The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is intended to evaluate the ability to interpret and process information or knowledge within a specified period of time. The majority of students who register for and complete the GMAT are, for the most part, considering an advanced degree in Business, Management, Finance, Accounting, or Human Resources.
Typically, the main obstacles to reaching your target score on the GMAT begin with the bad habits we establish taking our first standardized exams. For most, that is the SAT. It is certainly not unheard of for high school students to attempt multiple strategies besides the ones that work best and that actually address the examination content. Frequently, if we don’t have a good grasp of the testing material, we avoid focusing directly on the subject. Instead, many of us resort to last-minute cramming or an all-night study session lasting a couple of days before the test date.
Now that the education community has generally accepted that standardized exams are not IQ tests, we know that things like deliberate, focused practice, flexible thinking, and studying over a period of time do increase scores. Among the best way to accomplish this is by creating a study plan geared toward your strengths and weaknesses, taking practice tests, and working with an experienced tutor familiar with the exam, and effective test-taking strategies are all good places to start.
In this article, we’ll focus on common mistakes made while taking the Verbal and Essay sections of the GMAT, and specific ways to avoid them.
The GMAT Format
In terms of the test format, the GMAT can be divided into two main sections: mathematical reasoning and verbal comprehension. In that sense, it is very similar to its SAT counterpart. The difference is that, unlike the SAT where the format poses an array of multiple-choice questions with minimal resemblance to each other, both GMAT sections present a substantial amount of information that is expected to be processed not only simultaneously, but also in a more wholesome and systemic manner. This serves to separate memory tactics from contributing to the scoring–a factor the GMAT claims to eliminate from the candidate pool.
The Verbal Section
To study efficiently, the student’s best move is to identify their personal strengths and weaknesses. If their math skills and content knowledge are strong; then, their focus should be centered on the verbal aspect of the testing. However, that does not mean that this student shouldn’t spend time reviewing elements of algebra, geometry, and arithmetic.
The verbal section hinges inordinately on mastery of English grammar and composition; on the part of the student as well as through the reading passages provided, most of which are referenced from academic or industrial fields. An effective way to prepare for those types of questions are:
- To read over diverse topics and themes in publications such as newspapers, magazines, classic literature well in advance of the test date.
This is vital for learning the techniques for identifying the main idea, supporting evidence, implication, inference, and subtle conclusions of professional writing.
- Obtain a grammar book from the public library.
This will provide the student with clear and abundant examples and exercises and is a great way to review basic writing skills if there is a serious lack of familiarity. This means reviewing: verb tense, subject-verb agreement, quantity, parallel phrasing, terminology, spelling, and so on. The sentence portion of the verbal section is merely highlighting a student’s ability to spot basic grammar inconsistencies.
The Analytical Writing Assessment
The last consideration in the often formidable verbal test is the essay. The GMAT accomplishes this measurement of aptitude by listing an argument, hypothetical or actual, preceded by a brief summary of the topic that is then followed by the writing requirement in the form of a prompt. There are two items that the student must adhere to in order to concisely and compellingly exhibit a valid response to the essay portion of the test:
- Precisely and accurately address the points presented in the question.
This may seem like common sense, but nervous students have a tendency to avoid directly addressing the question. For example, if the prompt asks you to choose a side, make sure you have chosen and stated your side within the first few sentences–and address different aspects of it throughout the essay.
The introduction paragraph, at the very least, must refer back to the prompt. The first body paragraph should provide a description of the issue confronted in the question. The second body paragraph should emphasize any counterargument to the original dilemma. The last body paragraph is the student’s position within the overall argument, supported by what has been expressed in all previous paragraphs.
- Correct grammar and structure are imperative to achieving a high score on the essay test.
That is to say, proper punctuation, precise spelling, and capitalization, organized and efficient phrasing of themes and discussion. The essay is testing the student’s level of conveying concepts and expression using standard English language, with an expectation that the student is a master of syntax.