The 11 Best GMAT Reading Comprehension Strategies

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The reading comprehension part of the GMAT Verbal section can be intimidating at first. You have to glean key ideas and information from dense, jargon-filled passages, which probably don’t resemble the kinds of articles you read for fun.

Luckily, whether you love these kinds of passage-based questions or they fill your heart with dread, there are a number of tried-and-true strategies that you can use to improve your score. In this post, we’ll give you all the tips and tricks you need to ace GMAT reading comprehension—including how to approach the passages overall, how to attack the questions, and how to pace yourself so that you spend just the right amount of time on them.

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GMAT Exponents: Rules, Tips, and Practice

feature_GMATexponentExponents are one of the more frequently tested concepts on the GMAT. It’s likely that you learned all the exponent formulas that you’ll need for the GMAT way back in middle and early high school math, so you’re probably overdue for a refresher! And even if you consider yourself an “exponent expert,” you’re going to have to apply your knowledge of exponents in extremely particular ways on the GMAT, as exponents can appear in a wide variety of question types and are often combined with other mathematical concepts.

Luckily, we’ve done the hard work of distilling everything you need to know about GMAT exponents! In this post, we’ll cover all the relevant rules, properties, formulas, and shortcuts. We’ll also walk you through an example of every main kind of exponent question that you’ll encounter on the test, so you can see these formulas in action. By the end, you really will be an exponent expert!

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Which vs. That on the GMAT: What’s the Difference?

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What’s the difference between “which” and “that”? When is it correct to use one or the other? What kinds of questions will you see about them on the GMAT? These are all great questions. The good news: that vs. which GMAT sentence correction questions aren’t as tough as they appear—even if you’re not a native English speaker.

In this post, we’ll give you all the rules you need to know about which vs. that GMAT questions, an in-depth breakdown of all the kinds of sentence correction questions that test this concept, and some tips for easily distinguishing between the two pronouns (even in long, complex sentence constructions)! By the time we’re done, you’ll be able to nail any that vs. which GMAT question that comes your way.
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GMAT Fractions and Decimals: Everything You Need to Know

GMATfractionsfeatureAfter integers, fractions and decimals are usually the next most frequently tested concepts in the GMAT Quant section. The good news is, the math itself is fairly simple: you’ve likely learned all the rules you need to know about working with fractions and decimals in middle and early high school math. The bad news is that these rules and properties have probably been gathering dust in some unvisited corner of your brain—and even if they haven’t, you’re going to have to apply them in new ways on the GMAT.

Never fear! In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about fractions and decimals for the GMAT. We’ll give you a refresher on all the relevant rules and formulas, tips and tricks for every question you’ll see on them on the GMAT, and some example questions with thorough explanations so you can see these strategies in action.
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The 11 Best GMAT Verbal Tricks and Tips

feature_gerundwordmapThe GMAT Verbal section is notoriously difficult to do well on: a perfect score is 51, but only 1% of people score above 45. Luckily, there are some GMAT Verbal tricks and tips that you can quickly implement to maximize your performance.

In this post, we’ll give you the best overall GMAT Verbal tricks as well as the best tips for each question type, including sentence correction, critical reasoning, and reading comprehension. By the end, you’ll know all the key tricks and tips you can start using right away to improve your Verbal section score.

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What’s a Good GMAT Writing Score? Does the Essay Matter?

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How much does your GMAT writing score really matter? Business schools only release GMAT score data for their students’ Total scores, so it can be difficult to find information about what constitutes a “good” or “bad” GMAT writing score and how important your GMAT analytical writing score really is.

Luckily, we’ve done the research and figured out the answers for you. In this post, we’ll tell you what business schools have to say about the Analytical Writing Assessment, how they weigh it against other parts of your GMAT score and your overall application, and how your score stacks up against other test-taker worldwide. Finally, we’ll help you figure out what a good GMAT analytical writing score is for you.
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GMAT Math Tricks: The 9 Best Tips and Shortcuts

feature_surveytakerAs you may already know, the math required for the GMAT Quant section is actually fairly basic: nothing beyond early high school-level math is tested. What’s challenging is how quickly you’ll need to be able to execute calculations to finish within the 75 minutes allotted for the 37 questions and the reasoning and analysis required to get to the right answer. In other words, the GMAT Quant section, like all other sections of the test, is more a test of how you think than what you know.

Luckily, this means that there are several GMAT math tricks, tips, and shortcuts that you can use to improve your performance. In this post, we’ll give you all the major GMAT quant tricks, including tips and shortcuts for each of the two question types as well as some that apply to both. With these GMAT math tricks in your arsenal—plus the boatloads of studying you’re surely doing—you’ll be well prepared to nail the Quant section on test day.
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The 19 Best GMAT Tricks and Tips

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As with any standardized test, there are some key, simple shortcuts that you can implement right away to improve your overall performance on the GMAT. While there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned studying, you can try out the quick and easy strategies below to maximize your performance right away.

With these GMAT tips and tricks—plus the boatloads of test prep you’re surely doing—you’ll be prepared to face any challenge that comes your way on test day.
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The Ultimate GMAT Guide to Integer Properties

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Integers are one of the key recurring elements on the GMAT Quant section, so if you’ve started studying, you probably have some questions. What is an integer? Is zero an integer? What does it mean if integers are consecutive?

The good news is, you’ve almost certainly learned everything you need to know about working with integers in middle and early high school math. The bad news is that these rules and properties have probably been relegated to dusty, moss-ridden corner of your brain—and even if they haven’t, you’re going to have to apply them in novel ways on the exam.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place! In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about integers for the GMAT. We’ll give you a refresher on all the relevant rules and properties of integers, tips and tricks for every kind of integer question you’ll see on the GMAT, and some example questions with thorough explanations so you can see these strategies in action.

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Subjunctive Mood GMAT Questions: 2 Rules You Must Know

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Never even heard of the subjunctive mood before? Don’t worry, you’re not alone: this mood is sometimes taught to students studying a romance language, but it’s rarely spelled out in English class. But even though you may not know it, you’ve likely been using—and sometimes misusing—the subjunctive mood in your own speaking and writing.

Unfortunately, GMAT sentence correction questions are going to test your ability to explicitly recognize (and correct) the subjunctive mood. In general, the GMAT loves to test you on sentences that sound right but aren’t, and the subjunctive mood is perfect for this agenda. So, in this post, we’ll go over everything that you need to know about the subjunctive mood for the GMAT, including all the kinds of subjunctive mood GMAT questions you’ll encounter and an in-depth analysis of how to recognize and approach them. By the end, you’ll be able to crush any subjunctive mood GMAT question that comes your way.

 

This bear is in a bad mood—but that's not the kind of mood we're talking about!
This bear is in a bad mood—but that’s not the kind of mood we’re talking about!

 

First of All, What Is a “Mood” (Versus a Tense)?

Great question! You’re probably more familiar with verb tenses than you are with moods. The basic distinction is that tense refers to time, while mood refers to the speaker’s attitude or the manner of expression.

Essentially, a verb’s tense specifies past, present, or future. There are more subdivisions within this (like the perfect past, the pluperfect, etc.), but that’s the basic framework. Conversely, a verb’s mood refers to how the thought gets expressed. The three main moods are the indicative mood, the imperative mood, and the subjunctive mood.

The indicative mood is the most common, and it’s what we’d consider to be the normal or standard mode of expression. It’s used for assertions and questions—which covers a lot of ground. (“What time is it?” “She’s headed out to buy groceries.”)

The imperative mood is less common, but it’s also fairly easy to comprehend. It’s used to express a command or an order. (“Stop right there! Do what I tell you! Listen to me!”) Note that these are complete sentences, even though there doesn’t appear to be a subject: the “you” is implied in the command.

Here’s a nice example: “I like to write poems” is in the indicative mood, but “Write me a poem, Jess” is in the imperative mood.

The subjunctive mood is used to express conditional or imaginary situations, meaning scenarios that are doubtful, hypothetical, or otherwise run contrary to fact. (“If I were you, I would share my toys with my little sister.”)

The subjunctive is also used after the word “that” following verbs that express suggestions, demands, or recommendations. (“I suggest that he leave for the hike early tomorrow morning to catch the sunrise.”)

In all use cases, the subjunctive mood indicates that the situation occurs “outside” of time: it’s not a real scenario. To illustrate what this looks like in action, we’ll delve into the kinds of sentences that use the subjunctive mood below.

Don't worry if the subjunctive mood is still confusing—we're just getting started!
Don’t worry if the subjunctive mood is still confusing—we’re just getting started!

 

What Is the Subjunctive Mood?

As stated above, in English, the subjunctive mood is used to explore non-real (conditional or imaginary) situations. Within this, there are two main categories for the subjunctive mood: commands/suggestions (with a command verb + “that”), and hypotheticals/wishes (with “were”).

It’s helpful to divide the subjunctive this way because each category has its own key rule that you’ll need to know for the GMAT. So make sure you are familiar with the below use cases before moving on to the next section.

 

Category 1: Suggestions, Demands, and Necessity (With “That”)

The subjunctive mood is used to express suggestions and recommendations with the word “that”:

“I suggest that you get here early to park your car.”“I recommend that they take the bus home.”

“The job requires that candidates be experienced in Javascript.”

Similarly, it is used to express demands that aren’t in the imperative mood (meaning that the demand isn’t expressed directly at the listener):

“We insist that you leave at once.” (as opposed to “Leave at once!”, which is in the imperative mood.)“I demand that he be here in time for my performance.”

“We demand that the traitor be executed.”

“They are insisting that he move to Denver to manage the new office.”

It is also used to express necessity in the impersonal (“it is necessary that ” versus “I need you to”):

“It is essential that you come to class today.”“It’s necessary that the tour group wake up before sunrise.”

“It’s crucial that he find a subletter to take over the lease for him.”

 

Category 2: Hypotheticals and Wishes (With “Were”)

The subjunctive is also used to express hypotheticals, situations that are contrary to fact, and situations that are unlikely to come true. This usage employs “were,” and then sometimes “would”:

“If she were to beg for forgiveness, would you show her mercy?”“Suppose that I were to fly into town for the concert.”

“The doctor dismissed my cough as though it were harmless.”

“If I were the Queen of England, I would bake everyone muffins.”

“If I were you, I wouldn’t throw my birthday party on a Monday night.”

Similarly, it is used to express wishes and desires:

“I wish I were able to attend your birthday party.”“I wish I were done studying for the GMAT.”

“She wishes that the sun were out.”

“If I were a rich man (daidle deedle daidle daidle daidle deedle daidle dum…)”

What do all of these many uses for the subjunctive mood have in common? They all express situations that are not real or factual, and thus exist outside of time and tense: they’re either conditional on something else happening, or they’re hypothetical, or they’re something that the speaker wants to happen, or they’re contrary to fact and totally impossible, or they should happen in the future but aren’t set in stone.

 

If I were a unicorn, I would not exist in real life.
If I were a unicorn, I would not exist in real life.

 

The 2 Key Subjunctive Mood GMAT Rules

For GMAT sentence correction questions, whenever you see a sentence that fits into one of the above categories, you know that you’re dealing with the subjunctive. There are really only two rules that you need to know for these questions.

 

Rule 1: Demand/Suggestion Subjunctives Always Take the Base Form of the Verb After “That”

The base form of a verb is the same as the infinitive form, but without the “to.” It’s not conjugated—as in, it’s not in first, second, or third person singular or plural—and it has no tense. For example, “is,” “was,” “were,” “are,” and “am” are all different conjugations and tenses of the verb “to be.” So the base form of that verb is simply “be” (the infinitive “to be” without the “to”).

Always use the base form of the verb with subjunctive mood demands and suggestions:

“I require that the top candidate send me her cover letter.””The mayor demanded that the residents be evacuated immediately.”

“The doctor suggests that Richard avoid heavy lifting for six to eight weeks.”

This rule is why it’s easier to “see” a demand subjunctive in action when it’s not in the second person: many second-person conjugations are the same as the base form of the verb:

“I suggest that you wake up before dawn.”

This doesn’t look weird to us, and it correctly utilizes the subjunctive mood. But look at the same sentence with a third-person subjunctive clause:

“I suggest that he wake up before dawn.”

This does sound a little strange, because we’re used to saying “he wakes up”—which would not be correct in this example, as it’s a subjunctive mood suggestion and thus takes the base form of the verb “wake.”

Here’s another example:

“I insist that Harry is there.”

This might sound right, but it’s written in the indicative mood, which means that it’s only grammatically correct if I am trying to convince someone that Harry is currently “there.” (Maybe I’m pointing to Harry’s ghost and am insisting to my listeners that Harry is actually present, even though they can’t see him?!)

Now look at the sentence in the subjunctive:

“I insist that Harry be there.”

This is correct if I’m demanding that Harry show up to “there” (wherever “there” is). The sentence is written in the subjunctive mood and it’s probably what I actually mean when I say it (I hope…spooky!).

This rule holds up even with passive constructions of verbs:

“The judge ordered that the witness be imprisoned for perjury.”

 

I insist that Harry IS there—right there in that creepy old living room...
I insist that Harry IS there—right there in that creepy old living room…

 

Rule 2: Hypothetical/Wish Subjunctives Use “Were”

Some of the sample hypothetical/wish sentences above may have seemed weirdly constructed to you. You might have been wondering why I wrote, “I wish I were done studying,” and not “I wish I was done studying.”

I did so because, the past subjunctive “were” is used for sentences with hypotheticals/wishes. 

In other words, use “were” when the situation is not reality or not yet reality—even when you’re not speaking in the past tense:

“I wish I were done studying.”

This conveys that I want to be done studying, but I am not yet done studying.

The same goes for the hypothetical scenarios:

“If I were the Queen of England, I would bake muffins for everyone.”

This is a hypothetical that runs contrary to fact and isn’t even possible in the future (unless Prince Harry wants to leave me a comment below). It falls in the same broader category of subjunctive mood uses—hypotheticals and wishes—so it too takes “were.”

“Was” is only correct when the situation does exist in reality:

“I wanted to know if Anju was looking for a new roommate.”

In this case, Anju either is or isn’t looking for a roommate. It’s a real possibility, not a desire that isn’t possibly real like in the examples above, so it’s not in the subjunctive mood.

 

What Kinds of GMAT Subjunctive Mood Questions Are There?

Subjunctive mood GMAT questions test you on both categories of subjunctive mood use cases: suggestions/demands and hypotheticals/wishes. You’ll be expected to recognize when a sentence should be using the subjunctive, and to be able to correct it accordingly using the two rules above.

We’ll go over some example subjunctive mood GMAT questions below, so you can see what this looks like in action.

 

If I were you, I'd adopt all of these cute kittens together!
If I were you, I’d adopt all of these cute kittens together!

 

Example GMAT Subjunctive Mood Questions

Below, we analyze an example of each kind of subjunctive mood question. We also give you one example of a tricky sentence that does not need the subjunctive mood, so that you can learn to recognize subjunctive mood “fakeouts” as well.

 

Example Subjunctive Mood GMAT Question #1: Suggestions/Demands

The following is an official GMAT question:

The budget for education reflects the administration’s demand that the money is controlled by local school districts, but it can only be spent on teachers, not on books, computers, or other materials or activities.

(A) the money is controlled by local school districts, but it can only be spent

(B) the money be controlled by local school districts, but it allows them to spend the money only

(C) the money is to be controlled by local school districts, but allowing it only to be spent

(D) local school districts are in control of the money, but it allows them to spend the money only

(E) local school districts are to be in control of the money, but it can only spend it

The phrase “demand that” indicates that this sentence should be in the subjunctive mood, so it will take the base form of the verb. In this case, the verb is “to be controlled” (“control” in the passive construction), so it’s going to take the base form of “to be” with controlled. So, we’re looking for the option that uses “be controlled.”

A, D, and E can be crossed off immediately, as they are written in the indicative and thus don’t use the base form of “be.” (C) looks good at first, but “is to be controlled” is still actually indicative (“is”). Get rid of it as well.

Read with (B), the sentence reads: “The budget for education reflects the administration’s demand that the money be controlled by local school districts, but it allows them to spend the money only on teachers, not on books, computers, or other materials or activities.” This is a correct use of the subjunctive and is the answer.

 

A subjunctive mood sentence about a school budget? How meta!
A subjunctive mood sentence about a school budget? How meta!

 

Example Subjunctive Mood GMAT Question #2: Hypotheticals/Wishes

The following is a PrepScholar GMAT question very much like one you might see on a real test:

As if the doubly reinforced window was not enough, the jail also uses panoptical surveillance and a barbed wire fence around the perimeter to ensure that the dangerous prisoner can never escape.

(A) the doubly reinforced window was not enough, the jail also uses panoptical surveillance

(B) the window having been doubly reinforced was not enough, the jail also uses panoptical surveillance

(C) the doubly reinforced window is not enough, the jail also uses surveillance of the panoptical variety,

(D) the doubly reinforced window were not enough, the jail also uses panoptical surveillance

(E) the doubly reinforced window is not to be enough, the jail also uses panoptical surveillance

At first glance, this looks like an issue of tense: should it be “was not enough” or “is not enough”? But that’s actually not the problem with the sentence as written. Rather, this sentence poses a hypothetical: we’re exploring the unlikely possibility that the doubly reinforced window isn’t strong enough to ensure that the prisoner can’t escape. As such, this scenario doesn’t exist in reality and it needs to be put in the subjunctive mood.

Only (D) correctly employs the past subjunctive “were.” (D) is the answer.

 

Extra Example: A GMAT Question that DOES NOT Need the Subjunctive Mood (But Might Trick You)

The following is an official GMAT question:

A wildlife expert predicts that the reintroduction of the caribou into northern Minnesota would fail if the density of the timber wolf population in that region is more numerous than one wolf for every 39 square miles.

(A) would fail if the density of the timber wolf population in that region is more numerous

(B) would fail provided the density of the timber wolf population in that region is more

(C) should fail if the timber wolf density in that region was greater

(D) will fail if the density of the timber wolf population in that region is greater

(E) will fail if the timber wolf density in that region were more numerous

You might be tempted to pick (E), as it looks like it “corrects” the sentence by using the past subjunctive “were” instead of the present indicative “is.” However, the subjunctive is only used for non-real situations: things that haven’t happened in the past, are not happening now, and aren’t likely to happen in the future.

In this case, we have a “wildlife expert” making a prediction about what is likely to happen in the future—based on what is real about right now. In other words, the one-wolf-per-39-miles population size is a current possible reality, unlike my becoming the Queen of England. Therefore, “to be” should not take hypothetical subjunctive mood and is correct in the indicative mood, present tense.

However, the sentence isn’t entirely correct as written: the prediction for what will happen to the caribou if this scenario turns out to be true should be described with the future tense (“will fail if”), not the conditional tense (“would fail if”). It also needs to use “greater than” as opposed to “more numerous than,” since we’re talking about the collective singular noun “population.”

With (D), the sentence reads: “A wildlife expert predicts that the reintroduction of the caribou into northern Minnesota will fail if the density of the timber wolf population in that region is greater than one wolf for every 39 square miles. This correctly puts the verb “fail” in the indicative mood, future tense; keeps “is” in the indicative mood, present tense; and changes “more numerous than” to “greater than.” Hence, (D) is the correct answer.

 

This wolf could be from Northern Minnesota.
This wolf could be from Northern Minnesota.

 

3 Key Tips for Subjunctive Mood GMAT Questions

Here’s how to nail every kind of subjunctive mood question that you’ll see on the GMAT.

 

Tip #1: Memorize The Two Subjunctive Mood Rules

This one is a given: there are only two main subjunctive mood rules that you need to know for the GMAT: to use the base form of the word with “that” subjunctives (demands and suggestions), and to use the past subjunctive “were” for sentences with hypotheticals/wishes. Commit them to memory now.

 

Tip #2: Write Down Subjunctive Mood Examples That You Read

Look out for the subjunctive mood in sources like The Atlantic and The New York TimesWhen you see it in action, write down the example you came across in a notebook or in the notes section of your iPhone. This will help you become more familiar with its many uses.

You should also start implementing the subjunctive rules in your everyday writing. You’ll be surprised at how many instances of the subjunctive mood you’ve been missing—and how it easy it is to get it right with just those two rules!

 

Have you caught any subjunctive mood uses in your daily reading?
Have you caught any subjunctive mood uses in your daily reading?

 

Tip #3: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Subjunctive mood questions aren’t very common, but they will come up in your GMAT sentence correction practice from time to time. The more you practice with GMAT sentence correction questions, the more you’ll become familiar with complex sentences in the subjunctive mood, and the better you’ll get at spotting them on the real test. You’ll also get better at spotting the kinds of sentences that shouldn’t be in the subjunctive mood (but seem like they should be at first), so you won’t be fooled by questions like the last example above.

One great resource for practicing sentence correction questions (including the subjunctive mood ones) is The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review. The book includes 300 official practice questions from retired GMATs, access to an accompanying site where you can customize sets of practice questions, reviews of grammar and reading comprehension fundamentals, and online videos with tips and strategies specific to the verbal section.

Another solid option is the Kaplan GMAT Verbal Workbook, which contains about 220 unofficial GMAT verbal questions, with nearly 100 of those questions devoted to sentence correction.

 

What’s Next?

The subjunctive mood isn’t the only quirky grammatical concept tested by the GMAT, so be sure to review our guide to the six grammar rules that you need to know for the GMAT.

If the Verbal section in general is challenging for you, head to our post on how to master the three Verbal question types.

We can also help you find the best GMAT Verbal practice once you’re ready to dive in.

Happy studying!

 

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