Review: New Online Features for GMAT Official Guide 2015

GMAC sent us a heads up on the upcoming GMAT Official Guide and we had one of our favorite teachers, Andrew Patton in Atlanta, review it and give you this review so you can incorporate it into your prep more effectively.


At Bell Curves, we have long been fans of computer-based practice for the GMAT. The test is given on a computer, so it makes sense to practice on a computer, in fact, we designed our own online GMAT student center with that in mind. So when we heard The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2015 (the newest Official Guide edition due summer 2014) will now include an online practice site, we had to check it out!

Here is the list of the practice site content according to GMAC:

  • A diagnostic test to help you evaluate your current level of readiness.
  • Access to a question bank with 900 practice questions that are customizable based on question type and level of difficulty.
  • Links to Integrated Reasoning questions (there is a IR practice site coming from GMAC soon).
  • Exclusive video addressing concerns about taking the exam, balancing work and school, and preparing for the GMAT exam.

Diagnostic Test

The diagnostic test is an online version of the current diagnostic provided in the 13th edition book. While it may be the same questions, having it on your computer makes reviewing the results much easier. Having the type of question, answer explanations,

difficulty rating, and time spent per question is a much more useful tool than the current pencil and paper diagnostic provided. Keep in mind there are a couple differences between the actual GMAT and the diagnostic. First, the diagnostic is not a computer adaptive test, and at 100 questions in length it is longer than the Quantitative and Verbal sections on the official test. This allowed GMAC to include

questions of every type at a variety of difficulties. Also unlike the actual GMAT,

there isn’t a time limit on the diagnostic. However, it keeps track of how long you spent on the entire test as well as time spent on individual questions. Once you have taken the diagnostic, you can review your results and learn where to focus your initial test prep. GMAC provides a score for each of the basic question categories of problem solving, data sufficiency, reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction. Comparing your score to the chart they provide will let you know if you are below average, average, above average, or excellent in that particular category. While this diagnostic won’t be able to give you much of an idea of what you would score on an actual GMAT, it can let you know which areas are your strengths or weaknesses. If the thought of taking a GMATPrep practice test before doing some initial test preparation is stressing you out, this may be a good option to give you a starting point!


Customizable Question Bank

GMAC claims you get access to a question bank with 900 questions to customize your own practice sets based on question type and desired difficulty. However, there are only 807 questions available to use in custom practice sets. Maybe the 900 number is meant to include the diagnostic exam, but currently there is no way to customize those questions in any way. Still, 807 is a good number, and a lot of practice can be gotten out of the question bank. You can mix and match question types and difficulties to create the custom practice experience you need. Each question includes a detailed explanation, the ability to take notes about the question, and the ability to bookmark a question to return to it later. Just like the diagnostic test, you can review the practice set to see how long you took on each individual question, as well as total time. Use this to work on time management and apply that information on practice tests!


Let’s see how the question bank breaks down:

Problem Solving – 37 Easy, 93 Medium, 100 Hard – 230 Total

Data Sufficiency – 24 Easy, 64 Medium, 86 Hard – 174 Total

Reading Comprehension – 23 Easy, 74 Medium, 42 Hard – 139 Total

Critical Reasoning – 36 Easy, 47 Medium, 41 Hard – 124 Total

Sentence Correction – 26 Easy, 64 Medium, 50 Hard – 140 Total

Overall – 146 Easy, 342 Medium, 319 Hard – 807 Total


Integrated Reasoning Questions

Currently the Integrated Reasoning questions are the same questions from the Official Guide for GMAT Review, 13th Edition. They are useful but not new. The good news is that GMAC has an IR online practice tool, though it will cost you an additional $20. Check this blog for our review of that tool.


Exclusive Video

At the time of the site launch, there is only one video on the site (though the . It is just over eight and a half minutes and covers a lot of frequently asked questions. While the video is a bit dry and at times may seem forced, it covers some good information. It is definitely worth a watch as it may answer a question you didn’t know you had.


What the Site Lacks

Sadly the new site doesn’t have any sort of computer adaptive practice. All of the practice is either static sets of questions like the diagnostic test, Integrated Reasoning, or specifically chosen questions based on your selections from the question bank. The good news is if you want extra computer adaptive practice, the Bell Curves Student Center still has plenty of computer adaptive quizzes to try!


Final Thoughts

The new GMAC site is going to be a useful addition to the host of tools available for test prep. The best part is the customizable question bank. Even though it may not be as large as advertised (or hoped for by GMAT teachers across the universe!), it will still provide value to the people that use it. While the diagnostic test is nice, it doesn’t give you knowledge of your true starting point in relation to the GMAT. Knowing where you are relatively weak or strong is useful information, but knowing your starting 200-800 score from a GMATPrep practice test is a better indicator of how close or far you are from your GMAT score goal. That is the information that will dictate how aggressive your test prep schedule needs to be.

A few other interesting images:



We hope this review was helpful, and we wish you luck on your GMAT journey!

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