7 Best GMAT Prep Books (2021-2022)

Best GMAT Study Books

If you want to make it into a good business school, you’ll need to get an acceptable score on the GMAT. Most people need some help preparing for the GMAT, however, which is why they start looking into GMAT test prep books.

At a glance, many of the GMAT test prep books look entirely interchangeable. In our experience, the best GMAT test prep books are significantly different from average study guides.

In this article, we’ll help you to identify the GMAT prep books, which will prepare you for success when it’s time to take the test.

GMAT Prep Book Reviews

1. Mometrix GMAT Secret Prep Book

Mometrix’ GMAT Secret Test Prep book is a well-rounded and sufficiently comprehensive approach to all of the material you’ll need to master for the GMAT.

Publisher: Mometrix

Year: 2019

Pages: 214

Our Final Grade: A+

With the Mometrix GMAT test prep guide, you’ll have a great resource that leaves no stone uncovered. In this book, you’ll find everything from the test-taking strategy to motivational content, including plenty of practice questions and lessons explaining fundamental concepts.

You don’t need to worry about some essential piece of information going unreported if you use this book to prepare for the GMAT.

Overall, this book is more effective at teaching quantitative material than it is at teaching verbal or reasoning-based material. You will find that this property is especially evident in the solutions manuals, where quantitative questions are given far more explanation than verbal questions.

This means that if you need more help preparing for the verbal portion of the exam than the quantitative portion, you should find other resources to round out your prep efforts.

Pros

  • Includes prelude discussing study plans and preparation strategies
  • Has a section on overcoming test anxiety
  • Has a section on overcoming math anxiety
  • Full-length practice test and in-depth solutions manual

Cons

  • Lackluster table of contents
  • Quantitative lesson sections are better than the verbal lesson sections

2. GMAC’s GMAT Official Guide

The Graduate Management Admissions Council created this GMAT prep book to act as a template for others to follow, making it a risky yet cutting-edge preparation resource.

Publisher: Wiley

Year: 2021

Pages: 1088

Our Final Grade: A

GMAC’s GMAT preparation guide is notable because it’s the official study prep book created by the people who run the GMAT. This means that the GMAC prep book is unusually accurate in its explanation of the concepts and types of questions that will be on the GMAT.

It also means that the lessons are comprehensive when compared to the material that will be on the test for the year that the book was compiled.

Take note that you should not use any edition of this book other than the one from the current year in which you are planning on taking the test because the differences from edition to edition will be directly mirrored in the test content.

In general, GMAC’s prep book is heavy on information and light on test-taking strategy and practice questions. However, it’s a powerful tool for building your basic understanding of the most important principles that will be on the test.

Overall, this book can’t be the only test prep book you rely on to prepare, but it is a powerful companion to any other collection of resources that will help you to test your knowledge and prove your understanding.

Pros

  • Includes tips on how long to study for your target score
  • Includes integration with online resources
  • Provides insight regarding how subjective sections like the writing assessment are graded

Cons

  • No test-taking strategy content
  • No practice tests included

3. Manhattan Prep’s All The GMAT Strategy Guide

If you want the most comprehensive GMAT test prep set on the market, Manhattan Prep’s GMAT collection is probably something you should look into.

Publisher: Manhattan Prep Publishing

Year: 2019

Pages: 1912

Our Final Grade: A-

The primary advantage of Manhattan Prep’s guide collection is that it has everything that you need to fully prepare for the GMAT from start to finish. Every topic on the test is covered methodically, and there are plenty of practice questions to assess your knowledge.

Likewise, no topic is emphasized more than others, meaning that you can use this collection to address your weaknesses without worrying that you’re leaning on a low-quality resource.

The other side of that coin is that you need a study plan to effectively use this guide without getting lost in the weeds. Importantly, the guide itself provides you with very few ideas about how to proceed through learning the material the most effectively.

For people who already understand how they learn the best, this drawback will still be substantial simply because there is an overwhelming amount of material included in the collection.

For people who need help in creating a study plan, this collection may be too intense. There’s so much content that it’s easy to spend hours learning about areas you may not need that much help in.

In summary, if you decide to go with Manhattan Prep’s prep guides, you need to realize that creating a study plan is something that you should spend time doing as a discrete activity, because the guide will not aid you.

Pros

  • Includes encyclopedic guides for every section of the test
  • Comprehensive enough to be the only test prep tool
  • No major weak points regarding content

Cons

  • Intimidatingly large
  • Few resources to aid in developing a study plan

4. Kaplan’s GMAT Prep Plus

If you need an effective general resource for test preparation, the Kaplan GMAT Prep Plus study guide is a great option, especially for people who like to include technology in their test prep routine.

Publisher: Kaplan Grad Test Prep

Year: 2020

Pages: 1176

Our Final Grade: B+

Kaplan’s GMAT Prep Plus book has everything you’ll need to succeed on the GMAT, including quiz questions, practice questions, lessons, solution manuals, online resources, testing strategies, and study plans.

This means that nearly anyone can benefit from using the Kaplan guide as the cornerstone of their test prep for the GMAT. There’s very little thinking that you need to do if you want to use this book to study effectively.

Open the first page of the guide, and it will show you through the rest of the way.

Kaplan’s book isn’t perfect for everyone, however. If you prefer to study without the aid of any potential distractions from technology, you won’t be getting the most out of the Kaplan book.

Nearly every section in the book has a set of integrations that require an internet connection and a working laptop or mobile phone.

If you don’t use these resources, you may be less prepared for the next section of the book, and your performance on the practice tests may suffer.

Pros

  • 200-question large quiz question bank
  • Includes a whopping six practice tests
  • Includes troubleshooting resources for meta-testing issues to raise your score into your target zone

Cons

  • Requires an internet connection and technology to make the most out of the prep resources
  • The score-raising guarantee is mostly marketing

5. PowerScore GMAT Reading Comprehension Bible

If you know that your reading comprehension skills need an overhaul to get the GMAT score you want, you’ll benefit from picking up PowerScore’s GMAT Reading Comprehension Bible.

Publisher: PowerScore Publishing

Year: 2019

Pages: 306

Our Final Grade: B

As the name implies, this study guide is entirely about mastering the reading comprehension portions of the GMAT. You won’t find a single quantitative problem in the book whatsoever, so remember that you’ll need to find other resources to round out your preparations.

As far as preparing you for the verbal comprehension portions of the exam, this book is nearly unbeatable. Each section teaches you a new reading skill and then helps you to apply it in the context of the GMAT’s test questions.

You’ll also learn by doing countless reading comprehension exercises that mimic those that you’ll find on the test itself.

Don’t confuse reading resources with writing resources, however. The book won’t help you to write better, nor will it help you to approach the verbal parsing of questions in the quantitative sections.

Overall, this book has a place in your test preparation routine if you typically struggle with reading comprehension on tests.

Pros

  • Highly-focused resource for people who need help with reading comprehension
  • Unparalleled tutelage to prepare for the verbal sections of the GMAT
  • Written in easily digestible language

Cons

  • Doesn’t help with the writing assessments
  • Doesn’t include tools for comprehending word problems in quantitative sections

6. Test Prep Books’ GMAT Study Guide And Practice Test Prep Book

If you have already done the majority of your test prep, but you want to go through an in-depth overview before taking the test itself, this GMAT test book could be a great choice for you.

Publisher: Test Prep Books

Year: 2020

Pages: 207

Our Final Grade: B-

The Test Prep Books GMAT Study Guide is best viewed as a lightweight companion to hit the high points of every section of the test without falling too deep into any single area.

In the book, you’ll find brief lessons, plenty of practice questions and practice tests, and tips on how to proceed through the test with the most effectiveness. What you won’t find in this prep book is a comprehensive dissection of any particular section of the test.

Where other books are heavy on exposition, this book tells you only what you need to know in the context of how the GMAT is the most likely to probe your understanding. In other words, it’s a skimmable test prep book, at least to the extent that any test prep book could be skimmable.

It’s clear that you couldn’t prepare for the GMAT using only this book. However, if you wanted to use this book as another resource in the course of your final review in the days leading up to the test, it’s an excellent option.

Run through each section of the book and see how you perform on the practice questions, then circle back to a guide with more depth to iron out any issues in your understanding.

Pros

  • Heavily emphasizes doing practice tests
  • Includes helpful meta-testing strategies and test-taking logic lessons
  • Well-organized for easy incorporation into your study routine

Cons

  • Lessons are lightweight
  • Practice test solutions are sparse

7. 30-Day GMAT Success

The 30-Day GMAT Success book is an astoundingly well-structured approach to preparing for the GMAT, but it isn’t for everyone.

Publisher: 30 Day Books

Year: 2012

Pages: 382

Our Final Grade: C+

The 30-Day GMAT Success prep book delivers on its title. With this book, you’ll get a day-by-day study guide that includes a self-evaluation section first to pinpoint where you need to spend the most time.

If you don’t want to think about making a study plan, this is probably the right book for you. Simply set aside a few hours each day and open the book where you left off, proceeding forward page by page.

Each lesson is concise, and there is a minimal amount of context to make the text less dense. As a result, you will find that this book is overwhelming if you want to try to steamroll through its material faster than what the plan calls for.

You’ll probably also need to recruit outside material to close the loop on sections where you have problems. The explanations included in the book are sufficient for the most common issues, but they may feel incomplete if you have recurring issues to troubleshoot.

Likewise, if you want to use this book as a general study resource, you should think twice. The book is designed for people who are interested in pursuing their prep routing exactly as the chapters are laid out each day.

On the other hand, few other prep books lay out a study plan in such clear terms. If this book seems like it would remove the burden of the logistics of planning your studies, it’s an option you should strongly consider.

Pros

  • Effective GMAT prep crash course
  • Excellent study planning resources
  • Day-by day preparation guide may benefit people who need more structure

Cons

  • Difficult to navigate as a study resource if you don’t want to follow the author’s 30-day format
  • May encourage passive or poor study habits

Frequently Asked Questions

What Features Should I Look For In A GMAT Test Prep Book?

There are several features you need in your GMAT test prep book, including:

  • Practice tests and practice questions
  • Test-taking strategies
  • Coverage of each section of the test
  • Interactive resources to keep you paying attention

Practice tests and quiz questions are the core of the best GMAT test prep books. A lot of the material on the GMAT is general information that you are expected to manipulate in the logical framework provided by the test, and practice questions are the best way to build this competency.

Likewise, test-taking strategies belong in every GMAT test prep book that aims to be comprehensive. Unlike tests that require substantial memorization, the GMAT demands that test takers are ruthlessly efficient in identifying and isolating the kernel of each question.

If you don’t have good test-taking strategies, you won’t understand what the test questions are trying to get you to answer.

Comprehensiveness is also a feature that most GMAT books should have. While some specialized test prep books exist, for the most part, you’ll want a test prep book that walks you through preparing for each section of the test so that you don’t need to be constantly switching between resources.

Finally, most people preparing for the GMAT, as well as other major standardized tests, need help to stay engaged with the material because the material can be very dry or dense.

Online resources like videos, practice tests, and study planning tools are critical in keeping you on-task with your studies. Some people with iron wills may rely less on interactive resources, but in general, the best GMAT test prep books have a good mixture of activities.

Should I Get Specialized Prep Resources For Each Section Of The Test?

The answer depends on whether you struggle with specific sections of the test or not. If you have difficulty with math that usually persists after studying where it wouldn’t for other people, you should probably find a specialized resource.

On the other hand, many difficulties may simply be a result of not spending as much time studying the section. This is especially prominent when it comes to areas of the test that you find especially tedious.

While you may not intend to do it, if you find a section of the test extra tedious, you’re unlikely to invest the extra time you need in your preparation to address any problems you have.

In this case, you don’t need a specialized resource, and you just need to buckle down and utilize the resources you have to iron out problems with your understanding.

How Should I Make A Study Plan?

If you need help making a study plan, the best GMAT prep books have you covered. Typically, the study plan is a collection of study activities that you have to execute in sequence.

For example, a typical study plan might start with a knowledge test to assess your overall level of readiness for the section. Then, it might proceed to teach the principles of the section in depth before concluding with practice questions.

Finally, most study plans have a meta-structure where after you have studied several units, there is a larger overview segment or even a small practice test. This ensures that you are absorbing the material from the sections that you’ve just covered.

No matter what your book suggests, try to implement a study plan that you feel works for your learning style.


Getting Ready For The GMAT

Now that you understand the types of GMAT prep books on the market, it’s time to choose the resources you’ll use to develop a study plan and prepare for the test. Overall, most people will get the assistance they need when they pick the Kaplan or Manhattan guides.

If you need specialized help, don’t shy away from using specialized resources like the GMAT Reading Comprehension Bible. But, don’t let it be the only tool you rely on during your preparation, either.

Try not to get intimidated by the amount of material there is to cover and be sure to adjust your study plan if you think you are falling behind. Stay persistent, and you’ll be ready for the GMAT in no time.

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Michelle Tsou
 

Contributor at ExamCave. Michelle graduated with a BA in English from Portland State University. She hopes to one day run her own test-prep organization.