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The Complete Guide for CAT Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension in CAT can make or break your chances of a great score. Read this article to become an expert in RCs.

Traditionally, reading comprehension questions account for 40% to 50% of the total number of questions in the Verbal Ability section. In fact, last year, an overwhelming 70% (24 out of 34) questions were RC questions. Considering the importance of this question type, it is extremely vital that you master this area and do well in this portion of the exam.

Scoring well in RCs is dependent on the following key parameters:

  • Comprehension and Retention Ability
  • Accuracy for questions and ability to analyze questions
  • Reading speed

Unfortunately, the first two parameters and the last parameter have an inverse relationship to one another. This makes it vital for you to individually target these skills and build these skills.
Reading speed can be improved by practice and by increasing vocabulary in general.

This article deals with three core issues:

  • Problems faced in solving RCs
  • Passage Analysis
  • Approaches for different RC question types

We take these up one at a time and address each of these.

Problems faced in RCs.

Most of us face the same problems while we are reading the passages for RCs:

  • lack of attention and the mind wavering (mind lacks control)
  • finding the reading material to be too tough
  • and most simply, we suffer from intense bouts of boredom

Well, the one problem that most definitely can be addressed is that of one's attention wavering while reading. If you can learn to focus while reading, half the job is done. And this also effectively impacts the other two issues. If you can focus on something, there is chance that you might find something a little less boring and also will reduce the seemingly high levels of complexity of the text.

Read the difficult passage at least twice to get the better understanding of the content and context. Remember, being able to recall what is where in the passage gives a massive advantage when you start answering the questions. This is what will help answering questions in a flash. So what is it that you need to do in order to achieve this? One simple solution is passage.

Passage Analysis

You must be thinking what is 'passage analysis'? Well, put simply, its going through the passage like a detective would go through a crime scene: take out your magnifying glass (smart-phones in the modern world) and rummage through the passage, every word of it till you find your clues.
Which are these clues? The clues I am talking about are the ideas that are embedded in every part of the passage. Every paragraph of the passage has one to two important points that it wishes to convey. It is critical for you to recognize these important points and make a mental note of them.

Approaches for different RC question types

This is the final and the longest segment of this video lesson. In this part, I take one RC question at a time and outline the points that should be kept in mind while solving these questions. RC question types can be divided into two broad categories:

Category 1: Big Picture questions

As the name suggests, these are questions based on the overall content of the passage and do not focus on any single point in the passage. These questions check your overall understanding of the passage and do not focus on any single point. Which are these questions? Go through the following list:

  • Main Idea/Main point/Central theme question
  • Structure and Organization
  • Tone and Attitude of the author of the passage
  • Title of the passage

As you can see from these question types, each one of these based on the overall content of the passage and does not ask you to locate and think about some specific element of the passage. The key for these questions is that while reading the passage for the first time, you should be clear about the main ideas of the passage. If you analyze the passage the right way, you will be able to answer these questions without referring to the passage again. This is the one huge advantage with these question types.

Category 2: Detail Questions

This brings us to the second type of questions that are based on RCs. These are the specific detail questions. Let's take up these one at a time. The following list provides you examples for these question types:

  • What can be inferred from the passage?
  • The author of the passage is most likely to agree/disagree with the statement...
  • Paraphrase the given line or segment from the passage
  • Vocabulary Based questions
  • Fact based questions

These questions depend on your ability to analyze and more importantly, retain key information in the passage. Since these are based on specific aspects of the passage, it is important that you are able to identify the right sections of the passage from where these questions are framed. Let us look at the individual sections, tips for these question types and understand what can be done for these.

Inference Questions

The most important aspect here is that you need to understand the meaning of the word inference. An inference is defined as: The reasoning involved in drawing a conclusion or making a logical judgement on the basis of circumstantial evidence and prior conclusions rather than on the basis of direct observation. This is what you need to do in inference question: based on the information given, you need to draw out conclusions that relate to the passage. In inference questions, it is easy to select an answer option that is outside the scope of the passage. Make sure you do not commit this mistake.

Author agree/disagree questions

These questions can be built in two ways. Either the question setter might have a statement that is based on the overall sentiment of the passage or he might base a statement based on specific aspects of the passage. Two keys thing for this question type are:

  • ability to comprehend minute details
  • go through the directions carefully as multiple cases are possible here: he might ask you the statement the author agrees with, the statement the author does not agree with, the statement the author does not disagree with, etc. So make sure you are careful with the directions.

Paraphrase Questions

These questions will essentially ask you to explain the meaning of a particular statement or extract from the passage. Generally, in these questions, you should read the line before and after the one given; it is the one that will have the important clues you need to identify the correct answer.

Vocabulary based questions

These questions will essentially ask you to explain the meaning of a particular statement or extract from the passage. Generally, in these questions, you should read the line before and after the one given; it is the one that will have the important clues you need to identify the correct answer.

Fact-based questions

These are the easiest of the lot as these simply ask you to identify the correct/incorrect facts. Please be careful with the directions for these statements.

Some tips to keep in mind:

To sum it up, you can use the following tips to score well in reading comprehension section of verbal ability of CAT/MBA level entrance exams:

  • Include variety in the reading
  • Increase general and field specific vocabulary
  • Maintain focus and concentration throughout while reading.
  • Practice, practice and practice

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