GMAT Study Plan for Verbal by your humble servant
Suggest study time:
1.5-2 months for 2-3 hrs 5 days a weekExpected Verbal Score:
V35+Level of commitment
: high (slightly above girlfriend/boyfriend)Synopsis:
Combine 3 things:
- Methodically cover each area without jumping around
- Review previous day's lesson & your mistakes
- Read 1,000-2,000 pages of good quality fiction books
Have you ever created a report or a presentation that you were truly proud of? Maybe it was in the 7th grade or in college. Something that you felt you could impress someone with or perhaps a project that had an amazing level of attention to detail? It did not have to be appreciated or recognized but if anyone looked at it, they saw that a lot of work, effort, time, and love was put into it. Think of that - now you must do the same for the verbal section of the GMAT if you are serious about getting a solid verbal score.
Without commitment/obsession/love for the GMAT, it will be hard to achieve a serious improvement. Even before we get started with this plan, there are certain success factors (study habits) that must followed for all of these recommendations to work. Your success will be greatly determined by how much you are willing to follow these:
- Do not rush
- Spend the good hours of the day to study for the GMAT - if you study at night, on the train, or between TV shows, your learning will be sloppy and results will be inconsistent
- You must be methodical - if you read about the sequence of tenses and you have no idea what it is and it is not covered in your SC book - you must learn it elsewhere
- Make notes (not in the book since that's a lazy ass way that does not work. Actually do not write anything in the book). If you see something valuable/new - write it out in your notebook
Before you start, make sure you have taken a diagnostic test and my suggestion is taking a GMAT Prep. Many believe that you waste a very valuable test by taking it early (these are the real gmat test questions and this is the most accurate predictor of your score). However, I would still suggest you do (here is why I think you are not wasting it
). If you are not convinced, feel free to take any other one and use gmat score calculator
to adjust. Start with area you are most comfortable with: CR, RC, or SC
Part 1: Sentence Correction (SC)
SC was the easiest section for me, partially because I had to study English grammar for another test (English Language proficiency test similar to TOEFL), and I thought SC was the most clear-cut section. SC is based on rules and assuming you know the rules it is very clear which answer option is right - it is not something subjective such as CR or RC, which requires logic/processing. The key to SC was learning all the rules (which were finite) and once I knew most of them, answering SC's was easy. (not sure if you caught this, but in the last 2 sentences I switched from past to present and back to the past tense. Not something traditionally considered correct and I hope you caught it; if not - you will have to train your ear. More on that later).
- Use one of the following books (MGMAT SC, PowerScore SC, or VeritasPrep SC) to study for SC and to nail down the strategy. MGMAT SC and PowerScore SC are very similar in terms of content/strategies and it is usually not recommended to get both. If you want additional help you can get VeritasPrep SC or Kaplan Verbal Workbook. (I have studied using Kaplan Verbal Workbook and found their strategies solid and effective but MGMAT/Powerscore/VeritasPrep provide more in-depth coverage).
- Extra Step: 1-3 extra weeks
If you are not a native speaker, before you start tackling SC, you should get a good grip on English Grammar. I would suggest using the best & free GMAT grammar book - GMAT Club's Grammar Book. However, you are welcome to use any other resources you can find such as MGMAT Verbal Foundations, Doing Grammar, Kaplan Verbal Foundations & notes scattered across this forum (most prominent are listed at the bottom of this section).
- Start reading fiction books - plan to read 1,000 - 2,000 pages before the test. You are welcome to start reading The Economist or Wall Street Journal but I would argue (you are welcome to disagree) that it is not an effective way to train your ear. On the other hand, reading fiction with intricate plots that capture your attention and stay on your mind are a much better way to train your ear for SC. I have compiled a list of books I call GMAT Fiction (also read the introduction before the fiction list). The books are just some broad recommendations for books you can find in a local library that found very interesting and thought of recommending for everyone. I have provided a short synopsis next to each title. Reading a significant number of pages that you actually WANT to read helps to subconsciously train your ear. You will be much better at recognizing sentences that sound off, be able to deal with complex structures, and just a lot more comfortable with English Grammar. I would say this was the most critical component of my SC strategy which allowed me to get V42 (96th percentile in verbal). Reading fiction allowed me to spend less than 1 minute on each SC, thus save enough time to tackle my nemesis - Reading Comprehension
- Create notes & error log (computer notes work great and you can download an error log here but so do notebooks). Write out the following items:
- List of all questions you got wrong along with reasons why (you will use this list as your "custom exercise list"
- Every trap you encounter (there are not that many for SC; more relevant for other sections)
- Important items such as new rules and new words you may not be familiar with
- Your SC checklist. When you have gone though the underlined part of the sentence and nothing seems wrong or worse two options seems correct you have two choices: 1) read through others and find differences and see if those differences were incorrect, thus possibly conclude that "A" was the correct answer or 2) Run through a check-list of items you may have forgotten to check (the less frequent rules) such as passive voice, vague pronouns, illogical construction, etc (sorry I don't have my own list anymore). I found it to be much faster to mentally run through this one (takes me 10 seconds) and see that nothing is wrong with the sentence than the first approach. You can build this list from your error log. Here is a great example of an SC Checklist: sc-strategies-checklist-107121.html
- SC Resources:
GMAT Grammar Book - Free
Compilation of 20 questions on As/Like
Get better at SC with videos
Free GMAT Pill Sentence Correction Videos
Part 2: Critical Reasoning (CR)
The only reason CR is part 2 is because it was the second easiest topic (this may come in a different order for you).
- Step 1: Get the right tools & materials (See the latest verbal book reviews) and don't try to save $5 on $200,000 degree. Most feel that the PowerScpre CR is the best book out there (it is actually a complete replica of the LSAT book by PowerScore, just without some of the LSAT-unique sections). The other two books you may want to consider are the MGMAT CR and Veritas Prep CR (2 books actually).
- Alternative Materials: Another alternative is the Kaplan Verbal Workbook (not as detailed as the other book options and probably does not fit the description of "ultimate" but it has solid info and strategies in it, just maybe a tad short but works very well if you are short on time. Same applies to the PowerScore Verbal Bible - a generally unknown book.
- Optional Step: something that worked for me was treating CR as a game. You may think it is sick (and it probably is) but it sure helps make GMAT more fun. My favorite question type was Assumption questions - it was a world I never knew existed and I made a habit of trying to pin down the assumption an author made in a magazine, book, or anything else I read. I would also read through GMAT questions I have done in the past (not assumption questions) and would still try to pin down the assumption. It was a game, it was fun, and I got very good with assumptions, which not only helps with CR but is also very valuable when you have to prove your point or build an argument
- There are a lot of resources out there, including what we have in the CR forum. My suggestion would be that you give all of these resources a fair chance but don't waste your time on them. Spend 80% of your time on the book you have selected to be your CR guide.
- You may have built your confidence on the Math section and SC but now comes the time that requires you to be humble and follow instructions - for the CR and RC sections, it is absolutely critical that you follow the strategy in the book exactly as it is laid out. You may disagree, you may feel that reading the question first is a waste of time or perhaps trying to answer the question in your own words is a waste of time but you will be proven wrong. You can take it from me or find out yourself - feel free to choose. My suggestion is that you follow strategy/directions exactly as they are.
- The most helpful exercise on the CR for me (and a real eye opener) was answering the question without reading the choices first. You must be able to do this. If you can't do it, don't even bother moving along. You must answer every CR question in your own words first - that's the best and only strategy you can depend on to work for you and to save you time.
- More important than for any other question type is to train your ear with the official questions before you take the exam. You are welcome to use any book you want, but it is important that you go through a good set of questions from the Official Guide or GMAT Prep at the final stage. Many test providers are good at matching official questions in math or SC but they have the hardest time imitating the logic behind the official questions, and so they are always a little bit off. They are great for practice but you need to finetune your ear before the test.
- CR Resources:
CR for beginners
CR Methods to find answers
Collection of CR tips
CR Video Lessons
Free GMAT Pill Critical Reasoning Videos
Part 3: Reading Comprehension (RC)
My most feared enemy and the hardest section was RC - I had a 40-50% success rate on it when just working on exercises in a book and if I took a test or computer based exercises where I could not control/extend time, the result was very often even worse. My challenge was lack of time to read the passage - I would rush through the passage, trying to catch as much details as possible (I have taken some speed reading classes when I was 14 or 15 but I am not sure about their value - if anything they gave me the wrong strategy) and at the end, walk out with a lot of details but unable to answer half the questions. I would then spend 2-3 mins per question trying to find the answer in the passage and re-reading the same sections of the passage over and over again. You are probably noticing that something is off with this strategy but I did not when I was answering the questions - I thought that was the best I could do. I have read the strategy of reading the entire passage first carefully (make notes, analyze authors tone, etc) but I did not think it was for me. I felt it was for native speakers who could read fast, get through the content, and not get bogged down in words they did not know. But after a week of really bad results (50% is really bad), and no other alternatives, I have tried the method of reading the full text. At first, I just did it to see how long it would take me to do this option, so I timed myself just reading the passage. I believe it was about 6 minutes. Then i answered 4 questions following it and that took 3 minutes (much less time than usual per question) but overall, it was 9 minutes (not very good if you only have 110 seconds per question or under 2 mins). However, the good news was that I got 3 out of 4 right (not a big deal since it could be a fluke). I practiced a few more passages and the results were very encouraging and impressive. I got close to 80% success rate based on 4 passages and 16 questions. Now my focus was to cut down reading time taken per question (I was never really able to improve it) and to answer more questions correctly (80% is good but 90% is better). What I ended up doing at the end was improving my SC and CR timing enough to compensate for my reading deficiency (more of this is covered in the timing strategies on the GMAT
). I attribute my 96th verbal percentile to this reading strategy as well as reading fiction books and being comfortable with complex texts with unknown words.
- There are 2 main books for RC: Manhattan GMAT RC and Veritas Prep RC. Both are fairly skinny
- Alternative Materials: both of the mentioned above books that are generally shorter but are not as detailed either: Kaplan Verbal Workbook and PowerScore Verbal Bible.
- Polish your strategy (RC strategies are discussed here)
- Read Fiction (more about this here: GMAT Fiction)
- Learn to read text from the author perspective - GMAT does not care about details or facts. That's there to throw you off and keep your mind off the main element - the reason and purpose of the passage/paragraph/sentence. When you read a passage you may see a lot of facts, like leaves on a tree, but the key is to see the purpose behind it, that's similar to seeing the branches and the tree trunk that's holding those leaves up. You must learn how to see through the leaves even if you may not see the branches behind them. Ask why the author put this paragraph, why here, what is the tone, which direction does it go, and will it reverse at the end?
- RC Resources:
GMAT Fiction - overview of books to help you get more confident with reading
GMAT Club's RC strategy discussion
Learn RC through videos
Free GMAT Pill Reading Comprehension Videos
General Tips Read through this Study Plan too for the general idea
Make sure you have an overall strategy for timing and such (Reference: Timing Strategies on the GMAT
Hot Topics for Verbal Section
1. Does GMAT discriminate against non-native speakers
Verbal Resources:Looking for company to fight Verbal?Verbal BooksAll Verbal ResourcesRecommended Fiction ListGMAT IdiomsGMAT Vocabulary
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