What are the GMAT Official Guides?
The Official Guides for GMAT Review are published by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the administrators of the GMAT exam. The Official Guides contain retired real GMAT questions and, therefore, are an essential component of your GMAT preparations. The GMAC places questions in the Official Guides in order of increasing difficulty, based on its assessment of difficulty. This allows you to practice with questions at the appropriate difficulty level for you.
There are three different GMAT Official Guide books. The main Official Guide contains a total of 965 practice questions: 452 Quant, 455 Verbal, and 58 Integrated Reasoning. The Quantitative Official Guide contains 300 practice questions (all Quant). The Verbal Official Guide contains 301 practice questions (all Verbal). These three books have no overlap in practice questions.
How to use the Official Guides
The quality of practice is more important than the quantity. Work through questions in timed sets, rather than one question at a time, so that you can work on your time management skills. We suggest sets of 15 questions in 30 minutes (25 minutes for Sentence Correction). After each practice set, carefully review all the questions that you missed as well as those on which you took too much time on or perhaps just guessed correctly. You need to fully learn the relevant concepts so that you don’t make mistakes on similar questions in the future.
Each Official Guide book includes an access code (see inside book cover) that provides 12-months of usage of an online version of the book. Since the GMAT is a computer-based test, it is advisable to work through the questions online. We strongly suggest that you use Exam Mode rather than Practice Mode, since we recommend that students practise using timed question sets that replicate test day conditions. You can choose practice sets by the question type and difficulty level. Every question lists the corresponding book question number for easy cross-referencing.
Weaknesses of the Official Guides
The GMAT Official Guides have three primary weaknesses. First, although the Official Guides are great for practising with real GMAT questions, they are not meant for learning the underlying concepts. The 40-page Math Review section provides a very high-level overview of the math concepts tested on the GMAT. This math review will be highly inadequate except perhaps for the most advanced math students. Similarly, the brief introductions to the concepts tested on the verbal section are highly inadequate. We recommend that you use additional study materials to learn the math and verbal concepts.
Second, although all the questions include answer explanations, many GMAT test takers are far from satisfied with these explanations. Math explanations can be brief and hard-to-understand for non-advanced students, and they are sometimes convoluted or inefficient. Most GMAT test takers consider the Sentence Correction explanations quite cryptic. The Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension explanations, however, are reasonably good overall.
Third, the Official Guides contain an insufficient amount of difficult practice questions, particularly based on GMAT Genius’ assessment of difficulty. We find that, except for Reading Comprehension, the GMAC difficulty ratings skew harder than our assessment. There is admittedly tremendous subjectivity in assessing question difficulty. Among the five primary question types, our assessment of difficulty ranges from 59% to 72% correlation with the GMAC’s difficulty assessment.
What’s new in the 2018 editions?
The 2018 edition introduces 130 newly-released questions, representing 15% new content. This consists of 61 new Quant questions (replacing 61 questions from the 2017 edition), 61 new Verbal questions (replacing 61 questions from the 2017 edition) and 8 new Integrated Reasoning questions (added to the 50 IR questions from the 2017 edition).
The overall mix of concepts tested in the Official Guide questions hasn’t changed substantially. For Problem Solving, the biggest shift is the net loss of five exponents/roots questions, offset by a net gain of five basic arithmetic questions. For Data Sufficiency, the biggest shift is the net loss of six simultaneous equations questions, here also offset by a net gain of five basic arithmetic questions. On Sentence Correction, we see a net loss of six parallel construction questions. These changes, however, are not necessarily indicators of possible changes in the overall concept composition on the GMAT.
In terms of difficulty, we are dismayed to see the net loss of 30 hard-difficulty Quant questions (13 Problem Solving and 17 Data Sufficiency), based on GMAC’s difficulty assessment, compared to the 2017 edition. Sentence Correction saw a net gain of 21 hard-difficulty questions, but this was due in large part to the GMAC upgrading the difficulty of 17 medium-difficulty questions from the 2017 edition of the Verbal Official Guide to hard-difficulty in the 2018 edition.
On the GMAT Genius blog, you will find detailed analyses of the 2018 GMAT Official Guides. GMAT Genius breaks down every question type by difficulty and primary concept and also offers question categorizations, so that you can practise on questions related to whichever concepts you want to focus on. If you can master the questions in the Official Guides, you should be well-prepared to take the GMAT. Wishing you tremendous success on the GMAT and beyond!
This article first appeared in GMAT Genius, which provides preparation services for the GMAT.
Check out: How to Prepare for GMAT – Essential Guide