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ETS GRE Practice Test: Powerprep & The Official Guide

You may have heard that there is no better way to practice for the GRE than by taking a mock exam, especially one written by ETS (the maker of the GRE). The extent to which this is true depends on how you use the POWERPREP practice exams. Taking a test once, figuring out your score, and then hoping that your brain will avoid the same kinds of mistakes on the test is wishful thinking. Following the steps below will help you get the most out of your official ETS GRE practice test materials. (And if you don’t yet have access to the major practice materials for this exam, you can or purchase The Official Guide to the GRE General Test or at .)

The ETS GRE Practice Test

ETS (the best source for the most accurate practice material) offers a few resources. In fact, they’ve added so many resources to their test-prep arsenal over the years that it can be difficult to keep track of which are the most up-to-date and which materials overlap with others!

But we’re going to make it easy for you. For 2017, here’s a list of the most up-to-date official GRE practice tests that have original content without significant overlap between them:

However, I realize that not all of you will be starting from scratch with your ETS GRE materials. The tests written by ETS are the best in terms of preparation. ETS creates the GRE you will see on test day, so it provides the best indicator of your score test day. However, some of the material on these tests overlap. If you’re wondering what materials the company has issued in the past few years overlap, or if it’s worth buying previous materials, here’s a quick guide to keep track:

Official GRE Practice Test Material Overlap

Official GRE Practice Test MaterialYear PublishedNotes on Overlap/Original Content
2012Subset of the material from POWERPREP 2 and CD2. Note: There used to be a second PDF from 2010-2011, but ETS no longer makes this available.
Official Guide 1st Edition Paper Test2010-2011Test also appears in OG2 and OG3.
Official Guide 2nd Edition: 2 Paper Tests2012One test also appears in OG1
Official Guide 3rd Edition: 2 Paper Tests2017Both tests are the same as those in the 2nd edition.
Official Guide 1st Edition CD Test2010-2011Test also appears on OG2 CD.
Official Guide 2nd Edition: 2 CD Tests2012One test also appears on OG1 CD; both tests are included in POWERPREP 2.
Official Guide 3rd Edition CD Tests: N/A2017There is no CD accompanying the OG 3rd Edition.
POWERPREP V. 12010-2011Only has one test, which is also in POWERPREP V. 2.
POWERPREP V. 22012Has two tests, one of which is in the old POWERPREP V. 1.
POWERPREP PLUS Tests 1 and 22017Entirely new material.

Confusing, right? It’s best to do as much practice as possible, so you shouldn’t worry about overlapping material too much. However, you should keep the above distinctions in mind because if you see a question that you’ve seen previously, you may get the correct answer not because you knew how to do it, but because your brain may just have remembered the answer from last time!

Should I buy the ETS GRE POWERPREP PLUS Online Tests?

Ah, POWERPREP PLUS! These are two online tests that ETS added to its collection in 2017. Each test costs $39.99. Take careful note: in places on the ETS website, it looks as though $39.99 gets you two tests and that there are four tests altogether. There are only two new tests, and they are sold separately.

Are they worth buying? It depends on how much time you have available to study. If it’s less than a month, it’s probably not worth getting them when there’s so much high-quality free material available. Remember that the GRE itself costs $160, so each of these tests costs a quarter as much as the actual exam. There are benefits to them; unlike the basic POWERPREP exams, they do have explanations with their answers, which is a step in the right direction (the explanations are pretty basic, but get the job done—just don’t rely on them too much, as per my advice below).

Tips for studying with POWERPREP & The Official Guide

Review your answers

POWERPREP has gotten a lot better over the years. With the elimination of the CD from the third edition of the Official Guide, ETS has begun to include the correct answers and allow you to review them after you take the exam. Yup, this didn’t used to be the case! However, unless you’re using POWERPREP PLUS, you won’t get an explanation of why the correct answer is correct.

Figure out the question on your own

In a way, ETS’s decision not to include explanations can actually benefit you. Looking at an explanation can be harmful in a few ways. First off, many explanations seem more confusing than the actual question. Secondly, by relying on an explanation, you do not force yourself to really think through a question.

There are no explanations given with any of the free tests. Again, this will force you to really think through a problem. Of course the reality is, you will sometimes be stumped. If that happens…

Watch my free video explanations

If you can’t figure out a problem after trying to work it out on your own, check out my video explanations to many of the officially released practice questions here.

Find questions similar to POWERPREP and the Official Guide

Practice tests allow you to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your weaknesses by finding practice problems that test the concept with which you are struggling. Manhattan GRE and are both great resources.

Take the tests multiple times

The PDF file is static so you the questions will not change. The POWERPREP test, however, differs slightly so that you will see a few new questions when you retake the test. Either way, if you space out enough time between tests, you shouldn’t remember too many questions. While the score will not be valid (it will probably be slightly inflated), taking an ETS test under timed conditions is the best way to prepare for test day.

Be sure to review questions, both mistakes and lucky guesses, the way enumerated above.

Other GRE practice tests

No mock test is the same quality as that provided by the ETS GRE practice test. Still, it is important to remember that some are better than others. Manhattan GRE provides six practice tests, all of which have challenging content. Clemmonsdogpark also allows you to create your own mock tests.

Kaplan tests, judging from their book content, are a poor approximation of the real test. Princeton Review also contains questions that are suspect, too easy, or both. And those tests you find on-line…well, let’s put it this way. I ventured to a site that offered mock “GRE tests.” In the math section, almost every other question was a permutation/combination problem. On the actual test you only get one such question.

Anyhow, hope that helps demystify and simplify what’s out there regarding practice tests!

Additional ETS GRE practice content

A few years back, ETS released two guides—the Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions and the Quantitative Reasoning Questions. Surprisingly, the book did not get much fanfare, and even now the book seems to be languishing on Amazon—at least compared to most GRE prep books (which I strongly discourage using).

Yet, these books provide pages upon pages of excellent practice questions. Though these books do not contain actual tests, they are filled with practice sets, often ranked from “easy” to “hard”. These sets will expose you to yet more content by ETS. In fact, this material is the most recent so it arguably provides the material that is best aligned with material on today’s test.

A good way to use this material is as warm-up for a POWERPREP test. That way you can get the synapses firing before you have to take an actual practice test.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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