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They’re alive! (Cough. Er.) Well, they’re published anyway: the new Official Guide books are here! In Part 1 and Part 2, we talked about the Quant portions of the new Official Guides, aka the OGs. It’s time to dive into Verbal. We’ll be talking about the verbal sections of The Official Guide for GMAT® Review 2017, aka the OG or the big book, as well as The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review 2017, aka the verbal review or the verbal supplement.
As I mentioned in the first installment of this series, there are some very interesting new questions in the latest editions. At the same time, only about 15% of the questions are new, so don’t feel that you have to rush right out and buy the new books. If you already have the 2016 edition(s), you’re fine; if you don’t yet have your OGs, then I’d recommend buying the newest editions (2017).
In the big book, Chapter 3 has not changed. The same 100 questions are in the Diagnostic exam. The relevant verbal chapters with new material are chapters 7 (Reading Comprehension), 8 (Critical Reasoning), and 9 (Sentence Correction).
Before we start, just a housekeeping note: I can’t reproduce the text of questions for copyright reasons, but I’ll cite the problem number of any question I discuss so that you can look it up if you do decide to buy the book. And you might notice that the question numbers seem awfully high; the OGs have moved to continuous numbering throughout the book. The website that allows you to do problem sets with these problems now lists the problem number, a welcome addition allowing you to look up specific problems in the book after you’ve seen them in an online problem set.
What’s new in Reading Comprehension for the 2017 editions?
The big book contains 5 new passages, 2 longer and 3 shorter. The 5 passages encompass 21 questions total, only 3 of which are main idea.
Of the 18 specific questions, a whopping 11 of them are inference questions. Most of the rest are straight up specific detail questions, though there are a Specific Purpose (Why) and a Weaken in the mix.
(Did that sound funny? Here’s another example with the same structure: there are a cat and a dog in the yard. That’s actually correct: in this inverted sentence, the subject is the plural “cat and dog.” Just a little Sentence Correction aside for you there. )
Three of the five new passages are pretty classic in terms of both passage structure and questions.
The third new passage (long business) is…interesting. I’m going to call it Failed Acquisitions (that’s the general topic). The first two of the four questions are unusual. The first one starts According to the passage (a classic specific detail set-up), but the question is actually an Inference question. I don’t think I’ve seen that before.
The second question associated with this passage is unusual enough that I’m not entirely sure how to classify it. I finally ended up calling it a Specific Detail question…but I’m still thinking about it. So save this passage for a little later in your studies, once you’re pretty comfortable with RC.
The fifth new passage, a long social science / business passage about US patent law, is challenging. The third question is a great example of a hard (but legitimately hard!) question. The second question is…well, let’s just say that I think some people are going to want to argue with this one. This happens sometimes on RC. Shrug your shoulders and move on!
In the verbal review guide, the 15 new questions are spread across just 2 new, short passages, one on predicting earthquakes and one about native American trade. Again, a solid majority of the questions (9) are inference. I didn’t find anything remarkable about these questions.
How about Critical Reasoning: what’s new there?
The big book added (and dropped) 19 CRs and the verbal review added (and dropped) 13. Looking over my notes, I’m noticing that the single most common theme is “classic.” I categorized the vast majority of these as classic examples of their type, particularly in the big book.
The verbal review does have a couple of unusual ones. #153 is a Find the Assumption but the question stem is unusual. #166 is just weird! I finally decided to call it a Describe the Argument question, but I almost could have called it Evaluate. Again, I’m going to have to think about this one more.
In the big book, I really liked questions 661 and 666. They’re hard—but in a great way. The logic is solid but you’ve got to earn the win; if you can think your way through these, then you’re doing well on CR. My notes from when I first did #666 include this: “Love it! Totally overlooked the correct answer at first, but it works!”
And what about Sentence Correction?
We gained 21 new SCs in the big book and 17 in the verbal review (and lost the same numbers in each).
Okay, one of the new questions blew my mind a little bit. And for something that wasn’t even part of the underline! Take a look at #685. Spot anything?
If you haven’t studied this specific thing yet, you likely won’t have any idea what I’m talking about. Many years ago, it used to be the case that “like” did not mean “for example.” (Nor did like mean said, as in: She was like are you kidding me?) In proper usage, like meant similar to and such as meant for example.
I enjoy games such as chess.
This wine is like grape juice.
In question 685, though, the non-underlined portion uses the word like to mean for example. Further, there are no questions in either OG 2017 edition SC chapter that specifically make you choose between like and such as. (Not purely. There’s one that does have these words, but the issue there is a little different…it makes you choose not between such as and like but between such as and such like. Such like is…not a real phrase.)
What does this mean? Language does change over time, and, currently, people do use like to mean for example. So I’d guess that we don’t need to worry about this particular issue any longer. (Though, again, such like is not an idiom. )
There are some really great new modifier and sentence structure questions in the big book, including #668, #683, #724, #725. In the verbal review, I was really intrigued by #189: it includes some sentence structure errors that reflect how people often speak in the real world (incorrectly, unfortunately!). So we’ve still got to be careful that casual language doesn’t trip us up on the test.
Multiple questions in both books touched on meaning issues, including redundancy. And we’ve still got the old stand-by subject verb agreement, though I was interested to see a couple of questions that tested singular-plural noun agreement¾not noun-pronoun or noun-verb. For example:
She treats her best friends as a sister.
She treats two or more friends as a single person? That doesn’t make sense! She must treat them as sisters, plural.
Those are the highlights for verbal. In our next installment, I’ll give you a full list of the questions that are new to the OG 2017 editions.
Until then, happy studying! 📝
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