Finding the right GMAT prep books is a little tougher than when you were looking for prep books to help you study for the ACT or the SAT. Most people who are taking the GMAT are professionals, not students.
Chances are, you haven’t taken a standardized test in years and you haven’t really studied for one since back in your college days. What this means is that studying for the GMAT isn’t as simple as opening a book and taking notes because studying works a lot like muscle memory; you need the practice to get back in stride.
That’s why finding and choosing the right GMAT prep books that help you do just that, as well as complementing your weaknesses and strengths, is so important to performing well in the test. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top GMAT prep books available today along with their pros and cons so that you’ll know which of these prep books can benefit you the most.
1 – GMAT Official Guide Bundle
The value of the GMAT Official Guide Bundle is its test questions and its exclusive online bank that gives you access to as many as 1,500 questions that were used in old versions of the GMAT.
This is the only prep book that can offer questions from actual retired GMATs. A lot of other GMAT prep books out there will also give you practice tests that mirror the GMAT as closely as possible to give you a feel of the real experience, but in terms of the difficulty level, the nuances of the questions, and how it adapts to your answers, this bundle is your best bet.
This GMAT prep book is a must-have for its practice tests but it is actually a comprehensive, all-in-one study guide with explanations of the questions and the answers and videos of test-takers and the GMAC officials that offer tips and strategies to take the test.
It is also basically a book bundle of three GMAT prep books that cover all four sections of the GMAT. The titles that it includes are The Official Guide for GMAT Review, The Official Guide for GMAT Quantitative Review, and The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review, which sold at a much lower price than if you bought all three separately.
As I mentioned earlier, the strength of the GMAT Official Guide Bundle is its practice tests but for a guide on the tips and tricks and strategies for studying and taking the GMAT, you will need to buy a separate prep book, one that supplements the official guide.
While I would strongly recommend that you invest in the GMAT Official Guide Bundle from day one of your preparations for the GMAT, I would also recommend that you buy other prep books that cover the areas that you feel will be your weak spot in the test. This will help you focus on the part of the test where you will need help the most.
2 – Complete GMAT Strategy Guide Set (Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guides)
The Complete GMAT Strategy Guide Set by Manhattan Prep is also a bundle of ten books that would cost about $150 if you buy them individually but will cost substantially less as a set which gives you good value for your money. As a GMAT prep guide, the Manhattan prep’s GMAT study guide is excellent as a comprehensive guide, offering what some would call a complete walkthrough of the GMAT. And by comprehensive, I mean comprehensive.
The different books that are part of the set cover the GMAT from start to finish. The first book explains how the test works, particularly how the questions change to adapt to your answers, key information that can help test-takers master the GMAT.
The books that follow work as a study guide that individually focuses on each part of the GMAT, covering each section of the test along with test-taking strategies. Concepts are also thoroughly broken down into the simplest forms for easier explanations.
The Complete GMAT Strategy Guide Set by Manhattan Prep also has online tests that mimic the real GMAT which means that they are also adaptive tests.
One of the downsides of the Complete GMAT Strategy Guide Set by Manhattan Prep is that its practice tests tend to be harder than the actual GMAT. A lot of users feel that its tests offer a “worst-case scenario” outcome instead of being more realistic. This can be good in the sense that you will be prepared for the worst but a harder test can also take time away from studying for other sections of the GMA, slowing down your pace.
This set study guide is also very thorough which means that you can get a very in-depth look at how the GMAT works and not just how to study for it but this approach can also be more time-consuming. It is not in any way a quick fix or a fast boost. I would recommend buying this GMAT prep set if you are only beginning to study for the test, not when you are wrapping up and want some extra insight.
3 – Kaplan GMAT Complete: The Ultimate in Comprehensive Self-Study for GMAT
The Kaplan GMAT Complete succeeds in being a great comprehensive study guide for the GMAT while only sticking to the essentials that you will need for taking the test. In addition to its study guides, it also covers the structure of the test and how it works so that you can make better and educated choices when choosing your answers.
It also offers strategies along with different tips and techniques for handling the different kinds of questions found in the GMAT.
Like the Manhattan Prep version, the Kaplan GMAT Complete is a good study guide to use when you are at the beginning of studying for the GMAT and you want a firm grasp of the basics.
If you are looking for a more thorough and detailed take on the structure of the GMAT and its different sections, then the Kaplan GMAT Complete is not for you. Kaplan offers what it feels that you need to get ahead in the GMAT, no more and no less.
Like most other GMAT prep books, Kaplan doesn’t do well in offering realistic practice test questions, even if it does offer practice tests in the same adaptive format that the GMAT does. Supplement the Kaplan GMAT Complete with prep books that offer more realistic practice tests to get a better way of gauging your performance.
4 – The Princeton Review’s Cracking the GMAT Premium Edition
The strength of the Princeton Review’s Cracking the GMAT is that it is well written and structured which makes it very easy to read. After all, there’s no point in buying these GMAT prep books which can be pretty pricey if you’re not going to read them.
The way that the Princeton Review’s Cracking the GMAT is written makes it easy to understand and in turn, makes the GMAT and its different sections easier to understand and study.
Another good point for this GMAT prep guide is its study strategies and how it teaches the reader to look at the different questions in the test from different angles, to avoid traps, and other study techniques that help facilitate learning without the stress. I would call this study guide friendly but highly effective.
There are some typos in this GMAT study guide that can be very confusing, particularly in the answers section. A few readers commented that the question shown in the book was different from the one found in the answer key which can be annoying, however.
5 – Manhattan Prep’s GMAT Advanced Quant (Best GMAT Prep Math Book)
Manhattan Prep’s GMAT Advanced Quant delivers as advertised with its quant-focused GMAT guide. This is the prep guide that you need if you have already covered the basics of the GMAT but you need a boost for the math section. I
t has some of the toughest quant problems among the available GMAT prep books supplemented with more questions online. Let’s face it; most GMAT takers usually have an issue with the quantitative sections of the test which is what makes this GMAT prep book so popular and so valuable.
The advantage of this quantitative-focused GMAT prep book is that it not only delves into the math but it also explains the structure of the problems and offers a number of solutions for them. This also helps the readers avoid potential traps and save time while taking the test.
If you are only starting to study for the GMAT and haven’t covered the basics yet, this prep book is not for you. This is the book that you want only if you have already studied the basics and are looking to go in-depth for the quantitative sections of the test.
The problems are not surprisingly harder than the GMAT but that’s because this prep book goes beyond the basics and advertises itself for GMAT takers who are aiming for the 800 scores. This may cost you valuable study time but on the other hand, over-preparation can also work in your favor.
6 – Manhattan Prep’s GMAT Reading Comprehension (Best GMAT Book for Reading Comprehension)
Manhattan Prep’s specialized GMAT guide to reading comprehension is best added to your list of GMAT prep guides if you are already on the last leg of studying and need to improve your reading comprehension performance. This GMAT prep guide works well with breaking down the structure of the test problems and figuring out difficult wording to get you to the heart of the matter.
More than offering practice tests, it schools the reader on the best strategies to take. For example, I found the tips on note-taking and how to spot the important factoids behind the words very useful.
I also appreciated the simplified explanations that can help the reader focus on what’s important which is the essence of getting through the reading comprehension section of the GMAT.
Much like its quantitative counterpart, Manhattan Prep’s GMAT Reading Comprehension guide should be saved for refining your knowledge, for the later part of your study preparations. If you feel that your reading comprehension needs more work and could definitely be your weakness during the exam, then this is the prep book for you.
A lot of readers have said that this guide could use more practice questions and passages. I would recommend that you supplement this GMAT prep guide with a separate guide that delivers on realistic test questions like the GMAT official guide so that you can gauge your performance well and be better prepared.