If you’re wondering how you would ever do well at Verbal, we’ve got you covered in this article. Not only that, we’ll help you out with LRDI and Quant as well! We invited two IIM Calcutta students and CAT Toppers - Mridul Jain (CAT 99.75%iler) and Shantanu Date (CAT 99.88%iler.) to share how they approached the three sections on CAT such that they scored 99.7+%iles!
Shantanu Date had 95% in class 10th, around 87% in 12th, and as an engineer from NIT Nagpur, he graduated with a CGPA of 7.2. He went on to work with Fidelity Investments as a Software Engineer for 2 years, after which he wrote CAT and joined IIM Calcutta.
Mridul Jain scored around 94% in class 10th and 12th and then did his engineering from MNNIT Allahabad from where he graduated with an 8.7 CGPA in 2017. He went on to work with Morgan Stanley and then joined IIM Calcutta.
The following are the key highlights of a webinar conducted on the InsideIIM-Konversations YouTube channel.
Q1. How Do I Become Better At Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)?
Mridul Jain: I understand the fear that many associate with the Verbal section. I also understand that the section, at first, seems easy to some . All you need to do is a couple of Reading Comprehensions and rearrange sentences or summarize paragraphs. You may be tempted to think, "I know enough English and I'll be able to do this section." But first you need to unlearn that. The key to CAT's VARC is understanding that you can’t score well on it just because you ‘know English.’
For VARC, you start with the basics. I would ask you to do the following:
1. Watch A YouTube Video On How To Read An RC
It's very, very, very important because RCs constitute the major portion of the section. During my preparation, I thought that if I solve all the five RC's, which means 24 questions, and my accuracy is decent, I will be able to clear the cutoff and score around 92%ile and that was, honestly, my target for the verbal section. Now for that you need to know how to read an RC, what are the details that you should focus on while reading it, what are the details that you should skip, and how you can optimize your time such that you get maximum comprehension from what you read. So, watch a video and learn that skill foremost.
Only after that I would say go to the next step - start reading RCs. You do not need to solve the questions right now. Start reading RCs and the best resource for this is the Hindu Editorial.
Read the editorial and do 2 things:
- After reading the editorial, summarize it both para wise and overall.
- Write down the words that you feel are very difficult. (just write them down)
A lot of IAS aspirants read the Hindu and therefore there are a lot of channels on YouTube that share a summary of the Hindu Editorials Daily. After creating your summary, compare yours with theirs to check if you understood the article well. Do this for around 15-30 days and you will get better at reading and analyzing an RC.
After this month-long preparatory phase, start solving RC problems.
2. Watch a YouTube Video On How Sentences Are Formed
This is for the Verbal Ability part of the section. The goal is to understand how sentences are formed so that you become able to rearrange them in the correct order. You may be surprised to learn that the sentence formation process is very mathematical in nature. There are specific sentence formation rules that will help you understand that if the previous sentence has ended with a particular word, then the next sentence will start with another particular word and more.
This is the only theoretical knowledge that you need for Verbal Ability. Once you acquire it, start practicing.
For both RC and VA, keep practicing. You will improve slowly, it will not happen overnight or even in a month or two months’ time. It will take its own sweet time so give it those 6, 7 months of effort. Along with that, you could also watch some English news channels like BBC or Al Jazeera. They share good content and the words they use will also help you build your vocabulary.
This is how you can actually get better at Verbal. Be honest to yourself and accept that you are or are not good at Verbal and build your practice from there on. If you are not very good at Verbal, you just need to ensure that you safely cross the cutoff and even if you score a decent 95, 96 kind of a percentile, it will do. That should be your strategy. There are people who scored 87, 88 percentiles on Verbal but still got into IIMC and likewise for B and others. You can do it too. Just continue to learn, practice, and build your skill relentlessly.
Q2. How Should I Prepare For LRDI?
Shantanu Date: Every question in LRDI entails something new. Practice is the key in LRDI, so try to look at it in terms of how many questions you have solved, and when you analyze your sectional tests or mock tests, take up a set that you have not been able to crack and spend time, half an hour, even 45 minutes, on it. After the practicing is done, go in and put in that effort on the next test you take. Make sure that you crack sets when you analyze them. That is what will help you get used to making the kind of logical conclusions that they expect you to make on the CAT.
For LRDI, particularly, the day of the exam becomes really important because if you put in a lot of time into a set on exam day and end up failing to crack it, it's really demotivating and can affect your subsequent section. Therefore, the testing strategy for LRDI needs to be well defined. You need to know what kinds of sets are easier for you, what kind of sets will be difficult for you so that during set selection itself you could get your approach sorted. Set selection is not only about thinking whether I'll be able to solve that set, but also about whether I should actually put in the time to attempt a set.
My mantra for anyone preparing for LRDI to whom logic does not come naturally would be this: just keep practicing, do as many sets as possible, try as many mock tests, try as many past papers as possible. I think it's a tough nut to crack, but it's really rewarding when you actually put in the hours of practice.
Q3. How Do I Prepare For Quant If I Am Not Good At It Or Don’t Enjoy It?
Mridul Jain: I know a lot of people hate Maths. But when you were in class 10th, you would have some favorite topic in Maths, one you liked more than other topics. My recommendation is to start with those topics and solve those questions such that you build enough expertise on them to feel confident. And then you could move on to the newer areas.
In the Quant section of CAT 2019, there were 34 questions. The downside of this of course is that you have multiple points of failure. But the upside is that it is a neat way to hedge your risks. What I mean is that if you have covered all quant topics equally well, then you’ll be able to solve at least about 26 questions out of those 34. Even if you do around 15 or 16 questions, you’ve put yourself in a very good position.
The point I’m making is that you try to solve questions by starting with the easiest or your most favorite topics, gain expertise in them, and then move on to the newer areas. Eventually, you will get better.
Q4. How Do I Tackle Difficult Quant Questions?
Shantanu Date: On CAT you have a choice, you can either solve a question or not. If you can't solve difficult questions during the paper, take time out during the analysis phase, understand the solution, and practice similar questions to cement your learning. If you find yourself continuously struggling with questions from a particular topic, redo that topic in its entirety including concepts and practice both. You may also need to go in and redo the level two difficulty questions of that topic. I would suggest that you go ahead and put in that effort. Don't skip an entire topic because CAT can be unpredictable in terms of the number of questions assigned to each topic in quant. If you're not comfortable with a topic, you could skip it initially on your test but come back to it later. You must at least solve the easy questions from that topic with certainty and build your skills such that you are able to solve the medium level questions from that topic as well.
This is the second part of a three-part interview series with CAT Toppers. Read the first part here.
You may watch the webinar recording here.