The Official Guide for GMAT Review, 13th Edition: Book Review
A new Official Guide is out! It’s been a while since we’ve had a new edition, so this is definitely something to be excited about. The previous edition was released in the spring of 2009 and here we are, three years later, enjoying a fresh, green OG 13 (an abbreviation you’ll often see in the forums). The big change this time around? The test itself will be changing for the first time in years, with the addition of the new Integrated Reasoning section, which replaces the Analysis of an Issue essay of the Analytical Writing Assessment starting June 2012.
The OG 13 mirrors this, since there’s a new part of the book dedicated to how to tackle Integrated Reasoning. In the back cover of the book you’ll also find a special access code to 50 Integrated Reasoning practice questions on the test makers’ website mba.com. It’s unclear how the new section will be scored, but one thing’s for sure: it won’t count towards that all-important 200 to 800 score you see on MBA programs’ websites, to the relief of many. However, note that the IR section comes before the quant and verbal parts (the ones that do count), so getting tired and/or nervous during the IR section will not do you any good later. That’s why I strongly recommend you practice this new format. As a side note, the new IR questions will look strangely familiar to those who’ve taken aptitude tests for investment banking and consulting recruiting!
The other big news is that the book contains 158 new quant and verbal practice questions, out of a total of 907 questions for the two “main events” of the GMAT (if you’re curious to know exactly what the new questions are, check out this article). Is it worth buying the book for these new questions, if you’re not taking the test after the IR is introduced? In my view, it’s not, so for those who have the OG 12 and have scheduled their test before June 2nd, you’ve got nothing to worry about. In fact, if you compare the changes in OG 13 vs. OG 12 with the changes in the OG 12 vs. OG 11, you’ll realize there are significantly fewer new questions: the OG 12 had 300 new questions as compared to the OG 11, arguably a more dramatic change.
As always, the OG is a must for all test takers. Since official guides are the only books that contain real, retired GMAT questions, they are utterly priceless as resources for practice. Replicating the exact structure and “feel” of real GMAT questions is something that test prep companies have yet to accomplish.
The book is not exactly “travel size,” but this should be regarded as a plus, since it stems from the fact that the book features 907 questions and quite generous answer explanations (particularly in verbal). But here’s a tip for those looking to prep on the go: GMAC (the makers of the test) have released IPhone and Android apps with all the problems in the book for your convenience! The problems are structured as follows:
- 48 Quantitative and 52 Verbal in the Diagnostics Test
- 230 Problem Solving
- 174 Data Sufficiency
- 139 Reading Comprehension
- 124 Critical Reasoning
- 140 Sentence Correction
- A great, all-in-one resource for official questions, excellent for training your eye to spot commonly-tested patterns. This is the reason why I believe that it’s worth investing some energy even in lower difficulty questions (unless pressed for time).
- Detailed explanations in verbal: this is something that I have not seen mentioned often, but I believe is of crucial importance. In all three sections, explanations follow a similar style: an overview of the question and a solid analysis of ALL the answers, not just the correct one. Understanding why your answer is wrong is sometimes even more important than getting it right.
- Questions are arranged in order of difficulty, so if you have little time at hand and feel sufficiently confident about your knowledge, you can just focus on the last questions of each section.
- Good value for your money: at just over 20 dollars on Amazon.com, getting over 900 retired questions is a bargain.
- The OG is not a strategy guide, it’s a “workout list.” Each section contains a review of the subject, but this is not nearly enough to get you through the test, especially if your math skills are a bit rusty. You will need to rely on other resources for concepts!
- While verbal explanations are generally high quality, quantitative explanations are not as great. Some test takers (particularly advanced ones) will often find themselves opting for a quicker or easier way to solve the given problems. I will however note that more often than not, the OG explanations do not feature number picking. While this is sometimes a faster way to solve a problem, its use is confusing for some GMAT hopefuls.
- This book is intended to be a guide for the general test taker, so be prepared to see mostly easy and medium difficulty problems. If aiming for a top score, you’ll need to supplement your prep with harder material (such as LSAT sets for critical reasoning). As mentioned before though, do not neglect the easy stuff, since it gets you in the right mindset for the official style of questions. Besides, it’s usually the very easy questions that throw off advanced students!
The Official Guide 13th is a must have, no matter your level. Even though you will have to spend some extra money on a good strategy book, getting the OG is crucial for your prep. As you go through various GMAT-related material, you will begin to notice the difference between an official question (clear-cut answers, great structure) and an unofficial question (structure is sometimes lacking, answers not as well defined). Because the “feel” of official questions is markedly different from that of test prep developed questions, I recommend saving/carefully reviewing some problems for the very last days before your test.