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Nova’s GRE Prep Course Book Review

Update: NOVA now does have a test prep book for the New GRE. But we’ve kept this review in place for those using the old NOVA book.

Let me start out by explicitly stating: NOVA’s does not have a test prep book for the New GRE. Its only offering is for the old GRE. Yet many have asked whether they should use the old NOVA book. This is actually not an absurd question, for as I’ll show in this review a few can still get some use out of NOVA’s. But ultimately the NOVA’s GRE prep is of limited utility because it covers a test that no longer exists.


The Good

NOVA provides many questions (hundreds, literally) for practice on math. Some of these questions are on the difficult side, so they make for good practice for those looking to score in the more competitive range. And that’s it: the high math scorers are the only ones who will really benefit from this book.


The Bad

Let’s just focus on the math for a moment. A second ago I said I liked that NOVA because it provides many practice problems for math. While that is true, I am not a big fan of their strategies. Basically, it, meaning NOVA, doesn’t really offer any strategies. It offers problem sets followed by an explanation section.

For those who are adept at math and looking for extra practice, the absence of strategies and approaches shouldn’t really matter. For those looking for a math primer this omission can be downright jarring. Thus, math tyros steer clear of Nova.

Then there is the question of the old format. No numeric entry or multiple answer questions. Again, not a surprise when this book was designed for a test that no longer exists.

Anyhow, that’s the math. The verbal…well, even for the old GRE I wouldn’t have recommended NOVA. The sentence completions (the old school text completions) feel pared down compared to those written by ETS.

The vocab list is a little ridiculous. 4000 words often vaguely and/or poorly defined. A few words are misspelt. Really speaking this alphabetical list of 4000 words lumped together qualifies best as a punishment for those who’ve been condemned to vocab purgatory. To make matters worse many words would only come up in analogy questions, so if you use this list you would essentially be wasting your time.

Anyhow, to learn GRE vocab effectively, you must combine the following:  context learning (reading), randomization (flashcards), creativity (word usage) and word identification (doing questions). Following NOVA’s list would be as un-fun as it would be ineffective.

The Reading Comprehension, while better than the offerings of other publishers, still gets a meh. Anyhow, the questions and passages are based on the old format.


The Ugly

Antonyms and analogies are no longer on the new GRE. For fun, you can go through them as vocab builders. However, you do not have to learn the strategy behind them.

Thus unsuspecting buyers will busy themselves for hours on end doing analogy and antonym questions. They will never see a single text completion or a numeric entry question. They will spend an inordinate amount of time hunched over 4,000 words, many which are poorly defined, and many others that simply wouldn’t come up on the Revised GRE. And that’s just ugly.

Grade: B (Math) / F (Verbal)

This is the tenth in a series of new GRE book reviews.

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.