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CAT 2018: Cracking The Verbal Enigma

Your preparation should focus on improving reading skills, more in width than in depth

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Cracking the Verbal section remains one of the three ramparts for aspirants trying to scale the Great Wall of CAT. We need to understand that scoring good marks in the section is critical since the top institutes use sectional cut-offs and thus getting good marks in even two sections but doing badly in the other will hamper your chances. The top institutes are looking for people who demonstrate all-round ability with the skills required to become a manager.

The verbal ability portion of the section checks reading and working comfort in English, the global language of business communication. It emphasises reading skills, as is clear from the high weightage to Reading Comprehension and reading-oriented VA in the recent years. Your preparation should focus on improving reading skills, more in width than in depth.

The CAT looks at your ability to read a wide range of reading material in some depth, not necessarily the ability to read a small range of reading material in great depth. So concentrate on reading things that you may not have read earlier, e.g. philosophy, spirituality, religion, social sciences, humanities, sciences etc. 

Ideally, you should spend approximately 80 percent of your time of English preparation on reading and solving questions related to these. Memorising rules of grammar or cramming up words, at this stage, will bear little benefit so do not worry too much about these. You may spend at most 20 percent of your English preparation time in doing these activities. Please note that solving questions on the pattern of the previous years’ examination is much more beneficial than only learning words/rules of grammar.

Continue to give mock exams on a regular basis. This will improve your mental and physical stamina to attempt a tough examination and also prepare you for unexpected situations. Since CAT pattern is unpredictable, a test-series, like the AIMCATs, with lots of types of tests patterns and difficulty levels is important. Further, analysis of your mock exams is even more important since this helps to understand one’s strengths and weaknesses, build stronger concepts, practice one’s skills, capitalise on one’s strengths and remove one’s problems.

Follow up on the analysis by working on your weak areas. Whatever emerges as a strength area, can be practised less and whatever emerges as a weak area should be practised more. Take sectional tests to improve your weaknesses of low speed, silly mistakes and subject weaknesses. After you attempt a practice Reading Comprehension (RC), don't check the answers immediately. Instead, check all the difficult words from a dictionary and all the difficult concepts from the internet. Read the article again. Check which answers you want to change. Then check the keys. You will find that in many cases, you have improved your answers.

While attempting the examination, allocate time proportionate to the marks of the two sub-sections of RC and VA. Try to read all the questions in the given time, doing the questions you know and leaving the ones you are not sure of. Do not get stuck on one sub-section since the target should be to at least read all the questions. If you have time left after one sub-section you can transfer this balance time to the other section. In RC, devote some time to scanning the passages and questions and choose passages with easy questions, not necessarily the easiest passages, since it is for answering questions that you will get marks, not just reading the passages. Attempt as many passages as you can. If there are some difficult (inferential) questions in a passage, leave them, without being tempted by the thought that you must do these since you have done others from the same passage. Similarly, if you plan to leave a passage, check for some easier (non-inferential) questions that you may be still able to attempt.

If you are bothered about two options being similar in an RC/VA question, focus on the difference between the options and not the similarity. The answer lies where the difference lies. Please note that CAT may give you questions with more than one correct answer (up to all correct answers). In this case, look for the option that is the best option. Similarly, CAT may give a question with all wrong answers. In this case, look for the least wrong answer.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Ankur Jain

The author is Chief Knowledge Expert at T.I.M.E, a test-preparation institute with pan-India presence and is headquartered at Hyderabad.

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