Monday, June 4, 2012

Arun Sharma How to Prepare for Verbal Ability for CAT

Arun Sharma Verbal Ability for CAT

How to prepare for verbal ability and reading comprehension 

for CAT

In this post we shall broadly try and understand what purpose the Verbal Section serves and how should we try and score well in it. Verbal ability section in CAT is a fear for many. But it can be mastered if tried enough.

How to Prepare for Verbal Ability for CAT
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Communication is a very important tool in management education. The quality of english has been improving day by day in CAT. To score well in CAT one must follow the following guidelines.  

     1. Understand the meaning of each of the words used.
     2. Understand the explicit message conveyed.
     3. Understand the implicit undertones of the passage or sentence.
     4. Analyse the correctness of grammar.
     5. Follow the direction of sentence or the passage.

Thus in order to do well  in  this section,  we need to demonstrate competence on the  above guildelines.  It is easy to see that each question type asked in the CAT paper is trying to test us on one or more of the above.Since the reading comprehension section of the CAT employs almost all these skills in parallel it poses the most hazard to a student.

It is also known that students who are voracious readers do well in this section. This is now clear since they have honed their above skills for years. Hence, in order to excel in Verbal one should start well in time.

Read a lot:

The most important part of Verbal preparation is the reading up. In fact, not only does it help in the Verbal section of C T but also in General wareness section of other MBA entrances ] This effort can’t be intensive  in  nature,  since  we  need  to  assimilate  what  we read. Thus  the  reading  has  to  be  consistently spread out across a few months or more.
 Why you should read:

It is much easier to understand any language by knowing the way its words are used, its sentences framed and  ideas conveyed than  by opening  an English guide. Also, noticing how a word  is  used will cement  the correct meaning and usage of the word / phrase than learning it by rote.

The structure of the paper is such that a lot of time is required to read a passage. Irrespective of the style of answering followed (reading before answering or vice versa) the speed at which you read the passage is critical. Someone who can read an average length passage (400 words) in 3 mins has a definite  edge  over someone who takes 4 mins.  The best way to improve reading speed is by reading articles in progressively lesser time.

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What to read:

Since,  management  schools  want  us  to  become  good  business  leaders  they  dish  out  stuff  that  an  MBA graduate  is  most  likely  to  read.  However,  due  to  exam  constraints  the  passages  in  the  exam  are  often excerpts  of  a  bigger  and  wider  article.  These  articles  typically  deal  with  economic,  social,  political  etc. issues and the impact of these issues on the intended reader.

I think however it is much better to start off and read articles longer (abt. 5000 words) than the ones that appear in the exam  (abt.  400  words).  A complete  article has a proper structure unlike those in the  exam. However, it is important to figure out how excellent English is written.

How to Prepare for Verbal Ability for CAT
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Also,  while reading in  English we should make a  conscious effort to start thinking in English  as well, since this can be a handicap for many of us who come from vernacular schools. I personally found  that  articles  in  reputed  magazines  / newspapers  like The  Economist  or  the New  York Times are written n well.

How to read:

Upon  reading  an article  it is  important to discuss it  with friends  who have read it.  You  should make sure that all the implicit opinions / arguments are talked about and not missed. Often at the face of it the article seems straightforward  but  we fail  to locate the  point  the author  is trying to make. Correctly filtering  the facts from the author’s opinions help get an insight into the article.

Similarly,  it  is  important  to  get  a  feel  as  to  how  arguments  are  built  by  good  writers  and  what  is  an expected  line  of  thought,  following  a  seen  passage.  This  again  comes  with  discussing  the  passage  with friends who have read it.

Learn Vocabulary:

While learning  words  organically  (through  essays  and articles)  is an  excellent  lo ng  term  option, with  the view  of  preparing  for  the  CAT  exam  –  it  makes  sense  to  parallely  learn  the  less  common  words.  Many students  praise  the  virtues  of  books  like Word  power made easy  for  improv ing  vocabulary.  These  books help students derive the meaning of a word from its word roots and other techniques. Howev er in case of extreme crunch, its best to pick up a standard word list provided by books that prepare students for GRE, TOEFL etc. and attempt learning them by rote. As the CAT draws closer these lists are a good tool to recall what one has learnt. Whenever a new word is learnt, try using it in a sentence for better retention. Here is an excellent book for vocabulary for CAT.


The  verbal section too  calls  for a lot  of  practice,  which  should be duly  done in the  last few months. The scores in the Reading Comprehension section get tremendously boosted by practice followed by analysis of the questions  attempted  incorrectly.  The  associated  explanation to  an  answer  is  very  important  since it shows what  the examiner  thought  was  the  correct  answer, why  and  how it  was  different  from what we thought. While answering subsequent RCs, we should be mindful not to repeat earlier mistakes.

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For  questions  in  the  vocabulary  section  it  is  important  to  also  know  why  the  incorrect  answers  were incorrect. In case, the options to a question throws up a new word make it a point to check the word up in a thesaurus.

In summary, scoring  in Verbal Section can be elevated by sincere  efforts  towards improving the language followed  by  extensive  practice.  It  is very difficult to score well unless a  person  has  good command  over English as a language. Similarly, it is very easy to make many mistakes in case a person is over reliant on his English skills without the requisite practice.

Every  person should try and modify  his approach to suit  him best,  while remembering the  above skills  at the back of his mind.

Please share your views on verbal ability preparation.