Expert Review: GMAT for Dummies

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There are so many GMAT prep resources out there that it’s hard to pick the best ones. What’s more, even a well-written GMAT prep resource may not be right for your specific needs.

In this article, I’ll walk you through what to look for in GMAT prep materials and give you an in-depth review of GMAT for Dummies 6th Edition, including its biggest pros and cons, who should use it, and how to best incorporate it into your overall GMAT prep.


What Makes a Good GMAT Prep Book?

Before we get into the specifics of our GMAT for Dummies review, it’s important to know the basics of what makes a GMAT prep resource worth your time. Your study time is valuable, and you never want to waste it with subpar practice materials. Let’s go over the main traits to look for when you’re selecting GMAT prep materials.


#1: Realistic, High-Quality Practice Questions

The practice questions in tests, drills, and quizzes in your chosen prep materials should be as close to what you’ll see on the GMAT as possible in terms of tone, content, length, and difficulty. This might seem obvious, but many prep materials skew towards easier or more difficult practice questions, and it’s important to know that before you invest in a resource.

It’s also best if the practice questions are organized by difficulty and specific content area, so you can choose which ones to target based on your specific needs and current skill level.


#2: Full-Length Practice Tests

Any GMAT prep book worth its salt will include full-length practice tests to help you build knowledge of the test, familiarity with its content and format, and stamina, as the test itself takes about three and a half hours.

In particular, the practice tests should be computerized adaptive tests (CATs). The GMAT is a CAT, meaning it is entirely computer-based and uses an algorithm to adapt to your skill level in real time as you take the exam. Many practice materials include one paper-based test within the book itself, as well as multiple tests in CAT format on either an accompanying disc or a companion website.


#3: Helpful Test-Taking Strategies

Succeeding on the GMAT requires not only skill and knowledge, but strategy. A helpful GMAT prep resource will include relevant test-taking strategies to deal with common obstacles like timing, guessing, following the process of elimination, and anxiety. You should look in particular for tips that are specifically relevant to the GMAT, rather than generic.

It’s also best if a wide variety of test-taking strategies are included, so you can pick and choose the ones that work best for you.


#4: Clear, Relevant Content Review

To do well on the GMAT, you need a firm grasp of some fundamental math and grammar concepts. You also need to know exactly how those subject areas will crop up on the GMAT, as they’re tested in similar ways on every GMAT.

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To this end, a high-quality GMAT prep resource will include a solid math and grammar review, showing you not only the skills you’ll need to brush up on or develop, but how they’ll be tested on the exam. Bonus points if the book works through multiple specific examples of each one.


#5: Guidance on Structuring Your Studying

The best GMAT practice materials will be detailed and in-depth enough to break down each question type and thus allow you to identify and target your own strengths and weaknesses. Some practice materials will give a brief overview of each question type or tell you what kinds of “trap answers” you might see in the answer choices, but don’t provide step-by-strategies to tackle or avoid those potential pitfalls.

Others include drills and practice tests, but the answer explanations are not in-depth enough for you to see exactly where your thinking fell through or where you made a careless mistake. A high-quality GMAT prep resource will help you pinpoint exactly where you’re going wrong and how to avoid that issue in the future.


Structuring and planning your studying are significant to improving your GMAT score.
Structuring and planning your studying are significant to improving your GMAT score.


GMAT for Dummies Review: The Basics

GMAT for Dummies 6th Edition, released in 2013, offers an in-depth overview of the GMAT, including each section and question type. It’s a bear of a book, reaching nearly 350 pages.

It’s available on Kindle with access to a companion website for $18.66 and in print with an accompanying CD for around $20 on Amazon.

After the initial overview of the exam and a guide to how the GMAT is scored and how to register, GMAT for Dummies 6th Edition focuses heavily on test-taking strategies, including methods to help you work on your timing, process of elimination, and guessing, and provides ways to tackle each question type.

GMAT for Dummies also features mini-tests after each section, with a walkthrough and full breakdown of each sample question.

The book closes with tips on getting into MBA programs and using the GMAT to your advantage in MBA admissions.

GMAT for Dummies is accompanied by a CD that includes five computerized adaptive practice tests. If you buy the Kindle version, you’ll get access to a companion website with the same materials.


GMAT for Dummies boasts tips on how to get into your MBA program of choice.
GMAT for Dummies boasts tips on how to get into your MBA program of choice.


GMAT for Dummies Review: Pros

Every GMAT prep resource has particular strengths and weaknesses. Let’s go over the pros and cons of using GMAT for Dummies as one of your GMAT prep materials.

By far the biggest strength of GMAT for Dummies 6th Edition is its comprehensive overview of each GMAT section. It goes into more detail on what you’ll see on the exam than the vast majority of prep materials.

Similarly, the book’s accessible tone makes even an in-depth overview of this difficult standardized test easy to comprehend. GMAT for Dummies is user-friendly and not overly dense or complicated, making it easy to read in small pieces so you can digest it over time and really get a sense of the exam.

GMAT for Dummies focuses heavily on strategy, particularly specific ways to tackle each question type. After teaching you how to recognize each question type through various examples, the book walks you through a step-by-step, methodical approach to every category of question type. This feature makes it ideal if you aren’t sure exactly what a certain kind of GMAT question is asking you, or how you would begin to approach it.

GMAT for Dummies is also noteworthy for its more general GMAT test-taking strategies on guessing, timing, and dealing with testing anxiety. Like its question-specific strategies, these are methodical and step-by-step rather than generic, broad-based tips, so you can take an action-based approach to the GMAT.

In terms of section-specific strengths, GMAT for Dummies contains one of the most useful integrated reasoning overviews and strategy guides available, with methodical, step-by-step approaches to each question type. Many GMAT prep resources are weaker in this area because the integrated reasoning section was added more recently than the others, so prep companies have had less time to get to know the section in depth.

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For those who struggle with the quant section, GMAT for Dummies also contains an especially in-depth math review, with examples not only of GMAT practice quant sections but of specific fundamental math skills that will be tested on the exam as well. The mini-tests after each section will help you review the skills you just brushed up on.

GMAT for Dummies also offers several sample AWA (analytical writing assessment) essays, which will help ground you in concrete examples and compare your own essays to the samples provided. This is a unique resource, as most practice materials provide strategies for succeeding on the AWA section, but not specific examples.

Finally, in terms of overall content and value, with five full-length computerized adaptive tests and many other practice questions throughout the book, GMAT for Dummies gives you a lot of bang for your buck, especially alongside such an in-depth content review and strategy guide.


GMAT for Dummies contains sample GMAT essays to help you approach the analytical writing assessment.
GMAT for Dummies contains sample GMAT essays to help you approach the analytical writing assessment.


GMAT for Dummies Review: Cons

GMAT for Dummies’ biggest weakness is that the practice questions given in both the online materials and the book itself stay solidly in the easy and medium ranges of difficulty. There aren’t too many very difficult questions here, so if you’re already scoring very highly, it won’t be as helpful to you as other resources.

Also, while GMAT for Dummies does include a GMAT grammar review, it’s far less detailed than the math review. So if you struggle with the verbal section, this book may be the best option for you.

Finally, GMAT for Dummies hasn’t been updated yet to reflect the 2017 changes to the GMAT. Check out our guide to selecting the section order that works for you to find out more.

Is GMAT for Dummies Right for You?

Overall, GMAT for Dummies is better for “prep” (learning the format, developing strategies, and reviewing the content) than for practice. By that, I mean it’s a very helpful resource for those starting out in their prep, especially those who need to learn the format of the exam and who work well with methodical, organized, step-by-step strategies.

There’s no question that it contains more in-depth strategies and breakdowns of question types than other books. It’s also an especially good resource if you need a comprehensive math content review.

GMAT for Dummies is best for low-to-mid-range scorers or those just starting out in their prep. It’s not going to be as helpful if you are already scoring very highly and are looking to bump your score up above 700 or 750 with some extra practice or drills.


How to Use GMAT for Dummies

GMAT for Dummies 6th Edition is best used to learn the GMAT format at the beginning of your prep. It’s a good option to use alongside the full-length practice tests in the Official GMAT Prep Software as a kickoff to your overall prep.

You can also use this book to get to know the computerized adaptive format in more depth, as it has a more detailed overview of CAT format than any other practice resource. The specific strategies aimed at each question type will help you develop and experiment with the strategies that work best for you. The many note-taking tips throughout the text will also help you know how to use the scratch pad to your advantage on the day of the exam.

Once you’ve used GMAT for Dummies, you might want to move on to more challenging resources that feature more difficult practice questions, such as Manhattan Prep’s Strategy Guides or Advanced Quant materials. This is especially true if you’re a high scorer looking to bump up those last few points.

Finally, you can use GMAT for Dummies if you’re looking for tips on how to get into an MBA program or to understand more about how your GMAT score fits into the overall picture of MBA admissions.


You can use GMAT for Dummies to learn the ins and outs of the computerized adaptive format.
You can use GMAT for Dummies to learn the ins and outs of the computerized adaptive format.


What’s Next?

Want to work on the underlying fundamental skills you’ll need to do well on the GMAT? Khan Academy can help in three major ways.

Looking for other GMAT prep books? Check out our review of Cracking the GMAT.

Ready for a GMAT diagnostic test? Find the best ones, along with other high-quality prep materials, here.

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Author: Laura Dorwart

Laura Dorwart is a Ph.D. student at UC San Diego. She has taught and tutored hundreds of students in standardized testing, literature, and writing.

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