How to Prepare for GMAT Vocabulary

When it comes to tackling the GMAT, unlike the GRE, you won’t be tested on the meanings of individual vocabulary words in context. You will need to feel comfortable with the type of vocabulary used on the GMAT, however, particularly in Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Integrated Reasoning questions. There are many ways to prepare for GMAT vocabulary, such as taking practice tests and incorporating GMAT vocabulary into your daily life to gain familiarity.

When preparing for GMAT vocabulary, you will need to understand both the content of the passages and how to answer the related questions. For students who need help with GMAT vocabulary, here are four steps to prepare for the types of language you will find on the GMAT exam:

1. Take a GMAT practice test

When preparing for the GMAT, sit for a full-length GMAT practice exam, including breaks. If you have already taken a practice test recently, pull it up. Then, review your results. Go through each section of the exam, and look at the questions you answered correctly or incorrectly. This will help you learn the language of the GMAT. Familiarize yourself with the types of words used in each of the sections, including Quantitative and Integrated Reasoning, and identify the words that you did not understand. Additionally, examine which questions you were able to answer correctly, even though you didn’t know all of the vocabulary involved. Using clues in context will help you find the correct answers on the GMAT when you don’t necessarily know every word in the question.

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2. Create a list of GMAT vocabulary words

Write down every word on the test that you are unfamiliar with in a separate list. Then, write down the definition of each word on the list. As you go through the exam, you will notice these words appearing in multiple places on the GMAT. For example, the word “species” is often included in both Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning questions. The words “prime,” “median,” “mean,” and “reciprocal” are found in many Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions. Words like “consumption,” “dramatically,” “proliferation,” and “yield” are common words in the Analytical Writing Assessment topics. Making a list of unfamiliar vocabulary words can help you better understand what areas you can work to improve on. Once you know what these words mean, studying for the GMAT becomes much easier.

3. Make GMAT vocabulary flashcards

From your list of unfamiliar words, write one word on one side of an index card. On the other side of the card, write the definition of the word along with your own sentence defining that word. Test yourself on 5-10 words per day, eliminating words once you are confident that you know them. Continue this practice as you study from official GMAT material and encounter more words you don’t know. This will keep the words in your head and help you process GMAT passages and questions more efficiently.

4. Read magazines and newspapers with similar language to GMAT vocabulary

The Reading Comprehension passages found on the GMAT exam can involve a variety of topics, including:

  • biology

  • astronomy

  • American history

  • European history

  • economics

  • environmental science

  • physics

  • human resource management

In addition to working through actual GMAT passages, students can also read publications like Scientific American, Financial Times, The Economist, and Bloomberg Businessweek to get comfortable with the writing styles that appear on the GMAT. These magazines often contain composition and language found in certain texts and case studies that you may in encounter in your MBA program. So, understanding this vocabulary now can help not only on the GMAT, but also in business school.

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Though memorizing GMAT vocabulary may not be your primary focus in preparing for the exam, becoming familiar with the types of words found on the GMAT will help improve your overall performance. Combined with a regular study schedule in which you practice on official GMAT questions, improving your GMAT vocabulary will help you prepare for the material you will face on your exam day.

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