Reading Comprehension in the CAT 2012, like all the previous CAT exams, will test your ability to understand the following facts:
•The nuances of the written word
•Tone of the Passage
•Identify and differentiate the subtleties of meanings of words
•Correct syntax, structure and formation of sentences
•Thought process of the author while writing the passage
The best you could do while reading the passage is to identify the complex ideas presented in the paragraph and link it to the overall theme. This will help you identify the tone and flow of the given passage.
As far as the Reading Comprehension questions are concerned, over all these years CAT has moved from being an English language test to being an English usage test. It implies that few years back, a lot of questions on grammar, vocabulary and fill in the blanks were pretty straightforward. Either you knew the answer in 10 seconds or you didn’t know them at all. No amount of deliberation and reasoning would help you if you didn’t know exact meanings of words and core concepts of grammar.
However, over the last three to four years, CAT has been laying more emphasis on the contextual understanding of the language. It is not enough to merely mug up 3000 high frequency and high power words as one would do in a GRE scenario. It is also not enough to know a Wren & Martin inside-out or to know all the parts of speech with their rules and exceptions. One needs to understand and appreciate how these rules and words are used in particular contexts.
For example the usage of the word - ‘tension’ becomes entirely different in different subjects. It would be a part of quantum mechanics with an entirely different meaning in Physics, be in the context of demand-supply gap in Economics, existential issues in Philosophy, wars in History or emotional stress in Social Psychology. How one understands the word and its application thus depends upon one’s fundamental understanding of the subject matter. Needless to say, the more one comes across different subject matter, the better he is placed to maximize the chances of understanding complex subject matter during the paper.
Practice makes a man perfect therefore, you should inculcate, improve and then expanding you reading habits. This will also increase your stamina of not only understanding but also retaining things deep inside your mind.
To elaborate, we can say that there are two categories of CAT aspirants, and they are:
Category A whose students take all the preliminary tests, go through concept notes, takes all the mock tests diligently and sticks to a time schedule till the day of CAT.
Category B whose students are not as disciplined as Category A in taking the tests or undergoing concept notes and they also skip a few mock tests.
In both the categories, we can form two sub-categories of students based on their reading habits.
Some students are not so voracious a reader and don’t feel the need to read anything extra but the sample test papers, previous questions papers, mock test papers, etc. As a regimen, they read through newspapers daily, an occasional magazine and a rare novel.
While there are few student who, instead spend a lot of time reading fiction and non-fiction material on variety of topics ranging from biographies, religious and motivational books, philosophy, architecture, fluid mechanics, mountain biking, psephology, Psychiatry, Astronomy, Finance & Economics, Chinese culture, Entertainment & Media, etc.
Now, out of both the categories and sub-categories, whom do you think stand a better chance of clearing the Reading Comprehension questions in a go?
Surprisingly it is student who read a lot other than CAT specific materials. Unlike university tests and papers where one needs to revise the entire syllabus and go through last few years’ papers to clear the exam, the English section in CAT has every material ever written in English in the last 250 years to its disposal. As overwhelming as it may sound, it implies that all the literature in English is open to the CAT paper setter to choose from.
So how does one maximize ones chances of clearing the cut-off of Verbal Ability Section?
One obvious but humanly impossible task is to end up reading all the literature in the world. A more realistic and do-able solution is to read up some of the best books on as diverse topics as you can. RC Passages, Idea Completion Questions, Multi-blanks, Jumbled Paragraphs etc. have appeared from very diverse areas. So why not read up sufficient amount of material in each area and make yourself at least less uncomfortable, if not more comfortable when they appear in the paper!
Also, when you have read more and diverse topics, your comfort level and understanding (especially of passages) will shoot up dramatically. This will save valuable time in comprehending very complex data and make you more convinced about the answer that you think is the most appropriate one among the five choices.
The crux of the matter presented in the paragraphs above is this –
“There is no other answer to ensure competence in the Reading Comprehension Questions than reading extensively, reading a lot and reading diverse subject matter. The more varied books and magazines you read; the more familiar you become with different presentation styles and techniques of sentence formation. Sub-consciously you are also soaking in good forms of English, learning new and unfamiliar words and internalizing the correct forms of grammar.
Now, few tips for carrying the above suggested starategies:
To crack CAT 2012, it is of utmost importance that you follow the below mentioned strategies as it will help you in Reading Comprehension as well as in Vocab Building and Written Ability Test conducted after CAT exam.
•Editorial page of one‘daily newspaper’ – Anyone from The Times of India, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Express, The Telegraph etc.
•Editorial page of one ‘Finance daily newspaper’ – Anyone from The Economic Times, Business Standard, Financial Express, Business line, etc.
•Material from any of the ‘International Magazines’ available online – The Economist, Time, Far Eastern Economic Review, Harvard Business Review, Mc. Kinsey quarterly, etc.
•Any ‘International daily newspaper’ – Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, etc.
•Any of the books by Isaac Asimov, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Dan Brown, Ayn Rand, Richard Bach, Stephen Covey, Adam Smith, Nicolo Machiavelli, Karl Marx, P.G. Woodhouse etc.
•War speeches of Winston Churchill, Letters of Abraham Lincoln, Autobiographies of Andrew Carnegie, Adolf Hitler, Benjamin Franklin, M.K. Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Writings of Vivekananda etc.
Begin somewhere, anywhere with a dedication of about 45 minute a day. As you become more comfortable, you may want to increase your reading time and material and cover all the six areas mentioned above. The idea is to read more and reduce the surprise element in the CAT 2012.
Getting the holistic approach
Apart from reading extensively, it helps to keep practicing a few questions on verbal every day. If you are not much comfortable with the Reading Comprehension Questions, you may begin with 2 questions a day for the first week (basic level). If you are already comfortable and know the pattern, it would help to push 10 questions a day to begin with (intermediate level). It can be a mix of 1 passage with 5 questions, 3 Para jumbles, and 2 fill in the blank questions.
As you become more familiar, move on to other types of questions by the 3rd week – Critical Reasoning, FIJ, paragraph completion, multiple blanks, analogies, etc.
The idea is to start from areas which are more comfortable and then move on to areas which are less familiar. With reading on diverse subjects going on simultaneously, one should be in a position to firm the grip on questions type more and more as practice continues. About few weeks at least before the CAT, you should be able to move to the difficult level of questions in the area.
Reading Comprehension is the key
As Reading Comprehension forms about 35 to 60 % of the Verbal Ability Section, it is an area where more attention and detailing are called for. You can try different strategies of attacking an RC, after going through the above described strategies as per your convenience.
Primarily the students opt for any one of the following approach for answering the Reading Comprehension Questions:
The PQ Approach (passage first, then the questions)
•PQ - Read the entire passage thoroughly first and then read the questions
•Pscan Q - Skim & Scan through the passage and keep going back and forth with questions and passage
•2PQ, 4PQ, 6PQ - Read the first 2 paragraphs, scan all the questions and see what you can answer, then read Para 3 & 4, scan the questions and see what you can answer, then read Para 5& 6!!
The QP approach (questions first, then the passage)
•QP - Read all the questions with their answer options first and then the passage
•1QP, 2QP, 3QP, 4QP - Read question 1 with all the options, then go through the entire passage to answer it. Then read question 2, go through the entire passage. Then question 3!
•Qstem P - Just read all the question stems, without reading the answer options. Then read the passage and try answering the questions by reading them with the options.
You can pick any of these strategies once you have tried both of them. These different strategies should be tried and tested with minimum of 3 passages for each strategy so that you identify which strategy you are more comfortable with and which one gives you a lot of difficulty.
It is possible that in passages having certain subject matter for e.g. Economics, Globalization, Public Policy, you may be comfortable with 1QP, 2QP approach, whereas, in some other topics such as philosophy, literature, etc. you are very comfortable with the QP approach.
Once you have identified your comfort areas, try to solve a few more passages with the frozen strategy and see if your attempts and the number of correct answers go up within the allocated time. Keep reshaping and polishing your strategy based on:
•Length of the passage
•Familiarity and complexity of the subject matter
•Number of questions
Prepare well and for more content on CAT 2012 , stay tuned to MBA Rendezvous