To make life simple let us take up this topic in alignment with the structure I suggested for your GMAT Prep in this post.
After you take the OG Diagnostic test to identify you learning needs, the three distinct phases of your GMAT Prep are Prep, Practice & Testing
As someone who has prepared for and taken the GMAT myself, I can vouch that there is no prep material from any one brand that is best for all three stages.
Prep: Building Concepts & Strategies
The prep material that you will require depends obviously on the level of knowledge & expertise in each of the sections, Quantitative & Verbal, that test-takers begin with; we will take up each section separately.
QUANTITATIVE: Most Indian test-takers feel that they are pretty comfortable with the Quant. But to really prepare efficiently and identify the prep material that is best for you, it is best to use on your performance in the Diagnostic Test as a benchmark.
We will look at the prep material that you need for this phase of your prep for each of the categories
Excellent: This means that you are aware of the all the Quantitative concepts tests on the GMAT and would not need any prep material for this phase for Quant. You can focus only on the Verbal section during this phase and begin your Quant Prep directly at the practice stage.
Prep Material: None required
Above Average: This means that you have a reasonably good grasp of the concepts tested on the GMAT Quant. You just need a quick summary of the all Quant concepts and may be strategies to approach Data Sufficiency questions.
Prep Material: Math Review section of the Official Guide—it provides a crisp summary of all concepts. For developing the approach to Data Sufficiency you can follow the DS posts on this blog or go through only the strategy portion in the prep guides offered by either Kaplan or MGMAT.
Average: This means that you have a conceptual gap on the topics tested on the GMAT Quant and need more than a quick brush-up of Quant topics that is provided by the Math Review in the OG.
Prep Material: Prep guides offered by either Kaplan or MGMAT
Below Average: While it is possible to improve from this stage using the guides mentioned above, it will be best if you take up a classroom prep course.
Prep Material: Classroom Prep Program
VERBAL: The Achilles heel of most Indian GMAT-takers, the Verbal section is more often than not what stands between them and a score of 700. Irrespective of what their level of expertise is, test-takers would require more extensive prep for the Verbal section than they would need for the Quant.
For Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning the focus is more on specific strategies for specific question types such as this particular strategy for Assumption question rather than on concepts.
Sentence Correction is the only area where you would need to learn concepts before you learn strategies. The extent to which you would need to get into the basics of Grammar will depend on your level.
Excellent: This indicates a great level of comfort with reading, reasoning and grammar. Test-takers at level too will be able to increase their speed and consistency by learning GMAT-specific strategies.
Prep Material: The Verbal posts on this blog and the strategy portions of the guides offered by Kaplan or MGMAT
Above Average: This indicates a reasonable level of comfort with reading, reasoning and grammar. Test-takers would need to brush up some concepts and learn GMAT-specific
Prep Material: Prep guides offered by either Kaplan or MGMAT.
Average & Below Average: For both of these categories I would advice classroom prep for the simple reason that self-study might not result in the desired score in the first attempt itself. So investing in a good classroom program can save test-takers’ the money they would otherwise spend on multiple attempts.
Prep Material: Classroom Prep Program
Practice: Applying concepts & strategies to build speed and accuracy
There is no material in the market apart from the questions released by the GMAC through its various books that is best suited for GMAT practice. The simple reason being that the precise logic and rules that are tested on the GMAT are not replicated in the material of any test-prep player.
The value that test-prep players offer is always in the strategies that they teach in their guides or the trainers who teach in their classrooms.
So as far as practice material goes the best material that you can lay your hands on are
• The Official Guide for GMAT Review — Any edition that gives you access to the 50 IR questions
• The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review — Any edition
• The Official Guide for GMAT Quant Review — Any edition (Additional practice only for those who are weak in Quant)
This is the material that you should be using in your practice phase.
There is more official material available for practice which is best used for practice in between taking full-length tests:
• 90 practice questions in the GMAT Prep Software (FREE)
• GMAT Question Pack 1, 404 practice questions in the GMAT Prep Software ($29.99)
Testing: Taking Simulated Full-Length Tests To Reach Your Target Score
To ensure that you perform to your full potential as far the GMAT score is concerned you need to be practicing with the right tests. The tests offered by the GMAC are the exact replica of the actual test — they use the same algorithm as in the actual test.
So what material should you be using during testing?
• 2 GMAT Computer Adaptive Tests available in GMAT Prep Software (FREE)
• 2 GMAT Computer Adaptive Tests available in GMAT Prep Software ($49.99)
Each of these tests can be reset and retaken you will see a few repeat questions but you will start seeing tougher questions if you do well. So if you are scoring above 700 then resetting might not be that useful since the number of different and tougher questions you will encounter might be few.
But for anyone scoring less than a 700 resetting will definitely be almost equivalent to taking a new test. So technically you will be having 8 tests.
GMAT Paper-Based Tests: The GMAC also release 9 paper-based tests for practice. These are actual GMAT Tests from the paper-based with a scoring table that will give you a score out of 800.
These are ideal to take between the Computer Adaptive Tests to build test-taking stamina.
They are not fully reflective of the current GMAT in two ways — the Quant in these papers is easier than the current levels and you can navigate between questions.
So to get an accurate evaluation of your ability you must reduce 30 points from the score you get on the paper-based test.
So in effect these 14 tests should be more than enough to give you a good simulation of the GMAT and to help you work your way to a higher score.
I would not recommend any other material or tests apart from the ones listed above, as they would not be a good enough simulation of the actual test.
Also, apart from the ones listed above there is more paid official prep material available on the GMAT site; what I have listed here are the ones that are essential, the others it goes without saying are not things that are a must-have.
So go ahead and download the GMAT Prep Software: