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How to deal with CAT’s verbal section

education Updated: Sep 10, 2014 12:55 IST
HT Education Correspondent

A third of the CAT paper comprises questions that check your verbal skills. More often than not, this is the Achilles heel for a majority of CAT takers. In this article, we look at the key issues that need to be tackled to ace the verbal section.

To understand the section, let us look at the question types that appear in English or the VA (verbal ability) section. We shall also identify the skills required to answer them and the approach to attempting these questions.

Reading comprehension (RC) covers varied topics and the questions are either factual or inferential. So attempt the passages that are from a subject you are comfortable with. If you are not good in critical reasoning, leave the inferential questions. This strategy will help you cut down on the negative score.

Vocabulary questions are knowledge based and can be answered correctly only if you know the meaning of the word and/or the choices. It is advisable to leave these questions if we do not get the answer in a single reading.

Sentence correction, like vocabulary, is knowledge based. If you do not know the rule of grammar to be applied, you are unlikely to get it correct and hence the question should be left unattempted.

Sentence correction and vocabulary typically contribute the most to the negative score of students because of the propensity to guess the answers. Guesswork should be avoided in all knowledge-based questions. We suggest that you read the question once; mark the answers, only if you know them.

Sentence completion (fill in the blanks) questions are based on knowledge of vocabulary as well as grammar but can be worked out based on the context and elimination of choices, especially if the question has more than one blank. It is worthwhile reading the question statement two to three times.

Parajumbles and deductive logic are logic-based questions and need no prior knowledge. Use of choices is a great help in sorting out these questions. Critical reasoning and para completion questions should be attempted only if you understand the logic.

All VA questions look solvable so we end up attempting all questions and end up with a high number of incorrect answers. When in doubt, leave the question.
Here are some rules for attempting the VA section.

# A paper is not a place for R&D, hence attempt a new type of question only if you can peg it to an existing question type
# Read the choices along with the question
# When in doubt leave the question

In Round 1 (R1) sequentially attempt the following questions: vocabulary and sentence completion, grammar, deductive logic, parajumbles.

# In R1, glance through the RC passages to understand the length, subject and the question type of the passage. In Round 2, attempt logical reasoning, critical reasoning, para-completion and summary questions, and in Round 3, attempt the RC passages. If these do not exactly work for you, create your own rules.

Compiled by HT Education and Career Launcher