Improve Your GMAT Score – What Are Idioms and Why Are They So Tough?

Cat out of the BagThe GMAT consists of some rather gnarly questions in the verbal section of the exam. For example, critical reasoning questions cause great trouble for those who struggle with formal logic, while sentence correction and reading comprehension and sentence correction problems can create more issues for students who have learned English as a second language. The real key in this case is to know your weaknesses and minimize them on the exam by practicing all of your sections, but focusing on your weaknesses.

Did you know: the area in which you are missing the most questions when you start preparing for the exam is the place where you have the most potential benefit.

But is that Enough?

The structure of the GMAT throws an extra monkey wrench into your quest to matriculate into business school. The GMAT is, of course, a computer-adaptive test. If you miss a single early question, you might be immediately knocked out of your target scoring range. A bad moment can really hurt your score.

Usually you can work through a bad moment strategically during the test if you have developed your test-taking skills. If you are sharp enough, you can work out most of your issues during the exam. However, as much as you practice, there is exactly one tiny portion that actually requires memorization for this test: proper use of idioms.

An “idiom” is a word that is either a grammatical anomaly or culture-based development of the way we say something. “Waiting on a customer” means serving someone food, but “waiting on a bench” means sitting.

Why? There is no reason. It is what it is.

But what about the RULES of Grammar!?

Sorry. There are no grammatical rules you can check in the sentence, so don’t count on that. Your fantastic, logical test-taking skills won’t help. It’s time to get out the old flash cards and get to work.

As someone who defeats standardized tests for a living, I find that excruciating. The last thing I ever want to tell someone about something on a test is, “There is no logical way to approach this than to know everything there is to know about it.” These tests claim a basis in scientific assessment of certain skill sets, and knowing everything there is to know about the English language just doesn’t seem like something I would care about from my business school students.

Make no mistake: The idiom is a genuinely demonic, menacingly maniacal beast hell-bent on keeping you out of a good business school. The good news is that you just need to know what idioms might come at you and you can obliterate that thing before it touches your precious point total.

Testmasters was founded in 1991 and has become one of the largest and fastest-growing educational companies in the United States. Testmasters offers classroom courses, 1-on-1 courses, online courses, and books for standardized exams including the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, HSPT, ISEE Lower, Mid, and Upper Levels, PSAT/SAT, SAT Subject Tests, ACT, and the EIT & PE Professional Engineering Exams in many states around the country. Since its inception, over 120,000 students have taken courses from Testmasters.


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