VARC is a section which gives nightmares to many CAT aspirants. A low score can drive down your percentile. The sectional cut-off can also become problematic. It can however also be a section which can really push forward your score. The difficulty level of the section changes every year and even with every slot.
So, how does one score a 99+ percentile in the VARC section? A few mantras can really help make your life easier
1. Is your reading speed slow?
The general suggestion that you might receive for many is to start reading a lot of novels. While for bookworms this may sound like a mini-vacation, for many it becomes a tedious task. Many do not find the spare time to read books while juggling their office or college schedule. So here is what I suggest. Forgo novels just read articles. Reading a 300-400 worded newspaper article or editorial blog should be your starting point. Many people might take 10-15 minutes at first but the goal is to bring that time down 5-6 minutes. Alternatively, you can pick up any fashion magazine or sports journal (or any topic that interests you). The goal at the moment is to increase your reading speed. So work with a stopwatch!
2. Next step: Comprehension abilities
A good reading speed will not help you one bit if you are not able to comprehend the passage. Sometimes you realize that you have read a lot without even realizing what the passage was about. There are two things which need to be kept in mind at this point. Firstly, you need to improve your concentration. If you are actually reading a VARC passage, extract yourself from thinking about that impeding WhatsApp message or your next meal. You need to keep your head in the game. Secondly, every passage is trying to tell you a story so listen to what the words are telling you
In order to achieve better comprehension skills, here is what I suggest. For around 3 weeks, once you have read a paragraph write down its key-points. Do this for every paragraph. After a while, you will automatically start mapping the major idea of the paragraph. This will go a long way in answering questions without having to go back to the paragraph multiple times.
3. Working on accuracy
To get a good score in the VARC section, you need to attempt 29-32 questions out of 34 depending on the difficulty level. DO NOT attempt all 34 questions because there will definitely be 1-2 tricky questions which you have to identify and avoid. The accuracy you want is 90% to achieve a 70+ score. You need to learn how to identify the questions that need to be attempted and those that need to be left in order to avoid negative marks. For example, if you read the first few lines and do not connect to the idea of the passage even after multiple efforts it’s better to leave it and move ahead. In order to improve accuracy, you can start with solving critical reasoning questions. Practice questions based on critical reasoning for a month before moving to read comprehension. You should practice at least 100 CR questions with good accuracy. Once you are comfortable with catching the main idea behind short paragraphs the chances of selecting a correct answer in RC improves.
4. Make a strategy
It is a frequently asked question if it is better to attempt RC or VA first. Many people suggest doing VA first and RC later or vice versa. I personally do not believe in either philosophy. CAT takers can lose valuable minutes in skimming over the section in order to find VA questions to attempt. My suggestions would be to go question wise by taking the first question head-on and then proceeding to the next.
Another doubt that many have is whether to go from passage to questions or read the questions first and then the passage. I have always preferred reading the passage first and then going to the questions. Another idea is to read one paragraph at a time and then attempt corresponding questions. This can save time as it prevents jumping from questions to passage.
The strategy needs to be tailored to fit one’s level of comfort. That comes after practising. You can try different strategies and see which one you are most comfortable with.
5. Practice, practice, practice!
It is a myth that some people are inherently brilliant in the verbal ability section. Even if you consider yourself Shakespeare it’s not going to help you in CAT. The only thing that you need to do is take as many MOCK tests as possible. They are the Holy Grail for CAT preparation. The key is that you take sectional mocks and start from day 1. Do not wait till the entire syllabus is covered. While you are working towards improving your speed and comprehension abilities start with VARC sectional tests. I would suggest 30 sectional tests and 40 full-length test for your CAT preparation. Practice might not make perfect but its certainly the only way to achieve a good score.
VARC section generally sets the tone for the entire paper. If you attempt it well it will give you the confidence to attempt the other two sections. So all the best for CAT 2020 folks!
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