Week 6: GMAT Verbal: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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One week! Just seven short days separate me from my GMAT date, and I still feel like there’s a lot to cover in a short period of time. Lately, in between taking more full-length practice tests, I’ve been focusing on the Verbal Section of the GMAT.

The GMAT Verbal section is the last part of the 4 hour test. It tests not only knowledge of the English language and grammar, but also reading comprehension, logic, and evaluation. Below, I’ve broken down GMAT Verbal into my opinions of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good:

-          No memorization- well, at least not to the extent of the Quant section. While I have sheets and flashcards full of formulas for Quant, memorization is less useful for Verbal. Beyond knowing  basic vocabulary and grammar rules, the Verbal Section is testing logic, understanding, and correction rather than memorized facts. Still in need of a “Key Concepts Page” for some basic refreshers? I’ve found some good ones on BeattheGMAT and GMATing.com.

-          Strategic Guessing and Pattern Recognition- I find that with the Verbal section, it’s easier to eliminate answer choices quickly. Also, knowing how to be an attentive test taker and seeing patterns in the answer choices can help to narrow your possibilities.  For example, if two choices use “is” in the sentence correction and three choices use “are”, determining what the proper “is/are” usage is can help you narrow the field of choices.

The Bad:

-          Test taker fatigue- the Verbal section is 75 minutes at the very end of the GMAT- that means that you’re well over two hours into the test. During my practice test, I’ve found that this is the point where I get start to get tired and careless. Continuing on with my previous sports references- Verbal is like the 4th quarter in the championship game. You can’t let your defense down now. A strong finish (and all those other clichés) is of the utmost importance. To combat this potential 4th quarter trouble,  I plan to take full advantage of my allotted breaks, and remember to slow down and check answers before rushing to finish.

-          Paying attention to the right details- It’s a tradeoff- missing key details can cost you questions, but paying too much attention to irrelevant details costs valuable time. To prevent this in my Reading Comprehension questions, I’ve started doing a quick scan of the passage to notice key points. After that, I read the question and possible answers before doing some hunting within the passage. This seems to help me distinguish between important details and the additional “noise” that the GMAT adds in to confuse test takers.

The Ugly:

-          Grammar- Every time you write affect or effect, do you wonder which one to use? Do you know there are times when you should use fewer, and times when you should choose lesser? Basic grammar is something that often falls to the wayside with spell check, but the GMAT won’t let you get away that easily. A strong mastery of common grammar rules is essential for the GMAT. One site that I’ve been frequenting for years with my random questions is Grammar Girl. Her “Quick and Dirty Tips” cover most things you’ll need to know for the GMAT.

Sure, there’s good, bad, and ugly to the GMAT Verbal. But the best part is that when the section is over on test day, you’ve completed the GMAT! Now on to the one week cramming (just kidding… that’s not recommended!)