If there’s one thing you should know about the Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT it’s that it’s not designed to test your proficiency in English; it’s about your verbal reasoning skills.
The common misconception that the GMAT Verbal section is the ‘English’ side of the GMAT exam causes many people (particularly native English speakers) to overestimate their abilities and underestimate the amount of practice and preparation needed to get a good GMAT score.
Instead, GMAT Verbal questions test your ability to understand, analyze, and evaluate information in written English.
Here’s everything you need to know about the GMAT Verbal Reasoning section in our GMAT Verbal Guide:
How is the GMAT Verbal scored?
The GMAT Verbal section (along with the GMAT Quantitative Reasoning section) makes up your score out of 800. In fact, the Verbal section is weighted slightly more towards that score.
Your GMAT Verbal score is based on the number of questions you answer; whether your answers are correct; and the difficulty of the questions you answer correctly, which increases with each correct answer.
How long is the GMAT Verbal section?
You have 65 minutes to complete 36 multiple-choice questions.
All GMAT Verbal questions are multiple choice questions, with five options. The three different GMAT Verbal question types are mixed throughout the section.
What are the different GMAT verbal questions?
What’s on the GMAT Verbal syllabus? The GMAT Verbal section is made up of three sub-sections that count equally towards your score: Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Sentence Correction.
GMAT Critical Reasoning
GMAT Critical Reasoning questions test your ability to understand and analyze logical arguments.
For example, you could be presented with a logical argument and are asked to weaken it or strengthen it. You could also be asked to find the assumption the argument is based on, identify the conclusion, or identify the role parts of the argument are playing.
There are also question types which ask you to resolve a paradox, or evaluate what information is most useful to assess an argument.
One useful approach to GMAT Critical Reasoning is to focus on how specific the conclusions of the arguments are. For example, if a question asks about the health effects of a program, the cost, convenience, popularity of the program are not relevant. They are out of scope.
There are many crossovers between the GMAT Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension sections. It can be helpful to start with Critical Reasoning to get a solid foundation before going on to Reading Comprehension.
GMAT Reading Comprehension
GMAT Reading Comprehension (RC) questions are not like the kind of reading comprehension questions you saw in high school.
You need to note the different points of view represented in the passage and understand the relationship between different pieces of information. Being aware of so-called transition words like ‘however’, ‘although’ and ‘furthermore’ can help you to identify these relationships.
You also need to read actively to sort out the most important information, while not getting hung up on the detail.
For questions asking for specific details (these often begin with ‘According to the passage…’), go back to the passage and do not rely on your memory. Many wrong answer choices are pieces taken directly from the passage, but that don’t answer the question.
GMAT RC passages can feel a bit dry. Typically, the passage topics cover science, social science and business topics.
Do not neglect practicing Reading Comprehension because the passages feel boring. This section is testing your ability to focus, and you’ll feel more engaged with the passage if you practice reading actively.
GMAT Sentence Correction
GMAT Sentence Correction is quite different from the other two sections. Here, the GMAT uses grammar rules to test your problem-solving abilities.
The GMAT Official Guide refers to GMAT Sentence Correction questions as ‘requiring detective work’. It is not enough to know the grammar rules by heart. You need to use them to eliminate four grammatically incorrect answer choices until you are left with one that is not grammatically incorrect.
Bear in mind, the correct answer might not be the very best version of the sentence. The aim of sentence correction is to understand how grammar influences the meaning in a sentence and is not about ‘good business English’.
Sentence Correction grammar topics include subject verb agreement, pronouns, verb tenses, comparisons, modifiers, idioms and parallelism.
Follow five key steps to master the GMAT Verbal Reasoning section:
1. Don't focus too much on theory without considering how grammar concepts work in practice. Make sure you use GMAT specific resources as it is incredibly useful to focus on the way the GMAT tests these topics, rather than grammar in general.
2. Use a process of elimination. Make sure you write down the letters A,B,C,D,E and work through problems methodically.
3. Understand why you are getting questions wrong. If you don’t understand after reading the answer explanation in the Official guide, turn to other sources like study groups, tutors or forums.
4. Keep an error log to identify any weaknesses. This can be very helpful in GMAT Sentence Correction to help you get used to how grammar rules are applied.
5. Read the question carefully. Very often in the GMAT you can get the right answer to the wrong question. Pay close attention to the wording. In the GMAT Verbal section, wording is very precise.
For your GMAT Verbal practice and to review multiple GMAT sample questions check out our GMAT Sample Questions & Answers.
Read our other GMAT section guides: