4 “As” To Get To 95+ Percentile In VARC In CAT

 “You learn how to cut trees by cutting them down” – African Proverb.

While it’s not an eco-friendly quote, it’s a CAT-friendly quote. You ‘learn’, if you ‘do’. This post discusses what to ‘do’ to ace the VARC section in the CAT.

1. Awareness: “having knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.”

It is imperative that you understand what is being tested. In my earlier post, “95+ percentile in VARC – Part 1”, I tried to answer that very question. What should be your focus? Answer to that question: Reading Comprehension (RC)!

Once again, here’s why:

Though the pattern of the test can change, you can make some sense by looking at the past 3 years’ CAT papers:



CAT 2016

CAT 2015

CAT 2014

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension




Verbal Reasoning





Para Summary




Odd Sentence




Critical Reasoning


Grammar based







In the past 3 years (and this is true for almost all the past CAT papers), the focus of CAT was not on testing your knowledge, but on testing your ability to understand diverse text – be it in one paragraph (verbal reasoning questions) or in multiple paragraphs (RC questions). There is nothing rational to suggest that things will change in the next CAT.

Since CAT tests your ability to understand and interpret diverse content, focus on the one which has multiple paragraphs – RC. Use RC as a tool to ace all the areas tested in the CAT.

2. Aim: “a purpose or intention; a desired outcome.

The aim is clear – to get 95+ percentile in the VARC section of the CAT.

Last year, net correct answers of 24/34 were needed to get a 99 percentile. For a 95 percentile, it was 21/34.  If we assume a similar pattern and difficulty level, then in CAT 2017, this should be your aim:


Total Questions

Net Correct

% of net correct

Reading Comprehension




Verbal Ability








* For verbal ability, it is 60% because in the last 2 years, paragraph jumble questions had 5 sentences and one had to type-in the correct sequence. This made them challenging. 

3 & 4. Action: to do something for a particular purpose”;

Assessment: evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality

Action and assessment goes together. Assessment of your action reveals the next course of action.

First, you need an action plan that would help achieve your goal. The core plan would be:

  • Solve as many RC passages as possible. The more you do, the better you do.
  • The recent trend in CAT has been passages on current issues on economy, business, politics etc. Surf the web and read diverse articles from Editorials, Time magazine, Economist, BBC, Aeon Magazine, 1843 magazine, Slate, Atlantic Magazine etc. This must be a part of your habit.

We have 150 days to implement the plan. I would recommend that you do it in 3 phases:

50 days – 50 days – 50 days.

If you are hard-pressed for time, you probably would be spending about 15 hours per week for your CAT prep, 1/3rd of that can be devoted to VARC section: around 5 hours per week. That’s close to 2000 minutes in each of the 50 days phase.

Throughout the 3 phases, you should continue to read diverse articles (as mentioned above). I am not counting that as part of the 15 hours per week prep-time since it must become your part of life.

Phase 1: First 50 days (The first 2000 minutes)

Michael Jordan, one of the greatest Basketball players ever, once said, “You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”

The crux: Get the fundamentals correct. And that should be your first outcome.

For every passage do the following:

  • Identify the main idea of each paragraph and see how the ideas across the paragraphs are connected.
  •  If you come across a word that you do not know the meaning of, please refer a dictionary.
  • If there are concepts or terms or events mentioned in the passage that you are unaware of (eg: epistemology in a passage on Philosophy; renaissance in a passage on Art etc.), google to understand the concept.
  • Analyse thoroughly to understand the mistakes you are making and take corrective action.

Since your focus is on building fundamentals, you will probably take about 25-30 minutes (8-10 minutes to solve + 15-20 minutes to analyse) on each passage. 2000 minutes divided by 25-30 minutes/passage equals approximately 75 passages.

Caution: Don’t aim at quantity. The focus must be on accuracy.  

Also, one of the days per week, work on Verbal Reasoning. You will notice this – as your reading comprehension skills improve, your verbal reasoning skills automatically improve.

Phase 2: Next 50 days (Next 2000 minutes)

The objective here is to bring in diversity – attempt to solve questions from as many genres as possible. One can go with this simple logic: the more RC passages you solve, the more genres you would encounter.

With around 20 minutes per passage (8 minutes to solve + 12 minutes to analyse) on, you can look at solving close to 100 passages. You would realize that there are certain topics which you find challenging. You must read up articles on that topic and familiarise yourself.

Continue the one-day-per-week-verbal-reasoning plan.

Phase 3: Last 50 days (Last 2000 minutes)

Hopefully, by this time, you would have become reasonably good at solving RC. You should be able to solve an RC passage in about 8 minutes and need corrective course of action in limited number of cases. So, in 2000 minutes, you can solve 200 passages.

Apart from the passages that you solve, you would be also taking Mock Tests during all the three phases. I presume that you would be taking 25 CAT Mocks spread across the three phases: 5-10-25. 25 CAT Mocks mean an additional 150 passages!

 Here’s the snap-shot:



Action Plan

Phase 1 – 50 days

To build fundamentals

n 75 passages with thorough analysis

n 25 passages from 5 CAT Mocks

n 1 day/week on verbal reasoning

n Read various articles

Phase 2 – 50 days

To strengthen subject expertise

n 100 passages on diverse topics

n 50 passages from 10 CAT Mocks

n 1 day/week on verbal reasoning

n Read various articles

Phase 3 – 50 days

The final push

n 200 passages on diverse topics

n 50 passages from the 10 CAT Mocks

n 1 day/week on verbal reasoning

n Read various articles

Total: 500 RC passages


So, there you have it – the magic number: 500 RC passages!

To get going, do watch my video lesson on Reading Comprehension.

I would encourage you to message me and let me know any topic you want me to write on.

Happy CATing 


About the Author:

Gejo Sreenivasan is the Student Mentor at Career Launcher Mumbai. He is an alumnus of IIT Madras (Batch of 1997) and IIM Calcutta (Batch 1999). He has been mentoring students for the CAT since 2001. 



Gejo Sreenivasan

Hi Nikita,

The CL material is comprehensive in itself – if you count Funda Books, Test Gym Classic, Test Gym Adaptive, Past papers that are available. There is X hours that you would spent for your prep. Using one set of resources would ensure that you would be able to do things in depth.

Gejo Sreenivasan

From an exam point of view, the questions on grammar tests your ability to identify errors. The most effective approach would be learn different types of errors.
1. Subject-Verb Agreement
2. Modifiers
3. Parallelism
4. Pronoun Agreement
5. Tenses
6. Comparisons
7. Idioms

You do not need to be an expert. All you need is the ability to identify errors