ETS Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test 3rd Edition Book Review

The ETS, also known as the maker of the GRE, released its newest ETS GRE book–the 2nd edition–back in 2012. That’s five long years since we’ve last seen any changes to the official guide. Surely, the 3rd edition that recently hit Amazon “bookshelves” would offer a trove of new questions, giving us deeper insight into the test?

Alas, the answer is a definitive ‘no’. There is not one new question and indeed very little different from the ancient 2nd Edition guide. I shouldn’t grumble too much since ETS did offer both new verbal and math guides a few years back, but still…

For some of you this point–whether the 3rd Edition is different from the 2nd edition–is moot. You’re new to GRE prep so it doesn’t really matter whether there are “new” questions; they’re all new to you. Also, I don’t want you to come away with the wrong idea. So let me just come out and say it: the GRE Official (2nd or 3rd edition) is the single most important resource. How well you do test day will likely be reflected by how well you use this book. Yep. It’s that important.

ETS Official Guide to the GRE: New vs. Old

But the two books aren’t exactly the same. While there are no new questions, the editors decided to beef up the math review section. Specifically, there is a more robust strategy section that most new to the GRE or who struggle with math will surely find helpful. Otherwise, there are no significant differences between the 2ndEdition and the 3rdEdition.

Improve your GRE score with Magoosh.

Well, there is one other difference, almost a quirk, and it has nothing to do with what’s in the book. For whatever reason, the 3rd Edition is only available (at least for now) on Amazon. So if you go to the site, you’ll only see the 2nd Edition for sale. Therefore, if you’re dying for that extra math strategy section (which I’ll talk about in more detail below), you’ll want to head over to Amazon.

What’s inside the latest edition?

Again, for many new to GRE prep, you just want to know what’s inside this book and how it can help you.

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. 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!


The ETS Official Guide is Indispensable

…but it’s not the perfect solution.

Sure, the questions are the best prep out there—they are written by the test makers themselves. But 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 practice questions.

The Math Review section in the book gives you a thorough review of concepts you’re likely to see on the GRE. 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 and strategies are not as abundant in other books–that’s why the new math strategies in the 3rd Edition give a high-level overview how to approach questions and how to improve your learning.

One complaint I have is that the practice questions for reviewing fundamentals in this book, don’t prepare you that well for the real GRE. Which is fine if you are new to the test. But even then, I’ve seen students spend far too much time trying to complete the practice questions in the math review section only to miss out on precious time prepping on actual GRE questions (oftentimes these questions are more about “tricks” than about the raw fundamentals.)

To reiterate: the 3rd Edition ETS Official Guide, like the 2nd Edition guide, is not an all-in-one guide. You will want to supplement this book with one that helps break down this test. And this especially goes for the math section.

The Official Guide to the GRE General Test Grade

Prep: A+

You should really buy it.

Strategies/Explanations: C+

But don’t worry! That’s what Magoosh GRE Prep is for! Plus, we now have free video explanations for all of the practice questions in the second edition of the Official Guide here. Enjoy!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

71 Responses to ETS Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test 3rd Edition Book Review

  1. Prasad N R June 17, 2018 at 6:16 am #

    “Taking a test once, figuring out your score, and then hoping that your brain will avoid the same kinds of mistakes on the test is wishful thinking” – Just to re-iterate this: This is true even for those who have taken real GRE once. It is pretty easy to fall back. But, GRE is not (NOT) about extraordinary talent. It is about endurance and that requires patience and lots (LOTS) of efforts in the weak areas.

    What is suggested is true. I have been taking Magoosh explanations and reading materials and considering the Official guide only when I need to assess my actual understanding. I believe these two are enough. But, if these two are not read, from what I know, hoping for a great score is another wishful thinking.

  2. Camille October 30, 2017 at 12:58 pm #


    This may be a redundant question, but ETS provides an online Math and Verbal review. Are these reviews the same as what is in the book, ETS Official Guide to GRE (3rd edition)? I was skimming the online Math review and it looks pretty similar…

    Thanks for any info!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 31, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

      Hi Camille,

      Yes! The information provided in the ETS Math Review and Verbal Review is basically the same as what you will find in the Official Guide 🙂

  3. Langley June 4, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    There is a practice exercise in the arithmetic review section that I am unsure of how “they” got a specific answer to. The equation is: (20 divided by 5)^2 – (-2+6)^3 and the answer in the book says my answer to the equation should be 1,024. I keep getting -48 as my answer, even on a calculator. Am I really not getting it, or is there a possibility their answer is an error? Please help! It is on page 232.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 5, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

      Hi Langley,

      I looked up this question and it seems like you made a small notation error here 🙂 The question is actually (20/5)^2 * (–2+ 6)^3 (a multiplication sign instead of subtraction). If we simplify using PEMDAS, we get (4^2)*(4^3), which is 16*64=1024. It’s easy to make little mistakes like this, which is why it’s so important to work methodically and check for details! You can read more about this here: 🙂

      • Sebastian J June 16, 2017 at 12:58 pm #

        The question on the book is written with the notation error include, it makes you subtract the parentheses not multiply them.

      • Brandy June 25, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

        You are an absolute angel for posting this. It was driving me INSANE. I can finally move on, knowing it was an error in the book. 👍🏻

      • Brandon Ayala August 4, 2017 at 4:58 pm #

        Langley did not make a notation error. The Official Guide 3rd edition has an extra “-” minus sign in Exercise 1: (g) pg 232. I looked at the 2nd edition and this minus sign does not appear. Perhaps you should edit the Magoosh 6 month guide to highlight that the answer key is wrong in the 3rd edition.

  • Lata Essarani November 16, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    Really confused, what do i do if i am going to prepare for general gre and i have not practice maths since 6 years?how i will do this, what kind of maths gonna come and so many querries about this math thing.can i prepare myself for maths if i am not around all these stuff of it!really looking forward…

  • Abhipshito Bhattacharya July 31, 2016 at 6:32 am #

    Hi Magooshers ,

    Can somebody please post the link to the MAGOOSH video explanations of the first practice test given in the CD Of the O.G 2 (REVISED EDITION) .

    Thanks ,
    Abhi .

  • serkan April 22, 2016 at 11:54 am #

    hi i chris 😀 i like this forum alot thank you for your contributions.Let me ask you one question ,

    The two practise tests which are in the CD of ETS Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test 2nd Edition are the same ones which also ets gives it free with powerprep 2 software from

    thnks have a good time

  • KASRA April 19, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

    Hello dear ppl

    I need to take the GRE for Grad school and I am getting the Official Guide to The GRE Revised … 2nd Edition. Is this enough or do I supplement it with another text?

  • Devesh January 4, 2016 at 3:33 am #

    Hi Chris,
    I am preparing for GRE which I will take in two months time, the thing is I bought the Official GRE quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning books. I was able to complete the quantitative reasoning smoothly, but I am having difficulty with verbal reasoning. I am currently pursuing my undergraduate degree and have lot of time on my hand to prepare for the test.
    I am hoping for advice on how I should crack down on this problem.

  • Rinky September 29, 2015 at 7:12 am #

    Hi Chris,
    I am giving GRE this november. I am great in quants (scoring up to 169 in practice tests) but I am lagging in my vocab (scoring upto 140 in practice tests). My target score is 330+. Could you please help me with how to go about improving my vocab skills. Doing RCs is the most difficult task to me. Please suggest me as to what I should do to improve.

  • Abhinav September 21, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Hey, Chris! You are doing a great job.
    I solved the TC/SE from 2nd edition of ETS official guide. I could easily solve easy (6 out of 8 in 7 mins) and medium section(5 out of 8 in 12 mins). But hard section was really tough for me (2 out of 8 in 13 mins). I don’t have much time for improvement since my GRE is in 7 days.
    I wanted to know the distributions of easy, medium and hard questions on actual exam?

  • Jen August 22, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    Hi Chris!

    I’m trying to follow the 2-3 month plan and that includes going through the first edition problems with video explainations. Do you think I should still get the 2nd edition version? (It might be harder to do since there aren’t video explanation of those though 🙁 )


  • Anvita July 22, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    Hi Chris, do you suggest buying the 2nd edition when I already have the 1st edition? I could just borrow from a friend and do the extra new test in the 2nd edition. Please let me know. Thank you!!!!!!

  • Zaid Sheikh September 7, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    Hi Chris,

    First, thanks alot for this great website.

    My mathematical skills are perfectly fine. Is this book enough for me to practice for the quantitative section?

    P.S. My aim is to score 170 in the quantitative section.

  • sa April 22, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Hi Chris,
    I want to buy the “ETS Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test 2nd Edition” as you recommended it.
    I kinda confused:
    I can find this book @ Amazon for $19.77 but @ ETS official website is $24.50 – but it says expanded version!
    Are these two same? or the one on the ETS website is the more recent one?
    Looking forward for your help and thank you for your time in advance!


  • Teju March 31, 2014 at 5:16 am #

    Hello Chris, does it make my preparation complete if I supplement this book with the magoosh premium package?? I bought both, the ets official guide to the gre and also magoosh premium pack for gre.

    Many Thanks in advance.

  • Rashi March 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    I recently took one of the practice tests available at the end of the ets official guide, second edition and was wondering how indicative are the scores of the practice test of the actual test.
    Is the practice test easier than the real test or the difficulty level is the same?

  • Mario November 26, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    I realize this post is over a year old, but I had some questions regarding the PowerPrep II tests:

    I noticed that ETS recently made the software available to Mac users via their website (PowerPrep II version 2.1). Do you by chance know if the tests on this “updated” version are unique? Or are they the same as the 2.0 versions?


    ~ M.

  • Maqsood June 27, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Hi Chris.. I just have a doubt.. Is ETS official guide enough to get a very good score in revised GRE or I should for MGRE also.. Thanx in advance.

  • Jorge August 11, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    I guess I’m a bit confused as to what my test options are.

    I have the 1st and 2nd edition of the ETS book but never cracked open either CDs. I did notice that the 1st written test in the 1st ETS book is the same as the 1st test in the 2nd ETS book.

    The way I can break it down in my head is as follows:

    1st ETS book:
    1 unique written test, 1 unique test on CD

    2nd ETS book:
    1 unique written test and 1 repeated written test, 2 unique tests on CD

    POWERPREP Software from website:
    2 unique tests

    Manhattan GRE:
    1 sorta free unique test

    Practice tests

    Am I repeating myself in any spots, are the tests on the powerprep CDs the same at any point in this chain? I’m looking to get a ~<700 and i'm in the 710-750 range and i'm continually looking for ways to make sure I stay there.

    Thanks for your clarification.

  • [email protected] August 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    Hi Chris, one more query –

    I made 0 mistakes in section 5 of Paper-based test (from prior edition, July 2011) and 3 mistakes in section 6. Two mistakes were in graphs: misread data and answered wrong question; one mistake with equation: solved but did not used my solution properly.

    So I believe under time constraints and stress of real exam I would make more mistakes in test like 5-6 in total if I were to take Pbt say. That brings my score down to 164-165 in math (according to ETS published scales and scores in the newer Pbt document). Do you think with this much prep and mistakes rate 3 out of 50 I am ready to tackle math part of GRE finally? I am looking into score of not less than 165, do you think that is manageable, what your experience tells you? Can I do that or sit nonplussed @ watching my quant score down 164-165 at the test end?

  • [email protected] August 5, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    Hi Chris, this may seem a bit off-topic but at least relevant to the prep materials to come from ETS. I am writing in regard of ETS paper-based test (the former test edition), the question No 19 in section 6 (Math). The question asks: “How many students are either juniors or males or both?”

    Should not the answer be and not as the question calls on inclusion of “both” i.e. Males&Juniors at the end and to discount them as uniset of two sets (Males, Juniors) would not be correct eventually? I can’t get the back-up behind the answer choice given in ETS hand-book 🙁

  • John August 4, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    Hey! I am quite confused about the amount of real GRE tests out there. So, there are 2 pdfs (paper version), 2 available online on the ets webpage, and finally 2 more tests in paper version in this “Official Guide for GRE”. Are these tests the same with the pdfs or different? So, can someone access in total 6 different genuine GRE tests??

  • David August 3, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    I take it then that if one gets the second edition, there is no reason to get the first edition? Is this right? No extra questions, etc., in the first edition that aren’t in second?

  • Mohammed August 3, 2012 at 3:27 am #

    First of all thanks for your great and helpful site.

    I was in hurry to buy the second edition and when I get it I was really unhappy where I had the first edition already, I thought it would have more new questions then this. Anyhow my exam will be on 28th of this month and I am really confuse about the verbal part. My grad school here in Saudi Arabia is asking for 143 V, 156 Q , 4 AWA. I know it seems low for most of US schools but the Verbal part is killing me. Any suggestions in the verbal part especially because my math skills are just fine due to my engineering degree.

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