GMAT Verbal Tips
January 15, 2014 9:53 PM   Subscribe

I am planning to take GMAT in 3 months. I have taken few practice tests to assess my levels in quant and verbal sections. I have seen that I do repeatedly good in quant sections but not so good in the verbal. I have gone through Manhattan books for Sentence correction and Reading comprehension, and practicing consistently. Still my verbal scores are not improving. I , otherwise, consider myself to be good in English and I am into English literature. Most of the times, I overthink the answers, especially in Reading comprehension parts... I am stuck ! Can you guys please give me pointers to resources (books, tests, prep material for verbal section), personal suggestions (Tips, tricks, guidelines, strategies you have successfully used). Please share anything you think can help. Thanks a lot!!!
posted by angeldog to Education (6 answers total)
This is one of the only times I am ever going to pick on the grammar in a question, because here it's actually relevant: Read what you just typed up there. Read it again, if necessary. Pick each sentence apart. Find every error of punctuation, every missing word, every extra space, everything. Do this with everything you write for the next three months. Start really paying attention. I get a feeling you've kind of settled into a level of daily attention to English grammar and usage that you've deemed "good enough" because it usually is, but the GMAT sentence correction requires upping your game in a big way.

Go through Purdue's OWL resources to brush up on the specifics.

For the reading comprehension, that level of attentiveness is also useful, although primarily to the questions, not to the initial passage. Make sure you've really nailed down what they're asking for. Skim the questions first, find out what it is you're actually reading the passage to determine, because you should be reading differently for general questions than for very specific ones. How are you doing on time, for reading comprehension questions? If you're always feeling short of time, you might work on trying to pick up your reading speed. If you've got time to spare, then definitely make use of it.
posted by Sequence at 4:38 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

What score are you aiming for? What school do you want to attend? For most of them, passing is good enough.

I blew out the Verbal on the GMAT (even with my famously TERRIBLE spelling) and scraped by on the quantitative. It was the cumulative score that mattered, and I had that well in hand. I also attended an incredibly non-selective grad school, YMMV.

I find that you either have an ear for English sentence structure or you don't. Not to pick, but you don't. This is one of those things that you learn over years and years and books and books. I'm going out on a limb, are you a native speaker? Your question leads one to believe that you are not.

If this is the case, can you also take TOEFL or submit TOEFL scores as part of your application package?

Sometimes you just have to play to your strengths. Were I you, if my scores were 'good enough', I'd just blow out the quant portion and move on with my life.

What are your Verbal scores now? Where do they need to be to gain acceptance to the program of your choice?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:42 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

My partner teaches GMAT, and he does more than just assess what type of problems you're getting wrong on the verbal section. It's helpful, in a nebulous sense, to know that someone's reading comp is low compared to their sentence correction - but where language is concerned that's not really the end of the story. Language takes a lot longer to improve than arithmetic, because it isn't as simple as learning a rule and practicing it until you can do it cold. And reading comp is the slowest of them all.

One of the things that my partner does is look for obvious gaps in vocabulary. Instead of just asking IF there is a gap in the vocabulary, he looks for what TYPE of gap you have in your vocabulary, and then recommends study aids that will fill that gap most efficiently. He can send anyone out to learn another 10,000 words, and it will probably marginally help their verbal scores. But if you've got a fundamental misunderstanding of, for example, greek roots, then he can do a targeted lesson or word list which will achieve much better long-term results for you in scoring. You might be able to hone in on this yourself, but more than likely it is a blind spot that you won't be able to diagnose alone. You'll need to hire someone to help.

The good news is that if you've avoided private tutors to this point because of expense concerns, I'd say that you can probably safely have one or two appointments with someone for diagnostic purposes, and then get their professional recommendation for self-study. Then off you go.

I'd also suggest you test yourself on Spreeder, and possibly work a bit on how quickly you can read while maintaining a high level of comprehension. Those passages are meant to be slow and plodding. If you're not a fast reader already, you can totally blow all of the time you should be using to assess answer choices just reading the passage. That's not an efficient use of your time. Even if you don't increase your reading speed at all, knowing what your normal/comfortable reading speed is will help you understand how you likely compare to other test takers. If you're reading 50 words per minute and the average is about 300, then you can set your expectations a little more appropriately and work on getting a bit closer to the average so that you aren't quite so severely handicapped.
posted by jph at 7:54 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

First time I took the GREs, about 10 years ago, I scored in the 60th percentile for Verbal. Last time I took them, I scored in the 99th percentile. Here's what I did.

I used a spaced repetition flashcard software to memorize the 5000 Barrons Word list (specifically, I used mnemosyne). You may think you know a word, but you may not really know a word, or the nuances of the definition. Recognize != knowing.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:49 AM on January 16, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for your ideas and comments. As some of you figured out, I am not a native English speaker. Some more backgroud will help here. I have given GRE and TOEFL some 10 years back in my college days, since then I am working in fields where email is the primary mode of communication and brevity (even if ungrammatical) is prized over everything else. Some of it has brushed over, more than I would like, but I am trying to improve, and I am in no hurry to take GMAT. My goal is to do it sometime in 2014.

I am looking for 700+ score. My math says I should get about 31+ question correct consistently in verbal, and I am not there yet.

I am looking into Purdue's OWL and Spreeder. Thanks for the resources.

Also, I dont give much weight to you have it or dont argument. I was no better in quant before but I figured it out by slogging (and I do understand that verbal and quant are not totally alike, but I am not trying to be a writer here, just want to score better in a damn exam). I also know that eventually I may realize ( may after GMAT) that you were right, but this is not something I want to bothered right now (I really can not afford that kind of midset). I have always thought that a problem can be solved if you research the hell out of it (and if you are stuck, call out, ask for help). My question was to know the tricks and tips to verbal section from those who have researched hell out of it - the guy who can peel a number of questions and arrange some rule out of them. There are few such rules like the one mentioned - read the questions first before the passage for comprehension. I would like to know more of those.

Thanks so much!
posted by angeldog at 9:38 PM on January 16, 2014

FYI if youre not a native speaker then they will cut you much more slack on your verbal score.

And on the old scale 700+ was like 95th percentile, which is a very high goal and higher than necessary.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:39 PM on January 17, 2014

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