As you may know, GMAC, the folks who create the GMAT, recently released three volumes of The Official Guide for the GMAT 2017. I review these new editions of the Official Guide for the GMAT in this book review.
The Official Guide for the GMAT 2017
The three new volumes are as follows:
1) The Official Guide for the GMAT 2017 (white cover)
2) The Official Guide for the GMAT Verbal Review 2017 (pink cover)
3) The Official Guide for the GMAT Quantitative Review 2017 (blue cover)
As it turns out, #1 was littered with mistakes. We have a blog about the corrections to this guide. GMAC found all the mistakes, and put out a new version that (theoretically) has everything corrected.
4) The Official Guide for the GMAT 2017, Corrected (green cover)
FACT: Each one of #1-3 of these replaces a corresponding 2016 version published about a year ago.
FACT: Each one of #1-3 has about 25% new content, compared to its 2016 correlate.
FACT: Version #4 has no new content, just the same content as in #1 but with no typos!
Another new Official Guide?
As readers of this blog may know, I have the utmost respect for the GMAT exam as one of the finest standardized tests. Consequently, I have the highest respect for the content creators and psychometricians at GMAC who design this test. I have met some of these people, and they are impressive.
Having said that, GMAC is a company, and, like any company, it leverages what it can to generate profits. In the “old days” (up until a couple years ago), they would publish a new OG every 3-4 years, and often they would have a particularly good reason to do so. For example, they published the OG13 when they were introducing the Integrated Reasoning section in 2012: that was a 100% legitimate reason to update the OG. In the past couple years, they have published a new OG every year, and they are rushing each new edition out so fast that the last one (version #1 above) was full of mistakes. If you bought the #1, they would be happy to sell you #4 as well, even though the content is identical. This new-OG-every-year rhythm is driven more by profit-seeking than by any legitimate pedagogical concern. It’s basically a ploy to separate the vulnerably anxious test-taking population from as much of its money as possible. Caveat emptor.
I will point out that the OG 2017, like the OG 2016 and OG 2015, offer all the questions from the book online, if you want to practice them on a computer rather than on a hardcopy. Furthermore, that online question bank is where they keep the practice Integrated Reasoning questions.
Should I buy the new Official Guide?
Criticisms aside, should you, the student studying for the GMAT, buy these new books?
If you are just starting your studies for the GMAT and haven’t bought any official materials yet, then yes, you should buy some version of the GMAT OG, and you might as well buy the newest one available.
If you already have an earlier edition, such as the OG 2016 or even the OG13 or OG2015, and are already working through it, then I would not advise you to buy another version. If you master everything any of those volumes, that’s enough for a high 700s score. After all, the GMAT itself hasn’t changed since the introduction of IR in 2012. The new OG may be marginally more GMAT-like, but I am NOT going to say that it’s so much better than previous editions that you should run out to buy the new one. Undoubtedly, the marketers at GMAC would love it if a large number of students thought that way, but, with all due respect to the people at GMAC, I want to discourage this line of thinking.
One other reason to buy the new guide is you have already finished working through the OG2016 and need more practice questions: about 25% of the questions are new, not repeats from the previous edition. Similarly, if you exhausted an earlier edition studying for a first take of the GMAT, and now you need to study for a retake, then the new questions in one of the earlier editions would help you.
What about the Verbal Review and Quant Review?
These are similar enhancements over the earlier editions. If you only have about a month to study for the GMAT, you probably wouldn’t have time to do any questions other than those from the OG. Even in some of our three-month study schedules, folks barely have enough time to learn and review the content they need to master — they don’t have time for these extra questions.
If you are a practice-question maven who has already raced through the OG and need more official questions, or if you exhausted the OG on your first take and now you want to practice for a retake, then these books are an excellent source of official practice questions.
If you already have the earlier editions, by all means, use those first. Only buy these new books if you don’t already own the earlier editions.
OG 2017 Book Review: Summary
Understandably, most students studying for the GMAT want to do everything in their power to prepare. By all means, use the best resources, follow proven study schedules, and pursue the habits of excellence (without which the resources and study schedules are considerably less valuable!). All that is very important. Nevertheless, don’t feel compelled to leap for your credit card every single time GMAC publishes a new edition of something. The OG 2017 is a collection of absolutely excellent GMAT practice questions, but so are the two previous editions. If you are starting from scratch, you might as well start with the newest. If you already have an earlier GMAT OG, trust the one you have.
If you have any experience with using any of these new books, we would love to hear from you in the comments section below.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March, 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.