Official GMAT iPhone/iPad APP: Better than the OG?


So GMAC’s new Official GMAT App has finally arrived. We were excited to check it out and provide a product review for people considering a purchase. Before we get into the review, let’s take a look at some information on the app:

Official GMAT App Specs

Content

  • Retired GMAT Questions (from the Official Guide for GMAT Review, 12th Edition)
  • Math and Grammar Reviews

Availability – Available exclusively for download on iTunes

Devices – Available for use on the iPhone, iPad, and Ipod Touch

Cost

  • Official GMAT App – $4.99 (includes “Starter Pack” – 50 GMAT Review Questions)
  • Additional Sets of 250 Questions – $9.99 each (Quant, Verbal, or Quant + Verbal Combined)

Features

  • Timed Practice
  • Online Gaming Component (Results Rankings)
  • Test Date Countdown
  • Progress Reports
  • “Ask the Expert” Blog Feed
  • Social Network (Facebook/Twitter) Connectivity
  • Direct MBA.com access

Official Bell Curves Review of the Official GMAT App

I guess I should start with a small disclaimer about the device I used. I’m one of those people stuck with an (ancient, sigh) 8GB 3G iPhone (Model #MB046LL) running software version 4.2.1. The phone is still chugging along nearly two years after I got it, though with some less-than-ideal functionality and processing speeds.

That being said, I was remarkably surprised at how well the Official GMAT App functioned on my device. I was expecting slow page loads and other processing issues, but the first thing that jumped out at me after downloading was the relatively fast response time and fluid page transitions as I tapped around. For those of you with nifty new iPhone 4s or iPad 2s, navigation around the app should be super-quick, and even you folks like me out there with an old-timey iPhone or iPod touch should be good to go.

So, what else did I find as I played around with the new app? For starters, the functionality is surprisingly efficient and streamlined. There’s no getting lost in a maze-like myriad of sub-page upon sub-page. With pretty much 5 taps you can get from home page to end pages. Along the same lines, the designers of the app did a fine job of keeping things simple. The home page looks like this:

Official GMAT App Home Page

And the simplicity pervades the app. The icons are clear and understandable, and in most instances are labeled. The functionality is largely user-friendly and intuitive. Images and text are displayed in large enough fonts where you don’t have to press your nose to the screen to see them, and, for the iPhone at least, you don’t have to do much scrolling on the screen to get the whole question.

Data Sufficiency Question

Now that’s not to say there aren’t any functionality problems. One biggie is that you’ll likely have to change some of your settings, particularly “sleep” or “screen lock” settings. If the primary purpose is to work on problems in a realistic fashion, having to reactivate or unlock your phone every minute could get annoying. Another biggie is that once the timer has started on a practice set of questions, it will keep running even if your phone is asleep. Moreover there’s no pause button. The only way you can stop the timer is to tap “Back” out of the set.

Aside from these two issues, I didn’t really find anything else from a functionality standpoint that was worth griping about in the first few hours that I played with it.

As for the content and features, there are also positives and negatives, though more of the former than the latter. There’s not much to say about the content itself (it’s all pulled from the OGs so there’s nothing new there, which a HUGE bummer).

Some of the features do bear mentioning. Obviously the timer feature is a big plus. GMAT preparation needs to involve a timed component. Unfortunately, as far as I could tell, you can’t change the timing (or turn it off), nor do they tell you beforehand how much time you have for a given set, or an average time per question. Generally, you’re given about 2 minutes per question, though the actual amount of time varies for each type of question. On the bright side, you still get to answer questions should you run out of time.

Another feature that GMAC has touted is the online gaming feature, which allows you to join a kind of community of people all working the same questions. The gaming feature is essentially a ranking system. You opt in, and your scores are ranked alongside everyone else’s. This could be good or bad depending (I mean, who wants to find out they’re ranked #99,999 out of 100,000).

One nice option for working through your practice sets is “Study Mode” vs. “Exam Mode”. Study mode allows you to see the results for each question (and an explanation) after you answer it. Strangely, the timer still runs on Study mode, which makes the combination (study mode + timer) kind of nonsensical. Exam mode doesn’t show you results until you’ve finished the set.

I also liked the “Ask the Expert” feature, which offers advice from admissions officers, b-school admins, and other experts on relevant MBA topics. It’s accessible from the homepage with one tap, and it’s easy to navigate the various topics.

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the app is the progress reports that can be generated. You can see a chart of your results as you move through practice sets. The practice scores are based on a composite of the # of correct answers and the time used. Unfortunately, they don’t give you any information about how exactly (the relative weight) those two values impact the score. This score is also what is used to determine your ranking should you want to have your scores ranked.

Progress Report

One other notable aspect of the practice content, Data Sufficiency answer choices are now labeled A-E, which is different than in the hard copy of the Official Guide (no listed answer choices), as well as in GMAT Prep and on the actual test (no labels for the answer choices).

The only other thing to consider about the app is it’s practicality. Certainly it’s a lot more manageable to tote around than the tome that is the hard copy version. The additional features (timing and progress report) also make it a valuable prep tool. I guess it depends on whether you’re a technophile or a bibliophile (and whether you already have the hard copy OG or not), because you could do all the things the app does with the Official Guide books.

At the end of the day, if you’ve got $35 dollars to plunk down on the app and additional question sets (not surprisingly the same price as for the hard copy), it may well be a beneficial tool (just not for Android users). I’m usually a bibliophile, but even I’d prefer the app given the additional features. And going with the app would help save a bunch of trees…which is always a good thing.

We’ll be back with more reviews and updates on the App, including an iPad-specific review. Stay tuned.

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