Let me be honest with you. If you are looking for a structured strategy of VARC for CAT, just like there are many for Quant, you might feel disappointed after reading this article. It is because I don’t know any structured approach that is there for VARC. And so, I didn’t follow any specific strategy in VARC.
Now, first things first. A few points about VARC.
- There is no well-defined study material of VARC for CAT.
- VARC for CAT is very much about RCs. Out of 34 questions, generally, 24 are from RCs. Of the remaining, there are 4-6 questions of critical reasoning and drawing a logical inference, 1-2 questions of sentence completion, and 3-4 questions of the para jumbles.
- Hence, from the second point, it is clear that 30 questions (RC + CR + sentence completion) can be covered if we comprehend the articles well.
So now, if you ask me, how did I prepare, I would say that I focused on the third point.
The keyword here is: comprehend the articles because it is the answer to every single question in VARC. It will help you in RCs, CRs, sentence completion, and to an extent, Para jumbles also.
This brings my first step of VARC preparation for CAT.
Step 1: Warming up
It pertains to getting comfortable with reading.
Try to get comfortable with reading. Develop the habit of reading. If you have around a year, you can easily do it. Trust me, you can do it. I started feeling comfortable with reading in six months. I have shared at length one way of developing the reading habit here.
Step 2: Practice matches
Practice match pertains to practising RCs.
If you have more than a year to prepare, you can start taking this step after doing the first step for at least a month.
If there is a time constraint, you can follow this step a little sooner, maybe after following step 1 for two weeks.
However, if you are comfortable with reading comprehension, you can directly start with this step.
From where did you practice RCs?
I practised RCs from the following.
- TIME VARC material
- Face2Face book: This has consolidated previous years’ CAT papers.
- Practice material that I got along with the IMS test series.
How did you approach the RCs?
For me, it was more of a hit and trial. I tried a particular trick for a few days, found it ineffective, so chucked it, and then tried a different trick. This is how I finally felt comfortable with one of the approaches. See, different things work for different people. What worked for me might not work for you. Hence, you should try different approaches and see what works best for you.
I am listing the two approaches that I tried.
- Read the article first, then attempt the questions: I would slowly read the article to ensure that I understand what is written in the article, and after reading, I would attempt the questions. I tried this, but it didn’t work well for me, maybe because I don’t have a sound memory. So by the time I read the questions, I would forget, where, in the article, the point related to that question had been mentioned. I also found this method a little more time-consuming. On average, to answer the RC of 500 words (general RC length in the CAT exam), I would take 12-15 minutes. So, this didn’t work for me. Eventually, I chucked it.
- Read the article partially, and see the questions: In this approach, instead of reading the whole RC at a go, I would read only the first few lines, understand what the passage was about, then read the questions, and then go back to the RC and continue reading. When I found that a particular part of the RC was related to that question, I would read it carefully, and look into the question again, and try to find the answer at that moment only. This method worked relatively better for me. There were some questions for which I did not even need to read the RC. In this way, I could also answer the RC in around 8-10 minutes.
Step 3: League Matches
This pertains to the mock tests.
In this step, you need to capitalize on your learnings and experience that you have gained from practising RCs. In other words, practising RCs develops logic and intuition power in you. You need to rope in both these weapons to win the league matches.
The mock tests will help you strike a balance between speed and accuracy. They will also help strengthen your logic and intuition power provided you analyse the mocks religiously.
A few tips to ace the VARC section in mock tests:
- Always start VARC sections with RCs. In the first 40-50 minutes, solve RCs. In the remaining 10-20 minutes, answer VA questions. In that too, solve para jumbles at the last. I am saying this because if you start VA in the beginning, it might take a lot of time, and you may not be able to attempt all the RCs that are the scoring areas in this section. And para jumbles should be the least priority because they can be complex and time-consuming. Also, there is a good chance of getting them wrong even after spending 2-3 minutes in one para jumble.
- Don’t start solving RCs in the sequence they appear. In the first five minutes, skim through all the RCs. Based on the right balance between your comfort level with the topic of RC and the RC length, decide the order in which you will attempt the RCs.
- Looking at the questions can help you analyse if the questions are fact-based or inference-based. It is better to answer fact-based RCs first because the accuracy in fact-based RCs is generally high. Understand that the choice of questions is the most important aspect of the CAT exam. You will score high by attempting easy questions and chucking the difficult ones. So, write it on paper, and keep it in front of your study table: CAT is all about your choices.
- Always try to answers the questions using the method of elimination. The method of elimination works magically well in all the sections of the CAT exam.
- Verbal is tricky. Here, it is difficult to be very sure about the answers. So, you can take a little risk in this section. You can have a trade-off between attempts and accuracy. I used to try to attempt 28+ questions with 70%+ accuracy. It can get you a good score in the VARC section.
Step 4: The final match
This pertains to the CAT exam.
Just a few points
- Be calm.
- Choose questions wisely.
- Capitalize on your learnings and experiences.
- Don’t get over-confident (I did this mistake).
You will come off with flying colours.
In this whole article, I have emphasized majorly on RCs because I mainly practised RCs, and I feel, that can help you get better in everything. For CR, para jumbles, and sentence completions, I referred to some exercises of TIME material. Besides that, I mostly answered questions on various CAT preparation groups on social media, which contributed substantially to my preparation of VARC for CAT.
My final words:
This article is only to give you exposure to some touchpoints (marked in red with NO underline) that you can focus on. So, you should work on these touchpoints and gain the learning, experience, and intuitive power that is required to ace the VARC section of the CAT exam.
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