It’s no secret that professional English skills are valued across most industries, but particularly in the realm of business.
Many English learners who are seriously considering a future in business management and intend to apply to the top universities find themselves under pressure to brush up on their language skills to in order prepare for essential exams such as the GMAT, the Graduate Management Admission Test. Thorough preparation in advance is key for success on any exam, but especially on the GMAT, which assesses a person’s analytical, writing, quantitative, reading and verbal English skills.
The Verbal Section of the GMAT specifically tests a person’s ability to read and comprehend written material, evaluate arguments, and correct sentences in standard written English. Often, the GMAT Reading Comprehension element of the Verbal Section can prove an anxiety-inducing task, especially for students who are not native speakers of English.
While non-native speakers can achieve an improved GMAT Verbal score by closely studying the grammatical patterns tested by GMAT Sentence Correction, many students find that the intricacies of the GMAT Reading Comprehension passages, along with the time constrain of the exam, present a greater challenge.
For this reason, candidates whose primary language is not English are well advised to begin their GMAT Reading Comprehension preparation early, preferably at least 6 months in advance of their intended test date. The ‘retired’ GMAT reading passages published in The GMAT Official Guide are, of course, the most authentic source for GMAT reading practice.
However, it can also be useful for potential test takers who are weak in reading comprehension to build up their reading skills by using non-GMAT texts before practicing and analyzing the reading passages in the Official Guide.
So, what type of non-GMAT reading content is most useful for practice? Most GMAT reading passages fall into one of four content areas: Natural Sciences (e.g. Geology), Social Sciences (e.g. Sociology), Humanities (e.g. History), or Business/Economics. Publications such as Scientific American or The New York Review of Books contain articles of a similar level of difficulty to the typical GMAT reading comprehension passages. Major university magazines are another good source of practice reading content.
Because GMAT passages are excerpted from longer articles and often heavily edited as well, the best way to practice for GMAT reading is to ignore the introductory section of the selected article and plunge in somewhere in the middle. Choose a block of content consisting of between 200-350 words (the range of length in GMAT reading passages). Give yourself three minutes to read and summarize the main points. As you read, focus on understanding the main point of each paragraph and how the paragraphs fit together.
Remember that memorization of every detail is NOT necessary (or even desirable), especially given strict time limits of a standardized test such as the GMAT. A good reader understands the structure of the passage and therefore knows where to look for any particular detail if required to do so by one of the questions. Repeated practice with such exercises will improve your reading skills and ultimately boost your GMAT Reading Comprehension score.
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image: Jo Naylor