GMAT Verbal Tips You Should Know


Many students feel that the GMAT exam is a tough nut to crack and many students do struggle with the GMAT verbal section. Formal American English used, the many grammar rules, passages from topics that one may not be familiar with and the GMAT logical reasoning questions all make it difficult for students to get a high score in the verbal section. This is self-evident in the percentile rankings of the GMAT scores. A GMAT verbal score of 46 and above is a percentile ranking of 99%. This means that only 1% of the students scored higher than 46 in the GMAT verbal section. In comparison, for a GMAT quant score of 46, the percentile score is only 56%.

So is it impossible to score well in the GMAT verbal component? Definitely not. With smart preparation and adequate practice, you too can definitely ace the verbal part of the GMAT exam.


1. Understand the GMAT Verbal Section

Understand the GMAT Verbal Section

Now, one advantage that students have with the GMAT exam is that it is a standardized test. This means that the topics covered, the types of questions, the number of questions and the timing are predictable from one test to another.

The verbal section has 36 questions that need to be answered in 65 minutes. This means that, on average, you have 1 minute and 48 seconds per question. Obviously, every question and type will not take the same amount of time.

The three main types of questions are Sentence Correction, Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning. Students need to answer certain GMAT verbal questions such as Sentence Correction quickly in order to have time for more time-consuming questions like the ones testing reading comprehension.

Though GMAT doesn’t list a specific GMAT verbal syllabus, since it is a standardized test, we can predict certain aspects of the exam and this can definitely help with your GMAT verbal preparation.


2. Need for Speed

Need for Speed

The GMAT verbal section is actually computer adaptive. This means that if you answer a question correctly, the next question is adjusted to have a higher difficulty level. On the other hand, if you answer a question incorrectly, the next question is of lower difficulty level. Basically, the algorithm adjusts the difficulty level to the one where you are comfortable enough to get many questions correct. The final score in the verbal section depends not only on the number of questions you answer correctly but also on the difficulty level of the questions answered correctly.


3. The Importance of Pacing Yourself

The Importance of Pacing Yourself

There is also a penalty for not completing the GMAT verbal section. So, we cannot afford to get stuck on one hard question and spend 10 minutes on just that hard question. If a student gets stuck with one hard question, he or she will find that, towards the end of the section, when there are only a few minutes left on the countdown timer, they still have many questions left to be answered. So what should the student do in such a scenario? Should the student randomly guess 6 to 10 questions in a row to avoid the penalty for not completing the section? If by some bad luck, the student gets multiple guesses in a sequence incorrect, then the difficulty level will go down drastically and this will definitely bring down your final verbal score. The best way is to try and avoid such a scenario where you just have a few minutes left but many questions unanswered in the end. So how to do that? One way is to be aware of the pace at which you answer your questions. The simplest rule of thumb would be, when you have 48 minutes left on the timer ( 25% of the time is up), you should have completed at least 7 to 9 questions (20% -25% of the questions). Do keep in mind that earlier in the exam, you will be prioritizing accuracy over speed in order to push the difficulty level of the next question higher. If you have completed fewer than 7 questions, you know that you have to speed up. If you have completed more than 9 questions, carry on at the same pace, do not slow down consciously. This way, check the time remaining every 9-10 questions. This helps you maintain a constant pace and complete the verbal section with ease.

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4. Know When and How to Guess

Know When and How to Guess

Now let’s go back to the scenario where the student is faced with an incredibly hard question. How to deal with this? First decide if the question is worth spending extra time and if you are totally clueless and don’t understand a word of the question and the answer choices, make a quick guess and move on. Even if you get this question wrong and the difficulty level goes down, you can make up for the difficulty level by answering the next question correctly. On the other hand, if you feel that you will definitely get the answer but need a little time – check your pacing and the number of questions that you have left to decide the maximum time that you can take for that question. Usually, you should not take more than 3 minutes to complete a question. After 3 minutes, if you are very close to the answer, work to quickly finish the question. Even after 3 minutes, if you are still nowhere near the answer, it is time to guess and move on.

While working on the GMAT verbal questions, always look for reasons to eliminate wrong answers instead of looking for the one correct answer. Sometimes, the perfect answer that we have in our head may not be there in the answer choices at all.

Many years of in-depth research has helped us at Manya – The Princeton Review understand how GMAT questions and answer choices are created. At Manya – The Princeton Review, we provide students with an understanding of how incorrect answers are created on the GMAT. The students can use this knowledge to then make smarter guesses during an exam if it is needed.


5. How to Prepare for the GMAT Verbal Section

How to Prepare for the GMAT Verbal Section

Students serious about the GMAT spend a lot of time and money on many GMAT verbal books and GMAT online preparation. However, one should not use any random material but should only practice using the right material for GMAT prep. So what are the characteristics of the “right material”? At Manya – The Princeton Review, the level of difficulty, content, types of questions, format and style of answer choices, the user interface for practice questions and user experience during a mock test are all comparable to the actual GMAT.

As part of your GMAT prep, it is important to take multiple GMAT mock tests. Though taking only the GMAT verbal mock test (sectional test) is an option, taking entire mock tests can

  • Help you get used to the adaptive nature of the exam.
  • Develop the stamina to concentrate during the entire 3+ hours duration of the exam.
  • Last but not least, identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Thus, your mock tests can guide further preparation in an effective way.


6. Tips for Acing the GMAT Sentence Correction Questions

Tips for Acing the GMAT Sentence Correction Questions

Sentence correction questions have a sentence with a part of the sentence underlined. Below the sentence, you have 5 options for the underlined part. The first option is always the same as the underlined part. The student needs to pick the option that conveys the meaning clearly and without any grammatical errors.

Sentence correction questions thus test your basic grammar skills. Remember to work on the basics of American English and formal writing. But don’t stress about every obscure grammar rule and its exceptions. The majority of the questions on the GMAT tests only a few common rules. You can become familiar with the frequently tested topics and identify commonly tested types of errors with good guidance and adequate practice. Instead of trying to frame or write the perfect sentence by yourself, it is important to pick the best version of the sentence from the answer choices.

If ever in doubt, remember that the correct answer is the sentence that unambiguously conveys the meaning and also uses as few words as possible.


7. Tips for Acing the GMAT Reading Comprehension Questions

Tips for Acing the GMAT Reading Comprehension Questions

The most basic tip that most students miss out on, is to work on their basic reading comprehension skills. How can one improve in reading comprehension in any language? The simple answer is to read more. Read more from American newspapers and magazines. Read more articles on the topics from which passages appear on the GMAT- this includes natural sciences, physical sciences, social sciences and obviously business. While reading, focus on identifying opinions rather than details. Since the passage is always available next to the questions, you can always look up any details that you need. Read to identify the main idea. So what is the main idea? The main idea is the most important thing that the author wants you to believe.

Along with just reading, you also have to work on GMAT level questions and understand how you can do them quickly and correctly.
At Manya – The Princeton Review, we give students many tools to help them identify the main idea of a passage quickly and to identify incorrect answers. The students also get to practice their techniques with the many practice passages and questions similar to the actual GMAT that are available on the Manya-The Princeton Review Student Portal.


8. Tips for Acing the GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions

Tips for Acing the GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions

Critical Reasoning questions on the GMAT are comparable to logical reasoning questions. You will be given an argument and will be asked a question based on the argument. Some of the questions that can be asked include identifying assumptions of the argument, strengthening or weakening the argument and identifying inferences. At Manya – The Princeton Review, we work with the students to help them identify each different question type tested, understand the relevant parts of the argument and identify typical incorrect answers. This helps our students to get to the answers quickly and correctly.

Last but not least, remember that any score improvement cannot happen overnight. But with proper guidance, quality material and adequate practice you too can crack the GMAT!


Frequently Asked Questions


Q1. Is it enough to understand the common errors tested on GMAT Sentence correction to maximize points on SC?

Yes, knowing the major 6 grammar rules is enough to answer at least 75% of the SC questions right. The more complex sentences just give a hard time recognizing these same errors.

Q2. We usually hear that if a student sees more of either boldface questions, he/she must be performing well on the test. How true is this?

Yes, we normally see very few questions of the BOLDFACE type in a test. Thus, if a student does face such a question, it does indicate that he is being challenged with the more difficult of the CR questions.

Q3. What is the pacing required in the verbal section?

You do know that focusing on the initial questions will boost the difficulty level faster and will result in a higher score. So, keeping at least 20 minutes each for questions 1-10 and 11-20 would be necessary. So the remaining 16 questions have 25 minutes. It is recommended that you set out at least 6-8 minutes for the last 6 questions so that you are able to submit all questions. That would leave you to manage to answer 10 questions in 17-19 minutes. Play your strengths when it comes to Qs. 21-30.


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