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Verbal Ability (VA) Tips & Techniques

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Updated : Wednesday, 04 May, 2016 04:30 PM
In Common Admision Test 2016 Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning is a section that is probably the more unpredictable of the two sections. Preparing for this section (when I say this section, I’m primarily referring to VA) is a tall order, what with aspirants being advised to cram thick vocab books, read esoteric articles and spend a lot of time working on polishing their reasoning skills.
I wouldn’t disagree that doing all this would not help one do good in the section, but only so much. A focused strategy that looks at preparing for questions exactly as they come in CAT should help see you through. The next logical step is to know what constitutes the preparation of such questions. 
It is a well-known fact that unlike Quantitative Ability and Logical Reasoning, Verbal Ability is not formula based and objective. One of the gravest and unpardonable sins that one can commit in this section is to apply a technique blindly without looking at the question. By virtue of the very nature of English language, it is highly unlikely that one may arrive at the correct answer through the same method each time.
It is the beauty of the language that doesn’t make two plus two four each time. Nevertheless, there are certain points, knowing which; one is likely to have a higher success rate in these questions. This article takes you through a particular type of VA question that figures in CAT quite frequently and some tips and techniques to crack these questions.
Para Completion
In these types of questions, a small paragraph of about 150-200 words is presented with four options that look to ‘complete’ the paragraph. Note that, by complete, one doesn’t mean that the correct option must necessarily conclude the paragraph. All that is required is that the correct option should fit in at the end of the passage, both logically and tone-wise. Identifying the core idea of the paragraph and its tone will be of great help in zeroing in on the correct answer choice. 
However, it is also seen that sometimes the correct answer choice is a contrast to the general theme of the paragraph. In that case, one must look for appropriate words in the paragraph or the answer choice that signal this shift in idea and tone. 
Just like any other question type in VA, Para Completions also can be mastered by reading voraciously on different topics. Reading opens up your mind to a variety of writing styles that help you spot the link between different sentences and know how an author goes about building an idea. Talking about link between the sentences, the next question type that comes to mind is Para Jumbles. 
There are basically two kinds of Para Jumble questions that are being asked in CAT. One is the classic five sentence para jumble where one is required to choose the correct sequence of sentences that form a coherent paragraph. The other is the more recent type of Para Jumble that requires one to spot the odd sentence out of the given four sentences; the remaining three when rearranged form a coherent sequence. We’ll look at both these types one by one.
Para Jumble (Five Sentence Type)
As is apparent from the name, these questions have a set of five sentences that should be rearranged to form a coherent paragraph. The set of sentences is followed by four options, one out of which gives the correct sequence of the sentences. The key to solving such questions, that too quickly, lies in eliminating options. More often than not, it is wiser to look at the options and see if they form that perfect sequence than struggling with the sentences to form a sequence on your own. ‘Mandatory Pairs’ is an oft-heard phrase in relation to Para Jumbles. It helps to spot these pairs of sentences in order to eliminate options. 
Para Jumble-Odd Sentence Out
This is the type of para-jumble that troubles students the most. Typically, the odd sentence is not really ‘that’ odd. All the four sentences are generally related to the same topic, but there is one that will talk of an aspect different from the other three, or will differ in tone and style or will simply not be necessary in the correct sequence of sentences. 
A good way to solve such questions is to try to arrange the sentences into a sequence as you do in the normal para jumble. Try to spot mandatory pairs and eliminate the options. The sentence without which you can form a correct sequence of the remaining three sentences will be your answer. The odd sentence will almost always be something that should come a little later or before the three sentences. Remember that it is not always unrelated to the subject; you need to go deep into the aspects being talked about rather than considering the bigger picture.
Para Completions and both types of Para Jumbles constitute around 6-7 questions out of 30 in section II. The remaining question types comprising the VA part of this section are Fill in the Blanks (based on contextual vocabulary), word usage, Grammar (Spot the grammatically correct/incorrect sentence) and Reading Comprehension. 
The vocab based questions basically require one to apply both, knowledge of vocabulary and logic. Preparing for these question types doesn’t require any particular strategy. It is your knowledge of the language and its nuances that will steer you to success in these questions. 
The grammar questions do require some degree of formal knowledge of the rules governing the language. However, it is advisable that one does not stick to the rules blindly. All in all, a good score in this section is a result of good reading habits and enough practice over a period of time.
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The author of above article is Inderdeep Kaur, Senior Executive, Phi Lab.  
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