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Jun 19 2015

Review of 2016 GMAT Official Guide

2016 GMAT Official GuideGMAT Genius worked closely with the publishers of the 2016 GMAT Official Guide, upon their request, in the weeks leading up to the release of the book to help improve the online versions of the Official Guides. This gave us an opportunity to thoroughly analyze the 2016 GMAT Official Guide, and we want to share our insights with you. Feel free to read our detailed analysis or to skip down to our conclusions.

Overview of the 2016 GMAT Official Guide

The Official Guides for GMAT Review contain retired real GMAT questions, and are an essential component of your GMAT preparations. The GMAC places questions in order of increasing difficulty, based on its assessment of difficulty. This book has no overlap of practice questions with the Quant and Verbal Official Guides.

Unlike the 2015 edition, which contained no new questions, the 2016 GMAT Official Guide contains 201 new questions out of the 907 total questions. Excluding the 100 questions in the Diagnostic Exam section of the book, the new questions represent 25% new content as promised by the GMAC. These are brand new questions that we have not encountered before; they are not questions recycled from older GMAC resources.

Problem Solving

The 2016 GMAT Official Guide contains 254 Problem Solving questions, including the 24 Problem Solving questions in the Diagnostic Exam portion of the book. Here’s how the GMAC classifies question difficulty into three categories, along with the changes by category from the 2015 edition:

Difficulty Number Change
Easy 63 +18
Medium 60 (41)
Hard 131 +23

The Problem Solving section contains 57 new questions, with difficulty of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 21 / 24 / 12. This is in lieu of 57 questions from the 2015 edition that have been removed, with difficulty of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 12 / 20 / 25. A total of 45 questions have been assigned a different difficulty than they were in the 2015 edition. Specifically, 9 Medium questions have been downgraded to Easy and 36 Medium questions have been upgraded to Hard.

GMAT Genius classifies question difficulty into five categories. Our assessment of this section skews significantly easier, and contains notable differences from the GMAC’s assessment. Our difficulty assessment is only 55.5% correlated with the GMAC’s assessment, demonstrating tremendous subjectivity involved in assessing question difficulty. Here’s our breakdown:

Difficulty Number Change
Super Easy 11 (4)
Easy 71 (3)
Medium 116
Hard 41 +6
Very Hard 15 +1

Although many math questions entail multiple math concepts, GMAT Genius classifies questions based on our assessment of the primary math concept. What stands out most is the increase in statistical average questions. Here’s how we classify the 254 Problem Solving questions by concept, along with the changes from the 2015 edition:

Type Concept Number Change
Arithmetic Basic 6 (1)
Arithmetic Absolute Value 3 (1)
Arithmetic Divisibility 6 (2)
Arithmetic Exponents & Roots 22 +1
Arithmetic Factors & Multiples 10 +1
Arithmetic Fractions 20
Arithmetic Percents 21 +2
Arithmetic Pos/Neg & Odd/Even 2
Arithmetic Primes 4 (1)
Arithmetic Ratios 13 (3)
Algebra Formulas 6 +2
Algebra Inequalities 3 (3)
Algebra Linear Equations 8 (1)
Algebra Quadratics 8
Algebra Simultaneous Equations 8 (3)
Algebra Variables in Answers 5 +1
Geometry 3D 6
Geometry Circles 5 +1
Geometry Coordinate 8
Geometry Rectangles 7 +1
Geometry Triangles 7 +1
Geometry Other 1 (2)
Statistics Averages 18 +4
Statistics Other 4
Word Problems Combinatorics 6 +1
Word Problems Functions & Sequences 11 +2
Word Problems Groups / Sets 8
Word Problems Interest 4 +1
Word Problems Mixture 0 (1)
Word Problems Probability 8
Word Problems Revenue & Profit 4 +1
Word Problems Rate & Work 12 (1)

Here’s a list of the 57 new Problem Solving questions: 1, 2, 3, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 21, 25, 27, 30, 31, 33, 38, 39, 43, 44, 45, 55, 56, 57, 59, 60, 61, 63, 66 to 70, 73, 76, 82, 83, 85 to 89, 91, 97, 99, 107, 108, 111, 114, 117, 122, 125, 134, 136, 137, 139, 142, 153

Data Sufficiency

The 2016 GMAT Official Guide contains 198 Data Sufficiency questions, including the 24 Data Sufficiency questions in the Diagnostic Exam portion of the book. Here’s how the GMAC classifies question difficulty into three categories, along with the changes by category from the 2015 edition:

Difficulty Number Change
Easy 46 +14
Medium 41 (30)
Hard 111 +16

The Data Sufficiency section contains 44 new questions, with difficulty of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 17 / 12 / 15. This is in lieu of 44 questions from the 2015 edition that have been removed, with difficulty of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 10 / 11 / 23. A total of 31 questions have been assigned a different difficulty than they were in the 2015 edition. Specifically, 7 Medium questions have been downgraded to Easy and 24 Medium questions have been upgraded to Hard.

GMAT Genius classifies question difficulty into five categories. Our assessment skews significantly easier, and contains notable differences from the GMAC’s assessment. Our difficulty assessment is only 56.4% correlated with the GMAC’s assessment, demonstrating tremendous subjectivity involved in assessing question difficulty. Here’s our breakdown:

Difficulty Number Change
Super Easy 8
Easy 49 +2
Medium 95 (8)
Hard 40 +7
Very Hard 6 (1)

Although many math questions entail multiple math concepts, GMAT Genius classifies questions based on our assessment of the primary math concept. What stands out most is the decrease in simultaneous equation questions. Here’s how we classify the 198 Data Sufficiency questions by concept, along with the changes from the 2015 edition:

Type Concept Number Change
Arithmetic Basic 10 (3)
Arithmetic Absolute Value 0 (1)
Arithmetic Divisibility 5
Arithmetic Exponents & Roots 12 +2
Arithmetic Factors & Multiples 3
Arithmetic Fractions & Ratios 11 (2)
Arithmetic Odd/Even 6 (1)
Arithmetic Percents 15 +4
Arithmetic Positive/Negative 6 +1
Algebra Inequalities 11 +1
Algebra Linear Equations 9 +1
Algebra Quadratics 6
Algebra Simultaneous Equations 10 (7)
Geometry Circles 7
Geometry Coordinate 7 +2
Geometry Rectangles 4 +2
Geometry Triangles 8 (2)
Geometry Other 5 +1
Statistics Averages 14 (1)
Statistics Other 10 +2
Word Problems Functions & Sequences 5
Word Problems Groups / Sets 12 +1
Word Problems Interest 4
Word Problems Probability 3
Word Problems Revenue & Profit 7 +1
Word Problems Rate & Work 8 (1)

Here’s a list of the 44 new Data Sufficiency questions: 7, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18 to 21, 23, 26, 27, 29, 34, 37 to 41, 46, 48, 49, 51, 54, 55, 60, 64, 67, 73, 77, 80, 83, 84, 86, 92, 94, 115, 121, 134 to 137, 150

Sentence Correction

The 2016 GMAT Official Guide contains 158 Sentence Correction questions, including the 18 Sentence Correction questions in the Diagnostic Exam portion of the book. Here’s how the GMAC classifies question difficulty into three categories, along with the changes by category from the 2015 edition:

Difficulty Number Change
Easy 35 +3
Medium 45 (25)
Hard 78 +22

The Sentence Correction section contains 35 new questions, with difficulty of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 10 / 8 / 17. This is in lieu of 35 questions from the 2015 edition that have been removed, with difficulty of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 2 / 16 / 17. A total of 33 questions have been assigned a different difficulty than they were in the 2015 edition, including 23 Medium questions (in the 2015 edition) that have been upgraded to Hard.

GMAT Genius classifies question difficulty into five categories. Our assessment skews noticeably easier, and contains notable differences from the GMAC. Our difficulty assessment is only 56.7% correlated with the GMAC’s assessment, clearly showing that there is subjectivity involved in assessing question difficulty. Here’s our breakdown:

Difficulty Number Change
Super Easy 1 +1
Easy 49 +3
Medium 62 (2)
Hard 39 (3)
Very Hard 7 +1

Although Sentence Correction questions typically entail multiple grammar concepts, GMAT Genius classifies questions based on our assessment of the primary tested concept. Parallel construction clearly stands out as the most prominent category. Here’s how we classify the 158 Sentence Correction questions by concept, along with the changes from the 2015 edition:

Concept Number Change
Verb Agreement 18 +2
Verb Tense 21
Pronoun Ambiguity 11 (1)
Pronoun Agreement 2 (1)
Parallel Construction 48 (2)
Misplaced Modifiers 14 +2
Idioms 8 (3)
Comparison & Quantity 15
Expression & Meaning 21 +3

Here’s a list of the 35 new Sentence Correction questions: 2, 4, 7, 10, 13, 18, 21, 23, 27, 28, 31, 35, 37, 42, 46, 52, 63, 66, 73, 80, 86, 90, 97, 101, 111, 116, 120, 124, 126, 128, 132, 133, 136, 137, 138

Critical Reasoning

The 2016 GMAT Official Guide contains 141 Critical Reasoning questions, including the 17 Critical Reasoning questions in the Diagnostic Exam portion of the book. Here’s how the GMAC classifies question difficulty into three categories, along with the changes by category from the 2015 edition:

Difficulty Number Change
Easy 40 (1)
Medium 45 (6)
Hard 56 +7

The Critical Reasoning section contains 34 new questions, with difficulty of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 7 / 16 / 11. This is in lieu of 34 questions from the 2015 edition that have been removed, with difficulty of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 7 / 14 / 13. A total of 12 questions have been assigned a different difficulty than they were in the 2015 edition, including 10 Medium questions (in the 2015 edition) that have been upgraded to Hard.

GMAT Genius classifies question difficulty into five categories. Our assessment skews slightly easier, but contains notable differences from the GMAC. Our difficulty assessment is 72.8% correlated with the GMAC’s assessment, clearly indicating subjectivity involved in assessing question difficulty. Here’s our breakdown:

Difficulty Number Change
Super Easy 0
Easy 45 +5
Medium 51 (3)
Hard 33 (5)
Very Hard 12 +3

We have grouped the questions based on the question type categorization that GMAT Genius uses for Critical Reasoning. Weaken and Strengthen questions continue to dominate, but Assumption has noticeably increased. Here’s how we classify the 141 Critical Reasoning questions by concept, along with the changes from the 2015 edition:

Concept Number Change
Weaken 25 (2)
Strengthen 25
Assumption 16 +4
Reasoning 8
Conclusion 7 (3)
Explain 18 +1
Evaluate 17 (1)
Boldface 9
Complete the Passage 16 +1

Here’s a list of the 34 new Critical Reasoning questions: 1 to 4, 8, 21, 30, 37, 39, 41, 43, 48, 49, 53, 55, 57, 58, 60, 63, 65, 67, 70, 76, 77, 79, 81, 84, 94, 97, 100, 106, 109, 121, 124

Reading Comprehension

The 2016 GMAT Official Guide contains 156 Reading Comprehension questions across 29 passages, including the 17 Reading Comprehension questions in 3 passages in the Diagnostic Exam portion of the book. Here’s how the GMAC classifies question difficulty into three categories, along with the changes by category from the 2015 edition:

Difficulty Number Change
Easy 54 +24
Medium 65 (15)
Hard 37 (9)

The Reading Comprehension section contains 31 new questions in 6 passages, with difficulty of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 9 / 6 / 16. This is in lieu of 31 questions in 6 passages from the 2015 edition that have been removed, with difficulty of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 3 / 8 / 20. In this edition, the GMAC has downgraded the difficulty level of 23 questions.

GMAT Genius classifies question difficulty into five categories. Whereas the GMAC assigns the same difficulty to all questions for a given passage (except in the Diagnostic Exam section), GMAT Genius assesses the difficulty of each question individually. Our assessment skews slightly harder, but contains notable differences from the GMAC. Our difficulty assessment is only 48.9% correlated with the GMAC’s assessment, in large part due to different difficulty assessment methodologies. Here’s our breakdown:

Difficulty Number Change
Super Easy 5 (2)
Easy 28 +4
Medium 73 (2)
Hard 42
Very Hard 8

We have grouped the questions based on the question type categorization that GMAT Genius uses for Reading Comprehension. Specific Reference and Inference questions continue to dominate, but Specific Reference declined noticeably. Here’s how we classify the 156 Reading Comprehension questions by concept, along with the changes from the 2015 edition:

Concept Number Change
Primary Purpose 24 +1
Author’s Tone 10 +2
Organization 4 +1
Function 20 +4
Specific Reference 60 (8)
Inference 30
Critical Reasoning 8

Here’s a list of the 31 new Reading Comprehension questions: 8 to 10, 42 to 47, 96 to 101, 107 to 112, 130 to 139

Integrated Reasoning

The 2016 GMAT Official Guide provides an 11-page overview of the Integrated Reasoning section, along with online access to 50 Integrated Reasoning practice questions. The IR set includes 12 new questions that we have not seen before, replacing 12 questions that were in the 2015 edition. The 50 questions consist of the following four types:

Question Type Number New Qs
Graphics Interpretation 10 4
Multi-Source Reasoning 18 4
Table Analysis 6 1
Two-Part Analysis 16 3

Here’s a list of the 12 new Integrated Reasoning questions: 12 to 15, 22, 29, 32, 33, 34, 44, 49, 50

Other Notes

The 2016 GMAT Official Guide contains a 40-page Math Review section that provides a very high-level overview of the math concepts tested on the GMAT. This math review will be highly inadequate except perhaps for the most advanced math students. Similarly, the brief introductions to the concepts tested on the verbal section are highly inadequate. We recommend that you use additional study materials to learn the math and verbal concepts.

Although all questions include answer explanations, many GMAT test takers are far from satisfied with these explanations. Math explanations can be brief and hard-to-understand for non-advanced students, and are sometimes convoluted or inefficient. Most GMAT test takers consider the Sentence Correction explanations quite cryptic. The Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension explanations, however, are reasonably good overall.

The book includes an access code that provides 12-month usage of an online version of this Official Guide. Since the GMAT is a computer-based test, we believe that it is advisable to work though the questions online. We recommend that you use Exam Mode rather than Practice Mode, since we recommend that students practice using timed question sets.

The online practice interface has improved from last year’s version. The publishers implemented some of our recommendations, but they did not incorporate many of our functionality improvement suggestions. One major flaw that we discussed with the book publishers, but that has not been fixed, is the inaccurate timing for “Previous Sessions.” Timing statistics are accurate when you initially review a question set, but the timing per question data is inaccurate when you later access the same question set.

If you already have the 2015 edition of this book, it is debatable whether the addition of 101 new math questions and 100 new verbal questions makes this book worth purchasing. Our opinion is that advanced students will not find enough additional challenging practice to justify the purchase, but other students could purchase the book for additional practice given the relatively low cost.

Conclusions

The 2016 GMAT Official Guide has three primary weaknesses, in our opinion:
1) An insufficient amount of difficult practice questions, particularly based on GMAT Genius’ assessment of difficulty
2) Math answer explanations that are too often either brief or convoluted and Sentence Correction explanations that are too cryptic
3) Inaccurate timing data for Previous Sessions and inadequate functionality in the online practice interface

Despite its flaws, the 2016 GMAT Official Guide is an essential source of GMAT practice. We are pleased to see 25% brand new questions in the 2016 edition. We believe that every GMAT aspirant must use this book (or the prior edition). For these reasons, we give this book a 5-star rating. For the best value, we recommend purchasing this book as part of the 2016 GMAT Official Guide Bundle.

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