Tag Archives: GMAT Focus

GMATPrep Question Pack FAQ, part I: the basics

The new GMATPrep software and the $25 GMATPrep Question Pack have been around for nearly a year now, but I have a funny feeling that the GMATPrep Question Pack is still somewhat underutilized as a GMAT study resource.  So in an effort to encourage you to use the GMATPrep Question Pack—and to use it wisely—here are answers to a few questions that I’ve been asked about it over the past year or so.

This is the first part of a two-part series; I’ll post part two next week.

Q:  Does the GMATPrep Question Pack actually contain new questions, or do the same questions appear in the GMAT Official Guide or somewhere else?

A: Let’s face it:  GMAC has a funny habit of selling recycled questions.  The (rather expensive) GMAT Focus tests overlapped the GMAT Official Guide and the GMAT Quant Review Guide, and GMAC still sells crusty old GMAT Paper Tests that are filled with questions that appear elsewhere.

But the GMATPrep Question Pack seems to contain good, fresh, retired questions, and the official GMAT blog insists that the GMATPrep Question Pack exercises don’t appear anywhere else.  So I think it’s safe to say that the Question Pack really does contain completely new questions.  Pretty exciting.

Q: Is the GMATPrep Question Pack worth the money? 

A:  Absolutely.  I’m completely convinced that there is no substitute for good, official GMAT questions.  They’re infinitely more valuable than “knockoff” materials produced by GMAT test-prep firms. So you don’t want to pass up any opportunity to practice with real, retired GMAT questions.

Considering that you’ll pay $250 just to take the GMAT—and considering that you’re likely to invest more than $400,000 in an elite MBA if you include the two years of forgone wages—$25  for a set of 404 official GMAT questions is a pretty serious bargain.

Q:  Does the GMATPrep Question Pack contain newer questions than the Official Guide?

A:  Presumably, yes.  Although we don’t know exactly when the GMATPrep Question Pack exercises were actually retired, it’s probably safe to suspect that the questions are relatively new.  Some of the GMAT Official Guide questions are also fairly new, but others are at least 20 years old, and have appeared in several editions of the GMAT Official Guide.

Q:  Does the GMATPrep Question Pack include answer explanations?

A: Yup, it does, though I should warn you that the explanations don’t always offer the easiest way to do each question.  But the same is true of the GMAT Official Guide, and I think we’ll all agree that a slightly flawed explanation is far better than no explanation at all.

Q:  How hard are the questions in the GMATPrep Question Pack?

A: Well, the questions are divided into “easy,” “medium,” and “hard” categories, and I think those labels are reasonably accurate.  Some of the “hard” questions are absolutely brutal, and they’re a good representation of the nastiness that you’ll see on the actual exam if you’re doing well.  So there’s something for everybody in the GMATPrep Question Pack, even if the “easy” questions are unlikely to offer a very good workout for anybody with 700-level GMAT skills.

In case you’re curious, the GMATPrep software includes 90 questions for free, an addition to the 404 questions that are sold for $25.  Out of the grand total of 494 questions, 146 are “easy”, 199 are “medium,” and 149 are “hard.”  So even if you completely ignore the “easy” questions and the questions that you would get for free, you’ll still have an additional 300 “medium” and “hard” questions.  And that’s a pretty good deal for $25. 

Q:  Will I see any of the GMATPrep questions on the actual exam?

A:  Sorry, no.  You’ll see a completely fresh set of creative, difficult GMAT questions that aren’t published anywhere else.  So learn everything you can about the concepts underneath the GMATPrep questions, and learn how to approach completely new questions.  Because you’ll see plenty of them on your actual GMAT exam.

Q: Why can’t I review the GMATPrep questions anymore?  I did them, but I can’t access them in the same order.  WTF? 

A: Yeah, the nice people at GMAC are really great at writing standardized tests, but they apparently aren’t very good at developing software.  There are all sorts of goofy glitches and quirks in the GMATPrep software, including some bizarreness when it comes to reviewing the questions you already finished.

The best advice?  Immediately after completing any questions from the GMATPrep software, take screenshots of them, regardless of whether you’re doing an actual practice test or just the Question Pack.  It’s the only way to be 100% certain that you don’t lose an opportunity to review the questions after completing them.

GMAT Focus Stinks

In a previous post, I gave a qualified endorsement of GMAT Focus, which is a series of 24-question quant tests sold by the makers of the GMAT.  GMAT Focus consists of retired GMAT test questions, and I was pretty convinced that the test is a useful product, since so many real GMAT test questions seem to (very, very strongly) resemble questions seen on GMAT Focus.

The only trouble is that the tests are too short, overpriced (in my opinion), oddly timed (24 questions in 45 minutes?  huh?), and a little bit of a rip-off, since some of the questions also appear in the GMAT Official Guide and the GMAT Quantitative Review Guide.  If you don’t believe me, click here to see a brief discussion of this in a Manhattan GMAT forum.

Over the past year, I’ve strongly encouraged my students do use GMAT Focus, but I think it’s time to advise everybody to stay away from it.  Believe it or not, one of my students just took a GMAT Focus test that had 14 questions that overlapped with the GMAT Official Guide (12th edition) or the GMAT Quantitative Review (2nd edition).  That means that only 10 of them were fresh questions.  Dude, my poor GMAT student totally got ripped off.

(Luckily, my student didn’t recognize all of the questions, and still missed 6 of the 14 repeats.  It’s safe to say that he still got a good math workout; it’s also safe to say that his GMAT tutor needs to kick his butt a little bit harder.)

Here’s the complete list of questions that appeared on this particular GMAT Focus test:

  • GMAT Official Guide DS #33, 45, 48 (though I found it interesting that they removed the reference to the year 1989 in that question), 66, 70, 75, and 76
  • GMAT Official Guide PS #48, 81, and 89
  • GMAT Quantitative Review DS #33
  • GMAT Quantitative Review PS #142, 146, and 147

And if you’re curious, here’s the complete list of GMAT Focus repeats that I’ve marked over past few months:

  • GMAT Official Guide DS:  #44, 45, 52, 53, 62, 66, 68, 70, 75, 76, 79, 82, 87, 90, 94, 110, 121, 123
  • GMAT Official Guide PS:  #73, 74, 81, 89, 107, 117, 148, 163
  • GMAT Quantitative Review DS: #11, 33, 122
  • GMAT Quantitative Review PS:  #142, 146, 147

I’m sure that I haven’t caught everything, but this should be enough to convince you that GMAT Focus probably isn’t worth $25 per test.

GMAT Focus quirks

For the most part, I’m a fan of GMAC, the company that produces the GMAT. I’ve spent a good chunk of the last decade working as an SAT, ACT, GRE, and TOEFL tutor, and I respect that fact that the GMAT is much more complicated, precise, and nuanced than any of the aforementioned exams. And GMAC is also fairly generous about publishing retired test questions; some of us whine about the GMAT OG’s lack of hard questions, but the official guides for GRE and TOEFL are far worse, offering only a handful of (ancient, moldy) practice questions. So while I generally think that GMAC does its job really, really well, they seem to have been a little bit sloppy with GMAT Focus lately.

In some ways, GMAT Focus is the best of the GMAT practice material. Sure, it’s overpriced ($25 for one test, or $65 for three… basically, you’ll pay almost $1 per question). And I think it’s weird that they sell the tests in groups of three–you can actually take the test four times before questions start to repeat. And you’re given only 45 minutes to complete 24 questions–a little bit odd, since you’ll ultimately need to get used to doing 37 GMAT questions in 75 minutes. But GMAT Focus still contains an impressive bank of difficult, fresh GMAT questions; I’m convinced that GMAT Focus questions are much closer to the real thing than any other practice resource available. If you’re serious about improving your quant score, GMAT Focus is absolutely not optional.

Unfortunately, the GMAT Focus questions are no longer all that unique. Many of them appear in the 12th edition of the official guide, and I have a funny feeling that even more will show up in the next edition of the Quantitative Review guide. So you might be paying $1 for questions that you’ve already purchased in another book. That’s really annoying, especially if you’re already paying for a GMAT tutor.

Even more annoying: the GMAT Focus might not be as representative of the real test as I once thought. For a long time, it seemed that the GMAT Focus would give you a pretty good idea of the composition of the quantitative section–specifically, GMAT Focus included a lot more tricky logic, combinatorics, and “creative algebra” questions than the official guides, and GMAT Focus seemed to be an extremely accurate representation of the actual test. Sadly, something might have shifted, at least a little bit. In the past month, several of my students (all with quant raw scores above 40) whined that the real test didn’t have any of the tough combination/permutation/probability questions that appear on GMAT Focus. It makes me wonder whether the GMAT Focus is becoming somehow less indicative of the actual test. Again, I find that a little bit irritating–if it’s actually true.

Here’s the strangest report of all: one of my GMAT students swears that he saw a GMAT Focus question on the real exam last weekend. He claims that the question was absolutely identical, with the same numbers and everything. He didn’t share the details of the question (that would be illegal), but I find that pretty alarming if it’s true. Is GMAC getting sloppy? Was the “retread” GMAT Focus question tossed back into the real test as some sort of experiment, or as a statistical control for other questions? Or was my student just hallucinating after a long, stressful few hours of test-taking?

Either way, it’s interesting. I still think that it’s worth spending $90 for all four GMAT Focus tests, but I couldn’t really blame a budget-conscious GMAT student who comes to a different conclusion.