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Can you tell us how to get a killer Verbal score?

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Can you tell us how to get a killer Verbal score?  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 23 Nov 2018, 07:42
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Hey jennpt

Could you please share your experience of getting V51 on Verbal section of GMAT and give some tips to non native speakers on how to get a killer Verbal score?

Thanks & Regards,

Manish
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Originally posted by CAMANISHPARMAR on 23 Nov 2018, 07:33.
Last edited by workout on 23 Nov 2018, 07:42, edited 2 times in total.
Edited the title, the previous title seems like a clickbait
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Re: Can you tell us how to get a killer Verbal score?  [#permalink]

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New post 24 Nov 2018, 15:08
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Hi Manish,

Thanks for your question. I'll do my best to answer.

As with every story, it helps to have a little background.
I grew up in the US and have traditionally been extremely successful on standardized tests. In high school, I scored a perfect 800 on the Verbal side of the SAT on my second attempt.
I first took the GMAT as an MBA candidate in 2005. I scored a 700 then, because I completely ran out of time on the quant section and did not answer the last 5 questions. CATs were totally new to me and I had not taken any practice exams before sitting for the real exam (in 2004/2005, I'm not sure if there were practice CATs available). I was a bit weirded out by the idea of a CAT and so I did every quant question twice (literally) in order to try to avoid silly mistakes. That sounds ridiculous now, but I had always ended up with big chunks of time at the end of the SAT, so it never occurred to me that I could run out of time on an exam. After that first attempt, I wanted to retake the exam but my advisor at the time reminded me that a 700 was the 94th percentile (it was then! how times have changed ...) and that I would certainly get into my target program. I did get in, and I didn't have any reason to touch the GMAT again until 2013, when I took a part-time job as a GMAT Verbal coach in Paris.

I scored the V51 in the summer of 2016. At that time, I had been tutoring/coaching GMAT Verbal for 3 years - first at a small firm in Paris, then for two firms online once I moved to Berlin in mid-2015. At my job in Paris, I only worked with students on the Verbal side of the exam, as the firm had a specialist model for tutors. However, once I moved, the two firms I started teaching for required that I also coach the Quant side, so I got up to speed.
One of these firms I was coaching for wanted to say that they only employed 99th percentile tutors. I loved tutoring, but I didn't want to be asked to lie about my score, so I made plans to take the exam again to update the score. It's actually a little tricky to prep for the exam as a tutor because you've already seen all the good questions! I was totally spoiled on the GMATPrep question bank because I'd discussed so many of the questions with my students. I took a Manhattan and a Veritas mock exam in the 10 days before my test date, and scored 750 on each, though I don't remember the Q/V breakdown.

I went to the testing center first and foremost to experience some of the aspects that my students often asked questions about: the procedures for breaks, the scratch pad notebook, and the testing environment. (A lot has changed since 2005!) My second goal was to get a 750, which was the 99th percentile at the time.

I did not go to the testing center expecting to get a V51. And I think that is actually an important point - I don't believe that GMAT rewards arrogance or perfectionistic tendencies. I did expect to do very well, but I anticipated that there might be one or two questions on the Verbal where I didn't have a mind-meld with GMAT.

I was also a few months pregnant at the time with my son. Luckily I felt fine physically, and I had put to rest any nagging worries that I could have "pregnancy brain" and therefore not full control of my abilities.

The experience of the verbal side of the exam was frankly unremarkable, because there was nothing that surprised me. (Maybe that was the surprise - that there were no surprises. I don't remember feeling really torn between two answers anywhere in the Verbal.) But I had spent the better part of the last three years talking about these types of questions and having to distill my own explanations for GMAT's logic and criteria for good answers.

There are some aspects of my story that just aren't relatable for many test-takers: my experience with US standardized tests, or the sheer amount of time I've spent reviewing GMAT questions and discussing them. Even the fact that I wasn't taking the exam in order to gain admission to a top business school - that's unlike most candidates and certainly represents a less stressful situation. But here are some things I would suggest that motivated candidates, including non-natives, can take away:

1. When you are in exam mode, don't focus on your results (which are in the future), focus on your process (which is here and now). In practice, develop the ways that you will attack each type of question, and then execute on those plans consistently throughout the exam. When you are in the exam, your focus needs to be on the question in front of you - not dwelling on mistakes you made in practice, and not dreaming/dreading what score will show up at the end. If you find your mind drifting to the past or the future, bring it back to the present by giving very clear instructions about the process to follow for the question before you. (This is called Instructional Self-Talk and it works well for athletes and others in high pressure situations.)

2. If there is something that is worrying you during practice, find a way to truly address it before you sit for the exam. For me, this was the worry that I might experience "pregnancy brain" and somehow have my capabilities compromised by the hard work my body was doing. I had to make peace with that well before I walked into the testing center. Writing down your worrying thoughts and talking about them with someone can make a huge difference. (I also recommend using the Thought Distortion categories from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to identify the faulty thinking pattern in your worrying thoughts.)

3. Whenever you miss a question in practice, try to come up with a very clear explanation of a) why the correct answer is the best of these five choices, and b) why your chosen answer is 'broken'. Write down this explanation. Come back to your explanations to reinforce the qualities of a good GMAT answer (and the characteristics of a weak/suspect answer).

4. If at all possible, find the opportunity to teach what you have learned to someone else. shekhar_2017 had a great debrief in which he mentioned that he was able to teach his study buddy, who was newer to the GMAT than he was. Many of you are also doing this on GMAT Club, creating a fabulous learning experience for everyone. This process of teaching and explaining forces you to get clear on what constitutes a winning GMAT answer, and you'll use this to measure answer choices on practice questions and on the exam.

5. Read. Read the New York Times and the Economist all the time. Science News is another good choice, as many of you know. Read on the train while you are commuting. During lunch break at the office. Read about subjects that you have no background in and that would normally seem boring to you. When possible, strike up conversations with smart people in fields quite different from yours and ask them to explain to you an important issue or controversy in their field. (This might actually work as a dating strategy too, but that is beside the point ;) ) Make it your mission to gain an understanding of something new, in English, every day. You don't need to become an expert in all of these topics, but you do need to broaden your comfort zone and enhance your ability to understand controversies, mysteries, and trends in fields outside your own.

Does this help? Let me know if there are specific questions that you'd like me to answer.

Best, Jennifer
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Can you tell us how to get a killer Verbal score?  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Nov 2018, 04:38
Hey jennpt

Thank you for sharing your detailed experience and very useful tips to get a killer Verbal score on GMAT. I am thankful to you for taking the time out and being very honest and candid in your reply. I connect with your explanations that's why I really wanted to know that how can one get a V51, when even a V40 seems a remote possibility.

From your experience one thing I have realised that once you have strategy in place for tackling various questions types and if you have mastered the content the way you have then surely one is expected to simply crush this test the way you have :)

Congratulations once again!! It's amazing to know that you appeared for GMAT when you were pregnant. I am sure your son is going to be a GMAT prodigy :) ... kudos to you for pulling out this score when you were not at your best, both physically and mentally.

jennpt wrote:

2. If there is something that is worrying you during practice, find a way to truly address it before you sit for the exam. For me, this was the worry that I might experience "pregnancy brain" and somehow have my capabilities compromised by the hard work my body was doing. I had to make peace with that well before I walked into the testing center. Writing down your worrying thoughts and talking about them with someone can make a huge difference. (I also recommend using the Thought Distortion categories from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to identify the faulty thinking pattern in your worrying thoughts.)

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Re: Can you tell us how to get a killer Verbal score?  [#permalink]

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New post 27 Nov 2018, 09:41
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Hi Manish,

If you want to earn a killer verbal score, you must ensure that you are following a sound and thorough study plan, specifically one that allows you to learn linearly such that you can slowly build mastery of one verbal topic prior to moving on to the next. For example, when studying Critical Reasoning, ensure that you fully understand the essence of the various Critical Reasoning question types. Do you know the importance of an assumption within an argument? Can you easily spot a conclusion? Do you know how to resolve a paradox? Do you know how to properly evaluate cause and effect? Do you know how to properly weaken or strengthen an argument? These are just a few examples; you really need to take a deep dive into the individual Critical Reasoning topics to develop the necessary skills to properly attack any Critical Reasoning questions that you encounter.

As you learn each Critical Reasoning problem type, do focused practice so that you can track your skill in answering each type. If, for example, you incorrectly answered a Weaken the Argument question, ask yourself why. Did you make a careless mistake? Did you not recognize the question type? Were you doing too much analysis in your head? Did you skip over a keyword in an answer choice? You must thoroughly analyze your mistakes and seek to turn weaknesses into strengths by focusing on the question types you dread seeing and the questions you take a long time to answer correctly.

When practicing Reading Comprehension, you need to develop a reading strategy that is both efficient and thorough. Reading too fast and not understanding what you have read are equally as harmful as reading too slow and using up too much time. When attacking Reading Comprehension passages, you must have one clear goal in mind: to understand the context of what you are reading. However, you must do so efficiently, so you need to avoid getting bogged down in the details of each paragraph and focus on understanding the main point of each paragraph. That being said, do not fall into the trap of thinking that you can just read the intro and the conclusion and comprehend the main idea of a paragraph. As you read a paragraph, consider how the context of the paragraph relates to previous paragraphs, so you can continue developing your overall understanding of the passage. Furthermore, as you practice, focus on the exact types of questions with which you struggle: Find the Main Idea, Inference, Author’s Tone, etc. As with Critical Reasoning, analyze your incorrect answers to better determine why you tend to get a particular question type wrong, and then improve upon your weaknesses. You can perfect your reading strategy with a lot of practice, but keep in mind that GMAT Reading Comprehension passages are not meant to be stimulating. So, to better prepare yourself to tackle such bland passages, read magazines with similar content and style, such as the Economist, Scientific American, and Smithsonian.

Sentence Correction is a bit of a different animal compared to Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning. There are three aspects to getting correct answers to GMAT Sentence Correction questions: what you know, such as grammar rules, what you see, such as violations of grammar rules and the logic of sentence structure, and what you do, such as carefully considering each answer choice in the context of the non-underlined portion of the sentence. To drive up your Sentence Correction score, you likely will have to work on all three of those aspects.

Regarding what you know, first and foremost, you MUST know your grammar rules. Let's be clear, though: GMAT Sentence Correction is not just a test of knowledge of grammar rules. The reason for learning grammar rules is so that you can determine what sentences convey and whether sentences are well-constructed. In fact, in many cases, incorrect answers to Sentence Correction questions are grammatically flawless. Thus, often your task is to use your knowledge of grammar rules to determine which answer choice creates the most logical sentence meaning and structure.

This determination of whether sentences are well-constructed and logical is the second aspect of finding correct answers to Sentence Correction questions, what you see. To develop this skill, you probably have to slow way down. You won't develop this skill by spending under two minutes per question. For a while, anyway, you have to spend time with each question, maybe even ten or fifteen minutes on one question sometimes, analyzing every answer choice until you see the details that you have to see in order to choose the correct answer. As you go through the answer choices, consider the meaning conveyed by each version of the sentence. Does the meaning make sense? Even if you can tell what the version is SUPPOSED to convey, does the version really convey that meaning? Is there a verb to go with the subject? Do all pronouns clearly refer to nouns? By slowing way down and looking for these details, you learn to see what you have to see in order to clearly understand which answer to a Sentence Correction question is correct.

There is only one correct answer to any Sentence Correction question, there are clear reasons why that choice is correct and the others are not, and those reasons are not that the correct version simply "sounds right." In fact, the correct version often sounds a little off at first. That correct answers may sound a little off is not surprising. If the correct answer were always the one that sounded right, then most people most of the time would get Sentence Correction questions correct, without really knowing why the wrong answers were wrong and the correct answers were correct. So, you have to go beyond choosing what "sounds right" and learn to clearly see the logical reasons why one choice is better than all of the others.

As for the third aspect of getting Sentence Correction questions correct, what you do, the main thing you have to do is be very careful. You have to make sure that you are truly considering the structures of sentences and the meanings conveyed rather than allowing yourself to be tricked into choosing trap answers that sound right but don't convey logical meanings. You also have to make sure that you put some real energy into finding the correct answers. Finding the correct answer to a Sentence Correction question may take bouncing from choice to choice repeatedly until you start to see the differences between the choices that make all choices wrong except for one. Often, when you first look at the choices, only one or two seem obviously incorrect. It may take time for you to see what you have to see. Getting the right answers takes a certain work ethic. You have to be determined to see the differences and to figure out the precise reasons that one choice is correct.

To improve what you do when you answer Sentence Correction questions, seek to become aware of how you are going about answering them. Are you being careful and looking for logic and details, or are you quickly eliminating choices that sound a little off and then choosing the best of the rest? If you choose an incorrect answer, consider what you did that resulted in your arriving at that answer and what you could do differently in order to arrive at correct answers more consistently. Furthermore, see how many questions you can get correct in a row as you practice. If you break your streak by missing one, consider what you could have done differently to extend your streak.

As with your Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension regimens, after learning a particular Sentence Correction topic, engage in focused practice with 30 questions or more that involve that topic. As your Sentence Correction skills improve, you’ll then want to practice with questions that test you on skills from multiple SC topics.

You also may find my article with more information regarding
how to score a 700+ on the GMAT helpful.

Feel free to reach out with any questions.

Good luck!
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Re: Can you tell us how to get a killer Verbal score? &nbs [#permalink] 27 Nov 2018, 09:41
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