The GMAT verbal section is the last leg of the GMAT triathlon and the one during which stress-induced fatigue can sink in. You have the same 75 minutes as on the quantitative section, but here you must answer 41 questions, yielding an average time per question of just over 1.5 minutes.
Since 2009, more people take the GMAT each year outside the United States than inside, a trend that few expect to reverse. Couple that with the fact that so many test-takers of all nationalities are better with numbers than words, and you have an explanation behind the fact that the global average score on the verbal section is lower than the quantitative one.
The questions on the verbal section are evenly divided into three types: reading comprehension, critical reasoning and sentence correction, and are evenly distributed throughout the test.
Similar to other standardized tests, the GMAT provides three to four passages of about 300 words, each of which is usually accompanied by four questions. Topics run the full range, from biology to history to business, although the GMAT, unlike the SAT and GRE, does not take passages from works of fiction. Although some questions refer to specific words, the reading comprehension section does not test simple comprehension of the language, but rather requires that test takers analyze the logic behind the argument, the motives and tone of the author, as well as the relationship between the evidence cited and the conclusions made.
These questions involve a given sentence with an underlined section as small as one word or as large as the entire sentence. The goal is to pick the grammatically correct one of the five answer choices that offer different ways of writing the underlined segment (including leaving it as is).
For most people, sentence correction is the most challenging part of the test. This is especially the case for international students with strong quantitative backgrounds but less strength in verbal skills. What can drive people crazy about sentence correction is that there is a whole set of grammar rules that you can learn, but unless you can understand the sentence as a whole, blindly following the grammar rules can just as easily lead you astray.
This question type requires you to analyze a paragraph-long argument made by an anonymous author. Depending on the question prompt, you must search through the multiple-choice answers to find a sentence that either strengthens, weakens or expresses a conclusion based on the argument.
For many logical-minded GMAT-takers, this section of the verbal test is a welcome relief from the word-intense concentration required by the sentence correction and reading comprehension sections. However, speeding through the language too fast and missing a crucial word can change the entire logic of the question. Once test-takers catch on to the basic rules of critical reasoning, many find this to be the easiest question type on the verbal test.
Many students report that the verbal section is less fun to study for, since the quantitative section offers both quicker answers and hard facts, while verbal answers seem mired in subjectivity. It takes time to understand, for instance, why one description of the main idea of a reading comprehension passage is objectively better than another. However, since the verbal section gets the lowest score on average, studying and doing well on it is a great way to get into the top percentile.
The HowToMBA Guide to the specific sections of the GMAT was prepared by MBA House, a boutique GMAT prep and admissions consulting program based in New York City.