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Tuesday, October 18, 2016 at 10am

Keep Your GMAT Verbal Score Up By Avoiding These Three Things

Avoiding drops in GMAT verbal score on test day

We’re now in the heart of ‘GMAT season’ – that time of year when thousands of GMATers are preparing for their exams. During this busy time of year, I frequently receive emails from clients, members of online GMAT forums and random strangers - all of whom are seeking advice on how best to hone their studies and score at a high level on the GMAT.

Recently, I received a series of emails from someone who was concerned about the high number of GMATers who were reporting big score drops on test day (e.g. GMAT verbal scores dropping from the V30s and V40s to the V20s). While the conversation was lengthy, I’ve narrowed it down to the following three factors - the individual causes can vary a bit from person to person, but each of these points can help you prepare for the GMAT and avoid that type of drop in verbal score on test day:

1. Factoring in the time to get to the GMAT testing center

There’s a reality to test day that many GMATers do not properly prepare for. Almost every aspect of test day is predictable, so you can incorporate all of those details into how you take your computer-adaptive tests (CATs).

As an example of a big non-test factor, consider how long it will take you to get to the test center and go through the registration process on test day. How long would that take? 30-40 minutes? An hour? Longer? Considering that time, you may now have added another hour (or more) of activities to what you have to deal with when you take the GMAT. You have to expend energy on all of those tasks before you even begin the exam.

Now think about how you take your CATs - a four-hour exam now becomes a five-hour process on test day. By the time you were used to finishing your CATs, that’s exactly when you might start the verbal section in your official GMAT. You might be too tired to perform at a higher level on test day because you weren’t training adequately for the day’s full list of activities.

2. Avoid unofficial GMAT verbal products

Not all practice materials for the GMAT’s verbal section are of the same quality. Unfortunately, there are a variety of lower-quality products on the market and some GMATers actually waste time using non-GMAT practice materials. Beyond those factors, simply working through lots of high-quality practice materials won’t necessarily make you a great verbal thinker. There are tactics to handling the verbal section and built-in patterns to its questions that you can take advantage of - if the study material that you’re using has properly taught you those tactics and patterns.

In addition, if you come across verbal questions while taking your practice CATs that you already answered while studying, then you’re not actually earning a high verbal score on that practice test. To correctly answer a verbal question on test day, you need to be strategic, take some organized notes and earn those points. If you’re just remembering the correct answer from before and bubbling the proper circle during a CAT (i.e. marking the right answers), then you have proof of one thing – a pretty good memory, but not necessarily proof of a strong GMAT verbal ability.

3. Take advantage of the GMAT verbal section's predictability

The verbal section of the GMAT really is as predictable as the quant section is, so you have to train to think in terms of the step-by-step ‘process’ needed to answer the questions. Every question that you face on test day should remind you of work that you already did. Many test takers don’t think about the verbal section in those terms though, so they think that they’re seeing something ‘new’ (when they’re really not), and they panic about it and ultimately guess instead of working through the proper steps to get to the correct answer.

Here’s a comparison that should help to define what I’m describing. You can probably add simple numbers together without too much trouble (what’s 2 + 3?), so when a really wordy GMAT question ultimately asks you to add together two larger numbers, you don’t really have to do anything ‘new’ – you’ll read the prompt, take some notes, do the necessary work on the pad….and since you already know how to add, you then add the bigger numbers together. It shouldn’t matter that they’re two numbers that you’ve never added together before because you know how to work through the ‘process’. The overall work might take a little longer, but that’s to be expected – wordier questions take longer to answer. By extension, the logic in CR (critical reasoning) questions that focus on ‘causality’ (the idea that ‘X’ causes ‘Y’ to happen) is the same logic that you’d apply to a really wordy question that tells you that ‘A’ caused ‘B’ to happen. It just might take you a little longer to read a wordier prompt and take the notes, but the process remains the same.

This is all meant to say that you can train to keep your verbal score at a high level both during your studies and on test day itself. However, you have to consider everything that you’ll face on the day of your exam (and not just the exam itself), train in a realistic fashion (and with the proper materials) and be grounded enough to work through wordy prompts without losing your focus.

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