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How To Prepare For Verbal Ability And Reading Comprehension for the CAT Exam

by Manish Gupta 2021-10-06

How To Prepare For Verbal Ability And Reading Comprehension for the CAT Exam

The Common Admission Test (CAT) is a computer-based MBA entrance exam for admission to the IIMs and other top business schools in India. As you must already know, Verbal ability and reading comprehension (VARC) is one of the 3 sections asked in CAT, the other two being Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Aptitude.

In this blog, you will get to know about the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section of the CAT exam as well as how to do well in that. 

What does this section test? 

Before going to how to prepare VARC for CAT, first get familiar with the objective of this very section. VARC section in CAT tests your ability to grasp the context of passages and answer the questions based on your understanding. So here, more than your grammatical proficiency, what matters is are you capable enough to think what is the right meaning of the paras. Both VA and RC are testing this same thing. In CAT Verbal Ability, to find out the pata summary order of sentences to make a coherent paragraph, you need contextual understanding and in Reading comprehension also, you need to comprehend the context of the long paras, not just what is written. Check more about what types of questions are asked in CAT VARC and in how many quantities, by referring to the CAT 2021 exam pattern.

Myth about CAT VARC

The VARC part of the CAT has evolved from an English language test to an English use test over time. Previously, the vocabulary and grammar questions were easy and straightforward. Either you knew or didn't know the answer. However, it has been observed that the priority has shifted from measuring English knowledge to contextual understanding of the language over time. 

It is damn sure that you wouldn't be able to find a single CAT RC question which you can answer without reading the whole paragraph. Questions in CAT RC are not that simple where you first read the question and then revert to para to find the keywords of the question and then search for the answer in nearby places.

The Verbal ability segment includes questions such as paraphrasing (summarising the content of the paragraph) and para-jumbles (reconfiguring/rearranging jumbled up statements to produce a meaningful paragraph). As previously indicated, a student with strong comprehension skills does admirably in this subject. Although having a strong vocabulary is advantageous, it will not prohibit you from performing well in this section, as vocabulary is not the thing that is explicitly tested in CAT. 

How to improve VARC in CAT? Clear your Grammar first

If you are not good in Grammar or even if you are English-savvy but don't know or forgot the extensive technicalities of English grammar, you should first go through all the Grammar portion again. Acadergy's YouTube platform and premium plans offer you enough study material for strengthening your English grammar. This is the first stepping stone in VARC preparation for CAT. 

Develop your reading habit and keep reading

Reading any article/book/newspaper for at least 1 hour per day will improve your reading abilities and vocabulary. Make sure to read editorials and opinions from The Hindu, TOI, Deccan Herald, and The Indian Express, and some articles from LiveMint. Newspaper is necessary because it has articles from various disciplines of life ranging from psychology to social and natural sciences. 

If you are a person who isn't into reading a lot, and up till now all you have read was your school textbooks, then you should try to kick start by reading or watching a monologue or a story and then write down what you think that the author wanted to convey. This way you will be able to understand others point of view better and understand the underlying tone of the author and that will help you in getting correct answers. When it comes to competitive tests like the CAT, maintaining the same level of intensity from the first to the last question is crucial. To achieve this level of intensity, try reading novels for hours at a time.

Reading Comprehension for CAT Tips

Reading and comprehending the reading are two aspects of excelling in RC. You must also be extremely cautious about the source of the questions you practise. Refer to the best books for CAT VARC

Your vocabulary will not be tested anywhere in CAT VARC, and as for hard words in passages, you can understand their context by connecting with nearby sentences. Questions in RC are mostly central idea, theme based, fact, or inference type questions requiring you to study all the paras carefully. You can get a more detailed view of VARC questions by looking at the CAT previous year papers

In CAT RC, you will come across long passages with 5-6 paragraphs each having 4-5 questions. For each passage, try getting the theme of the passage from the first para and then ramp up the reading of the remaining paras. If you are finding the words too hard, you should still continue reading it, as questions for hard-seeming RC passages often tend to be easy. Another option is to go for RC whose theme is of your interest and aptitude. Once you get to the main theme, you can skim through the content just to get relevant information and hence save time. Make sure to add a one or two line essence for each para so that when you will be answering questions, you can easily look for the para where your answer would most probably be. Make a checklist to do 2 RCs every day following the above mentioned tips to improve reading comprehension for the CAT exam. 

How to do Verbal Ability for CAT

While simultaneously going with reading comprehension, do 10 CAT verbal ability questions per day from each of the topics of CAT VA. In the initial days, refer to the solutions from your study source to get a view point in solving different kinds of questions. 

Sequencing Questions:- Questions in the form of odd one outs and Para jumbles for CAT VARC are asked as complicated sequencing questions. Both types require you to find out the order of the sentences to form a meaningful para. Out of 4 options, there are 24 possible combinations to choose from. These questions are in TITA format, so you wouldn't be getting the benefit of elimination and choose the left out. Also, the vocabulary in the sentences wouldn't be too easy to understand, hence you have to understand the context linking it with all sentences. 

Let me brief you about a common strategy in these types of questions. First, search for an opening sentence from where the para should begin. The first sentence should be something the keyword of which is repeating in other sentences. It contains a detailed keyword which then is used in short in other sentences (Just as we Pronoun after introducing a Noun). Thereafter, if you are able to find a sequence between even two sentences, you can also reach the final answer. So if you are sure that sentence 2 will come after 4, 42 is ready and then there are only 6 possible combinations. If you are also sure that 3 will come after 1, then 31 is also ready and now you just have 2 possible combinations 4231 or 3142 which you can easily choose if you have identified the opening sentence as I told you previously.

Para Summary questions for CAT:-  "The passage given below is followed by four alternate summaries. Choose the option that best captures the essence of the passage", you will see this type of question in CAT verbal ability where 4 options will confuse you to choose the best one. It's not like only one option is correct and other points are not summarizing the para, it's like which point captures the best meaning. All the 4 options you will see will more or less talk about some part para but the best point is which contextualize the whole para. You can pick the best option just by a glance or deductive elimination method. 

Focus on Accuracy and Attempts 

In order to maintain a high accuracy, you should gradually move from moderate  to highly difficult questions. solving the low difficulty questions will go a long way in helping you tackle the high difficulty question. Other than that a good number of very high difficulty questions should be left un attempted in the exam. Be selective and prioritize your questions. This too will result in higher accuracy.

In order to earn a 99th percentile score in VARC, attempts are just as important as accuracy. You need to maximise your attempts (with excellent precision). VARC is the only section where you can do so because here attempting more doesn't decrease your score to much extent. Attempting 3 quarters of the questions with 80% accuracy is far better than attempting half of the questions with 90% accuracy. To maximize your attempts, allot yourself the maximum time to be devoted to each question, surpassing which you will move to the next question. So if there are 40 minutes dedicated to the VARC section and if you have to attempt, say, 20 questions out of 26, and 10 minutes are required in end for revision, (40-10)/20, that is 1.5 minutes should be allocated to each question, making it approx 8 minutes for an RC passage having 5 questions. Note that this 1.5 minutes is an average time, it can be exceeded or some of it saved depending on the question. If you are very close to getting an answer, leaving it midway would not be a wise thing just because the limit has been crossed. But in the normal course, you should adhere to this time and come back again to the questions you couldn't answer in 10 minutes revision time. 

Sectional Mocks to build your Speed and Strategy! 

In addition to your normal reading, grammar and practice questions, sectional mock tests are what you should be aiming at. Get a detailed view of Mock benefits. Make a rule of giving 2 mocks each week with utter focus on analysis after attempting. Try to practice different strategies with RCs, as your unique strengths will automatically make you turn to the best. See if approaching questions before para makes you solve early or vice versa. Try to get the mind of the examiner, what clues he is giving you in each of the options from which you can eliminate the redundant options and hence approach the best one. In each mock, try to pick the psych of the thinking involved behind framing the questions. This goes a long way in ticking the MCQs. Remember, your strategy is your added unfair advantage over others. Don't forget to profit from our free VARC mocks.

Long-term planning, comprehending fundamentals, and consistent practice is a must in order to clear this test. With enough practice of questions and mock examinations, the VARC questions can be mastered. Acadery's latest CAT resources will not only help you in VARC, but in all of the sections of the CAT. Make the best use of this time by availing our offerings.