Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated
Some weeks ago I wrote a review of “The Princeton Review; Cracking the GMAT 2012” and there I said the Kaplan Premier would be the next book to go through. After doing about half that book I went on a trip to Thailand and I didn’t want to run out of stuff to do there, nor did I wanted to carry around two books. So I made the switch to “The Official Guide for GMAT Review – 12th Edition”. Now I almost finished this book and it feels like it is time to write my review.
The structure of “The Official Guide for GMAT Review” (GMAT Review from here on) is similar to the Princeton Review. You start with a diagnostic test where you make some sample questions and it gives you an indication how well you are doing (below average, average, above average). After that each part of the GMAT test has its own chapter where they start with an introduction followed by a lot of questions. As the cover of the book already tells you: there are more than 800 past GMAT questions – and their answers – in this book.
There are some big differences between the two books though. Below I will try to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both books.
DEPTH: The biggest difference between the two books is the depth of the material. In the Princeton Review they give a good introduction to the test and when you are done with the book you feel confident to tackle the GMAT. But when you do the GMAT Review you will find out many concepts were skipped in the Princeton Review, or only the simplest form was discussed. The GMAT Review does not explain all concepts either, but when doing the test questions you will stumble upon them anyways.
TEST QUESTIONS: The difference in the number of test questions is huge between the two books. Where the GMAT Review has over 800 questions, the Princeton Review stops at 183 questions. The questions in the GMAT Review are actual questions used on past tests, but the format has been copied well by the Princeton Review writers.
TEST STRATEGY: The two books approach the test also in completely different ways. In my view you can see the GMAT Review a bit as “the good teacher”. Every concept is well explained, and if you have time enough to study and have time enough on the exam to do each question this book will help you the most. But during the actual test there will be a time limit, and your fatigue will destroy your concentration. The Princeton Review is more useful with test taking strategies. Instead of using difficult formulas for some questions they just advice you to plug in the answers and see which one is correct. While you will not know how to do all the calculations, you will know the answer to the question and be able to continue with the next question.
While both books have their strengths and weaknesses, so far I would say you need both books to do well on the GMAT (each has a price of about 20 USD if you order them on www.amazon.com, so don’t try to be cheap here). You need the GMAT Review for the test questions and the depth of questions, and you will need the Princeton Review for test taking strategies. If you will use both books I will recommend to start with the Princeton Review because this book gives the best introduction and the best strategies. When you know these basic things you can continue with the 800 questions of the GMAT Review. And this is where you should invest most of your time: doing the questions and really understanding the answers!