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CAT: Crackdown on Verbal Ability
ARKS Srinivas
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June 14, 2007

Part I -- CAT: How to improve Verbal Ability

Yesterday, we looked at how a student appearing for CAT can prepare for the Verbal Ability section, which is clubbed with Reading Comprehension in the paper.

Part of the preparation includes familiarising oneself with all four kinds of questions likely to appear under the VA section -- Paragraph Forming, Grammar, English Usage and Vocabulary, and Critical Reasoning. While we have already looked at how to prepare for Paragraph Forming in Part I of this feature, we now turn to Grammar, English Usage and Vocabulary, and Critical Reasoning.


Students attempting CAT need not be grammar experts. What is required is to develop ability in 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 'A Practical English Grammar'  would be a good starting point. Coaching institutes like TIME also provide such works, which will help you start your preparation. Remember, however, that there is no shortcut to grammar.

Even here, the basic method to prepare would be to first complete the basics of grammar, and then start practising by attempting as many questions as possible.

English Usage and Vocabulary

One of the ways to start building your vocabulary is by reading '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, a couple of books that are very good for building vocabulary are 'All about Words' by Rosenblum and Nurenberg, and '30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary' by Wilfred Funk and Norman Lewis.

But the best way to improve your diction is by reading (it cannot be stressed upon enough!). After you have finished your reading for the day (for Reading Comprehension), check out the meanings of all the words that you have come across that day, and write them down in a book, or make flash cards for yourself. Everyday you will come across a minimum of 10 words that you either do not know the meaning of, or are not sure about. This exercise will ensure that over the next 150 days, your repertoire of words will increase by at least 1500 words.

CAT has always (save in 2006) used words which are very much a part of present-day speech. You will find these words in any newspaper -- not just in editorials, but also in the sports pages. Hence, it is the diligence with which you jot down these words and revise them, that will prepare you for this sort of question.

Vocabulary will actually help with all sorts of questions that are presented in CAT viz Synonyms, Antonyms, Analogies, and Fill-in-the-blanks. In addition, better diction will improve your reading speed to a large extent.

Critical Reasoning

Critical Reasoning comes in various forms in CAT. There could be questions on Assumptions, Conclusions, Facts, Inferences and Judgements, and Probably True and Probably False (although this last kind has never appeared in any CAT paper till date). The key to solving these questions is to understand the context of the passage in which they are given.

Critical Reasoning questions are similar in nature to the Reading Comprehension questions, except that the passage is small and all questions are inferential. The only way to prepare for these questions is through constant practice.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a tall task. A consistent effort every day (for not less than 30 minutes) is required to crack this section. Thankfully, we have close to five months before CAT 2007 is upon us, and five months is more than enough time to improve this section by devoting just 30 minutes per day to it.

Wish you all the best!

IIM-Calcutta alumnus ARKS Srinivas is the director of TIME, an organisation that prepares candidates for courses like the MBA and the MCA and competitive examinations like CAT, the GRE and GMAT.

Calling past CAT candidates -- your feedback with regards to study strategies and subject-wise patterns will prove invaluable to those scheduled to appear for CAT this year, so please share any past experiences, suggestions and/ or advice you have with us. Send in your articles to, and we will publish the best ones in the Get Ahead section of

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