Reading Comprehension (RC) is one of the most crucial sections of CAT. Looking at the CAT exam question papers of previous years, you will see that RC has constituted about 20-25% of the total questions every year. That is quite a share! Needless to say, RC is certainly a section that one cannot afford to ignore. In the RC section, you are expected to read the given passage; understand what it is about and its contents; and answer the questions that follow the passage. RC section also tests you on the knowledge of vocabulary. In this article, we are going to see the nitty-gritty of RC for CAT, types of questions expected in the exam and how to deal with them effectively so as to maximise your score in CAT.
- Introduction to RC for CAT :
- 1. Reading
- 2. Comprehension of RC for CAT
- THERE IS NO SHORT-CUT FOR RC for CAT
Introduction to RC for CAT :
Well, we say start with understanding the section. ‘Reading’ is the means of communication, sharing information and ideas. We use words and language/s to share information and ideas. And ‘comprehension’ is the ‘ability to understand’. Thus we are dealing with some very closely inter-linked factors, namely – ‘reading’, ‘vocabulary’ and ‘ability to understand’. For good performance, you need the perfect blend of all of these.
Reading depends on a multitude of factors like – reading speed, knowledge of vocabulary, concentration, interest in the topic at hand, etc – because while reading, you are constantly required to think, judge, and process whatever has already been read. So let us have a look at the factors to keep in mind while reading:-
Slow reading can really hamper one’s chances of attempting a good number of questions while writing the exam. It could also affect on a psychological front – by affecting one’s confidence, losing interest, loss of concentration etc. Hence, first, you need to determine if you are a ‘slow reader’; and if you think you are one, START READING. Make a habit of reading regularly. ‘Practice makes a man perfect’ goes the saying; it couldn’t fit more here. The more frequently you practice (read), the better and the faster you get at reading.
There’s this simple logic behind increasing reading speed – the faster you can read, the faster you’ll get through the passage; saving time. And this time can be invested in attempting more questions. But reading speed won’t improve drastically at once; you need to work on it, give it time. Also, there’s a limit to increasing reading speed. Beyond a certain speed, increasing speed comes at the cost of the other factors (like understanding whatever you have read). So don’t just run behind improving reading speed. Many experts suggest a speed of 350-400 words per minute to be optimum. Try to reach this speed and you won’t need to improve it any further! But this also doesn’t mean that you become complacent; keep reading and try to maintain the speed.
Poor knowledge of vocabulary can be a thorn in your path to success. Consider a scenario – you are reading an informative article and suddenly you encounter a ‘never-seen-before’ word (probably a technical jargon); and nothing makes sense in the article anymore! Now, consider the same happening to you on your exam day, while you are attempting the RC for CAT exam paper: Disaster! Well, such is the importance of vocabulary; it can make or break your game. Frequent and sincere reading, again, helps to tide over. Making your own ‘flashcards’ also helps: they help in memorizing and quick revision.
1.3 Exposure to varied topics
Let’s state the obvious first, shall we? Make sure you read a newspaper daily. You may have read/heard this 3000 times by now, but the importance of the newspaper can’t be stressed enough! Newspapers are the most easily available source of articles on varied subjects/topics/genres. By reading a newspaper, you get acquainted with information on a lot of current happenings, various scientific breakthroughs, art and culture, sports and entertainment, politics and international affairs etc. The main advantage of exposure to varied topics is that you feel comfortable with any and every topic that you come across. And this will definitely help you in keeping yourself composed while attempting the RC for CAT; because you may (still) find a passage on a new genre/subject in the actual exam.
All in all, before going to write the CAT, just make sure that you are comfortable with articles on all subjects – sciences, humanities, social sciences, economics, environment, sports, etc.
2. Comprehension of RC for CAT
What good is the higher rate of reading if one doesn’t get even a single question right? What good is the exposure to different topics if one can’t figure out what the gist of the passage is and what the author tries to communicate?
It is of the utmost importance that one understands, evaluates, translates into one’s own words and correlates with what has already been read. This will ensure that you get what the author tries to tell you in the passage and thereafter answering the questions is a smooth sail. Comprehension includes correlating words with other words, sentences with other sentences and paragraphs with other paragraphs in the passage. That’s why it is the ideal way of dealing with RC when you try to find out the answer to ‘What is the author really talking about in the passage?’ The answer to this question is the MAIN IDEA – the central theme upon which the author has woven his fabric of passage.
Once you figure out what the main idea of the passage is, just try to correlate the other paragraphs with it; and try to find how the author attempts to connect all the paragraphs to the main idea. These attempts denote nothing but the ‘flow of idea’. Understanding the main idea and the flow of idea makes attempting RC questions very easy. Therefore, make a habit of identifying them in every passage you read from now on; and see the improvement yourself! So focus on the below-mentioned points to improve your comprehension:-
While practicing RC for CAT – after you are done identifying the main idea and the flow of ideas in the passage – make a habit of summarising the passage in your own words, keeping the main idea the same. This practice ensures a thorough understanding of what the author tries to convey through the passage. This also ensures that you express the same in a crisp manner, saving words. Summarising a passage helps in solving various types of questions that we are going to see next.
2.2Question types in RC for CAT
Although there are no particular question types defined (officially), we can figure out what the exam demands from the previous year’s questions. Let’s see the most frequently asked types:
These are the questions based on the specific details mentioned in the passage. Such questions can be attempted by using the ‘bottom-to-top approach’ wherein one reads the questions before going through the passage. The use of this approach enables you to make note of various keywords the author has used in the passage and helps in identifying the exact sentence/s in which the answer lies.
2.2.2 CR type questions
These questions test you on critical reasoning skills. This is the single most important segment which requires you to read the passage completely; identify the main idea, argument, evidences, assumptions, conclusion, tone of the passage, and the overall flow of idea (you’ll see most of the questions being based on these). The preparation tips for Comprehension and Summary (listed above) can prove handy.
‘Tone’ is the general attitude displayed by the author towards the topic at hand. It can be one of – positive, negative and neutral. Tone can be identified by what the author states, his/her original views about the topic; and the adjectives and adverbs (positive/ negative; mild/ strong) used.
The title is the first thing that connects a reader with the author. It is often based on the main idea of the passage. The main idea may be a composite of different ideas put together in a certain sequence.
There is an idea that the author took the support of but did not care to mention in the passage, this is an assumption. To identify the assumption/s, find the missing link that connects evidence/s with the conclusion.
Argument is the means by which the author tries to convince you about his view/opinions by providing reason/s. In ‘strengthen the argument’ type questions, you have to identify that idea which removes any doubts about the argument. That is, here you need to find that idea that supports the argument and makes it more convincing. ‘Weaken the argument’ is just the opposite of ‘strengthen the argument’ type questions – here you need to find that idea which makes the argument less convincing.
Generally, a doubt arises in the assumption/s that the author had made and hence tackling these types of questions requires you to master the art of identifying assumptions. After that, just look for the option which is true (in case of ‘strengthen the argument’); and false (for ‘weaken the argument’) and mark your answer accordingly.
The main idea that the author tries to convey using various evidences is ‘conclusion’. Evidence is the reasoning while the conclusion is the opinion of the author. And ‘inference’ is an implicit conclusion.
2.2.8. Parallel reasoning
This can be called the most difficult type of question. You are required to identify the reasoning used by the author and apply the same to solve the question.
THERE IS NO SHORT-CUT FOR RC for CAT
- RC for CAT is perhaps the most time-consuming section during the preparation phase. Consistent efforts and patience are crucial to improving your RC solving skills. The approach enumerated in this article will definitely help.
- Try to solve at least two RC sets daily and test your knowledge regularly by writing sectional tests.
- And finally, keep practicing (and summarising) diverse reading.
All the best!