How to improve your GMAT verbal score

Mike has some good tips on this blog article that you might want to check out. In addition to that article, though, I want to offer some more tangible advice to get you going.

It is important to “Think Like the Testmaker.” The GMAT is for graduate-level business school, not a graduate math program or a graduate English Literature program. As a result, the GMAT is not looking for the expertise in math or verbal, but for those who would do well in a business program—those who can interpret, distill, manage and simplify information and transform it into something. Whew! That sounds like a mouthful, doesn't it? Business schools only rely on the GMAT as an admissions component because it accurately tests these skills, and so you should expect to be rewarded for thinking in this "business school way."

Let's break apart the verbal section a little.

Reading Comprehension:

When you read, it is key that you look for the tone, main point, and organization/structure of passages as you go. Many students try to read the question first and look for the answer, but this will take you far too long overall and it is not always the best approach to answering efficiently anyway. Generally, students do best if they read the entire passage deeply to comprehend its meaning and components, then answer the questions. You want to make sure you are actively reading these passages to get the best outcome. This is something we talk about a lot here at Magoosh.

Next, once you read, you need to think like the GMAT wants you to think: an effective business person is able to focus on and extract the most important elements from an otherwise irrelevant or superfluous source of information.

Some key questions you might ask yourself are:

  • What is this passage seeking to do? What is its purpose?
  • Is the author arguing for/against something or simply presenting me some information? If he/she’s arguing for/against something, what evidence and logic does he use to support his position?
  • How are the paragraphs organized, and what is the point of each one? Does this organization tell me anything meaningful about the passage? The structure matters.
  • How do examples or evidence support the claim or counter it? 

This will mean that the first question may take you ages, but don't worry. Once you've fully comprehended the passage, the remaining questions on that RC will go by quicker. :)

Critical Reasoning: 

You must focus on the specifics of the argument and ignore any answer choices that don’t directly address the argument's logic. Sometimes there's not just one answer so you want to choose the best answer. In addition to using your RC skills, this requires you to identify what really matters and also to quickly notice trap answers. If something doesn't clearly relate to the logic of an argument presented to you, find a better answer and don't be confused or dissuaded by irrelevant information or halfway good answers.

The GMAT Economist Blog has a great article on a simple, 3-step process to improve your CR outcomes. Definitely check it out!

Sentence Correction:

You basically want to pay attention to how the answers differ and eliminate the junk. We talk a lot about idioms and learning structures, but remember, the GMAT wants to test your ability to critically assess information and text, so apply that here, too. There are a few core grammar rules that will help you a LOT in the SC questions:

  • Verb tense and verb tense agreement: If you describe something in the past, the verbs all should be in the past. If you start with a future verb, pay attention to the verbs following, etc.
  • Subject-verb agreement: If you have a singular subject, the verb should also be singular. If you have a plural subject, the verb, of course, should reflect that! Keep in mind that some sentences will be very long and convoluted, but if you can identify only the main part of the sentence and ignore the distractors, you should be able to address this easily.
  • Pronoun agreement: Like singular-singular or plural-plural for verbs, it matters for pronouns. Talking about one report? Then call it "it." Talking about multiple reports? Then use "they."
  • Pay attention to modifiers: The GMAT likes to place modifiers in odd positions that change or confuse the meaning. "Because she was bad, my sister didn't buy my niece a toy." Who was bad? My sister or my niece? This is a bad sentence and the kind of thing the GMAT would want to have you recognize as inadequate structurally.
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