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CAT 2011: Tips to crack Verbal Ability

June 21, 2011 16:47 IST

CAT -- the key to a B-school admission -- is indeed the key that can unlock many doors. Serious CAT aspirants look at the test with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Many of them are battling a doubt that refuses to go away: 'Am I doing it the right way'?

Faculty members from, who are 100 percentilers, offer tips to prepare a road map for CAT success particularly with regard to VA (Verbal Ability) section:

1: Love for reading text

If text reading -- particularly reading abstract, philosophical, literary type -- does not tend to put you to sleep, you can cheer up. You have crossed the first hurdle. No written text of the CAT type is monotonous. If you find it so, it is a mental block that you need to clear. The best way to do it is to read more of this type and do it always with a purpose.

Always try to compare the author's viewpoint with your own. Slowly, but surely you will start getting a grasp of things and will then find similar tests to be quite interesting.

CAT Verbal is all about text reading, be it RC, para-jumbles, para-completion, sentence completion et al. Only the text could be longer or shorter, depending on the question type.

Remember, successful people have invariably been good readers -- including the likes of Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan etc. Half an hour of DAILY reading on diverse topics will do.

2: Develop reasoning ability

Aspirants must understand that CAT will test their reasoning ability in all the sections. This is as true for the Verbal Section as it for DI & DS. Verbal reasoning is not limited to only the typical reasoning questions but is also an integral part of Reading Comprehension, para-jumbles, sentence completion and so on.

For example, Reading Comprehension is essentially reading for the central idea. Once a test taker identifies the central idea of the passage, the questions automatically become easy. Jumbled paragraphs, or 'para-jumbles' as they are often called, also call upon the reasoning ability of the test taker to locate the keywords that will allow them to interpret the correct order of the sentences.

If CAT sticks to the format of the last two years -- since CAT moved to a computer-based format -- approximately 75-80 percent of the total of twenty questions in the verbal ability section will be based upon reasoning ability. This means that this section is the make-it-or-break-it part of the Verbal section.

One of the best ways to develop Reasoning Ability in the Verbal section is to read from a variety of sources and question oneself about the author's motive behind writing the article/ chapter/ book. Dry and abstract topics, especially those related to philosophy, religion, spirituality, psychology etc are very useful in increasing your understanding of the written language.

For reading practice, one can simply surf the internet for written material and you will be surprised to find ample reading material on a wide variety of subjects. The aspirant doesn't need to read a whole book; even a single chapter or a reasonably long passage will be adequate for practice purposes. The basic idea remains the same -- to look for the central idea.

Also, such reading will help in other ways by getting rid of the fear and reluctance to tackle abstract reading, by helping build vocabulary and by helping learn correct grammar on a subconscious level.

Reading from other sources like newspaper editorials will not only help the aspirant get reading practice but also develop good awareness (which will be very useful in GD /PI sessions).

3: Good vocabulary and good grammar is a matter of comprehension

Do you try to cram up numbers? Why do you think words need to be crammed up? See that the words make a picture in your mind, even if it is hazy. A hazy picture is better than no picture, after all.

There are endless sources on the net that give you the etymology of words. Give 15 minutes everyday to consult the 'horoscope' of words that have been bothering you. But do it daily.

Do likewise in the case of grammar. Every time you read a grammatically incorrect sentence, you must sit up and try to make out what is wrong and how it can be corrected. The type of grammar rules tested in CAT must always be at the back of your mind. Be it the word/text based problems, or the number based problems, mental calculations are very important.

Try to sort out the problem in your mind before you go to the resource. You will always understand the solution more easily if you have masticated it in your mind first.

Although vocabulary and grammar based questions are expected to be between only around 20-25 percent of the total questions in the Verbal section, they can be a great help in creating extra time for the time-taking questions like Reading Comprehension and Jumbled Paragraphs.

If an aspirant is looking at attempting 12 questions with minimum 10 correct answers, the 4-5 questions from vocabulary and grammar can suddenly take care of nearly 40 percent of the required attempt. Also, getting these 4-5 questions right would mean that the aspirant will be able to pick and choose between the questions from the Reasoning Ability sub-section and attempt only the questions which the aspirant is comfortable of attempting with a reasonable level of certainty.

One must not forget that a good vocabulary is of utmost importance in the other questions of the section also. Would it not be a pity to miss the central idea of a relatively straight forward passage just because it contained unfamiliar words?

Additionally, unless the aspirant is planning to give only CAT and ignore other B-School Entrance Exams like FMS, XAT, MICA etc, a strong vocabulary would help him in reaching a more balanced and optimum level of preparation for the other B-School entrance exams.

4: Practice

Three factors that can seriously dent preparation are inconsistency, complacency and sloth. Aspirants must keep in mind that just as we cannot eat enough food at one time to last us for seven days, a studying binge would likely do more harm than good. What is required is consistency in time allocation and following of a set routine.

Reaching a level of preparation where one feels adequately prepared and slacking off thereafter is invitation to disaster. To quote Sylvester Stallone from the movie Rocky Balboa, "It ain't over till it's over"! Remember, many people, in many parts of the nation, will be burning the midnight oil to trump others to the top B-Schools.

A cat is said to have nine lives but it doesn't mean that 'THE CAT' should have to be attempted that many times!
However, aspirants can attempt hundreds of tests that can give them adequate practice for the real test.

Remember one cardinal principle whenever you take a test. If you get the answer right, forget and proceed. If you don't, do your best to find out 'why'.

Have you aced the CAT? What was the experience like? How did you begin your preparation and how did you plan your CAT strategy? Which are the most important study topics? What are the common problem areas that test-takers face and how did you approach them?
Do you have tips that could help students improve their scores or stress-busting strategies to beat pre-CAT nerves? Send in your advice and experiences to with the subject 'My CAT tips' and we'll publish your strategies right here on