GMAT Verbal Reasoning Section – Skills
Overall, the goal of the Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT is to accurately evaluate your ability to read a text, understand its content, synthesize ideas from it, and effectively communicate in written standard English. In comparison to the Quantitative Reasoning section, preparing for the Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT can feel vague. Quantitative Reasoning accesses our high school math knowledge, so preparing for it begins with refreshing arithmetic skills and a handful of basic formulas. Verbal Reasoning, on the other hand, requires refreshing skills that are not quite a simple to nail down.
You will want to start off your preparation by taking a practice test. This will help you have a sense for the exam environment and your own stamina. Also, looking over the score at the end will help you to pinpoint what weaknesses need to be worked on before exam day. The following skills to work on are listed in no particular order; what you choose to work on should depend on the skills you know you need to focus on.
Brush Up on Grammar Skills
If concrete rules and concepts are your comfort zone, start with reviewing your grammar skills. While there are exceptions to grammar rules, you can bet that for the most part, you will be seeing straightforward grammar mistakes when you are working on Sentence Correction questions. Often, Sentence Correction questions will try to confuse you with a long, overly complicated sentence which obfuscates the grammatical error. Aside from feeling comfortable with the very basics, practice looking for errors in subject-verb agreement, parallel construction, and misplaced modifiers. Even a complex sentence should not be overly wordy or confusing, so also consider that if you are trying to decide between two possible answers.
When it comes to Reading Comprehension questions and Critical Reasoning questions, it is vital that you are able to quickly recognize facts and distinguish them from opinions. Especially in Critical Reasoning questions where arguments are being made, you'll need to remember that a fact is verifiable and objective, based on data, observations and/or statistics. On the other hand, opinions are subjective and unverifiable. Often times, you will see opinions in a question which are supported with facts, but that does not mean they are strong arguments.
Paraphrasing is rephrasing something someone else wrote or said into your own words. This skill is an important one to aid in strengthening your comprehension – you cannot paraphrase something you have read or heard if you did not understand it. To practice this, read a passage. Then, put the passage aside and imagine you have a friend who did not do the reading and asks you what it is about. You would not pick up the passage and start reading it back to them. Instead, you would try to give them the main ideas of the passage and important facts or details to help your friend get a good idea of what content was covered. This skill is especially important on Reading Comprehension questions because the test is not assessing your memory skills, rather, your understanding of the text. Generally, the answers will not be taken word for word from the passage, rather it will paraphrase some part of the text. While your paraphrase will be different from the test-maker's, if you have a paraphrase to start with, it will be easier to spot the correct answer.
To practice paraphrasing, begin reading texts with topics you are familiar with, but quickly transition to articles and text which is from a topic you are not already familiar. Having to read and paraphrase text with unfamiliar topics will stretch your comprehension muscles. The added benefit to practicing paraphrasing is that it forces you read more, which will benefit you when it comes to reading comprehension and reading speed.
Be Open to Skepticism
If you're the type of person who always wants to give the benefit of the doubt, now is not the time! GMAT questions and answer choices are written in a way to try and sort out true comprehension and mastery of a skill from luck. Therefore, many of the answer questions are tricky. If something seems right, be sure to take an extra beat to really examine it for anything that does not quite work. Also, take note when new information is added in the questions – this often means that an assumption is being made. Also, be skeptical of extremes in language which signal overstatement, including 'always,' 'only,' and 'must.'