An idiom is a combination of words that has a different meaning than the meanings of the individual words themselves. An idiom can have a literal meaning in one situation and a different idiomatic meaning in another situation. It is a phrase that does not always follow the normal rules of meaning and grammar. Idioms originate from the cultural and historical development of a language. While this means that idioms are constantly evolving and changing, they remain essential for effective communication in any given language.

If you are a native English speaker, consider yourself lucky because you can often rely on your “inner ear” to find the correct expression of a sentence. A person’s “inner ear” is the product of many years of extensive practice in a given language. It is simply through hearing thousands of reiterations of common phrases that allows native speakers to determine the most linguistically common and thus correct method for communicating an idea or expression.

But what do you do if you are not a native English speaker? Unfortunately, if you are not a native English speaker, the most effective approach to identifying correct idioms is to simply memorize them. Idioms don’t follow any set pattern, and so there is no formulaic approach to learning what they are.

Realistically, GMAT idioms comprise only a small subset of sentence correction problems and an even smaller fraction of the verbal score. Depending on your target score, it may bode well to skip studying GMAT idioms entirely and focus your efforts on other sections that may provide “big wins” for improving your score. However, if you are already scoring in the 680+ range, an extra one or two questions correct can provide that extra boost to finally get over the 700 score hump. In these cases, memorizing correct idiom expression can make all the difference.

The 23 most commonly tested GMAT idioms can be found in The GMAT Bootcamp Study Guide. Memorizing this list will give you the most return on your investment in time.

However, if you are a hardcore GMAT enthusiast, I’ve compiled a complete list of idioms that have been previously tested on the GMAT exam. The list contains 470+ idioms and is available for FREE download.

Download the Complete GMAT Idioms List for FREE


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