GMAT Verbal Reasoning Section Strategy
The Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT is one of two components that most people think of when discussing GMAT scores. This section combined with the Quantitative Reasoning section will eventually result in a score between 200-800.
On average, test-takers score higher on the Quantitative Reasoning section than on the Verbal Reasoning section, proving that this section should be as seriously regarded as the Quant when it comes to preparation. In many ways, improving the Verbal score may be more difficult than improving a Quantitative score, as verbal skills are less straightforward than mathematical concepts.
Coming up with an approach is the first step to ensuring you achieve a high percentile score on the GMAT Verbal Reasoning section. You will want to target your areas of weakness and question types to improve upon, tighten up your pacing, and budget time before your exam to practice.
Focusing Your Studies
There are three types of questions you will encounter on the Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT: Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction. First you should take a practice test to have some metrics to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. Read through the explanation of the answers of questions you missed to understand if your mistake was a result of a concept you do not understand.
While this information is interesting and important, it is also beneficial to know that, in general, the easiest type of question to boost your Verbal Reasoning score is Sentence Correction. Much like mathematical concepts, grammatical concepts follow specific rules. The time-spent-to-payoff ratio of brushing up on your grammatical skills is high, so whether or not you consider yourself adept at written standard English, it is worth your time to refresh and review these concepts. Native English speakers should especially be wary of falling prey to complacency – often those whose mother tongue is not English have a firmer grasp on grammatical rules and structures. Having not learned the language from infancy, they must rely on the actual grammar rules rather than on what 'sounds' right.
Moreover, practicing and improving Sentence Correction will help you to complete these questions more quickly, giving you more time to devote to Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning.
Timing is Everything
The Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT is comprised of 36 questions, which you have 65 minutes to complete. Clocking in at under two minutes per question, it is of utmost importance to get a firm grasp on your pacing.
As mentioned before, one way to imporove your pacing is to be sure to have your grammatical rules down so that the Sentence Correction questions can be answered quickly, allotting more time for Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning questions.
The Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT is adaptive, meaning that the algorithm will assign questions to you based on how you performed on previous questions. It also means that your score is continuously being calculated. Missing multiple questions in a row has a disproportionately negative affect on your score, so pacing is important to avoid not finishing the exam.
It is not exactly groundbreaking to say that, in order to succeed on the Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT, you will need to budget significant time to practice. The obvious reason is because the more you practice any skill, the better you get at it. Well-organized practice not only exposes you to the type of questions you will see on the test, but can help you pinpoint your areas of weakness so that you can develop a strategy to improve. If possible, taking a course or working with a private tutor is ideal. Having a third-party perspective, especially one who has an expertise in the GMAT, will help you create an effective practice regime.
You will also want to build your stamina. The GMAT as a whole is a marathon test, which requires you to sit at a computer and focus for more than three hours. There are small breaks thoughout, but if you have not prepared yourself to keep focus over time, you will start to fatigue and make timing mistakes or simple reading and comprehension mistakes.
As mentioned above, timing is an important component to your success on the GMAT. Drilling all of the question types will not only help you to improve your accuracy and build your endurance, but it will also save you time. As you become more familiar with the question types and the wording of the possible multiple-choice responses, you will become more efficient. This allows you to reserve precious minutes to ensure accuracy rather than just helping you finish all of the questions in time.