How to increase your score in VARC section
The VARC Section is a vital section within the CAT which tests your command over the language and your communication skills. For some of the aspirants this section is relatively easier, but for someone like me this section has always been one of those things that never fails gets my goat.( Why on the earth we have to read passages by philosophers and then answer questions set by non-philosophers or people who fancy themselves to be philosophers? ). But be that as it may, we have a job at hand — to improve our score in the VARC section. In this article, we will try to look at some of the strategies that can be used to improve our performance in the VARC section. Let’s dive in!
1)Choose the right RC passages
Reading comprehension is the center around which the entire verbal section revolves. With 24 out of 34 questions belonging to RC, there is no way you can be average on RC and get a good score in the Verbal section. You need to have above average ability on RC. But more than your talent you need to have a process to choose the right passages, read them well, answer questions correctly and most importantly skip questions.
You are not going to read and attempt every RC as you encounter it. You are not going to solve all RCs. Read the first paragraph of an RC. If you find it difficult to read and you don’t feel comfortable with the content of the passage then do not read further. Repeat the process for all the other RCs. After you’re done with the first step then choose the easy passages in term of readability and your level of comfort with the content and begin solving then starting with the easiest.
2) Reading is the Holy Grail, when it comes to VARC
For VARC, the mothership, the holy grail and the most important chunk is Reading. We keep reiterating this again and again. Sometimes, students do not realize the power of reading diverse content consistently over a period of time. Read across a myriad range of sources. Explore different genres. Read novels, novellas; small and giant articles about different topics.
Reading stamina is very crucial. You could be reading for years together, but while taking the CAT, you will be met with barrage of passages from different genres with varying styles of writing. The mind becomes tired when it is met with a series of challenging passages. The only way you can make your mind resilient to this and nail this section, is to add 500 hours (from now to CAT 2021) of reading on top of it.
3) The dilemma of choosing between the ‘last two options’!
If a team decides to send its batsmen in the reverse order of the batting line-up — Number 11 and 10 open the batting, with number 9 coming in one-drop and so on. After they have taken the first five wickets, will the opposition bowlers think that 50% of their job is done and they just need 5 wickets more? Obviously that is when the bowlers’ real job starts!
Eliminating two options is not an achievement, you are just picking off the lowest hanging fruit — the real job starts after eliminating that. Be anal about accuracy not attempts! When caught between the ‘last two options’ do not just match phrases in the option with phrases in the passage, trap options will have the same phrases but faulty logic. Always go to the specific part of the passage check the logic in the passage and the logic in the option before you make a choice, it is always better than repeating the two options in your head and trying to think which one is correct. Finally, If you are still unable to choose between two options, just LEAVE! You have the passage next to you, kindly use it!
4) You don’t have to answer all the questions
Just because you have read an RC does not mean that you have to attempt all questions, if you cannot break the deadlock between two options even after evaluating the logic of each one and checking with the passage then it is best to shoulder arms and let the ball go to the keeper. ‘My VA accuracy keeps fluctuating!’ – That is because irrespective of the difficulty level of the paper, everyone more or less attempts the same number of questions always — a reason why attempts in VA-RC are always the highest among the three sections. In Quant section you know the question is tough because you do not get the answer. In Verbal you think that it has to be between these two options so you mark one anyway! Why not give the benefit of the doubt to the test-setter that he or she might have made a good question that you are better off leaving.
5) Do not act like an acute narcissist!
Throw away all your subjective baggage as you step in to attend CAT VARC. This is not a place to validate your idea of political inclinations or current affairs. Put simply, if “The Sun rises in the West”, according to the passage (I am obviously exaggerating), just take it in. Watch this video to know why it could be the case, before jumping the gun.
6) Contextual reading versus memorizing
When you are constantly trying to ‘get it right’ while reading, your focus on details. You concentrate on nitpicking minute details, while losing out the theme, coherence and essence of the passage in front of you.
Being mindful is not easy, but it is good to cultivate the habit as early as possible. While reading an passage try to decode the theme and tone of the passage. This will definitely help you to become a mindful reader and in picking the contextual clues while reading a passage.
7) Speed Reading Does Not Work, in fact is Not Needed!
There are a lot of ‘Gurus’ who talk about speed reading, promising aspirants a never before and magical jump in their VARC scores. However, the ‘magic’ wears off the moment you try to read anything outside the provided exercise! In fact, the moment a ‘speed reading trained aspirant’ is confronted with something remotely heavy, the speed reading techniques stop working. The basic reason why these reading techniques do not work under the examination reading conditions is that these techniques are designed for easy reading materials. On the contrary, the passages used in CAT are dense in terms of their content. They contain too much information and any attempt at skimming result in a loss of comprehension. Sometimes, missing on a crucial sentence might just end up making you lose your connection with the author totally.
A typical CAT RC passage is anywhere between 800 to 1200 words. The questions further form approaximately 400 to 500 words. This means in order to read a passage and solve the questions, all you need to do is to read and completely understand anywhere between 1200 to 1700 words. If you look at the most successful CAT aspirants, you will be able to notice that they solve usually 5 out 6 passages. So if someone is able to achieve those ridiculous reading speeds that some ‘Guru’ claim about, he or she should be able to complete the RC section in about 5 to maximum 10 mintues flat! But it doesn’t happen, does it? So from where does the need for speed reading arise? It simply doesn’t.
8) Getting back on track takes time
Once scores come down, you cannot wave a magic wand and take them to back to the summit in no time. Out of the many analogies attributed to the CAT preparation – “CAT prep is a marathon, not a sprint”, etc. – the one that rings true oftentimes is “CAT scores are like climbing a hill. Downhill takes no time, but uphill requires a hell lot of effort and time.” So have faith in yourself and always remember you can, you will, and you must.
Best wishes for CAT!
Abhishek Mukherjee works for 2IIM, and is a keen writer.