Breaking Down the 2015 Official Guide for GMAT Review

GMACThis month, the Graduate Management Admissions Council began offering new versions of the popular Official Guide for GMAT Review series, now labeling by year (OG 2015) as opposed to edition (the last was the 13th). For the nuts and bolts we’ll let you read the official press release or visit the official website, but here’s what you should know about the new resources:

1) The questions in the Official Guide 2015 series are the same as in the previous editions. So if you already have the Official Guide 13th edition or the Verbal or Quant 2nd editions, you won’t find new questions with the new books.

2) The biggest new feature is that the practice questions in the book are also available in an online tool. If you love the GMAT Question Pack the way that we do, this is a fantastic feature, allowing you to carve up the ~900 problems into quizzes, delineate your practice by difficulty level, and take advantage of study tools like the ability to bookmark questions and type in notes to remember later.

3) The online tool includes ~20 question diagnostic quizzes for each practice type, using GMAC’s knowledge of question difficulty to help you gauge your ability level relative to your goals.

To Buy or Not To Buy?

If you already have the previous versions of the Official Guide (the 13th edition of the Official Guide for GMAT Review or the 2nd edition of the Official Guide Quant Review or Official Guide Verbal Review), don’t race out to buy the new Official Guide 2015 books. Instead, put that money toward the aforementioned Question Pack, which will provide you with new questions and increased computer-based functionality.

If you don’t have a previous edition Official Guide, by all means purchase the new one. There’s no better resource for practicing officially-written questions, and the new tech tools will enhance your practice sessions with diagnostic feedback and the opportunity to practice on a computer screen, just like you’ll attempt questions on test day.

What to Watch For

As with any unveiling of new technology, the current web interface includes a few things that may not be ideal and may end up being tweaked. But for this first phase of deployment, you should be careful to note that:

•The question delivery order online is not the same as the delivery order in the book. So if you’re planning to start online, then continue in the book (or vice versa) there isn’t an easy way to ensure you won’t see repeat questions.

•Reading Comprehension problems in the “Practice” and “Exam” modes are delivered without keeping passages together, so you’ll usually only get one problem for the passage you just read (and then the other problems associated with that passage will come at some point later). For this reason, it’s still likely best to do your RC practice out of the book and not online. (Note: the diagnostic quizzes deliver RC problems in order with their passages, so that functionality works well)

•Presumably since so much of the GMAT’s recent tech investments have been for Integrated Reasoning, the online tool includes an on-screen calculator for all problems. This does NOT mean that you’ll have it for quant problems on test day – ignore this tool as you practice the quantitative section!!

•The user interface takes a few quizzes to get used to; you’ll need to name each problem set that you begin (so think about meaningful names to keep yourself organized) so that you can review them later. Importantly, the diagnostic quizzes do not save once you’ve left the review screen, so when you take a diagnostic quiz make sure that you review it thoroughly before you click away!

•The online access is good for six months from activation, whereas the book lasts just about forever. Keep this in mind when you activate – the clock is ticking…

Overall Review

As always, the Official Guide for GMAT Review series remains the best destination for officially-produced practice problems and belongs on the bookshelves and in the backpacks of virtually all serious GMAT students. And GMAC continues to evolve into newer, more user-friendly ways of delivering practice problems, helping students to better simulate the test-day experience. The online tool is launching with a few little hiccups that will surely be cleaned up soon – among standardized tests GMAC has to rank as one of the most student-friendly and open-to-feedback – and should prove a useful resource. As we’ve said, the biggest “negative” to the new suite of OG books is that you won’t find any new problems, so if you’re currently studying with the “old” versions (13th overall, 2nd of subject-specific) don’t feel the need to rush out and buy the new ones. But if you’re ready to begin your Official Guide journey, the Official Guide 2015 series is an invaluable study tool.

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By Brian Galvin