Verbal reasoning is a component of many standardized tests, from the SAT to the GRE and MCAT. In addition, employers often use verbal reasoning questions before hiring workers to determine if the person is right for the job. These types of exams usually test vocabulary, reading comprehension and verbal logic. In order to do well on verbal reasoning exams, it's best to start preparing early, but you can still pass even if you don't have much time.
Purchase a study guide for the specific test you will take. Each standardized test has different sections on it and different ways to test verbal reasoning. For example, you might find reading comprehension questions or verbal analogies. It's important that you know which types of questions that you'll encounter on your specific test. Look for a guide that provides practice questions, vocabulary lists and explanations. The Princeton Review and Kaplan offer comprehensive study guides for most standardized tests.
Build your vocabulary with flash cards. Many verbal reasoning tests use high-level vocabulary words in the questions. If you don't understand the words, you won't stand a chance of passing the test. Write a word on one side of an index card with the definition on the other. Choose 10 at a time, and read the word and try to define it in your own words. Check the back to see if you've gotten it right. You can also read the definitions and try to guess the word. Spend 30 minutes throughout the day studying words. It doesn't have to be in a continuous chunk, though. Whenever you have some free time--on the train or while waiting in line--go through the flash cards to build your vocabulary.
Learn the roots, prefixes and suffixes of words. By learning these, you'll be able to guess the meaning of a word that you don't understand, usually successfully. You can do this by memorizing them on flash cards, the same way that you would vocabulary words. Your study guide probably has a list of roots, prefixes and suffixes, but if you don't have much time, you can look at the list offered by Michigan State University in the Resources section.
Take practice exams. You can find practice exams through your study guide or online. Memorize the instructions for each section so that you don't have to waste time reading them during the test. Compare your answers with the correct answers to determine where you most need help. You'll see that you encounter the same types of questions--such as fill-in-the-blanks or verbal deductions--on each exam.
Eliminate incorrect answers. When taking the exam, don't panic if you don't immediately know the answer. Instead, try to determine which answers are incorrect. Then, even if you have to guess, you have a higher chance of getting it right. For example, if the question asks for the opposite of a particular word, you could eliminate choices that you know are synonyms or that don't relate at all.
- Try to study a little bit every day rather than trying to cram the day before your test.
- Hire a tutor to help you study. If you struggle with verbal reasoning, it can be helpful to have a private tutor to help guide your studies and explain concepts that you don't understand.
Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.