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What the new GMAC 2016 Official Guide IS and ISN’T
**Note: I will NOT be discussing any individual questions from this new book. Doing so would cheat YOU, the reader, out of experiencing those questions “fresh.” On Test Day, you have to be prepared to deal with any GMAT concept at any time in each section, so knowing anything beyond the obvious (it’s Geometry because I can see a picture of a circle; it’s an Assumption question because the prompt asks for the ‘assumption’) would diminish the process that you have to go through to answer the question.**
You probably already know that the various GMAC resources (in print and online) are the best sources for realistic practice questions. Some combination of those resources should be a part of EVERY GMAT Test Taker’s study plan. While no one resource (or set of resources) can guarantee a score result, using credible resources can help you to train effectively. However, you have to also realize what GMAC is willing to give you and what GMAC is NOT willing to give you….
First, the GMAC Official Guide gives you a broad sampling of the types of questions, content and logic that you’ll see when you take the Official GMAT. Knowing what to focus on in your studies is important, and this book helps a great deal in defining the content that you will need to know for Test Day. It will NOT show you every variation on a concept and it will NOT show you any ‘active’ questions (since that would be unfair). To score at a high level, you have to look beyond individual questions and learn the concepts, patterns and logic. This is meant to say that if you answer a question once, you probably have NOT learned everything there is to know about the concepts involved. Re-doing questions using different approaches is one of the most direct ways to build up your skills. That work might sound tedious, but there’s a reason why the 700+ score represents the 90th percentile – 90% of Test Takers either CAN’T or WON’T do what it takes to score at that level…. Are you willing to learn other ways to approach questions and then re-do questions…? How badly do you want that 700+ score...?
Second, the Content Review sections and Explanations provided by the book tend to be ‘technical’ in nature. This is the ‘standard’ in most education-based texts (which is fine), but this type of presentation is also limited. It almost always ignores tactics that can be used, pattern-matching that can make answering the question easier and other ‘secrets’ to how the writers create the questions that you’ll see on Test Day. The given explanation is often NOT efficient either. In most cases, you’ll learn one way to answer each question – the way that GMAC decides to teach you. GMAC has NO interest in turning everyone into a 700+ Test Taker. If most Test Takers scored 700+, then that upper-level score would become relatively meaningless.
Third, there is a ‘functional issue’ with ALL books (not just the Official Guide). No book can ever properly simulate what you’ll experience taking a Computer-Adaptive Test for 4+ hours on Test Day. Beyond the obvious issues with books (questions ‘grouped together’, the general increase in question difficulty through each section, etc.), a book simply won’t “wear you down” the way that working on a computer will. I often hear from “book-studiers” who do really well on quizzes, but perform terribly on their CATs. Getting 15/15 SCs correct in a book is great, but you won’t see any SCs on Test Day until almost 3 HOURS into the Exam, after you’ve already been working hard and you’re starting to tire out (and those 15 SCs WILL NOT be in row, which means you’ll have to periodically “switch out” of CR or RC “mode” to tackle SCs). Working primarily with computer-based resources that will teach you tactics, combined with Official materials (such as the OG 2016) is a better overall method for preparing to face Test Day than just working solely out of a set of books.
Ultimately, the Official Guide is a great resource; at least one version of it should be included in your studies. If you have the GMAT2015 (or the OG13, they’re the same book), then you don’t necessarily need the GMAT2016. However, the marginal cost of buying that new book ($30 or so, in most cases) is rather low relative to the price of taking the GMAT ($250) and the added value of having those new practice questions. When you consider that the GMAT is often the most important part of one’s application AND a high GMAT score can get you a scholarship in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, spending the extra $30 seems like an obvious decision.
GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,