With so many GMAT resources out there, it’s impossible to tell the difference between them. This guide explains what’s in the most popular practice resources, and why these may not be as worthwhile as they appear if you don’t practice smart. Of course, we also offer you an alternative solution!
1. The New Official Guide 2017
The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2017 is written by the makers of the GMAT exam. You’ll find success strategies and test-taking tips, as well as a grammar and math review. A diagnostic test is supposed to help you prioritize your study time, while the companion website lets you create your own practice tests. Over 900 past exam questions are answered with explanations, and actual example essays are included with scoring information.
2. GMAT Club Tests
The new GMAT Club Tests have been redesigned based on user input. The test system has 1274 hard questions, and offers computer adaptive tests and targeted quizzes.
The GMAT Club also offers free tests. These are quite hard, as they are designed to be representative of the GMAT Club’s pool of questions. They aim to give a similar overall experience to the full tests and have the same user interface and explanations.
3. Beat the GMAT – free questions
These are free GMAT prep resources from various sources, offering free online practice test options that help you become familiar with what to expect on Test Day: the question types, what taking a timed GMAT is like, how to pace yourself, and which areas to focus on. They also claim to predict what your score would be if you took the exam today.
4. Practice CAT tests
Computer Adaptive Tests adapt to your ability level and draw from a bank of many questions of varying difficulty. This means that every question you answer right or wrong determines what questions you will see later in the CAT. CATs, done on desktop devices, are usually the best simulation for the real GMAT test.
5. GMAT prep mobile apps
Preparing for the GMAT is time consuming, and people feel they never have enough time to study. That’s why GMAT prep mobile apps help you study wherever you go, without having to carry books everywhere.
Mobile apps are a usually limited due to their small screen – which is why they either provide flashcards or short questions and explanations. There are some which will provide a full course but this part is usually left unused by the students due to the fact that reading from small screen can be very exhausting.
Each one of the resources mentioned above is great if we are to assume that practice makes perfect. If that were true we would see many more people just taking a week, or even a month off work to study and hit the 800 mark. But in reality, it’s not really about how much you practice. It’s how and what you practice.
Just solving thousands of questions will add up to a trillion ways of confusing you! Yes, there are plenty of different (great!) ways to solve these questions – but you are still left wondering which one is best for you.
The important question is not “where do I stand?” but rather “where do I WANT to stand?”, and more importantly – “HOW do I get there?”
The main problems with how you practice with these resources
1. When answering questions, students usually start with the first thing that comes into their minds, and if that doesn’t work, they’ll try a different approach, and so on. They end up wasting a lot of time.
2. You only know what you were taught, and the tool you are using might not been the best tool for the specific sets of problems you are trying to tackle. If there’s no one by your side to mention that, you can practice forever without ever optimizing your performance.
3. Many of these resources show you just 1 way to solve the problem you got wrong. That might not be the right solution for you. It can also be a different approach than what you were taught and cause even more confusion.
Practice smart, not hard
examPAL has developed one simple method to help students find the fastest way to solve each question. That’s the PAL in examPAL – Precise, Alternative, or Logical. And when there’s more than one way, the system studies the way students think in order to find THEIR best way to the right answer. It’s called ‘The PALgorithm.’
The greatest benefit of PAL is having one clear way of thinking, which makes all solutions easier and faster. It also leads to an easier preparation process and to better assimilation and absorption of the materials. In fact, the PALgorithm changes the entire perspective on practice. You don’t just solve questions and get easier or harder solutions. You work with the best possible private tutor: one who monitors each and every answer you give, sees all the answers that thousands of other students have given, and finds the perfect match between your way of thinking and what proved effective to others.
If you want to ace the GMAT, it isn’t enough to find the best solutions. It’s about making your mind “flexible” enough to move from one approach to another very quickly. As in any other kind of fitness, it takes some time to master, but once you are “in the zone,” you’ll be able to reach your highest possible score in no time.
Richard Kampel, Senior GMAT Tutor at examPAL, is an experienced actuarial analyst who has been tutoring for the past 8 years in subjects including GMAT prep, financial statistics, english, physics, and accounting.
* This blog post is sponsored by examPal.