The Ugly Truth

Let me introduce myself first, my name is Dennys Velasquez and I am currently the chief of academic staff at Master’s College. If you want to have further information about me, feel free to visit our staff section on our beloved website. I am here to provide some advice on how to face the Verbal section of the GMAT and to share some of my experience as a GMAT instructor.

When students come into my class room there is one thing that crosses their mind: how can a GMAT Verbal class be different from a regular English class?

Unless you have been a regular reader your entire life, you will not feel much of a difference. Just like GMAT Math, you will recognize the subjects since you have already encountered them, either in high school or during your freshman year in college. But unless you can clearly fathom the grammar requirements and analytical skills that the GMAT demands of you, you will not have a joyful preparation.

At the end, it is about distinguishing GMAT Grammar and Standard Grammar for example. Which Sentence Correction rule the GMAT prefers and why; why you can infer this and not that when it comes to the author’s suggestion in a Reading Comprehension text; why we can’t consider some variables in Critical Reasoning questions. All of this requires that the person preparing to take the exam be acquainted with texts at a university level, otherwise it will take much longer to understand what the GMAT asks of you.

A student’s English level in the GMAT preparation course is also another variable to consider. Regardless of how bad an Educational System might be, Peru is a country in which students have often told me: I do not like to read. Whether they come from a private school or from a public one, the answer remains the same. Now, let’s add the fact that we are EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students and not ESL (English as a Second Language) students. An instructor at Master’s College once mentioned a very interesting concept at a meeting: “experience” with the language. If you are learning English in downtown Manhattan, it is quite different from learning in an English Institute in Cusco. I am not referring to the quality or the methodology, I am referring to the exposure students have to the language. You can have 5 hour-long classes, but the other 11 hours in your day (considering you sleep 8 hours) will be plunged in Spanish dialects (from Peruvian slang to proper Spanish).

English, as are all the other languages in the world, is a living organism that constantly changes and adapts to its environment: being an ESL student in India is not the same as being an ESL student in Scotland. So, how can you learn the various idioms the GMAT tests you on if your only exposure to the language is through television and in class?

I feel the need to beg my students to read in English, to change their world upside down by not watching movies in Spanish anymore, switching from Gestion to The Economist, and getting a proper novel to read before their bedtime. These are not simple petulant requests from an overly worried teacher, they are almost “mandatory advices”. Yes, I do get concerned when students want to take the GMAT and I do want them to go to Harvard (and they do) but going on an exchange program for 6 months does not give you the skills to dominate the Verbal section of the GMAT.

In a nutshell, even native English speakers have a hard time with the GMAT. Thus we, non-native speakers, have the responsibility to overcome an additional barrier and when we do, our achievement will be much greater.

Dennys Velasquez