Unofficial Guide to the Official Guide – Part 1
November 20, 2009
The GMAC Official Guide is a fantastic book. (So fantastic, that when students enroll in a Kaplan GMAT course, we buy a copy for them!) While the book is stuffed full of good questions, make sure that you use it appropriately. Case in point: The GMAC does not indicate the relative ‘toughness’ of a particular question. Therefore, realize that if you are looking to score 600 + on Test Day, you will have to supplement your studying with additional material. The following outlines strategies on how to use the Official Guide for the following sections:
1 – Background of the GMAT (Sections 1,2, and 3)
The GMAT is a different kind of test than you have probably ever taken before. The first three sections of the OG (Kaplan Lingo for the Official Guide) provide the background a new test taker needs. We suggest to really memorize sections 1 and 2. Knowing what the GMAC says about the test will help put the rest of the content and strategies into a framework.
Section 3 is a diagnostic test. This is a really great way to jump into the content of the GMAT. I would advise you to not focus on the timing considerations at this point. Set a couple hours aside and work through each of the question sets. The diagnostic test is divided by question type (Problem Solving vs. Data Sufficiency) – don’t let this trick you! The real GMAT is not clearly subdivided!
Finally, make sure you go over the explanations after the section. Knowing why a question is wrong is a lot better then just knowing that a question is wrong – working through your right and wrong answers is really the beginning of your GMAT preparation!
2 – Math Review (Section 4)
OK. So you just finished a diagnostic test. You have reviewed your questions and have learned about the test. Hopefully, the quantitative section wasn’t awful. However, no matter who you are, you probably found at least a couple of the concepts difficult.
Section 4 of the OG outlines the math that you will need to know for the GMAT. While the OG does not go into extreme detail, it is very important for test takers to know what is being tested on Test Day. I would advise testers to review this material and make sure they are comfortable with each of these concepts. However, also realize that the test focuses on a couple of the concepts far more than other concepts. The Kaplan course helps to distinguish where students should focus their energies – the OG basically introduces the concepts.
3 – Content Structure (Sections 5 – 9)
Sections 5 through 9 are the heavy content sections. The GMAT views the test through a prism of question types (Kaplan views the test differently – we view it through a prism of competencies since a competency can be tested through several different question types. This makes learning the GMAT that much easier when you can see there are only a few things test takers truly must know.) Since the OG is a GMAC book and not a Kaplan Book, you will be looking at the questions by individual question type.
Each of these content areas contain a great deal of questions as well as instructions on answering the questions. Use these questions to refine and develop your test taking ability. At the very least, before you take the real GMAT, make sure you have cleaned out all of these questions and reviewed the explanations.
4 – Analytical Writing Assessment (Section 10)
Finally, the last section of the book deals with the Analytical Writing Assessment (or AWA). Please read this section in detail to understand explicitly what the GMAT wants you to write. They are pretty clear about the structure. If you are concerned about the AWA section (the score is looked at!), make sure you practice with the sample prompts in the book. Additionally, the book outlines some suggested scores for sample essays. Before reading the samples, set a timer for 30 minutes and try to write the sample yourself. Comparing your essay to the sample ones in the book will give you a decent idea of how your score might stack up.
The OG is a great resource. It’s an essential piece of any GMAT preparation program. In a later post, I’ll talk more about how the OG differs from other resources and how you can study specific question types from past actual GMATs.