Take it from me - if you are not good at VARC, you will have to put in a lot of effort to get through it. Effort?? Umm might both be the right and the wrong word here. I'd say working on VARC needs discipline and persistence.
Before I go ahead on how to prepare with it, a quick fact - I scored 97%ile with a scaled score of 64. Not the best score but I can surely help you reach this point.
In a typical CAT VARC section, you will have close to 5 Reading Comprehensions ranging from easy to difficult, mostly of moderate level. Ideally, each reading comprehension should take around 8 to 10 min of your time. Effectively, you should give about 40 min to the reading comprehension and keep the rest for the verbal ability section.
Verbal ability comprises of questions across multiple types - para jumbles, identify the sentence which doesn't form a part of a coherent paragraph, summary based questions. Usually, these questions are high scoring and easy to solve but require good speed and grasping skills. You do not want to cut down your marks in this section.
The reason I say VARC to be a little on the moderately difficult side is that it needs you to be high in accuracy and attempt at the same time. As stated in my last article, CAT is about converting your hard work into smart work. The same holds true here too. You need to be selective about the type of questions you do in an RC - summary based, identifying the meaning of the mentioned word/phrase in the RC, facts stated in the passage, etc. These questions, in particular, are on the easier side. Comparatively, the tone of the passage/author and questions regarding the author's interpretation are on the tougher side, which I prefer leaving as soon as I come across them. I will save my time not attempting them and put in verbal where I can score a lot more. Taking all the possible focus areas I mentioned above, I prepared the table showing the scoring opportunities. The green entries are the scoring areas that you can focus on. It should (58 marks) get you close to 95%ile in VARC. Post this it's your speed and accuracy that matters.
SOLUTION: FREQUENT MOCKS + SINCERE ANALYSIS + SMART WORK
Develop a reading habit
I haven't been a big fan of reading till the time I realized that for two straight years, VARC was one section that was pulling back my CAT overall percentile. VARC does need you to work on your reading.
Reading doesn't mean books only. But if you do that, it will help you a lot. In my case, I read lots of news articles. Mutil-benefits that you may get out of it - develop your reading speed, build on your retention ability, get to know new words, keep yourself update with the current affairs and build on the opinions presented in the editorials which will help you in your GD/PIs as well. I used to read ~3-4 articles a day (approx. 30 min) during transit between home and office.
This helped me a lot with improving my speed and understanding and I felt more confident when it came to attempting mocks. Additionally, I used to do a thorough analysis of the mock tests as well.
Take timed RC tests
At times I would do 3-4 RCs (laptop/mobile app), timed 10 minutes each. That way, you can utilize small gaps in your daily schedule and evaluate your improvement as well. Keep a track of the frequently occurring question types - summary based, tone of the passage, factual description, meaning of the phrase/word, etc. This shall help you clearly understand which questions you have to attempt and which to leave in CAT. You can practice these questions form Arun Sharma or take any online test series.
In my mock exams, I would try to solve as many RC questions in the first go as I could. Usually, my preparation method helped me solve around 60% of the questions from an RC in the first go. These shall be the easier ones with ~90% accuracy. This shall take me 25-30 min. In the next 10-15 minutes, I shall take up the Verbal Ability section and do close to 8-9 questions. Jump back to the RCs and maximize my score from here on.
If you are good at verbal ability, it is one area that you can practice on the go. You can check the top CAT 2020 VARC prep mobile apps. While you are commuting or in your leisure time, keep practicing questions on these. Basis what you learn on here, apply that understanding in your mocks and then analyze.
If you are not sure about your verbal ability, I'll try to help you out with the same. I shall give a brief outline of my strategy to attempt these. But it is advisable if you could refer to a book to better understand the tips and tricks and practice them. I would recommend 'How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CAT’- by Arun Sharma & Meenakshi Upadhyay' for both VA and RC practice.
Type In The Answer (TITA) type questions, often time-consuming if you don't understand it in the first go. I usually left these for the end in case it seemed difficult to me.
To understand the para-jumbles, identify the subject in the paragraph. Any para-jumble should ideally have the subject introduced at its's beginning, followed by the details about it. Look for nouns in the sentences and keep them separate. Then filter the sentences with the adjectives in them. This should help you easily connect the two parts to form coherent paragraphs.
Vocabulary based questions:
Through a consistent reading of the news article, I got better at these. I got to learn some new words which definitely helped me a lot. If you get any vocabulary based questions, it won't be more than 1-2 questions. Mocks will give you a hang of these questions but to be thoroughly prepared, you may use 'Magoosh' app to practice words on the go.
Understand the rules of grammar, understand the tone of the sentences, logically finding the relation between the sentences (in case it is a paragraph based question). Rules of grammar are a lot different from our normal style of conversation (which over the years has been diluted - thanks to the slang we use), so do go through them. They hold the key to sentence correction.
Elimination is a strong tool here to use. In case these happen to be TITA questions, if you are clueless, follow your hunch and move on - DO NOT WASTE TIME IN THIS.
I usually attempted the questions that had a paragraph size of 3-4 lines with the options being a one-line summary. Otherwise, I shall mark the question and leave it for later. These are easy and you can easily eliminate the options here. Identify keywords in the paragraph and look for the same in the options. Do not make any assumptions here and stick to the paragraph itself.
To conclude, I'd say that with 6 months to go in CAT 2020, you still have lots of time to work on your VARC skills but persistence and consistency are what shall drive your score in this section. I came across a beautifully crafted article on VARC by a 'VARC 99.95%iler'. Sharing the same with you.
To understand how to attempt CAT 2020 to get a 99+%ile, you may refer to the links below.
I didn't get a 99+%ile in VARC but surely know my shortcomings in it to help you out with it. I hope this helps you guys a lot!!
Please feel free to leave your comments below. Would be happy to hear it from you.