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Follow your strategy

ARKS Srinivas, Director T.I.M.E. Mumbai, gives you tips on how to follow a strategy.

india Updated: Sep 24, 2008 17:01 IST

Reading Comprehension
This area can either be a cakewalk for a person or seriously invoke fear. The difference lies in how much reading you have been doing. Most of us are not bookworms, but then all is not lost. With some practice, we can be quite good at it.

Since RC and Verbal are part of the same section, one can allot 25-30 minutes (out of the total 45 minutes budgeted for this section) to RC and the remaining 15-20 minutes for VA. The exact distribution of time would depend on the total number of questions in each of the areas. In general, the average time spent per questions on RC would be 1.5 times the average time per question in VA.

Tactics for tackling the RC area of the CAT paper
First select the passage. Passage selection is function of the comfort level you have with respect to the subject of the passage. Technology might thrill you, economics might bore you and philosophy might scare you stiff.
In earlier CAT papers, the length of the passage and number of questions was also a factor, but these days, the passage length has been cut down and so are the numbers of passages. To check the comfort level, read 1-2 questions of the passage and or a quick skimming of the first few lines of the passage before selecting it.

There are three methods of attempting the RC:
Passage first, questions later: This is the traditional way of attempting the reading comprehension section. Normally, when the entire passage is read first, the basic idea and the theme of the passage can be readily identified. Make sure you read at a decent pace, ensuring that you understand the main points of the passage.

Don't try to remember everything, it is impossible and you waste a lot of time trying. If the comprehension and retention powers are good, then a student can answer some of the questions without having to go back to the passage. However, do not hesitate to come back to the passage and find the answer if you need to. The advantage of having read and understood the passage is that you know the gist of the passage already and hence you should be able to pin point where the various ideas are given in the entire passage and therefore zero-in on to the answer far quickly.

This method would be best if one is reading an abstract passage or a philosophical passage that does not contain too much data. Also this may be the best way of answering the RC passage if the questions are of the following types:
Q. What is the title of the passage?
Q. What is the tone of the passage?
Q. Which of the following would the Author likely to agree to?
Q. According to the passage, the following can be concluded…
Questions first, passage later: This method involves reading the questions first and then skimming the passage for answers. It is very good for specific factual questions and data or information filled passages.

This method also is most useful when you are left with very little time for each passage and you have to maximise the return on the time invested. Most students find this comfortable in such circumstances. However, this method may not work well if the questions are inferential or style/tone dependant of the form mentioned in the previous paragraph.

A combination of reading the questions and the passage: The method to be followed can be illustrated as follows. Let us say there are 8 questions in a passage of 750 words. Divide the 750 words into 3 parts, each having approximately 250 words. Now if your reading speed is 250 words per minute, it would take 1 minute to read the first 250 words. Now glance through the questions.

If any questions can be answered from the first 250 words, answer them, and have a feel for what the other questions are about. This exercise would take 2 minutes. Next, read the next 250 words. And then, again look at the questions and answer all those you can which are directly given or inferred from the first two sets of 250 words. So on for the last set.

You can see that there are two advantages in this method. First, you ensure that you read the entire passage, thereby ensuring that all inference-based questions can be answered.
Make sure that you allot each passage a certain amount of time. Also you do not have to attempt each and every question in a passage. Certain questions may be very inferential and involve very close choices.

Verbal Ability
Questions in VA take the least amount of time to solve. Hence, it is an opportunity to score well. However, care must be taken to minimise errors, as the choices may be extremely close. On the other hand, you should understand that you can never be 100 per cent sure for some of the questions, so don't spend too much time on any particular question. Broadly, there are three categories of questions that usually come in the Verbal Ability section of the paper:
1. Vocabulary-based,
2. Language-based, and
3. Verbal Reasoning-based.

For vocabulary-based questions (these include synonyms, antonyms, phrases, inappropriately used words, match the following, etc.), the time to be taken to solve the questions should be such that you can do about three questions in one minute.

For Language-based questions (which include sentence correction, grammar, sentence completion, fill in the blanks, etc.,), the target should be 30 to 60 seconds per question.

For Verbal Reasoning-based questions (which include the paragraph forming and logical reasoning questions), each question should, on an average, be allotted about 60 to 90 seconds.

It is important to note that as in all other areas of the CAT paper, in the Verbal Ability section too, there will be a mix of easy questions, moderately difficult questions and very difficult questions. If one is not completely sure of the correct answer, the best way to tackle the problem, is to eliminate two choices out of the four given choices, then go ahead and guess between the other two.

Tactics for tackling the Verbal Ability area of the CAT paper: Don't tackle questions in serial order. Chose the type of questions that you believe you are good at and are probably faster to solve. One of the key reasons why people don't tend to complete the paper is because they get stuck on a particular question or questions.

If it is a close choice between two options, just guess, and if it is between more than two options, leave it. Normally, reasoning related questions especially questions like Facts Inference Judgment are pretty subjective, so be very careful and leave any questions. Actively use answer choice elimination to come close to the answer.