Princeton Review: Cracking the New GRE 2012 Book Review


The Princeton Review is able to make the New GRE seem far less intimidating than it actually is. For beginning students, this dumbing down of the test can be helpful, much the way training wheels are for a child before he or she hops on an actual bike. However, for those looking for additional practice material, Princeton Review’s content will simply be too easy.


The Princeton reviews offer both helpful and not-so-helpful advice on learning vocabulary. Wisely, it stresses learning vocabulary from a contextual perspective, rather than cramming words from a deck of flashcards. Then, the PR derails, almost hypocritically, by offering up the Hit Parade lists that feature simple definitions, instead of providing any sentences in context.

Worse yet, many of the words are pretty much useless for the New GRE, and it is clear that PR didn’t bother emending their old GRE Beyond the Hit Parade List to accommodate the new test. For instance, guy, a cable. That would have been helpful for the analogies for the old GRE, but guess what? The analogies are gone. Also, the double meaning list has some archaic double meaning words that may have been helpful for the antonym section. Sadly, it seems much of this is recycled content that simply doesn’t apply. The Hit Parade Lists 1-4 at least still have high-frequency words, so if you stick to those, you should be okay.

Follow the advice on p. 141, save for the part on roots. Learning roots is mostly useless, even though Kaplan and the gang still treat this method as gospel. The new GRE is full of words that will confound your attempt to apply most of the root forms you’ve learned. Learn the word, learn it in context, and if necessary, learn the backstory to it. But do not learn roots.

Text Completion/Sentence Equivalence

The strategies on how to approach these questions are, by and large, useful. The questions themselves – most at least – are far too easy, and sound as though Princeton Review’s SAT writing team took at a hack at them. The clues to the blank are so obvious, they are almost flashing like neon signs in the desert. The New GRE is far more subtle and devious. On the real test, there will be no Princeton Review to hold your hand.

Reading Comp

The strategies here are very effective. I really like the fact that out of all the publishers, Princeton Review is the only one to address wrong answer choices. Many do not understand that simply knowing an answer does not insure test success. Knowing why your answer is right, and the other is wrong, separates those who work through the RC confidently, and those who eliminate with trepidation.

The actual passages, though, are too easy. I would learn the reading comp strategies here, and apply them in the actual ETS book, The Official Guide to the GRE.


Throughout the years, I have taught students who have been away from math for decades. They struggle with many simple concepts, and quickly become intimidated and overwhelmed as soon as they see a math problem. PR would be helpful for them – it not only covers many of the fundamentals, but it also captures some of the flavor of standardized questions. And this last part is important, because simply learning math fundamentals from a high school textbook will leave you unprepared for the way questions and answers are framed on the new GRE.

My biggest complaint here is that PR does not offer enough practice exercises for students to practice this material. Indeed, that is a lament for the book in general: lots of helpful strategies, but few practice problems.

Practice Problems

Princeton Review’s problems are generally great – if you haven’t seen math in awhile, and are just getting accustomed to the quantitative landscape, or geography, as Princeton Review brands the layout of the math section. For someone who actually wants to score above the 50 percentile, the math practice in the Princeton Review doesn’t offer much.

As a tutor, I will probably use these problems for those students taking their baby steps in math. Otherwise, I will not make this book part of my tutoring arsenal.

Practice Tests (At the back of book)

If only the New GRE were this easy. These tests feel at the level of an easy SAT. That’s right – not even an actual SAT, which has far more difficult questions for the reading comprehension. If you are starting out, I guess PR is not a bad place to start, but otherwise these tests – for both math and verbal – will give you a false sense of confidence.

One egregious error I picked up on was a Sentence Equivalence question that was two sentences long. Sentence Equivalence questions are always one-sentence long – a fact that PR explicitly states in its opening section. This type of oversight feeds into my thoughts below…

Additional Thoughts:

Many reviewers online complain about Princeton Review’s carelessness and typos – many times, answers in the explanations do not match the answer choices. This phenomenon has long plagued PR. Another recent effort, 1,014 Practice Question for the New GRE is so marred with errors that it should be called “1,014 typos”.

Most, understandably, are turned off by this, and so PR gets a slew of one star reviews. This is sad, because PR is not a one-star book in terms of strategies and questions (though it is definitely not a five-star one).

So, a note to the editors: edit. Doing so will not compromise your content. Anyway, doing a better job editing will help you boost sales, and it’s not nearly as difficult as writing the content for this book, let alone 1,014 questions.


The Princeton Review Cracking the New GRE offers sound strategies for the verbal section. It also offers helpful strategies for those beginning the math. In terms of the level of content, though, this book falls far short of expectations.

True, the lack of challenging material may be because PR is targeted for students who are looking to score at the 50% for both math and verbal. Even then, this book is a bit stingy when it comes to content, and could have offered more practice problems. Basically, this book is anything but a complete New GRE prep.

Overall, I recommend it only for those beginning their GRE journey, especially for those who haven’t seen math for a while.

Grade: C

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

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37 Responses to Princeton Review: Cracking the New GRE 2012 Book Review

  1. Naureen July 10, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    Hi Chris. I have my test in 10 days. I need your opinion regarding the standard of the practice tests of Princeton Review (6 practice tests, 2015 Edition), Kaplan (2014) and Manhattan (Free online test).

    People say that the difficulty level of Princeton’s test is below real test standard. But my random scores are confusing me.

    These are my practice test scores:
    18 Jun 2015 (Manhattan Free Test) – Q157, V150
    24 Jun 2015 (Kaplan Test 2) – Q158, V145
    07 Jul 2015 (PowerPrep Test 1) – Q166, V144
    10 Jul 2015 (Princeton 2015 Test 6) – Q164, V141

    Please share your thoughts.

  2. Karishma April 29, 2014 at 2:26 am #

    Hi Chris,
    I read your review after I had already got the book. I agree there are not a lot of practise problems but the strategies for solving RC, TC, etc seemed quite helpful when starting afresh. Are the Hit Parade Words not useful from vocab point of view? I had already started with them

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 29, 2014 at 11:51 am #

      Hi Karishma,

      You’re right–the strategies are helpful! So use it for the strategies and then get another book with more difficult verbal questions (Barron’s is a step up but still not as tough as ETS–Official Guide is the book to get once you’ve had some practice).

      Good luck!

  3. Ahsan June 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    Hey Chris,

    Appreciate the time you took to review these books. I just took the GRE recently and didn’t do as well as I had hoped; the test seemed significantly more difficult than the practice tests I took using Princeton Review, which seems to be consistent with your analysis of the book. I’ll definitely be retaking it.

  4. Alex May 11, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    “The Princeton Review is able to make the New GRE seem far less intimidating than it actually is. For beginning students, this dumbing down of the test can be helpful, much the way training wheels are for a child before he or she hops on an actual bike. However, for those looking for additional practice material, Princeton Review’s content will simply be too easy.”

    You hit the nail on the head!! I had been studying quant on magoosh for about 3-4 weeks and decided to diversify a little, and I cracked open the “cracking the gre” book and felt that both their explanations and examples were oversimplified. I figure it is diluted in this manner to reach a wider audience….? $$$

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 13, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

      Ha! Well…it’s hard to say whether that is actually the case. I think the questions def. are easier but as anyone who does the GRE research knows that even questions at the 150-level are tough. Thus, TPR seems to be losing some of its market by not providing questions that will help the bulk of people get an average score. That said, many people simply buy TPR as their only book and don’t know the difference–until test day, when it’s too late.

      Good luck prepping and, as you’ve probably figured out, stick to the tough stuff :).

      • Amit August 23, 2013 at 9:02 am #

        Hi Chris, You are simple marvelous in pointing out that test takes who study PR get the shock of there life on the real test day. I am one of the best examples, i took a prep course from PR, adhered to it blindly for six months and bombed the score on the real test day, the questions were harder and more tricky in the real test. PR definitely gives you a false confidence that you can score above 150 which is not the case, though it helped me to get a grip on the math fundamentals, since i haven’t seen math for decades now. Sentence completion questions on PR tests are far too easier to compare with the real GRE. I was aghast when i saw the real test. Now i am getting rid of the PR and will try Magoosh. I hope to improve my scores.


        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele August 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

          Hi Amit,

          Sorry that you had to spend six months with PR :(. This time around you will definitely get test material that is more like what you’ll see test day (some of the questions may even be harder :)).

          Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions along the way. We’re here to help :)!

  5. jonah July 31, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I’m not sure if you’re still checking these old posts, but I had a question/comment about Princeton Review’s material, so this post seemed like the right place to ask it.

    First of all, thanks for all the reviews of the different books. I ended up going for Manhattan in print and Magoosh online (which has been a great combo).

    I did take the free practice test offered by Princeton Review, and the content seemed to coincide with your comments about their print materials. I also had an issue with one of their Reading Comp questions on the online test and I was wondering if you agreed with my view on it or could let me know if I’m being too picky.

    The only relevant piece of the passage to the question I’m interested in is the first sentence:

    “Attempts to brand the belly dance as an act of seduction are both demeaning and distorting.”

    (the rest of the passage just gives a bit of history on belly dancing that shows that it wasn’t intended to be seductive, but this sentence is the only one that expresses the author’s opinion).

    The question is “The passage supports which of the following assertions?” and one of the answers ended up being:

    “The author does not view seduction as a respectable use of the belly dance.”

    In my view, this is incorrect. Clearly the author thinks that branding the belly dance as an act of seduction is incorrect and disrespectful, but that is not the same thing as thinking that anyone who does a belly dance shouldn’t use it for seductive purposes. Logically, this conclusion does not follow because the passage says nothing about the author’s views on the use of the belly dance. So in my opinion, while it would be reasonable to assume that the author felt this way, the passage itself does not “support” this position. From a logical perspective, the question should either be worded differently or this should not be a correct answer choice.

    Sorry for the long question, and feel free to ignore it (I know it’s not a question about Magoosh or the real GRE test).

    Either way, thanks for all your work!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

      You are not being too picky, but are being clearly logical :).

      It is the ‘attempts to…’ that the author is branding disrespectful. Clearly, seduction may be one possible function of the belly dance; the author is taking issue with people who only deem it as such.

      Anyhow, keep up the sharp critical thinking. It will definitely help test day :).

      • jonah August 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

        Thanks a lot Chris!!

  6. Ammad June 30, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    I am confised about which world list i should consider appropriate… Can anyone guide me which word list is essential to prepare for GRE English section..I will really appreciate if someone can guide

  7. Allison June 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    You claimed in your ETS review that it is not a great strategy book, unlike PR. Would the two supplement each other well for a good prep for the GRE? I’m definitely getting the ETS book and would like to get either PR or Barron’s additionally for a broader overview and strategy tips. Chances are, I’ll need extra help with the math and am considering getting a supplemental math workbook if needed (you said McGraw-Hill’s is good), but I mainly need a book or combination of books that will cover everything. Is there any thing else you recommend?
    Also, in your experience, are vocabulary flash cards helpful?

    Thank you for your help!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 2, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

      Hi Allison,

      Yes, it is a good idea to supplement ETS with either Barron’s or PR. If you need extra practice on the math fundamentals, McGraw Hill’s Math Fundamental is good. For a combination of books there is the Manhattan GRE series. (And for non-book, there is always Magoosh :)).

      Speaking of which, our vocab ebook is a great place to learn about how to approach vocab for the GRE. Hope that helps!

  8. Momo June 26, 2012 at 8:55 am #


    I am just about to start studying for the GRE. I plan to do it the first week of September. I am really confused about which book to buy. I have looked at the book reviews on this site about the books that were published last year but I would want to buy a book that was published in 2012 since the writers had a year the review the new GRE. I am definitely thinking of buying the ETS guide to the new GRE 2012 version but this will not be released until August. I am thinking I need to start studying NOW.

    Do you have any advice for me about which book to study from until I get the ETS book? I am guessing my vocabulary isn’t that good but I also haven’t looked at high school math so I have no idea which area I would struggle with the most.

    I hope you can help! This is a very useful website.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      Hi Momo,

      Based on Kaplan, which I wouldn’t recommend at all for the new GRE, the 2012 editions are exactly the same (only the covers have changed).

      For books, I still recommend MGRE. Vocab-wise take a look at our ebook. There are many valuable tips on how to approach vocabulary:

      Let me know if you have any questions 🙂

  9. Danielle May 11, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    Under Additional Thoughts the hyperlink to “1,014 Practice Question for the New GRE” leads to the review of the ETS Official Guide. Will Magoosh do a review of PR’s 1014 Practice Questions or are they at the same level of those in this book, thus not worth a review because the problems are too easy (and full of typos)?

    • Margarette Jung
      Margarette May 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

      Ah, thanks for pointing that out– that link must have been put in by mistake, I’ll have it removed shortly.

      We’re really not big fans of PR’s 1,014 book– avoid it if you can! There’s a lot of other great material out there, especially now that it’s been almost a year since the new GRE debuted. I’d definitely recommend ETS’s Official Guide or Manhattan GRE over PR’s 1,014 Practice Question for the New GRE.

      I hope that helps, feel free to let us know if you have any other questions 🙂


  10. Anandita May 9, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    Hey Chris

    I am a student of 4th year pursing B.E ( electronics and communication)from India.I want to pursue MS in financial engineering. I want to know how I can prepare for GRE , as i was planing to give exam this year in August. And for which universities in US or in Canada I should go for.

    Looking forward to your reply.

  11. Anjan August 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    Hey Chris ,
    I have been reading your reviews on the New GRE Books today and the main reason for doing so is that I’m really confused in the book-buying section . I intend to complete my GRE by January 2012 . Am I right in saying that all these publishers(Kaplan,Barrons etc) have had a race to see who among them could get theirs out first and as a result made a mess of things ?

    From your reviews , it seems to be obvious that there is no “all-rounder” book as such .
    My weakness seems to be in the Verbal area especially questions which require us to choose two correct options . You also mentioned that just practicing tons of model papers might not help and the key lies in knowing why your answers are wrong/right . In this regard , which book would you say be the most beneficial to me ?
    I have also taken the 1 Week Trial of your own tests and I must say the quality of the questions and explanations given at the end are superb .Would there be a Magoosh Prep material in the form of printed media ? While the online section has its advantages I feel that having a printed medium could also be of great use.

    I find Quants to be pretty easy and in my search for a good book have found Cliff Notes to be highly recommended . Would you be of the same opinion ?

    Please keep the good work on !!


    • Chris Lele
      Chris May 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

      You’re right – none of the publishers, or at least no single book, offers complete prep, whether you are struggling in verbal, math or both. The best bet is to mix and match depending on your needs.

      For Verbal, if I’d have to choose one for content it would be Barron’s. My reservation – and I seem to be expressing these constantly throughout my reviews – is that the Barron’s questions are not all of uniform quality (going back to the point you’d alluded to about how many of them raced to get a first copy to market).

      The next question you ask is a great one – which publishers are best to help you understand why the wrong answers are wrong, the right ones right. In this respect, Kaplan does a much better job than the others. (In fact they are the only ones who explicitly bother to tell us why a certain answer choice is wrong…besides saying “it is wrong”). This is especially helpful for reading comprehension (the only question Kaplan does a decent job at). The rub is Kaplan’s content is poor for Text Completions. So even if the explanations are thorough the content is not legitimate (and thus some of the explanations tend to be a stretch).

      But I’m happy you like Magoosh content and explanations – I strived, as much as possible, to provide clear explanations for why the wrong answers were incorrect. The downside is that we do not intend on entering the book-based market, at least not any time in the foreseeable future. While having a hardcopy is great, the test, for most, is computer based, so we hope to help students become accustomed to testing in this context. One perk, as a paid subscriber, is you can always let us know if an explanation is insufficient. I will either reply directly in email or, if the explanation is seriously wanting, re-record a thorough explanation. One definite advantage to the on-line format!

      Finally, from what I remember, CliffNotes for the old GRE provided plenty of practice in it’s math essentials book. I’m not sure how well that would serve you as someone who is already strong at quant. Then again, perhaps you are talking about the old GRE book in general. Regardless, I would pick up a copy of The Official Guide for the GMAT and The College Board SAT book. Plenty of challenging, well-written questions in both.

  12. Sourabh Dhotre August 29, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    Dear Chris
    Sir, thank you for your prompt and usefull reply. I also have one more query. I have GRE Big Book of old pattern. Will the sentence completion and RC from big book useful for new gre prac also quant. Because I am unable to decide where I stand. How much I am prepared. If I am prepared less, I want to prepare myself and I want to give my best on 12th sept.

    Sourabh Dhotre

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 30, 2011 at 9:50 am #

      Great question! In fact, I’m writing the last of my book review posts today – The Big Book/Old Official Guide post. In a nutshell, the passages and SC from these books will definitely help you prep. While you are at it, you should also pick up The Official Guide from the GMAT, for Reading Comp (esp. Critical Reasoning). If you are really looking to score in the top 90% in verbal you may also consider picking up some LSAT material.

  13. Abdul Mutaal August 29, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    what i mean to say is that, for Quantitative questions like Comparison, and data analysis question which book you will prefer for Techniques and Practice. I got you point of practicing ETS material because that will help me to stay close to actual GRE questions.

    Same is for verbal text completion and sentence equivalence questions? Recommend.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

      Both Kaplan and PR techniques for Math (Quantitative Comp and Data Interpretation) are pretty basic. Again, the math is more basic then much of what you’ll see on the actual test. If you are going for a lower score than Kaplan and Princeton Review or okay. If you are going for a higher score, you can’t rely on these two books for QC and Data Int. They do not provide enough practice on more difficult questions. In this regard, Barron’s is much better. So my answer for the best all around math prep, out of the books I’d mentioned last week, is Barron’s.

  14. Sourabh Dhotre August 29, 2011 at 2:06 am #

    Dear Chris,

    Read your reviews on Kaplan and PR. Do you think that the online tests kaplan offer are also not that useful. The thing is i have done vocab from mnemonics. solved 1014 PR, gave powerprep II also done RC from a wordfile which has collection of lsat,gre,gmat, etc.
    I have gre on 12th sept. What will you suggest me to do in last 10 days? Options i have are powerprep, kaplan online test, kaplan CD test, and nearly 2 GB material from old GRE. Please advice!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 29, 2011 at 11:57 am #

      Hi Sourabh,

      Great question! I actually haven’t done any of the questions on-line for either Kaplan or PR. I have a strong sense that the material from their books is similar to that of their on-line tests. After all, I would be surprised if Kaplan – whose Text Completions are seriously flawed – would suddenly create Text Completions, for their on-line tests, that are similar to those ETS writes.

      That said, the reading comprehension questions should be fine from Kaplan. But if you only have 10 days, I would suggest doing more practice tests from the old ETS GRE book and more reading comp. from

      Of course the most important book to use, if you want to content that is very similar to the actual test, ETS’s Official Guide to the GRE. If you haven’t used this book already, buy it as soon as possible. Also, for four New GRE sections written by ETS (two for math, two for verbal). clink on this link:

      And remember, doing hundreds upon hundreds of practice problems won’t necessarily make you better. You must understand why your wrong answers are wrong and your right answers are right (which means guessing correctly on a question isn’t the same as really knowing why an answer is right).

  15. Abdul Mutaal August 28, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I appreciate your response. I think what every test taker is the detail analysis of each type of question, where to prepare for it and finally where to practice for it.

    Like you mentioned that, PR is good for RC; that’s great. But if you could tell about all other questions in Quantitative and Verbal sections, that would be beneficial and easy for every test taker to digest, instead of, keep wandering around you opinion about these books.

    Finally i would like to know about the Big Book? Is it still relevant for practice? If yes, then what type of question you prefer to practice from this book?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 28, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

      As I mentioned in my preceding post, I am offering up a curriculum in the coming weeks, which will give a detailed outline of what to study for, including which book is best for a certain question type.

      That said if you look at my reviews, I already go into detail on each question type. For instance with the Kaplan review I break down the different question types in verbal and give a detailed explanation regarding the pros and cons. I do the same for Barron’s. Even with the PR book, I go in-depth on the different sections in the book and which parts are of most value.

      If you want me to address a specific question type from PR – let’s say quantitative comparison – then let me know, and I’ll give you a response. But I’m trying to be as helpful and details as possible so let me know specifically about “the other questions”…

      • david duoc July 3, 2012 at 12:51 am #

        you can share to me book for vocabulary of GRE

        THASK YOU!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

      I realize I hadn’t answered your question about The Big Book. The Big Book is definitely good for practice. While the questions, in some cases, have changed considerably, the critical thinking skills you’ll use, especially on verbal, will be very applicable to the real test. In reference to most of the books I’ve reviewed, they often make a question type much easier so that you are not really thinking as analytically as you would on actual ETS material. For math, the big book is a little bit easier but still makes for good practice.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      Also, don’t worry about the analogy questions…the antonyms are good practice from a vocabulary standpoint. Many of those words could show up on the actual exam.

  16. Abdul Mutaal August 25, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    I have been following your post for past 1 month. I saw you your analysis on available books. And you almost criticized every book.
    I am form engineering background & i want Q: 750 above V: 500 Above, please tell me some books.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 26, 2011 at 10:42 am #

      Hi Abdul,

      I’m definitely not trying to be ornery. The thing is most of these books were rushed to print and just aren’t that great. Instead of lowering the bar and saying that the best of the bunch is superb, I want to make sure I hold all publishers to a certain standard.

      Also, if you’ll look closely at the reviews (besides McGraw Hill), I mention some positives to each book. This is important because you will want to buy several books and pick and choose. For example I recommend PR for its reading comp strategies. However, no
      book, at least up until this point, can stand on it’s own – that’s the simple truth.

      In terms of prepping, you should always use ETS materials as a bedrock. The questions from the book are written by the publishers. The strategies, however, are not that helpful. So again, it is a good idea to supplement your prep with some of the other books. If you
      want a whole trove of ETS New GRE questions for free, clink this link:

      Finally, stay tuned for more book reviews and a curriculum, in which I’ll outline study plans for students of varying levels/goals. For someone like yourself, who needs to do very well on quant, remember that the New GRE is not testing a new kind of math. Many standardized tests are very similar. Relying on questions written by publishers rushing their books to market vs. those meticulous written and researched by ETS and GMAC should be an easy decision. Remember, the SAT math and the GMAT math are very similar. Check out the College Board SAT book or the GMAC Official Guide if you want questions (remember, these books aren’t for tips and strategies) that will help score at the top 90% in GRE Quant.

      Best of luck!

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