This book was an instrumental tool in my preparation for the GRE verbal. I was hesitant at first about getting it, because it was geared toward the old GRE which was supposedly more vocabulary heavy. However, I figured that at $8 the risk was low enough to just give it a try. It turned out to be the wisest decision I made in my GRE preparation.
With regard to the vocabulary requirement on the new GRE versus the old, I believe that the new GRE places a bigger emphasis on the depth of your command of vocabulary than the breadth. This book is great because the sample sentences and exercises allow you to learn vocabulary with precision. Further, although the new GRE may have fewer obscure words, you will likely still need to substantially expand your vocabulary if you are aiming for a high verbal score. In light of this, this book is STILL very much essential, even though it was written for the old GRE.
What I loved about this book:
- Bite-size units. Each self-contained unit has 10 words. Works great if your free time is fragmented.
- Clear, concise definitions
- Aptly chosen sample sentences
- Exercises at the end of each unit. These really helped with retention!
Possible areas for improvement:
- I wish pronunciation was included. For me and possibly for many others, sounding out a word helps remembering it.
- The binding needs to be stronger. Mine fell apart in a week. Seriously, a book that is meant to be used and written in everyday should be able to withstand a fair amount of abuse.
Organization of the book
The main part of the book consists of 80 word lists, each containing 10 words and complete with exercises. Each word is accompanied by its definition and a well-chosen sample sentence. The words are listed alphabetically, so it's easy to look up a word you know you have studied but just couldn't recall the meaning. Two self-assessment tests are included: one at the beginning of the book (pretest) and one at the end (posttest). These are in the format of the old GRE verbal, and are each one section long (30 questions including reading). The front of the book includes a condensed list of 300 absolutely essential GRE words. You can give those a quick scan to see how strong your starting vocabulary is. The back 1/3 of the book is dedicated to an extensive root work section, as well as a list of common suffixes. These will help you expand your vocabulary even further and strengthen your ability to guess the meaning of an unfamiliar word.
How I used the book
I found that on average it took me 20-30 minutes to complete one unit, including doing the exercises. I got this book merely 10 days before the exam (was studying for the GRE full time), so I only managed to get through 70% of the words in the book. This means I crammed at a rate of 6-8 units a day. NOT recommended. Depending on how extensive your starting vocabulary is, you should be able to cover 2-4 units a day comfortably.
I usually tackle the exercises immediately after studying the words the first time. There are three types of exercises after each unit: matching, fill-in, and a fun "Sense of Nonsence" where you have to decide if a sentence makes good sense or not. One way I tried to challenge myself was by attempting the fill-in questions without looking at the word choices. This "blind-fold" method both helped me internalize the words better, and was a great way to practice for the sentence equivalence and fill-in questions on the test. In addition, I made flashcards for the words I had trouble with.
On a side note, the book is written in a non-cumulative way, which means the definition, sample sentences and exercises in any part of the book do not assume knowledge of the words that appeared earlier in the book. This is beneficial because it allows you to study in any sequence you want. I studied in a somewhat random order, because I just couldn't stand the thought of having gone through 10% of the book and still on A.
I took the GRE yesterday and scored a 167 on the verbal. By my estimate, studying from this book improved my verbal score by about 10 points, and that's with learning only 70% of the words!