Everything you need to know about the New Official Guides, Part 2


OG2016-Ads-2The new Official Guide books are here! Last time, we talked about the Quant portion of The Official Guide for GMAT, aka the OG or the big book. In this installment, we’ll discuss the Verbal section of the big book. Later installments will talk about the Quant Review and Verbal Review (the smaller books), as well as question lists for the new questions.

(Note: I have not yet had time to analyze the IR problems that come via your special online access. I’ll get to that soon—the quant and the verbal are higher priority!)

Part 1 included an overview of the changes to the whole book; I’ve included that overview here as well (the next section!), in case you’re reading this installment first. (The only difference is one sentence in the first paragraph.)

What’s new in OG 2016?

Approximately 25% of the questions are brand new, and there are some beauties in the mix. As I worked through the problems, I marveled anew at the skill with which the test writers can produce what I call elegant problems. On the verbal side, I loved how some of the new questions wove meaning into the issue of Sentence Correction; if you have been focusing on grammar and shortchanging meaning, you’re definitely going to need to change your approach.

Rich D’Amato, spokesperson for GMAT, confirmed that a decent number of the new questions were produced relatively recently; that is, you’ll be seeing questions that were on the real exam not too long ago. (The older questions are still great study questions, too; the GMAT is a standardized test so, by definition, the test makers can’t change things too drastically or rapidly. There can be some mild trends over time, though. For example, the test makers may decide that certain idioms should be retired from or introduced for Sentence Correction problems.)

The opening chapters of the book describe how the GMAT works and how to study for the test; these sections have not changed. Nor has the Math Review (chapter 4). This is no surprise—again, the GMAT is a standardized test and, as such, it remains very consistent over time. The Diagnostic test in chapter 3 also has not changed.

What’s new in SC?

Of the 140 questions in the Sentence Correction (SC) chapter, 35 are new. Sentence Correction is always difficult to classify because one question can test multiple different topics, and one difference can straddle the line between two topics. A full 16 of the new questions, though, test meaning or sentence structure (or both). I thought that there were some interesting sentence structure examples; keep an eye out for my eventual problem lists, in which I’ll add notes about things that caught my eye when doing the problems.

When comparing the questions that were dropped to the ones that were added, meaning definitely jumped in the count. This is again a judgment call: when do we classify something as pure meaning vs. a grammar error that messes up meaning? But using a consistent standard across all of the questions, I counted 10 new meaning SCs compared to 3 dropped.

All of the other categories didn’t change substantially (not a big surprise, since this is a standardized test). I do want to point out that 19 out of the 35 new questions cover parallelism or comparisons. In other words, these two topics were important before and they still are. Study them!

What’s new in CR?

Of the 130 questions in the Critical Reasoning (CR) chapter, 35 are new.

When comparing the number of questions dropped vs. added, it was the case that Strengthen questions jumped a bit, while Weaken and Inference dropped a bit. These trends also appeared in the Verbal supplement, so I’m noting them here, though I also want to add that the numbers are small enough that we can’t say definitively that they reflect any kind of change in the test. (Also, there were some other seeming trends that didn’t actually hold for both books, so I’m ignoring those.)

All of the questions except for one (#39) fit neatly into our existing classification categories. I’m still trying to decide how I would classify #39. It’s in the Assumption Family but I keep going back and forth on whether I would call it a Strengthen or a Weaken. The question stem alone is most like a weaken (an “alternative explanation” would be like saying “Hey, here’s a better conclusion than the one you came up with!”). But the reasoning for the correct answer choice can be interpreted as a Strengthen. I’m going to be asking some fellow teachers, and even GMAC, about this one; I’ll get back to you.

What’s new in RC?

We lost 3 shorter and 3 longer passages from the 2015 edition; 3 of these were social science, 2 were science, and 1 was business.

We gained 4 longer passages and 2 shorter ones; 4 of these were science and 2 were social science. I’m not sure whether that indicates any kind of increased emphasis on science topics, but it’s certainly interesting that not one of the new passages is a business passage.

There are 31 new questions total out of 139 questions total. 15 specific detail question were dropped and only 7 were added. That 8-question differential was added to specific purpose (why) questions (+5), weaken (+2), and main idea (+1). The latter two are pretty small changes, but I found it very interesting that 5 why questions were added.

What else? Tell me more!

I’ve got more for you! In later installments, we’ll talk about the Quant Review and Verbal Review (the smaller OGs) and I’ll give you lists of the new question numbers as well as the updated question numbers for the problems that are in both books. Until then, happy studying!

 Check out Part 3 in this series

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