The Verbal Section is the hardest section of the GMAT, according to most test-takers. And if you really want to improve your overall score, you’re going to have to take it on and master its techniques.
The following tips can give you a solid understanding of how to improve your verbal score, but to truly to ace this section, you will need more help. A private Varsity Tutors tutor will help you convert the following tips into tangible results for improving your GMAT Verbal score.
See more from Varsity Tutors on how to boost your combined GMAT score.
Focus on verbal: The GMAT is just way too big to take it all on at once, although studies indicate that the brain works best when it connects and relates information, as opposed to processing it one-by-one. That’s why we recommend taking 3-4 weeks to become proficient in one section, then do the same for the next, and then combine your knowledge to master the entire GMAT. This will help you understand the ins-and-outs of every section, while still allowing you to connect all the information.
Know everything about GMAT Verbal: Buy a study book, read every blog and article on the web, ask professors, tutors and former test-takers for help, etc. Before you dive in to practice tests, you have to know what you’re up against. There are three sections: Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning and Sentence Correction.
Reading comprehension tips: Passages are up to 350 words long and are typically related to social sciences, physical or biological sciences and business-related areas (marketing, economics, human resource management, etc.). Although, the GMAT doesn’t require any previous subject knowledge for these sections, you should still be well-versed in them.
You will need to understand relationships between concepts and tone, draw inferences, recall facts and analyze terms or quantitative facts in the passages. Science passage questions are usually factual, social science questions are inferential and business questions – which are the most difficult – ask for tone or the opinion of the author.
It’s best to read the first and last few sentences to get a basic understanding of the passage. You just need to be able to say: okay this is a business passage about a guy named Bill Gates who developed computer software…and boom you know to look for tone/opinion (because it’s a business passage). Then read the questions, and skim the entire passage to look for your answers.
Critical reasoning: These are basically mini-comprehension reading questions. You will be given a brief paragraph and asked to evaluate the argument, strengthen/weaken it, identify an assumption, inference or parallel argument or choose a plan of action.
Read the questions first to know what you’re looking for. You may even want to guess an answer from the questions; then read the passage to confirm your answer. Try to work backwards and insert answers into the passage. Do not always choose an answer that is correct (in real life), but rather answers that are extensions of the passage. This is a common trap. Avoid answers that are absolutes because absolutes rarely exist in arguments, and avoid emotionally-charged answers.
Look for words to indicate the conclusion, such as: consequently, hence, as a result of, therefore, because of, ultimately, in conclusion, etc – because you will find most of your answers in that sentence. A lot of questions will ask you to weaken an argument; so simply look for: circular reasoning, inaccurate cause-and-effect arguments, sweeping generalizations and unqualified “expert” opinions.
Sentence correction: It’s grammar time. Here, you will see sentences with parts of them underlined. You will be given four options for rewriting the underlined section, and one option that repeats it (always answer choice A).
Save time by never reading answer choice A because you just read it in the sentence. There may be multiple errors. Do not look for spelling/capitalization; test makers never ask for that. After you choose an answer, read the entire sentence again with your answer and trust your ear.
Here are common grammar rules you should know: “among” versus “between,” elliptical verb phrases, misplaced modifiers, parallel sentences, pronoun-subject agreement, proper use of adverbs (they modify verbs), proper use of the semicolon, “fewer” versus “less,” run-on sentences, sentence fragments, subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, “who” versus “whom,” etc.
Read a lot: Your reading speed, comprehension and grammar skills will improve dramatically. While you’re preparing, cut a couple hours of leisure time out of your day and just read instead.
Vocabulary: You need a solid vocab, but unlike the SAT/ACT you won’t need a Shakespearian-level vocab. Check out this list of commonly seen GMAT vocab words.
Practice: Once you feel comfortable with the basic structures and tips, take a practice test. You should be more concerned with identifying problematic areas than your score. Then, practice individual questions off the clock with your tutor to increase your speed and accuracy. And finally, take another timed practice test and continue this process until you’re satisfied with your score.
Know your pace: You have to answer 41 questions in 75 minutes, which gives you less than 2 minutes per question. If you’re taking more time early on in the test, you’re going to have to speed it up or even start guessing.
Always finish the section: There is a penalty, estimated to be as high as 30-50 points, for not finishing the section. And, if you blindly guess on the last few questions, the test will know and penalize you. So, pace is the most important preparation technique.
To really improve your score, print this article out and walk through it with your tutor. That can help you create a plan of action for your GMAT Verbal prep. Contact Varsity Tutors today for more information on how a tutor can help you improve your GMAT score.