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Jul 17 2014

Review of the 2015 GMAT Official Guides

2015 GMAT Official Guides

2015 GMAT Official Guides

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) released new editions of all three GMAT Official Guides last week. To our dismay, the new editions are almost 100% identical to the editions that they replaced. Other than some very minor wording changes and corrections, the content and questions are the same. This breaks with GMAC’s history of changing 20-30% of the questions for each question type with a new edition of an Official Guide.

The GMAC announced that it will now release new versions of the Official Guides annually. We certainly hope that subsequent editions will revert to the practice of introducing new questions. Otherwise we see no purpose in this move, other than to boost revenue by suppressing the used book market for the Official Guides (and making GMAT instructors buy new copies every year).

Specific Changes in the 2015 GMAT Official Guides

Let’s list the specific changes made from the 13th edition of the main Official Guide, along with some comments:

  • The color used for contrasting text has been changed to a very-hard-to-read lime green. We hope that, in a subsequent release, the GMAC will instead use the readable blue contrasting color that is in the Quantitative and Verbal Official Guides.
  • Page 6 briefly describes the supplementary online videos and practice question tools that are available with the new Official Guides. Pages 4 of the Verbal and Quantitative guides have a similar paragraph. More on the online tools later.
  • Data Sufficiency question #47 (page 279) corrects two minor typos (lack of subscript) in the original printing of the 13th edition, but that were corrected in subsequent printings of that edition.
  • The explanation for Sentence Correction question #77 (page 741) expands significantly on incorrect answer A on slightly on correct answer D.
  • Appendix B – Answer Sheets: Rather than listing the answer sheet for each question type on a separate page (as in the 13th edition), the GMAC now condenses the answer sheets to run continuously. This is admittedly a relatively unimportant section of the Official Guide. But this decision (which saves one printed page of space) degrades the utility of the Answer Sheets.

Appendix A – Percentile Ranking Tables have been updated in all three Official Guides. Perhaps due to printing lead times, the data in these tables are as of July 2013 and are already outdated. You can find the latest percentile tables, released in July 2014, here.

Typos and Incorrect Information

Surprisingly, all three Official Guides contain typos / incorrect information in the first and second chapters. The Official Guide do not reflect current information about Integrated Reasoning. The Official Guides also reference retired editions of the Official Guides. Finally, the timeframe references to the percentile tables have not been updated in all three books. Some simple proofreading should have caught these errors:

  • Main Official Guide – last sentence of page 12: “A score scale for Integrated Reasoning will be available by April 2012 on mba.com.” In fact, a score scale has long since been readily available: IR is scored on a scale from 1 to 8.
  • Main Official Guide – first sentence of page 13: “Appendix A contains the 2011 percentile ranking tables that explain the distribution of GMAT scaled scores across all GMAT test-takers during the period beginning July 2008 and ending June 2011.” Appendix A actually contains the 2013 tables, presumably with data from July 2010 through June 2013.
  • Quantitative and Verbal Official Guides – second sentence of section 1.2 on page 6: “You start the test with two 30-minute Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) questions …” In reality, one of the AWA essays was replaced with the Integrated Reasoning section in June 2012.
  • Quantitative and Verbal Official Guides – last sentence on page 9: “Appendix A contains the 2007 percentile ranking tables that explain how your GMAT scores compare with scores of other 2007 GMAT test takers.” Appendix A actually contains the 2013 tables.
  • Quantitative and Verbal Official Guides – section 1.9 on page 10 makes three references to the Analysis of an Issue essay that was eliminated from the GMAT in June 2012.
  • Quantitative and Verbal Official Guides – first sentence on page 13 AND first sentence on page 14 suggest that you use the long-since retired 12th Edition of the Official Guide, plus the just retired 2nd Edition of the Quantitative / Verbal guides.

Bottom Line

As mentioned before, the 2015 Official Guides have one important added benefit – online study access. In addition to the 50 online Integrated Reasoning practice questions that were also available with the 13th Edition book, you can now take online practice question sets with the same questions available in the Official Guides. The functionality available is inferior to that available in GMATPrep, but it is a new feature nonetheless. We’ll offer a review of the online tools in our next blog post.

Although the new 2015 GMAT Official Guides are a disappointment, the GMAT Official Guides nonetheless continue to be an incredibly valuable study tool. If you already have the prior versions, there is no need to purchase the new versions. But if you do not yet have the Official Guides, definitely buy these books. Since there is no overlap in practice questions, we recommend that you use all three Official Guides. The Official Guides are the only source for retired real GMAT practice questions, which are essential for effective GMAT preparation.