The History of the Official Guide for GMAT

For decades, the Official Guide for GMAT has been the go-to source for prospective business students to prepare for the GMAT.

But like anything that’s been around long enough, the Official Guide has gone through numerous changes, updates, and even some scandals, too.

The Early Years

Image Credit: eBay/naomitooblessedtobestressed

Early on, the Official Guide was called the Guide to Graduate Management Education. It wasn’t until 1982 that the current title – The Official Guide – was adopted.

Despite the name change, not much else changed in the guide in these early years.

Aside from updated information with new test prep questions on a cycle of every 2-3 years, the guide was, at its heart, much like it is today – a detailed study guide to help business students prepare for the GMAT.

Then, in 1988, a new guide, the Official Guide for GMAT Review came out for the period of 1988-1990.

The guide included over 500 actual GMAT test questions with detailed explanations. There was a comprehensive math review, and it even had test-taking tips and strategies to help students make the most of their study time.

The Guide Grows in the 1990s

Image Credit:

After the 1988-1990 Edition came the 1992 Edition of the Official Guide, which featured a much wider variety of test prep materials.

Good for the 1992-1994 academic years, the Guide had nearly double the questions of its predecessor, numbering over 900 in total. That included three sample tests and additional practice questions.

Like the 1990 Edition, the 1992 Edition contained all the answers to the included questions, complete with explanations to help students understand why the answers were correct. A comprehensive math review was part of the guide as well.

Image credit:

In 1994, the 7th Edition of the Official Guide was released with few updates. Like the previous edition, the 7th Edition had over 900 questions – with answers and explanations from the test-writers – as well as a similar math prep package as previous versions.

New for 1994, however, was the addition of GMAT PowerPrep software that added a computer-based mechanism for studying for the GMAT for the first time.

Image credit:

The 8th Edition of the Official Guide was released two years later, in 1996. Though this edition sported a new cover, there weren’t many other changes. The tests, questions, and answers were updated with new material, but the structure, format, and layout of the guide remained much the same.

Image credit:

Just a year later, the 9th Edition of the Official Guide was released.

The 9th Edition included more than 1,000 questions – more than ever before – including an expanded math review section that ranged from basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and word problems.

Also included in this edition for the first time were 100 Analytical Writing Assessment questions, complete with sample responses and a scoring guide for students to evaluate their written responses.

After a Long Wait, the Guide Gets a Big Facelift in the 2000s

Image Credit: Amazon

It wasn’t until 2003 – a wait of six years – that the 10th Edition of the Official Guide came out. But for the students that depended on the book for review, the wait was well worth it.

The 10th Edition upped the number of test questions by 400, to a total of 1,400. Continuing in the tradition of previous versions of the Guide, each question included comprehensive answers as explained by the authors of the GMAT.

Other features that were held over from the 9th Edition were a similar math review, tips for taking tests, and in-depth strategies for approaching studying for the GMAT.

For the first time, the 10th Edition incorporated a set of test tutorials into the book, giving students yet another tool to use for studying for the GMAT.

Image Credit:Amazon


The Official Guide 11th Edition debuted in 2005, and curiously, had 600 fewer questions than its predecessor.

This is likely due in part to an overhaul of the organization of the GMAT to the form that is still around to a degree to this day. That included for the first time an organization of the test questions in order of difficulty.

With fewer questions, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and the Guide’s publisher, Educational Testing Service (ETS), focused on adding study aids to the Guide.

The result was a new guide with diagnostic tools that were designed to help students determine their areas of strength and weakness. The idea being that by using these tools, students had yet another means by which to direct their attention during study time.

2008 – Scandal and Changing of the Guard

Until 2008, the ETS published the Official Guide and owned the rights to the GMAT. But after the GMAT was hacked and students posted actual exam questions online, ETS lost its ownership.

That scandal resulted in the cancellation of scores for 84 students, 12 of which posted the questions and 72 of which accessed the questions.

So, in 2009, the GMAC took over as publisher and tried to wash away the memories of 2008 with the release of the Official Guide for 2009, the 12th Edition of the book.

Image Credit: Amazon

This 12th Edition of the Official Guide didn’t differ much from the 11th Edition in that they both had 800 questions from past GMAT tests with detailed answers and explanations as well as a diagnostic section to help students focus their attention on weak areas.

However, new for this edition was a grammar review with actual essay topics and sample responses so students could more aptly prepare for the essay portion of the exam. Also new were insights regarding how the GMAT is scored in an effort to help debunk test-taking myths about how to best prepare for the test.

Image Credit: Amazon

The 13th Edition of the Official Guide debuted in 2012 and represented the last in the line of Official Guides that had a similar layout and features, dating back to the 10th Edition.

Really, the only significant change in the 13th Edition was the new companion website, which offered students a more test-like environment in which to study.

What’s more, the website gave students access to 50 integrated reasoning questions, which, combined with an entire chapter in the book on integrated reasoning, was the first time such questions were accessible in the Official Guide.

The Modern OG

Image Credit: Amazon

Beginning in 2015, the Official Guide saw some major changes.

For starters, the title began to incorporate the year for which the book was written as opposed to the edition number. Though it seems like a small change, it certainly helped students better understand which Official Guide was the most recent.

Additionally, the GMAC continued to focus on bringing more online materials into the fold, as they had done in the 12th Edition.

Included in the suite of online materials was an online question bank, math review, essay topics, and a diagnostic test, all of which had been available previously, but in the printed book in earlier editions.

Also included on the Guide’s companion website were 50 integrated reasoning questions and a collection of test-prep videos that featured GMAT test-writers and actual GMAT test-takers who shared their insights into how to best prepare for the GMAT.

Image Credit: Amazon

For 2016, the GMAC focused on two areas: updating content and continuing to offer improved online study services.

Regarding the former, the Official Guide 2016 included 25 percent new material, again, with answers and explanations for each of the 900 sample questions. Holdovers from the Official Guide 2015 were the 100-question diagnostic test and the collection of study tip videos from GMAT writers and test-takers.

In the online environment, the Official Guide 2016 included build-your-own practice tests which offered the most customizable study experience to date for the Guide. This was by far the most important update included in this edition of the Official Guide.

Image Credit: Amazon

Once the Official Guide for GMAT 2017 came out, it was quickly realized that it contained errors in the printing. Subsequently, a replacement printing was ordered to correct the errors, though the actual content in the books is the same.

For 2017, the GMAC continued its push to offer test-takers new content and a more personalized study experience. To that end, the Official Guide 2017 included 130 new questions from previous versions of the GMAT, including 61 questions from the quantitative portion, 61 questions from the verbal portion, and eight integrated reasoning questions.

The big change, though, was in the “targeted preparation experience.” In other words, GMAC beefed up the diagnostic tools in the Guide, which, combined with the online tools that accompany the book, provided yet another step towards more individualized study preparation.

Image Credit: Amazon

The newest edition of the Guide, the Official Guide 2018, once again features new content to the tune of 130 all-new questions. Additionally, the 2018 Guide includes an overview of the GMAT that helps familiarize test-takers with the structure of the exam and the types of questions that are asked.

Other than that, the 2018 Guide doesn’t differ much from its predecessor. There’s still around 900 study questions with answers and explanations, as well as essay topics with sample responses and scoring information. With a grammar and math review, questions organized by level of difficulty, and robust online materials, the Official Guide 2018 is the most comprehensive one yet.

But as we’ve seen, the evolution of the Official Guide has been one that’s been at times slow, at times mired in scandal, and now, seemingly keeping pace with the rapid changes in how tests are built, taken, and scored.

The Official Guide 2019 will be out before long and will surely represent another leap forward in terms of the latest in test prep strategies for the GMAT.