5 Ways to Excel in CAT VARC 

Imagine yourself to be Rahul Dravid. Imagine CAT VARC to be Brett Lee’s bowling in the bouncy Perth wicket. Without prior practice, the result would be either the middle-stump getting uprooted or a catch in the first slip. But you’re Dravid. You’re meant for greatness. And greatness will only come if you practice every day, like Mr. Dependable did.

Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension is one of the most crucial sections in not only the Common Admission Test but also other B-School entrance examinations like Xavier’s Aptitude Test (XAT), NMAT, SNAP, TISSNET and GMAT. This article will shed light on 5 ways to excel in CAT VARC.

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The pattern of the CAT VARC section has largely remained the same in the past few years, as mentioned below: 

Exam Pattern of CAT VARC

Number of Questions 34 (including 24 MCQs, and 10 Type in the Answer or TITA questions)
Distribution of Questions 24 – Reading Comprehension

10 – Verbal Ability (Fill in the Blanks/TITA questions)

Marking Scheme +3 marks for every right answer and -1 for every wrong answer
Time Duration Allotted  Around 1 hour
Difficulty Level Moderate to Difficult (VARC turned out to be the toughest section in CAT 2019)

Why is CAT’s VARC section so important?

It’s the first section – VARC has constantly been the first appearing section of CAT and thus plays a very crucial role in setting the entire tempo of the Common Admission Test. 

It accesses how well you understand communication – Businesses these days require managers to have impeccable communication skills and remarkable comprehending aptitude. With a growing emphasis on communication, MBA entrance examinations have strictly included Reading Comprehension as a major part of the syllabus. Reading Comprehension may sound easy to almost 90% of the folks because most of them have been practicing it since school days, but this is where they falter. Reading Comprehension in CAT is poles apart from what people did in schools. Reason? The person developing the question wants to test certain skill sets in the prospective aspirant. These include the skill of ‘Logic’ and the capability to understand ‘Why’.

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Thus, through this article, our aim is to discuss 5 ways to excel in CAT VARC or 5 foolproof plans to excel and score excellent marks in the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section of CAT.

How to prepare for CAT VARC?

1. Read Read Read – If you are someone who is not into reading books, it is high time you inculcate the noble habit. As Jim Rohn said, “Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.”, a person (aspiring to be a future leader) needs to catch hold of some well written masterpieces to come up with an ability to form interesting and unravelled opinions. A regular habit of reading will help you sail through the extremely difficult first hour of CAT. The VARC section requires complete attention, and the same can be solely achieved through good practice. Some key points to keep in mind:

  • Practise reading on screen – Since CAT is a computer-based exam, you’ll have to practise being in front of a computer. The biggest mistake students often make is that they don’t practise reading through the computer screen and stick to paperbacks. The habit backfires during the actual test. Reading on a computer screen is a lot different than reading through traditional mediums. Until and unless one starts practising it, an adjustment in the eleventh hour becomes extremely difficult.
  • Practise online VARC Mocks – As always, mocks are your best friends. Why? Because, they give you a wholesome glimpse of similar types of questions that are expected to appear in CAT. Regular practise would set a precedent. 
  • Speed Reading – CAT is both, like a cricket test match which examines your temperament and a T20 that tests your speed. Unlike XAT, which gives you enough flexibility to devote time to the sections as per your ease, CAT has a rigid timeline. For VARC, you’ll have just an hour in hand, in which case, the ability of speed reading would be your best skill. Assess your reading speed by jotting down the time taken by you to read a passage. Pick a passage from any magazine, newspaper, book, or novel and find out the areas where you falter. Keep in mind that anything below 300-400 words per minute needs improvement.

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2. Hone your vocabulary – The VARC section of CAT would be extensive. The topics in this section can range anything from Science, History, Philosophy, to Fantasy and an excerpt from a Novella. Having a strong knowledge of ‘words’ and having your mental ‘thesaurus’ in place would help you counter the bumps whilst reading a passage. The more words you know, the easier it is to understand the connotation of passages effectively. This also comes handy while solving parajumbles. 

Without a strong vocabulary, getting through the CAT VARC section would be like sailing against the wind. The best way to improve your vocabulary is by reading newspaper articles/magazine op-eds, highlighting tough words and finding out their meanings in the dictionary. But mere mugging-up won’t help. You’ll also have to ensure the use of those words in daily conversation.

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3. Time Management – One hour for solving 34 questions without making mistakes, requires effective time management. Often, students get stuck in solving just one passage. Most even waste 15-20 precious minutes on one passage before realizing that it is too late to solve the rest of the section. Keep a plan handy to manage the time allotted for VARC. DO NOT devote more than 10 minutes in solving one passage.

4. Elimination Technique – Whenever you feel that a passage is tough to understand, you must build the ability to answer the questions, even if you don’t crack the passage fully. Glance through the passage. Develop an understanding of the key lines in the passage and eliminate the less used/unwanted words or phrases. Questions are mainly based on certain parts of the passage. Go to and fro through those parts, read them thoroughly, read the questions again and again, and finally apply the elimination technique. Find reasons as to why a particular option can’t be the answer, finally mark the most proximate option.

5. Back to Basics – For Verbal Ability, one must have the basics of English Grammar sorted. Topics like Tenses, Conditionals, Parallelism, Adverbs, and Adjectives must be thoroughly dealt with to make Para Jumbles, Sentence Correction, Summary Formation etc. correctly. Pick up a reference book from TIME, IMS, CL study material and practice English grammar daily. Shun the use of colloquial/casual language in your day-to-day conversation to keep yourself in practice.

“Only through practice and more practice, until you can do something without conscious effort.”

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