Kaplan’s GMAT prep is a great place to start for those just embarking on their GMAT journeys. Each section of the GMAT is introduced in a way that is easy to understand. Helpful tips and practice problems are provided along the way. That is not to say that this book will be your one GMAT source, especially if you are looking for a higher score. The practice questions are oftentimes watered down versions of real GMAT questions. But if you are just starting out, Kaplan GMAT provides a strong base with which to grow of off.
Kaplan does an excellent job of introducing what is probably the trickiest—Data Sufficiency aside—section on the test. The example paragraphs it uses to discuss different aspects of Critical Reasoning are apt. Even those with little to no experience with the GMAT will be able to quickly feel comfortable identifying the evidence and conclusion of a Critical Reasoning paragraph.
While Kaplan does a good job of dissecting the common question types, it does omit other important question types such as Evaluate the Argument and Paradox questions.
Another lapse on Kaplan’s part—and one that is consistent throughout the verbal section—is that the questions, while helpful for practicing Kaplan’s useful strategies, just aren’t up to the standards of a GMAT questions. So Kaplan’s Critical Reasoning offers great practice for a beginner, but is not very helpful for those who want more difficult, GMAT-like questions.
The GMAT requires a vast knowledge of grammar. The paltry fifteen pages Kaplan devotes to grammar is downright laughable (Manhattan GMAT has nearly 300-pages devoted solely to Sentence Corrections). Sure, the practice exercises are decent, and are definitely a better approximation of a GMAT question than either the Critical Reasoning or Reading Comprehension questions. Yet even the grammar principles covered in these questions just isn’t enough to adequately prepare you. My advice: skip Kaplan’s Sentence Correction and pick up MGMAT.
Nonetheless, if you want some extra practice questions—once you’ve gotten up to speed on grammar—Kaplan does have a decent number. Indeed, a few questions are challenging, even for those who have a strong sense of the grammar rules
The Reading Comprehension section does a very good job of helping students attack the complex reading passages of the GMAT. They not only focus on the big picture approach, but also use apt illustrations of how to dissect paragraphs (many students fumble at this basic—but essential—level of reading: if you can’t understand the paragraph, then you are in trouble!).
One area in which I would fault Kaplan is really a matter of pedagogy. It (Kaplan) recommends drawing maps of the passage. My experience with students has been that drawing such maps can not only squander precious minutes but can also cause students to lose their “mental picture” of the passage; in scribbling down the big picture many other elements of the passage disappear.
An area in which Kaplan shines is on its ability to pick passages that are representative of what you could very well see test day. Unfortunately, its questions and answer choices (especially its answer choices) are poor approximations of what you’ll see in official material. Indeed, as is the case with most of Kaplan’s verbal questions, it is better to use the questions as a warm-up and then quickly move on to real GMAT material.
Kaplan just skims the surface of Problem Solving. Sure there are some basic timesaving strategies but there is just so much more to the Problem Solving section than a few quick tricks. That is not to say that the Problem Solving section won’t help those starting off. But as Kaplan intones in the beginning of this section, “Practice, practice, practice”… and these questions and the few meager strategy simply do not provide enough practice for the GMAT.
My other major gripe is questions are far too easy. And yes, this is a leitmotif for this entire book. True, Kaplan does have its GMAT 800 book…but that will be for another review. In this book, Kaplan’s questions are too straightforward. For example, on real GMAT questions, half the battle is trying to interpret what the question is asking. With Kaplan, getting the correct answer is merely a matter of doing the correct math.
If you are struggling with Data Sufficiency, or if you simply want a helpful introduction, Kaplan does not disappoint. It touches on the key strategies/main points so nothing will truly surprise you test day.
The practice questions themselves aren’t nearly as diabolical as those hatched by our friends over at GMAT; nonetheless, the questions in the Kaplan book will be a good warm-up for the Data Sufficiency section in the Official Guide.
Kaplan also offers an excellent Math Appendix at the back of the book. Here you will find many of the key math fundamentals. Want to know the rules for divisibility by 11? Need to practice tricky problems involving circles inscribed in shapes? They are all here.
Everyone is asking about, and worrying about, this section. Luckily, Kaplan has a few strategies and practice questions to help you get your bearings. Somewhat. Though GMAC has offered very few sample questions, those questions are more complex than those offered by Kaplan. Which is not too surprising. Most of the questions in this book are a watered-down version of the real thing.
Kaplan clearly breaks down both the Argument and the Issue Task of the AWA, and provides an effective plan to help you write a pretty decent essay. It could have provided more example prompts for both tasks, and could have also presented sample essays of varying scores. Being able to see a ‘4’ and a ‘5’ essay side by side is sometimes more helpful than a list enumerating the difference between a ‘4’ and a ‘5’. (Qualitatively what is the difference between ‘Adequate’ and ‘Strong.’).
- Helpful ‘Expert Advice’ box popping up on nearly every page to dispense practical GMAT wisdom.
- Clearly presented strategies and tips, so you never feel overwhelmed by the GMAT.
- Clearly explanations for numerous practice questions.
- Great for those who are learning about GMAT for the first time
- Most questions simply aren’t an accurate indicator of what you’ll see test day.
- The easy nature of most of the questions does not help those looking to score in the top 20% on either section.