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TOEFL Tip #93: Guest Post: In Praise of the GMAT Official Guide

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on April 1, 2011

This week’s guest post is from Jim Jacobson,’s expert on the Verbal section of the GMAT. Check out their site if you are planning to take the GMAT, LSAT, or GRE exams.

Jim Writes:

One question I hear often is “what sources should I use?” The answer isn’t entirely straightforward — as always, exact tactics can vary as much as GMAT students can vary — but the Official Guide to the test should be at the heart of every single study plan, especially for GMAT aspirants whose native language is not English. What does the OG do for you?

It provides authentic test questions. The GMAT is not published after the fact the way the LSAT is; all makers of prep materials must model their questions after the ones published in the Official Guide. This means that only the OG has real, recent questions, and any other test prep source risks coming up with something the GMAT itself wouldn’t do, even on the same test topic.

The quantitative overview is comprehensive. The section that lays out what topics they want you to know is quite extensive; if you are wondering what math you will need to know/review/learn the first time to get a top score, that section gives it to you.

The verbal questions and their explanations are a priceless guide. This is the part that is useful for everyone, but particularly useful to non-native English speakers. The GMAT’s idea of English deviates a bit from standard written English, in that some things that are grammatically correct are still considered wrong on the test for stylistic reasons. The ONLY way to get a good feel for GMAT English is by careful study of the Official Guide.

It provides a basis for comparison with other test prep materials. If you use GMAT materials from any other source, you run the risk of inaccuracies (and occasionally outright incorrect information). Familiarity with the OG will enable you to better evaluate other sources, and settle disputes for yourself when sources contradict each other.

The Official Guide isn’t without any drawbacks, however:

If you have a substantial study program, you will run out of questions. The number of questions is finite, as is the number of official CATs. This leads many people to other sources. The Official Guide should still be your basis, however.

The quantitative questions do not test all the topics covered in the overview. If you struggle with Interest questions, for example, or Permutation/Combination, there are not many questions of those types in the OG. If those trouble you, you’ll need to get more practice elsewhere.

The verbal questions cannot possibly adequately test all verbal idioms. This is just a fact of human language. If idioms are a problem for you, begin a program of reading perhaps even before you start doing practice questions.

The OG is by its very nature retrospective. Because it is entirely based on previous test questions, you will not be prepared for questions that are “new.” While new question forms are tested in advance as experimental questions, they do not show up in the OG. This is perhaps the best argument in favor of supplementing with other test prep sources, not just in spite of their potential to deviate from the OG norm, but because of it! If you’re forced to see an old idiom or formula in a new way, it can help keep you flexible. Too much emphasis on simply recognizing OG patterns on the real GMAT can hurt you.

Categories: Guest Post,Industry Issues

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  1. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » TOEFL Tip #135: The Year In Review

    wrote on February 3, 2012 at 9:39 am

    [...] were pleased to feature guest posts this year. Two posts from Grockit addressed the GMAT official guide and the newly formatted GRE. A post from Harriet Murdoch discussed how the TOEFL can help in [...]

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