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Tips for Using The Official Guide to the Revised GRE

One of the single best sources for GRE prep is The Official Guide to the GRE. Published by the writers of the GRE themselves, ETS, which stands for Educational Testing Service, the book is 400+ pages of practice questions, very similar to the ones you’ll see test day.

Of course slogging through 400+ pages is definitely not a good idea. Below are a few practical pointers to help you get the most out of this invaluable resource.


Start at the beginning

This sounds very obvious; however, many people may be tempted to dive straight into a set of questions, or, even more pluckily, the full-length test at the back of the book. However, there are many helpful tips as well as information concerning the GRE you may not know about. So start from the beginning – you’ll have plenty of opportunity to do practice questions.


 Do the easy and medium practice sets (skip the hard one)

Near the beginning of the book, there are three practice sets for the verbal section and three practice sets for the math sections. For each section, there is an easy, medium, and difficult practice section. Do only the easy and medium sets, leaving the hard set for a point further down the road (remember there are only so many questions written by ETS – don’t burn through them at the very beginning).


Do not try to understand everything in the math review

The math review in the middle of the book takes up almost 100 pages. Do not try to understand every single concept here – at least at first. What ETS doesn’t tell you is the likelihood that any given concept will show up. Frustrated by the parabola or the absolute value graph (especially with the intersecting line bit)? Don’t worry. You most likely won’t even see an absolute value problem, let alone an absolute value graph. And parabolas? Well, they are like the Loch Ness monster of the GRE. They are only rumored to exist on the actual test.

On the other hand, you will want to pay careful attention to the statistics portion. Any number of these concepts will show up test day.

Finally, make sure to refer back to the math review if there are concepts that you don’t quite understand while going through the easy and medium problem sets.


The Official Guide is great for questions, but only marginally useful for tips and strategies

ETS does not go out of its way to come up with the most effective ways for solving problems, making sure to drop other helpful hints along the way. That’s what Magoosh is for! Oftentimes the math review is tedious and doesn’t, paradoxically, capture the essence of the test questions (which are a whole lot trickier than a simple review of fundamentals would have you believe).


Use the test wisely

ETS only provides two tests—the paper-based one at the end of the book, and the PowerPrep software.

You want to spread these tests out if you can. Of course do not take the test at the back of the book right before you take the exam. There are many valuable lessons you can learn from your performance on this test.


Pay attention to the vocabulary

Don’t worry – I haven’t forgotten the verbal section. In terms of vocabulary many of the words used here are ETS pet favorites. That is not to say that many will show up on the test, but you will at least get an idea as to the level of these words.

Also, pay attention to the vocabulary and the way it is used in sentences. Notice the writing style used by ETS. It is much more sophisticated than that used by the folks over at Kaplan, who in all likelihood employed some brain high schoolers to cough up Text Completions. Anyhow, going into the test you should know every vocabulary word used in this book.



The Official Guide is an excellent resource for test questions. Use these questions wisely. Also, do not get bogged down by all the particulars in this book.


Finally, the Official Guide is not the only source you’ll need to do well on the GRE. Far from it. As much as possible, supplement your studies with the invaluable resources contained in our GRE study plans.


By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

30 Responses to Tips for Using The Official Guide to the Revised GRE

  1. Dhanya April 2, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

    I just signed up for the Magoosh premium account. I am planning on writing my GRE in a month. SO according to your one month plan ,you have suggested ETS’s official gude as one of the prep materials. I have a barrons and a kaplan 2012 edition.Will that suffice or should i be purchasing the ETS guide too? Also this is my first attempt. Kindly give me valuable tips and suggestions on how to go about it.Thanks

  2. Craig June 29, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    Hey Chris are you able to make an ebook just on word problems and just like tips and strategies? Thanks

  3. jay June 25, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Hi chris

    I gave the ETS paper based test and I wanted to know an approximate score but the scoring in the paper based test is very wide. My score was 1270 to 1420 , which I feel is a range too wide to give me a close approximation . However I am still left with Powerprep software test. Is the scoring method same in the that too?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

      Hi Jay,

      Unfortunately, the Powerprep gives the same wide range. Pegging your score somewhere close to the middle is usually pretty accurate.

  4. aadya June 21, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Could you please provide book review for – Kaplan GRE Premier 2013: with 5 Online Practice Tests + DVD (Kaplan Gre Exam Premier Live). Thanks in advance.


    • Pemdas@BTG June 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

      the review is from amazon-dot-com

      “This edition is published on June 5, 2012, and I ordered it on the same day because I attended the Kaplan Free GRE Practice Test that afternoon and the speaker announced this new edition. So I purchased it for $20 with Amazon Prime because I want the access for the MSTs and verbal practice test.

      ***It arrived today and I figure something relatively interesting.

      1. This 2013 Premier has no difference whatsoever comparing to 2011-2012 Premier Edition. The table of contents and pages are exactly the same. For instance, if I flip to P.248 in 2011-2012 Premier, it is chapter 13 talking about the kaplan method for data interpretation; and if I flip to the same page in 2013 Premier, SAME! I tried several pages as well and they are all the same.

      2. After flipping to the 1st page from the book cover, I figured out that I dont really need to buy this book because all you need is a online book link, a keyword and a kaplan online account. If you have 2011-2012 Premier, just use the same keyword and you will have free access to all features in the 2013 Premier “AND” GRE Strategies, Practice and Review 2013, including the MST.

      3. Good thing it cost $20 to own for a 575 pages book unlike those college student rip off textbooks or course readers that cost over $100 – $200 that you don’t even know if you will be flipping them at all. I know I purchased $120 hardcover textbook that the professor does not require us to know anything about it because the exam is directly from the lecture notes and worksheet. The textbook itself is just supplemental for your reference.

      4. I dont think it is worth it signing up for those on-site classes for $600 just for GRE, even the just the Verbal (4 classes) by itself will not help too much. It really depends on the time you spend on memorizing the vocab and analyzing the questions for verbal. Quantitative reasoning just requires careful calculation, interpretation and experience using the “what if” idea on the comparison. For AW, that you need to have your own database or training in order to score high.
      I think most grad school will accept the new GRE above 300, but should aim for at least AW 4.5-5.0 , V160, Q160 to be on the safe side. “

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 22, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

      Hi Aadya,

      That will definitely be at the top of my list for my next round of book reviews coming in August :).

  5. Aman June 20, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    Hi Pemdas,
    The difficulties are in terms of the language only ETS does not test on multiple concept in a single question;maximum what they can do is ,in a question a concept is used majorly and slight knowledge of other is required ;Questions like how many triangles could be formed using a decagon?(Well this is an easy question and doesn’t involve much of geometry concept ) .
    The major thing that adds to the difficulty is the language.However, if you look at these question right now,you won’t find them difficult.But during the exam these may cause to consume much time and do silly mistake IF NOT PRACTICED WELL.These question were:
    -Convoluted (as i mentioned)
    -A bit difficult to comprehend and deduce relevant info
    -Much of the information would be to related to question but if interpreted wrongly detour the direction as in how to go about the question
    But they all are easy in terms of concept tested and formulas used.However ,i found few question that involved more calculation then expected .

    Bottom line is :A practice of these type is needed so as to not be surprised during the exam.

    Hope that answers your question correctly

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

      Aman brings up a good point. Much of the GRE math is deciphering what the question is asking. In that sense it is more like a Text Completion than a standard math problem :).

      • Aman June 21, 2012 at 1:51 am #

        Exactly what i wanted to convey even the reading comprehension techniques worked in Maths section.

  6. Pemdas@BTG June 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Hi Aman, I am having exam next week. You said in the first quant section you had difficult to understand questions, correct? Were they difficult because of wording or they required you to apply several combined concepts you did not feel comfortable to do within short time? Sometimes test makers bring several concepts into play for confusing test takers. The questions you marked were word problems or some other sort of questions?

    • Aman June 20, 2012 at 12:16 am #

      Pemdas,Best of luck for your exam ,don’t be nervous ,I guess you have done a lot of practice ,even gone through GMAT stuff; I am sure you would cross the 320 mark.

      Note :Just remember one thing if (god forbids) you screw up a particular section ,don’t let that reflect on other sections.You would still have a chance to cover up your score.
      I experienced it :got 4/20 question correct in verbal ,knew i screwed up in the first and started a fresh in the second scored 16/20 .

  7. Aman June 19, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    One point i forgot to include which would not be relevant to many was not marking answers for question and leaving it to last that could cause loss of more marks;this blunder i committed in one section of quant where left 3 question unknowingly and lost 4 points for this .KEEP IN MIND TO ATTEMPT ALL EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT SURE ABOUT THE ANSWER.

    Sorry the previous erroneous comment, it contains errors and typos,mind me for these.

  8. Aman June 19, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    Hi Chris,
    Hope you remember me .!!
    I gave my GRE a long ago and got 306 :verbal-149 quant-157( sorry for giving this info late but was really tied up with some work)

    I would like to share my experience of exam and would want you to enlighten me on my preparation for a re-examination.

    First start off with the experience:
    Many people comment that GRE quant section is easy well they are right but not 100%. On exam date questions would be easy to solve but convoluted at least the first section,ETS set the level of first section almost as hard (at least a highest degree in medium level ).Last part holds true for verbal section as well.
    Quant section:
    The first section was labyrinth that make student difficult to deduce information from a question.Though the questions are easy to solve but getting struck in the maze of language can cause a problem.Well most of the prep materials(not ref. Magooshs’) does not consider this points.
    The solution to this problem is proper practice of such questions and most importantly practice in real environment( taking 5 sections after the two awa’s),testing yourself as if you are giving GRE with less frequent breaks.


    The technique of adaptation is also followed in the verbal section similar to quant.
    The catch here is in addition to making language confusing they also introduced writing longer sentence and paragraphs.
    I still remember a CR question going 15 lines for stem and 6 lines each for options ( just a single question). The RC was much more length that one would expect.
    What i think is ETS introduced these RC to make students loose on their time.
    I guess this section would be ruled by one who has a good reading and comprehending skills,these skills should be practiced enough for success in exam.
    As far as words are concerned i hardly found any unknown word .As per my opinion Magooshs’ wordlist pdf is sufficient for this task .
    One technique that could be used here is doing the RC questions at the end .

    Chris,I would like to know which all are a good source :containing quant question which has convoluted ,real life senario problems(so that i could be at ease in the exam))
    ETS book was very beneficial wish there were more like these,something of ETS type.
    I am only lest with 1.5 months for my re-GRE exam and want to increase my score atleast with 12-15 more points.

    Please help me out as you always do.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      Hi Aman :).

      Great to hear from you! It sounds as though you did very well :). But I like your mettle, in that you want to have another go at it.

      Also, thanks for the write-up. I’m glad to hear that the Magoosh ebook helped you prepare you for all the words :). You definitely offer some invaluable insights (not leaving questions blank is a huge one!).

      For your second approach, I’d recommend that you tackle GMAT questions. Pick up a copy of the GMAT 13th. Edition. There alone are a few hundred problem solving questions (sorry, no QC). You can also download a free GMAT test from GMAT questions tend to be very convoluted and should help you test day.

      Finally, keep coming to the blog and peppering me with questions :). Together, I think I will help you crack 160 in Quant and get you around 155-157 in Verbal.

      Keep up the hard work :).

      • Aman June 20, 2012 at 12:30 am #

        Thanks Chris ,you always have the generosity to help others .
        Not only the word list but all other stuff like the video explanation, comments ,blog posts and most importantly the your timely personal suggestions helped me a lot to be in sink with the GRE pattern and learn about more(Sorry I didn’t included this earlier)
        I would start with the GMAT stuff asap,practice them and identify my weak areas.However ,I think the reason for a low score could be less practice of full length test involving a higher degree of question (like MGRE types).
        What strategy should I use for verbal section .It is like I am good with the verbal easy section but my proficiency decreases exponentially as the difficulty level increases(evident by my performance Verbal 1st section:4/20(difficult section) verbal 2nd section:16/20(easy section)) .I really need to work hard on this aspect to bolster my performance in verbal section.
        I think the prolonged questions and answer may be the problem .

        Thanks again for all your support and assistance .By your motivation I feel much more confident.

      • Aman July 15, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

        Hey Chris,
        I started practicing GMAT og questions starting questions were quite easy but then difficulty level tend to increase . I was thinking to join Magoosh but I only have 30 days time left for my GRE ,can you help me work out on my strategy and plan of action for these 30 days.Moreover can you guide me on the any plan available (I saw one 30 days plan).
        Please help

  9. Muhammad June 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    Chris do you know when will the new material be out? I heard ETS is coming up with a second edition of this book.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

      Yep, it’s coming out this August. Stay tuned (and I’ll definitely be coming up with a follow-up book review :)).

  10. pemdas@BTG June 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Chris when you say, citing “ETS only provides two tests—the paper-based one at the end of the book, and the PowerPrep software.” do you mean paper based test provided by ETS or diagnostic test at the end of the book. The two mentioned are different and there is a significant number of overlaps reported by test-takers between paper-based test offered by ETS and software test. Whereas the diagnostic test at the end of Official guide doesn’t duplicate any question encountered in the software OR at least that is my perception, because I have not taken the software test yet.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

      Hmmm…yes, this is a tricky issue. So, the paper-based test and powerprep have significant overlap. The book-based test (which is not the same as the paper-based) has questions not found in either the paper-based or the Powerprep. Hope that clears things up :).

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