GRE Test Prep Books, Software and Study Tips

Raghuram Sukumar GRE 75 Comments

I gave my GRE on 25th March and scored 1450 (790Q + 660V) and a 4.5 on AWA. It was slightly unexpected as I scored my maximum on the actual GRE than any other practice tests, but it was a pleasant surprise.

GRE tests your nerves, that’s what I have figured out. The success formula is just staying calm through those 3 odd hours and doing what you have been doing for the past month or so, solve questions as efficiently as you can.

Lets split this into 3 parts as the GRE does.

GRE Analytical Writing Assessment

This one is the most tricky section of the GRE. Hugely under-rated but vital in the process. The essays do not affect your admission, especially if you plan to make it in the Engineering. An average score of 3 or more usually proves enough.
But the section is important as it sets the tone for the exam. If you are confident with your essays and go through them properly, it really helps. Usually, you would be nervous the moment you start writing the essay. And believe me, there nothing as good as a neatly written essay to calm those nerves.

A good essay will give you confidence and a much needed morale boost to face the upcoming sections. So, attempt the essays as sincerely as you attempt the rest 2 sections.

GRE Quantitative Section

GRE Quantitative section is pretty easy once you practice it thoroughly. Practice is the only thing that helps. You need to get your basics cleared before you start with the actual practice questions though.

  • Books like Barrons seem enough for the same.
  • GRE Quants tests is your patience.
  • Some questions are really tricky while some are lengthy.

You know you are going to get there but it takes time and that’s what gets to you. As I said, holding your nerve is the only thing that helps. Also, data interpretation is the toughest of the lot I feel. A thorough practice on it will help for sure.
Also, the difficulty level does go on increasing and the questions start to take time but it returns to the original level in the last few question once your pointer peaks. Time management is not quite a problem in quant. I finished mine with 12 minutes to spare.

GRE Verbal Section

That’s the dreaded section, mainly for the Indian students, especially those from vernacular medium. Verbal is all about managing time and off course luck. The difficulty level does vary, not only from question to question but from day to day. I did have a comparably easy verbal than my friends who gave it the day before.
Time management is one of the key factors in verbal. The Reading Comprehensions do take a lot of time but the analogies and the antonyms make up for it. But you need to be thorough with your words for that.

GRE Test – Breaks

You’ll get 2 breaks in the whole process. One after the AWA of 10 minutes and other after the Quant/Verbal of 1 minute. Use the breaks to their full capacity.

Don’t even waste a single minute on you break. Relax. Do whatever you want to but don’t start beforehand.
Also take the tutorial presented at the start of the test. It’s useless and you might be a computer engineer working on the mouse and keyboard day in and day out but it helps you to relax. It gets you accustomed to the environment in which you’ll be spending the next 3.5 hours giving the exam that decides you future.

GRE Preparation – Verbal

The preparations do vary from person to person. So comparison is in vain.

Start with verbal as it does take a lot of time. I remember doing word lists for days on end and still a lot of them were in the unfinished column. The Barron words list are more than enough I feel.

You will find lots of word list on the net. A 300 word one , a 2500 word one and many more. I will not say they are useless but the Barron’ s word list looks quite complete. Also, you will find a host of High Frequency words but seriously, there is no shortcut for doing the words.

Hard work doesn’t have a substitute. The only thing that would help is working smart. Prepare word groups. Maintain a notebook. Write down similar meaning words. Many more techniques can also be implemented.

The word lists need to be revised for a minimum of 3 times to be thorough with them. Getting them trough is the only way to answer the antonyms and analogies correctly and as I said earlier, they are the only time saving option on the GRE.

GRE Quants Preparation

Quant needs practice. Start of with doing minor exercises and move on to actual GRE questions. The questions from Kaplan are a bit tough than Barron’s but once you get Kaplan right, you can do little wrong on the GRE.

Also, there are tests which provide the toughest questions. If you score well on those, be rest assured of you Quant score crossing the 780 mark.

Practice / Mock GRE

Giving mock GREs help more than any other practice. There is nothing better than to give GRE as it would appear right on the test day. Moreover, the testing softwares are pretty accurate about the scoring.

Many people say that the Powerprep is the best indicator of you score on the actual GRE but I felt the other way. The princeton and Kaplan give far more accurate scores than the Powerprep. In fact my 2 tests on Powerprep were 1220 and1310, far from my actual score.

Not getting depressed by a low score is important. Think the other way round. Say to yourself that the softwares are cheating as the companies want you to buy there softwares and move on. Practice to get a higher score.

Equally important is not letting a god score on the Mock get to your head. If the software was inaccurate on your failure, it cant guarantee you success too!

There is a huge list of GRE Testing Softwares available through the net. I’ll list the ones I used:

  • Powerprep – v2 and v3(in free CD from ETS) – 2 tests each
  • GRE Barrons – 2 tests
  • Kaplan  GRE- 3 full GRE tests and 6 each of verbal and quant
  • Princeton Cracking GRE – 4 tests (Book + Software)
  • – 5 tests
  • Cambridge – 1 test

GRE Books used

Remember, being focused is the only thing that will help you. Try to concentrate on the GRE other than anything else. There will be distractions throughout mainly due to mismatch in timing.

There would be a difference of around 40 mins between the person entering the bloc first and the one entering last. Thus, when you would be in your Verbal/Quant section, he would be attempting the AWA and the keyboard clutter could cause distraction.

Stay calm. Stay cool. All the best with you exams.

Feel free to contact me for any materials. I did get a lot from this blog and the members herein and I would be the happiest if I could pay-back.

Thansk to Nitish for sharing his GRE Experience. It well written and informative.


  1. heyy….m planning to give my GRE in mid oct…
    will u plss tel me is dere any online link available for KaPLAN study material..??

    thank you..

  2. really inspired by ur details of preparation….and ya congrats for getting such a high score…can u suggest me where i can get kaplans book for quant section or if u hav some link related to it ..please send me…i hav my gre after 10 days..plz suggest something!!!

  3. hi Nitish,
    1.I have got a problem of time management in verbal..(due to RCs)
    -how many passages are there in gre paper?
    (because I have some tests with 3 passages)
    2.Maths: is the difficulty level of 800score tests same as that in gre?

  4. Hi Nitish, I have got a problem with softwares as:
    1. Keplan: compatibility with windows7 ….mci drivers…
    2.power prep: 64 bit ..not compatible

    right now have :
    1 princeton 2 barrons 3 big book verbal 4 gist gre flash tests
    suggest me!

    1. Kaplan can be used by installing Virtual PC. It’s available on the Microsoft site for free given that your copy of windows is genuine. Install a Windows XP in virtual PC, referred to as the XP mode for Windows 7 and then install the Kaplan software. Works fine in there.

      As for Powerprep, I too was using Win7 and it run perfectly fine. Try by right clicking on setup and running it as the Administrator, might help.

      Going by the list below, Kaplan might just be a waste of time as the whole thing of Virtual PC (download and installation) takes quite a lot of time if you dont know how to go about it). Try getting other versions of Powerprep if this one is not working from the ETS site as it is a MUST before you give your GRE.

      All the Best 🙂

    1. The study period might be deceiving as the actual hours spent were very less. Effectively, you need around 2-3 months to get through the word lists and around a week or 2 to get through the quant part.
      What matters is those 2-3 weeks before your GRE. That’s the time you revise and give mock tests. It does help you build confidence and get used to the testing procedure apart from practice. So that’s ost important time of the prep I feel. 🙂

  5. hi

    dear nitish my heartiest congratulation to you on big success.

    i realy appreciate your comments regarding for help those which are going to appear

    in gre,i am preparing for gre for three months and intend to appear in gre on

    10 june let me help reagrding how to increase my mathematics skills and what to

    study to get good marks in awa.

    i hope u reply soon

    Muhammad Ramzan

    1. As I have mentioned earlier, Kaplan and Barrons are practice enough for the quant on GRE. If you are looking for some really tough stuff, with respect to GRE that is, go for the test. Just do the quant in the mock sincerely. Many try to avoid it. Even I did the same thing after a point. If you give say 8 to 10 mock tests, you have solved around 300 questions which would be enough.

      As for AWA, try reading the essays trough the net. There are many available. Search on GRE-centric blogs like the one we are interacting on. The essays given in ETS Powerprep CD do come handy and so do a couple from the book you would be using to study for the GRE.

      All the best 🙂

  6. Hi,

    Congrats for successfully completing GRE. I am having GRE on June 7th. This is my second attempt. Can you help me how to succeed in verbal part?

    It is very dis-heartened for getting LESS score in verbal part. Pls suggest some books materials and if you are free, can you make a time table/plan for preparation? Thanks in advance..

    1. Big Book tests are sufficient for verbal other than the mock tests. Solving 54 of them is practice enough I think 🙂

  7. hii I hav fixed my gre date on june 16th. Due to no time i coudnt go for coaching. I am following gre barroms. Can anybody suggest me to follow which book for quants please.

    1. Hi Saranya

      You would need to go through the following sources, in order to achieve 800/800.

      GRE Barron's

      Kaplan's Quant (slightly difficult compred to Barron's)

      Official GRE Quant guide

      Internet blogs to cover permuation, combinations and probability

      GRE Big Book (for practise tests)

    2. tests are the toughest I feel. Also the basics are given best in Barrons. As for Kaplan, the list given at the last of about 100 formulae too is very helpful.

  8. plz clarify:: is it mandatory to select our universities there itself????it depends on our score na?

    1. Its mandatory to give the names of the universities then and there itself.

      After you complete your GRE, you get 2 options, wither to REPORT the scores or CANCEL the scores. If you cancel your scores, you dont even get to view the scores and they are discarded.

      When you REPORT the scores, your scores are shown and you are guided to a page for selection of universities. The process completes only after you give the 4 university names.

      1. and what about in the revised gre??do we get our scores then and there?

        1. No idea about the scores. Only thing specified on the GRE website is that the scores would take around 3 months to be reported.

  9. Congrats fnd… and ur narration is too gud that i want to implement them now it self….. and me going to take my testy on this 13th of may….

  10. congrats………………. i have lots up problem in verbal and also maths . so pls give me tips.

    1. Please go through the blog. It gives some of the best tips which will help u to do good

  11. congrats frnd…i m gonna take up ma test on june 30…yet i hav ma sem xams til may 1st week..i m half way through ma wordlist and workin various quants xcercises..still i feel nervous wen i think f d day f xamination…will 4o days f vigorous preparation result gud to score above 1400????pls reply me….

  12. in the revised gre test, will i get my score after i am finished with my gre test?or after a period of time??reply asap!!

  13. My GRE account contains the name as RajMohan Loganathan whereas my confirmation mail is having as Raj Mohan Loganathan. Which name will be considered and is there any problem in that?

  14. hey i would like to study in Usa for upcomming intake , i completed my Be in EC .would u suggest me when i give the GRE exam and for what time i have score in my hand for apply in best university .also give me list of best university .

  15. hey, congrats for ur score.

    I have my gre on 14th june, and i could only start my preparations in may, as i have my semester exams during april and 1st week of may..

    would 1 month be enough to prepare and geet a good score or should i cancel my exam , i so confused and tensed , plz help me out

  16. hello nitish,

    congrats !!! awesome score:)

    I'm giving my gre on july 18th, and my sem exams will get over on july 8th.. i m right now half way through barrons word list and just started with quants . I'm getting really tensed.. pls help me out by giving some advise..

  17. Hi Nitish,

    CONGRATULATIONS on your gre score!! thanks for your valuable advise.

    I'm giving my gre on july 20th…… i have done about 20 wordlists from barrons ..

    but have just started with quants. will i be able to manage within the available time??

  18. congrates ,,,,,,

    am facing lot of pblms regarding words plz suggest some tips to make it better

  19. Hi,

    Nitish Congratulations…

    now i am preparing for GRE and my exam is in july.Is this two months are sufficient for me to getting good marks….??bcz i started preparation right now.plz anyone can give me suggestion.thanks in advance…

    1. Two month could be enough provided that you buck up really well in those last two weeks or so. Essentially, it's enough though. Around 40-50 days for the word lists and then a couple of weeks revision.

      All the best for your exam 🙂

  20. Can u plz provide me the kaplan maths. plz its necessary and what do u think about Nova maths book that is available in internet?

  21. will you please give me your E-mail address ,i need to contact you for some important informations

  22. Hi Congrats for your score….

    Actually i am doing GRE big book , but unable to find detailed solutions for my problems, if anyone had something regarding the same…will be of great help…

    thanx in advance



  23. A very informative post Nitish. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience. 🙂

  24. For my Quant:

    I have Barrons and Novas Prep Course. I am aiming for for a very High Quant Score and working hard towards it too. So do I need a kaplans too in addition to these? I mean I have already bought a lot of prep material like Big Book and Kaplans Verbal Workbook. So can someone just guide me as to whether tjis new investment would be really worth it.

    1. Kaplan is a huge investment, probably the costliest book for the GRE. So if you have already invested that heavily with so many prep books, Kaplan could be unnecessary though I would like to stand by my point that the best practice for quant can be done by solving those tests and exercises in Kaplan. Look for a e-book before you go on to buy anything.

  25. Hi,

    Nitish Congratulations on this big achievement. Please give me your email address, I want to get your suggestions etc

  26. Hi , I Would request YOU to share your opinion about the new pattern of GRE , is this kind of preparation sufficient and are the books mentioned above will be enough .

    PLEASE do share your viewpoint , it will be very help full to me and many others.


  27. Congrts Nitish for ur GRE score. it was really sweet and helpful of u to have written ur detailed experience.We will surely benefit a lot from it. Am giving my GRE exam on June 30th and am not going to any classes. Studying from Barron's and Powerprep only. Guess will go for Kaplans too to make sure that I achieve my goal of 1500+ score. Thnx again and wish u loads of luck for future.

  28. Hi, this guy is essentially right, I gave GRE on the 3rd of March and I scored 1420 and AW of 3.0. Every thing he's said just made me remember all that I did in the course of my prep., I anybody that follow this same path would not have any cause to regret. Thanks

  29. Hi Nitish

    I agree with you to a great extent, but what I found regarding power prep was quite perfect. In my power prep tests I had scored 1370 and 1470 and finally managed 1420 in the actual exam. It could have been anywhere between 1370 and 1470 and I say this because I know where I made mistakes. My most problematic area was Analogies but I was quite consistent with more than 90% accuracy in RC. So depending on whether Analogies came earlier or later could have in a way influenced my score , i.e. degree of uncertainty would have been more.

    What I experienced was solving RCs can be made more perfect with some practise and if you follow tips given in Barron's regarding RCs. That helped a lot. Quant of course as you said needs a lot of practise even though the problems are very easy.

    Most important thing is to stay calm and not to take pressure.

  30. Hi..congrats for score…
    Actually I want to know that do we have to give that 4 university list at the time of appearing in GRE? or is it given later after exam?
    thanks in advance…

    1. It's just after you finish your exam. Be sure to memorize the states in which your selected universities are located as they are sorted by state and not by name. You have to give the names just after viewing your score.

  31. hi bro congrats u got a good score 🙂

    i would like to kno wat r d last minute prep materials n which book or wat exactly did u refer for AWA part..


    waiting for ur reply…

    1. AWA can be done from Kaplan itself. It does have a couple of essays and are very helpful. Also reading the essays in the Powerprep CD could help.

  32. Conratulations for your score and it is very helpful post.

    where to get kaplan full lengthed tests?

    please do reply

    thank you

  33. hi!ur post was very encouraging!!can u pls tel me if gre big book is available to be downloaded fr free?

  34. hey thank you very much. i have completed barrons wordlist now and still have more than 60 days for my GRE. what should i do with verbal now? should i go for new words by fining other sources on internet or stop here and concentrate on my techniques? i am studying 200 barron words per day and it is not taking me more than 1 hour. please suggest me. i want to score more than 1500.

    thanks in advance 🙂

      1. @HSB: Well said. Just doing 200 words each day would not help unless one keeps revising the older one

        1. i think the most important thing u should have while studying for GRE is the "interest" in learning new words. its very difficult to learn 5000 words in 3 months. collecting new words is an avocation for me. but still m but skeptical about RC & maths. couuld me help me pur in this context? im appearing for GRE on 17th june.

      2. yeah i can remember. i have a good memory and i have employed various ways to remember each and every word. i correlate those words to my personal life, current events etc.

  35. Hi, do we need to learn all the word lists in Barrons? That sounds so tough already.

    1. yeah u have to cuz barron worlist would offer you 70% of the total words that u would encounter in ur actual GRE. this is the suggestion given by my GRE coach.

  36. It was a precious information that the guy has prepared for sharing. I really appreciate his patience and generosity to make those detailed experiences and knowledge.

  37. Hai. It was good to read this post.I m having a query to be solved by u.I am going to give my GRE on 28th June,and if i want to apply to a university whether i need to send the application prior forwarding the marks or i can do that after giving the test.

    1. No need, it is only to send your scores. You will be given to order scores to 4 universities for free. You can apply to the universities later after sending scores. Their is no problem in that.

      1. Hey Jai,

        You solved my query too. Just reconfirming, I will be applying for universities for Fall 2012 for which I will be appearing for my GRE in July 2011. So after my GRE I can send my scored to the Four Universities and I can official apply for them say in December 2011 and I wont have to send my scores to these universities at that time??

        1. Nope. University will have it in their database. Just submit your application & documents.

      2. Thanks jai.

        I need to ask you an other question. In all my school and college mark sheets my name is entered as Rajmohan . But in my passport and in My GRE registration i am having as Raj Mohan. Whether this will create any problem? And if it is so what need to be done?

        1. This can be done in your local Municipality/Village Development Committee/Metropolitan office. They will write a letter with Government Stamp saying Rajmohan and Raj Mohan is the same person. This will solve your problem.

          1. Thanks for the info.

            Shall i continue to take the GRE with the same name Raj Mohan as it is in the passport without changing it after getting the letter which you mentioned? or I need to change the name as Rajmohan in the passport and GRE registration as well?

          2. Name can be amended in the Passport. But I don't think your name registration can be changed in ETS data base and hence in GRE marksheet. You have to contact ETS directly for the info.

            In my view, it's better for you to amend your name is the passport and also take that letter from you local government office. And you can continue with your new name in your GRE record. This will not make much difference as your DOB, and other vital details are accurate. And you can inform the university which you are applying about your name mismatch.

            Also, GRE score card is only needed in the university. But you need passport and other academic certificates every time and rest of you life. So, name in those documents need to be exact. So amend your name in passport. Give a try to correct your name in GRE, emailing ETS, if they can't, leave it.

          3. Thanks for the information. I appreciate it.

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