Test-takers preparing for the SATs generally tend to fear the verbal section slightly more than the quantitative. There is no science to explain this phenomenon but if an educated guess had to be made it would that math can be defined by a series of formulas, there are no formulas, however, when it comes to deciphering the meaning of words. Years ago when I was taking the SATs I too feared the dreaded verbal section. My final score reflected my fear as I scored higher on the math section, not by much but enough to continue feeding my anxieties. I was convinced that English was my weak point. I now sit here as a professional writer and feel more confortable writing a 50k word novel than I do a basic algebra equation. The reason is that I figured out the mystery, with the help of brilliant instructors of course, the power of words. As I now understand, English was never a weak point for me. I created the walls that prevented me from reaching my maximum potential. The key to success is to always believe that you are capable of anything. Once understood how to utilize the English language any verbal section on any exam I came across not only became manageable but even enjoyable.
Words are a tool of communication. The more you understand this concept the easier it will become to tackle verbal problems. Words can be used to convey both a general message, and a very specific and intricate idea. Paying attention to words and learning how to identify modifying words will help determine very clearly the message that is being presented. For example, sentence completion may include words such as but, or however. These words should immediately trigger an instinct that the missing word implies the opposite message as the first part of the sentence. The sentences and texts found on the SATs are not meant to trick you; they are also not forms of artistic expression. The sentences and phrases you will come across will aim to express an idea the easiest and most obvious way.
Read, read, read
There is no better way to master the power of words than to read. You should read well-respected newspapers and novels to develop language analytical skills. With technology developing the way that it is everything is moving faster and faster and our attention spans are being squished into non-existence. Active reading involves two functions, reading the text and analyzing the text. By reading newspapers and novels you condition yourself to slow down and appreciate all of the provided information. You’re no longer just reading, you’re absorbing an idea. You also develop an instinct for verbal patterns and your vocabulary will grow tenfold. Reading a dictionary or flash cards will only help you so much. You’d just be memorizing words as apposed to learning them from a context that could later be recalled with pleasure. To learn that a perplexed person is a confused person is not the same as recalling how a character was perplexed by how he lost his job and friends one morning without warning or just cause. You remember the story and from the story you define the word, it has a personal meaning to you because of how you reacted to the words when first reading them.
Know your basic grammar
There’s no way around it, you’ll need to learn your Standard English grammar. You can’t decipher the message of a sentence if you can’t pin point the difference between subjects, predicates, modifiers, and so forth. Once you do grasp how a sentence is constructed you will be able to identify the author’s intent. A strong grasp of Standard English grammar is the same as understanding how to cook a soup. You need to know which ingredients add which flavors and how and why they work well together. By knowing why a sentence works you can identify why a sentence doesn’t work. What ingredient wouldn’t fit in with the rest? As mentioned earlier, a sentence with the word but, or however, should generally be followed by something that is opposite of what was presented in the first part of the sentence. Anything other than the opposite would render the word but or however unnecessary and confusing. Spotting these flaws will direct you away from wrong answers and closer towards the correct one.
The growing disparity between scores on the quantitative section and verbal section of the SAT exam is concerning. The test has not been getting more difficult over the years but rather our culture has washed verbal communication of all its beautiful nuances. To learn how to communicate using the English language puts in a position to stand out as a candidate on any application. I have colleagues in many different industries and they all agree that writing is a major part of their day to day functions, even in careers in finance and medicine where writing might not seem like a requirement.