The GMAT is a tough exam, even for those who have been speaking English their entire lives. Another degree of difficulty is added for those who are non-native English speakers. Here at Magoosh, we’re proud to have helped many students from around the world who speak English as a second language. There’s no denying that this endeavor is challenging. Below we share a few study habits to help unlock the GMAT verbal section for non-native English speakers.
The Single Most Important Practice for Non-Native English Speakers
The most important thing you can do to improve your verbal performance on the GMAT is to read English as much as possible. Reading will not only boost your knowledge of vocabulary, but also your comprehension skills — your ability to digest meaning and decipher the author’s intent. This is a crucial skill for the GMAT verbal section’s critical reasoning questions.
But don’t just read anything: it’s important to read high-level materials that are similar to what you’ll see come test day. Consider such venerated publications as The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Economist, and Arts & Letters Daily. Take a look at our full list of recommended periodicals. Or, if you prefer books, check out our recommended fiction & non-fiction (this list is written for the GRE, but all the picks would suit the GMAT as well).
You should read for at least 30 minutes a day. If you can afford the time, make it one hour a day.
Learn to Read ‘Actively’
To master the GMAT verbal section, you need to ‘trick’ your brain into being alert and attentive at all times. In other words, you need to make it a priority to read actively.
Many students make the mistake of trying to rush through passages in the hopes that they can spend more time focusing on the questions. In the end, this approach only wastes time, as you’ll find yourself frequently returning to the passage to fish out details you can no longer remember.
So keep calm, slow down, and make it your goal to read the entire passage with determination and poise.
Familiarize Yourself with Idioms
As you read, strive to understand the nuances and figurative connotations of the English language — this can be particularly difficult for non-native English speakers. Fortunately, we have a couple of free resources to aid you.
For on-the-go study, give our Idiom Flashcards a try. These decks cover 160 of the most common idioms you’ll encounter on the GMAT.
For a more methodical look at idioms, check out our GMAT Idioms eBook. This free eBook examines hundreds of idioms broken down into 27 different categories.
And when hitting the books becomes tedious, you can study more leisurely by consuming English-language video media, such as films, TV shows, and podcasts. These are often rife with idioms and important colloquialisms. As you encounter new idioms, be sure to look up their meaning in a resource such as The Free Dictionary’s idiom database.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
It will be difficult to catch up with native speakers on an exam like the GMAT. Part of bridging this gap is to ask for help when you get stuck. For Premium members, Magoosh offers a ‘Help’ button in the corner of every screen, and we’re happy to answer any questions regarding our materials. We’ve helped thousands of non-native speakers with a range of concepts, from simply defining words or idioms to making sense of an author’s implied arguments on the critical reasoning section — so sign up today!
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