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We know better than most how daunting test prep can be, and one of the number one issues we’ve had students tell us about is the problem of choosing test prep materials. After all, how do you decide what book can teach you what you don’t know yet?
Well don’t fret, we’ve compiled our master list of go-to resources for the GMAT and we’ve even broken down some details about what the resources are best used for and why you might choose to use them.
A few points before we dive in:
- It is often the case that the best test prep resource is the one that comes from the maker of the test. This is true pretty much across the board, and you can see below that the “Official” books make it onto all of our lists. When you use materials from the makers of the test, you increase your chances of seeing familiar content and structure on test day, which typically leads to a higher score. Win win! There are also often good supplements to the official books, and those are the other entries you’ll see in each section.
- There are an awful lot of good free resources out there, and there are an awful lot of bad free resources out there. We’ve listed free resources here that we know and trust. Definitely feel empowered to branch out and search out your own resources too, just keep in mind that you want to do your best to judge the quality before you go all in on a particular source from the internet. If you have questions about anything you come across out there in the wide world, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org! We’re always happy to answer questions about materials.
- When you’re preparing for a test, think carefully about how much time you’re budgeting for preparation, and let that help inform how many materials you get. For example, if you’re cramming for 3 weeks before the test, you likely won’t be able to make it through 4 test prep books in that time, and even if you did, you likely wouldn’t be retaining what you need to succeed.
- Our best advice is to start by taking a practice test to pinpoint where you need to prepare the most, then think about your schedule and choose what you need from this list of recommendations to help you succeed. Good luck with your preparation!
- Purpose: Practice
- How to Maximize Your Use: You must buy this book (or the set of books) when preparing for the GMAT; it is a non-negotiable. While this book does have a section dedicated to content, it does not provide anything very useful. While the content section may be useful as a reference occasionally, the real value is in the practice questions. This book is made by the makers of the GMAT, so the question quality simply can’t be beat. The practice questions are split up by category (Problem Solving, Data Sufficiency, Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Sentence Correction). However, the questions types within each section are mixed (e.g. there is no section of Problem Solving dedicated to only Algebra… instead it is sprinkled throughout). The questions do seem to go in relative order of difficulty though, so typically the closer you are to the end of the section, the harder the questions typically are. The books do provide explanations to the questions at the back, and they have varying degrees of value. Here is our advice when it comes to using the explanations in the back of the book:
- Problem Solving & Data Sufficiency: Can be useful to help bolster content, but this will often ignore strategy; start with the explanations in the back of the book but use gmatclub.com as a reference for alternative solutions and time-saving strategies.
- Reading Comprehension: The explanations in the back of the book are generally sufficient, but you can use gmatclub.com if needed.
- Sentence Correction & Critical Reasoning: We recommend always reading the explanations in the back (even if you answered the question correctly)! It can help strengthen your understanding of how the GMAT thinks about these question types. For Sentence Correction in particular, it is important to keep in mind that there could be multiple reasons to eliminate an answer (e.g. a wrong answer may contain both a pronoun error and a misplaced modifier). The answer in the back may not contain the reason you chose to eliminate an answer, so it can be useful to become more aware of other errors that occurred in a sentence, or you may even learn a new grammar rule altogether! Again, if something is unclear, gmatclub.com is a great place to supplement.
- Purpose: Content, Strategy, & Practice
- How to Maximize Your Use: This is best for a very thorough understanding of content, strategy, and practice. These books can seem very intimidating because they are so large and seemingly long. However, it is well worth the time as we have worked with a number of students who felt a bit “stuck” and then found that the Manhattan Prep books presented ideas in a way that was extremely clear and easy to follow. Our recommendation is to be conscious of focusing on value over volume, meaning if you already know a topic inside-out, do not spend a lot of time reviewing that section. Instead, focus on the sections that will add value to your studying. The link above is for the most recent edition, but we find the old school Complete GMAT Strategy Guide Set with 10 books to be great too.
- Purpose: Strategy & Practice
- How to Maximize Your Use: The GMATClub is a phenomenal resource because it is a forum for people who are preparing to apply for their MBA programs as well as experts who are trying to advertise themselves. This is our go-to resource for explanations to questions that have stumped us or new strategy ideas. For example, if we’re stuck on a question from the Official Guide to the GMAT, we will typically go to Google, begin typing in the question as it’s written, and 9/10 times there will be a gmatclub link for that specific question with a discussion around it. You do need to be a little careful because sometimes the answers are not 100% accurate, but the amount of fantastic explanations here make it an invaluable resource. Plus, if you start to click around a bit, you’ll find gems of wonderful content and practice questions that others have shared.
- Purpose: Practice
- How to Maximize Your Use: As with the Official Guide to the GMAT, this particular resource is extremely valuable because it has the highest quality questions and the most accurate practice scores (though some students have still found that they deviate more than expected… it’s a bit of luck as well!). There are two free practice tests to start, with the option to purchase up to 4 additional practice tests, though you can retake the tests. The one downside to the practice exams (and it’s a pretty big downside in our opinion) is that they do NOT provide explanations for wrong or right answers; they simply provide the solution. The way around this is to type the question stem into gmatclub and read the discussions around it. It can be tedious, but it is well worth it!
- Purpose: Content, Strategy, & Practice
- How to Maximize Your Use: Magoosh has a lot of great resources. They also have solid blog content (gotta give credit where credit’s due), and many of their blog posts contain questions with explanations. Finding quality practice questions can be challenging, but Magoosh offers plenty of great content with great callouts to both content and strategy. It’s an all-around wonderful resource to leverage.