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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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