Leveraging the Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability Section

13th November 2009

Ok let me begin with a disclaimer. This is my strongest section. Also, I am extremely intuitive and instinctive in my approach while solving this section. So if you are looking at structured methodologies I may not be able to help much. I can only tell you about my approach.

1) Reading Comprehension Passages are big mark scorers

Whether you like it or not, the fact is barring say CAT 2006 and to an extent CAT 2007 you could not have cleared the IIM A cut off for the verbal/RC section if you did not solve at least 1 passage correctly. People who score heavily in verbal/RC are the ones who jack up their scores to really high levels. They are big mark scorers. One RC typically gets you 15-20 marks. If you can attempt all the RCs in say 30 min with reasonable accuracy be rest assured that you have not only cleared the cut off but also give yourself a terrific chance to get a 98-99+ percentile in that section.

Now here is what you can do for the remaining days. Solve 4 RCs a day. Try and solve all RCs in about 30 min. If you do not finish it in 30 min, do not leave the remaining unsolved. I know that you can highlight text in the CBT-CAT but please practise the note taking technique I have already talked about in my previous article. I think it should only help. Again I would suggest you get hold of the GMAT testing software or the official guide (hard copy form) and practise RCs from there. Also read the explanation given for each correct option. It is extremely concise and will train you mind well. So maybe you can do 4 RCs alternating each day between your CAT material and the GMAT material.

To add to this read articles everyday from the www.economist.com , www.project-syndicate.com , www.covertmagazine.com

I also think the quality of RCs on www.tenaday.co.in is quite decent. I would recommend that.

This is the key to success at CAT – Reading Comprehension. I can also tell you that our entire course is based on RC. Every class we do a case study and RC skills are the most important ones needed. Also, so close to the CAT if one thing you can still definitely improve is the Reading Comprehension. You may get miraculous results. You can enter the examination hall knowing you will do well at RC. It may not be the case with the Verbal and grammar part.

2) Verbal – Paragraph completion, Para jumbles, Grammar, Vocabulary etc.

Let me be honest. If you have not done anything to improve these things so far do not expect miracles now. However, one must always try.

For people who are doing these things well – Keep practising and enjoy it. No pressure, no need to try anything fancy now. You have it under control. However, do not lose touch. Keep at it but also do not overdo it. Try focussing on RCs and also target finishing the section (Above 70% attempts) in about 40-45 mins. I said try – Does not mean you HAVE to give it less time on CAT day! But if you are trained to do it faster, you will be well equipped to adapt.

For guys and gals who are still struggling in these you need to figure out specific areas you are weak at. For e.g if it is Parajumbles – Then take it up and practise aggressively(marathon 2 hour sessions doing the same thing) till about one week before your exam date. After that do not practise it unless it is a part of a full length test you are attempting. Either way it will not be worth wasting too many brain cells over something you are not guaranteed of sure shot returns. Try strategising your attempt pattern and figure out the absolutely easy questions. But do not attempt less than 70% of the total verbal paper on the CAT day in any case.

Grammar needs practise again over a period of time. It is also a function of how you have been trained in your school/junior college. I would suggest reading the entire book by Sujith Kumar. It is the best grammar book I have come across for CAT preparation. It is very easy to digest the basics from this book. Read this book 3 times from now up to your CAT day. Space out the readings well.

3) Critical Reasoning

Best suggestion I can give you is to get hold of the official GMAT guide and practise the Critical Reasoning from there. It has excellent explanations supporting the correct choice of answers. I think you can make a difference to your skills if you do this religiously every alternate day for about 90 mins.

All in all a candidate who is not confident in this section must put in 150 mins of RC/Verbal each day. If you are writing a full length test cut the time down to 100 mins. For candidates who are doing well must put in at least 60-75 mins each day excluding the full length test time.

My final suggestion would be – Trust your instincts. More often than not, they are more accurate than your conscious mind.