Expert Book Review: Manhattan GRE Books


Are you getting ready for the GRE and looking for the best prep books? Many students consider the Manhattan Prep eight-book set the best way to study for the GRE.

But are these the most useful books for you? Does the fact that there are eight books mean they’re full of everything you need to know or does it just mean they have a lot of filler information? Do you need to purchase all eight or will one or two do the job?

This guide will give an in-depth review of the Manhattan GRE book set including pros and cons of using them, how they’re formatted, and who these books are best for.


What Makes a Good Prep Book?

Before we dive into the eight Manhattan GRE strategy guide books, let’s first discuss the qualities that make a good prep book. I’ll refer to each of these four characteristics throughout this article to give you a better idea of what Manhattan Prep’s GRE strengths and weaknesses are.


Effective Method of Teaching Strategy and Content

One of the most important components of a prep book is its ability to teach you new information and skills in a clear and effective way. This can include giving tips for solving certain types of problems, explaining the logic behind different concepts, and laying out new information in a clear enough way that you feel confident in your knowledge of it.

You won’t be able to get a high score on the GRE if you don’t understand the subjects it asks questions on, so being able to learn this information from your prep book is key. Prep books that succeed in this will have clear answer explanations and strategies for answering questions that are easy to understand and use. Prep books that don’t do an effective job of this will often have few strategies for the test, or the ones they do include will be complicated or difficult to use. They will also not explain the answers to problems well (or at all), making it difficult to understand why a particular answer is correct.

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High-Quality Practice Questions

Once you have a grasp of the content the GRE will cover, you need to put that knowledge to the test and see how well you actually understand the material. This is where practice questions come in.

Practice questions are essential to giving you an idea of how well you understand the material, which topics you know well, and which topics you need to review more.

A good prep book will have dozens, if not hundreds, of practice questions that are similar to those found on the actual exam. These practice questions will be similar in content, difficulty, and wording to the actual exam in order to be most effective. They should also be organized by skill and competency level to help aid your studying.


Full-Length Practice Tests

In addition to having practice questions, a high-quality prep book will also include full-length practice tests. Full-length practice tests are important because they give you the most realistic estimate of how well you’ll do on the actual GRE.

The total test time of the GRE is 3 hours and 45 minutes. During your preparations, you’ll need to take at least one full-length practice exam to see how testing for several hours affects you. Taking additional practice tests can help build up your endurance and help you avoid running out of time or making silly mistakes towards the end of the exam.

You can use your practice score to decide how much you need to study and which topics to focus on. You can also use additional practice tests to track your progress and ensure you’re meeting your goals. High-quality prep books will have two or more practice tests with in-depth answer explanations.


Guidance on Developing a Study Plan

You’ll likely spend hours, and sometimes dozens of hours, preparing for the GRE, and it can be difficult to know how to structure all this study time.

The best GRE prep books will give you guidance on how to create a study plan, how much to study, which topics to study, and how to focus on and improve your weak areas. Doing this will make your studying much more effective and help you see results sooner.




What Is the Format of the Manhattan GRE Books?

There are eight different Manhattan Prep GRE prep books, each focusing on a different aspect of the exam:

    • Algebra
    • Fractions, Decimals, & Percents
    • Geometry
    • Number Properties
    • Word Problems
    • Quantitative Comparisons & Data Interpretation
    • Reading Comprehension & Essays
    • Text Completion & Sentence Equivalence

The first six books correspond to the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE, while the last two books correspond to the Verbal Reasoning. Reading Comprehension & Essays also has information for the Analytical Writing section of the GRE.

Of the set, the shortest book is Algebra Strategies, at 184 pages, and the longest book is the Reading Comprehension & Essays book at 336 pages. Each book costs between $13 and $16 on Amazon. You can also purchase the complete set of eight books together for $90 on Amazon, or you can purchase a GRE Prep Course on Manhattan Prep’s GRE website which gets you the eight books with online or in-person classes.

Each book follows a similar format. The subject of the book is broken into several specific categories, each with its own chapter. For example, Text Completion & Sentence Equivalence has chapters on Text Completion, Sentence Equivalence, Vocabulary, and Idioms & Metaphorical Language, while the Number Properties book has chapters on Divisibility & Primes, Odds & Evens, Positives & Negatives, Exponents, Roots, Consecutive Integers, and Number Lines.

In each chapter, the main concepts of the subject are explained, tips and strategies for answering that question type are given, and several practice problems are explained step-by-step. A problem set of about a dozen relevant problems follows each chapter. For most books, the final chapter is a set or group of sets of additional practice problems, but Reading Comprehension & Essays, Text Completion & Sentence Equivalence, and Quantitative Comparison & Data Interpretation end with appendices with important vocab to know instead of additional problem sets.

Each of the six math books assumes little pre-existing math knowledge and works from the basics to the components of each type of problem found in the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GRE. The two Verbal Reasoning books assume a higher level of knowledge and dive straight into knowledge needed for the exam.

The books also contain drill sets, which are short questions that are too simple to be found on the GRE, but are meant to be answered quickly so you can assess your skills on a topic before moving onto more challenging practice problems.

In sum, each book contains explanations and tips for the different problem types found within that topic areas, as well as at least several dozen practice problems. Additionally, if you purchase one or more of the books (as opposed to borrowing them from the library), you’ll get one-year access to additional online materials, the most important of which are six practice GREs.


Pros of the Manhattan Prep GRE Books

The Manhattan GRE books are very popular among those studying for the GRE, with good reason. Read on for the best features of the book set.



Clear and Organized Format

The Manhattan Prep book set is already broken into a set of eight books so you can quickly find the book or books which meet your needs. In addition to that, each book itself is clearly organized, with different each chapter devoted to a particular subject area or question type. The chapters each begin by introducing the topic, running through some basic information and sample problems, then gradually introducing more complicated problems before readers complete a problem set on their own.

This format makes the books easy to follow because the content progresses in a logical, organized way. One Amazon reviewer stated, “The writing is easy to read, comprehensible and…it’s broken up into digestible pieces.”

Additionally, each Manhattan Prep book begins with the same opening chapter which introduces readers to the GRE, its format, and the types of questions asked on it.


High-Quality Practice Problems

Each Manhattan Prep GRE book contains dozens of practice problem, and fortunately, they are similar to real GRE questions in terms of difficulty, the topics they cover, and how they are worded.

The closer practice problems are to the real exam, the better they’ll prepare you. Official practice problems are always going to be the best since they’re created by the same people who write questions for the real GRE, but, for unofficial practice questions, these do a good job of helping you prepare for the exam. Additionally, many of the practice problems in these Manhattan GRE books are also organized by topic and difficulty level so you can easily find specific types of practice questions.


In-Depth Explanation of How to Solve Problems

At the beginning of each chapter, the Manhattan Prep GRE books solve multiple practice problems step-by-step so you can see exactly what the process is for answering them. Sometimes an entire page or more is used to explain the process of solving a particular problem.

Other GRE books sometimes only give a sentence or two of explanation when solving problems, and this can be frustrating for people who don’t understand the material or need more guidance before they begin solving problems themselves.

This set of books avoids that problem by giving clear and in-depth answer explanations to help readers understand the logic and strategy behind solving problems.

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Useful Tips and Strategies

In each of the eight Manhattan GRE books, there are tips to help you answer questions more quickly and easily. The Algebra book gives advice on how to turn algebraic problems into simple arithmetic problems, and Reading Comprehension & Essays explains the best way to read passages to quickly get the information you need.

Even after you understand the content tested on the GRE, gaining additional strategies for answering questions can help you raise your score because you’ll be able to answer questions faster and more simply, which means you’ll reduce your chances of running out of time or making silly mistakes.


Good for People Not Comfortable With Math

If math was never a strong subject for you or it has been awhile since you’ve taken a math class, you may feel intimidated by the GRE’s Quantitative Reasoning Section.

Manhattan Prep’s six GRE math books start with the basics and work their way up from there until you can complete GRE-level math problems. Instead of diving into GRE problems, the Manhattan GRE prep books spend time going over basic formulas and skills you need to know to even begin solving GRE problems.

For example, if you don’t remember what the quadratic formula or order of operations are, these books cover that information before going into more complicated problems that require that knowledge. Another reviewer on Amazon stated, “Those who hate math but are serious about improving their GRE scores will probably not find too much here that is frightening and will likely find much that is helpful.”

Also, most of the Manhattan Prep GRE books contain “drill sets” which are sets of problems quicker to solve and simpler than actual GRE problems. These can be helpful to build up your skills before you answer practice GRE problems later on in each book.


Cons of the Manhattan Prep GRE Books

Unfortunately, there are also some drawbacks to the Manhattan GRE approach. Because they include so much information, they can be overwhelming!



Lots of Material to Read

In total, the set of eight books contains over 1000 pages and hundreds of sample problems. To get through all of that information would take many hours of study (not to mention your arms would be exhausted from carrying around all those books).

This book set is not for people looking for a quick review of GRE material. Even if you only purchase part of the set, each book goes into such detail that, if you’re looking for something to skim over, you won’t get a lot out of these books. Some books, particularly the Quantitative Reasoning ones, tend to go overboard with the information they give so that you’re learning more than what you need to know for the GRE.

This level of detail may benefit some people who really want or need to understand the subject material, but others may feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information these books contain and feel annoyed they’re learning information that rarely or never shows up on the GRE.

It might be much more helpful for you to focus your attention on your greatest weaknesses – instead of reading 1000 pages cover to cover, you might instead focus on where you can get the most bang for your buck for every hour you study.


Include Some Typos and Errors

In the Manhattan Prep GRE book set, there are several typos or errors, especially in the Quantitative Reasoning books. Examples of this include answer keys with the wrong answer marked and typos in the wording of questions. These errors are rare and detract very little from the books themselves.

However, people who are unsure of their skills and want to be able to completely trust answer keys, and those looking for more polished books, may be annoyed or confused by these mistakes.


Little Guidance on How to Structure Your Studying

None of the Manhattan Prep GRE books gives much guidance on how you should structure your GRE studying. There is some basic information on how to use the books (e.g. practice problems until you can answer them in less than a minute), but no high-level guidance is given for studying for the GRE. Because the books cover so much information, it can be especially challenging to understand how to structure your studying so you aren’t spending hundreds of hours trying to take in all the information this set of books provide.

If you’d like to have more guidance on how and when to study, how to create a study schedule, or how to set study goals for the GRE, you’ll probably need to use another resource.


Are the Manhattan GRE Books Right For You?

In general, the Manhattan Prep GRE books are best for two types of people: those who either scored low on their initial GRE (practice or real) and want to make large improvements across the board and will therefore be purchasing the whole set, or those who know which specific areas they want to improve in and can then purchase the book or books which directly meet their needs.

Most people, unless you are feeling especially unprepared for the entire GRE, do not need to purchase the full set of eight Manhattan Prep GRE books. It’s just too much information to go through.

However, if you were unhappy with your results in every section of the GRE or feel totally uncertain about what you need to improve on, and you’re looking for a comprehensive content and strategy review, the complete set of books may be what you want because they go into such depth.

Alternatively, if you have a very clear idea of which areas you need to work on, such as geometry or reading comprehension, the Manhattan Prep GRE books are a good way to get an in-depth explanation of that specific subject area because you can select the book to fit your needs.

The Manhattan Prep GRE books are also good for people who understand the subject areas the GRE tests you on but struggle to apply that knowledge when solving problems. Each book breaks down how to answer multiple practice problems and gives the reasoning behind each step. These books can help walk you through the processes you need to understand.

Each book contains several dozen high-quality practice problems which you can use to test your skills, however; their best asset is content review and strategy as opposed to practice problems.

To recap, Manhattan GRE prep books are best for people who know which specific subjects they need to focus on, struggle with understanding how to work through problems and/or appreciate seeing them completed step-by-step (especially for math).




Tips for Getting the Most Out of Manhattan Prep GRE Books

If you do decide to use one or more of the Manhattan GRE books, follow these three tips to ensure you get the most out of them.


Figure Out Which Books Are Best For You

Before you purchase any of these books, you should first decide which ones you really need. The Manhattan Prep GRE books go into such depth that if you purchase and study one from a subject you’re already pretty solid on, you’re going to end up losing a lot of time you could have spent shoring up your weaker areas instead.

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First, if you haven’t already, take a practice GRE, then score the exam and see how well you did. Look to see which specific areas you want to improve in. Are you happy with your score in Quantitative Reasoning but want to improve Verbal Reasoning? Then only get the two books focused on Verbal Reasoning. Did you feel totally out of your depth when answering questions on geometry? The Geometry book will walk you through the steps you need to answer those questions.

By selecting the Manhattan GRE books in the area(s) you need to improve in the most, you’ll help ensure that your studying is more effective and focused than if you tried to read through the entire set without first determining which areas you were already strong in.


Read the Explanations Before Beginning the Practice Problems

For each Manhattan Prep GRE book, the book alternates between content explanation and practice problems. As tempting as it may be to test your skills right away, don’t try a lot of practice problems before first reading the explanations.

The books are designed to explain specific skills then test you on that skill, gradually increasing your knowledge so that, by the end of the book, you’re confident in that subject area.

If you just open the book to a random page and start answering practice problems, you’re going to miss the progression of skills the book is trying to teach you, and you’ll lose a lot of the content and strategy information necessary for doing well on the GRE.


Supplement the Books With Official Practice Tests

The Manhattan Prep GRE books do provide practice problems, and, if you purchase the books, you can get access to six practice exams, but you should still supplement the information you get from these books with official practice tests.

Official practice tests are the highest-quality you can get because they’re made by the same people who create the GRE, so you know they’re an accurate representation of the test.

In addition, taking complete practice tests lets you see how well you hold up after several hours of testing and if you can complete all the questions within the allotted time for each section. ETS has two computer-based practice tests you can download for free, and you may also want to supplement them with additional paper-based practice tests.


Manhattan GRE Review: Conclusion

Manhattan Prep’s set of eight books is the most comprehensive GRE study tool available. These books contain content review, sample problems solved step-by-step, tips for answering problems, and sets of practice questions.

The books are well organized, with lots of practice problems and tips for answering questions. The Quantitative Reasoning books also explain many math concepts people who aren’t as comfortable with math will likely find useful. However, the books also include some errors, little guidance on how to plan your study schedule, and so much information that some people may find them overwhelming.

These books are best for people who are either looking to make large improvements in their GRE scores and plan on purchasing the complete set or those who know which specific areas they want to improve on and can then purchase those select books.

If you choose to use these books in your review, be sure to supplement them with official practice exams so you can track your progress and become more used to the format of the GRE before test day.


What’s Next?

Want more information on the Official Guide to the GRE prep book? Check out our complete review to see if this book is worth using!

What are the best GRE books to help you prepare for the exam? Check out our list and find the best GRE prep book for you!

Wondering how your GRE score is calculated? Our guide explains how the GRE is scored, what adaptive scoring is, and which GRE questions have the biggest impact on your score.


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Author: Christine Sarikas

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.