GMAT & MBA Admissions Blog

The Only Way to Boost Your GMAT Verbal Score

Posted by Mark Skoskiewicz on Tue, Aug 05, 2014 @ 03:28 PM


Reading for the GMATSimply put, the only want to boost your GMAT verbal score is to read more (of basically anything, including novels), read more intentionally and actively, and then practice lots of GMAT reading comprehension, sentence correction, and critical reasoning questions.  Of course, there are some specific strategies to employ for each of the GMAT verbal question types, but simply engaging in more reading is most of the battle.

Students who start out with very low levels of confidence with math, i.e., students who “aren’t math people,” tend to be particularly stressed and frustrated with standardized tests like the GMAT.  But paradoxically, improving your quantitative skills is in many ways much easier than your verbal or reading comprehension skills. 

Here’s how John Easter, senior MyGuru GMAT tutor and founder of Jedi Prep, puts it –

“Reading and comprehending are as fundamental as it gets. Math is a skill that you acquired through education. Someone taught you to count, add, subtract, multiply, divide, and solve quadratic equations by ‘completing the square.’

Verbal skills, on the other hand, just appeared out of thin air between 12 and 18 months after you were born. Of course, you had to learn to read, but that can and does happen incredibly fast. Soon after you learn basic phonics you can “sound-out” new words and build your vocabulary without any assistance. By the time you were 4, you probably knew about 5,000 words, at 8 around 10,000 words, and now you probably know 20,000 to 35,000 words.  In all probability you were reading books with extended, complex plots and multiple characters at the same time you were struggling to learn a 12 by 12 multiplication table.

Think about that for a while, and if you’re not amazed think about it some more.

We can teach you how to solve quadratic equations by “completing the square” if you’ve forgotten most of the algebra you learned in high school. We can teach you any math that you once learned and have now forgotten. We can even teach you a lot of math that you never learned in the first place. Unfortunately, we cannot re-teach you how to read and comprehend.”

So if it’s particularly difficult to improve reading comprehension skills, what can a student preparing for the GMAT and struggling to improve their GMAT verbal scores do? 

Well, in our new (free) eBook The 7 Rules for Improving Academic Performance, rule #5 is simply to read more (i.e., books, magazines, newspaper, anything, really), and to do so intentionally.  To read intentionally, or to read actively (vs. passively) simply means to go slow, ensure you understand everything you’re reading, and to stop and ask yourself questions like:

  • What was the main point/theme/argument I just read about…
  • …and how would I summarize it in 1-2 sentences?
  • What logic was used to piece the narrative together?
  • What facts/evidence were employed to support the key assertions?

When you do this, you will slowly build skills related to comprehending complex arguments, making logical connections, and employing complex English grammar and vocabulary.  Building these skills will boost your GMAT verbal score in the long run, without question.

At MyGuru, we’d argue that literally any type of reading, done consistently over time, will improve your performance on verbal, reading comprehension, or English portions of standardized tests.  However Magoosh offers a specific recommendation, tailored to what is tested on the GMAT, in their “Complete Guide to the GMAT” eBook.

“Not surprisingly, one of the best ways to prepare for GMAT Reading Comprehension is simply to read…one of the best sources of reading as you prepare for business school is a weekly news magazine called The Economist. The Economist is one of the most intelligent weekly journals in print, and it brings a highly sophisticated perspective to all issues affecting micro- and macroeconomics. Its articles explore economics, politics, demographics, technology, etc. It targets the highly intelligent. If you can understand tone and implication in Economist articles, you will have absolutely no problem with these tasks on GMAT Reading Comprehension…if you make a habit of reading it, that will give you an edge in business school, and after that, and edge in the business world.”

When it comes to improving your GMAT verbal score, as it relates to reading comprehension specifically, John puts it like this –

“Improving your RC skills takes time, persistence, and focused practice, focused practice, focused practice! Did I mention focused practice?

In our next blog article, we’ll review John’s specific “recipe” for improving your GMAT-reading comprehension score through focused practice.


Download free eBook:  7 Rules to Improving  Academic Performance 

Topics: GMAT verbal score, GMAT reading comprehension