If you are looking for the one of the best books for the GRE out there in the market, then your search is over.
The Manhattan GRE Strategy Book series is what I call the “Holy Grail” for GRE preparation.
Whether you are a beginner, or a GRE re-taker, the MGRE has something for you to learn.
It’s extremely thorough, in-depth and the only comprehensive package available in the market and in fact, I cannot even draw comparisons with other study guides because it would mean disrespect to the MGRE series.
That’s just an overview but let’s look a bit deeper into the entire set, judging it based on different metrics, so you will be fully informed to make a decision as to whether you should consider purchasing it or not.
So, let us start unboxing the Manhattan GRE Strategy Book Series.
1. Layout and Coverage
There are a total of eight different strategy guides in the series, each separate for every section on the GRE.
Now, don’t think studying them is going to be easy because each guide is anywhere between 180 to 220 pages long with super dense material!
But if you stick with it, you will learn a lot of tricks and strategies that should help you get a great score on the test.
Out of the eight guides, two books are completely dedicated to the verbal section and they offer outstanding material for the sentence equivalence, text completion and reading comprehension.
The rest of the six guides are for the math section each dealing with one of the six math topics tested on the GRE.
Now, this division of guides based on topics is quite ingenious and helpful for a lot of students, since you most likely won’t need all the eight books.
If, for instance, Algebra is your weak area and you are probably looking to improve your skills only on that particular topic, then you should only buy that one guide and thereby saving a ton of money and more importantly, saving a lot of time by avoiding reading other topics that you are already good at.
One important caveat: The biggest asset of the series is also its biggest drawback. The guides dwell too much into the basics for too long. This is a significant advantage for test-takers who are just starting out and those who are not at all familiar with the test but it can act as a distraction after familiarizing yourself with the test.
In fact, we had several readers complaining about spending tireless hours reading through the concepts in the guides that never appeared on official GRE tests or material.
The most important factor to consider when choosing a study guide is the way complex concepts are explained in it.
While there are several “guides” sold in the market that purely fall back on superficial strategies, the MGRE Series has quite a different approach.
It starts by exploring the entire concept with great breadth, and discusses fundamental concepts along with strategies to ace those topics. Then each topic is immediately followed by basic exercise problems.
The reason this works brilliantly well is because you are learning while doing things. When you try to solve problems that you just learnt, you remember those topics for a long time. Because you spent time trying to solve those problems. This is probably one of the biggest strengths of this series.
The MGRE Series also has really well-explained strategies that deal with most of the question type that appear on the GRE. While there are a lot of strategies that will help you with the basic stuff, there aren’t too many advanced strategies that can get you past the 330, or may be even 325 mark.
You could say that these guides are super useful to someone looking to get a good score on the GRE, or someone who is terrified by the very thought of the GRE test, but if you are someone looking to break into the 330 zone, then these guides are not for you.
Another slightly disappointing aspect of the MGRE Series is the verbal section. The RC and AWA guide is actually quite good but the SE and TC guide disappointed us. It unnecessarily focuses too much on vocabulary than the sentence structure.
The practice questions that come along with the guide are full of esoteric words that won’t appear on the GRE. As a consequence, students may feel the verbal section a lot more difficult than it actually is.
You will really like the tone on the MGRE books, since they are all engaging and conversational in nature, much unlike the other books that are more like textbooks. You won’t be bored at all.
This rather informal, and conversational tone helps you while learning rather complex strategies, since each strategy is explained clearly, as if a human tutor is talking to you.
4. Proximity to Real GRE
Contrary to what they are named, these aren’t just strategy guides. They also have plenty of good quality questions from topics that you learnt, so you can use the strategies you learnt in the book and put them to practice immediately.
As said earlier, this way of structuring the book is pretty useful, since using the strategies immediately after learning them will help you remember them for a long time, hence making quite a difference to you on test day.
Also, the quality of these questions is great, and they are pretty close to the questions you will see on the real GRE.
One down side though, if you are looking for a ton of good quality practice questions, you may be slightly disappointed with the MGRE series, since it does not offer too many ‘hard-level’ questions that you might be looking for, especially if you are aiming at a high score.
You will need to practice from other sources as well.
5. Practice Tests
When you buy one or more of the MGRE Strategy Guides, you will also receive a set of six GRE practice tests for free.
These are perhaps some of the most resourceful practice tests for the GRE that you will take during the course of your prep, since not only the questions, as we just discussed, are pretty close to the real test, but also you get a comprehensive analysis of your performance at the end of every test you take.
These analytics will help you gauge your performance from time to time, and also help you understand your weaker areas.
While each strategy guide separately costs $20, if you plan to buy the entire set of eight books, you will have to bear $120.
Yes, it might seem like a heavy price, but if you are willing to spend that much for a study guide, it is well worth it.
But otherwise, you can opt for a lower priced study material like Barron’s or Kaplan. Or, you could also go for a good quality online prep course.
On the other hand, you should also consider if you really need all eight books. If you are struggling with only one or two topics, then it is best for you to purchase that one or two books, hence saving a ton of money.
7. Final Verdict
Now, even though we have said time and again that the MGRE series is perhaps one of the best you will find in the market, they are not perfect!
Now that we have discussed in and out about the MGRE Strategy Guide Series of books, here is a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the series:
- Balance between test taking strategies, fundamental theory and explanations
- Division of books based on topics allow students to buy only those guides that deal with their weaknesses
- Theory is immediately followed up with examples that help understand concepts better
- The writing is very easy to read and it’s as if a human tutor is talking to you
- Access to six online practice tests (you just need to purchase one book)
- Time and Money
- At times, the book will test your patience as some concepts may sound oversimplified when the exam is actually a lot tougher
- Unnecessary focus on obscure vocabulary in Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion guide
- The books don’t have enough practice questions. You will need to buy the 5 lb book for more practice questions.
The math concepts are pretty excellent and very thorough, so much so that even a beginner can expect to score really well on the math section, after successfully completing the six guides.
Hence, our rating for the Math guides is a brilliant 9/10.
The verbal section may have been slightly neglected by ManhattanPrep, since it is quite obvious that there are only two guides catering to it.
Now, even though the quality of questions, and the depth of strategies discussed here were really on par with any other prep book under the sun, we felt that they could have been a bit better, especially because we did not get the impression that the verbal section got the same importance as the quant section did.
Our rating for the Verbal Guides is 7.5/10.So, what this means is:
Simply put, the Manhattan GRE Strategy Guide Series is a cut above the rest, and a lot better than possible any other GRE prep material in the market today.
But having said that, it lacks the advanced set of strategies that can get you to the top scores on the GRE. So, considering the heavy price tag that it bears, it all depends on what you are aiming for.
If your aim is get a good GRE score, then the Manhattan GRE Strategy Guide Series can really help you get there. But if you plan to score really high, maybe this isn’t the right investment for you.
CrunchPrep GRE vs MGRE
The MGRE, like we said many times, is a fantastic resource to have for every beginner. But it is not more than a study material. It can hence be very helpful to someone who can sit down for hours together and can get away with studying on their own. Though there is a lot of learning to take away from the MGRE series, there isn’t much practice, or much scope for learning advanced strategies.
Our recommendation is, if you have $120 to spare for a good GRE guide, and if you think you just need a book to study and get a good score on the GRE, then by all means, go ahead with the MGRE series.
But if you are like 99% of the test takers, you would need more than just a bunch of books. You would need personal tutoring, copious amount of practice questions, lots of practice tests, performance analysis, advance strategies, constant support and motivation, and studying on the go, anytime, anywhere you want.
And CrunchPrep can offer you all of that and more, for a very substantial price, compared to the MGRE series. Plus, you will also enjoy the many benefits of studying with an online prep course.
So, what do you think? Which option would you choose? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.