GMAT Verbal Tips

Be sure to check out our GMAT Verbal tips and strategies to improve your score on this section of the GMAT. We’ve compiled our top 20 GMAT Verbal tips and strategies for your review. This includes Critical Reasoning tips, Reading Comprehension tips, and Sentence Correction tips:

GMAT Critical Reasoning Tips:

1. Identify the Conclusion, Evidence & Assumption(s). This should be your first step for all of the Critical Reasoning question types. The conclusion and the evidence will be explicitly stated in the passage, while the assumptions will require you to sit and consider the author’s point of view. What needs to be true in order for the conclusion to be correct based on the given evidence?

2. Find the purpose of each sentence. Sometimes CR questions will ask what the function is of a part of the argument. You may see questions that ask “which role” a sentence plays. Try to place it into one category: conclusion ,or evidence? If the sentence was removed from the paragraph, what would be lacking?

3. Know the overall flow. Arguments have a tendency to follow one of two shapes: a triangle or an inverted triangle. Does the author start by making a specific conclusion and then provide more general evidence, or does he begin with observations and then get to a thesis? Use variables to describe the structure. “Y leads to X which leads to Z” is different from “Y turns into Z unless Y is prevented.” Be on the lookout for “If X, then Y” relationship.

4. Paraphrase the argument. Dumb down the complexity of the argument as you read, as if you were explaining it to a child. You may want to write down a few short notes to help you. The idea is to ignore the petty details and see through to the author’s main point and to the evidence he provides to support his point.

5. Look for transitions. Transition words and phrases are like signposts pointing your way through the logic of the argument. They tell you what is coming next. “Specifically…” means a more detailed example will follow. “Thus,” means a summation is to be expected. “While this may be true…” is a phrase that shows a concession is about to be made. Keep a study sheet of transition words and divide them into categories: Examples, Adding, Contrasting, Emphasis, Resulting In, etc. It’s an ongoing process to familiarize yourself with these, but a worthwhile one.

6. Determine what is missing for Complete the Passage Questions. What does the blank represent? Often it will be either a restatement of the conclusion,  or another supporting piece of evidence, but it could also be an action advocating by the author, or an example of the author’s argument applied to the real world.

7. Eliminate out-of-scope answers. While the correct answer may not perfectly match your prediction, the simple fact that you took the time to think critically while you came up with a prediction will help you understand the author’s focus and the flow of his argument. Eliminate answer choices that would NOT follow the gist of the paragraph. Especially look for those that are outside the scope of the author’s focus, a favorite CR wrong answer type!

8. Try the Negation Technique. An assumption is something that needs to be true and is required in order for the Evidence to lead to the Conclusion. If we negate the answer choices then the correct choice will weaken the argument the most. This is an excellent strategy to try for Assumption questions.

GMAT Reading Comprehension Tips:

9. Always look for at the thesis for the Main Idea. Just like most 5-paragraph essays, the author of a reading passage on the GMAT will typically place his thesis at the bottom of the introductory paragraph. That is where he introduces his main idea and gives his over-arching opinion. If you feel confused about the Main Idea, the thesis is a great place to look!

10. Take short notes while you read. You can’t possible remember every piece of information from the passage, but note-taking as you read will help you recall much more information than memory alone.

11. Don’t skim. If you only read a sentence here and there, you’ll never grasp the “big picture” of the passage. It can be tempting to rush through the passage to get to the questions more quickly, but then you’ll be going back through the passage inch-by-inch, searching for the answers to those questions! Read at a relatively efficient pace, but read thoroughly the first time around.

12.Write down a Prediction. For each question (except for very specific Inference questions) you should be able to come up with your own answer based on your notes and your understanding of the passage. Trust that you can come up with a reasonable approximation of the correct choice on your own. Process of elimination is a much more effective method than simply reading and re-reading each choice.

13. Remember that Details support Functions. If a question asks you why the author includes a specific detail from the passage, consider that all the details within a paragraph are generally used to support the function of that paragraph. To answer specific detail questions, sometimes you need to take a step back and ask, what’s the function of the paragraph that the detail is found in?

14. Focus on structure – go back for detail. When you read the first time, think more about HOW the passage is put together, structurally. How does each paragraph fit into the author’s main idea? How does the author develop his discussion of the topic? You can always go back for the nitty-gritty details, and if you worry too much about the subject matter it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially if it is especially complex or unfamiliar.

GMAT Sentence Correction Tips:

15. Start with your grammar skills first. You can ignore most of the challenging vocabulary on sentence corrections as long as you identify what part of speech each word is, and how it functions within the sentence. To do this, you’ll need to spend some time with a solid English grammar review book. I recommend pairing a heavy-duty review book, like the Oxford Guide or those published by McGraw-Hill or Longman, with a “fun” book like Writer’s Express or English Grammar for Dummies.

16. Memorize your idioms early. Start applying the GMAT Idioms early in your studies and incorporate them into your everyday speech, emails, and English compositions. The more you can incorporate them into your English writing, the more confident you’ll become.

17. Read and listen to high-quality English publications. My recommendations include The New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or any scholarly journal that you find interesting. Listen to NPR or audio books of English-language classics. Set a regular schedule for your reading and stick to it. Even twenty minutes a day will help you conquer Reading Comprehension.

18. Non-native? Create a study group. Whether in real life or online, connect with other native and non-native speakers who are prepping for the GMAT. Check out your local library and schools and set up a weekly coffee shop meet-up to discuss your progress. Create a Yahoo group. This will not only help you stick to your goals, but also help you learn about new resources from native speakers.

19. Compare British and American English. Many English-language schools outside of the United States focus on British English, while the GMAT is an American-administered test. There are subtle differences in word choice and spelling between the two. While British spellings are officially acceptable in the AWA section, I would suggest familiarizing yourself with their American counterparts and using them to be safe.

20. Make a vocab journal. Write down any words you don’t know as you encounter them. You’ll start to notice that certain words appear over and over again. Make flashcards for the ones that have tricky definitions or mean the opposite of what you’d expect.

GMAT Practice Tests:
Verbal Tests>>
Quantitative Tests>>
Integrated Reasoning Tests>>
Main Menu>>