How to Study With the GMAT Official Guide 2019: Full Review

There are dozens of GMAT prep options out there, but none as important as The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2019. After all, it does have the word “official” in it’s title.

But what’s the deal with the official GMAT guide? Should every test taker get one? Read on to find out what’s in the book, what it’s best and worst features are, and how to get the most out of it in your prep.


What’s in the GMAT Official Guide?

So, what’s even included the GMAT official guide (or GMAT OG)? Well, quite a lot.

The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2019 includes 900 practice questions of all levels with answers and explanations, practice essay topics, and a diagnostic test, which helps you focus your practice.

The GMAT OG also includes a dedicated Integrated Reasoning chapter to build your IR knowledge and grammar and math review sections that cover concepts tested on the GMAT. While the review sections are nice to have, the guide’s real value lies in its plethora of official GMAT practice questions.

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Pros of the GMAT Official Guide

Nearly every GMAT test prep company and private tutor recommend you purchase the GMAT Official Guide as part of your GMAT review. Why? Here’s a look at some of the guide’s pros.


#1: It Contains Real GMAT Questions Retired From Past Tests

Having access to real GMAT questions is an invaluable resource. It’s important to study realistic practice questions as much as possible because these questions help you recognize the format and content tested on the actual GMAT. While unofficial guides try to build realistic questions, nothing is as accurate as retired questions themselves.


#2: The Practice Questions Follow Actual GMAT Test Patterns

Similarly, the practice questions and the practice tests, follow the GMAT test patterns. Because the Official GMAT Guide is written by GMAC, you’ll get an accurate breakdown of the types of questions and content tested.


#3: You Have the Ability to Build Online Question Banks

You have the ability to build online practice question banks with your purchase of this guide. This ability helps you target your practice, especially if you’ve used the diagnostic test to figure out the areas that you need the most work on. All of the questions that are available in the Official Guide for GMAT in print are also available online, meaning you can access 900 practice questions from your computer.


#4: The Online Practice Bank Has New Features That Make Practice Easier and More Effective

The online question bank is set to a default “Exam Mode,” which is a very close simulation of what the test will actually be like. In this mode, you can’t skip questions, which ensures you’ll practice questions at different difficulty levels. The online practice bank also shows you how many questions of each difficulty level (easy, medium, and hard) you’ve answered or not answered.


#5: It Contains an Overview of the Integrated Reasoning Section

The Integrated Reasoning section is the newest section on the GMAT, and, as such, isn’t covered in a lot of depth in many places. The GMAT OG offers one of the most in-depth looks into the section itself, as well as real IR questions.




Cons of the GMAT Official Guide

Although The Official Guide for GMAT Review can be an incredibly helpful resource, it does have some drawbacks.


#1: The Grammar and Math Review Are Not That Comprehensive

The grammar review only really scratches the surface of concepts tested on the GMAT. The math review covers more, but doesn’t go into the depth you need to truly learn all of the content on the GMAT, especially if you’re looking to build a strong content foundation. I’d recommend supplementing the official guide with section specific strategy guides, such as those from Manhattan Prep or Veritas Prep.


#2: The Answer Explanations Can Be Confusing and Unhelpful

While the Official Guide for GMAT does include several strategies for test day, this book is mainly valuable for its official test questions. While all of the answers do have explanations, most GMAT test takers will find that they’re unsatisfied with just answer explanations and need more substantive review. Similarly, some of the answers can be confusing and unclear, which may cause frustration or prevent you from learning the underlying content tested in the question.


What Do Readers Think of The GMAT Official Guide?

Despite its flaws, most readers think that the official guide is extremely important to have. It has an average rating of 4+ stars on Amazon, and virtually all experts agree that it’s important to get. Most cite the realistic practice questions as the guide’s most useful feature.

The main complaints with the guide are that the question difficulty is a bit too easy, and there are few errors that make some of the questions unsolvable (most of these have been fixed in the corrected version).


Is The GMAT Official Guide Right For You?

I would recommend that almost every test taker purchase the Official Guide for GMAT Review. The sheer volume of actual GMAT questions you get makes the guide worth every penny.

However, if you have purchased an older version of the guide (e.g., the 2018 or 2017 editions), you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy the new one. Out of the 1,500+ total questions offered in this guide, only 220 are new. In total, about 15% of the guide is brand-new, never-before-seen GMAT content, so it’s a nice addition but not a vital upgrade.




Tips For Getting The Most Out of The GMAT Official Guide

So, if you’re buying the Official Guide for GMAT Review, how do you make the most out of it? Consider these tips as you’re thinking about the structure of your GMAT review.


#1: Supplement With Other Books

If you’re purchasing this guide and want to do a more comprehensive review, you’ll likely have to supplement it with other texts. Consider adding the dedicated books on the Verbal section and Quantitative sections from Manhattan Prep for more general overviews of the test. If you’re looking to really boost your performance, check out the Advanced Quantitative Guide we recommend in our Best GMAT Books 2017.


#2: Make Use of the Practice Tests and Questions

Try to do as many as practice tests and questions as possible during your GMAT review. These are going to help you develop the skills and familiarity with the test you need to do well on test day.


#3: Try to Simulate Test Day During Practice Tests

When taking a practice test with the Official GMAT Guide, try to simulate test day conditions as much as possible. Simulating test day means taking the test in a quiet environment, in one sitting, and with few interruptions. Doing so helps you ensure that your getting an accurate result.


What’s Next?

Want to supplement your GMAT Official Guide with other books? Check out other GMAT book options with our guide to the best GMAT books.

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Alternatively, learn about options for studying on the computer with our guide to the best GMAT online prep.

Think about pairing your GMAT Official Guide with the Manhattan Strategy Guide Set. Check out our review to learn more.

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Author: Hayley Milliman

Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.