When it comes to GMAT preparation, the first and one of the most important steps is to decide how you will prepare, i.e., which resources you will utilize. If you are in the process of making this decision and want to study from books, you may probably be facing some difficulty in selecting the book that would work best for you. Hence, we decided to do thorough research on the best GMAT prep books and share our observations and opinions with you in this article. This article describes the various requirements you might have while selecting your resource and then talks about the books that meet these requirements. So, let’s get into it.
If you already have your list of requirements, keep it ready. If you have still not created one, this article will also define the parameters that will help you understand your requirements. You can create your list as you go through this article. Let’s get started!
Outline – GMAT Preparation Books
This article will help you make an informed decision while choosing your GMAT prep books. In this article, we will discuss:
- Decision Parameters
- Books for General GMAT Preparation
- Comparison of Books for General GMAT Preparation
- Comparison based on Student Profiles
- What Do Books Not Provide?
- Summary & next steps
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Decision Parameters – How to determine the best GMAT prep book for you!
Before discussing the decision parameters in detail, I would like to discuss the steps for GMAT preparation since your decision will hugely depend on which step you need to work on.
If I divide your GMAT preparation journey into broad steps, these steps would be:
- Step 1- Understand your current ability.
You would need a reliable Diagnostic test (discussed in detail in the last section) for this step. This step would help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. These strengths/ weaknesses can be in terms of sections (Quant or Verbal) or sub-sections (SC/CR/RC in Verbal, Arithmetic/ Algebra/ Geometry in Quant) or concepts (Modifiers/ Assumptions/ Probability etc). The more granular data you have, the better. It will help you maintain your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
- Step 2- Create a Study Plan
This step helps you understand the kind of effort you need to put in to get to your target score in the required time. Needless to say, you cannot create this plan without knowing your current abilities, your target score, and the time that you have for preparation.
A student who is currently at the 700 level and aims to get to 740 in a month does not need to do everything that a student who is preparing to improve from 640 to 710 in 4 months does. Creating an effective study plan optimizes your preparation.
- Step 3- Learn/ revise the concepts.
This step will help you build your foundation. Hence, you need to be as thorough as possible. Know what is tested on GMAT and study that. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses (from Step 1) will be very helpful here.
- Step 4- Practise the application of these concepts.
This step take you closer to your target score. Wait! Noticed something? Yes, the correct statement would be “This step takes you closer to your target score”- an application of SV agreement tested on the GMAT. Even if you were not able to notice it, you would start doing it by the time you get to Step 4
- Step 5- Get Test Ready
Since GMAT is a computer-based adaptive test, you cannot score well just by solving questions correctly- you need to work on your timing, your ability to solve questions from multiple sub-sections, and your ability to take a 3-hour long test. To do this, you need to take GMAT Mocks.
Please take note of these steps as we will keep referring to them in the rest of the article. More importantly, take note of which of the above preparation steps you are at currently and which steps that you need help with.
Let us now discuss the parameters that can help you select the resource that suits you best. As you go through these parameters, understand what you should expect from your GMAT preparation resource. Then, we shall review the resources. So, let’s go through the parameters one by one.
- Learning concepts vs. revising concepts
Some of the books explain concepts in complete detail and thus are helpful for students who want to start learning from scratch. Other books are good for students who just need to revise their concepts. It is an important criterion that will help you shortlist the books.
- Sub-sections that you need to target:
While some of you need to prepare for all sub-sections, some – especially re-takers – may be looking for guidance in specific sections or sub-sections such as SC, RC, or Algebra. Accordingly, you can opt for a book that offers effective learning in those areas.
- Customer support-
While books provide you with all the study material, you may need some guidance or support at times. This guidance/ support may be related to the concepts or related to the preparation strategy. If you are a person who believes in resolving your queries yourself after doing research, you may not need such support. However, if that is not the case, you should select a book that offers customer support.
- Format: Paperback Vs. Online-
Various options are available in each of these formats. However, since the GMAT is a computer-based adaptive test, you need to get used to taking tests on the computer eventually. So, the options that you have are-
- Start with a paperback resource and then switch to an online format later or
- Start with the online format itself.
While you will definitely consider the first-time purchase cost, make sure you consider the chances of having to re-purchase a new course. For example, you may opt for a resource that seems cheaper to you. But, in case it does not work, you will have to re-purchase the same course/ different course and re-take the exam too. Hence, the final cost will end up being much more than the first-time cost. Also, make sure you try the free version of the course, if available, in order to understand your comfort level with it.
I am sure you now understand the major decision parameters and know what you expect from the GMAT book that you will buy. Let’s now discuss the best GMAT prep books one by one.
The Best GMAT Prep Books
Books are the traditional and one of the most popular medium for preparing for the GMAT test. There are many good options available that suit your requirements. As mentioned in the last section, since the GMAT is a computer-based adaptive test, you will eventually need to switch to the online format. Hence, many books also offer a hybrid option- study from books and practice online. Let’s discuss the best available options for general GMAT prep, GMAT Quant prep, and GMAT Verbal prep one by one.
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Books for General GMAT Preparation
The following books will help you understand the overall format and strategies for the GMAT. These books cover all the sections- Quant, Verbal, IR, and AWA. You will find a comparison table comparing the features being offered by these books towards the end of this section, but first, let’s evaluate each book in detail and decide whether it is suitable for you according to your requirement
1. Official Guide – Good for Step 4
The definitive guide from the makers of the GMAT exam- Official Guide- is the one book that is a must for GMAT preparation. It defines what is and is not tested on the GMAT. The Official set of books, Official Guide being one of them, is the only source of real GMAT questions from the past exams. You will get over 1000 such questions with solutions in Verbal and Quant combined in the Official Guide. This guide is also available in the online format and mobile app. Since an updated version is released every year, it is preferable to buy the latest version. Irrespective of which other book you purchase, you should definitely purchase the Official Guide. You can go through this article to know more about how to use Official Guide.
2. GMAT Official Advanced Questions – Good for Step 4
This book is a supplement to the Official Guide and provides around 300 hard GMAT questions from the past exams. So, if you are targeting a high GMAT score (700+) and want to practice additional hard Official questions after solving the Official Guide, you can solve these Advanced questions. It is also available in the online format and mobile app.
3. Manhattan Prep’s ‘All the GMAT’ – Good for Step 3 (Learning Concepts from scratch, not recommended just for a revision of concepts), Step 4, Step 5
This comprehensive book covers every concept in detail. This feature makes this book a good resource for anyone who wants to start learning the concepts (and not just revise them). This set from Manhattan prep contains:
- Paperback Content –
- Three books – Quant, Verbal, IR+AWA with 1000+ practice questions
- Online Content –
- Two e-books with a more challenging content designed for the folks aiming for a high GMAT score (700+).
- An online study syllabus that tracks your progress
- 6 full-length adaptive practice tests.
- Additional Tools –
- GMAT Navigator – full solutions for Official Guide solutions
- Strategies for time management, and more Lessons and practice problems.
You can also opt for the more expensive Manhattan Prep’s Self-Study Toolkit, which provides 3 additional books and a weekly study plan to keep you on track.
4. Kaplan GMAT Prep Plus – Good for Step 3 (Revision of Concepts- not recommended for learning concepts), Step 4, Step 5
This book covers all the topics in Quant as well as Verbal and discusses strategies needed to ace each sub-section separately. As per our analysis, the detail in which the concepts are taught is good for any student who wants to revise concepts. The purchasers get:
- Paperback content–
- 350+ practice questions from all three sections (Verbal, Quant, and IR) with solutions.
- Online Content–
- 6 full-length computer adaptive practice tests. The first one can be used as a diagnostic test.
- 200 questions in an online question bank to create customized quizzes.
- The 2022-2023 Edition contains drills for every maths topic and Concept Checks throughout to help you master the material.
5. Princeton Review’s “Premium Prep” – Good for Step 3 (Revision of Concepts- not recommended for learning concepts), Step 4, Step 5
This book too is good for revising concepts and provides you with a hybrid option:
- Paperback content:
- All concepts are taught in detail.
- Chapter summary is available for every chapter.
- Online content-
- 6 full-length adaptive practice tests with score reports.
- 180+ Additional Practice Questions, sorted by difficulty
- 2 diagnostic tests (Paper-based)
- 2 weeks, 4 weeks, and 6 weeks study plan
- Additional tools-
- Step-by-step problem-solving guides for different question types.
- Key strategies to make your preparation easier
- Video tutorials with expert advice from leading course instructors
- Special “Business School Insider” section packed with helpful info on admissions and financial aid, the MBA, your career, writing winning essays, and more.
Comparison of Books for General GMAT Preparation:
Below is the comparison of data for each of the books discussed above. While the data has been taken from these books and official websites, the information about the segment of students that will benefit from that particular book is our conclusion based on this data.
Comparison based on Student Profiles
We will now present a comparison based on two student profiles and stages of preparation.
Profile 1 – Student who is preparing from scratch.
Profile 2 – Student who knows the concepts and just needs to revise them.
Books for Quant Preparation-
You can utilize these options to prepare for GMAT Quant.
1. Official Guide Quantitative Review – Good for Step 4
While the Official guide focuses on overall strategies, the Quantitative Review focuses only on Quant. This Quant supplement of the Official Guide provides additional Quant questions from past exams for practice along with Quant-specific strategies.
2. Nova’s GMAT Math Prep Course – Good for Step 3 and Step 4
This book is a comprehensive GMAT Math book that teaches all the Quant concepts tested on the GMAT with examples and practice exercises. It also includes a diagnostic test that measures your strengths and weaknesses and accordingly suggests areas that you need to work on. Students recommend this book for the ease of understanding the concepts taught and the multiple questions available for practice. If you just need to prepare for Quant, you can opt for this book and purchase Official mocks or any other reliable mocks separately.
3. Jeff Sackman’s Total GMAT Math – Good for Step 3 and Step 4
This book is another comprehensive and popular book for preparing for GMAT Quant that explains every kind of question tested on the GMAT. The book is divided into multiple sections, and every section is followed by a set of good-quality practice questions to ensure that you have absorbed what you have studied. However, if you are not clear with Quant basics, you may want to build your Quant foundation before starting this book. Providing access to a few computer adaptive tests would have made this book a complete resource for Quant.
4. Manhattan Prep’s GMAT Advanced Quant – Good for Step 3
This book is an additional resource by Manhattan Prep that provides you access to approximately 250 additional hard questions if you are targeting a high Quant score.
Books for Verbal Preparation –
You can use these books to prepare for GMAT Verbal.
1. Official Guide Verbal Review – Good for Step 4
Like its Quant counterpart, the Verbal Review focuses only on Verbal. This Verbal supplement of the Official Guide provides additional Verbal questions from past exams for practice along with Verbal-specific strategies.
2. Powerscore’s GMAT Critical Reasoning Bible – Good for Step 3, Sub-section- CR
As the name suggests, this popular comprehensive book helps you prepare for CR. It teaches you the basics of GMAT argumentation, organizes various questions under different categories, and teaches how to solve them using a step-by-step process. There are a few practice questions as well. The concepts taught are helpful in RC as well. Users also get some tips that help them improve their timing for CR questions.
3. Manhattan Prep’s GMAT Strategy Guide (SC, CR, RC) – Good For Step 3, Sub-section- SC/ CR/ RC
If you want to prepare for any specific sub-section (SC, CR, or RC), you can use the Strategy Guide for that particular sub-section. Users get access to some practice questions as well.
Note- Manhattan Prep’s All the GMAT is an expanded version of all these Strategy Guides put together. So, if you have already gone through that set, these Strategy Guides will be redundant.
What Do Books Not Provide?
Nothing is perfect! The same is true for the GMAT Prep books. Even with the best books, you will need an additional resource for these steps:
1. Evaluation of Your Current Ability
Since GMAT is a computer-based adaptive test, you need to take a similar test to understand where you falter. However, most of the books provide paper-based diagnostic quizzes with very few questions. These quizzes can, at best, give you an idea of the kind of questions that you will get on the GMAT. These are not designed to give you an idea of your strengths and weaknesses, your performance in a timed quiz, or your performance in a mixed adaptive quiz. Hence, this is one of the steps where you would need an additional resource.
Here is an example of two e-GMAT students who scored 720+ on the GMAT. Both of them had different strengths and weaknesses and hence required different strategies to get to the same target score:
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Student 1- Aayush Gandhi (670 to 750)– Initially, he was good in Quant and RC but weak in SC and CR. Based on these starting abilities, he was given a personalized plan that focussed on maintaining RC and Quant and improving SC and CR to get to his target score.
Student 2- Rafaella Mazza (600 to 730)– She was good in SC and CR. In Quant, she was relatively better in Alg-Geo. RC and Arithmetic were her weakness. The plan that she received helped her maintain SC and CR, improve RC and Alg-Geo to 90+%ile and since Arithmetic was not her strong point, improve her ability in Arithmetic to around 57%ile.
Imagine the power of this data we got from our exclusive SIGma-X mock. Alternatively, you can utilize any reliable mock that gives you a detailed analysis of your performance, and get your starting abilities. e-GMAT offers one SIGma-X mock for free. You can take that and get detailed feedback on your performance.
2. Personalized Study Plan
While many books provide you with a study plan, none of them provides a personalized study plan. So, if you and your friend want to get to 740 from 710 in a month, the study plan that you will get will be similar, irrespective of your strengths and weaknesses or the kind of effort that you can put in.
You have already seen the starting abilities of Aayush and Rafaella. Here is a comparison of the suggested plan and time distribution for each of them:
3. Personalized Customer Support
Books provide general test-taking strategies, but they cannot help you with the specific issues that you will face during your preparation. For example, what if you have a doubt in a question or in its solution, what if you are not improving in SC even after doing the course multiple times, or what to do if the timing seems to be your only issue? You would need an additional resource to get these queries resolved. Below is an example of a query and personalized strategic suggestion that was shared with one of our students who then scored 730.
4. Data Analytics
Books explain the concepts but do not provide any analysis of your performance. For example,
- You learned a concept and solved the questions related to that concept. Now, you will not get any feedback whatsoever on how well you have absorbed the concept or do you need to take any corrective steps before moving to the next step.
- Similarly, let’s say you solved 20 Hard SC questions. Now, all you can depend on is how well you are able to analyze your performance- i.e., understand the topics that each question tests, check how well you performed on each topic, record the time that you took for every question, and pick out the questions that took you excessive time, etc.
If you want to improve from, let’s say, 640 to 700+, you need to know the areas that need your focus. Re-doing everything will not help. We would suggest that you define the important parameters that you are going to track before taking such quizzes. You can get an idea of these parameters from the SIGma-X mock analysis.
5. Tracking for Predictable Success
If you are studying from books, you will have to track your progress yourself. How much course you have completed, are you on track with respect to schedule, is your performance improving- these are some of the questions that you should keep a track of. Such tracking helps you understand whether you are on the right track, or whether you need corrective actions. Below is a screenshot showing how we, at e-GMAT, track your accuracy. It is one of the aspects that we track.
6. Customized Practice Tests
Once you have analyzed your performance on a quiz, you need to bridge the identified gaps and then solve more questions that test you on the faltering points. For example, let’s say you took a 20 Hard questions SC quiz and noticed that you are faltering in verb-ing modifiers questions, then you may want to revise the concepts related to verb-ing modifiers and then solve maybe 5 verb-ing modifiers questions to validate that you have bridged the gaps. Unfortunately, books just provide you with a set of questions. Now, it is up to you to find the relevant questions and solve them.
These points explain why online courses account for 90% of the success reported on GMAT Club. These courses have evolved over the last few years to help you prepare smartly. If you need help with any of the above given points, do experience our free trial.
Now that you understand the decision parameters, features offered by the best GMAT prep books, and the features that books do not offer, I hope that it will be easier for you to find the book that is the best for you. I hope that you will make the most out of it. Remember, all of these books can just guide you. Ultimately it will be your diligence and dedication that will determine your success.
I would now recommend that you go through these articles to understand how to prepare for the GMAT irrespective of the resource that you have selected:
Most people believe that a typical MBA journey starts with acing the GMAT. But what if I tell you there is one step before acing the GMAT, which will impact your career trajectory for years to come. That step is choosing the right GMAT preparation resource. These resources could be GMAT books or online courses. In this article, we have provided information on the best GMAT books and online resources available in 2022 – 2023 to help you with your preparation.
There are various resources available for GMAT preparation, making it challenging to understand which book or resource is useful. The first thing that comes to anybody’s mind is to opt for the GMAT Official Guide.
But is this resource good enough to achieve your target score? That is precisely what we’ve answered in this article.
Best GMAT prep books 2022- 2023 – FAQs
No, the GMAT official guide is not enough. You should not just depend on one resource while preparing for the GMAT exam.
The Graduate Management Admission Test is a 3 hours 7 minutes long computer adaptive test (CAT). It is developed by GMAC to provide business schools with standard measures of applicant’s preparedness for graduate-level academic work. Read our article to know everything about GMAT.
The GMAT Syllabus comprises of topics that are further grouped in sub-sections and sections. It consists of four sections:
3. Integrated Reasoning
4. Analytical Writing Assessment
Critical reasoning, sentence correction, and reading comprehension are included in the Verbal section, and data sufficiency and problem-solving in the Quant section.
Check out the list of topics in each section here.
The registration fee for the GMAT test is $250 in most countries. However, the GMAT cost will be more than just the registration fee and will differ from country to country.
Here is an article on GMAT costs in India, UK, Europe, US, and the Rest of the world.
The GMAT exam is 3.5 hours which includes your breaks and Test instructions.
The GMAT is a test of high-order reasoning skills. This test is taken by 200,000+ people every year, and the average score at top business schools is 720+. Also, only 6% of the test takers score 720 or above in the GMAT exam.