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cracking the GRE with 4 Practice Tests, 2017 Edition (Graduate School Test Preparation) 2017 ed. Edition
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About the Author
The experts at The Princeton Review have been helping students, parents, and educators achieve the best results at every stage of the education process since 1981. The Princeton Review has helped millions succeed on standardized tests, and provides expert advice and instruction to help parents, teachers, students, and schools navigate the complexities of school admission. In addition to classroom courses in over 40 states and 20 countries, The Princeton Review also offers online and school-based courses, one-to-one and small-group tutoring as well as online services in both admission counseling and academic homework help.
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- Analogies, Sentence Completion, and Antonyms: Princeton does a really great job of explaining how these sections work and then telling you exactly how to have the best chance of getting the answers correct. I used to abhor analogies...technically I kind of still do...but Princeton will tell you how to find the best solution when you know both stem words, when you only know one stem word, or when you don't even know either stem word. They teach you how to be an effective test taker no matter how well you know the material in the question, and they do it for all these three sections. For comparison, Kaplan kind of glosses over each of these sections, and does not even attempt to have the same level of helpfulness in preparing you for any situation you run into, as Princeton does.
- Practice questions: Princeton gives you generally 9 - 10 practice questions after each section you do, or sometimes up to 20. Answers are sometimes explained and sometimes not, unfortunately. Kaplan will give you generally 3 - 4 questions for each section, and again will sometimes explain them and sometimes not.
- Vocabulary: Princeton gives you "The Hit Parade," four lists of 75 words that are supposed to be GRE level and which are defined for you in the book with an extensive practice quiz/test at the end of each list. There are also two additional lists called "Beyond the Hit Parade" which are just more words. Kaplan's book has a couple sections in the back which give you similar GRE-style words all put into groups, which is helpful for learning synonyms, and then also goes over the roots of words, which is helpful if that's how you want to learn.
- Math: Princeton does a really great job of explaining everything you could possibly need to know about fundamental math concepts that would be on the test. The only thing I didn't see in Princeton that I did see in Kaplan was how to measure the distance between two points on an x, y graph. Other than that, the Princeton math section is well-organized and really well-explained, breaking down the math concepts to their most basic elements and then reinforcing them with examples and practice problems. The Kaplan book just doesn't do it as well and for some reason splits the math into different parts of the book.
- Readability: This is all preference. I found the Princeton book to be very casually written and very informal. It made it a little more enjoyable and easy to read because it made it more like a conversation, not so much like a lecture, while reading. The Kaplan book is more formal; not extremely formal and not to the point where it's difficult, but just much less casual.
- Practice tests: Princeton gives you four full-length CAT practice tests on their website. What distinguishes them from Kaplan is that you have the option to have your essays graded by Princeton staff for $5.99 for each test (that's two essays per test for $5.99 total) or for a slightly discounted price if you purchase grades on all four tests at once (Note: you DO NOT have to purchase grades if you don't want to...it is *optional*). This is very helpful, because the Princeton staff not only gives you your number score for each essay, but also gives you feedback and the strengths and weaknesses. Kaplan gives you the grading rubric, some examples to go by, and expects you to grade the paper yourself, which I think is pointless since you are probably not a qualified GRE essay grader. For what it's worth, I thought the Princeton CAT tests were more difficult than Kaplan, but I also did Princeton first, so I can't say for sure.
- Reading Comprehension: In my opinion Princeton drops the ball on Reading Comprehension. They do such a great job of explaining the other verbal sections, but I felt that Kaplan outdid them in this area. There's nothing necessarily wrong with the Princeton Reading Comp section, it's just that Kaplan does a better job of explaining their strategy and then gives you about a million examples to get it ingrained into you. Seriously, I was going through the Kaplan section going, "Jeez, ANOTHER passage? When is this section going to end?!" Kaplan basically does for Reading Comp what Princeton does for Analogies, Sentence Completion, and Antonyms.
- Practice sets: Princeton has additional practice sets at the back of their book. I don't think these are very good. They're nice, they're helpful, they're good practice...it's just that Princeton separates questions into completely separate easy, medium, and hard sections. That's great if you want to practice your skills over time, but it's just not an accurate representation of what the test will be like. To be fair, neither is Kaplan, but Kaplan is a bit closer because they just lump everything into one section so you are alternating between difficulties, which is slightly more true to the test, which changes difficulty depending on your performance.
- Online practice material: Princeton just doesn't cut it with the online practice material. Besides the fact that it took me like an hour to figure out how to even get to the practice material on their website (easy now...click on "Student Tools" in the top right...it's just not clear that that's where the practice stuff is as you're perusing their website), they just don't have the same amount to offer as Kaplan. Kaplan will overload you with practice material, and they really mop the floor with Princeton in that regard. Princeton may be infinitely better for your essays, but Kaplan will really give you a workout with the amount of practice options they give you.
- Practice tests: Not a big deal at all, but the Princeton practice tests have a visually glossed up look. Kaplan's tests look exactly like the real test. Princeton's have their own look. Worth pointing out if you're going to practice only by Princeton so it doesn't throw you off. Same basic concept, just noticeably different look in the real test.
- Essays: Not the essay grading, which again is great...but teaching you how to write the essays. I think Kaplan is a bit better. Princeton pushes too hard on this mediocre format in which they tell you to start your issue essay with "Many people believe that ______. However, I believe ______" etc. over and over. It's boring and it sucks. They hint at making it fancier, but don't really give you much help to do so. They also emphasize that you should always oppose the issue presented because if you agree you won't have as interesting of an essay. They say you should make up your mind right away on your exact stance and then begin coming up with examples and narrowing it down to your top three before writing your essay; Kaplan tells you to write examples for both yes and no positions and then to decide based on your examples which is a stronger stance to take. I prefer the Kaplan method of actually choosing if you agree or not, and it helped big time on my actual GRE issue essay. Had I gone with Princeton and attempted to disagree I would have had a really awful essay.
Overall I hesitate to recommend one book over the other. While I feel that Princeton Review does nearly everything better than Kaplan as far as the book material goes, except for Reading Comprehension, Kaplan blows Princeton out of the water with the availability of online practice material. Kaplan seriously goes above and beyond with the amount of practice they'll give you on their website, and they ought to be highly commended for that. Ultimately I think that having both books was really the best course of action, as Princeton will truly help you learn the material and how to do the questions, and Kaplan will help you to practice it. I also went through the Kaplan GRE Exam Vocabulary in a Box in its entirety, studying the last few unknown words right up to my last few minutes at the stoplight on the way to the testing center. Several of the words did come up on the test, and I think it was very helpful to go through and learn the vocab, even words that didn't come up.
Bottom line: if you are going to get this Princeton Review book, I highly recommend you supplement it with the Kaplan book, which really gives you a heap full of practice quizzes and tests. If you rely on the Princeton book on its own you'll be in totally fine shape because they teach it so well and do have a lot of practice material...it's just that you may feel like you aren't getting enough practice, which is where Kaplan really exceeds and why I recommend having both books. I highly recommend the dual combo, and maybe even that vocab box as well. As I said, with the combination of all three, I did extremely well on the test a few days ago. If you need to choose one, choose this one. It teaches you the material REALLY WELL and still has a good bit of practice. Kaplan is mainly useful as more practice; you won't learn the material as well from it.
*Please note that after August 1st, 2011 the GRE test will be changing. These books will probably still be somewhat relevant, but certain questions will be exiting and other new ones will be coming in.
Thanks for reading!
* Straight to the point
* Clear explanations of how to solve problems
* They explain what might come in the GRE and try to teach you the ETS mindset
* Easy to read, almost like a story
* Practice exercises are challenging, unlike Kaplan Practice Tests
* Has many spelling and numerical mistakes, WATCH OUT
* Doesn't explain much theory, only some i.e. math principles. They just explain how to solve the problem. Their approach is that they will only explain what comes in the GRE. For me it's better to have a solid theoretical explanation.
Overall, very good for GRE. I think it's worth the money, but to have a well-rounded GRE preparation I would suggest flashcards and to review some old algebra and geometry textbooks. I bought the Manhattan Prep flashcards, and take them everywhere I go. Manhattan also has specialized textbooks for each section, it would be good to do this whole textbook and then strengthen your weak areas with Manhattan's.
The math section: I don't know but I found the practice problems super frustrating. Other reviewers found mistakes, so I sort of stopped in order to not confuse myself. The math section is very helpful for reviewing the concepts, especially the geometry. I used the ETS math review PDF (free on the ETS website) for practice problems, as well as the ETS powerprep software for practice tests. I didn't touch the full length practice tests in this book.
My findings were that the ETS verbal sections in powerprep were extremely similar to the real test. The quantitative section was more difficult in the real test than the powerprep but not as frustrating/ confusing as the practice questions in this book. I believe the math review concepts are great but I would do practice questions elsewhere. The overall tips and techniques for approaching the verbal and the writing portions, and the verbal practice questions, as well as the math concept review do make this book worth getting.