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GMAT: How to prepare for the Verbal section

September 15, 2010 17:58 IST

Last week we took a look at how you can sign up to take the GMAT and the exam pattern. In the second part of our series on GMAT prep, we look at the Verbal section and how you can prepare.

To crack any test, having an insight about the test is important, so as to identify your strengths. The GMAT is a very important component of the business school application process and candidates need to score really well in the GMAT in order to gain admission into good B-schools across the globe.

As discussed in the previous article, the GMAT is a computer-adaptive test. In a computer adaptive test (CAT), the computer screen displays one question at a time. These questions are chosen from a large pool of questions categorised by content and difficulty.

The first question is always of medium difficulty, the selection of each question thereafter is determined by the responses. In other words the GMAT-CAT adjusts to the ability level of the candidate. Students cannot skip questions. Once you have marked the answer and proceded you can't move back or change your answer.

Each section and question is time-bound and test-takers need to complete the same in the allotted time. There are mandatory breaks between each section for about five minutes or so. Candidates do require a ceryain level of familiarity with computers in order to appear for the test properly.

How to prepare for the Verbal section
This section comprises 41 questions based on Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning and Sentence Correction. The number break-up as below:

  • Critical Reasoning: 12
  • Reading Comprehension: 14
  • Sentence Correction: 15
  • Total: 41 questions in 75 minutes

Critical reasoning
In these questions you have to analyse the situation on which each question is based, and then select the answer choice that is the most appropriate response to the question.

No specialised knowledge of any particular field is needed for answering the questions; each question or assumption has five possible answers. Your task is to evaluate each of the five possible choices and select the best one.


  • Read the set of statements on which a question is based very carefully, with close attention to such matters as (1) what is put forward as factual information, (2) what is not said but necessarily follows from what is said, (3) what is claimed to follow from facts that have been put forward, and (4) how well substantiated are any claims to the effect that a particular conclusion follows from the facts that have been put forward.
  • If a question is based on an argument try to read the tone, be careful to identify clearly which part of the argument is its conclusion. It's not always necessary that the conclusion comes at the end of the text. It may occur somewhere in the middle, or it may even come at the beginning. Be cautious to clues in the text that one of the statements made is not simply asserted but is said to follow logically from another statement or other statements in the text.
  • Determine exactly what the question demands; in fact, you might find it helpful to read the question first, before reading the material on which it is based.
  • Read all the choices carefully before deciding upon any one choice. Any assumption regarding the choice made by you may prove risky.

Reading comprehension
This section is based on 3-4 passages in the areas of business, social science or natural sciences. Approximately 3-4 questions are asked based on each passage. Questions will come one by one on the screen. This section is to test your critical reading ability in a given time span.


  • Even though the content is familiar to you, do not let it influence your choice of answer to the questions. Answers should be based on what has been stated and implied in the passage.
  • Skim the passages the first time through or even to read the first question before reading each passage.
  • Look for key words and phrases, and concentrate on what is being discussed. Note how each fact relates to an idea or an argument. Note where the passage moves from one idea to the next. Separate main ideas from supporting ideas. Determine what conclusions are reached and why.
  • Read the questions critically; make sure that you have understood the question. Read all the choices carefully, never assume that you have selected the best answer without first reading all the choices.

Sentence correction
In this section your command over English grammar and its appropriate usage is tested. To succeed in this section, you need a command of sentence structure including tense and mood, subject and verb agreement, proper case, parallel structure, and other basics.

You will be given sentences in which all or part of the sentence is underlined. You will have to choose the best phrasing of the underlined part from five alternatives. Remember that (A) will always be the original phrasing.


  • Go through the entire sentence carefully. Get to understand the specific idea or relationship that the sentence may express.
  • Since the part of the sentence that may be incorrect is underlined, concentrate on evaluating part for errors and possible corrections before reading the answer choices.
  • Read each answer choice carefully. The first answer choice always repeats the underlined portion of the original sentence. Choose this answer if you think that the sentence is best as it stands, but only after examining all of the other choices.
  • Try to determine how well each choice corrects whatever you consider wrong with the original sentence.
  • Make sure that you evaluate the sentence and the choices in terms of general clarity, grammatical and idiomatic usage, economy and precision of language, and appropriateness of diction.
  • Read the whole sentence, substituting the choice that you prefer for the underlined part. A choice may be wrong because it does not fit grammatically or structurally with the rest of the sentence. Remember that some sentences will require no corrections. Hence, option (A) should be the answer to such sentences.

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