Preparing for the GMAT Verbal
Word challenged? Here are some tips for improving your score on the verbal portion of the Graduate Management Admissions Test
As a microbiologist and a native Chinese speaker, Haidong Zheng realized early on his verbal GMAT preparation might need to go beyond the traditional test prep course he had signed up for. So in September, while taking the course, Zheng started a Google group, called i-GMAT study, with 10 other non-native English speakers who were also taking the test. There members discussed the assumption-based critical reasoning questions as well as tricky reading comprehension questions.
Zheng, who lives in the New York borough of Queens, says he knew he would need a boost: In practice exams, "I would do better on logic but do poorly on verbal and sometimes you need help." And while he hasn't taken an official GMAT yet, he's confident, with the practice he's been doing, he's going to do better on the verbal portion than he would have when he started.
Clearly, non-native speakers of English are at a disadvantage when it comes to the verbal portion of the GMAT. But even people who have grown up with the language don't have it easy. Experts suggest that while even the most proficient test takers polish their verbal skills to succeed, some test takers make the mistake of relying on their gut feelings instead of studying the material.
Navigating the GMAT Data Sufficiency Maze
Data sufficiency questions all seek to determine the same thing: Can you answer the question with the information you've been given?
Data sufficiency problems make up about two-fifths of the quantitative questions on the GMAT. These questions are probably not like any test problem you've encountered before. They don't ask you to answer the question. Instead, they ask you to determine whether or not you can answer the question with the information given. Here is an example:
What is the minimum GMAT score, on the 200-800 scale, that an applicant must have in order to gain acceptance to the Ultra Tech Management School?
- The UltraTech Management School charges $8,000 per semester for tuition.
- The UltraTech Management School accepts any applicant who has taken the GMAT and paid the application fee.
A. Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) ALONE is not sufficient.
B. Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) ALONE is not sufficient.
C. BOTH statements TOGETHER are sufficient, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient.
D. EACH statement ALONE is sufficient.
E. Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient.
All data sufficiency questions offer you the same five answer choices. You need to memorize these answer choices before you walk into the test. In fact, do it now.
The fact that every data sufficiency question offers the same answer choices means that you can approach each one the same way. You read the question stem. You figure out what it's asking.Then you read statement (1). From here on, it's AD or BCE.
What this means is that if statement (1) is sufficient, then the answer to the question will be either A or D. If statement (1) is not sufficient, then the answer to the question will be B, C, or E.
Every data sufficiency question should be answered by continuing with the same technique. Simply by determining the sufficiency of just one statement, you should be able to eliminate approximately half of the answer choices. That way, you should be able to avoid completely random guessing on data sufficiency questions.
Getting a Grip on Critical Reasoning
These GMAT questions can be pretty tough, but it helps to know some of the common tactics used to come up with the incorrect answers
In casual reading, you might come across something that looks like a GMAT Reading Comprehension passage, and you might notice grammatical errors like those in GMAT Sentence Completion questions. However, you aren't likely to encounter anything that looks like a GMAT Critical Reasoning question. Each of these problems briefly describes a situation and then asks a question such as:
Which of the following, if true, provides the most support for the claim that the plan described will succeed?
To maximize your chances for getting the high score you want, you must approach these questions efficiently and critically. You should:
- Read the question and determine what kind of question you're facing.
- Read the passage critically. Analyze the basic components of the argument in light of the question.
- Formulate a correct answer to the question.
- Attack the answer choices until only one remains.
While the best way to avoid traps is to formulate in advance a clear idea of what the correct answer should look like, it's also a good idea to know what types of wrong answers appear over and over. A few of the techniques the test writers frequently use to create wrong answers are:
- Scope. Wrong answers make inferences or draw conclusions that go too far or not far enough. The correct answer will match the scope of the argument.
- True, but irrelevant. An answer choice may be true but irrelevant to the point at issue. Always make sure you know exactly what is being asked, and choose an answer that's relevant to that question.
- Opposites. For "strengthen" and "weaken" questions, the test writers will almost always provide at least one answer that gives the opposite of what the question asked.
Master the Analytical
You don't have to be a great writer to get a good score, but you do need to communicate effectively
If you aren't already a literary giant, there probably isn't time between now and GMAT test day to turn yourself into one. Fortunately, that isn't a problem. The GMAT's Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) tests a very specific type of writing, and grades it in a very specific way. As long as your writing is basically sound, you can prepare yourself to earn a good score on the AWA.
Good use of time is essential to getting the score you want, so think of your strategy in terms of allocation of time:
- Read the issue or argument very carefully: one minute.
- Consider the issue, choose your argument, outline your essay: four to six minutes.
- Write: 22 to 24 minutes.
- Proofread the essay for obvious typos: one to two minutes.
Pacing is crucial, so it's important that you run though a few practice essays so you know how much time you need to devote to each step.