The Verbal Ability Sub-section under CAT VARC contains around 10 out of a total of 34 questions which tests your sense of paragraph logic, grammatical expression and sentence-forming. These questions are based on topics such as:
- Para Jumbles or Sentence Rearrangement
- Paragraph Summaries
- Sentence Correction
- ‘Out of Context’ Word Identification
This article will clear the fog of confusion and illuminate the path that leads to you acing this sub-section under CAT VARC.
Before we embark upon this journey, you might want to check out this equally enlightening article about “How to Read for Reading Comprehension“. 🙂
And now, let’s dive in!
CAT Verbal Ability Disclaimer: What’s the deal with Vocabulary?
Firstly, let’s get something out of the way:
There are no direct Vocabulary-based Questions in the VARC Section for CAT.
I can already hear a premature sigh of relief from this end of the screen. Hold your horses there people! What exactly does the above statement mean?
Simply put, the VARC Section tests your usage of vocabulary through its various sub-sections rather than purely vocabulary-based questions.
Now, we know that the VARC Section is riddled with “tough” words of varying degrees of complexity, many of which may befuddle our brains. These words are embedded within RC Passages and Verbal Ability Questions, and could mean the difference between the right and wrong answer.
Knowing the meaning of certain words help us understand the questions and paragraphs better, and that acquired lucidity pays off in the end.
This is why it pays to read every day. You do not need to learn 5-10 words every day for fear of flunking this section. Do NOT download Word Lists and memorize the meanings of the words. Doing so can tire you out and jeopardize your preparation because it can be a bit jarring and throw you off track.
All you need to do, is Read. Read. And then Read some more. Read curiously and pick up the dictionary IF you aren’t able to identify the meaning of a word and its function within the context of the sentence.
Studies have shown that manually looking up words in a dictionary helps retain the information better than if we look it up in our devices. Make of that what you will, but take from all this a thirst to read organically.
We highly recommend Bharath’s Curated Reading List for your everyday dose of reading, apart from whatever stimulates your mind of course. 🙂
Preparing for Verbal Ability
Verbal Ability is all about grammar. When it comes to grammar, forget about the rule-based approach. Instead, what you should try to develop, is a feel for when the sentence feels a bit off and funny.
When you read a sentence, and something about it doesn’t feel right, then try correcting that sentence in your head. The CAT is trying to test exactly this ability with their Sentence Correction Questions and ‘Out of Context’ Word Identification Questions.
Right now, you might be thinking, “Hey! Where is the paragraph that implores me to have a command over grammatical concepts such articles, modifiers, clauses, conjunctions, gerunds, and infinitives? What are those anyway?“.
They don’t want you to know and identify the exact rule of grammar that has been violated. They want to know whether you have a reading habit…whether you have an intuition of sorts when it comes to the language.
This allows them to gauge your understanding of the language and acts as an indicator for your communicative abilities.
If it helps, revisit basic grammatical concepts such as the ones mentioned above. Having said that, we strongly recommend the intuitive approach to grammar, which will prove to be far more efficacious.
How do you develop this intuition?
The answer lies within our favourite iteration: READ! After reading enough, you should be able to understand various writing styles and compositions. As a result, you will develop a sense of identifying logical consistencies within sentences.
Remember, this is a formidable tool that will help you crack Para-Jumbles or Sentence Rearrangement Questions and Sentence Completion Questions.
A Final Note
If you’re going to prepare for an hour everyday for VARC, spend 60% of the time reading and 40% of the time solving questions.
Reading is going to have a greater pay-off for different question patterns than practising individual question types. 🙂
Check out this video about Handling VARC Score Fluctuations in Mocks. We hope this helps!
Stay Safe and Best Wishes for CAT 2020!
Swaminathan Ravikumar is from IIM-A and worked as a Verbal Faculty Member at 2IIM.
Written by Saahil R Bhatt.