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GMAT Tips For The Verbal Section

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Sentence Correction Questions

  • You will not need the keyboard for the Verbal section, so move it aside to give you more desk room for writing on scrap paper.
  • The correct answer will have all 4 of the following characteristics:

    1. No grammar errors

    2. Correct sentence structure

    3. No diction errors

    4. No changes to the sentence’s intended meaning

  • However, the correct answer is not always the shortest or most concise.
  • Do not waste time reading answer A too closely. It simply repeats the text underlined in the question. But do not ignore it entirely or assume that there is always an improved answer choice.
  • Look out for multiple errors. A common mistake is to find one error in the sentence and quickly choose the answer that corrects that error, without noticing that there are other errors in the sentence. The correct answer choice must correct all the errors in the underlined sentence.
  • You can eliminate answer choices that are grammatically incorrect. You can also eliminate choices that change the meaning of the sentence. If, after this, you are still unsure, you will fare better by choosing the most concise of your remaining choices. The only exception is if it uses the passive voice.
  • Do not worry about spelling or capitalization errors. These are not tested for.
  • Compare the answer choices. Seeing how the choices differ from one another is a good way to find out what errors might be in the underlined text. Also beware of choices that are radically different from the others.
  • Plug in your answer choice and read the entire sentence again. This will keep you from making careless mistakes.
  • If you are stuck, ‘say’ the choices in your head, and see whether they sound right. Most often, you will have internalized more grammar rules than you can identify.
  • The grammar concepts tested most often are:
    • The use of ‘among’ versus ‘between’
    • Elliptical verb phrases
    • Misplaced modifiers
    • Parallel sentences
    • Pronoun-subject agreement
    • Proper use of adverbs
    • Proper use of the semicolon
    • The use of ‘fewer’ versus ‘less’
    • Run-on sentences
    • Sentence fragments
    • Subject-verb agreement
    • Verb tenses
    • The use of ‘who’ versus ‘whom’

Critical Reasoning Questions

  • Read the question before reading the passage, so you will know what to look for. You will want to approach the passage differently, depending on whether you are being asked to strengthen or destroy its argument, for example. You should also read the question carefully, to be sure of what it is asking.
  • Identify the passage’s conclusion. This can be difficult, as GMAT passages do not always give their conclusion in their last sentence. Sometimes, the conclusion is not even stated, but implied. However, a paragraph may start with its conclusion in the first sentence.
  • Identify the passage’s assumption. The assumption is a ‘must have’ – if the assumption is not true, it follows that the conclusion is also untrue. A good tip is to read each sentence and ask yourself if the conclusion would still be true if that one sentence was incorrect.
  • Try to guess the correct answer before you read the answer choices. This will help you focus on the best answer.
  • Read all the answer choices. Don’t settle for the first one that seems right – there could be something better. Eliminate the ones you know are wrong, and analyze the remaining ones with a focus on identifying the one that presents the most relevant arguments and issues.
  • The most common critical reasoning question is the one that asks you to weaken an argument. You should be able to identify the following 4 logic flaws:

    1. Circular reasoning

    2. Inaccurate cause-and-effect arguments

    3. Sweeping generalizations

    4. Unqualified expert opinions

  • Use elimination. When you are asked to find a statement that strengthens or weakens an argument, you will find an answer choice that does the exact opposite. If you have read the question carefully, you will know to eliminate these.
  • You can eliminate emotionally charged, over-the-top answer choices. The correct answer is always moderate and emotionally neutral.
  • You can also eliminate answer choices that give absolute statements, such as those that use words like ‘always’ and ‘must’.
  • If you are stuck, you can work backwards by plugging in the answer choices and seeing if the passage still makes sense. However, this can be time-consuming.
  • The answer must be a logical extension of the argument in the passage. Never choose an answer simply because it is true.
  • GMAT passages often contain extraneous sentences. Learn to separate these decoys from the rest of the passage so that they won’t distract you from the important content.

Reading Comprehension Questions

  • There are 3 common types of topics for comprehension passages. The way you go about answering the question will be slightly different for each.
    • Passages dealing with the sciences, such as biology and chemistry, are the most boring. However, they are factual and straightforward, with few inference questions. You should skim the text first, to understand how the passage is structured and analyze its outline.
    • Passages dealing with the social sciences, such as history and geography, are much more interesting. However, they will present many inference questions, so you have to read them slowly.
    • Passages dealing with business-related areas are the most difficult, as they have very difficult structures and present many inference questions, and may even ask you to determine the author’s mood and opinions. They also contain many compound words that few people use in ordinary conversation. Don’t be intimidated by these – they are not too hard to decipher once you break them up and examine their separate parts.
  • When answering a factual question, keep in mind that though they are the most straightforward kind of question, you will need to watch out for tricks and traps.
  • When you are asked to identify the passage’s main idea, remember that just because all of the answer choices were discussed in the passage, that does not make them all the central theme of the passage. You can also use elimination – answer choices that are too narrow or too broad, and choices that emphasize factual information, can usually be eliminated.
  • You can safely eliminate ‘oohs and aahs’ answer choices – choices that refer to interesting facts in the passage, but not one that actually answers the question being asked.
  • When you are asked to describe the tone of the passage, the tone is more likely to be positive or neutral than negative. In a science passage, it is likely to be neutral.
  • Use your scrap paper to take brief notes on each paragraph as you read. By brief notes, we mean something like “Paragraph 1: The different types of butterflies, Paragraph 2: How their nervous systems work, Paragraph 3: Why pesticide A is killing too many of them,” etc. It is for your eyes only, so use as many abbreviations as you like, as long as you can understand them.
  • Read the first question before you read the passage. You will have a better idea of what to focus on.
  • Memorize the 3 common passage types and learn to identify them, as they each require a different approach.
  • When answering a fact question, read both the passage providing the data – and several lines before it – carefully. When you are directed to a particular line of text for information, you will often find that one of the answer choices is a deceptive one, taken directly from that line number. More likely than not, there will be something in the sentence or two before the referenced line number that will give you the proper frame for interpreting the data – and hence give you to the right answer to the fact question.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions with fact questions using Roman numerals to identify answer choices. You will recognize this question style easily. For example:

    A. I only

    B. II only

    C. III only

    D. I and II only

    E. II and III only

The catch is that fact I and II are often close together, but fact III will be buried elsewhere in the text. Take the time to consider each fact separately.

Overall Tips for the GMAT Test

Overall Tips for the Test Day

Specific Tips for Essays or AWA section

Specific Tips for Math Section

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