GMAT Verbal is a refuge for people who are not strong in Quant. Most people believe that to ace the GMAT you have to be really good at Math. Ask Anupriya and she’ll refute this statement. She scored a 760 (99 percentile) on the GMAT with a Q48 (67 percentile) and a V46 (99 percentile). She even received an admit from the Indian School of Business. What makes the GMAT Verbal even more lucrative is the sheer scope of scoring in this section. Therefore, scoring high on GMAT verbal can be a gateway to scoring 760+ on the GMAT. But how can you score high on GMAT verbal?
There are 2 things to keep in mind.
- Mastering concepts of Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension
- Devising test-taking strategies to leverage the adaptive nature of the GMAT.
Before going into how to score V40+ on the GMAT, first, let’s understand what makes GMAT verbal section important.
Here is the outline of this article:
- What makes GMAT Verbal section important?
- How to improve Sentence Correction
- How to improve Critical Reasoning
- How to improve Reading Comprehension
- Test taking strategies to score V40+
What makes GMAT Verbal section important?
Your overall GMAT score is dependent on how well you do on the quant and verbal sections. You can score between 6 and 51 on both the sections. But, there is one catch. Scoring, let’s say, a 46 on both quant and verbal does not mean that you scored the same percentile in both sections. Take a look at the score and percentile chart below.
A score of 46 in verbal translates to 99 percentile whereas a 46 in quant translates to just 58 percentile.
What it means is that more people score high on the Quant section than on the verbal section. The mean score for the quant section is 39.93 as compared to 27.04 for the verbal section.
Therefore, the verbal section becomes all the more important if you want to score above 740 on the GMAT which is a 97 percentile score. A (Q50, V40) or (Q49, V42) can result in a score of 740 on the GMAT.
Therefore, scoring above V40 will definitely help you score 740+ on the GMAT, provided you score at least a Q50 on the GMAT.
Let’s take a look at what V40+ scorers did to improve the 3 verbal sub-sections i.e., Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension.
GMAT verbal – How to improve Sentence Correction
Sentence Correction is the one sub-section with which many GMAT takers struggle while preparing for the verbal section. Why? Because most people don’t have a basic understanding of the building blocks of a sentence. That is why they struggle to deconstruct and construct a sentence to derive its meaning.
Therefore, it is essential to learn the meaning-based approach to solve SC questions, after all, GMAT SC is more about logic and meaning than grammar and vocabulary.
Let’s take the example of SC preparation from Rohan’s story who scored a 750 with a V40.
Rohan scored a V40 on the GMAT
Rohan’s story is remarkable because he comes from a vernacular academic background. He studied in a Gujarati medium school and therefore, he was apprehensive about the verbal section. His verbal score is proof that GMAT verbal, especially the SC sub-section tests logic and meaning rather than grammar and vocabulary. Take a look at his ‘SC accuracy based on question types’ from his ESR.
In SC, only 33% of his answers were correct on grammar questions. Still, he managed a score of V40.
So, how did he do it? He followed a simple approach to understand the meaning of a sentence in one read. Also called the meaning-based approach, this approach helps you to understand the meaning of a sentence in one read, thereby avoiding confusion caused by re-reading the answers and questions.
In his debrief, Rohan said, “I started with SC and followed the meaning-based approach and was able to identify the error in 30 seconds by spending some time with the question stem before going to the answer choices.”
So, how does one learn the meaning-based approach?
Let’s take a look at Ram’s strategy to understand the meaning-based approach.
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Ram’s SC strategy to scoring V41
Ram, before scoring a V41, made a simple but a consequential mistake. Before learning the meaning-based approach, he’d rely purely on ‘process of elimination’ approach. He would read the question and then immediately the options and would continue to re-read them until getting confused between two options and randomly marking an answer. At this point, his accuracy was 60 – 70%.
Take a look at the below infographic to understand his approach to solving SC questions before and after learning the meaning-based approach.
Therefore, he started with the Master Comprehension module to learn the components of a sentence and how to deconstruct a sentence. This module helped him to understand the meaning of a sentence in one read. This module also gave him a foundation to build his SC ability by learning the meaning-based approach. This approach helped him to identify the mistakes in the question before even reading the options. As he already knew the mistakes, the process of elimination became straight forward and it not only increased his accuracy but reduced the time per question to half.
Ram scored a 730 on the GMAT.
Let’s take another example to solidify what strategies work to ace GMAT SC.
To ace GMAT Sentence Correction
- you should focus on understanding the meaning of a sentence in one read. You can do that if you know how to deconstruct a sentence to understand its meaning. Therefore, going through the master comprehension module is essential before starting with SC preparation.
- Moreover, you should not read the options after reading the question. Your aim should be to identify the mistakes while reading the question itself. This process will eliminate the confusion that arises after reading the options without understanding the question.
These strategies will help you reduce the time required per question and increase your SC accuracy.
How to improve Critical Reasoning
Critical reasoning tests your ability to analyze an argument and draw a logical conclusion. You’ll be asked questions on the following topics:
- Strengthen and weaken
- Bold Face
So, what can you do to improve GMAT Critical reasoning? Let’s take the example of Arjun.
Arjun improved from V26 to V41 by improving his CR and scored 730 on the GMAT in his fourth attempt. He later got an admit from Oxford’s Saïd Business School and Indian School of Business.
Arjun scored a V41
Arjun used a brute-force approach to solving verbal questions before his 4th attempt in which he scored 730. By brute-force approach we mean, learning as many concepts and solving as many questions as possible without refining the concepts and application process.
Therefore, before attempting GMAT for the fourth time, Arjun changed his preparation strategy. This time he focused more on learning concepts and analyzing mistakes.
This strategy helped him improve his verbal ability, especially in Critical Reasoning.
He learned the pre-thinking approach to solving CR questions. He did the following after learning the pre-thinking approach:
- He started with easy questions (500-600 level questions) and practiced the pre-thinking approach with them.
- He reached a 90% accuracy level in easy questions of CR.
- After reaching this level, he started practicing difficult questions (700 level questions).
- He practiced CR questions in Scholaranium till he reached a 90% accuracy level.
Let us talk about Bhavya’s strategy for CR.
Bhavya’s CR strategy (V41)
She considered CR to be her strength. But still, she spent more than 3 minutes on each CR question. Her biggest challenge was to reduce her time per CR question. This is where the pre-thinking approach helped her the most.
She spent around a minute on understanding the question and then divided it into premise, conclusion, and understanding the assumption. This way she was able to improve her timing to 2 minutes per question.
- Understanding and applying the pre-thinking approach to solving CR questions is the key to acing this sub-section.
- Start applying the pre-thinking approach to easy and medium level questions first.
- Move on to the difficult questions only when you have reached a 90% accuracy level in easy and medium level questions.
- The pre-thinking approach will also help you reduce the average time per CR question even though there will be a learning curve initially.
How to improve Reading Comprehension
This is most overlooked sub-section of GMAT verbal owing to the less complex nature of this sub-section compared to SC and CR. However, after the change in GMAT format in April 2018, RC has become a more important sub-section. Therefore, you shouldn’t ignore the RC section and invest appropriate time to prepare it.
So, how to ace GMAT RC? Let’s learn from a few examples.
Anastasiia scored 740 with a V39 | Received admit from Columbia Business School
Even though she scored below V40, her story is worth mentioning because of her RC strategy. Initially, her reading comprehension ability was low (between 30% and 50%).
To tackle this weakness, she started reading from sources like The Economist. Then, she devised a 3-step strategy. She would
- Understand meaning
- Understand the examples used in the text
- Understand the sentence structure
She would read the passage thoroughly first to understand the overall meaning. She would read once more to make sense of the examples mentioned in the passage and lastly, she would read to understand the sentence structure.
This approach required more time in reading the passage, but since she understood the information completely, she didn’t need to refer the text again. She was able to retain most of the information and answered the RC questions in one go.
Bruno’s V42 on the GMAT
Bruno scored a staggering V42. An achievement he credits to understanding the logic behind the questions. Since meaning-based approach and pre-thinking approach use logic to find solutions to questions, he performed well in both SC and CR.
His more significant challenge was the RC section. He had heard about a short-cut approach which tells you to read 20% of the passage and start answering questions. He tried this approach and failed. He realized it is just a waste of time since he had to revisit the passage again and again to answer the questions.
Therefore, he followed the e-GMAT’s approach to summarizing each paragraph. While reading a passage, he started summarizing each paragraph and noting down important takeaways. This information helped him answer the RC questions in one attempt without revisiting the passage.
Thus, he scored a 42 on his verbal section.
Bhavya’s RC strategy
Let me retake the example of Bhavya. She used to skip reading the whole passage and read only the first and last sentence of each paragraph. This strategy resulted in her revisiting the passage again and again and wasting valuable time. As she felt pressured due to lack of time, she would randomly mark the answers.
What she did was that instead of skipping, she started skimming the passage. She started to pay attention to the author’s tone and opinion. This strategy helped her understand the essence of the passage and separate important information from the unimportant. With this approach, she mastered reading comprehension.
To ace GMAT Reading Comprehension you should:
- Summarize and note down key takeaways of each paragraph
- Understand the meaning, the author’s tone and opinion, and make a note
- Separate essential information from the non-essential
- Lastly, read the questions and answer them
Test taking strategies to score V40+
Building your verbal ability is definitely going to help you score a V40+, but a planned effort during the test will fetch you those extra 2-3 points and boost your GMAT score.
You can learn a good test-taking strategy from Alok.
Alok scored V40 on the GMAT by employing a skipping strategy
Alok scored a 740 (Q50, V40) on his second attempt and improved from V33 in his first attempt. He said, “While my first attempt was all about studying, my second attempt was all about planning.” What he did was that he identified his weak topics from skills data in Scholaranium. These were the topics from which he was more likely to give incorrect answers. Moreover, he was comfortable in answering 37-38 questions with high accuracy. Based on this data he devised a skipping strategy.
A skipping strategy does not mean that you don’t answer questions (you are not allowed to leave a question unmarked in GMAT). Instead, you randomly mark the answer to the question you are not sure of so that you can devote time to questions where you are confident of answering correctly.
He skipped 4-5 questions including an entire RC passage on his actual GMAT and still managed to score a V40. This score clearly shows that it’s not accuracy that GMAT tests, rather GMAT tests your ability.
Therefore, devising a strategy based on your weaknesses is a key to scoring high on GMAT verbal.
GMAT Verbal tips from V40+ scorers
Above were some verbal tips from people who aced the GMAT, especially its verbal section. These tips on Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension will definitely help you prepare well for the verbal section.
The only thing you have to keep in mind is that GMAT verbal tests your ability to think logically. Therefore, focus on understanding the meaning of a sentence in a timed manner. You can do it only if you can understand the meaning of a sentence in just one reading. What we’ll suggest you is go through the ‘master comprehension’ module, where you’ll learn how a sentence is constructed and deconstructed. Once you know the different components of a sentence, building your GMAT verbal ability will become easier.
The pre-thinking approach to solving CR questions is the most effective process, and you should stick to it. For RC passages the best strategy is to summarize each paragraph and note down key takeaways and tone of the author.
Lastly, remember to devise a skipping strategy for GMAT verbal section based on your weak topics. It is better to skip questions which you are unsure of answering correctly.