Cracking the verbal section is one of the challenges that Common Admission Test (CAT) aspirants have to overcome. Getting a high score in this section is critical because the top B-schools use sectional cut-offs. This means that getting good marks in two sections but low scores in the third section will negatively impact your performance. Top organisations look for people with all-round skills when recruiting managers.
The verbal ability portion of CAT checks your reading and comprehension skills in English. What is tested is your ability to go through a range of reading material. So concentrate on what you may not have read earlier, eg philosophy, spirituality, religion, social sciences, humanities, sciences etc. Ideally, you should spend approximately 80% 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 not help much. You can spend at most 20% of your English preparation time in doing these activities. Solving questions on the pattern of the previous years’ examination and learning words/rules of grammar will help tremendously.
Continue to take mock exams regularly. This will improve your mental and physical stamina for attempting tough tests and also prepare you to handle unexpected situations. Since the pattern of CAT is unpredictable, a series like the mock tests, with lots of types of tests patterns and difficultly levels is important. Further, analysis of your mock tests is even more important since this helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses, build stronger concepts, practice your skills, capitalise on your strengths and remove your problems.
Follow up on the analysis by working on your weak areas. Whatever emerges as a strength area should be practised more often. Take sectional tests to improve your speed, strengthen weaknesses and to concentrate more and not make silly mistakes. After you attempt a reading comprehension passage, 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 reading comprehension and verbal ability. Try to read all the questions in the given time, tackling 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 reading comprehension, devote some time to scanning the passages and questions and choose passages with easy questions, not necessarily the easiest passages, since you’ll get marks for answering questions, not for 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 to spend time on them. 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. Remember that CAT may give you questions with more than one correct answer. In this case, look for the best option. Similarly, CAT may give a question with all wrong answers. In this case, look for the least wrong answer.
The author is chief knowledge expert, Triumphant Institute of Management Education.
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