Quick Tips for GMAT Verbal
Help! I’m retaking the GMAT in 30 days and have always had trouble with Verbal, with my highest score at a 35. My Quant scores are very high, so if I spent the next month focusing only on Verbal, is there one question type that would quickly have the biggest impact on my score?
Focused on Verbal
Dear Focused on Verbal,
Before we start discussing the “quickest” ways to improve your Verbal score, it’s important for you answer the following questions for yourself:
- What was/were your previous total score(s) on the GMAT?
- Have your Verbal (practice) scores fluctuated over time?
- What is your target score?
I’ll just cut to the chase here: every test-taker learns and absorbs information in a unique way, meaning that without knowing more about your previous performance, there is not just one question type that I can advise you to focus on completely over the next 30 days. While you might be disappointed to hear that you won’t be able to narrow your studies down to one question type or concept to guarantee a boost to your Verbal score, the good news is that you can analyze your previous exams to find patterns in your performance that will point you in the right direction. Refer back to your error log; if you don’t have one, review your previous practice exams and begin analyzing which question types you’re getting wrong most frequently and why you’re answering them incorrectly.
That being said, when you do identify the types of Verbal questions that have historically given you the most trouble, resist the temptation to focus your attention on nothing endless practice sets of only those question types. Of course, you might discover that you don’t have as firm of a grasp on the concepts behind those questions as you originally thought, but remember that some test takers are also plagued with time management issues that force them to either rush through a section or take random guesses when they feel completely lost. Until you’ve identified why you’ve struggled with certain questions, don’t make any assumptions about how you’ll need to adjust your study plan.
However, once you’ve done the work to identify which questions you struggle with most and why you’ve struggled with them in the past, here are a few quick tips to help you begin tackling them again.
- To grow your vocabulary, make your flashcards work for you by replacing the dictionary’s definition of each word with a sentence that has personal meaning to you. When you start to feel more comfortable with what you’ve studied, take it outside and try using new words in everyday conversations.
- To improve in Reading Comprehension, try to avoid getting caught up in extraneous details and tackle the passages by determining the issue at hand, the theories within the issue that the author is discussing and whether or not he/she agrees with them.
- To improve in Sentence Correction, remember: there are certain ways to attack the questions so that you try to not miss a thing. You need to make sure you know the grammatical and stylistic errors they will throw at you and learn how to deal with more complex sentence structures that utilize modifying phrases/clauses and logic in terms of comparisons and parallelism. These are the higher order sentence corrections.
So altogether it is important to remember the following:
What usually helps people improve scores are several factors:
- Close gaps in knowledge in all areas. This means keep learning the theory and techniques.
- Become an EXPERT. Know how to attack each question type/how to apply the knowledge you have learned
- Practice on various materials
- Crucially, have a solid time management strategy. Knowing how to give up on a question is as crucial as knowing how to attack question you are better at!
I’m sure you were looking for a far easier answer, and I would love to have one in my back pocket for you. However, I can’t stress enough how unique each test taker is, which makes it difficult to prescribe a quick fix that would work for you as well as it might for another student. I’d also advise you against focusing completely on Verbal over the next 30 days. Even though you feel you have a strong foundation for everything the Quantitative section will throw at you, continue to at least review the fundamentals on a regular basis to ensure your foundation doesn’t grow stagnant.
Still, I’m confident that once you identify which Verbal questions you’ve struggled with most and why you struggled with them, you’ll have a far better idea of where to focus your attention over the next 30 days.
Best of luck!
This post appeared first on the Economist GMAT Tutor blog.