How To Score 95+ Percentile In VARC – Part 1

What should be your focus?

Wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it. Right is right even if no one is doing it”. – a quote attributed to Saint Augustine of Hippo. If so, he would have said that sometime in the late 300’s A.D. or in the early 400’s A.D. 1650 years hence, it seems to be quite accurate when it comes to the Verbal Section of the CAT.

Many miss out on a good score in the Verbal Section of the CAT not due to lack of efforts, but due to not doing the right things. This author’s aim is to shed some light on the right things to do for the Verbal Section of the CAT.


First, what is the ‘wrong’?

What to prepare for the verbal section of the CAT? The answer that you are most likely to hear is this:

“You need to study 4 areas namely –Reading Comprehension Verbal Reasoning (Para Jumbles, Para Completion, Para Summary etc.), Vocabulary & Grammar based questions.”

That would seem to imply that each of the 4 areas has equal weightage requiring an equal amount of time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are my 2 reasons:


  • Knowledge-based vs Skill-based

To ace in vocabulary and grammar based questions, one needs to possess knowledge. One should have knowledge of grammar rules to identify grammatical errors in a sentence. One should know the meaning of the words given in the answer choices to figure out which word fills the blank. Developing the knowledge base required to ace questions on vocabulary and grammar takes a significant amount of time.

On the other hand, reading comprehension and verbal reasoning are more about skill than about knowledge. Yes, developing those skill-sets also need time and effort. However, that skill-set can be acquired by spending a reasonable amount of time – far less than what one would require in reaching a similar competency level in vocabulary and grammar.


  • What does the CAT actually test?

In the last 2 years (CAT 2016 and CAT 2015), the VARC section had 34 questions. Following was the composition of those 34 questions.

Area Topic CAT 2016 CAT 2017
Reading Comprehension Reading Comprehension 24 24
Verbal Reasoning Paragraph Jumble 4 4
Paragraph Summary 3 3
Odd Sentence out 3 3


70.5% of the questions were from Reading Comprehension. Vocabulary based questions and grammar based questions were missing in the last 2 years! A word of caution though. If there is one thing that we’ve realised about the CAT, it is this – the future CAT can be very different from the past. So, it is quite possible that you would find vocabulary and grammar based questions in the next CAT.

However, one can safely infer from the past CATs that Reading Comprehension is the key when it comes to the CAT. Here’s the last 10 years story.

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At least 50% of the questions of the CAT VARC has been Reading Comprehension.


So, what should be your focus?

Answer is: Reading Comprehension.

Reading Comprehension helps in all the other areas of the CAT.

Do note that “all’ is in bold, italics and underlined!  If you ask your English teacher about how to improve in vocabulary and grammar, the answer would be “Read, Read and Read”. If you look at verbal reasoning questions (para jumbles, para completion, para summary etc.), you will find that it is about evaluating paragraphs. Since a passage is a combination of paragraphs, doing reading comprehension will help in verbal reasoning as well.

Bottom-line: Ace Reading Comprehension, Ace VARC in CAT!

Now that we have established that Reading Comprehension is the key, the next question is – how do one prepare for Reading Comprehension?

That I shall answer in my next post.

Till then, happy reading.


About the Author:

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Gejo Sreenivasan is the Student Mentor at Career Launcher Mumbai. He is an alumnus of IIT Madras (Batch of 1997) and IIM Calcutta (Batch 1999). He has been mentoring students for the CAT since 2001.