The Verbal section of the GMAT is certainly a challenging one. The combination of reading a substantial amount of content and answering questions correctly within a stringent time frame makes it all the more difficult.
However, the good news is that with a focus on a few concepts, the GMAT Verbal section can be mastered effectively.
In this piece, we focus on exactly those concepts that will make a significant impact on your GMAT score.
Remember this one golden rule on the GMAT verbal section - you are not looking for the universally best answer; you are looking for the best answer of the given answer options. This is exactly where the process of elimination comes into place.
And simply speaking, elimination is the most logical thing to do. Let me tell you why. When you are eliminating answer options, you are looking at one incorrect word that can turn the entire option wrong. On the other hand, if you are looking to pick up the right answer, you must ensure that each word in the right answer is correct. Isn’t the latter a lot more difficult?
Moreover, you have 65 minutes to answer 36 multiple-choice questions. This means that you have less than two minutes to answer each question. So, the GMAT really evaluates how well you are able to make a decision about the best answer under time constraints.
And how do you make that judgement? By, of course, using elimination.
Now, in the process of elimination, remember that your job is not to judge the correct answer. It is to just identify the best answer to the given choices by eliminating the others.
Students often ask me how they can breach the elusive 700+ score on the GMAT. And the only answer I have is - the better you are able to eliminate, the higher you will score!
Here, the big question is how do you eliminate answer options?
On the Sentence Correction, elimination must be done primarily on the basis of grammar rules. I do notice that a great number of GMAT aspirants pick the right answer because it “sounds right.” But isn’t this extremely relative? What might sound right to one might not sound right to the other. And, unfortunately, the higher the level of questions on SC, the hazier the boundaries become, and more than one option begins to “sound right.” This is exactly where grammar plays its part. With a good grip on grammar, you’d be able to eliminate it better.
For Reading Comprehension, there are 3 major red flags that can help you eliminate options effectively.
1. Look out for options that state information that is not mentioned in the passage.
2. Cross out options that are factually incorrect.
3. Eliminate options that contain information that is partially true and partially false.
For Reading Comprehension, it would not be wise to invest a lot of time in reading the passage in great detail. This is because you might end up wasting valuable time on ideas that you might not even be tested on.
So, look out for these few things when reading passages:
1. Broadly, the main idea of the passage
2. Transition words such as however, but, this, and although, which bring about major changes in the tone of the author and in the content
3. Purpose of each paragraph
4. Correlation between various paragraphs
Once you have identified the overall context, move forward to answering the questions. You must keep coming back to the passage to answer them. And, because you already have a good idea of the context, you’d eliminate options to get to the right answer.
After these two generic strategies, let me delve into more specific grammar rules that are often tested on the GMAT.
One of the most commonly tested concepts on the GMAT is subject-verb agreement.
This rule states that the subject and the verb of a sentence must agree with each other in number. This means that if the subject is singular, the verb must be singular and if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural.
However, the GMAT is known to complicate things a little bit, isn’t it?
So, there are a few ways in which the GMAT complicates this rule. Firstly, it would make it difficult to identify the right subject by bringing in a lot of details about the subject. Secondly, it would ensure that the subject and the verb are placed as far away from each other as possible. This, again, makes it tough for test takers to bring about compatibility between the two.
Let me give you an example of this question.
The intricate structure of the compound insect eye, having hundreds of miniature eyes called ommatidia, help explain why scientists have assumed that it evolved independently of the vertebrate eye.
A. having hundreds of miniature eyes called ommatidia helps explain why scientists have assumed that it
B. having hundreds of miniature eyes that are called ommatidia helps explain why scientists have assumed that they
C. with its hundreds of miniature eyes that are called ommatidia, helps explain scientists' assuming that they
D. with its hundreds of miniature eyes called ommatidia, help explain scientists' assuming that it
E. with its hundreds of miniature eyes called ommatidia, helps explain why scientists have assumed that it
Firstly, let us understand the subject of the sentence. What is the main idea in the sentence? It is the ‘structure’ of the compound insect eye and not the eye itself. Now, this subject must agree with the verb in number. And this is where the problem arises.
Because of all the information between the commas (having hundreds of miniature eyes called ommatidia), it is very difficult to identify the verb that the subject must agree with. In this case, the verb is ‘help.’ And, because the subject (structure) is singular, it must use a singular verb, which would be ‘helps.’
This helps us eliminate options A and D.
The other major difference between the options is the last word of the underlined portion - ‘it’ vs ‘they.’ The question to ask here is, what has evolved independently of the vertebrae eye? The compound eye, which is singular. Hence, the best pronoun to use is ‘it.’ This helps us eliminate options B and C, making E the best choice.
The easiest and one of the most frequently tested concepts on the GMAT is parallel structure or parallelism. And what does this mean? Simply put, all the components of a sentence must be parallel, which means they should all have the same structure.
Parallelism comes into play primarily when conjunctions are used. This is because when conjunctions are used, you are joining various elements together. And all these elements, then, must be the same structurally.
So, look out for elements that are connected using ‘and,’ ‘or,’ and using pairs such as ‘not only_but also,’ ‘between_and,’ ‘neither_nor’ and ‘either_or.’ Also, look out for lists in a sentence - all the elements in that list must be parallel.
Like I said earlier, the GMAT can complicate the easiest of the concepts for test takers. So, you’d often see lists and sub-lists, and it is for you to identify them correctly.
Here is a wonderful example of how this concept is used.
Manifestations of Islamic political militancy in the first period of religious reformism were the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, the Mahdi in Sudan, and the victory of the Usuli "mujtahids" in Shiite Iran and Iraq.
A. Manifestations of Islamic political militancy in the first period of religious reformism were the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, the Mahdi in Sudan, and
B. Manifestations of Islamic political militancy in the first period of religious reformism were shown in the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, the Mahdi in Sudan, and also
C. In the first period of religious reformism, manifestations of Islamic political militancy were the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, of the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, the Mahdi in Sudan, and
D. In the first period of religious reformism, manifestations of Islamic political militancy were shown in the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, the Mahdi in Sudan, and
E. In the first period of religious reformism, Islamic political militancy was manifested in the rise of the Wahhabis in Arabia, the Sanusi in Cyrenaica, the Fulani in Nigeria, and the Mahdi in Sudan, and in
Here, there are two major effects of the manifestations of Islamic political militancy - first, the rise of the Wahhabis, Sanusi, Fulani and Mahdi, and, second, the victory of the Usuli. These two items must have been parallel. There is also a smaller sublist here: the Wahhabis, Sanusi, Fulani, and Mahdi, which should have been parallel.
By omitting ‘and’ before the Mahdi, options A, B, C, and D fail to connect the items that should have been parallel: the rise and the victory. These options have ignored the sublist, making Wahhabis, Sanusi, Fulani, and Mahdi parallel to the victory, which is logically incorrect.
Hence, the correct option is E.
These four concepts can help you master the GMAT verbal section. For any further information on preparing for the GMAT or MBA admissions in India and abroad, connect with our expert counsellors for a 15-minute free session!