English for Competitive Exams – All You Need to Know!

English for Competitive Exams

While most Indian students are comfortable with the quantitate section of competitive exams such as CAT, GMAT, GRE, IELTS, etc, English for competitive exams remains a challenge for many.

With equal weightage, if not more, to English for competitive exams as to Maths, it’s imperative to gain clarity about basic grammar rules, understand the skills it needs to crack the verbal section of competitive exams and get extremely comfortable and confident with English for competitive exams. 

Does the “English monster” petrify you and gives you doubts about cracking the competitive exam you are preparing for?  

Worry not, you will conquer and win over this monster after reading this guide.  

This comprehensive guide will help you gain better clarity on the general English for competitive exams, best English books for preparation of such exams, golden rules of grammar, tips to improve your score in the verbal section of various competitive exams, types of questions for English in the competitive exams, and much more. 

General English for Competitive Exams 

Most competitive exams test the verbal skills on candidates with questions based on topics like nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, tenses, prepositions, conjunctions, active and passive voice, reporting speech, diction, etc. 

Knowledge of these topics will help you answer the questions on the verbal section of competitive exams. 

Basic Error Types for English for Competitive Exams are: 

  • Subject-Verb Agreement 
  • Parallelism 
  • Verb Forms
  • Comparisons 
  • Modifiers 
  • Grammatical Construction 
  • Diction 
  • Logical Prediction 
  • Idioms 
  • Rhetorical Construction 
  • Vocabulary 

English Grammar for Competitive Exams 

Here is a list of a few must-know grammar rules to help you prepare for English for competitive exams and crack the verbal section of any competitive exam: 

  • When a noun or pronoun is placed before a gerund (ing-word), it must be in the possessive case. For example: I was pleased with Robert’s coming here. But the possessive case cannot be used with a gerund when the noun devotes a lifeless thing. For example: There is no danger of the wall (not wall’s) falling down. 
  • A proper noun becomes a common noun when it is used in plural form or when an article is placed before it. For Example: Five Gandhis, the Miltons, etc.
  • A collective noun takes a singular verb when the whole group is considered as one unit. Example: The Committee consists of 5 members. But if we refer the members of the community separately, the verb takes the plural form. Example: The community have taken their seats. 
  • While confessing a fault (or expressing negative idea) the sequence of the personal pronouns should be – first, second and then third. However, when expressing praise or positive idea, the sequence of personal pronouns is second, third and then first.
  • Few/Fewer/Many is used before countable nouns while Less/Lesser/Much is used before uncountable nouns. 
  • An adverb should never be placed between ‘to’ and the verb.
  • When the subjects joined by ‘either-or’, or ‘neither-nor’ are of different persons, the verb will agree in person and number with the noun nearest to it
  • If connectives like WITH, TOGETHER WITH, AS WELL AS, ACCOMPANIED BY, etc are used to combine two subjects, the verb agrees with the subject mentioned first
  • That” in a sentence is used for crucial information while “which” is used for additional information. 
  • Generally “as” is followed by a verb and “like” is followed by a noun. 
  • Like” is used to present similarity whereas “such as” is used to give examples. 
  • “Compared to” is used to draw a comparison between unlike things while “Compared with” is used to draw a comparison between like things.
  • Advice is an uncountable noun. ‘Advices’ is wrong. 

[BONUS] Vocabulary to Improve English for Competitive Exams 

While working on your English for competitive exams, it’s also important to build a strong vocabulary. 

Read our blog on 50 Difficult Words and Meanings to start building a foundation of extensive vocabulary that will help you master English for competitive exams. 

In addition to this its also important to understand the difference between similar words that have been confusing us from the longest time. 

Lie– be in or assume a horizontal or resting position on a supporting surface

Lay– put (something) down gently or carefully

Hanged– kill (someone) by tying a rope attached from above around their neck and removing the support from beneath them

Hung– suspend or be suspended from above with the lower part dangling free (used for things, not people) 

Adapt– make suitable 

Adopt– take a child as one’s own

Allusion– pleasant and good-tempered 

Illusion– false notion 

Apposite– relevant 

Opposite– contrary 

Beside– by the side 

Besides– in addition to 

Childish– Silly 

Childlike– Innocent 

Historic– famous or important in the history 

Historical– pertaining to the history 

Verbal– relating to words

Verbose– wordy

Disinterested– free from bias or prejudice 

Uninterested– not interested 

Tips and Tricks for Improving English for Competitive Exams 

Here are a few tips and tricks to improve English for competitive exams: 

  • Read Newspapers Regularly 

Reading newspaper regularly not only adds to your knowledge but also helps you improve your vocabulary and broaden your horizons, provided you read it the right way.

  • Firstly, time your reading for every major article, keep the stopwatch running. This simple act will make you faster and focused.
  • Don’t miss the editorials. Editorial articles are big and rich and they should form the core of your reading practice.
  • Use highlighters and pens to mark new words, difficult phrases, key ideas, etc that you come across while reading the newspaper. 
  • Write down everything you have learned (like new words, phrases, etc ) in a separate place and review it periodically.
  • Keep Revising Grammar Rules 

With so many concepts and rules for the grammar you need to remember for English for competitive exams, it will be a good idea to revise the grammar rules on a daily or weekly basis.

  • You can prepare flashcards and carry them with you while you are traveling and make sure you go through them whenever you get time. 
  • Make sure you use the vocabulary and grammar rules that you use in your writings; be it an assignment or a mere WhatsApp message. 
  • Excel at Spotting Errors 

While improving your English for competitive exams calls for going into the basics of grammar and honing the verbal ability skills, its also important to excel the ability to identify the errors quickly and reaching the correct answer effectively. 

  • Read the sentence completely and understand the meaning and structure of the sentence.
  • Remember that answer choices in passive voice are usually incorrect. 
  • Scan the answer choices for obvious differences and low hanging fruits – the first and last words of each answer choice, pronouns, and verbs. 

We hope that all these concepts, type of questions, grammar rules, and tips and tricks will help you prepare well for English for competitive exams. If you need any help with the preparation of competitive exams like GMAT, GRE, IELTS, etc, you can get in touch with Leverage Edu and kickstart your journey to success. 

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