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How to Study for GMAT Verbal

In this post, I am not going to tell you the exact texts to study and the number of questions you should do each night. This post is aimed at a more holistic, big-picture approach to studying for the GMAT Verbal Section.


Before the GMAT Verbal test: Read

Do not think of GMAT prep as an isolated activity, done solely over the familiar spread of books. To truly prepare yourself for the GMAT verbal section you should immerse yourself in words – books (fiction and non-fiction), magazines (long and short form), and newspapers (the ones with national circulation).

If this sounds superfluous, remember that developing an ear for proper English comes far more naturally than imbibing a list of idioms. Of course not all English is equal. Be sure to avoid the colloquial form as much as possible, and instead choose sources venerate for their elevated style: The New York Times vs. USA Today, The New Yorker vs. The National Enquirer.

It is also important to read what interests you. Nowhere is this more true than with books, both fiction and non-fiction. To slog through a book, even a revered classic, is going to make you disdain this process. On the other hand, a page-turner doesn’t have to be John Grisham, or even pulpier tomes. Have a look at the Modern Library 100’s Top Books. There is something for every taste here (and with Amazon you can click “Look Inside” to see if the books suits you).

And for those who live near bookstores – assuming they have not all gone the way of Tower Records – scan the book displays. As long as the topic is relatively sophisticated, the book is sure to have correct, idiomatic (read: GMAT) language.

Plan on reading a total of 50-pages a day from a variety of these sources.Doing so will fine tune your brain and make Reading Comprehension far less formidable.


Think in your own words, not in GMAT Verbal vocabulary

By reading to train your ear and your mind you will be more adept at navigating the treacherous verbiage of the GMAT. Your ability to process words will increase as will your ability to make sense of what you read.

This latter skill is crucial for Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension. When you read a question, you will want to be able to anticipate the answer. That is you want to verbalize a rough answer. That way you control the question – instead of the letting the answer choices control (and corrupt) you.

Of course this anticipation of the correct answer also carries over to Sentence Correction. By developing your ear for proper English, you should be able to identify what is wrong with the underlined section.

While reading outside is important, ultimately your score will depend on the GMAT sources you use. Make sure you learn the fundamentals of the verbal section. Manhattan GMAT and Magoosh do a very good job of breaking down the test so you can understand the principles behind the question, instead of relying on clever guessing strategies.


Focus on one area of the Verbal Section

Do not try to do much at once. Pick a certain area in Critical Reasoning and stick to it for a few days. For instance, practice inference questions to the point where you are comfortable with anything up until the 650-level. You can carry this approach over to Sentence Correction and focus in just one area, say Parallelism. Once you have strong grasp, move on to another concept, but review every few days…


Review what you read

Speaking of review, sometimes it is tempting to just push forward, constantly doing new questions and tackling new concepts. While noble, this approach is scattered and will not allow concepts to really sink in. Make sure you review what you’ve learned. So don’t think of a question as one you’ve already done. For you to truly be able to move on from a question, you should be able to effortlessly articulate why the wrong answers are wrong and right answer is right.



By combining reading with smart GMAT prep, you can boost your verbal score quickly, whether you’ve been speaking English since two or consider English as a third language.

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