The official ebook by the creators of the GMAT.
The only GMAT practice book recommended
The major problem most GMAT-takers face during the test is lack of time.
When approaching a question, many of us are inclined to go over all of the answers, picking the one that “sounds right”. This is a trap though: not only is going over all answers time consuming, but it can also be misleading, as the wrong answers can be very convincing.
Our goal is to solve as many questions as we can without reading the answers, and for that, the Official Guide to the GMAT is a great training tool. Since this is a huge database of questions, it provides us with ample opportunity to try, fail, try, and try again.
Here’s how we can use the OG (Official Guide) to practice saving time: in each question, we’ll read the stem and NOT look at the answer choices (yet). We’ll first ask ourselves: what is the best strategy to solve this question? In other words – which of the three PAL approaches will be the fastest?
Precise – most suitable for questions that can be solved using just the question stem and figuring out what we should expect to find in the answers. If we can determine what we want to find in the answers, all that's left is to spot the correct answer we were looking for, and not lose precious time (and concentration) on the other answers.
Alternative – best for questions in which there’s a handy tool that can provide us with the correct answer quickly, even if we’re not sure how to get there precisely. This can be anything: using the answers, estimating the result, using or drawing a given figure, and many more.
Logical – lastly, some questions can be solved quickly just by using prior knowledge that doesn't appear in the question, such as the properties of average, range, pricing, or even argument structure. Logical solutions are usually the fastest (when applicable).
In each OG question, we’ll start by reading the question stem alone, which is enough to decided whether there’s logic that we need to implement or some precise tool to apply, such as simplifying an equation, or we need to spend time working with the answers, usually in Alternative solutions.
Either way, after solving practice segments, we must review them: not only check whether the answer was correct or not, but also what made the wrong answers wrong (especially important in the Verbal section), how long it took us to answer each question, and considering what other solution strategies were available. If the one we tried was not the quickest, we’ll determine what made us choose this strategy and what will lead us to choose better next time. Remember: what matters is which strategy is the fastest for you. Next, we’ll seek out OG questions that are similar to the ones we need to improve on.
This process is best done slowly, taking our time to carefully research the questions, and not just going from one question to the next. It’s not about solving as many questions as we can, but rather about learning and practicing the crucial skills of how to be able to tell in advance what is going to be the fastest way to solve each question and correctly and efficiently solving these questions.
this question is flawed – it refers to something called “preparation books”. Why is this a mistake? Because the GMAT is a computer-adaptive test. Prep books are neither computers nor adaptive, so how can they possibly prepare us for a computer-adaptive test? It’s true that books may have all the relevant “GMAT knowledge” – but the GMAT isn’t about knowledge. The GMAT is about mind flexibility: quickly and dynamically reacting to different kinds of questions.
Prep books answer virtually none of the criteria we need for efficient preparation: they do not use the test’s computer interface, thus creating bad habits (where do we write our notes? Where do we focus our eyesight?) In stark contrast to the exam, they are not adaptive, monotonically feeding us predetermined question after question, with no relation to our performance and progress. The solutions they offer us are random, whereas most questions have more than one possible way to solve them: the preferable one depends on the test-taker. Lastly, books give us no feedback on our overall progress, improvement and tools. Preparing for the GMAT using a book is like practicing a speech in front of a wall. The best tool for GMAT preparation is a computer-adaptive interface, which can monitor our progress and provide us with constant feedback.
That being said, there is one prep book we should use: the OG, the official guide to the GMAT. This is not because the OG is immune to all of the above criticisms, as it is not. But all questions in the OG have been statistically tested on thousands of test-takers around the world and used in actual tests These questions are almost the best way to make the best of our crunch time in the last 10 days before the test, second only to taking the GMAC computer adaptive tests.
All of the above are only relevant for preparation books: while these are, for all the aforementioned reasons, ill-fitting to practice question-solving with, other kinds of books can help us with our GMAT study. Books that teach us the basics, provide study tips, or explain question-solving strategies can certainly help our prep effort.
For generations, students seeking admission to graduate programs in business have taken the GMAT exam. And to prepare for the GMAT, millions of students over the years have turned to the Official Guide for GMAT to help them prepare for the test.
Back in the day, the Official Guide was published once every few years and included only about 500 questions. Then, to provide a more comprehensive study tool, the Official Guide swelled to nearly 1,000 questions and began to include additional features such as sample tests, practice questions, and even answers to the questions as explained by the very people who wrote the GMAT, meaning, technical, rather than strategic explanations.
Over the years, the OG continued to grow and evolve, partly because of the changing structure of the GMAT and the requirements of business schools, but also partly due to test-takers’ demands for improved study materials.
To meet this demand, each year, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) publishes a revised Official Guide. The book is updated yearly to keep pace with the changes and updates that are made to the GMAT test, which is why it is the premier study aid for students preparing for the GMAT exam.
The official guide includes a variety of features that help students prepare for the exam, including:
Actual GMAT test questions from previous tests, including about 15 percent of the questions that have never been seen in print before;
Essay topics from previous GMAT exams;
Review sections for the Quantitative and Verbal test sections;
Customizable online practice tests.
The current version of the Official Guide to GMAT includes over 900 questions. Questions are broken down into various sections:
Diagnostic Test – 100 questions
Reading Comprehension – 139 questions
Sentence Correction – 140 questions
Data Sufficiency – 174 questions
Problem Solving – 230 questions
Critical Reasoning – 124 questions
Integrated Reasoning – 50 questions
A closer look at some of these sections reveals the different aspects that the editors of the Official Guide wish to demonstrate, and the proportions among them.
The Sentence Correction section, for example, has questions pertaining to verb agreement and verb tense, pronoun agreement and ambiguity, parallel construction, misplaced modifiers, idioms, comparison & quantity, and expressions & word meaning. Of the questions in the Sentence Correction section, the GMAC classifies 23 percent as easy, 31 percent as medium in difficulty, and 46 percent as hard.
For another example, in the Problem Solving section of the book, there are questions revolving around basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, statistics, and word problems. Of these questions, 38 percent are considered easy, 23 percent are considered medium, and 39 percent are considered hard.
The Official Guide also includes an Integrated Reasoning section with questions that assess your ability to analyze tables, interpret graphics, complete multi-source reasoning, and conduct two-part analyses. Like the other sections of the book, the Integrated Reasoning section is divided into easy, medium, and hard questions. Thirty-one percent of the questions are classified as easy, another 31 percent are classified as medium, and the remaining 38 percent are hard. This means you get a wide variety of questions that challenge your skills on different levels, just like the real GMAT.
Also of help is the Official Guide’s companion online quiz module, which allows you to create your own practice tests to measure your strengths and weaknesses. You can even organize practice exams by the difficulty level of the questions and by the question type. The included overview of the Integrated Reasoning section is a nice touch as well. And with practice questions that mimic the actual pattern of the GMAT, you won’t be in for a surprise when it comes time for test day.
The Official Guide isn’t perfect, though. To maximize your studying efforts, you need additional study tools to make up for the OG’s weak spots, among which is its online quiz module. Though it’s nice to have the online quizzes available, the questions tend to be easy, the interface is poor, and it’s just plain cumbersome to use.
Another chief complaint about the Official Guide is that it doesn’t contain any test-taking pointers or offer any strategies for improved success. On top of that, past test-takers note that the questions included in the OG tend to lean toward the easy or medium difficulty end of the spectrum, even though each section has what the GMAC deems as “hard” questions. Note that this is not necessarily the GMAC’s fault: what many students consider “really” hard questions come from various sources other than the GMAC. What makes these questions “hard” is the fact that they are poorly written or plainly require higher standards than the real test, thus not serving as good preparation materials.
The bottom line is that although the Official Guide doesn’t tick all the boxes, it is a great source for practice questions. It’s an evolving study aid, one that’s been around for decades, and one that is sure to continue to be the go-to source for students preparing for the GMAT.