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CAT 2006: How to ace Verbal Ability

ARKS Srinivas
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June 15, 2006

Of all the sections in the Common Admission Test, the Verbal Ability section can be solved the fastest! On the flip side, it happens to be the most difficult one to prepare for.

To crack this you need a grounding in grammar and a good grasp over your vocabulary. But don't fret; CAT 2006 is scheduled for November 19, which gives you five months to prepare.

Verbal Ability format

In the 1990's, the emphasis was more on vocabulary while now it is moving more towards reasoning in grammar. So it does not only matter whether you know the meanings of many words, but whether you know how to use them.

A case in point is the set of questions that featured in CAT 2005. For instance, one had to find the meaning of four underlined words used in the same sentence. The words mentioned were klang, fingummy, crupping and plunk. Sounds tough? However, if you read the sentence and understood the context, you could easily guess the meaning of the words without having prior knowledge of what they mean. Of course, you have answer options to choose from, which makes it easier.

This clearly reflects that CAT is moving away from merely having knowledge of vocabulary to concentrating on the usage of words and the reasoning behind it.

Broadly, three types of questions have been used in CAT in the last six years.

i. Paragraph forming

You have four to six sentences labeled A to E, which are actually a part of a paragraph. These are presented in a jumbled order and you are expected to rearrange the sentences such that the sequence forms a coherent paragraph.

You must understand the meaning of the paragragh to determine the correct order. You will develop this ability as you start to read more (it also helps if you are a good writer). With the help of a few techniques these questions can be solved very easily in most cases.

Step 1: Identify the START
Begin by trying to identify the first sentence of the paragraph. This will eliminate all other choices.

Step 2: Find a LINK
When you read all the sentences given, you can find links between any two sentences. This would reduce the choices further.

Step 3: Identify the END
Sometimes checking out which statement/sentence could be the concluding line of a paragraph can also help zero-in on the right answer.

Preparation tips

ii. Grammar

You have six to seven types of questions related to the correct usage of grammar. The format changes over the years. For instance, you could be asked to point out the error in a sentence.

You don't need to be an expert on grammar. But work at developing your abilities in the functional usage of words, idioms and phrases. This can be achieved by going through any book that gives a summary of the rules of grammar.

Thompson and Martinet's Practical English Grammar would be good starting point. CAT coaching institutes also provide such books on grammar (in their material).

However, there is NO shortcut to grammar. So start by completing the basics of grammar and continue practicing through as many questions as possible.

iii. English Usage and Vocabulary

Vocabulary will help in all types of questions that feature in CAT ie synonyms, antonyms, analogies and fill-in-the-blanks.

One way to start building up your vocabulary is to read Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis. There are close to 50 exercises/sessions in that book and ideally one can finish the same in as many days. In addition, you can read All About Words by Rosenblum and Nurenberg or any books by Wilfred Funk.

But the best way to improve your diction is by reading (yes, once again the same thing). After you have finished the reading for the day (for Reading Comprehension), check out the meanings of all the words that you have come across for that day and write it down in a book or make flash cards for yourself.

Everyday you may come across a minimum of at least 10 words to which you either do not know the meaning of or are unsure. This exercise will ensure that over the next 150 days, your repertoire of words would increase by at least 1,500.

CAT has always (save the last year) given words that are currently in vogue. You will find these words in any newspaper and not just in editorials but also in sports pages.

Hence it is the diligence with which you jot down these words when you encounter them and revise them regularly that will make you prepared for this area.

In addition, a better diction will improve your reading speeds to a large extent.

A consistent effort every day is required. Thankfully we have close to five months; all it takes is 30 minutes a day to crack this section!

AKRS Srinivas is an alumnus of IIM-Calcutta with an engineering degree in electronics and communication from Osmania University. He was with Maruti Udyog Limited in Gurgoan, Delhi and Kolkata before joining T.I.M.E. , Hyderabad, as director of the CAT course. He has been training students for CAT over the last eight years. You can mail him at



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Number of User Comments: 5

Sub: verbal ability(grammer)

hello, i m tushar goel. one of the cat aspirant. could u plz tell me books on the verbal ability specially on grammer, paragraph jumble.and ...

Posted by tushar goel

Sub: feedback

i think strategy given is the best approach to give the right momentum for preparation for this section. really helpful. thanks

Posted by deepak kumar

Sub: good topic

mr srinivas has explored the inticaces of this topic. really helpful

Posted by jeevan

Sub: Nice one

The article is a nice one, especially for those who have not got REAL serious towards their CAT preparations. One such article everyday, focussing on ...

Posted by Abhiranjan

Sub: feedback

It is a good article for those appearing for CAT this year as it provides the much needed strategy in order to crack this section.Thanks.

Posted by Ramanuj Ojha


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