GMAT idioms for non-native speakers

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GMAT idioms for non-native speakers

Idioms can be one of the most difficult topics for native speakers and non-native speakers alike. 

But just like every other question on the GMAT, idiom questions can be approached strategically. 




Before the GMAT

  • Don’t worry too much about more “creative” idioms. The GMAT doesn’t spend much time testing your knowledge of phrases like “below the belt” and “having his hands full.” Most GMAT questions will focus on your ability to use very common idioms like “considered to be” and “as good as.” Of course, just because GMAT idioms tend to be common doesn’t mean that they make sense.
  • Read as much “GMAT English” as you can. Publications like The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times will help train your brain to see idioms in context and recognize when a phrase doesn’t “feel right.” This will help non-native speakers on all GMAT verbal questions, not just idioms.
  • Know your prepositions. Words like “between” and “among” are extremely common on GMAT idiom questions. After hearing them in context enough, you might have an easier time identifying correct and incorrect usage.
  • Keep a list of unfamiliar idioms. When you’re reading an English article or book and see a phrase that doesn’t seem grammatically correct, make a little note to look up the phrase later. This will help you learn the rules in a natural way that’s far more effective than flashcards and simple repetition.

During the GMAT

  • Eliminate grammatically incorrect answers. Sometimes you can reduce your number of choices just by getting rid of answers with obvious grammatical errors. Especially if you’re a non-native speaker, having only two answers to choose from can help you zero in on the difference between them.
  • Keep it short. The simplest form of a sentence is often the best way to say it. If you’re caught between two options, the shorter of the two is often the better choice. 

This article is part of an ongoing series of tips for international students and non-native speakers taking the GMAT. See the rest here.

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