GMAT English

The GMAT, of course, is given in English.  In fact, the GMAT Verbal section assesses a high level of English usage.  This certainly presents a challenge to folks who are learning English as a second language, and it also presents challenges to American students, native speakers, who speak colloquial English and are less familiar with the sophisticated standards of GMAT English.


GMAT Verbal Resources for Non-Native Speakers

If English is not your native language, I will assume you now know it well enough to read these blog articles.  How do you get from basic English, TOEFL-level English, to GMAT English?

First of all, if you are still studying for the TOEFL,  I highly recommend Magoosh’s TOEFL product.  If you are interested in both that product and the Magoosh GMAT product, send a note to our student help team asking whether they can give you a deal on the combined product.

Suppose you have done well on the TOEFL and now you want to take the GMAT.  Here are some resources:

1) free GMAT Idiom flashcards

2) an Introduction to the GMAT Verbal section

3) an overview on GMAT Grammar, with links to specific grammar topics

4) the three biggest areas on GMAT Sentence Correction are grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

For students who sign up for Magoosh, we have a large library of Verbal lessons covering every aspect of GMAT Verbal.  Here’s a sample lesson:

Substantive Clauses

You will notice that each lesson has a transcript, so you can read what you hear, and you have the option to play each lesson at a slower speed, in order to integrate what is being said.

Every Magoosh question has its own video explanation.  This kind of immediate feedback on verbal questions is exactly what will accelerate the performance of non-native speakers.  Here’s a sample SC question:

What the eye sees

Here’s a sample CR question:

Violent felonies in Dismaston

Finally, the most effective advice is, as usual, something that requires a lot of effort.  What will most help non-native speakers achieve a high level of proficiency with GMAT Verbal is developing a habit of reading.


GMAT English vs. colloquial English

Some folks taking the GMAT have grown up as native English speakers and are very comfortable with colloquial English, but GMAT uses English at a level of sophistication well above the colloquial level.

In fact, the GMAT specifically targets students who are comfortable with colloquial patterns, many of which are not rigorously correct.  Among the areas tested are:

1) less vs. fewer, number vs. amount

2) lie vs. lay

3) due to vs. because of

4) economic vs. economical

5) listing examples: like vs. such as

For folks who grew up in America speaking English, the potential traps are many, precisely because everyday American life is replete with grammar mistakes.  For example, at almost every grocery store in America, you are likely to see the flawed sign “12 items or less.”  If you see nothing wrong with such a sign, the GMAT SC has a trap waiting for you!

While the Magoosh lesson videos on basic grammar might be too easy for you, our lessons that cover such Diction mistakes will benefit you tremendously.



Whether you have learned English as a second language or are looking to improve your colloquial-level English, Magoosh can help you.  In addition to lessons, each Magoosh question has its own video explanation, and this immediate feedback accelerates learning.   Here’s another free practice question:

The income categories

In this modern business world, your written word will often precede you, and on any singular person, you can only make a first impression once—hence the value of communicating in well-spoken English. We’re here to help you master GMAT English and carry those skills to test day and beyond!



  • Mike MᶜGarry

    Mike served as a GMAT Expert at Magoosh, helping create hundreds of lesson videos and practice questions to help guide GMAT students to success. He was also featured as “member of the month” for over two years at GMAT Club. Mike holds an A.B. in Physics (graduating magna cum laude) and an M.T.S. in Religions of the World, both from Harvard. Beyond standardized testing, Mike has over 20 years of both private and public high school teaching experience specializing in math and physics. In his free time, Mike likes smashing foosballs into orbit, and despite having no obvious cranial deficiency, he insists on rooting for the NY Mets. Learn more about the GMAT through Mike’s Youtube video explanations and resources like What is a Good GMAT Score? and the GMAT Diagnostic Test.

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