The 2nd Edition of the ETS Official Guide to the GRE has just been released. Is it a major change over the last book, hinting at how the GRE has morphed into a test very different from the Revised GRE of last year? Not one bit. The book is the exact same, except—and this is a pretty big except—the one free practice test at the back. That means that every exponent, every curve of every graph, every multi-syllabled word is the exact same up until pg. 350, which has a page on the new score conversion. Otherwise, the only significant difference begins where the 1st Edition ends on pg. 432: the second edition now has a Practice Test #2.
Two brand new tests (four total)
By no means you should close that Amazon webpage and move your cursor away from the buy link. Even if you own an edition of the 1st Edition, having access to a free official GRE test is worth the roughly $30 you’ll pay for the book plus shipping and handling. That extra exposure you get to questions, especially questions that are more indicative of questions you’ll see test day (I’ll elaborate on this on a later blog post), is hard to append a price tag to.
You will also get access to two PowerPrep tests (one new, one old) via a practice CD in the back – though you can access these on the ETS website for free (remember no PowerPrep test is Mac compatible). Neither of these tests overlaps with the two tests at the back of the book. That’s right – if you have yet to take an official GRE practice test, there are a total of four fresh tests waiting for you!
Indispensable – but not the perfect solution
Of course if you do not have a copy of the 1st Edition, much of the above is superfluous. Simply said: You need to get yourself a copy of the 2nd Edition Official guide. That is not to say the book is perfect, the single source to help you achieve your best GRE score. While the questions are the best prep out there—they are written by the test makers themselves–the explanations are somewhat lacking, a fact which isn’t too surprising given that ETS does not make revenue from writing lucid explanations. People tend to buy the book for the questions.
The Math Review section in the book is decent as far as brushing up on basics goes. You’ll also be exposed to the range of concepts you’ll see test day. Most of the other books—Barron’s, Kaplan, and even Manhattan GRE—do not cover concepts such as parabolas or absolute value graphs (not that either of these is very likely to show up test day).
User-friendly, helpful tips/strategies are scant. You simply get fundamentals and then practice questions, which are often beyond the scope of the practice you get from the fundamentals. (Meaning that doing the practice exercises in this book will hardly prepare you for actual GRE questions). Thus, while indispensible, the 2nd Edition guide, like the 1st edition guide, is not an all in one guide. You will want to supplement this book with one that helps break down this test.
Update 1/7/2013: We now have free video explanations for all of the practice questions in the second edition of the Official Guide here. Enjoy!