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Dear GMAT Test-Taker,

Thank you for your interest in graduate management education. Taking the GMAT® exam lets schools know that you’re serious about your graduate business education. By using the Official Guide to prepare for the GMAT, you’re taking a very important step toward achieving your goals and pursuing admission to a high-quality business school or master’s program.

This book, GMAT® Official Guide 2018, is designed to help you prepare for and build confidence to do your best on the GMAT exam. It’s the only guide of its kind on the market that includes real GMAT exam questions published by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the makers of the exam.

GMAC was founded by the world’s leading business schools in 1953. The GMAT exam was developed to help people who aspire to careers in management demonstrate their command of the skills needed for success in the classroom. Schools use and trust the GMAT exam as part of their admissions process because it’s an excellent predictor of classroom success and your ability to excel in your chosen program.

Today more than 6,500 graduate programs around the world use the GMAT exam to establish their MBA, graduate-level management degrees and specialized programs as hallmarks of excellence. Nine out of 10 new MBA enrollments at Top 50 US full-time MBA programs are made using a GMAT score.

These facts make us proud and drive us to keep improving the GMAT as well as play a role in helping you find and gain admission to the best school or program for you. We’re committed to ensuring that no talent goes undiscovered, and that more people around the world can pursue opportunities in graduate management education.

I applaud your commitment to educational success, and I know that this book and the other Official GMAT preparation materials available at mba.com will give you the confidence to achieve your personal best on the GMAT exam and launch or reinvigorate a rewarding career.

I wish you the best success on all your educational and professional endeavors in the future.

Sincerely,

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Sangeet Chowfla

CEO of the Graduate Management Admission Council

1.0 What Is the GMAT® Exam? 

1.0 What Is the GMAT® Exam?

The Graduate Management Admission Test® (GMAT®) exam is a standardized exam used in admissions decisions by more than 6,500 graduate management programs worldwide. It helps you gauge, and demonstrate to schools, your academic potential for success in graduate-level management studies.

The four-part exam measures your Analytical Writing, Verbal, Quantitative, and Integrated Reasoning skills—higher-order reasoning skills that management faculty worldwide have identified as important for incoming students to have. “Higher-order” reasoning skills involve complex judgments, and include critical thinking, analysis, and problem solving. Unlike undergraduate grades and curricula, which vary in their meaning across regions and institutions, your GMAT scores provide a standardized, statistically valid and reliable measure of how you are likely to perform academically in the core curriculum of a graduate management program. The GMAT exam’s validity, fairness, and value in admissions have been well-established through numerous academic studies.

The GMAT exam is delivered entirely in English and solely on a computer. It is not a test of business knowledge, subject matter mastery, English vocabulary, or advanced computational skills. The GMAT exam also does not measure other factors related to success in graduate management study, such as job experience, leadership ability, motivation, and interpersonal skills. Your GMAT score is intended to be used as one admissions criterion among other, more subjective, criteria, such as admissions essays and interviews.

1.1 Why Take the GMAT® Exam?

Launched in 1954 by a group of nine business schools to provide a uniform measure of the academic skills needed to succeed in their programs, the GMAT exam is now used by more than 6,500 graduate management programs at approximately 2,100 institutions worldwide.

Taking the GMAT exam helps you stand out in the admissions process and demonstrate your readiness and commitment to pursuing graduate management education. Schools use GMAT scores to help them select the most qualified applicants—because they know that candidates who take the GMAT exam are serious about earning a graduate business degree, and it’s a proven predictor of a student’s ability to succeed in his or her chosen program. When you consider which programs to apply to, you can look at a school’s use of the GMAT exam as one indicator of quality. Schools that use the GMAT exam typically list score ranges or average scores in their class profiles, so you may also find these profiles helpful in gauging the academic competitiveness of a program you are considering and how well your performance on the exam compares with that of the students enrolled in the program.

No matter how you perform on the GMAT exam, you should contact the schools that interest you to learn more and to ask how they use GMAT scores and other criteria (such as your undergraduate grades, essays, and letters of recommendation) in their admissions processes. School admissions offices, web sites, and materials published by schools are the key sources of information when you are doing research about where you might want to go to business school.

For more information on the GMAT, test preparation materials, registration, how to use and send your GMAT scores to schools, and applying to business school, please visit mba.com.

1.2 GMAT® Exam Format

The GMAT exam consists of four separately timed sections (see the table on the next page). For the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) essay prompt, you will have 30 minutes to type your essay on a computer keyboard. The 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section features 12 question prompts in four different formats. There are two 75-minute, multiple-choice sections: the Quantitative section, with 37 questions, and the Verbal section, with 41 questions.

The Verbal and Quantitative sections of the GMAT exam are computer adaptive, which means that the test draws from a large bank of questions to tailor itself to your ability level, and you won’t get many questions that are too hard or too easy for you. The first question will be of medium difficulty. As you answer each question, the computer scores your answer and uses it—as well as your responses to all preceding questions—to select the next question.

Computer-adaptive tests become more difficult the more questions you answer correctly, but if you get a question that seems easier than the last one, it does not necessarily mean you answered the last question incorrectly. The test has to cover a range of content, both in the type of question asked and the subject matter presented.

Because the computer uses your answers to select your next questions, you may not skip questions or go back and change your answer to a previous question. If you don’t know the answer to a question, try to eliminate as many choices as possible, then select the answer you think is best.

Though the individual questions are different, the mix of question types is the same for every GMAT exam. Your score is determined by the difficulty and statistical characteristics of the questions you answer as well as the number of questions you answer correctly. By adapting to each test-taker, the GMAT exam is able to accurately and efficiently gauge skill levels over a full range of abilities, from very high to very low.

The test includes the types of questions found in this book and in the online Integrated Reasoning component, but the format and presentation of the questions are different on the computer. When you take the test:


Format of the GMAT® Exam
Questions Timing
Analytical Writing
   Analysis of an Argument
  1
30 min.
Integrated Reasoning
   Multi-Source Reasoning
   Table Analysis
   Graphics Interpretation
   Two-Part Analysis
12
30 min.
Optional break  
up to 8 min.
Quantitative
   Problem
   Solving
   Data Sufficiency
37
75 min.
Optional break  
up to 8 min.
Verbal
   Reading Comprehension
   Critical Reasoning
   Sentence Correction
41
75 min.
Total Time:
210 min.

1.3 What Is the Content of the Test Like?

The GMAT exam measures higher-order analytical skills encompassing several types of reasoning. The Analytical Writing Assessment asks you to analyze the reasoning behind an argument and respond in writing; the Integrated Reasoning section asks you to interpret and synthesize information from multiple sources and in different formats to make reasoned conclusions; the Quantitative section asks you to reason quantitatively using basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry; and the Verbal section asks you to read and comprehend written material and to reason and evaluate arguments.

Test questions may address a variety of subjects, but all of the information you need to answer the questions will be included on the exam, with no outside knowledge of the subject matter necessary. The GMAT exam is not a test of business knowledge, English vocabulary, or advanced computational skills. You will need to read and write in English and have basic math and English skills to perform well on the test, but its difficulty comes from the English analytical and critical thinking abilities.

The questions in this book are organized by question type and from easiest to most difficult, but keep in mind that when you take the test, you may see different types of questions in any order within each section.

1.4 Integrated Reasoning Section

The Integrated Reasoning section highlights the relevant skills that business managers in today’s data-driven world need in order to analyze sophisticated streams of data and solve complex problems. It measures your ability to understand and evaluate multiple sources and types of information—graphic, numeric, and verbal—as they relate to one another; use both quantitative and verbal reasoning to solve complex problems; and solve multiple problems in relation to one another.

Four types of questions are used in the Integrated Reasoning section:

Integrated Reasoning questions may be quantitative, verbal, or a combination of both. You will have to interpret graphics and sort tables to extract meaning from data, but advanced statistical knowledge and spreadsheet manipulation skills are not necessary. You will have access to an on-screen calculator with basic functions for the Integrated Reasoning section, but note that the calculator is not available on the Quantitative section.

To review the Integrated Reasoning question types and test-taking tips, see chapter 10. For practice questions of each format, with full answer explanations, visit the Integrated Reasoning online component using your unique access code found in the inside front cover of the book.

1.5 Quantitative Section

The GMAT Quantitative section measures your ability to reason quantitatively, solve quantitative problems, and interpret graphic data.

Two types of multiple-choice questions are used in the Quantitative section:

Both are intermingled throughout the Quantitative section, and require basic knowledge of arithmetic, elementary algebra, and commonly known concepts of geometry.

To review the basic mathematical concepts that you will need to answer Quantitative questions, see the math review in chapter 4. For test-taking tips specific to the question types in the Quantitative section, practice questions, and answer explanations, see chapters 5 and 6.

1.6 Verbal Section

The GMAT Verbal section measures your ability to read and comprehend written material and to reason and evaluate arguments. The Verbal section includes reading sections from several different content areas. Although you may be generally familiar with some of the material, neither the reading passages nor the questions assume detailed knowledge of the topics discussed.

Three types of multiple-choice questions are intermingled throughout the Verbal section:

All three require basic knowledge of the English language, but the Verbal section is not a test of advanced vocabulary.

For test-taking tips specific to each question type in the Verbal section, practice questions, and answer explanations, see chapters 7 through 9.

1.7 Analytical Writing Assessment

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) consists of one 30-minute writing task: Analysis of an Argument. The AWA measures your ability to think critically, communicate your ideas, and formulate an appropriate and constructive critique. You will type your essay on a computer keyboard.

For test-taking tips, sample essay responses, answer explanations, and sample Analysis of an Argument topics, see chapter 11.

1.8 What Computer Skills Will I Need?

The GMAT exam requires only computer skills. You will type your AWA essay on the computer keyboard using standard word-processing keystrokes. In the Integrated Reasoning and multiple-choice sections, you will select your responses using either your computer mouse or the keyboard. The Integrated Reasoning section includes basic computer navigation and functions, such as clicking on tabs and using drop-down menus to sort tables and select answers.

1.9 What Are the Test Centers Like?

The GMAT exam is administered under standardized conditions at test centers worldwide. Each test center has a proctored testing room with individual computer workstations that allow you to sit for the exam under quiet conditions and with some privacy. You will be able to take two optional 8-minute breaks during the course of the exam. You may not take notes or scratch paper with you into the testing room, but an erasable notepad and marker will be provided for you to use during the test.

1.10 How Are Scores Calculated?

Verbal and Quantitative sections are scored on a scale of 0 to 60, with scores below 6 or above 51 extremely rare. The Total GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800 and is based on your performance in these two sections. Your score is determined by:

Your Verbal, Quantitative, and Total GMAT scores are determined by a complex mathematical procedure that takes into account the difficulty of the questions that were presented to you and how you answered them. When you answer the easier questions correctly, you get a chance to answer harder questions, making it possible to earn a higher score. After you have completed all the questions on the test, or when your time is expired, the computer will calculate your scores. Your scores on the Verbal and Quantitative sections are combined to produce your Total score which ranges from 200 to 800 in 10 point increments.

The Analytical Writing Assessment consists of one writing task, Analysis of an Argument, and your essay will be scored two times independently. Essays are evaluated by college and university faculty members from a variety of disciplines, including management education, who rate the overall quality of your critical thinking and writing. (For details on how readers are qualified, visit mba.com.) In addition, your response may be scored by an automated scoring program designed to reflect the judgment of expert readers.

Your essay is scored on a scale of 0 to 6, in half point increments, with 6 being the highest score and 0 the lowest. A score of zero is given for responses that are off topic, are in a foreign language, merely attempt to copy the topic, consist only of keystroke characters, or are blank. Your AWA score is typically the average of two independent ratings. If the independent scores vary by more than a point, a third reader adjudicates, but because of ongoing training and monitoring, discrepancies are rare.

Your Integrated Reasoning section is scored on a scale of 1 to 8, in one-point increments. You must answer all parts of a single question correctly in order to receive credit. No partial credit is given. Like your AWA score, your Integrated Reasoning score will not count toward your Total score.

Your Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning scores are computed and reported separately from the other sections of the test and have no effect on your Verbal, Quantitative, or Total scores. The schools that you have designated to receive your scores may receive a copy of your Analytical Writing Assessment essay with your score report. Your own copy of your score report will not include your essay.

Your GMAT score includes a percentile ranking that compares your skill level with other test-takers from the past three years. The percentile rank of your score shows the percentage of tests taken with scores lower than your score. Every July, percentile ranking tables are updated. Visit mba.com to view the most recent percentile rankings tables.

1.11 Test Development Process

The GMAT exam is developed by experts who use standardized procedures to ensure high-quality, widely-appropriate test material. All questions are subjected to independent reviews and are revised or discarded as necessary. Multiple-choice questions are tested during GMAT exam administrations. Analytical Writing Assessment tasks are tested on mba.com registrants and then assessed for their fairness and reliability. For more information on test development, visit mba.com.

2.0 How to Prepare

2.0 How to Prepare

2.1 How Should I Prepare to Take the Test?

The GMAT® exam is designed specifically to measure reasoning skills needed for management education, and the test contains several question formats unique to the GMAT exam. At a minimum, you should be familiar with the test format and the question formats before you sit for the test. Because the GMAT exam is a timed exam, you should practice answering test questions, not only to better understand the question formats and the skills they require, but also to help you learn to pace yourself so you can finish each section when you sit for the exam.

Because the exam measures reasoning rather than subject matter knowledge, you most likely will not find it helpful to memorize facts. You do not need to study advanced mathematical concepts, but you should be sure your grasp of basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry is sound enough that you can use these skills in quantitative problem solving. Likewise, you do not need to study advanced vocabulary words, but you should have a firm understanding of basic English vocabulary and grammar for reading, writing, and reasoning.

This book and other study materials released by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) are the ONLY source of questions that have been retired from the GMAT exam. All questions that appear or have appeared on the GMAT exam are copyrighted and owned by GMAC, which does not license them to be reprinted elsewhere. Accessing live Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, or Verbal test questions in advance or sharing test content during or after you take the test is a serious violation, which could cause your scores to be canceled and schools to be notified. In cases of a serious violation, you may be banned from future testing and other legal remedies may be pursued.

2.2 What About Practice Tests?

The Quantitative and Verbal sections of the GMAT exam are computer adaptive, and the Integrated Reasoning section includes questions that require you to use the computer to sort tables and navigate to different sources of information. Our official practice materials will help you get comfortable with the format of the test and better prepare for exam day. Two full-length GMAT practice exams are available at no charge for those who have created an account on mba.com. The practice exams include computer-adaptive Quantitative and Verbal sections, plus additional practice questions, information about the test, and tutorials to help you become familiar with how the GMAT exam will appear on the computer screen at the test center.

To maximize your studying efforts with the free practice exams, you should leverage official practice materials as you start to prepare for the test. Take one practice test to make yourself familiar with the exam and to get a baseline score. After you have studied using this book and other study materials, take the second practice test to determine whether you need to shift your focus to other areas you need to strengthen. Note that the free practice tests may include questions that are also published in this book. As your test day approaches, consider taking more official practice tests to help measure your progress and give you a better idea of how you might score on exam day.

2.3 How Should I Use the Diagnostic Test?

This book contains a Diagnostic Test to help you determine the types of Quantitative and Verbal questions that you need to practice most. You should take the Diagnostic Test around the same time that you take the first GMAT practice test. The Diagnostic Test will give you a rating—below average, average, above average, or excellent—of your skills in each type of GMAT test question. These ratings will help you identify areas to focus on as you prepare for the GMAT exam.

The Diagnostic Test does not include Integrated Reasoning or Analytical Writing Assessment questions.

Use the results of the Diagnostic Test to help you select the right chapter of this book to start with. Next, read the introductory material carefully, and answer the practice questions in that chapter. Remember, the questions in the chapters are organized by difficulty, from easiest to most difficult. Make sure you follow the directions for each type of question and try to work as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Then review the explanations for the correct answers, spending as much time as necessary to familiarize yourself with the range of questions or problems presented.

2.4 Where Can I Get Additional Practice?

If you would like additional practice, GMAT® Official Guide 2018 Quantitative Review and GMAT® Official Guide 2018 Verbal Review each offer 300 additional questions that are not published in this guide. You can also find more Quantitative, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning practice questions, full-length, computer-adaptive practice exams, Analytical Writing Assessment practice prompts, and other helpful study materials at mba.com.

2.5 General Test-Taking Suggestions

Specific test-taking strategies for individual question types are presented later in this book. The following are general suggestions to help you perform your best on the test.

  1. Use your time wisely.
    Although the GMAT exam stresses accuracy more than speed, it is important to use your time wisely. On average, you will have about 1¾ minutes for each Verbal question, about 2 minutes for each Quantitative question, and about 2½ minutes for each Integrated Reasoning question, some of which have multiple questions. Once you start the test, an onscreen clock will show the time you have left. You can hide this display if you want, but it is a good idea to check the clock periodically to monitor your progress. The clock will automatically alert you when 5 minutes remain for the section you are working on.

  2. Answer practice questions ahead of time.
    After you become generally familiar with all question types, use the practice questions in this book and the online Integrated Reasoning component to prepare for the actual test. It may be useful to time yourself as you answer the practice questions to get an idea of how long you will have for each question when you sit for the actual test, as well as to determine whether you are answering quickly enough to finish the test in the allotted time.

  3. Read all test directions carefully.
    The directions explain exactly what is required to answer each question type. If you read hastily, you may miss important instructions and impact your ability to answer correctly. To review directions during the test, click on the Help icon. But be aware that the time you spend reviewing directions will count against your time allotment for that section of the test.

  4. Read each question carefully and thoroughly.
    Before you answer a question, determine exactly what is being asked and then select the best choice. Never skim a question or the possible answers; skimming may cause you to miss important information or nuances.

  5. Do not spend too much time on any one question.
    If you do not know the correct answer, or if the question is too time consuming, try to eliminate choices you know are wrong, select the best of the remaining answer choices, and move on to the next question. Not completing sections and randomly guessing answers to questions at the end of each test section can significantly lower your score. As long as you have worked on each section, you will receive a score even if you do not finish one or more sections in the allotted time. You will not earn points for questions you never get to see.

  6. Confirm your answers ONLY when you are ready to move on.
    On the Quantitative and Verbal sections, once you have selected your answer to a multiple-choice question, you will be asked to confirm it. Once you confirm your response, you cannot go back and change it. You may not skip questions. In the Integrated Reasoning section, there may be several questions based on information provided in the same question prompt. When there is more than one response on a single screen, you can change your response to any of the questions on the screen before moving on to the next screen. However, you may not navigate back to a previous screen to change any responses.

  7. Plan your essay answer before you begin to write.
    The best way to approach the Analysis of an Argument section is to read the directions carefully, take a few minutes to think about the question, and plan a response before you begin writing. Take time to organize your ideas and develop them fully, but leave time to reread your response and make any revisions that you think would improve it.