GMAT Verbal Section: An Overview

If you’ve settled on taking the GMAT as your business school admissions exam, and if you have explored the content of the GMAT Quantitative section, your next step is to see what is required on the GMAT Verbal section. The first concern of most students considering the GMAT is becoming acquainted with long lost math skills, and there is a tendency to take the GMAT Verbal section questions for granted. What follows is a brief overview of that part of that test, as you begin your journey towards cracking the GMAT Verbal section. Whether you’re planning to take the GMAT at a designated test center or at home, here’s what you should know.

GMAT Verbal Section: The Basics

Your GMAT Verbal section preparation should explore all the facts. The GMAT Verbal section is 65 minutes long and contains 36 questions of three basic types: sentence correction, critical reasoning, and reading comprehension. What is noticeably missing from the GMAT Verbal section is any direct testing of vocabulary, and this may be a consideration if you are trying to choose between GMAT vs. the GRE for business schools. You should also access GMAT Verbal section sample questions to give you some insight.

  • Sentence Correction: measures your command of English grammar, usage, diction, and idiom. The student is given a usually lengthy sentence with some or all of the sentence underlined. The task is to determine if the underlined portion is correct as is, or if there is a more correct way to state it from among the remaining four options. The range of answers may contain several different errors.
    • Usually comprises 12-13 of the 36 questions
    • As mastering the mechanics of standard written English has become a lost art, students should be prepared to immerse themselves in a myriad of English do’s and don’ts!
    • Looking for a shortcut to crack the GMAT Verbal section’s sentence corrections?
      • Trust your ear! Most of the time, the best answer is the one that sounds the best and avoids wordiness and redundancy.
    • Critical Reasoning: measures your ability to understand, analyze, and interpret arguments. You are presented with a short paragraph of 2-5 sentences in length, each of which usually contains a conclusion and the premises (the stated evidence) that lead to that conclusion. The associated question will ask you to strengthen or weaken the conclusion, or it may ask you to identify necessary assumptions that must be employed in driving towards that conclusion.
      • Usually comprises 9-10 of the 36 questions
      • Questions are based in the rules of formal logic and conditional reasoning, and students will become acquainted with identifying the various potential flaws in causal, analogous, and statistical reasoning.
      • Looking for a shortcut to crack the GMAT Verbal section’s critical reasoning?
        • Take a moment to paraphrase the argument, clearly identifying the conclusion and the stated premises that drive to it.
        • Pay attention to quantitative words: most vs. some, few vs. none, always vs. often, etc.
      • Reading Comprehension: measures your ability to read critically, evaluate main ideas, make inferences, and identify an author’s tone and/or attitude. This is probably the one part of the exam with which you are most familiar based on the previous standardized tests you’ve taken in your life.
        • Usually comprises 13-14 of the 36 questions
        • Usually 3-4 passages, each with 3-4 associated questions (and the questions are run in succession)
        • Looking for a shortcut to crack the GMAT Verbal section’s reading comprehension?
          • Read only as much as you need in order to answer the revealed question, and let each successive question dictate how much of the passage you need to absorb. This could help you avoid getting lost in details!

GMAT Verbal Section Scoring and Other Considerations

The most important component of the GMAT Verbal section scoring is that it comprises one half (with the GMAT Quantitative section making up the other half) of your GMAT Overall Composite Score, which is on a scale of 200 to 800. You are also given a GMAT verbal subscore, which theoretically is on a scale of 1 to 60 but for various reasons actually ranges from 6 to 51.

When considering GMAT Verbal section practice questions and GMAT Verbal section preparation, you must also explore the fact that the GMAT is a computer adaptive test, which progresses from question to question and does not allow you to return to questions once answered.

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