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ROAD TO CAT: Afraid of Angrezi? Get cracking on Verbal Ability, now!

Verbal Ability section of CAT paper is as important as the Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning sections. This section consists of questions on Reading Comprehension, English Usage and Verbal Reasoning.

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Good grammar or contextual usage, good reading and comprehending skills, and good reasoning skills are the key to a good performance in the verbal section of the CAT entrance exam.

Verbal Ability section of CAT paper is as important as the Quantitative Ability and Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning sections. This section consists of questions on Reading Comprehension, English Usage and Verbal Reasoning.

Though the number of questions and weightages varied in the CAT exam till 2008, since CAT 2009, the first computer based test, there were equal number of questions in all the sections. The areas from which the questions appeared in the Verbal Ability section are Reading Comprehension, grammar, fill in the blanks, para jumbles, word usage to name a few. The questions were standard and the section bore no surprises.

To know the pattern of the previous years, CAT 2008 exam threw a huge surprise towards the students by increasing the number of questions to 40. The questions were based on grammar, usage and vocabulary concepts. Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension consisted of 20 questions each.

CAT 2006 and 2007 exams had 25 questions with four marks each. Of these, 12 to 15 questions were of RC and rest questions were of verbal. While CAT 2004 exam there were 0.5, one and two marks questions in this section. In CAT 2005 exam, there were one mark and two marks questions in this section.

What is Verbal Ability all about?

The Vocabulary-based questions can comprise of synonyms & antonyms, fill in the blanks, matching words with their appropriate meanings etc. The grammar usage mostly comprises of questions which test your understanding of grammar. It could be questions where you are asked to spot the section of a sentence that is grammatically incorrect or it could be questions where a part of a sentence in underlined and you are provided with four or five alternative choices. You have to select the choice that corrects the error in the underlined part. The verbal reasoning questions could take multiple forms. The most common one is that of rearranging sentences of a paragraph. It could also include paraphrasing what has been said in a paragraph.

This section consists of basic questions of English language. In order to get a decent score in this section, all you need is to be well versed with grammar, words and verbal reasoning. The concepts have to be clear, as well as you should know the right usage of words, sentence construction etc.

Preparation for Verbal Ability

“Good grammar or contextual usage, good reading and comprehending skills, and good reasoning skills are the key to a good performance in the verbal section of the CAT entrance exam,” says Vinayak Kudva, Product Head of IMS Learning, while talking about the preparation strategy for the VA section.

Though it will be a little difficult to start preparing at this stage by adopting this method, but those who have already started on their preparation, but are still weak in this section, should keep the following points in mind for CAT 2011 preparation:

Get the right material

As far as the preparation material for CAT 2011 is concerned at this stage, Kudva suggests sticking to the basic reference material on Verbal Ability provided by the MBA coaching institutes. Reading/Comprehension skills can be honed by regular reading of magazines and newspapers. “Purposeful practice, through the tests provided by your MBA coaching institute, will help you to improve your verbal skills,” says Kudva.

Manish Saraf, COO of PT Education suggests buying a vocabulary book, “These usually have exercises in the end that help you reinforce your vocabulary,” says Saraf.

Saraf also suggests reading out loud. “The more you read, more and faster you will learn. Reading materials from different sources is always advisable,” he says. This will lead to the deep-processing of words intuitively. “Deep-processing implies that these words become a part of you, almost as your native language is a part of you,” says Saraf.

Improve your word power

For improving your vocabulary, Gejo Sreenivasan, Principal Consultant, Career Launcher suggests, “To improve vocabulary you should be able to understand the meaning of every new word that comes across to you. When you come across words of which you do not know the meaning, you can figure out the meaning from the context in which it is used. You can then refer the dictionary to find the exact meaning.”

In this regard, Saraf says that you should try to get the meaning of the word by analyzing the context. “Try to make some sense out of them through the context they are used in. Only the words that you come across regularly should be referred to the dictionary. Noting down the words on a paper gives great results as this aids to remember the words for longer period,” says Saraf.

Using flash cards can also help you in learning new words. Saraf explains the process, “Write target words and phrases on the cards (at the back as well as on the front). As you review the list, separate the words in two piles; those you understand and those you do not. Keep going through the yet-unlearned words until you attain a mastery of them. You can do that by learning the root of the words which will help you remember what you have learned. Keep a notebook to help you remember the words that you have learned.”

Strategies for Reading Comprehension

Before we proceed, let us answer the basic question: What is reading comprehension? “Reading comprehension (RC) is the ability to read and understand unfamiliar materials and to answer questions about them. You will be presented with passages drawn from a variety of subject areas, including humanities, the sciences, latest happenings in society etc. The questions will ask you to analyze what is stated in the passage and to identify underlying assumptions and implications,” informs Saraf.

Most of you face the question: How to answer the questions of long RC passages in a short span of time. If it is a long passage, everyone else will take time. What you need to do is to comprehend it fast, rather than reading it fast. “Your focus while reading should be NOT to READ fast but to COMPREHEND fast,” says Sreenivasan.

According to Aziz Manva, Content Head, Testfunda.com, in order to tackle long RC passages, practice is the key. “Try to get more practice in reading, particularly in reading dense materials fast. Learn to look at each question in the exam from first principles,” he says. Saraf suggests timing your reading of the passages. “When you are starting out with your RC preparation, cut out passages, which have a similar style and are more or less of equal length. Determine your reading speed on day one. Let’s say it is 150 words per minute. Read at that speed for sometime, say a week or something and after that, stretch yourself by increasing time constraints, say 150 words per 45 seconds,” explains Saraf.

Choosing the RC passages

Among the various passages, you need to select those passages which will be easier for you to answer. Saraf suggests factors which you should keep in mind while choosing the RC passages. “The topic of the passage, whether it is to your liking or not; question patterns, whether they are direct or twisted are some of the important factors. The ratio of the length of the passages and the number of questions is another important factor. A long passage with few questions will pay little dividend in relation to the time one puts in,” says Saraf.