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Book Review: Manhattan GRE Sentence Equivalence and Text Completions Guide, 4th Edition

I’ve long groused about MGRE’s Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence Guide. Some words are far too obscure to show up on the current GRE, and many of the practice sentences are far too difficult to help those just starting out. In this recent edition MGRE has edited some sentences and removed a few difficult words (yay, no more myrmidons!). I commend them, given that every other GRE test prep book will remain unchanged — typos and all — until the polar ice caps completely melt, or the GRE changes.

Yet, in this edition MGRE does not go as far as they should. There still are obscure words — lucubrate (which is sprinkled throughout the book) and obtundity come to mind. Also tough vocabulary (though not necessarily obscure words) seems to attend every question as though the only thing the GRE tests is difficult vocabulary and not one’s ability to pick up on the general context of a sentence or paragraph, and pick amongst relatively easy words.

Most significantly, MGRE doesn’t replace questions with improved ones–questions that better reflect ETS Text Completions and Sentence Equivalence. Instead, MGRE gives us the same questions, albeit with more GRE-like language and less debatable distractors. (I spotted only one question that had been completely changed). Finally, the difficulty level of the questions and the problem sets is still far too difficult for even those at an intermediate level. The helpful strategies MGRE tries to instill would have been much better served by questions that are toned down in language and tough vocab. Likewise, an easy and medium problem set with questions that are actually easy and medium– so students can build up their skills — would have greatly improved this book.

That said, the sentences in this book will be good practice for those who are already high verbal scorers and want to improve their vocabulary, while tackling tough sentences. And for any who want to get a better feel of some of the academic language on the test, they could do far worse than trying to wrap their heads around the twisted syntax and orotund style found in many of the practice questions.

I should mention that there are some excellent questions in the mix, ones which are reflective of the GRE and will prepare you for the nuance found on the actual test. But there are also many so-so questions, a few of which are plagued by a surfeit of overly difficult words, instead of relatively familiar words in which the test-taker must pick up on a subtle distinction in meaning.

So if you are looking for a step-by-step process to become more adept at Text Completions and Sentence Completions with questions (and answer choices!) that are indicative of the real test, MGRE is not the best place to go. If you are already strong at verbal and want some extra practice–and won’t freak out over some of ridiculously difficult words–than you’ll get some mileage out of the MGRE book.


About the Author

Chris Lele has been helping students excel on the GRE, GMAT, and SAT for the last 10 years. He is the Lead Content Developer and Tutor for Magoosh. His favorite food is wasabi-flavored almonds. Follow him on Google+!

14 Responses to Book Review: Manhattan GRE Sentence Equivalence and Text Completions Guide, 4th Edition

  1. Elena Cvetkovska March 13, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    While the math books 1-6 are good, their text competition and sentence equivalence book sucks. And I am saying this after I have gone through more than thousand questions in the Magoosh product, the 5lbs books and all available ETS verbal questions combined. Some words are too nuanced and close in meaning. Other words are too obscure to even find in dictionary or on any official gre word list, so have fun googling them. I have identified more than a few sentences that have more than one meaning and are not logically sound.

  2. Raj September 11, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Is there any difference between the 3rd edition and 4th edition of Manhattan GRE RC guide. Do you recommend the 4th edition guide question to supplement the practice questions on magoosh?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 15, 2014 at 11:28 am #

      Hi Raj,

      In general I recommend the guides mostly as a means of accessing the MGRE practice tests, esp. if you are using in conjunction with Magoosh. If not, the MGRE guides are great, esp. for beginners. For now, you might want to supplement Magoosh with the 5 lbs. question book, esp. if you are focused on quant (the verbal questions aren’t as good).

  3. siddharth July 31, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    so 3rd edition is fine>

    Nothing new in quant?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele September 15, 2014 at 10:59 am #

      Not really. Maybe some wording changed here and there but nothing major.

  4. Sridharan July 23, 2014 at 6:14 am #

    Hello Chris:

    I already have all six books of the MGRE 3rd edition. I need to study mainly for the Quantitative section of the GRE, as I am not strong in Mathematics. As far as the Verbal section goes, I am far less worried about it, than I am about the Quantitative section.

    Would you recommend that I use the 3rd edition books, or should I buy the 4th edition? As I said, I am concerned mainly about the Quantitative Section.

    Thank you very much. :-)

  5. Pranav July 21, 2014 at 3:03 am #

    Hi Chris,
    I’m planning to buy one of Manhattan’s books so that I can access the tests. However the 4th edition is not available in my country and will take 10 days to reach. The 3rd edition is available right away. Can you tell the difference between the 3rd and 4th edition with respect to the tests? I cannot wait for the book as I have my gre in one month. Thanks in advance.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 21, 2014 at 11:29 am #

      Hi Pranav,

      The tests–meaning the 6 online tests–are exactly the same. So it doesn’t really matter which book you order.

      Hope that helps!

  6. Andrew Winthrop June 25, 2014 at 3:08 pm #


    I recently purchased this book and find it just ok. What TC/SE book would you recommend?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 26, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

      Hi Andrew,

      There really isn’t too much out there in terms of decent TC/SE prep. Barron’s might be somewhat helpful. You definitely want to get your hands on the ETS book. It has official questions on it. So even if it is short on strategy, you’ll get great practice.

      Hope that helps :)

  7. Pracheta Sahoo June 23, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Hii Chris,
    Is this book comes with 6 online practice tests? I mean if I purchase only this book,should I get the access to 6 online practice tests?

    please reply


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 24, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      Yes, Pracheta–buy just one book (including this one) and you’ll get access to the MGRE tests.

      Hope that helps :)

  8. Julio Miranda June 20, 2014 at 8:00 am #

    Hi Chris

    Is there any significant change between the MGRE 3rd Ed and 4th Ed? Please get back to me.

    Thank you.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 20, 2014 at 11:00 am #

      Hi Julio,

      There are some changes mostly in TC/SE book. While the changes are for the better, they are not all that significant. If you have a choice, def. get the 4th edition. But if you have a 3rd edition lying around, that should be fine, too :)

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