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Before I elaborate on the 'What the heck?' title of my review - skip to the 6th paragraph if you only want to read my review of the book as the first 5 paragraphs are me explaining, albeit in a more profound way, what you may already know about the GMAT; if you want to cut to the chase - it's a fantastic book but I deduct one star because it contains a few errors here and there.
So about the subject of the review - One of the most appropriate analogies that I have heard regarding the GMAT is that 'prepare for the GMAT as you would prepare for a boxing match' - you know you are fighting a very accomplished opponent , you do not have a clue about what kind of punches that opponent will throw at you but ,if you truly want to beat that opponent, you can very well prepare well enough to be able to anticipate what type of punches that opponent will throw at you and counter those punches when they do come.
I am a GMAT retaker - a quick summary of what my standing was prior to my taking the GMAT the last time:
1) I could easily solve at least 95% of all Official Guide (OG) problems
2) On the 2 GMAT Prep tests, I scored a 710 and a 730 respectively
3) Aside from the OG, I practiced over a 1000 questions from pretty much every well known resource out there
Yet, I bombed the actual GMAT when I took it
Don't let my example frighten you - the exam is very beatable (25,000+ people score in excess of 700 each year right?). Aside from the primary mistake, which I am going to elaborate on in this review , I also didn't sleep much before the exam and , on top of that, drove over an hour through traffic infested San Francisco, thereby already stressing out my mind before even sitting down for the test. So yeah, for starters, get some sleep and book your test date early so you don't have to drive 50 miles to nearest test center that has a slot available at your preferred date/time.
In my case, the results documented in Point # 2 were an anomaly (I still believe that the GMAT prep tests are the most accurate indicator of how you will perform on the actual test), but points 1 and 3 , if not carried out correctly, represent classic mistakes that test takers make over the course of their practice. The mistake I speak off is believing that 'the harder you work, the better will be your results'. Now don't get me wrong, I am not recommending you ignore that very true principle (far from it), rather, I am recommending that, in the case of the GMAT, you slightly modify that statement to 'the smarter you work, the better will be your results' - this is where 'Advanced GMAT Quant' comes in.
As 2 of the more famous people in the GMAT world (BB and Dana) have pointed out in the reviews before mine, 'Advanced GMAT Quant' is for you if you fall in to ALL of the below categories:
- You are consistently scoring in at least the 70th percentile but are finding it hard to crack into the 90th percentile (aka you already a good fighter).
- You have gone over all 5 of the Manhattan Quant supplements INCLUDING the advanced sections and are comfortable with the material taught in those guides
- You realize that it is better to have more than 1 strategy in your repertoire to solve each question type
- You are prepared to forget(only for the GMAT of course)everything your teacher taught you about solving questions the mechanical way or , as Manhattan puts it - 'a quick and dirty method that is not theoretically elegant'.
I know a host of GMAT takers who studied no more than 2 weeks and scored 700+ and also know a host of test takers who studied many months and did not go past 650. What differentiates the 2 is that the former group of people , put simply, just got 'it'. By 'It' i mean that, those test takers understood that the GMAT operates on a fixed template and there is only so much manipulation the GMAC can do, meaning that if you understand how the GMAT works, i.e. you are prudent about the common traps (damn you inequalities!), know how to filter out the right information and basically understand what is being tested, you are very likely to succeed on this test. Of course there is the small matter of actually knowing all the topics and their concepts but that part is self explanatory and , moreover, is not the purpose of this book; this book teaches you how to master the 3 examples I just listed out regarding the GMAT template. So if you are picking up this book without knowing properties such as '3 consecutive integers are always divisible by 3' or the '1-x probability theory', you will find this book extremely challenging as the writing style of this book is such that, it assumes you know pretty much all the general theories that are covered in the manhattan quant guides.
As this book correctly points out, the more complex problems do not necessarily require advanced computing , rather, the test makers just twist around the information making it very challenging to understand the problem at first glance (remember the test makers understand that all problems should be solved within 2 minutes and a majority of GMAT test takers may have had minimal to no exposure to 'advanced math')
What this book does teach you are concepts such as 'how to eliminate answer choices just by looking at the information provided and comparing that to the answer choices. A simple example is that 'if the question asks 'If Y is a positive integer, what is the value of (-y)(y) and there are 3 positive answer choices and 2 negative answer choices, after going through this book, you will not be scared to eliminate all the positive answer choices before even beginning to solve the problem as you know that whatever the answer, it has to be negative.
I think Dana and BB did a fine job of listing out the Pro's of this book so I will focus on some of the weaker points of this book:
1) Errors - The only reason why I deducted 1 star. Having diligently studied 40% of the book, (will edit my review should my opinion change after fully completing the book) there are some errors that are downright dangerous and provide the incorrect information. A few that stand out are:
Pg: 83 #7 - IS M not equal to 0 , is m^3 > m^2 - An experienced test taker such as myself can understand that, Manhattan meant to say 'IF M not equal to 0' but it may confuse other test takers on what the question is asking for.
Pg 86 #3 - Wrong answer choice is circled - This is redeemed by the fact that the answer explanation shows 'D' to be the correct answer but it broke my heart for a second when I saw the answer to that seriously complex problem that I solve was circled as 'A'
Pg 106 Try-it #4-9 - This one is downright dangerous - it's a data sufficiency question that shows (1) to be a^2 = b^2 but , when you see the explanation, the correct information was a = b^2.
2) Be careful as some of the strategies used in this book may subconsciously make you unlearn the direct safe approach that should always be used as the first line of attack. The book does highlight the safe approaches but embracing the plan B 'dirty' approaches may unsettle your understanding of the fundamentals if you consistently keep practicing the plan B approaches.
So far, I have not found any of these errors to be 'deal breakers' because the answer explanations make you realize the original mistakes but , initially, those errors can be frustrating.
To summarize, this is a fantastic book for those of you who are comfortable with the concepts for all Quant topics tested on the GMAT but are having trouble applying these concepts to the more challenging problems. After diligently studying this book, you will be less fearful of employing tactics such as 'eliminating answer choices before even beginning to solve the problem, using approaches that your math teacher would have given you a 0 for if you tried those tactics in high school, able to recognize patterns allowing you to dissect the question to get to the relevant information (gmat template)etc. There are some errors but , so far, none of them are detrimental enough to over ride what is otherwise a fantastic, unique book that , mostly successfully, tries to get you to understand how to crack the 'GMAT code'.