3 Highly Effective GMAT Verbal Strategies

by on February 21st, 2018

write_applicantsThe GMAT Verbal Section runs for 75 minutes and tests your abilities in reading, grammar, and analytical reasoning. It is designed to measure how you analyze arguments rationally with the information provided as well as how you think critically. Yes, your command of standard, written English needs to be sound. More than you might think, a large part of your professional success will be determined by your level of English proficiency and verbal intellect; the fact remains that English and reading mastery trains you on how to think critically.

Before you brush off the verbal section of the GMAT as low priority, read on to learn about why reading is important for the GMAT and how you can improve your verbal competency.

1. Sharpen your grammar

One of the biggest pitfalls in the GMAT verbal category is the sentence correction questions. Getting these questions right requires nothing more than a fundamental understanding of English grammar and how to apply those rules to deliberately confusing sentences. There are so many rules to English grammar so it’s best that you cover the whole territory thoroughly. Know the difference between “as” and “like” as well the subject-verb agreement rule, which is that the verb and subject must agree in number. Your grammar will be your sword for hacking through unnecessary verbiage and getting closer to the right answer. Otherwise, if your grammatical foundation is tenuous, you will find yourself getting more confused as you read through the answer choices. Once you master your grammar, the sentence correction section is very manageable and even fun. Who doesn’t like spotting errors?

2. Read as much as you can

Preparing for the GMAT means reading outside of your “study time” as much as possible. You need to immerse yourself in a multiplicity of texts, whether it be books (fiction and non-fiction), magazines (long and short form), newspapers, columns, you name it. Even if this sounds obvious, you need to keep in mind that developing an ear for correct English is more than memorizing a bunch of idioms. Written English is often very different from spoken, colloquial English. When words are written down, they have to “flow” in a certain rhythm and cadence, much like music. You will not be able to develop this ear for proper English if all you choose to study are rules.

One way to improve your English is to almost treat it as if you’re learning English all over again. It is important to read what you find interesting but it’s also important to push yourself to look at associated topics that will stimulate your cognitive reading abilities.

3. Do not multi-task in your GMAT verbal study

The GMAT Verbal section requires somewhat slow integration, since you want to spend a few days just focusing on one area. Don’t try to cover all the sections in one sitting. The best way to progress in your understanding of each section is to simply spend significant time on each. For example, practice paradox question types (Critical Reasoning) until the point where you are comfortable at a 650+ level. You can apply this same approach to practice inference questions or sentence corrections. Once you have a deep understanding, that’s when you should move on, step by step. Gauge if it makes sense to do daily practice sets where you mix up the verbal question types and see how you perform.

Although the GMAT quantitative portion carries more weight overall than the verbal section since MBA programs are notoriously quant-heavy, that doesn’t mean your verbal score should be negotiated by carelessness. Quantitative skills such as big data and analysis are absolutely necessary, but they are not the sole recipe for success. If you are looking to score 700 or more on your GMAT, then success in the Verbal section is necessary. Success on the Verbal is not as common as success in the Quantitative sections of the exam, so you will really put yourself ahead if you master both. Business schools want candidates who are well-rounded, so to be a well-prepared test taker is to treat every section on the GMAT seriously. Business schools also want candidates who are great public speakers, leaders, and critical thinkers—your verbal communicative skills will stem from reading, writing, and analyzing text.


Manhattan Review is a multi-national boutique test prep firm. Founded in 1999 by Dr. Joern Meissner, an internationally renowned business school professor, Manhattan Review is the oldest test prep company of its kind in New York City. Manhattan Review operates in many cities in the United States and select major cities around the world, including Hong Kong and Singapore. For more information, please visit our webpage.

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