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The Verbal Maze

The Verbal section in the CAT paper actually can be subdivided into two broad areas, the Verbal area and the Reading Comprehension area, writes Roy Charles.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2008 14:33 IST

The Verbal section in the CAT paper actually can be subdivided into two broad areas, the Verbal area and the Reading Comprehension area.

This is the section where the pattern keeps changing quite dramatically and keeps the candidates off-balance. Organising jumbled paragraphs coherently, supplying missing sentences in paragraphs, vocabulary-based questions, grammar-based questions (sentence correction) and some rather wry critical reasoning questions have usually made up the verbal ability component. Practise each of these types in turns. Take one type a day and work on it for about 15-20 minutes. Try the following tips while practising each type of question:
Techniques for identifying a suitable paragraph sequence:

First look for the sentence connectors at the beginning of sentences, e.g. however, on the other hand, nevertheless, on the contrary, in other words. These may suggest a necessary previous sentence. Guess that sentence approximately and look for it. Having identified, say, two such sequences, look at the options. Which of them has both connections in order? What is the difference between those options?

If there are no sentence connectors or insufficient connectors to arrive at the most likely option, look for reference / referent connections, e.g. these, this, such, those, that, they, she etc. Finally, go to normal logical sequences such as cause before effect, full reference to a person or place before a short or oblique reference. Never forget that logic is less reliable than grammar and verbal connections when it comes to sequence. Consider: ‘I broke my arm yesterday. It hurts very badly now’ and ‘My arm hurts very badly now. I broke it yesterday’.
Both are correct sequences. In other words, the ‘it’ after ‘arm’ sequence is more important than the time sequence or the cause-effect sequence.

Techniques for supplying the missing last sentence of a paragraph:
There are three characteristics we look for in this exercise.
Does the sentence complete the idea or patter of the paragraph?
Does it continue the sense / grammatical connections in the previous line?
Does it have the same tone as the rest of the paragraph? (Is the same person writing it? Is it from the same source, such as a newspaper or brochure?)

Grammar in CAT has more often been consistency-driven or logic-driven, rather than just rule-based. Refer to a good modern grammar book and, after looking at each section, ask yourself why this is so, where it works and why the exceptions are exceptions. Theory is sometimes useful, but not generally necessary. As for vocabulary, it does not require any special effort at this stage. What little improvement is possible within three months will probably come from the reading you do for the comprehension passages. If you have a lot of time, perhaps you could look at a book like Norman Lewis’ Word Power Made Easy.

Reading Comprehension
This has usually been the only regular component of the language section; but even here the type of passages and the kind of questions can be quite varied. You must prepare for difficult passages and difficult questions, because we have seen that pattern in the past few years. These may not require a lot of reading speed. But it would be better to work on your reading speed as well, just in case. Please reserve a minimum of 30 minutes a day for RC. There are two kinds of questions you must prepare for: 1) data questions where the answers can be obtained directly from the passage and 2) inference questions where the answer is not directly there and you have to deduce it.

Here is a two-part plan on how to handle all this:
Get used to difficult passages:
The passages in CAT have been from varied and often obscure sources. So reading some essays on major areas of knowledge and inquiry, such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, economics, critical theory etc., will definitely help. Quick grasp of the central idea, and to answer inference questions:

In fact, reading for speed is actually good when you are trying to read for inference. This seems contradictory, right? Not at all. When you read an essay on yesterday's cricket match, you don't read every word, you read it very quickly, and you understand every nuance better than you do in your comprehension passages! How is that? The first reason is that you are acquainted with the area. (That is why we started with the first part of your preparation where you raised your acquaintance with different areas of knowledge.)

The second reason is that you were not really reading everything. You were guessing what could be there and checking whether it was actually there.