GMAT for Dummies Book Review

This volume of the ubiquitous “for Dummies” series tackles the GMAT.  First of all, notice that this GMAT book was published in 2006 —- i.e. 14 years ago.  This means, it not particularly cutting-edge on the Verbal & Quantitative sections, but more to the point, it says absolutely nothing about the Integrated Reasoning section.  This book doesn’t even know that the IR section exists, because it was published six years before the IR section was released.  Relatedly, this book still thinks there are two essays in the AWA section, as there were before June, 2012. The GMAT for Dummies book is, well, for dummies.


GMAT for Dummies Book Review Overview

The book (5th edition, publ. 2006) does an adequate job of explaining how to register for the test, the logistics of going to take the test, and the basic (pre-2012) format of the test.  They give some generic advice for time management on the GMAT as well as other overall test-taking strategies relevant to the GMAT.  I would describe this section as lackluster even if it were totally up-to-date, but the fact this tepid description is focused on a version of the test that no longer exists is another strike against it.


Verbal Review

In the Sentence Correction section, their discussion of grammar is so light that I saw no mention of gerunds, infinitive phrases, or participial phrases.  Their strategies (“Eliminate answers that don’t correct errors”, “Eliminate choices that create new errors”) are shallow and generic.  This may be the weakest section of the book, and that’s quite a contest to win!

In the Reading Comprehension section, they do an adequate job of discussing the different RC question types.  The advice they give is generic, and does address basic questions such as — should one skim the chapter, read it once, or plan to re-read?  I found the layout of this chapter confusing, with little clear distinction between their text and the sample passages they were presenting.

In the Critical Reasoning, they spend a significant amount of time focusing on formal logic, which is of dubious value on the CR section.  They discuss “statistical arguments” and “deductive arguments,” two formats that might have been relevant in 2006, but are absent from the OG13.

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The Verbal practice questions are somewhat formulaic, and certainly do not show the extraordinary range found on the GMAT.


AWA Review

As noted above, this 2006 book thinks the AWA section involves two essays, an Analysis of Issue essay and an Analysis of Argument essay.  As we know, the Issue essay ceased to exist in June, 2012, and only the Argument essay remains.  They also neglect to mention what I consider a crucial fact — viz., all the possible AWA Argument essay topics are already posted on the GMAC website.   I think it’s helpful to review at least some of these official questions, to get the flavor of them.

On their advice about writing the essay, on the topic of sentence structure they say only “Use simple, active sentences”, ignoring the fact that varying the length & complexity of sentence is one of the ways on can demonstrate that one “controls the elements of standard written English.”  There are many more relevant AWA strategies that I would recommend than what I see here.


Math Review

Over about 100 pages, they dump the basic math knowledge you need for the GMAT — not necessarily the mathematical thinking, but at least most of the nuts and bolts are there.   The emphasis is heavily formulaic and memorization-based.   Anything more sophisticated is simply not discussed. They have a very brief treatment of Data Sufficiency, covering all the basics of this unique question format, but not really exploring the ramifications of this format in various content areas.   They do mention important strategies like estimation, although I would want to give this more emphasis.  I found their Math practice questions ridiculously easy — none of them anywhere near the 700 level.


Practice tests

The book has two paper-based practice tests.  If you have six months to study, and you have already scheduled the GMAT Prep tests, the MGMAT CATs, and other quality practice test for last couple months of your studies, and you are absolutely scrounging around for more practice GMATs for the earlier months, I might call these minimally acceptable in the early stages of your practice.   Again, the Math questions, for the most part, are much easier and much less imaginative than the questions on the GMAT.   The Verbal questions vary from weak to OK.  DO NOT expect these practice test to give you any strong indication of how you will do on the GMAT or to prepare you in any serious way for the GMAT.



Funny comics, drawn by Rich Tenant, at the beginning of each part of the book.

If you remember none of your math, at least they will re-acquaint you with most of what you need to know.



Perhaps some folks will like the puns & alliteration in headings throughout the text, but I found them cloying.

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Even if this book were entirely up-to-date, I would consider it mediocre at best.  As it happens, it is mediocre preparation for a version of the test that doesn’t exist anymore.


Grade: F

The poor student who relies solely on this text will walk into the GMAT and be greeted by the rude surprise of an Integrated Reasoning section, and will be ill-prepared for the subsequent sections. The GMAT format now will hit like a brick.  To be honest, it breaks my heart that folks on rate this highly and trust it.


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2 Responses to GMAT for Dummies Book Review

  1. Shashank November 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    There is a 6th version released. are you referring to latest one?

    does any one looked in to it.

    just want to know how it is

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike November 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

      Dear Shashank,
      Good question! 🙂 This article is about the 5th edition, and I just made that clear in the second paragraph. We will have to do a review of the 6th edition some time, but I won’t expect it to be much better than this, just more up-to-date. Best of luck to you, my friend!
      Mike 🙂

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