The GMAT Verbal Section: Useful Information and Advice

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GMAT( Graduate Management Aptitude Test), is the first hurdle that has to be crossed by all MBA aspirants who want to secure a place in any of the top business schools. It is a three and half hour test which is divided into three main sections - two 75-minutes multiple choice sections ( quantitative and verbal) and an hour essay section, consisting of two scored typewritten essays, each 30 minutes long. Thus, technically, the complete GMAT verbal section consists of 75 minutes of multiple choice questions and 60 minutes of essays.

The main 75 minute verbal section of the test, consists of 41 multiple choice questions which include 11 experimental questions. The 41 questions are a random assortment of three types of questions.They are:

  • Sentence Correction
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Critical Reasoning

Let’s take a look as to what each of these types consists of.

Sentence Correction.

The GMAT verbal section will consists of 15 sentence correction questions which will be randomly arranged throughout this section. Each of these questions consist of a sentence which will be partly or fully underlined. The test taker’s job will be to choose the best of the five options that is grammatically correct. GMAT doesn’t test all the grammar rules, but it has a peculiar “style” that the test taker needs to recognize through continuous practice. Often there would be instances where a sentence might seem correct according to the conventions of standard written English, but it might not be considered correct by the GMAT rules. Moreover, sentence correction not only comprise of only grammar rules but also consists of rules that identify good style, logic and efficiency of a sentence. An easy way to correctly choose the right answer is to identify a set of classic errors that the GMAT test creators try to test over and over. Sentence correction is supposed to be known as that area of the verbal section wherein a student can easily improve his or her scores in less time and with little efforts.

Reading Comprehension

The name might sound “self-explanatory”, but this part of the GMAT test is not to be taken lightly at all. A person might have developed reading skills throughout his or her school and college career but these skills are ill-suited if this part of the verbal section is to be aced. The reading comprehension will consists of four randomly selected passages written using difficult context which would be similar to technical prose from areas of business, social sciences and natural sciences. There would also be 3 to 4 questions following each of these passages, which will have five options each to choose from. It is to be noted that the passage would not be a “leisure” reading but an aggressive one which would require the test taker not only to identify the essence of the passage but also to decipher the hidden meaning and read between the lines in a very short time.

Critical Reasoning

Critical Reasoning is supposed to be known as the toughest part of the GMAT verbal section. Critical reasoning requires students to judge and analyze an argument on the basis of appropriate logic. This part requires less intution and more of a strategic approach. There will be approximately 13 critical reasoning questions that would require the test taker to break down an argument in order to identify the author’s assumption, on which most of the questions will be based. This part consists of some real difficult questions for which none of the strategies discovered to date have been 100 percent successful. For answering these type of questions, the test-taker should consider himself as a lawyer or a debater and try to evaluate each argument from different perspectives. It takes a lot of practice to identify the tricks the test-makers use for this type of questions.

Analytical Writing Assessment

The GMAT verbal section includes two scored typewritten essays that will check a student’s analytical and writing skills. A time limit of half an hour is allotted for each essay. The essays do not come with the main 75 minute verbal section but at the very start of the test. Unlike the other two sections, the essays’ marks are not flashed immediately after the exam but are sent later, after the essays are reviewed by the test-makers. The two types of topics will be as follows:

Analysis of an Argument

The analysis of an argument will consist of a brief argument, that would generally reflect an author’s point of view. The test-taker will be required to present an essay that would depict his viewpoint as to how logically persuasive the document is. He would be required to critique the argument from various perspectives and to analyze the argument’s line of reasoning and examples used. A perfect essay will also consist of the test taker’s “two cents” on what could help to strengthen the argument’s conclusion.

Analysis of an Issue

The analysis of an issue will present the test-taker with a few sentences discussing a general issue. The test-taker will have to present his or her point of view with convincing examples that will analyze the issue from multiple angles. The reasoning and argument should be generally taken from the test-taker’s own experience and knowledge.


GMAT verbal workbook, fourth edition by KAPLAN