Preparing for the verbal section can get quite tricky – there’s three main sections (CR, RC, SC), and the essay prompts. The challenging part can be adjusting to the type of questions asked, and getting used to completing the questions in time.
However, the positive part is that the types of questions asked are well-known and mainly fall into a few templates. This makes the learning process well-structured. At the end of the day, the prep process involves identifying different question types, which ‘rules’ are relevant, and applying those rules efficiently.
At the start, I’d like to bring your attention to two things: developing a ‘critical’ reading style, and identifying what solving style works for you.
‘Critical’ reading style: This helps extract the message from paragraphs, and how they link with each other. In most cases, each paragraph of a few sentences speak to one central idea. That central idea can be expressed often in one-sentence summary. Thus, a passage of a few paragraphs can be distilled into a few key sentences and themes. This is particularly useful for the RC and CR questions, where themes are important.
Your personal solving style: Do you prefer to write nuggets on paper when solving a question? Do you use the on-screen highlighter extensively? Do you translate words to numbers when solving? Understanding your personal style means you customize your approach to solving questions. This helps you be more efficient
In preparing for the verbal section, I found the following things quite helpful:
The GMAC materials provide a good starting point. You get a broad question bank from older tests, the key concepts, and an appropriate benchmark for exam-day questions. The concepts presented here are also the ‘latest and greatest’ on how the GMAT test-setters view them.
Based on how comfortable you feel with the GMAC content, additional materials are always helpful. Sometimes these could be US-centric (e.g. Kaplan) or localized materials (e.g. national correspondence course content). These are good sources for practice questions, which always help.
With verbal, time and practice are key. It takes some effort to ‘get used to’ the way questions are asked in the GMAT. Initial efforts will feel daunting, because you get used to a more ‘critical’ reading style. Your efforts to summarise content will be tested through the preparation process. Often, our regular work does not lend itself well to reading pages of text For instance, if you work in Analytics/PowerPoint or are a SW developer, you may work primarily with bullets of text rather than passages of sentences.
Everyone says this, but reading helps. A good US-centric magazine or newspaper, (e.g. ‘The Atlantic’ has US-centric writing on a wide variety of topics and writing styles. It offers good practice to summarise ideas from midsized content pieces. While much longer than GMAT passages, they often offer well-structured writing and introductory exposure to different topics. This builds some familiarity, and can help reduce the ‘shock’ of seeing a totally new topic in an exam situation (e.g. astronomy or pure sciences)
For the analytical writing assessment, one practice I found helpful involved ‘signposting’. Signposting involves breaking an argument into its most important components (ideally up to three), and writing it as ‘Firstly, point A’; ‘Secondly, point B’ and ‘Finally, point C’. By doing this, you focus on the most important topics. This automatically makes an essay more structured, and readable. Add a clear opening statement (I believe X, because of three main reasons) and a closing (Thus, I believe in X) to the standard elements of the essay, and you can score well and keep things simple.
While the Verbal section may seem daunting and you feel like there is something new with every oncoming question, the basics remain consistent – the question types are largely well-known, the objective is to demonstrate your understanding of language, and a critical reading style is very learnable with practice and time. Good luck with your preparation!
MBA, London Business School