3 Ways To Improve Your Reading Comprehension Score For CAT

From last 2 years, the pattern of CAT has remained consistent. There are three sections QA, DILR, VARC; each one of them with 34, 32, 64 questions each. To do well in CAT, one needs to score consistently in all three section or to say minimum 90%ile in each section would be favourable for getting calls from Top IIMs.

A lot of aspirants who are engineers or with maths background do really well in Quant and DILR but end up messing up VARC section, which in turn limits their calls. VARC is being perceived to be very tough by many as the answer can be directly verified by calculations but it rather based on the soft-skill part.

VARC portion of the CAT has 34 questions;10 from Verbal Ability and 24 from Reading Comprehension, as per CAT 2016. It has also been observed that Verbal Ability questions were the ones without any option and aspirants had to answer by typing answer, which makes VA section dicey in terms of accuracy. So it is pretty much clear that RC has 70% weightage and one can’t afford to look over it.

Breaking down RC even further, there are around 24 questions from around 5 passages. Over the years CAT RCs have been toned down in terms of difficulty level. Some 5-6 years back, RCs had a very complicated language, questions were even more obscure and weren’t direct. But in recent 2-3 CAT exams, things have changed, RCs are less complex. The number of words in a passage has been close to 400 words on an average; 1-2 RC can be close to 300 words long; 1-2 RC can be 500-60 as well. In terms of options in a question, 2 options usually would be very close and here comes the judgment part, where one must choose. This choice between the two close option usually should be done on the basis of which option goes well with the theme and overall context of the passage.

So, by now it the structure must be very clear in mind; now comes the core question, how to master the RCs? Well unlike quants, there is no definite formula to crack RC but a serious aspirant can definitely ace RC by following way (Some of these steps are very rudimentary, but I am writing this for someone who needs a complete reboot of their RC strategy):

1. Increase the reading speed: If your reading speed isn’t good, you won’t be able to attempt a good number of passages, leave alone the thought of doing really well in it. So increasing reading speed become mandatory. Try to read a lot and start reading fast, change in speed could be observed in a few weeks.

2. Comprehending the Comprehension: RCs aren’t always direct, there may be a hidden meaning to the passages. So how do you develop comprehension to a level that you are able to see both direct and indirect meaning? Here’s a way;

  • Start reading newspaper columns and which have difficult words and are not easily understood in terms of context, my personal favorites are Indian Express and The Hindu columns (don’t go for easier ones like TOI). Keep reading them multiple times till their every word starts making sense to you.
  • Reading good books is an essential part of CAT prep and life as well to a certain extent. Specifically, for CAT Prep, read a lot of non-fiction books. Starter kit may be Amartya Sen’s ‘Arguementative Indian’, Maclom Gladwell’s ‘Blink’. You can find many reading lists on the internet but what is important is understanding every paragraph and its meaning. If you are in starting phase, it might be difficult but it would take a few take a few weeks to get accustomed.

3. More you sweat in peace, less you bleed in war: Yes, the title is self-explanatory; practice makes a man perfect and not repeating mistakes makes him immortal. So every time you give mock, sectional tests, keep a track of your mistakes. Excel can do a good job of error-tracker. This would do 2 things: first would be increased in accuracy, second would be knowing strong and weak areas. Every good mock-test provider has certain analytical parameters to judge performance; e.g. time taken to attempt questions, accuracy, areas of mistake. These parameters act as a reflection of the effort and a serious aspirant leverages them very well.

Above points aren’t self-sufficient and there can be many other ways to improve performance in RC and CAT overall.

Here are 15 book recommendations that can help you with your CAT prep.

Sachin Mandot

Sachin Mandot is an IMT-G Alum (Batch of 2018). With an aim to help MBA aspirants, he has been writing on InsideIIM platform since March 2017.




Sir, I face difficulty in eliminating RC options in order to get a correct answer. Please suggest some tips.