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The Official Guide for the GMAT Review 2019: Should You Buy It?

What is the Official Guide for GMAT Review?

The Official Guide for GMAT review is a book, or rather a three-book set: a main GMAT Official Guide book , and two smaller books, one focusing on Quantitative and the other focusing on Verbal. These books are available for purchase in the MBA.com store. And yes, Magoosh does recommend buying the main GMAT OG, and possibly the Verbal and Quant books too.

We recommend these books because the practice material is of the highest possible quality. Each official guide book for the GMAT are published by Wiley, a major academic publisher. The content itself is designed by the same team that makes the actual GMAT exam.

As you may know, GMAC, the folks who create the GMAT, recently released three volumes of The Official Guide for the GMAT 2020. I review these new editions of the Official Guide for the GMAT in this book review.

The Official Guide for the GMAT Review 2020: Should you buy it?

The Official Guide for the GMAT 2020

The three new volumes are as follows:

  1. The Official Guide for the GMAT 2020 (purple trim and title on cover)
  2. The Official Guide for the GMAT Verbal Review 2020 (blue trim and title on cover)
  3. The Official Guide for the GMAT Quantitative Review 2020 (pink trim and title on cover)

FACT: Each one of #1-3 of these replaces a corresponding 2019 version published about a year ago.

FACT: Each one of #1-3 has about 25% new content, compared to its 2019 correlate.

FACT: The most recent edition comes with both an online and mobile app version of the questions. (The 2019 edition had online but not mobile access.)

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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 several 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.  For the past several years, they have published a new OG every year, and they are rushing each new edition out at a pace far faster than that of other standardized test OGs. 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.

Accessing the Electronic Versions of GMAT Official Guide 2020

I will again point out that the OG 2020, like the OG 2019 and OG 2018, 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. And, as I also mentioned, the newest edition offers a mobile version of the app.

Frustratingly, however, instructions on how to access the books’ questions via app are vague. And by “vague,” I mean non-existent. At first, I tried to search the official website for GMAT prep (MBA.com) for the app, but the only app I found there cost $4.99 and was for the 2015 edition of the OG, while the 2020 GMAT Official Guide references a free app that would obviously be for 2020.

Finally, after poking around a good deal on my Google and on my own phone’s app store, I realized that the app was not hosted on the official GMAT website at all. Instead, you’re supposed to use the Wiley Efficient Learning App via Google Play or iTunes. This makes sense in retrospect, since the book tells you to go to wiley.gmat.com for the web-based practice questions, and that URL actually forwards you to the GMAT section of the Wiley Efficient Learning website. But directions for the mobile app certainly could have been clearer to say the least.

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 2019, the OG 2018, 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 in any of those volumes, that’s enough for a high 700s score. After all, although the GMAT test was changed to a shorter format in 2018, the GMAT questions themselves haven’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 OG2019 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 other 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.

What’s Special about the GMAT OGs?

So why buy any GMAT Official Guide? Well, for one, as I mentioned, these books have absolutely 100% the most authentic practice questions you can find anywhere. All of the Official Guide practice sets are created by the same folks who make the real exam, and are even taken from actual past tests. Past tests are the only source for the Verbal, Quant, and IR questions, though. You won’t see any of those questions on a current exam. However, you will see the AWA questions from the OG on the test. The GMAT Official Guide actually includes a complete list of the AWA prompts you might see on test day, as does the official GMAT website.

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And speaking of AWA, the GMAT Official Guide includes something you can’t get from their official website: the official scoring guide for the AWA essay. (Admittedly, a version of the score guide is buried on the GMAC website, but the wording is slightly outdated, and the guide is inconveniently separate from all of the other materials on MBA.com). In addition to having the only full, updated guide to GMAT AWA scores, the OG’s descriptions of test structure and logistics are more accurate and complete than anything you could find elsewhere.

This three volume set does have some minor shortcomings. The tutorial and advice portions of the book are short and dry. And the answer explanations are frequently inadequate. Often, the explanation essentially just says “Answer A is right because it is; answers B,C,D, and E are wrong because they’re wrong.” So you’ll want to supplement your GMAT Official Guide with tutorials and answer explanations from a reputable third party such as Magoosh.

OG 2020 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 2020 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.

Bonus: Magoosh has developed GMAT Companion Workbook  and a GMAT Official Question support forum to help you use the Official Guide more effectively. Check it out!

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12 Responses to The Official Guide for the GMAT Review 2019: Should You Buy It?

  1. Jalpa Pankhania March 4, 2019 at 8:38 am #

    Do I need to buy all 3 in order to get a good score or just the Official Guide would suffice?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 6, 2019 at 9:19 am #

      Many students have successfully prepared with jut the main OG. If your current “baseline” practice score is a bit low, or if you’re trying to get above a 720, the extra practice from the Verbal and Quant books could also be useful. But getting all three books certainly isn’t essential.

  2. lesli January 25, 2019 at 8:17 am #

    which bundle is better the print version or ebook+online? are there any significant differences. please help, trying to figure out which to purchase from GMAT

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 31, 2019 at 8:48 am #

      Hi Lesli,

      They contain the same information, so this really depends on your preference for learning/practicing. One advantage of the online version is that the test itself is online, so it’s useful to get used to reading the information on the computer. But as long as you have official material to study (in a book or on a computer), you will be fine 🙂

  3. Deniz December 26, 2018 at 2:48 am #

    Hi Mike!

    I got 690 (Q50 V33) My aim is Msc finance in European Business Schools.

    As far as I understand my overall score is not that bad, but a well balanced score would really help. Since I am not a native speaker, verbal is my nightmare. I used Manhattanprep SC, OG, OG practice questions and OG verbal review for verbal practice. I dont know what can I do more. (To be honest, I did not practice for CAT, I have only completed 2 free practice tests)

    I will take the test in 2-3 weeks, what can I do in the meantime?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 26, 2018 at 8:49 am #

      Hi Deniz,

      Sorry to hear your Verbal score isn’t where you’d like it to be. That can be frustrating. Still, I think you’re right that this score may be acceptable to some schools. While there are European B-schools with strict Verbal requirements, there are also quite a few that are more lenient on Verbal, especially compared to schools in native English speaking countries.

      As a non-native English speaker, it’s important to figure out exactly which aspects of English are the most challenging for you in GMAT Verbal. For example, you may find certain grammar structures in SC to be more challenging than others. Or you may have trouble with pacing in RC, or with certain types of CR questions. Figuring out your exact language weaknesses is the first step toward targeting those weaknesses and improving int hose areas.

      And remember– prioritize your weaknesses based on which weakness is costing you the most points on the GMAT. Your “greatest” weakness may not actually be the part of English that’s hardest for you. It could just be the part of English that comes up the most often in the GMAT Verbal section.

  4. Pkash June 18, 2018 at 8:02 pm #

    Hi, I’ve been using working through the problems in the OG and have been getting most of the problems right, including the higher numbered math questions (the ones that people say are pf higher-difficulty level). Is this a good representation of the difficult questions I will see on the actual GMAT?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 27, 2018 at 1:11 pm #

      The OG really does give an excellent cross section of the kinds of questions you might see on test day. For the most accurate representation of the test day experience, you may also want to try GMATPrep software.

  5. sepehr March 15, 2017 at 10:08 am #

    Hi Mike

    I would like to do all these tests in computer (both Math and verbal).is the online version exactly same with what Books provide?

    Thanks

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 15, 2017 at 10:14 am #

      Hi there,

      Yes, the online question bank will allow you to make custom practice sessions using the same problems as those found in the Official Guide books! So, good luck and happy studying! 😀

  6. Juan Carlos February 4, 2017 at 7:13 am #

    Hi Mike,

    I am following the 3 months study guide for beginners. However, I bought the newest version of the OG(2017 version with the green cover). As you have mentioned above, there are new content on this version. Is there an updated version of the study guide? If not, how can I update it to reflect the changes on the new OG?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 5, 2017 at 10:45 am #

      Hi Juan Carlos,

      You’re right that the study schedules are actually based on the OG16, not the OG17. However, there are very few differences between the OG16 and OG17. The OG17 might include a few more questions, or some changes to the organization of the material. But in general, as you see in this review, the material is identical — in most cases, it’s literally word-for-word the same!

      We haven’t had a chance to update the 3-month study schedule, but you should be able to follow this one just as easily with OG17. The sections will be the same, and we don’t use page numbers to guide you through the OG. All you have to do is find the corresponding section and questions in the OG17 and follow the study plan like normal! No further work necessary 🙂

      I hope this helps 😀


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