Ask any CAT Topper and he or she will tell you that VA-RC is the most unpredictable section when it comes to scoring in CAT. In fact, many toppers have pointed out that the VA-RC section in CAT 2019 was particularly difficult. With answers being largely subjective, there's a lot of grey area when it comes to this section of the CAT. This section generally consists of 34 questions of 3 marks each. So how do you go about preparing for this section right now? How do you gain mastery over the reading comprehension section, which historically has the most questions and takes the most time? How do you stay away from negative marking? How do you pace yourself during this seemingly long and exhaustive section? If these are some questions bothering you, this article will provide the answers in this article.
Let's jump right into it.
Here are the 5 steps you need to observe to improve your VA-RC percentile.
1. Start Reading
Every prep guide, video and individual tells you to read more to improve your VA-RC score. But as cliched as it sounds, it is literally, the single most powerful thing you can do to go from a 95 to a 98 or a 99 percentile in VA-RC. You are not required to become a fiction aficionado or a Francis Bacon of literature; instead the idea is to get acquainted with different genres and various writing styles. Reading frequently will not only help you better prepare for the passages that you are bound to face on D-Day, but it will also be of tremendous help in learning contextual usage of various words; improving your vocabulary, grammar and general knowledge.
Also note that when it comes to reading comprehension, reading speed is really important. As you read a giant 1000 to 3000 word essay, how fast do you do it and how much do you understand is what really matters when cracking the CAT. Keep in mind that on D-Day, you'll not have a lot of time. After all, conquering the CAT is all about managing your time to solve as many questions correctly as you can, right! It is crucial to be familiar with various subjects, and read those RC passages quickly in order to answer properly and complete the section with accuracy. Hence a reading habit will prove useful. We've even listed some fiction and non fiction books you can peruse to improve your VA-RC skills.
Here's a few sources where you can read long essays and get a download on various subjects:
1. The Economist
2. The Guardian
3. Al Daily
4. The Hindu
5. Project Syndicate
6. Farnam Street Blog
7. 1843 Magazine
8. The Ken
9. Aeon Essays
10. Brain Pickings by Maria Popova
There are many more publications online that you can refer to. The one key rule? Read as much as you can!
2. Solve 5-10 Questions Daily From Different Topics
Basically, you need to familiarize yourself with the different types of questions and the way they're asked. In order to this properly, you need to pick up three or four topics a day and solve 5 to 10 questions from each. You can refer to VA-RC prep books by various authors including Arun Sharma and Sujit Kumar.
Keep in mind that at this time, your focus needs to be on comprehending the structure of various type of problems, not necessarily on maintaining accuracy or speed. You'll have enough time to prepare for that as you practice more and more. Try to guess the answers without looking at the options.
For example, when it comes to para-jumbles, you can practice arranging and re-arranging the sentences till you are satisfied. You do this despite the time it takes, and then try to check against the answers provided. When it comes to para-completion questions, you need to figure out a powerful ending to the given paragraph. What do you think should be the ending? If you were the author, how you would have framed the last part of the paragraph? Once you have readied your answers, you can check the answer key. For RCs, follow the same with various difficulty levels. Learn to skim through the essays and paragraphs so that you can pick up in details and minutiae quickly.
It is also advisable to work on various different topics throughout the week. Don't solve an entire topic in one sitting. It also a good option to use the hard copies of the preparation books, as these will better help you to learn skimming in your early preparation days. Graduate to digital versions circa July.
Eventually, as you get comfortable with the various question formats, you need to set a target and solve a number of questions you are comfortable with on a given day. Many toppers recommend anything between 30 to 50 questions per day, but to each his own. You can also solve different types of questions based on your own strengths and weaknesses.
4. Analyse - Check Out The Solutions To Understand How To Answer
Getting the right or wrong answer is not important. What matters is understanding the logic behind different answers. For this you need to read the given explanation in the answer key thoroughly. Because this is where you'll understand HOW to answer the questions for maximum impact.
Your reasoning might be differ from the right option in the answer key. Which is why you must analyse the missing aspects from your own answers. This will probably be the single greatest factor to help you narrow down choices and eliminate seemingly close options.
5. Prepare Patiently
You must absolutely patient with your expected progress in the VA-RC section. This is one section that can't be improved in a hurry. You have to give it time and attention. Don't lose your cool if you have to spend lots of time on VA-RC problems and still get them wrong. Frustration is like the antithesis to achieving accuracy. The more frustrated you are, the worse your performance will be.
Know that while there are some areas in VA that you can improve upon with practice, others require a degree of functional knowledge that can only be gained by reading. Especially when it comes to reading comprehension questions or RCs, you have to be mindful of the different difficulty levels.
When it comes to overall strategy for the VA-RC section, if you want to miaximise your accuracy, you need to be selective about which RC questions you answer. For this you need to skim through the various questions quickly and make a decision as to which ones' you'd be prioritising. In such a case, a reading habit basically helps you immensely.
So at the end of the day, work on developing those reading chops overtime. You can start by selecting a subject that interests you - music, psychology, sports, food, fashion, fiction, etc. Just pick up books, and blogs on one of these subject and start reading!
You'll end up developing stamina to pace yourself, the speed to read long pieces of text in a short time, as well as the ability to comprehend or understand what you're reading. Even if this prep strategy pushes you out of your comfort zone, it'll be worth it. Maybe sometime into our new reading, you can start looking at topics which you find difficult or tough.
For example, suppose you are really good at psychology passages, average at science and general texts and terrible at math or physics related stuff. After reading about your topic of interest, you can move to psychology, and improve your scores in those areas. Then move to science and after some time, to math and physics related works. You can also read magazine to get used to the whole process. Don't forget to stay on top of those editorials we pointed out in Step 1 though!
When it comes to mastering grammar for CAT, apart from reading and understanding sentence structures, formations and vocabulary, you can also refer to Wren & Martin or the Oxford Dictionary. There also various apps meant to help you with vocabulary. Look at wordlists to make sure you're prepared.
Now that we're through with the 5 steps, here's a few more tips and tricks for you!
1. Stop using SMS lingo. You need to get over this habit fast in order to make sure your CAT score ain't compromised. Start using complete words.
2. Learn 5 new words, 5 days a week by making 5 sentences of each word. Revise your word lists on the other two days. And use these words in day to day communication.
3. Start reading that newspaper. An English one. The editorial section preferably.
4. Read as much as you can from different fields like economics, politics, science , even fiction. That will help in RC.
5. Join 2 mock series at least.
Apart from these quick tips, you can also be a part of CAT prep groups on social media and WhatsApp or join a coaching institute, especially to learn the best practices and shortcuts to solving various answers during CAT. Best of luck for your prep!