You are thinking about pursuing a Master’s degree and realize that you need to take the GMAT. Naturally, you ask yourself – what does it take to do well on the test? As the Director of Academics at Toga MBA Consulting, I manage the firm’s GMAT program and am also the lead GMAT Verbal instructor. We created our Verbal-focused program to specifically address the need for most Indonesian GMAT test takers, who tend to struggle more in the Verbal section than in the Quant. From our experience, we found that as non-native speakers, they just don’t know where to begin when trying to solve Verbal questions. In line with the firm’s mission to provide valuable information and insights to improve decision making for Indonesians, I wrote this article with the hope that you may find it useful when studying for your GMAT.
What is GMAT?
The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test (CAT). This implies that the difficulty level of each subsequent question is adapted according to the accuracy of the previous question. If the question is answered correctly, the next question will be more ‘difficult’ and conversely, if the question is answered incorrectly, the next question will be ‘easier’. This indirectly signals that your performance at the beginning of the test is particularly important, as it is easier to climb from medium to difficult level questions than it is to climb from easy to difficult level questions. Hence, you want to take greater care in the first few questions of the exam as getting the initial easy-medium questions wrong can lower your score significantly.
The Verbal section of the GMAT is a multiple-choice exam that tests your ability to not only understand written English, but also evaluate the written English material. There are three types of questions: Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension.
1. Sentence Correction
These questions test your knowledge of standard written English. Each sentence has an underlined section and test-takers must evaluate whether the underlined section of the sentence is written clearly and correctly.
1) Understand the meaning of the sentence
This might sound obvious, but some people focus too much on the various grammar ‘rules’ and not enough on the meaning. At times, there are answers that are ‘grammatically’ correct but do not articulate the same meaning as the original sentence. Even though the sentence is incorrect, focus on understanding what meaning the sentence is trying to convey. This will prevent you from picking the answer choice that is grammatically correct but has changed the meaning of the sentence.
2) Parse your sentence correctly
Parsing refers to breaking up the sentence and understanding its different structural components. Many native speakers can do this more naturally and subconsciously using their native speaker intuition. It is also likely that many English native speakers have two advantages over non-native speakers: they were probably taught these grammatical concepts and rules in school and have far more experience in writing in standard English.
Two key things to pay attention to when parsing:
- Identifying the subject and the predicate of each sentence and/or clause, specifically paying attention to how the underlined section fits structurally in the sentence.
- Understanding and identifying the part of speech of a word (nouns, verbs, adverbs, etc.) and whether it is the correct part of speech to use within the structure of the sentence and/or clause.
2. Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension questions test your ability to read and answer questions from a passage. Doing well on reading comprehension questions involves a skill called active reading. Active reading means that you not only read and understand the content, but also keep track of how the ideas flow within the passage.
Two things that might help you to perform active reading are:
- Creating a passage map: an outline of the written passage. A good passage map incorporates the main idea of each paragraph as well as the main purpose of the passage – why the author has written the passage. Create the passage map as you read the passage instead of after.
- Paying attention to the connectives: connectives such as ‘however’, ‘moreover’, ‘thereby’, ‘clearly’, etc., help us to understand the flow of the arguments or the organization of ideas in the passage.
Remember to answer the questions based on what is written in the passage. Although it can be tempting, do not use your own real-world knowledge, or pick an answer that makes sense, unless they are derived from the passage.
3. Critical Reasoning
Critical reasoning tests your ability to analyze arguments. Each question starts off with a mini passage containing one or two paragraphs and is followed by the question.
Three things that can help to solve critical reasoning questions are:
- Identifying the role of the information given in the mini passage. Is the information evidence, or is it a claim? What function does the information play?
- Remember what the question is asking for. Not every piece of information in the passage will be relevant and focusing on what the question wants will help you to identify which information is likely to be relevant. On that note, focusing on what the question wants will also help you to identify which answers are completely irrelevant and off-tangent.
- Never use your real-world opinion to answer a question. As is the case for reading comprehension questions, you must answer critical reasoning questions based on information given in the text.
Applying these tips consistently and correctly will help you to work more effectively and efficiently. Toga wishes you all the best of luck on your GMAT exam!
Content edited by Artricia Rasyid