So you’re planning on taking the the GRE and you’re on the hunt for resources? Well, this post has you covered, whether you’re at the beginning of your GRE prep journey or pushing through the end.
By the end of this post, you’ll have a comprehensive idea of:
- what constitutes good GRE prep versus bad GRE prep.
- how to take a GRE diagnostic right here and now so you know exactly what your next steps are.
- where to find free practice to sharpen your skills even further, as well as the best places to find all the resources you could ever need before test day.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Good vs Bad GRE Resources
Here’s the basic, yet often overlooked key to raising your GRE score: practice doesn’t make perfect. Good GRE practice makes perfect.
Given the mountains of GRE prep material out there, the unfortunate reality is that good GRE questions are hard to find. So, before we dive into the best GRE resources out there, it’s really worth your time to first understand how to identify practice that is the “real deal” from practice that is not.
Good GRE Resources
Good practice means studying with questions that are exactly like those you’ll find on test day—in both form and content. It means mean taking practice tests that have answers and explanations that actually teach you how to do better next time. It means using practice from the official test-makers as well as official-like practice.
Magoosh, for example, uses the same process as the ETS—the makers of the GRE—to develop our practice test questions, basing our practice tests and practice problems on data, rather than instinct (although we think our test prep experts have some of the best/nerdiest instincts in the industry). In fact, we go over Magoosh’s practice test development process as a bonus section at the end of this post.
Bad GRE Resources
Bad practice, on the other hand, includes questions that aren’t properly modeled after official GRE questions, meaning that they’re either too easy or too hard and therefore ill-equipped to give you an accurate understanding of how you’ll actually do on test day. Bad practice also includes good questions with poor explanations; since the most important part of GRE prep is to understand your errors and avoid making them in the future, there is no point in practicing with these types of questions.
Bottom Line: Do Your Research
This post covers the very best GRE test resources out there, including those released by ETS. But if you want to use additional resources that aren’t covered in this post, answer the following questions first: Can they show that they have a good development process? Do they have trustworthy reviews, a verifiable track record of increasing scores, and other social proof? Do a little bit of research before deciding to invest your time and/or money in resources that ultimately may not be worth it.
How to Make the Most of Practice
If you’re planning to take the GRE, you’ll fall into one of the following categories:
- Beginner: You’re just beginning your GRE prep and need solid diagnostic resources.
- Intermediate: You’ve already started prep and need to move beyond the basics and monitor your progress.
- Advanced: You know a lot about the GRE (maybe you’re studying for a retake) and need advanced practice.
Based on where you are on your GRE journey, an understanding of how best to use the following resources will take you far in your GRE prep:
Beginners, use these resources to know what the test looks like and how you’ll approach it (hint: the GRE is hard compared to the SAT).
Intermediate preppers, at this point, you may feel like you’ve run out of quality resources and that you don’t think there’s anything more you can do. If that’s the case, it might still be worth your time to read through this article and see if we point to resources that you haven’t seen before! If you come across some new resources, make sure you have a good understanding of the areas where you can boost your scores even higher, and brush up on those concepts accordingly before using these new resources.
Advanced folks, you most likely feel like you are at the end of the road, materials-wise, and/or that you may have hit a plateau, which can be discouraging. Definitely run through this article to see if there are resources that you may have missed. If there are, make sure you look at areas where you can boost your score, particularly with an eye towards how you’re approaching these questions.
For both intermediate and advanced GRE students, finding new quality GRE resources can help you change your approach and break through to the next level.
Not sure whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced GRE student? Don’t worry—labeling levels of understanding is not a straightforward process. Just ask Magoosh student @AvolynFisher:
Take a Diagnostic & Create A GRE Study Plan
If you’re a beginner, the first thing you definitely want to do is take a diagnostic quiz, followed by a full diagnostic test (we’ll go over how in the coming sections). This will give you a sense of your strengths and weaknesses, which will help you create the most effective GRE study plan.
Whether you’re a week, a month, or a few months away from the test, creating a study plan is critical to making the most efficient use of your time. For the intermediate and advanced students, the following diagnostic quiz can still give you critical insights about your strengths and weaknesses and help you create that study plan, if you haven’t already.
Magoosh Free GRE Diagnostic Quizzes
For a sense of how prepared you are at exactly this moment for each multiple-choice section of the GRE, here is a two-part GRE diagnostic exam for your edification!
Follow each link below to the corresponding quiz. This is one of the best GRE diagnostic quizzes out there because it’s brief (10 questions per section), yet accurate at determining your strengths and weaknesses for the official exam.
And now, with no further ado, your GRE diagnostics!
When you’re done taking each section of the GRE diagnostic quiz, Magoosh will explain your level of GRE preparedness (but won’t offer a full score). We suggest saving your results as a GRE diagnostic test PDF so that you can return to them as you plan out your practice going forward.
(Also, in case you’re wondering why there’s no Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) diagnostic test here, it’s because grading AWAs is a lot more resource-intensive since they’re hand-graded. But not to worry! We’ll definitely cover the GRE resources you’ll need to prepare adequately for the AWA.)
Magoosh’s GRE Practice Test
Now that you’ve taken a diagnostic quiz and have an understanding of some areas where you need some work, brush up on these areas before taking a full-length diagnostic test. The Magoosh GRE blog is chock full of posts to help you (for some quick tips, you can check out the GRE Math Review Quiz and the Top 5 Online Grammar Resources for the GRE!). Or you can even sign up for a 7-day free Magoosh trial to get access to video lessons and additional practice!
Once you’ve done that, now it’s time to take your full-length GRE practice test!!
Taking a full-length diagnostic is critical for getting a complete sense of your strengths and weaknesses from the get-go and creating the most effective study plan accordingly. Set aside four hours and make sure you’re simulating real test-day conditions as much as possible. This means you should:
- Find a place to work where you won’t be disturbed, preferably where it’s quiet. Turn off your cell phone—leave it in another room if you have to. Have a timer handy and don’t forget to restart it for each section.
- Once you begin your practice test, be sure to take the entire test at one time. You won’t be able to leave and come back to the test on the official exam, so doing so during practice won’t give you an accurate picture of where you are score-wise. You can take a ten-minute break between the first GRE Verbal section and the second GRE Quant section, but no more than that (and no less).
- Start with the AWA section! While it isn’t as important to most schools as your multiple-choice scores, remember: you’re going to have to get that section squared away on test day, and it can tire you out. You’re not going to get to dive into the multiple-choice questions fresh as a daisy.
- And finally, remember to eat healthy snacks before sitting down to practice. Don’t eat during the test, because you won’t be able to on test day.
Practice Tests: The Holy Grail of GRE Resources
After this initial GRE diagnostic, try to take one practice test a week between now and test day (use your study plan to guide you), simulating the test day conditions as much as possible. I know: this can be a lot, particularly if your test day is several months away. But practice tests are hands-down the best GRE resources at your disposal.
Taking a practice test not only teaches you what to expect from the test in terms of form and content, but it also ends up being a huge time-saver on test day. Why? Because once you’re familiar with the (sometimes) labyrinthine instruction format, you’re good to go. You’ll never have to read those instructions again. Given the time pressure you’ll face on the GRE, this is a big chunk of point-earning time you’ll redeem for free.
What are some other benefits to taking a practice test? You’ll be able to figure out exactly how to study: the subjects you need to brush up on, the question formats you need to master, and the best ways to spend your time on the test. The more practice tests you take, the higher you’ll score on the GRE—it’s really as simple as that.
Official ETS GRE Prep
Speaking of practice GRE tests, they can’t get any better than the ETS’s Powerprep tests, two totally free practice tests from the test-makers themselves.
After you’ve put in some good prep guided by the result of your diagnostic—such as taking advantage of all ETS practice questions available—take one of the Powerprep tests for a surefire understanding of how you’d do on the real deal. And consider saving the last one for the week before test day for a final sense of how you’ll actually do on the real test.
The ETS also offers unparalleled access to their actual Argument and Issue Essay Topic Pools. That’s right: you will see one of these topics on your actual exam. That means that when you practice writing AWAs, you should absolutely be using these topics—maybe your practice essay topic will be one that you see on test day! And even if not, you know it is exactly like what you’ll see on your test.
More Great Free GRE resources
At this point in the post, we have shown you where you can get access to a diagnostic quiz, three high-quality practice tests, and hundreds of practice questions—all for FREE! That’s enough for three solid weeks of prep!
But if you have more time, we have you covered with more free resources:
- Manhattan GRE Prep offers a free practice test.
- Magoosh’s GRE Vocabulary Flashcards help you master more than 1,000 GRE vocab words. Available as an app or on your desktop, they’re a great companion to Magoosh’s extensive library of GRE video lessons!
- Magoosh’s Vocabulary Builder app is another indispensible free tool to bring your GRE vocabulary to tip top shape! A great companion to Magoosh’s flashcards, this app tests your knowledge of GRE vocab from basic to advanced levels and keeps track of the words you need to focus on the most.
- Khan Academy is an amazing resource, particularly when you need a refresher on particular math or verbal concepts. No, there isn’t any specific section for the GRE, but once you’ve completed a practice test or two, search the site for concepts that are giving you trouble, and chances are you’ll find a video that spells out exactly how to attack the problem type that’s troubling you. ETS provides a useful guide to GRE Quantitative Reasoning topics Khan Academy covers.
- Get your GRE vocabulary prep started with our free Vocabulary E-book.
- We also have a handy Math Formulas E-book with the GRE math formulas you need to know!
- For some help with studying and practice, check out our GRE Study Tips SlideShare! And don’t forget to use this free online GRE calculator to simulate test day conditions during your practice.
If we’re missing anything on this list, our post on the Top 5 Free Online GRE Resources should round things out!
The Best GRE Resources Money Can Buy
The problem with free GRE resources, however, is that they can only take you so far. This is particularly true if you’re prepping for a long time. Very few companies can afford to release high-quality materials at a low cost, which is why a lot of the “free practice tests” you’ll find tend to be sloppy in some regard (confusing explanations, if there even are any, questions that don’t mirror what you’ll see on test day…).
With that in mind, you’ll probably want to consider purchasing high-quality test prep, both online and in books, especially if you have more than a few weeks to prep.
This service is specifically for the AWA. If you’re willing to shell out $20, ETS will actually score two of your essays. If you’re not, you can still get a good sense of how you’d do on the AWA by knowing how to score yourself or finding a trusted partner to do it for you.
Magoosh’s Online GRE Prep
One way to access some great practice exams? You can sign up for Magoosh GRE to get access to our pool of full-length practice tests. Even if you’re only worried about taking, for example, a GRE math practice test, you can adapt Magoosh resources to help you prep for exactly what you need.
How? So, you sign up for your account. Log in. You’ll see a menu item labeled “Practice” on your dashboard, as in the image below, and you can choose to take a full practice test or start a shorter, customizable practice session:
To review your tests, click “Review,” then filter your results using a variety of criteria, or scroll down to view a summary of your past practice sessions. You can also see your past test results in the Magoosh GRE Prep app!
There are a few things to keep in mind with Magoosh’s tests. We don’t grade your writing (but we do give pointers on how to get your writing graded, as we mentioned above). We also don’t give you an “experimental” section, as ETS will on test day. What this means is that you’ll see four sections (two math and two verbal), rather than five sections, as you will on test day.
As you can learn in the bonus section at the end of this post, we constantly use data to evaluate the efficacy of our GRE questions, and we base our score estimates on past clients’ scores on the official exam. (Our students score an average of 6 points higher than the average GRE-taker in each multiple-choice section—that’s a 12-point boost in your score! Plus, twenty percent of Magoosh students score in the top 10 percentile on the GRE, and we have 18 alumni with perfect scores. How’s that for an incentive to learn more?)
Additional PowerPrep Tests
If you’ve already used the two free PowerPrep tests from ETS, the company also offers three additional PowerPrep tests, known as PowerPrep Plus, at $39.95 each.
They don’t come cheap, but you may find them useful in your prep. Take Magoosh’s PowerPrep Plus quiz to find out if these additional tests are worth the time and money for you!
Books with the Best practice tests
For a lot of students, supplementing online practice with good old-fashioned book learning can be a winning combo. Even I admit that staring at a screen all day isn’t good for you!
You can never go wrong with ETS, which not only publishes The Official Guide to the GRE Revised General Test, 3rd Edition, but also the Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions & Official GRE Quantitative Reasoning Practice Questions, as well as Practicing to Take the GRE General Test, 10th Edition.
And, if you want another chance to experience that fresh, new-book smell, check out GRE Prep by Magoosh. Not only does it have a full-length, expertly written practice test, with answer key and excellent explanations, but it also contains a coupon for 20% off the full online GRE prep course. Not too shabby! (It also comes in eBook form, but it won’t have that woodsy smell.)
Once you’ve exhausted these superlative options, there’s definitely no dearth of GRE prep books out there. For advice on what to buy, what to leave, and what to run screaming away from, check out the Best GRE Books as reviewed by our resident GRE expert, Chris Lele! Chris not only reviews them, but also ranks the value and quality of their practice tests in the above post. Check out his individual book reviews to see which one works best for your needs:
- ETS Official Guide (Bonus: Check out our explanation videos for the official ETS material)
- ETS Official GRE (Quantitative Reasoning)
- ETS Official GRE (Verbal)
- Barron’s GRE
- Manhattan Prep GRE
- Manhattan Prep 5 lb Book of GRE Practice Problems
- GRE Analytical Writing (Book 1 & 2)
…among many, many others.
By now, you should have a good idea of the best GRE resources out there, a sense of how to find additional good GRE resources, and how to most effectively use these resources to snag your dream GRE score. So what are you waiting for? Dive into your GRE diagnostic and start your free practice today, bearing in mind that the true key to unlocking GRE success is studying those tests and adjusting course accordingly. If you do that? You’ll be golden.
Congrats, Magoosher! You’ve reached the end of our regularly scheduled programming. Stay tuned for an in-depth look at how the Magoosh GRE Experts develop the practice that you’ll find in Magoosh GRE Prep, or click here to return to the Table of Contents.
Bonus: practice test Development, Magoosh-Style
This section is for really committed students who are interested in learning more about Magoosh GRE prep! Jump back up to the Table of Contents if you’re not yet interested in learning more.
In case you’re wondering how we develop our GRE test and practice questions here at Magoosh, we thought we’d give you an overview of the development process.
- First, we use data from previous GRE tests to drive the creation of our practice questions. What do they test? How do they test it? What’s changing?
- We elicit feedback, both from our students’ data (and comments!) and our remote GRE tutors, so that we know what’s working and what’s not.
- Based on the first two steps, our experts improve or remove questions from the bank as required.
- Lather, rinse, repeat. We’re constantly evolving our product and questions, just as ETS does. However, we have the added benefit of data-driven feedback, whereas ETS focuses on using data primarily for question creation.
You can see our data-usage in practice with the following practice question. Take a look:
This is what you’ll see in your Magoosh practice session:
But behind the scenes, here’s what’s going on. We check out how long it takes students, on average, to answer this question:
We check out how many students get it right (here, it’s about 45%—this is a tough question!), and we look at exactly which answers our students are choosing, correct and incorrect:
As you can see, our data tells us how many of our students are answering each question correctly. Too many, and we know it’s too easy. Too few, and we know it’s too hard. We’re constantly working to hit that GRE sweet spot!
Please feel free to let us know if you have any questions about Magoosh GRE Prep, or anything else you read about in this post, by leaving us a comment below. We’ll be happy to respond to you! Or, if you’re ready to start studying, click the “Learn More” button go check out our different GRE prep plans.