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GMAT: Verbal section and assessment process
IV Ranga Rao
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September 28, 2007

Part I: Crack Analytical Writing
Part II: Conquer Quantitative Assessment

The GMAT is an aptitude test designed to test the test-takers verbal, quantitative and reasoning abilities, and your GMAT score determines whether you are eligible for admission to a foreign management course and which college you get into. 

In the third part of this series discussing the various sections of the GMAT, we take a look at the verbal section and the assessment process. 

The verbal section comprises three types of questions.

Reading Comprehension
This consists of written paragraph(s) that the candidate has to read. Several questions then follow which are based on this passage and test your understanding of written English. The questions will not be direct and hence will generally require you to understand what is implied or can be inferred based on what is stated.

To do well in this section you will have to have experience in reading material written in slightly more sophisticated English. Reading well written articles is good preparation for this section. Comics, unfortunately, will not help!

Sample reading comprehension question
The questions in this group are based on the content of a passage. After reading the passage, choose the best answer to each question. Answer all questions following the passage on the basis of what is stated or implied in the passage.

Schools expect textbooks to be a valuable source of information for students. My research suggests, however, that textbooks that address the place of Native Americans within the history of the United States distort history to suit a particular cultural value system. In some textbooks, for example, settlers are pictured as more humane, complex, skillful, and wise than Native Americans. In essence, textbooks stereotype and depreciate the numerous Native American cultures while reinforcing the attitude that the European conquest of the New World denotes the superiority of European cultures. Although textbooks evaluate Native American architecture, political systems, and homemaking, I contend that they do it from an ethnocentric, European perspective without recognizing that other perspectives are possible.

One argument against my contention asserts that, by nature, textbooks are culturally biased and that I am simply underestimating children's ability to see through these biases. Some researchers even claim that by the time students are in high school, they know they cannot take textbooks literally. Yet substantial evidence exists to the contrary. Two researchers, for example, have conducted studies that suggest that children's attitudes about particular cultures are strongly influenced by the textbooks used in schools. Given this, an ongoing, careful review of how school textbooks depict Native Americans is certainly warranted.

Which of the following would most logically be the topic of the paragraph immediately following the passage?

(A) specific ways to evaluate the biases of United States history textbooks
(B) the centrality of the teacher's role in United States history courses
(C) nontraditional methods of teaching United States history
(D) the contributions of European immigrants to the development of the United States
(E) ways in which parents influence children's political attitudes


Critical Reasoning
These questions will assess your ability to construct an argument using reasoning abilities or understand the reasoning behind arguments. You will need to deduce the answer by comprehending what is stated in the question. Your response should be based only on what is contained in the question.

Sample critical reasoning question
For this question, select the best of the answer choices given.

The cost of producing radios in Country Q is ten percent less than the cost of producing radios in Country Y. Even after transportation fees and tariff charges are added, it is still cheaper for a company to import radios from Country Q to Country Y than to produce radios in Country Y.

The statements above, if true, best support which of the following assertions?

(A) Labor costs in Country Q are ten percent below those in Country Y.
(B) Importing radios from Country Q to Country Y will eliminate ten percent of the manufacturing jobs in Country Y.
(C) The tariff on a radio imported from Country Q to Country Y is less than ten percent of the cost of manufacturing the radio in Country Y.
(D) The fee for transporting a radio from Country Q to Country Y is more than ten percent of the cost of manufacturing the radio in Country Q.
(E) It takes ten percent less time to manufacture a radio in Country Q than it does in Country Y.


Sentence Correction
These questions measure your ability to pick out errors in sentences and suggest the correct option or suggest a better or more effective way of expressing the same thought. The latter kinds of questions are difficult to answer because here you have to choose the best option out of several options, all of which may seem right.

Sample sentence correction question
This question presents a sentence, part of which or all of which is underlined. Beneath the sentence you will find five ways of phrasing the underlined part. The first of these repeats the original; the other four are different. If you think the original is best, choose the first answer; otherwise choose one of the others.

This question tests correctness and effectiveness of expression. In choosing your answer, follow the requirements of standard written English; that is, pay attention to grammar, choice of words, and sentence construction. Choose the answer that produces the most effective sentence; this answer should be clear and exact, without awkwardness, ambiguity, redundancy, or grammatical error.

Carbon-14 dating reveals that the megalithic monuments in Brittany are nearly 2,000 years as old as any of their supposed Mediterranean predecessors.

(A) as old as any of their supposed
(B) older than any of their supposed
(C) as old as their supposed
(D) older than any of their supposedly
(E) as old as their supposedly


To do well in this section one needs to have a very good understanding of English grammar and a good vocabulary. The simple grammar which is taught in primary school will not be sufficient to perform well in this section as it explores the higher nuances of grammar. A quick reference/preparation guide may not be of much use here. It is suggested that one goes through a good English grammar text book many times over and understand the concepts of grammar.

Assessment process
Another very interesting thing about the questions in quantitative and verbal sections is that each question is categorised by its degree of difficulty. The first question presented to you will be in the middle of the difficulty scale. If you answer this question correctly then the next question will be of a greater difficulty.

If you don't answer the first question correctly then the second question will be of lesser difficulty. This process continues repeatedly. This helps in determining the level of difficulty of questions that the candidate is expected to solve most of the time and thus gives an assessment of the abilities of the person.

It is therefore important that the candidate give special attention to the first few questions and make sure that they are answered correctly. Failure to do so is more likely to result in a lower score.

Part I: Crack Analytical Writing
Part II: Conquer Quantitative Assessment

The author is the Director - Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, India.

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