How To Ace The Reading Comprehension Section

Reading comprehension (RC) is an important component of CAT. The fact that CAT increased the number of questions in this section drastically in the last few years points to the importance that the examiners attach to this section.

What is even more interesting is that it is the only part of the exam for which you don’t need to mug any formula, memorise any data or learn any rules. Everything is right in front of you and all you have to do is to extract the answers from the passage itself! Hence RC is a weapon that is a must-have in your arsenal for cracking CAT.

“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world – Voltaire”

Tip 1:  Passage or questions, which comes first?

One of the biggest dilemmas that students often face is whether to read the passage first or questions. According to me, you should:

  • Skim through the passage with no intention of answering it, just get a basic gist of it.
  • Read all the questions carefully.
  • Read the passage again but this time with a lower reading speed and more focus on absorbing the information.
  • Answer the questions, go back to the passage again if you have to.

I understand that in order to implement this strategy one needs to have a slightly higher reading speed, which brings me to Tip 2.

Tip 2: Learn how to speed read.

Some of the techniques that you can use when practising speed reading include reading blocks of words instead of individual words and breaking the habit of sub-vocalisation.

Sub-vocalisation is the habit of pronouncing each word in your head as you read it. Most people do this to some extent or another. This takes much more time than is necessary, hence you have to eliminate it.

Practice expanding the number of words that you read at a time for a higher speed.

Tip 3: Analyse the type of questions you get right/wrong through mocks.

Inference based questions are mostly tougher when compared with fact-based questions. Learn which types of questions you usually get right/wrong during mocks and try to leverage them to score higher.

Tip 4: Read like a maniac.

Reading voraciously can do wonders for your comprehension. When I was preparing for CAT, I used to regularly read inspirational books and articles which not only helped me with my reading speed but also provided me with the much-needed dose of inspiration.

One such book that I remember would be “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” and a quote I read in it which never ceases to amaze me.

“Sure I am, that this day we are masters of our fate, that the task which has been set before us is not above our strength; that its pangs and toils are not beyond my endurance. As long as we have faith in our cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us.”

Tip 5: Learn how to eliminate options.

Once you have understood the question, compare the options and you will see that one or two options can be ruled out easily.

It generally comes down to two options, now use the following points to choose the correct option

  • The wrong answer will usually contain some distorted fact or opinion
  • The wrong answer will reach a conclusion, inference or decision which is not given in the passage
  • The right answer will usually resonate with the overall theme of the passage

Tip 6: Just because you read the entire passage does not mean that you have to answer all the questions in it (silly).

Midnight Ruminations

If you are reading this, chances are that the last 3-9 months (perhaps more) have been full of struggles for you. It’s the simple struggles that usually get to us, getting up early in the morning for a class, sacrificing a movie or an outing with friends in order to study for CAT or dealing with all the disappointments after a failed mock test. However, if you deal with each problem one at a time, you will marvel at the inherent human ability of perseverance and one day wonder, how the hell did I do that?

Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle.

This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes.

Karan Kakkar

A die-hard Roger Federer fan, Karan is a singer and a musician who plays three percussion instruments. After spending the first 24 years of his life in Delhi he finally found solace in the beautiful city of Kozhikode. Known simply as Kakkar among his friends, he prides himself on having watched all the IMDB top 250 movies in a single summer long movie marathon. He loves helping out people and inspiring them to achieve their dreams and is currently a member of the InsideIIM Student Team.



karan kakkar

Hey, There are a lot of ways in which you can reduce it such as forcing yourself to read faster than you normally would, listening to instrumental music while reading and explicitly closing the voice in your head.

Shilpa Thakur

How to deal with abstract passages? Art, philosophy etc?? They are really difficult to comprehend and speed reading makes the task even more difficult??
Also what should be the time division for RC?

karan kakkar

The time division for RC depends upon their difficulty level. Try to solve them within 6-12 minutes. Again if the passage is tough try to read it 2-3 times or leave it altogether if you feel it will give you a negative return.


How did you deal with non rc questions such as PJ and it is in TITA format? It gets difficult sometimes without options!!

karan kakkar

Again there is no magic trick here, If you can get PJ in TITA form right, that would mean you have an expertise in them and expertise comes with practice. Try to solve the normal questions without options, that will surely help.