VARC – Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension is the first section that appears on the CAT. It is considered to be the most scoring section, unless things get really bad as they did in CAT 2019. So, let’s first understand how the VARC section looks like in the CAT and what are the areas that we as an aspirant need to prepare for –
VARC in CAT 2019
As can be seen, reading comprehension forms the major chunk of the section. While the rest is covered in Verbal Ability which comprises of ParaJumbles, Odd Man Outs, and Summaries. There can be some other inclusions and exclusions in the VA part, for example – fill in the blanks or choose the most appropriate form of representation.
KEY ASPECTS OF VARC
There are three parts one needs to focus on to ace the VARC section –
Reading – One must have at least 200 words/min reading speed. You can improve on your reading speed by reading a few articles daily from websites like aeon.co, guardian, and newspapers like The Hindu, Economic Times to name a few. Reading, although not necessary but does a play a vital role while solving the reading comprehension. You can start off with reading about things that interest you and then picking up articles randomly. Everything you read might not make sense at the beginning, but a few weeks down the line you’ll start understanding the written text in broader terms.
Vocabulary – CAT doesn’t test your vocabulary directly. So, this might seem like time wastage. But do you want to be someone who reads the entire passage and while answering a specific question gets stuck because of a word or two and fails to understand its meaning? Why not brush up your vocabulary a bit and become an efficient reader and improve on your skills.
‘Word Power Made Easy’ by Norman Lewis is a good read for improving your vocabulary.
Grammar – Again, grammar is something that isn’t directly tested in CAT but there can be times when zeroing done upon an option can depend upon grammatical issues.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR VARC
As we have already discussed a few aspects of VARC, now let’s talk about the preparation strategy.
Read daily. Read a few articles from the above-mentioned sources and solve around 3-4 RCs on a daily basis. While you do so, don’t forget to analyze the RCs. You might have got the correct answer to a question but your reason to choose that option might not be correct. it is always a good option to go through the answers and explanations to understand the appropriate answer choice and the reason behind it for being so. You need to maintain a balance between your speed and accuracy and that is the reason why this approach is needed. Reading daily will gradually increase your speed and analyzing the RCs will help you work on your accuracy.
The RCs that appear in CAT are from varied areas such as (not limited to) –
- Science and technology
- Biology and genetics
- Arts and Museums
Follow the instructions stated in the book Word Power Made Easy and read the book at least once if not twice.
While RCs are the most important part of the section, the VA section does offer an advantage if you’re able to ace it. Practice at least 5 questions from various topics under the VA section daily and similar to the RCs rigorously analyze them too. Although these are ‘TITA – Type in the answer’ questions and have no negative marks, getting them correct can help you fetch a better percentile in this high scoring section
Reading Comprehension – There are different types of questions that are asked in an RC. These can be broadly classified as follows –
Central Idea – These questions can only be answered if you read the entire passage thoroughly and you know the major points that the author tried to focus upon. The main theme needs to be figured out here. The question can be asked in the following ways –
The main theme of the passage is –
In the passage, the author is primarily interested in –
The primary purpose of the passage is – etc.
Inference Based Questions – You have to read between the lines to answer these questions. Understand what is not said, but implied. Remember anything that is directly stated in the passage is not an inference, the inference is an indirect conclusion. Be careful while answering these questions. These might seem tough at first sight but with practice, it is possible to understand their complex nature. The questions would look as follows –
What can be inferred when the author of the passage says –
The following lines from the passage imply that –
Which of the following can/cannot be inferred from the passage
Fact-Based Questions – These can also be classified as specific questions, as they will try to test you on specific facts mentioned or not mentioned in the passage. These are direct questions for which you need to refer to the passage or for that matter lines that the question focuses on. The question can ask about the true and false statements according to the passage or can focus on some specific argument which is stated.
The most important thing to keep in mind while solving an RC is - You should not have an opinion. The opinion of the author is all that matters. Do not try to logically conclude the unsaid unless it is implied by the author.
While you go through an RC, write down a one-two line summary of each paragraph. This helps in understanding the flow of the RC and also deriving a sense of what is being said. These summaries help in answering the Central idea questions and the direct/specific questions if any. Also, while doing so, keep note of the connecting words like – however, nonetheless, not only but also, consequently, etc. which are used to either switch sides or continue with the opinion. These words are the ones that help you understand the stance of the author.
Lastly, the key to answering the RC questions is elimination. Answers to RC questions aren’t subjective as questions in the other section and hence, getting to the closest answer is important. Use the elimination technique to zero down on a few close options and then read the options carefully and comprehend what is being said. Although two options might always seem to be correct, there would be some fault in all the options but one. Practice and analyze to understand these minute differences.
Verbal Ability – The verbal ability usually comprises of three different types of questions. The ParaJumbles and odd man out questions usually do not carry any negative marks but don’t have options either. Solving these becomes tricky if you aren’t good at connecting sentences.
ParaJumbles can be solved in many ways. One possible way is to find the starting sentence of the paragraph and then connect the other sentences. It is also possible to find groups of sentences that can only occur together and then find preceding and succeeding sentences to such groups to form a meaningful paragraph.
Similarly, for the odd man out. One approach is to form a meaningful sentence from four sentences and find the one that doesn’t fit it. Else, there can be a sentence which takes about a different topic altogether (very rare to happen).
Summary based questions will have options. Similar to the RCs, read the pre-text given and comprehend the general idea and then closely look at the options to see which one is closest to what is being said. These questions can sometimes test your grammar too.
TIME MANAGEMENT STRATEGY IN MOCKS
There are various strategies that test-takers follow to attempt VARC in mocks. As I have said before, the strategy that fetches you more marks is your go-to strategy. I’ll share a strategy that helped me the most (this might not be true for you) –
First 40 mins, solve as many RCs you can. In the next 20 mins, solve VA. If there is time left go back to the RCs.
Things you must remember before following this strategy –
I was more comfortable with the VA section than the RCs, hence, it was important to solve as many VA questions I could.
The approximate time I required to solve an RC was 9-10 mins (5 question RC).
If I couldn’t solve the RC question in my first couple of reads, it was difficult for me to solve it later too.
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