Nova’s GMAT Prep Math Course (Book Review):
The Nova Review is Finally Here!
A lot of students have been asking Magoosh’s experts for their opinion of Nova’s GMAT Math Prep Course. I purchased this book so I could take a closer look at it and give it the full review it deserves.
The verdict? This is a potential source of extra GMAT math practice for serious students. But Nova’s GMAT Math Prep Course also has some serious downsides you should be aware of before you decide to buy it.
The Pros of Using this Book
We’ll start with the advantages of this book.
When the advice and tutorials are good, they are really good. One thing I especially like is the fact that this book devotes an entire chapter to practice with graphs, charts, and tables. I’ve had so many students ask me for a good collection of infographic-based GMAT-quant practice. And with Nova, I’ve finally found one. Students will also really appreciate the detailed answer explanations, which show multiple alternate ways to tackle problems. A number of other very helpful tutorials await readers in the pages of Nova’s GMAT Math Prep course.
The practice questions also cover a very GMAT-like range of concepts. And most of the practice questions are close–if not perfectly matched–to what you’d see on test day.
The Cons of Using Nova for GMAT Math Practice
When advice or material is “off,” it’s way off. For example, this book tells you that the first five questions in the GMAT Quant section are especially important to your score and that you need to take extra time on them. This is a myth that the makers of the test have repeatedly tried to debunk. Nova also says that defined function problems (where a special symbol is a stand-in for a math operation) are common on the GMAT. This is debatable at best. More glaringly, the advice in the “Elimination Strategies” chapter is pretty much all incorrect. Do not eliminate an answer that repeats a number from the problem, or eliminate an answer that says there is not enough information… and really, do not follow any advice from that section of Nova’s GMAT Prep math course.
Editing and organization leave a lot to be desired here as well. The book is riddled with typos, especially in the math notations. This can make some practice problems confusing. Moreover, the assigned difficulty levels for the problems are off. You’ll find some surprisingly hard problems labelled as easy, and some easy problems inexplicably categorized as “very hard.” Problems are miscategorized in other ways as well. There’s a factorial problem in the function notation practice set, to give just one example.
Another issue is that question quality is less than perfect. Certain practice problems do not follow GMAT conventions. The wording of the problems can be more convoluted than it would be on the GMAT. And sometimes the geometric figures can be blatantly not “to scale.” On the real GMAT, Problem Solving geometry figures will always be to scale, unless otherwise noted. On occasion, you’ll also see answer choices that are very close together in value, while the figures in real GMAT answer choices are more likely to be spaced apart.
Most worryingly, this book deliberately includes a number of problems that would be harder than anything on the GMAT. In the introduction, the book says you need to master harder-than-GMAT problems in order to do well on the test. But in reality, the opposite tends to be true. A focus on any sort of non-GMAT-like problems–too easy or too hard–will be a distraction from preparing for real testing conditions. The overly hard problems and harder-than-average mix of problems in this book can be… well… a problem.
Further Reading and Resources
This book is just one of many possible resources you can use as you reach for your GMAT target score. For a full list of the books and resources Magoosh recommends, be sure to check out our Best GMAT Books and Resources page.