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How To Use The GMAT Official Guide

The GMAT Official Guide is probably one of the most important components of any GMAT Prep. But more often than not test-takers do not really use it in a way that will maximize their learning and take them to their dream score.

Why High Accuracy On The OG Does Not Translate Into A Good Performance On Full-Length Tests
The usual way that test-takers use the OG is that they take up a single area RC, CR, SC, PS or DS, solve about 30-50 questions at a stretch, check their answers and then either solve another round of the same question type or solve move on to some other type.

Another thing that is common is that test-takers exhaust questions from their favorite areas (usually CR or SC) and leave questions from areas they dislike unsolved (usually RC).

The big problem with this way of solving is that it does not improve your readiness for the test.

A lot of test-takers have said that they are able to hit high levels of accuracy when they solve questions form the OG but they are unable to do so when they take practice tests, especially on the Verbal section.

The reason is that when you solve a set of 30-35 SC questions at a stretch you get into a groove after you solve about 4-5 questions and settle into a specific SC or CR-solving rhythm. On the actual test you do not have the luxury of getting into a SC or CR groove; at most you will see three SC or CR questions in a row.

The biggest hurdle is that you will be solving Verbal questions after almost 2.5 hours of testing — the single most important factor in your performance on the Verbal dropping on actual test-day (if you have not built up test-taking stamina).

Practice To Simulate The Actual Test
The closer your practice drills reflect what you face on test-day the higher your chances of getting a great score.

Start your prep by taking the Diagnostic Test in the OG and get an idea of your competence levels with respect to the test (you can read about how to convert the Diagnostic Test performance to a score out of 800 here).

Then structure each OG practice session in the following way:

GMAT Practice Routine

Do not solve all the three RC passages in a row, alternate solving an RC passage with solving other question types: RC1-CR-RC2-SC-RC3 or RC1-SC-RC2-CR-RC3.

One of the worst nightmares for most Indian test-takers on test-day is to have to begin or end the Verbal section with RC. Most of them prefer to have RC passages interspersed in the middle. But on test-day there is no saying as to what order the question-types will appear. Some test-takers have had two RCs almost back to back in the first 10 questions and others have reported two RCs right at the end. The best way to prepare for this is to ensure to take care of this during practice.

You would need you to set aside 2.5 hours for every practice session. You should not do this every day. You should set aside one day for practice and one day for analysis and learning.

Practice To Learn, Not To Feel Good
To get the maximum out of your practice drills you need to ensure that you are honest in your practice. When you mark an answer to a question, especially in DS or SC, you have to be very clear whether it is clean attempt or a guess.

A guess is not just a question about which you were completely unsure and just chose an option at random. Every question where you mark the answer with a certain degree of hesitation or with a lack of clarity should be classified as a guess.

This is very important because once test-takers get a question right they rarely check the explanatory answers. Every question you guess correctly lulls you into overestimating your ability and passing on an opportunity to learn.

This is precisely reason why some test-takers say that their accuracy keeps going up and down. They do not account for their guesses — on a good day they guess right and get 8 out of 10 questions right and on a bad day they get about 6 out of 10 right.

In the initial stages of your preparation the scope for guessing or lack of clarity is maximum and so too is the scope for learning if you are alert. So whenever you mark an answer option put a G next to the question in case you have guessed it or answered it without clarity.

Explanatory Answers Are As Important As The Questions

Given that the GMAT is a highly standardized test, the questions, the answer options and the trap options will tend to follow a pattern. The best way to decode this pattern is to use the explanatory answers effectively.

Ensure that you read explanatory answers in detail for every question you answered incorrectly and the ones you have guessed.

For Sentence Correction I would suggest reading the explanatory answers even for questions you answer correctly. You might have chose the right option but for the wrong reason!

One of my biggest performance improvements on the GMAT SC came due to reading explanatory answers.

Since every option is more or less the same, the explanatory answers for SC questions usually represent each option in terms of Xs and Ys, for example, unlike X….,Y.

This is a great way of reading SC options since it helps you to listen to the structure of the sentence clearly and identify flaws. Otherwise you end up repeating the whole sentence with each option, something that not only takes more time but also hinders clarity in identifying the error .

Reading the answer explanations will enable you to start reading for the structure of the sentence on different error types. This will not only crash the time needed to solve SC questions but also increase your accuracy.

Set clear performance goals for every practice session
The aim of practice is to get better and to get better  you need to do is identify your learning needs precisely and address them in the next practice session.

The OG Tracker, an excel sheet that is available on the Beat The GMAT forum, is a good tool to get macro-level analysis on your OG Practice Sessions.

If you micro-analyze every practice session well, you will realize that you are weak on specific question types, say, primary purpose questions on RC or Assumption questions on CR or a specific type of SC question. You might also realize that you make a lot silly errors on Quant despite being good at it.

Try to fix this problem before you start your next practice session by revisiting the specific chapter in your Study Material you are using or by taking the help of your instructor.

Talk to yourself about what you want to achieve before the next practice session. For example, I will read the question fully before I start solving Quant questions; I will read the beginning and endings of RC passages with more clarity; I will try to apply what I have learnt to solve Assumption questions.

Once you exhaust questions from the OG, use the Verbal & Quant review to set up similar practice sessions.

If you lack the time to consistently set aside 2.5 hours, split your practice sessions into Quant & Verbal sections as outlined in the table.

It’s not practice that makes perfect but the right practice that makes perfect.



  1. Yash says

    Sir, I have 13th Edition of GMAT Official guide. Got to know there’s a new book which has been launched by GMAC. Do I need to buy the new one or is it okay to use the old one ?


  2. Hi Yash, You can use the old one. Every new OG replaces about 25% of the questions. Since the pattern hasn’t changed a new OG makes no difference. You can use the 13th edition.
    All the best!


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