Studying for the GMAT as a Non-Native English Speaker: A Verbal Focus Plan

by on January 16th, 2010

StudyingBusiness schools love to boast about student diversity in their programs. One way that MBA programs have built “diversity” is by attracting a highly international student body. Over the years this climate of internationalism has stirred many non-US students to seek admissions at top US business schools. And more recently, a movement has begun for non-US MBA programs to require the GMAT for admission. These phenomena coupled together have led to an increase in the number of foreign prospective MBAs that take the GMAT test. Applicants who are non-native English speakers face significant hurdles when preparing for the GMAT, since their lack of English fluency is something that must be overcome to succeed on the test.

Before I go into details with the following GMAT verbal focus study plan, there is an important observation I must make: for non-native English speakers, one of the best ways to improve your English is by being constantly exposed to well-written English material. While grammar books are certainly important, it’s only by seeing the language “in action” that you can truly get a firm grasp of its use. As such, try to make a habit out of reading in English for a few minutes every day.

Days 1 to 3 – Research the test and determine your starting point

Before you start your GMAT prep, it is important to get an overview of the test. Start by going to the official site for the GMAT, Once you’re at this website, download the free GMATprep software, which contains the most relevant information about the test as well as two mock exams.

It’s best to take one of the GMATPrep practice tests in your first three days of prep in order to evaluate where your skills currently stand. As a non-native speaker of English, it’s very likely that you will struggle with the verbal part of the test, and as such, you will need to devote more time to improving upon this section. Try to also note the question types that give you the most trouble—there are three types in the verbal section: Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension. This will help you customize your study plan, since you will need to allot more time to weaknesses and less time to strengths.

Days 4 to 14 – Quantitative study

Shopping list:

Even if you think you have strong math skills, do not neglect this section of the GMAT. The reason for this is that this test features a unique type of math question that will require some practice: Data Sufficiency. The Data Sufficiency format is as follows: for a math problem you will be provided with two pieces of information.  Your task is to evaluate whether you have enough data to answer a given question (Yes or No). It takes time for students to get used to this format and, besides this, a good math refresher is always useful.

My advice for these ten days is to prepare primarily from the Kaplan GMAT Math Workbook. This book features a generous amount practice problems (around 600) and covers most of the topics you’ll see on the GMAT. Each chapter contains both targeted drills and GMAT-style questions for the concepts you’ve just learned. The Official Guide for GMAT Review (OG) should be used only after you’ve gone through these concepts in the Kaplan book. OG practice questions closely resemble the actual GMAT questions you’ll see on test day (the book featured real retired GMAT questions), and you should drill with the best practice questions after you’ve mastered some concepts.

While practicing for quant, there are two study habits that you might want to adopt. The first is keeping an error log. Error logs help you keep track of your progress and are useful tools when you need to review your weak spots in the last few days of your prep. The second habit you should integrate into your routine is making flashcards out of concepts or problems you’ve struggled with. These organized notes are also extremely effective when studying for the GMAT, and will help you drill down on your weak areas.

Days 15 to 45 – Verbal study

Shopping list:

After your first two weeks of studying math, it’s now time to take the bull by the horns and start studying for the verbal portion of the GMAT. The following verbal study plan is based broadly on what I’ve observed non-native English speakers typically struggle with on the GMAT verbal section.  Be sure to tailor this plan according to your weaknesses and strengths (spending more time honing your weaknesses).

Start with Sentence Correction (SC). I recommend using the Manhattan GMAT Sentence Correction Guide, one of the best books out there for the grammar tested on the GMAT. This book is full of dense, tip-heavy material.  You need to review it carefully. It references the Official Guide for GMAT Review, 12th Edition and the Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review, 1st Edition, so be sure to plan your shopping list accordingly. You can also complement your practice with questions from the Kaplan GMAT Verbal Workbook (around 90 or so GMAT-style questions).

One of the best ways to improve your SC skills is using flashcards. When writing SC-related flashcards, be sure to write the concept or idiom on the front of a flashcard, and one or two examples of this concept/idiom in action on the back of the flashcard. Try to write phrases that refer to things you like or enjoy, it will help you learn better. As mentioned before, simply memorizing rules will probably not do the trick for English grammar: it has to be “put to work” in a realistic and relatable context.

As a non-native speaker, the second section you should probably consider working on after SC is Reading Comprehension (RC). Unfortunately this is the section that’s hardest to improve upon because of one simple reason: there is no such thing as a quick fix to improve your English reading skills. This is why it is important to try reading English material every day. Use the tips provided by the Kaplan GMAT Verbal Workbook to help you train this muscle. The RC chapter in the Kaplan book presents a good, condensed version of what I believe is an excellent strategy for tackling Reading Comprehension passages. Integrate this strategy both in your handling of GMAT-style questions and when you’re reading in English as indicated in the introduction to this study plan.

The final section to tackle is Critical Reasoning (CR), a special type of question that tests your understanding of arguments. The definitive answer to your Critical Reasoning woes is the PowerScore Critical Reasoning Bible, which clearly analyzes each of the ten types of CR questions you’ll see on test day. In my opinion, it also features some of the best practice GMAT questions available. Use this in conjunction with OG practice questions to boost your Critical Reasoning skills.

A special note for those students who wish to take their prep a step further: LSAT sets are some of the best resources for tough Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning questions. These questions come appealingly close to official GMAT material when it comes to structure, but, admittedly, they are considerably harder than what you should expect on the real test. If you manage to master LSAT CR questions, then you’re on your way to a solid GMAT verbal score!

Days 46 to 60 – Computer-adaptive tests and finishing touches

Use the final two weeks of your prep to take full-length computer-adaptive practice tests (CATs) to help you with your timing and stamina. Avoid taking practice tests less than three days apart; taking a practice test is mentally demanding and you need rest.

Use the Manhattan GMAT code that comes with the SC guide to access five free Manhattan GMAT online tests, which are considered to be some of the best GMAT tests available. Keep the second GMATprep test you still have for the very last days before your exam.

In between tests, it’s advisable to use the information from your error log to target specific problem areas. Pay special attention to the issues you’ve had with questions from the OG books, because it’s likely you’ll see similarly structured questions on your big day!

In the last day or two before your exam, try to read some templates for the Analytical Writing Assessment, the essay portion of the GMAT. While the score you get for this section does not count towards your final 200 to 800 score, it’s important to start the test with confidence. However, do not forget to relax in the days leading up to your GMAT.  You’ll need a lot of physical and mental energy to get through the exam.

After about two months of intensive GMAT prep, you will have now overcome the difficulties associated with being a non-native English speaker!  Good luck and be sure to share your success story with us!


  • I'd like to comment on this.

    For non-native english speakers, like me, it's very useful to take the ToEFL BEFORE you take the GMAT. I've created a very extensive and diverse "TOEFL Prep Plan" which includes reading "The Economist" (paper version) and "Wall Street Journal" (paper AND, VERY IMPORTANT: Online edition). For GMAT/ToEFL it is essential to read well-written well articulate articles, and it is vital to read large amounts of texts from a screen.

    • did you use that strategy (reading a lot of texts from journals)? what is the progress?

    • THANKS your comment was very useful to me. I already started working on it.
      Once again thanks

  • Hey Dana !

    As always your post is great. As a non native speaker, though am fluent in English, GMAT English I feel is very different. I am an Indian, and in schools that do teach English, the focus is on British English. The differences between the two are few, but there are some important ones.

    One thing that is helping me in preparing for the verbal is that I am changing the way I comprehend. That is, earlier if I came across a difficult passage, I would first translate ( in my mind, quickly) the text in my native language and then try to understand the difficlut passage. This method, is counter productive for GMAT. What I have learned is to think even the most difficult passages in English.


  • Thank you Dana
    Could you recommend some well-written sources.
    And did you take note the well-written sentence, phrases, or only read.
    And how about writing habit?

  • Hey there,

    Thank you all for reading my article!
    Some of the best written resource I've had access to is Financial Times. I actually had this funny incident a few months back, when I attended a Columbia MBA information session in Lisbon. Because I had read articles in the prestigious newspaper, I (a 21-year old) was able talk about the Kraft - Cadbury case, when trained consultants had no clue about it! This was because I bothered to read the newspaper. You can imagine that made quite the impression.
    IMHO, anything economy-related should be fine: The Economist, WSJ,... You don't have to limit yourself to newspapers though, you can also try some works of fiction.

  • I have failed my first attempt at my GMAT as I am a non native speaker and I will follow these steps closely. Thanks for posting this. This is what I've been looking for in the past week

  • I have been using the Princeton Review for my test prep. I just have the feeling to find good prep and stick with it. what do you think Dana?

  • Hey JJ,

    I personally did not think that the Princeton Review was that good of a book, but whether or not it's appropriate for you depends on your target score. You can see my analysis of the book by clicking here:

    You can also check out more book reviews in the "Resources" tab, the fourth tab at the top of the forum!

  • Good Stuff............Good job guys.......

  • Hey Dana,

    I'm also non native english speaker,I always find lot of hurdles speaking and writing perfect english. I tried reading the newpapers, but for some reason I always go off the track. Can you tell me if there are any step by step procedure in achieving it.

    I'm very hard worker and very good at Math and analysis of the issues or argument. Eventhough plenty thoughts of run in my mind, when it comes to words, I totally become blank, and completely confused to put in words. Can you help me out. B'coz with this dilemma, I believe I cannot crack GMAT eventhough I can do hard work.

    I have around 6 yrs of IT experience as a Software developer, I'm from India.


  • I know it's tough for you, seen as how your native language probably does not have a lot in common with English... But you need to give it your best!
    This might sound crazy, but if you're having trouble with reading newspapers, then start at the bottom, so to speak: watch movies (NO subtitles) and read magazines you like. I know this doesn't seem like very productive, but if you just can't focus on newspapers, then it's probably one of the few things that you can do... Don't do it for too long, though, and start working your way up to more challenging material!
    You could also buy a grammar book: Longman, Oxford they all offer brand-name books that are known to be top notch.
    Good luck and don't give up!

  • Hi Dana,

    I have been practicing for almost three months. I manage to score about 47 on quant. but my verbal score can't go beyond 29. what do you recommend. more practice questions or more reading? to be honest with you I am confused.

  • If you've been practicing for three months, then there must be a lack of conceptual strength to explain your lower verbal score. I'd say go out and buy the good stuff (you see most of my book recommendations up in the article).
    Constantly reading high quality stuff is also a must, since it helps you with the very soft skill of reading!

  • Hi Dana,

    Thanks for your post!
    I would want to know the source for getting LSAT sets which you have mentioned in the above plan.

  • Well, you can either buy sets online (search for Ten Actual LSAT sets and you'll find a ton) or you can access this link for two free sets:

  • Thanks a lot Dana.

  • Dana
    I am from India and I am non-native English speaker. My mother tong and schooling up to college was in regional language.
    I recently took one test from and got following score

    440/800-12 Verbal, 42 Quant

    I bought following books:
    OG 12
    Manhattan SC
    Manhattan RC
    Powerscore CR

    Do I need to buy Kaplan verbal book or above 3 books are sufficient?
    Manhattan RC will work or better to buy Kaplan Verbal?

    I am thinking of following study plan:

    1st step: complete Manhattan SC
    2nd step: Powerscore CR
    3rd step: Manhattan RC
    4th step: OG

    I am very good at maths so i will do maths intermittently when I am bored of Verbal.

    Also I am thinking of improving vocabulary. I found following website from BTG that has 1400 commonly used GMAT words.

    It has 27 wordlist so I will try to finish one wordlist in 2 days that’s how I will build up some vocabulary.

    After 4th step, I will take test # 2 from and will try to figure out whether I improved my verbal?

    I am working as an engineer and out from school since last 4 years. Due to my current job I can only study 22-23 hrs/week. But I am in not hurry for GMAT. But I am ambitious to get really high score (>750).

    Please provide any suggestions you have.

  • Your verbal really needs some work, unfortunately. The resources you mention are top notch, but I'm not convinced they'll get you that 750+ unless you work on your general knowledge of English first. I'd say 'pass' to the Kaplan book (although it's a good one) and buy yourself a strong grammar review, like the ones from Oxford or Longman or the likes. You will also need to read stuff in English daily to get a better feel for this language.
    You are already taking good steps with the vocabulary exercises, but I'm afraid that you also need to work on the fundamentals of grammar before anything else.
    Don't get discouraged though: since you say you have enough time, you can do it one step at a time and you're bound for success. Just try not to burn any stages and work through it methodically! Good luck!

  • Hi Dana!

    How different is MGMAT CR from Power score CR?

    I have MGMAT CR, so would you suggest me to buy Power score CR?

    Thanks in advance!

  • The PowerScore book is slightly better, IMHO, but if you already have the MGMAT CR guide, there's no point in buying the former as well. The overlap is simply too significant to justify the purchase.

  • Hello Dana,

    I am in critical situation and need some big HELP FROM YOU.

    I am into 4th week of my preparation(full throttle) and to my dismay have faired badly in 2 tests taken so far:-

    -GMAT prep 1---560(Q-49, V-19, After 2 weeks into my preparation)
    -KAPLAN CAT1-- 540(Q-40,V-22, After almost 4 weeks preparation)

    So far I have done MGMAT SC,CR,RC OG-12, but all without timing myself

    I need your help big time in advicing me a way to work upon my speed & accuracy in verbal as I lack speed.

    What would you advice me looking at my situation, considering I have 2 more months left before my GMAT?

    Kindly suggest me some online practice questions with explanation which can help me work on my speed and simultaneously brush my concepts.

    I need some to PRACTICE a lot in order to improve upon my speed.

  • You definitely need to work on verbal. Focus 80% of your time on this section for the time being.
    Before you start practicing, you may want to review the MGMAT books you've mentioned, meaning their strategy portions. I have a feeling that the low verbal score is due in part to the lack of strength in the theoretical department as well.
    It might seem a bit off, but if you want some good practice, you might be interested in our Smart GMAT Practice questions. I did not write them myself, but I personally reviewed a part of the questions and was impressed. Another source to consider would be Grockit, they also supply practice questions in GMAT format.

  • Hi. Thanks for the useful tips.I would love your advice in my situation though. I live in Nigeria and getting access to some of the materials you suggested has proved difficult. What else can I do to improve my verbal score.I have the kaplan verbal workbook and the OG 12th edition. I have been trying to get the other materials but was unable.My SC has been hovering at 50-56% while my RC and CR are both in the 70% range.

  • Hi,
    I'm not sure I understand what you need. Is it a more theoretical review of concepts or more practice? Depending on that I'll try to recommend something.

  • My English is exceptional, however I need to improve on grammar. Would you recommend reading grammar books or reading business articles. I'm struggling with comprehending the passage (takes me more time).

  • You should probably consider buying a GMAT-focused grammar book, such as the Manhattan GMAT SC guide or the PowerScore SC book. Reading in your spare time also helps a lot!

  • Dana,

    I will be writing GMAT on 27 DEC'10, i'm targeting score around 700 and i believe that i'll get also as i've been preparing for last two months. But there is a problem of AWA with me. I'm not a good writer, never read many english books or newspapers. My mother tounge is HINDI. Hence my writing style is not as elegant as i see most of the people posting their essays on the portal, even it's quite childish.

    Please check ""

    I want your advise/suggestion to improve my AWA score atleast to the level of scoring 4. I'm already working on it by reading "The Economist" and writing something on my own.

    Please do reply. I'll be very thankful to you.


  • Arjun, unfortunately AWA essays are not my specialty. I only studied for a few hours and I got a 5, which is OK, but could be better. However, I did write a post about TOEFL essays and maybe this can help you:

  • Hi Dana,
    Just like few others am really good in math and go a bit blank while attempting the verbal section.I cant conclude if this is due to lack of hard work or right way to go about the prep.I scored bad in my GRE verbal too cuz of this.So can u pls suggest which book/magazines should i use for prep and mainly how to do smart reading and grasp what is needed the most in the GMAT point of view and how to improve RC skills.Any suggestions will be really helpful.Thanks.



  • Hey you can find some reviews of online courses here:

  • HOW to score good

  • how to enrol in the verbal based study plan

  • Hey Megha,
    We haven't set up a daily newsletter for this study plan, so basically what you see right now is what you get. Use the above recommendations to craft your own plan!

    • thanks Danaj

  • Hi Dana,

    Thanks for sharing all these plans. The ones I'm going to probably use the most are this one and the 3-month plan. I'm a non-native English speaker - I scored a 2000 in my SATs, so my verbal isn't that bad, but its not that good either.
    I have also read your reviews regarding what books to buy. I was thinking of getting the prep pack from the official GMAT website( you think its worth it? Or should I try some other resources? My target score is anything above 750 since I do not have much work experience, so I really have to ace my GMAT. Please do advise as I need to order my books as soon as possible. 

  • I don't think you need more than the Official Guide 12th edition and maybe the verbal and quant supplements. Instead, try buying some strategy guides. The materials from the site are notorious for not covering the theory very well. Depending on your weaknesses, you can check out some of the books listed here:

    • Thanks for replying. The issue I have is that none of the books I'm getting has any full length practice test, and I should be doing one a week right? Which is the best source for practice tests? What do you think of the GMAC paper tests? i'm a bit iffy about that since it isn't computer adaptive..

  • I don't think you should be taking one test a week. Tests are useful for a couple of things, but not that many. They'll help you gauge your progress and your current level. You might even use them as a diagnostic for your timing and pacing, but not more than that. You see, a test is a collection of problems, each covering very different topics. You'll have maybe one geometry - circles question in there and it might be explained pretty well in the end, but this won't help you truly get circles. You need to work from a theoretical guide (such as the Kaplan book or the Manhattan books or the Veritas books), read all the theory there is to read on circles and then practice a bit on that topic, then move to the next etc.
    Don't take more than one test a week, and only after you've covered the theory really well! You need to study each topic at a time first.
    The Manhattan GMAT books contain access codes to 6 online tests, so if you decide to buy any of those books then you've got plenty of practice tests.

  • THANKS a lot my dear, i think i might spend 2months on verbal, anyway i have time. but do i really need to use all these books? it can be difficult to plan ur studies with all these books, especially knowing that all these books teach almong the same thing. i believe that manhattan, OG, Beat the Gmat practices and flashcards are enough. i think that as a no-english speaker i need to spend more time on the manhattan book to have a better understandin of the grammar and other, and i need to practice a lot with OG and flashcards. what do u think?

  • You could replace the above books with the entire Manhattan set, but if you're talking about just their SC guide I don't think it;'s enough. You'd have just one book for strategy then!

  • Hi Dana,

    I recently wrote GMAT. My score is 670 (Q49 V31). I am highly disappointed with my score as it is well below my target score (730~750) I prepared for almost 2 months and took help of OG 12 and Kaplan only. I scored decent in mocks i wrote a week bfore exam (720 in gmatprep and 710 in manhattan cat 6). But i was never able to score more than 37 in verbal in any mock. My verbal score hovered between 30~37 in all manhattan mocks. I am planning to write GMAT again next month as there are certain deadlines i dont want to miss. I really need to improve verbal score this time. i have 30 more days to prepare. can u give me tips related to verbal (study material/tactics etc.)

    Thanks in advance.


  • Here are the best resources for verbal in my opinion:
    - Manhattan GMAT SC guide
    - PowerScore CR Bible
    - Veritas Prep RC guide
    You could try using the above to boost your performance. The key is to address your weak areas first. If you're weak in SC, then spend a bit of time with the MGMAT SC guide, make flashcards and take notes! Don't just breeze through these books, since the stuff they contain takes a while to sink in.
    Good luck!

  • Hi Dana!

    I'm a newcomer at GMAT and find your blog immensely helpful.

    I recently decided to take the test in little over a month from now (early September). I took my first practice test today using the GMATPrep software and scored a 720 (Q50 V37), which was somewhat reassuring but I just wanted to confirm the accuracy of such tests. Also, I'd like to hear your thoughts on how I should direct my efforts in a relatively short amount of time. I am a full time student/intern so I can only spend 4 hours max on weekdays. Thanks in advance for your help!


  • Well the tests are the most accurate on the market! They use the official algorithm to calculate your score and they also use past real GMAT questions. I think in your case, it's pretty obvious you need to spend most of your time working on verbal. Your quant score is already very good (in fact, 51 is the maximum you can get), so just focus on getting verbal over 45 and you'll have a 99th percentile score. For practice use the OG 12. For theory, use the following:
    - Manhattan GMAT SC guide
    - PowerScore CR Bible
    - Veritas Prep RC guide

  • Hello 
    I hav given one dignostic test gt 330 i knw its low bt i hav work ex f almost 2 years i hav 2 months b4 i take xam hav enrolled at roads 
    i find cr really difficult  nvr do i get correct answer i hav og 12 and kaplan pls advise from wer to build up cr 

  • Hi Anand,
    For CR, I really recommend using the PowerScore CR Bible. That being said, I feel like there's a more important problem with your general knowledge of English. It wasn't easy for me to understand what you actually meant in that comment. I think you need to spend some time improving your general skills in English before you actually delve deeper into GMAT verbal.

  • Hey Dana,
    First of all, thanks so much for all the time you spent on evaluating the books and providing us with your insights.
    I started to read the forum on Monday Aug 1 and after going through the Gmat Prep Quant material I took my first CAT ( with no AWA ) today.
    670 , Q49, V33. I am not a native speaker and I am not surprised by my low score in Verbal. (especially SC)
    I have approx 6 weeks to take the test (750) and I need to define then refine my strategy.
    Following some readings here, I have ordered Power score CR + Manhattan SC.
    I still have to look for a good book for combinatories and probabilities as well as RC.
    From your experience, I read that you started focussing on the weakest area (so Verbal on my side ) however from the study plan above is more like Quant then Verbal. Which way would you recommend ?
    My Actual plan is to spend the whole next week working on the quant in order to gain practice before starting a 5 weeks session on the Verbal and doing some CAT + AWA each week in order to keep it alive.

    Many Thanks,

  • Well the plan above is 10 days for quant and 30 days for verbal, so you do spend more time on your weakest area. I usually advise people to start with their weakest section in terms of picking between CR, SC and RC. However, I generally feel that getting quant out of the way is important too for people like yourself, with a very high quant score to begin with.

    • Hey Dana,
      Thanks for your answer.
      From Paris, it appears that I can't get Veritas combinatories & Probability book as well as Kaplan Verbal Workbook on time for my preparation.
      1-Which other book do you suggest for Probabilities ?
      2- Which book could you suggest for Reading Comprehension as I ordered CR bible and MGMAT SC + Verbal review?

      Many Thanks .

  • I think you could check out the Manhattan GMAT Word Translations for combinatorics and probability. It covers pretty much what you need. For RC, I think the Manhattan GMAT book could help too if you can't get the Veritas one. Most general guides (like the Kaplan Premier book) also have an RC section.

  • Hii need help
    My Gmat is due three days and I am getting around 680 in GMAT prep ( 51 q, 30 v).. can you tell me how to cross past 700.. PLzz

  • There isn't that much you can do in only three days, unfortunately! If I were you though, I would focus on verbal Official Guide problems, especially in the area that you feel least comfortable with (SC, for instance).

  • Hey Dana - I am just getting started with the prep.
    Verbal is area i know i have to work a lot. Can you help me which grammar books i should refer to make the base stronger or for referencing while doing ques. Exact names will really help.

    Thanks ! 

  • Unfortunately I haven't reviewed a more basic book for grammar, although I do know that companies such as Oxford and Longman do a good job of writing such books. However, you could check out the Foundations of GMAT Verbal from Manhattan GMAT as a starting point.

    • Thanks Dana.

  • Hi Dana,

    I recently wrote GMAT Prep I. My score was 650 (Q49 V31). I am highly disappointed with my score as it is well below my target score (730~750) I prepared for almost 2 months and took help of OG 12,MGMAT SC guide, Powerscore bible and Kaplan . But i was never able to score more than 31 in verbal. I have my D Day on Nov 4. I really need to improve verbal score this time. What would be the apt way to increase my verbal score in a month time? Can I concentrate more on OG12 or go with Kaplan 800(I think this would reduce my confidence level)..Thanks in Advance.

  • I don't think the Kaplan 800 book is the best, to be honest, especially in verbal - so I wouldn't really go with that one. In terms of books, you honestly have some of the best prep materials out there, so it's weird that you haven't improved. There are several causes for this. One issue might be that you're a non native speaker, so you need to improve your general English first. I advise you to read in English for 30 mins each day. Check out news websites like or The Economist (avoid Times of India if you're an Indian!).
    One other problem might be that you're focusing too much on the practice and not enough on the theory. People that are good in quant tend to do that, i.e. they think they can just practice their way through verbal... But that's not really true! It's best if you spend time digesting concepts and you work with a pen in hand, taking notes and making flashcards.

    • Hey Thanks Dana. Fantastic post, helpful & comprehensive. And additionally appreciate your patience in replying to all. And that presented further insight. So thanks again :)

  • Hi Dana,

    I gave my GMAT today and got a dismal score of 560 (Q47, V20). I have used MGMAT SC guide, PowerScore CR bible, OG 12 and Kaplan 800 for my verbal preparation.

    Although, I used to get 34-38 verbal in practice tests, I flunked in the main exam. I had good understanding of all the SC concepts which I supplemented with OG12 practice questions.

    The problem I had was with CR and RC; I had read the PowerScore bible and understood the main concepts of all types of CR. But I didn't have sufficient practice to implement what I learned, as a result it reflected very badly in my final score. The verbal section started with a medium SC question and followed with a social-science RC passage which, for me, was difficult to comprehend. As a result I wasn't able to answer the next 4 questions confidently, to add to my woes, a CR question (assumption type if I'm not wrong) went wrong. I was able to tackle the SC part of verbal but CR and RC gave a tough time and the end result Verbal-20.

    I'm planning to give my GMAT in another 45 days, Please suggest on how I should tackle CR and RC. A good strategy and recommended practice material for the CR as the PowerScore bible doesn't have enough practice questions.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Just to add, I'm a non-native!

  • I think you need to breathe, first and foremost! Remember, try not to panic during the test. Everyone encounters questions that they can't answer, but the trick is to not let them affect your overall performance. I understand that this was your issue during the test. So if you miss a question or have trouble with it, just move on (guess if necessary to save time).

    For CR, you can also check out the Official Guide Verbal review for more practice. I also liked the Veritas Prep books on CR and their book on RC. I think you should definitely check out those resources!

  • Hi Dana, your words are really encouraging. I gave my GMAT a couple of days ago after almost 45days of preparation and scored terrible 610 (Q47 V27). Even though I managed to score 650/670 in two GMAT prep tests. I plan to retake the test with another 60 days of preparation and plan to work smarter. I have already gone through the SC/CR Manhattan books. Somebody suggested me to just do some 1000SC/ 1000CR questions. Is it a good source? I have to sit back and make a study plan focussed on Verbal. Can you suggest a way forward?

  • I've heard about those documents, never actually used them myself. But I've read opinions of experts on them. They are a collection of questions from a lot of places, and the questions you see in there are sometimes not at all like the GMAT. I strongly recommend you use other resources like the Official Guide or Official Guide Verbal Supplement before you use those questions.
    I've provided most of my inputs on a verbal study guide above. Being a non native speaker, I recommend that you read in English every day besides your regular GMAT-like practice. Trust me, most of the time it's just your overall language skills that get in the way of your score.

  • Hey Dana...
    This is my second attempt at GMAT and my D-Day is 44 days away. I got a 680 in my prev attempt (Q 49 V 33) , with mostly reading the OG12. I am a non native speaker and I think its SC that stumped me. I have purchased the Manhattan SC guide since then and working on it. The boredom of the second attempt is beginning to set in and I feel I am losing the fire. Need help :( Could you please give me some expert advise on how to improve my verbal score?

  • Well the good thing is you only used the OG, so there are plenty of resources out there you can still leverage to get a better score. The MGMAT SC book is good. I also recommend the PowerScore CR Bible and the Veritas Prep RC book (or the MGMAT RC one). There's also the verbal supplement to the OG, so that's an extra source of practice.
    I know it's sometimes hard to stay motivated, but the trick is to think about it long term: the GMAT is currently the one thing standing between you and an MBA from a top institution and your desired career. Keep your eyes on the prize and you'll see, it gets better!

  • Good evening Dana. Thanks for your previous reply and I found that useful. I have a question striking my mind. Since it is an high time fr me to take up the Gmat, is it advisable to fix the exam date and then prepare accordingly or the vice versa. Question might be simple, but it weighs more fr me.

  • Hi Dana,

    I have been in the US for more than two years and I took the GRE and TOEFL and got good scores in I thought my English is good enough to earn a good score in the GMAT with some practice...unfortunately I took the GMAT two days ago and got 580 (49Q/20Q) !! Can you believe this??!! 20 in the verbal part...I think my problem is basically with understanding the philosophy of the questions...I am very upset and I don't really know what kind of strategy I should apply if I want to retake the test by the end of June...thx

  • Hey Mido, knowing conversation-level is not enough on the GMAT unfortunately. This is not so much a language test as it is a reasoning test. So yes, I highly recommend that you check out the following resources:
    - Manhattan GMAT SC guide
    - Veritas Prep RC guide
    - PowerScore CR Bible
    - Official Guide Verbal
    I don't think you can take the test by the end of June. You need to wait at least 30 days before a retake.

    • Thanks so much for the quick reply...I am sorry I was not clear enough but I did a master of engineering from a big uni here in the us and published some papers....I also bought those books a week before the exam and went through them I told you, I think my problem is basically with my understanding of the philosophy of the CR and RC if you have any advice regarding this issue I would be more than happy to follow...

      The exam system is changing to include an integrated reasoning part...what is the best preparation for this part?


    • I guess my comment still stands. Yes, it's about the philosophy and structure of questions and the books I've listed should help you get it. For IR, I think only Manhattan sells a separate guide. Here's my review:

  • Hey Dana, I'm writing to you after ages i guess. I just wrote my gmat a week ago and got a poor 620. Although i improved my quant from 22 to 47, i couldnt improve my verbal skills much. Even though, i was scoring in the 36-39 range on MGMAT CATs and GMATPREPs, but could only score 28 on the real one. I felt lost throughout the verbal part. For one, i felt i was not able to focus on the SCs and all RC passages went over my head as if English were an alien language to me. I also felt that the SCs are more about the meaning now than about plain rules that had i read in the MGMAT guide and elsewhere. So i guess my trouble is with English language as a whole. I am determined to write the exam again in few months, and would request your advice on how to prepare for verbal. Thank You.

  • Sorry but I don't recall which books you use. Here are my favorites for verbal again:
    - MGMAT SC
    - PowerScore CR Bible
    - Veritas Prep RC
    - Official Guide verbal supplement.
    The thing is, even if you used these books, it may not be enough because you're not a native speaker. It will take some time to improve. Have you been reading stuff in English every day? I recommend spending at least 30 mins reading high quality material, like international news websites. Other than that, it comes down to making flashcards for rules and keeping an error log.

  • I did use MGMAT SC Guide, but only once. I feel i should have read it 2-3 times. And i'll be very honest saying that i did not read high quality english material daily. As a result, i was clueless in RC. Would you suggest Scientific American, among other genres, to someone trying to improve on RC? I am currently using Kaplan Premier as a guide to RC theory. Do you think Veritas RC guide is still needed? I'm also using the Powerscore CR bible and must say it's a brilliant book. Thanks again Dana.

  • Scientific American is also a good resource. It's usually not hard to find the good stuff, you don't need to look much further than renowned press outlets. I think Kaplan did a decent job of covering RC, but the Veritas book has more practice. It's really up to you in terms of how you feel about your reading skills. Overall, just improving your English is probably the best course of action.

  • dear dana , i worry as i recently start prep for gmat & score 350 only in first test on,

    should i go ahead for gmat target 720,what should i do for verbal ,it's hardest

    i can improve drastically in maths but i lack confidence in verbal.

  • Getting from your current score to a 720 will first require you to dramatically improve your English. I highly recommend buying the Manhattan GMAT Foundations of Verbal book, together with their set of guides (I believe there are 9 guides now, 10 including the strategy guide). I also think you may need the help of a tutor for this. I strongly recommend that you work on improving your reading skills, by reading high quality English material every day for at least 30 mins.

  • HI dana , i m keep on doing laborious study since 3 week , but here only improvement with 13% at MASTER GMAT web preparation

    what shoudl i do to inc my verbal ? not getting enough confidence on LONG lengthy English sentences ,,, how to get long sentences very fast

  • Sorry but I can tell from your comment that your general knowledge of English is not so good. You need to first improve that before you work on GMAT materials. I advise you to read good quality materials in English every day for at least 30 minutes. Go to sites such as and read the news or the editorials they publish there. I also recommend that you buy the Foundations of GMAT Verbal book from Manhattan GMAT to cover the basics. Unfortunately improving your verbal ability will be impossible without improving your English.

  • Hi Dana, I have to start my GMAT preparation. Earlier I tried CAT, my quant is good but very weak in English & verbal. Can you please guide me in detail how to start from basics. I have plenty of time, can prepare for 2 yrs but need a detailed plan. 

    Recently I have started watching english movies. Pls help. Thanks

  • I don't think that watching movies will help. Rather, I believe you should focus on reading high quality material in English, like on the websites of CNN, WSJ, The Economist etc.
    I can't offer you a detailed plan for 2 years, but I can advise you to use the books outlined above (and potentially adding the Manhattan GMAT Verbal Foundations book). Other than that, reading will really get your level up, I guarantee it!

  • hi , can any body please guide me about master GMAT .com courses . i am planning to get register over there for one year , any feedback about this site ? is it worth to pay 350 dollars ??

    plz help ???

  • Hi Varun, I used the Master Gmat course last year but only did 60-65% of the course. Here are my views about the course:

    First, the pros - Very clean interface and interactive course. You would feel that the course is conversating with you while you go through it. The syllabus is neatly outlined too. By default, the course chooses the topic that you should study as per your performance, but you can override this and pick the topics yourself too. The guys at MasterGmat are helpfull too and respond quickly to your queries. Oh and there is an "ask" tab with every question that you can use to ask your doubts about that question.
    Now the cons - The course did not allow me to bookmark a question that i wanted to review later. This meant that once the questions was gone, it was gone forever. I gave my feedback to the MasterGmat guys and they said that they would add this feature to the course. PLEASE CHECK WHETHER THEY HAVE DONE SO IF YOU THINK IT WILL BE USEFUL FOR YOU. My second observation was that the full length tests were a very good test of the concepts BUT the design of the questions represented the design of MasterGmat practice questions but NOT closely the design of the questions you would find in GmatPrep or OGs. (This is just my observation).
    In all, i found the course usefull but since i only finished the course partially, i may not be a very good source of feedback for this course. Please continue to check with other guys as well before you make up your mind. All the best for preparation.

  • thnaks taran i will go for mastergmat , thnaks

  • Hello everyone,
    I have my GMAT in exactly 70 days from now. I had started my preparation around 2 weeks back. Now the thing is, I have been going through the OG for practice problems, and have been doing okay with the quant. However, the moment I landed upon sentence correction for the first time (in the diagnostic test), well to say I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. So I want to know what would the books to target sentence correction specifically. I have a copy of the Manhattan GMAT SC, do I get the Kaplan Verbal Workbook or the Princeton one or the OG verbal? I am not a native English speaker though I have given GRE and TOEFL before (590-V in GRE and 111 in TOEFL).
    Warm Regards, Deepak

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  • Hi dana!!
    Greetings of the day, 
    1st of all very thanks for taking  pain to reply all of the people who sought help from you.Hope you keep doing so.. really great Job done so far..
    Can you please guide me too...Need help.
    My case:
    Taken GMAT in the year 2008, and scored badly with a meager total of 620(Q 51 V 23(not remembering as I tore the score sheet I got)),though had been consistently scoring in Mock GMATs with 700+ scores prior to the disaster day. Got disturbed and did not look back and tried to forget. 
    But now the situation,today, is changed- started a company,self financed,self conceptualized, no family input-  and in the process of that I really found a reason (A major difference point from the year I took My 1st GMAT ) for my doing MBA which I consider to be center pillar for my business ..With this thought I quickly decided to reappear for the GMAT and started preparing for the same. 
    Downloaded the GMAT Prep and taken the 1st exam , with my dismay I got 670 (on 5th September), which was again not a very propelling score ,which could motivate me and sail me forward. But I have really never thought of getting to the true picture, a picture in which I had a fear factor for verbal, a picture in which I have always taken SC as granted and a picture in which I always felt reluctant of accepting me as a person with a scope of lot of improvement,sorry sometimes you become overconfident .
    I always thought that SC can never be improved in a day or so, and as being a non native speaker I had good reasons to  enter into a cocoon where I could sit relax with a feel that I can't do anything. I wandered here and there online and someone as great as you , had discussed something about few strategies about improving verbal score. And I decided to do so i.e with all of my efforts I have to have a great score in verbal.Till date I completed Manhattan CR, found good , I tried to complete Manhattan SC but a saturation point came after I got through the 75% of the material. I am through with all the verbal questions(SC+ CR) of OG 13, OG verbal review second edition, Kaplan premier, Kaplan 800. and now carry a feeling that I can do any question of SC and CR if I am at full level of concentration. But whenever I solve the question at a stretch of 20-30 No.s I finish it up with 80-82% of accuracy level. My quant accuracy level (PS+ DS)have always been at 99%, even at a stretch of 40-50 questions. When I get back to answers for the wrong ones i.e 18-20%, out of those 90% of the correct answers are always which i have segregated but dropped at the last. With this much of preparation and a feeling (just to keep me motivated ) that I haven't started practicing RC, which I consider as a area in which I only have to work upon my concentration level, as when I am at its fullest, I crack 100% of the questions related to the passage,I had taken GMAT prep 1 test again (except 4-5 question in verbal nothing was repeated , that is good of the software ) and I got 750. 
    Have a mix of feeling, and lack of further strategy with no questions left to practice. What would you suggest whether I take all the Practice tests (5 Kaplan, 6 Manhattan, 1 Gmat prep 2) in the next couple of week and take the date for GMAT and appear or I must be patient enough and get along with Manhattan SC now starting from last chapter so as to avoid the saturation point coming at the start, re do all the questions of OG. thus appearing for the test in 1st week of November. Is there any point of improvement or my performance is saturated looking at the fact that I have devoted app 200 hours in last 20 days, which is app 100 days If i would have been working(As I told you that I am into setting up my own business so could take leave to prepare) and could devote just 2 hours a day. 
    Please clarify if you can  as I may consider your words as the final one. 

  • Perhaps it's not that good of an idea to do 10 hours of practice a day. I can see how you feel you've had enough and I can certainly imagine that you're not as efficient as you would be with just 5 hours of study. I really feel you should first and foremost slow down a bit and think of it not in terms of quantity, but quality. There's really no point in taking over 10 tests in the next few weeks. I believe that one or two practice tests per week are more than enough. The rest of the time you should spend reviewing or practicing new material if you have any left (maybe the OG verbal supplement or the MGMAT Advanced Quant?). If you take two new practice tests and your scores are above the target, then you may be ready for it.

    • Thanks for the prompt reply.  
      I understood your point of Quality vs Quantity, and the efficiency matter...
      Will surely keep in mind..Thanks once again

      Yesterday night I took Manhattan GMAT test 1 , I got 780.feel Nicer now....

  • Hi Dana..
    I am about to start my prep this week and just formulating the plant for the same... I am targeting a score of 750+. I had given one of the two free GMAT prep test and scored 650 (q49, v31).
    Please advise how should i got about my preparation.. 

  • I think the study plan listed above provides a few good pointers on how to proceed. Of course, you will need to work more on your verbal score than the quant score, so I advise you to spend maybe 2/3 of your time working on verbal.

  • Hi Dana,
    I finished working on OG13 and gave a Princeton Review test.I scored 600(Q41,V31) .
    I am aiming for a 720.I have ordered Manhattan SC,RC and power score CR bible.
    What material i should follow for maths.I have my test in two month.Still really disappointed with my score.Please guide.

  • You could use the books listed above or go for Manhattan GMAT quant books as well. The Manhattan books are bit more detailed than the Kaplan ones, but it also depends on how much time you can dedicate to prep. For you, verbal is the priority.

    • thanks Dana.yes,i am not able to improve my verbal score.My weakness is RC.Specially the long ones.ANd i noticed,i usually panic in the last few questions.In the last practice test my last 4 questions were incorrect.had little time so got them all wrong.And i can devote more than 4 hours every day for the next 2 months.I am targeting a better score in verbal.Please help.i am stuck and dont know how to proceed.

    • Start by buying the right books and work your way from there! You do need to have the good resources on hand before proceeding!

    • Ok. Manhattan SC and RC i have bought and Powerscore bible for CR i am about to.
      What else i should get?

    • You should also have the Official Guide 13th edition and the Verbal Official Guide for practice.

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  • Hi Dana, 
    I recently finished the MGMAT class (9 sessions) & completed 6 CATs (5x MGmat and 1x GMATPrep). My avg on the CATs is 680 (Q47,V35). I would like to take that to 720 (Q49 V37) in the next 3 weeks (time when I have my test). I purchased the Advanced MGmat quant and I'm confident I can improve the score another 2pts. On the verbal side I'm using the data from the 6 previous exams to determine my weak areas and address them accordingly (i.e specific SC topics - sub-verb agreement - the books I'm using are OG13 & Verb review (OG)).
    The biggest problem I'm facing is with CR(not the question types more than the timing itself). It takes me 2'15" on average on all these questions whereas on the two other types (SC,RC) I'm barely within limits (I have no time to reallocate to CR). I'm trying to be systematic on the way I approach each question:
    1. Understand the argument (take abbreviated notes - helps me on reading actively and improve dramatically the understanding of the argument). 
    2. Read the question (I've tried reading the question 1st and it takes me an extra 15" per question with no improvement in accuracy)
    3. Work from wrong to right
    The problem is that even on simple questions it still stakes me more than 2' to get to the answer. How would you suggest I tackle this particular weakness? (Getting to the answer for CR easy questions faster without loosing accuracy)
    Thank you in advance for your time and help.   

  • I think the way it worked for me is that I had gotten to a point where I could reasonably anticipate what the answer might be by reading the prompt, but of course only for the easy questions. Besides practicing some more and perhaps taking shorter notes, I can't immediately think of something that could help you. I found my own accuracy skyrocket after buying the PowerScore Critical Reasoning Bible, though. Not sure if you can have that shipped to where you live quickly, but if you can I highly recommend it. it seems you have a natural penchant for their preferred method, i.e. reading the argument first and then the question.

    • Thanks a lot for your feedback Dana! I will give PS CR a try as well. 

  • Hi Dana,

    I gave GMAT and scored 610 (q 47, v 27). I want to improve my verbal score as I am aiming score of 700 +. I am practicing from OG edition 13 and Manhattan Verbal + Critical Reasoning Bible. I have Manhattan test series. Please suggest if there is any other good test series since now when I see repeated questions.


  • I think you should focus more on the content and then topic-specific practice vs. just taking practice tests. I wouldn't take more than one practice test every two weeks or at most every week. Practice tests are good for pacing and figuring out where you stand, but they are not really teaching you a lot. You learn much better by doing drills on a specific topic, such as pronouns in SC, for instance. The MGMAT tests are pretty respected, but you can also try the Kaplan ones or the ones from Veritas. I think these days Veritas offers their tests with the purchase of a book, but I think it's best to double check that!

  • Hi, 
    I did original GMAT test and got 210 score (Q 11, V 6). I think I am the last one in the world who get this score. But my motivation is still there. I wanna 700+ score. Is there anyone who can encourage me to do it again? What strategies shall i adopt? My English and math both are equal (poor). 
    Please send me suggestions. 

  • Hey Warbhu, I do believe you can improve your score, but more likely than not you will need someone to help you out. I advise you to look for the help of a tutor who would work with you for a month or two. Getting a 210 is a sign that you may not understand the setup of the test and what the questions really mean, so it's really a matter of starting from the very beginning. Unless you took the test down cold without any prep at all, it will be difficult for you to go beyond 400-500 on your own. Good luck!

  • Hey Danna!!
    I am just curious to know the rationale behind the strategy. Why do you think it is good to start with Quant in the initial daysif it is already a strong area?
    Also i have a request for you. Article doesn't talk about AWA and IR. Since this article is widely read and followed, i request you to edit/write a new one wrt the latest GMAT pattern.. It is just a request..!!!

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