When I hear that a test prep company has released a new edition of its book, my usual response is, “So whose face is on the cover this year?” Even after half a decade of several glossy new editions—and a revolving door of glossy smiles—the content in test prep books remains unchanged, and my cynicism becomes only more entrenched.
Well, for what might be the first time ever in regards to the release of a new prep book, my cynicism has been turned on its head. Manhattan GRE’s redoubtable 5 lbs. book has become more formidable yet: not only hundreds of new practice problems but the more questionable questions, as it were, have presumably been axed (more on this later).
So if I was somewhat a fan of the original 5 lbs. book, I am even more so this time around, though a lot of that enthusiasm might have more to do with the fact that Manhattan GRE bucked the trend by releasing new material (and not featuring any faces on its cover—new or otherwise).
The verbal section
The more important issue, however, is whether the new material is more representative of what you’ll see on the test? Well, I can’t say it’s a marked improvement over the previous edition, and this especially goes for verbal. I still don’t think that Manhattan GRE has figured out the formula for writing GRE-like verbal questions in the ETS vein.
There are, for instance, a few things that it doesn’t include in the creation of its Text Completions that are likely to make your approach flaccid. You’ll likely miss questions test day that you might otherwise have answered correctly. Thankfully, much of the obscure vocabulary that marred previous questions, especially those found in the MGRE Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence guide, are gone.
Reading Comprehension also contains some flaws. Both the passage (save for a couple of exceptions) just don’t merit the structure of those found on the actual test; the questions and answer choices following each passage are also without the subtlety contained actual test questions. Doing a smattering of verbal practice from this book might not hurt much, but relying solely on this book for verbal would be a big mistake.
The quantitative section
Math is much better, mainly because writing good math questions simply isn’t as difficult as writing good verbal questions. Yet, many of the math questions in here are much better than those found in books by other test prep companies. Still, there are some low-quality questions scattered in the mix, but really: with this plethora of practice material, you can’t help but hone your quantitative skills. I also like how the questions are roughly arranged in terms of difficulty so you can move your way up. On a side note: don’t work your way sequentially through each section, doing all, say 50 questions, for each section. Jump around a little, circling back to sections you learned previously.
As I noted in the beginning, many questions were removed, specifically in the math section. I didn’t have the time to go through all these questions (I had the 1st edition opened up on my desk too), but I think many of the average questions—questions that felt very straightforward and not like an actual GRE question—were removed. So while the 2nd edition comes in at about a hundred pages fewer than the 1st edition (and I’m guess a few hundred grams shy of 5 lbs.), I don’t think much has been lost.
For solid quant practice this book offers a trove of practice. For verbal, material the results are far more mixed and you’ll definitely not want to make this book your go-to for verbal practice.