What Is the Best Book for GMAT Preparation?

by Dr. Amar, Founder of Austin GMAT Review
November 25, 2020

People just starting their GMAT preparation often ask me what book I most recommend. With all the books on the market, and all the marketing hype, I understand why people are confused. I suspect that they hope there’s a confidential manual used by the Secret League of GMAT Gurus (SLOGG), and I’ll break the SLOGG Code of Silence. Well, there’s no need for secrecy: The Official Guide for GMAT Review is the best book for your GMAT preparation. I’ll even go a step further – if you value your time, don’t waste it on other books.

I use The Official Guide for GMAT Review ("Official Guide" or "OG" to those in the know) as the main reference book for Austin GMAT Review’s GMAT course. However, the book is not perfect. Read on for my overall assessment.

The Official Guide’s GMAT practice questions will point you in the right direction for your studies.

It may be tempting to accept the thick stack of second-hand GMAT prep books that your friend wants to give you for free, but just say no. Stick with the Official Guide.

Why is Official Guide the best GMAT prep book? Simple: It provides over 900 questions from past GMAT tests. The questions cover all areas of the GMAT and provide tremendous insight into what the GMAT is after. For example, based on changes in recent versions, I can see that the GMAT math and reading comprehension questions have ratcheted up in difficulty.

As a source of GMAT practice questions, the Official Guide surpasses any third-party material that I have seen. That is, of course, because the book is authored by GMAC, the makers of the GMAT. Third-party GMAT prep books have difficulty replicating the GMAT questions, which are designed to discover whether you have a thorough understanding of the subject matter (and to catch you if you don’t). Worse, third-party books may steer you into realms of exotic questions whipped up by a mathematician – questions that have nothing to do with the business-oriented knowledge that GMAT is testing.

A third-party GMAT prep book comes with no guarantee of quality control – buyer beware. (More on that in a minute, though.) There is no surefire SLOGG manual, but there are many books out there providing you with questions that range from pretty good to really bad. I strongly recommend that you stick to official GMAC materials.

If you feel that you need exposure to a wider variety of GMAT practice questions, GMAC offers two additional books, The Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review and The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review, each with an additional 300 official GMAT practice questions. When combined with the free GMATPrep software on mba.com, which offers 90 practice questions and two full practice tests, you will have more than enough materials from which to practice.

So, yes, I recommend the Official Guide as the best book for GMAT preparation – but it still falls short of ideal instruction. Here are three reasons why I recommend that you also seek out a really great teacher from SLOGG.

The book’s answer explanations could be better.

Oh, OG. The authors of the best GMAT prep book (the same people who created the GMAT exam itself) seem oblivious to the fact that the test-taker must answer each question within two minutes – the average time per question allowed by the GMAT.

The Official Guide’s answer explanations are not incorrect, but they do not provide methods that would allow you to quickly work out solutions. For some math equations, an explanation reads like an English novel, and can take more than five minutes just to read. But you are supposed to solve each problem in two minutes!

You don’t have to be a member of SLOGG to realize that lengthy and potentially confusing answer explanations are a shortcoming of a GMAT prep book. If only there were better ways to tackle those problems – well, actually there are. Here is where a GMAT guru (or a reputable teacher) can assist you.

To anyone in the early stages of GMAT preparation, the book’s diagnostic test might seem more demoralizing than helpful.

If you just started GMAT preparation, I recommend skipping the diagnostic test at the beginning of this book. The questions are tough, and the results may leave you feeling discouraged. Try the diagnostic test after you have started reviewing the book’s 700+ questions, and perhaps after you have taken a GMAT class.

“But wait!” you say. “Isn’t there a new Official Guide every year? Have those versions fixed past problems?”

Not exactly, and not always. For example, the OG 2017 was published and almost immediately retracted by the publisher, Wiley, and GMAC as several errors were found, and an errata list and replacement for Chapter 4 was issued. A new version of the book was shipped in the fall of 2016.

Unperturbed, I have continued to teach my GMAT classes from the OG. Although it’s good to have new GMAT questions, the best preparation for the exam comes less from flipping through hundreds of questions, and more from slowing down, understanding the common themes, and learning the most efficient methods of solving problem types. That is not something you can necessarily get from any GMAT prep book.

Final thought: Any GMAT prep book will fall short if you’re not clear on all the concepts that GMAT tests.

Use the Official Guide as an excellent source of GMAT questions, and practice taking the test with the free software that GMAC provides. However, if you’re struggling with some concepts, or you can’t seem to break a 700, seek expert help. The best GMAT course will use the OG as its reference book, but provide you better (i.e., simpler and quicker) methods to solve the problems. So, if you’re trying to reach that top GMAT score, SLOGG on! You’ll reach your goal.

Austin GMAT Review is the premier GMAT preparation company in Central Texas, offering structured GMAT courses to professionals preparing to enter full-time MBA or executive MBA programs. Austin GMAT Review caters to busy professionals who don't have the time to sort through masses of generic study materials. Meeting with an experienced professor face-to-face in limited-size GMAT classes, students receive the personalized coaching that they need and strategies to excel on the GMAT.

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