Shashin Singh is currently pursuing her MBA from IIM Lucknow. Having secured 99+ %ile in the VARC section in CAT 2016 and CAT 2017, she wants to share some of her learnings with you in this article below. Read on!
Format & Target
VARC section of CAT consists of 34 questions of 100 marks to be attempted in 60 minutes. To secure a score in 99%ile your scaled score needs to be somewhere in the 75+. This means that by attempting 25-26 questions with high accuracy can make the game for you.
Developing a reading habit:
This helps a lot. First do not worry if you are not an avid reader, the habit can be developed. I recommend reading newspapers to improve understanding of commonly used vocabulary plus it keeps you updated with current affairs.
Try practicing RC’s from different areas - Psychology, Biology, Science, History, etc. because you can expect a diverse set of passages in CAT. Practice from previous year CAT papers and MOCKs.
Try to read at least half an hour every day. Install the news apps and in your free time, instead of browsing social media, read the articles. I personally like The Economic Times, Live Mint and The Hindu.
When solving reading comprehension, I allocate a fixed time to attempt a 4 or 6 question passage to keep a track of time. Read the article carefully first before going through the questions - that is something that gives a clear perspective. If you don't understand the passage you may end up making mistakes.
While going through the questions, it is okay to revisit the passage for some minute details or to reconfirm your understanding from the passage. When the answer options look similar, the best approach is to eliminate each incorrect option by finding evidence against it in the passage.
Because I had a fairly good accuracy, I would attempt all RC’s before going to VA questions. Also, make sure that you are not starting a new RC in the last 15 minutes as you might not be able to complete the passage and answer the questions. VA questions are good for the end as they are short usually. But again make sure you attempt the easy VA questions first before you get stuck in difficult ones.
Knowing the basic rules of English helps while solving RC and Grammar-based questions in Verbal. You can go through High School Grammar and Composition by Wren and Martin or other basic grammar books provided by coaching institutions to brush up grammar basics.
Apart from RC, there are many other types of questions in VA section as discussed below. I make sure I attempt the questions that are easy to score first. Reiterating, VARC is a game of accuracy and not speed so here are few of my tips to tackle each type of question:
If it’s a ‘type the answer’ question, I attempt it in the end when I have no more questions left to attempt. The reason is that these questions are very time consuming and the chances of correctly identifying all the parts in order are difficult. However, if the options are available, then by identifying the starting and closing sentences one can easily arrive at the right answer with a bit of trial and error.
Vocabulary based questions:
If you are in the habit of reading, you would most likely not encounter new words here. Even if you do, you can try inferring the meaning from the context and eliminate the incorrect choices step by step to arrive at the final answer. If you are still unsure, better to drop the question unattempted.
If you have an ample amount of time to prepare, I recommend you to read and revise Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis to improve your vocabulary.
Rules of grammar, Logical thinking and having practiced typical such questions helps to solve such question. If you are not completely sure of the first answer that comes to your mind, you can eliminate the rest of the options to be foolproof.
Read the paragraph carefully and answer by eliminating options. If you think you did not understand the passage, then I would suggest to not attempt the question.
It is probably the most scoring type in the VA section. It can be worked out based on the context and elimination of choices. It is worthwhile reading the question statement 2 – 3 times as guesswork based combination of knowledge and elimination of choices usually works in these questions. Further, if you have good reading habits, then the contextual meaning may come naturally to you.
Apart from regular full mocks, you can try your strategies in sectional mocks. Materials of standard institutes like TIME, IMS, CL would do. I found the online resources at Cracku and Hit Bull's Eye helpful as well.
Wish you all the best!
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