Narrow Your Focus to Expand Your Score on the Verbal Section

Narrow Your Focus to Expand Your Score on the Verbal Section
You are usually given more information than you need, so you should focus on the parts that are truly important (Photograph by Ren?? Mansi/Getty Images)
Photograph by René Mansi/Getty Images

This tip for improving your GMAT score was provided by David Newland at Veritas Prep.

The Verbal Section of the GMAT is different from the Quantitative Section. It is not just a difference between words and numbers; there are lots of “word problems” on the quant side and lots of numbers in Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning on the Verbal Section.

The true difference is focus. While on the quantitative section, you expand on the given information, you have to narrow your focus on the Verbal Section. To illustrate the difference, let’s start with the Quantitative mindset:

On the Quant Section, you build on the information given.
On Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions, you are expected to take the information you are given and build on it. If a geometry problem gives you the length of one side of a triangle, you are expected to use formulas and ratios to determine the other sides. It’s a matter of adding to the information you have. Use everything you are given and try to build on it to derive more information.

On the Verbal Section, you have to narrow your focus.
On the verbal section, you are usually given more information than you need. Rather than building on what you are given, you need to focus on the parts that are truly important.

A good portion of what you are given in any Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, or Reading Comprehension item is likely to be background information or clutter. There are specific things that you should not focus on for each of the verbal question types.

Critical Reasoning: context.
At Veritas Prep we break each Critical Reasoning argument into three different types of information: the conclusion, the evidence, and the “context.” The conclusion and the evidence are crucial to determining the correct answer. If you focus on these, you will be well on the way to developing great Critical Reasoning technique. The context, on the other hand, is information to give you the necessary background for the argument. Learn to recognize this background information and use it to inform your reading without making it the focus of your reasoning. Focusing too much on the context is a primary reason that Critical Reasoning confuses many test takers.

For example, if a prompt begins a background sentence with “traditionally” or “in most cases,” it is probably context and therefore not all that helpful. Find the conclusion and the most important fact that the conclusion is based upon.

Sentence Correction: modifiers.
Sentence Correction is a natural subject for narrowing your focus. A good portion of each sentence consists of prepositions, other modifiers, and even entire clauses that do not affect the underlined portion of the sentence.

Carefully study modifiers so that you are quickly able to determine when a modifier can be safely ignored. Basically, when a modifier is properly used, you can ignore that modifier and focus on the other portions of the sentence, particularly the subject and verb. It is usually only when a modifier is misplaced that it can be used (to eliminate that answer choice). Either way, modifiers should be a primary focus of your studies because they allow you to narrow your focus.

Reading Comprehension: details.
Narrowing your focus on Reading Comprehension means to read the passage at the appropriate level and return to it for detail questions. “Reading the passage at the appropriate level” means to read for an executive summary. You have to grasp the main idea and the organization of the paragraph without getting lost in details. Do not take notes while reading the passage. If you do, you are likely to write down just the sorts of details you can go back to the text to find: names, dates, numbers, and scientific or technical language. If you see a sentence such as “If a star has a mass of less than 1.4 solar masses, it will become …” that’s a detail that you can always go back to if you are asked about it. On your first read, you should leave it alone.

You can write down the main idea of each paragraph, but do not begin writing until after you have finished reading the paragraph. Then focus on the main idea of the paragraph and write no more than 10 or 12 words. By forcing yourself to succinctly state the main idea of each paragraph, you will necessarily be distilling the essence of the passage as well as providing signposts so you can quickly return to the passage to answer detail questions.

Narrow your focus on the Verbal section and expand your GMAT score.

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