The verbal section of the GMAT/GRE doesn’t generally get as much love as the quantitative section and with good reason. By and large, there are easier points to capture on the quantitative portion than on the verbal. While there are strategies that can be applied to boost your verbal score and, yes, practice does help, natural aptitude plays a bigger part in your verbal score than it does on your quant score. Said another way, you can suck at math and still increase your quant score quite a bit; but if you struggle with interpreting language and making linguistic connections in a reading context, your verbal score’s upward mobility seems to be capped at 10-15% on either exam (GMAT/GRE).
Still, the best way to start sharpening the type of verbal reasoning skills tested on the GMAT/GRE is to start reading several highbrow publications that demand the kind of critical thought found in the verbal section of these exams. Further down on this page we’ve supplied a short list of the types of publication we’re talking about (no, US Weekly and People didn’t make the cut). Now then, let’s talk about what we mean by reading critically…
After you read an article, decide whether you agree or disagree with the position taken. In order to do so you, you’ll have to first understand the position. Now these are compelling writers who are experts in their field, so disagreeing with them will require a deep understanding of the points they’ve made. This is what we mean by reading critically. You are not reading for leisure here, as you would sitting poolside scanning Sports Illustrated; or a reading a profile piece on Colin Farrell’s abs in Marie Claire while painting your nails. You are reading specifically for two reasons: comprehension and debate. This is an adjustment for most people, who read for entertainment and amusement. The more you are amused or entertained by a reading passage on the GMAT/GRE, the fewer questions you will get correct. It’s just that simple.
A good approach to take when reading is, for every one minute of reading, take two minutes to debate with yourself the article. Five minutes to read, 10 minutes to ponder various perpectives on the piece. Practicing this will not only improve your reading comprehension–and thus your score–but also bolster your comfort with the critical reasoning arguments on the GMAT (for the GRE, your vocabulary will also naturally improve). We have found that far more significant score increases are experienced among those who take up the type of regular outside reading we are recommending here than those who slave away answering every GMAT/GRE verbal question every printed.
For those so inclined, here are the publications we recommend:
- The Economist
- The New York Times (Op-Ed section or Book Review)
- The Wall Street Journal (Op-Ed section)
- The New Republic
- Time (especially the first-person columns)
As always, good luck studying and if you have any questions on this or previous articles, feel free to contact us.