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GMAT Official Guide 2016 Review

GMAT Official Guide 2016 Breakdown!

The GMAT Official Guide for 2016 (or OG 2016 as we'll be calling it throughout this review) is the book to beat for official GMAT practice questions. It represents the newest set of available official GMAT practice questions and seems to align a bit more with what I have seen on recent Official GMAT CATs. No surprise: the guide’s explanations still need improvement as does the online question bank. Read on for an ultra detailed review of this new Official Guide for 2016 along with a complete breakdown of the new questions. Here is the corrected answer key for the kindle version of OG 2016.

an Official Context

The GMAT Official Guide 2016 comes nipping at the heels of the much derided 2015 edition. With the latter you paid for a snazzy new cover and a ghetto question bank filled with the exact same questions as the GMAT Official Guide 13th Edition. The GMAT Official Guide 2015 guide seemed like a thinly veiled cash grab on the part of GMAC and was a downgrade from the Official Guide 13th editions considering that the 13th could be purchased as a Kindle/Ebook. Needless to say I was skeptical of OG 2016 but being the curious GMAT tutor that I am I bit the bullet and trucked down to Barnes and Nobles in Tribeca (the only store that I could find that had the GMAT Official Guide 2016 in stock) to see what all of the fuss was about. I feared that the questions would be re-releases from some older, outdated sources but to my pleasant surprise, I can confirm that the questions  are, for the most part, shiny and new.

"The GMAT Official Guide 2015 seemed like a thinly veiled cash grab on the part of GMAC."

GMAT Official Guide 2016 Quant

The OG 2016 problem solving seems to align more with the quant that I’ve seen on recent GMATs that I’ve taken. My feeling is that there is a bit more combinatorics on the real test and in line with that we’ve got a few extra combinatorics questions here in the new guide including a tricky code question (PS 117) with a bunch of conditions. Overlapping sets also seem to have to received a boost. A couple of oddities:

  1. Over 20% of the new questions are Geometry questions. The re-shuffle isn’t proportionate with the amount of Geometry in the problem solving. Also - there doesn’t seem to be anything special about these geometry questions or anything particularly difficult about them. I’m not quite sure why there was this big infusion.
  1. The new questions stop at #153. So 154-230 are all "old" questions. The questions are in order of difficulty so we can safely assume that we weren’t treated to any new super tough questions. Having gone through all of the new questions I can confirm this. Does this make the book less useful for top scorers? A little. Still the medium level questions have been bulked up and these questions are probably more important for most people.

 "Medium level problem solving questions have been bulked up in this new edition of the GMAT Official Guide"

After seeing the lopsidedness in the problem solving I was expecting some weirdness in the Data Sufficiency but the OG 2016 additions seem evenly distributed in terms of content and level of difficulty. Here is a chart from the graphics maestros at Bob and Uncle Design showing most of the major changes in the GMAT Official guide 2016:

GMAT Official Guide 2016 Graph


PROBLEM SOLVING 57 New Questions - 24.7%:
1, 2, 3, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 21, 25, 27, 30, 31, 33, 38, 39, 43, 44, 45, 55, 56, 57, 59, ,60, 61, 63, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 73, 76, 82, 83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 91, 97, 99, 107, 108, 111, 114, 117, 122, 125, 134, 136, 137, 139, 142, 153

Percents  1 (Percents), 11 (Percents), 55 (Percent/Word Problem),  30 (Percents/Arithmetic/Word Problem), 99 (Word Problem/Percent)

Work/Rate  59 (Work/Rate), 76 (Work/Rate),

Ratio/Proportions 134 (Proportions/Word Problem), 114 (Mixture)

Algebra/Arithmetic 2 (Arithmetic/Fractions), 3 (Algebraic Translation), 14 (Arithmetic), 21(Algebra/Arithmetic), 25 (Algebra/Multiple Equations), 61 (Inequalities), 66 (System of Equations)

Exponents 56 (Exponents/Word Problem), 57 (Exponents/Roots/Number Properties), 83 (Exponents), 85 (Exponents/Roots/Arithmetic), 67 (Arithmetic/Exponents), 68 (System of Equations/Exponents),

Number Properties  38 (Number Properties/Digits), 107 (Number Properties), 108 (Number Properties), 17 (Number Properties/Absolute value/Exponents), 43 (Number Properties), 87 (Consecutive Integers)

Overlapping Sets 69 (Overlapping Sets/Percents/Word Problem), 89 (overlapping sets), 91 (overlapping sets)

Combinatorics 117 (Combinatorics), 136 (Probability)

Statistics  137 (Average), 15 (Average), 88 (Average), 111 (Average)

Functions/Sequences/Formula 39 (sequence),63 (Functions/Exponents), 82 (Formula/Arithmetic), 97 (formula), 27 (Data Interpretation)

Geometry 13 (Geometry/Quadrilaterals/Word Problem), 18 (Geometry/Triangles), 31 (Geometry/Mixed Shapes), 33 (Geometry/Triangles), 44 (geometry/coordinate), 45 (Geometry/Quadrilaterals), 60 (Geometry/Coordinate), 70 (Geometry/Mixed Shapes), 73 (Geometry/Quadrilaterals), 86 (Geometry/3D Shapes), 122 (Geometry/Mixed Shapes), 125 (Geometry/Quadrilateral/Word Problem), 139 (Geometry/Quadrilateral/ratio), 142, 153 (Geometry/Coordinate),

GMAT Official guide DATA SUFFICIENCY - 44 new questions / 25.2%

7, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 26, 27, 29, 34, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46, 48, 49, 51, 54, 55, 60, 64, 67, 73, 77, 80, 83, 84, 86, 92, 94, 115, 121, 134, 135, 136, 137, 150

Combinatorics 7 (probability), 73 (Geometry/Combinatorics)

Exponents 20 (Exponents), 37 (Square Root/Match the Expression/Special Quadratic), 39 (special quadratics), 41 (Exponents/Inequalities)

Geometry 136 (Coordinate), 137 (Triangles), 26 (Mixed Shapes/Quadrilateral), 27 (Coordinate), 49 (Quadrilaterals), 51 (Quadrilaterals), 115 (Mixed Shapes), 86 (3d Shapes), 77 (Geometry/Number Line)

Word/Rate 134 (Threshold/Rate/Word Problem), 84 (Average Rate)

Counting Equations 10 (Translation), 21 (Interest/Word Problem), 23 (Word Problem), 64 (Word Problem), 67 (Word Problem)

Number Properties 16 (# properties/Inequalities), 94 (Number Properties/Digits), 54 (Exponents/# Properties), 60 (# Properties),

Overlapping Sets 150 (Overlapping Sets), 29 (Overlapping Sets), 19 (Overlapping Sets)

Statistics  135 (Statistics), 14 (Statistics), 15 (Statistics), 92 (Average)

Threshold 48 (Threshold/Work), 46 (Threshold/Word Problem), 34 (Threshold), 80 (Threshold)

Translation 55 (Ratio/Word Problems), 83 (Threshold), 18 (Algebra),

Formula/Function/Sequence  12 (Sequence), 38 (Formula),  121(Function/Number Properties/Exponents)

GMAT Official Guide Verbal

The Official Guide 2016 adds more difficulty to the reading comprehension. Unfortunately the quality does not come with quantity. I feel a little burned with only six new reading comprehension passages. Is it sounding entitled wanting an extra couple of tough ones? Maybe it is. But I did pay the full $45 cover price at Barnes and Noble. Hint: the Amazon price for this book is way cheaper (I bought my second copy from them). Back on topic: happy to see more tough passages. Happy to see more long passages. Still the Official Guide doesn't have enough really tough reading comprehension so if you really want to knock the verbal out of the park then I would recommend supplementing with LSAT work. Here is an article on how use LSAT for GMAT verbal practice.

The OG 2016 is awash with new critical reasoning and I am happy to report that this CR aligns more with what I’ve seen on recent tests. Not only do the questions seem a bit trickier but some the question prompts hide the real question. For instance, you’ll be asked to provide a secondary explanation for a set of facts rather than weaken the argument. Those two actions are really the same but most people feel much more comfortable with the simple, straightforward language of “weaken”, “strengthen”. This is a positive move and should help prepare you for the real GMAT. One oddity here in the critical reasoning: about 75% of the updates are in the assumption based family. That’s a major shift. The official guide for GMAT review 2016 has 29 new assumption based questions. Wow. On the flipside, the content family has seen only six new additions. That seems strange considering that the content questions account for about 40% of the section. Why this lumpiness?

The sentence correction update reminds me of the Data Sufficiency update. I’m happy about it but there’s nothing terribly interesting to report. If I find anything as I dig deeper into this new OG I will report back.

"GMAT Official Guide 2016 is awash with new critical reasoning."

Official Guide for GMAT Review 2016 Reading Comprehension - 6 new passages, 31 new Questions /22.3%

Page 370 (Short)/Questions 8-10

Page 386 (Long)/Questions 42-47

Page 404 (Long)/Questions 96-101

Page 408 (Long)/Questions 107-112

Page 416 (Long)/Questions 130-136

Page 418 (Short)/Questions 137-139

Official Guide for GMAT Review 2016 CRITICAL REASONING - 34 new questions / 28.2%

1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 21, 30, 37, 39, 41, 43, 48, 49, 53, 55, 57, 58, 60, 63, 65, 67, 70, 76, 77, 79, 81, 84, 94, 97, 100, 106, 109, 121, 124

Strengthen/Weaken: 2, 3, 4, 21, 30, 37, 39 (oddball), 48, 55, 57, 60, 63, 65, 67 (oddball), 76, 77, 79, 94, 97, 106, 121, 124

Assumption: 8, 37, 41, 49, 70, 84, 109 | Evaluate: 100 | Inference: 1, 53 | Paradox: 58 | Boldface: 81 | Fill in the Blank: 43

Assumption Based: 29

Strengthen/Weaken - 21 | Assumption - 7 | Evaluate - 1

Content Based: 5

Paradox - 1 | Boldface - 1 | Inference - 2 | Fill in the Blank - 1

GMAT Official guide 2016 SENTENCE CORRECTION - 35 new questions / 25%

2, 4, 7, 10, 13, 18, 20, 23, 27, 28, 31, 35, 37, 42, 46, 52, 63, 66, 73, 80, 86, 90, 97, 101, 111, 116, 120, 124, 126, 128, 132, 133, 136, 137, 138

Nothing terribly interesting to report on the SC. The difficulty of the questions is evenly distributed and the types of rules tested are familiar.

The Online Question Bank powered by windows 95

It took me a second to find the GMAT official guide question bank. I even googled “Official Guide 2016 Online Question Bank” and found pretty much nothing useful. I felt the same as I had felt with other GMAC digital products: annoyed. I’ve had issues with pretty much every piece of software that I’ve bought from GMAC. Alas, flipping to the back of the OG 2016, I spied a plastic pouch with my access code along with the OG 2016 question bank website: Eureka!

What you can do with the GMAT online question bank:

  1. Set up a practice set mixing and matching order of difficulty and content. Although you have you have to pick one order of difficulty for all of the content. If you are doing problem solving hard then so must you do critical reasoning hard. This is a bug!
  2. Save your sessions so that you can review at a later date.
GMAT Official Guide Online
Atari or GMAT Online Question Bank?

Considering that GMAC already has these questions tagged by type, it would have been helpful to have been able to set up quizzes by content type. Is that really so hard? C’mon! We paid the $45 ($50+ with tax and subway ride) throw us a GMAT bone! Also - no internet means no question bank. This wouldn’t be a problem in a major city in say, South Korea but unfortunately here in the USA public wifi is spotty. That means if you are not at home and want to study you will probably have to lug around the book. Annoying not only because the GMAT Official Guide is a heavy ass book but also because you ought to be doing GMAT practice ogling a computer screen as you will on your actual GMAT (here are a few more good GMAT study habits) . Practicing on the screen can make a big difference.  Oh, almost forgot the insult to injury: you only have access to the Official Guide 2016 online question bank for 1 year.

an Official Conclusion

I'm conflicted about the fact that I gave this book five stars on Amazon. My feeling is that the Official Guide for GMAT review 2016 could be a whole lot better. There's a ton of room for improvement in the explanations and in the online question bank. In addition it would be nice to just have a list of what questions are unique to each version of the Official Guide. Is that some sort of secret? And further why not make it clear why certain questions are getting removed? Right? That said, the 13th edition of the official guide was the best resource in GMAT land and now the GMAT Official Guide for 2016 is king (or queen). If you are just starting out with your GMAT preparation buy this book. If you need extra questions I’d also recommend buying this book (provided that you have exhausted Question pack 1). Happy studies!

Here are some Official GMAT resources that you might also want to have:

  1. Question Pack 1. This is a question bank of official GMAT Questions. This is a very close second to the Official Guide 2016 in terms of usefulness and a no brainer at $29.99
  2. Exam Pack 1. Two extra Official GMAT Practice Tests. These are awesome!

These first three (OG 2016, QP1, and the Exam Pack) I would consider critical. The last three are not critical but can be very helpful.

  1. The Official Guide for Quant Review. The questions here are slightly easier than the ones in the Official Guide. This is a good “skill builder” book.
  2. The Official Guide for Verbal Review. Similar to the Quant review in difficulty and usefulness.
  3. GMAT Focus Quizzes. Computer adaptive Quant quizzes made up of official GMAT questions. Stellar for the last week of preparation. There is some controversy with these because they are expensive and there is a bit of overlap with other resources. You can buy them here.

One Response to GMAT Official Guide 2016 Review

  1. Hi

    Do you have a breakout of the new questions by difficulty? You have an infographic on it but it would be helpful to know which of the quant questions were Medium and Hard so I can skip the easy ones.

    Thank you for putting this together!

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