CAT 2022: Top Tips and Strategy for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)

CAT 2022 will be conducted on  November 27, 2022. Candidates who will be appearing for the entrance examination can check here the tips and strategies given by expert Falguni Goswami to crack the VARC section of CAT 2022. 

CAT 2022 VARC Preparation Tips
CAT 2022 VARC Preparation Tips

If you are preparing for CAT 2022 and want to ace the VARC section then this is a must-read for you! Less than a week is left to be on the hot seat on November 27, 2022, in one of the 150 cities that would have exam centres for CAT 2022. Approximately 2.56 candidates, the highest during the last decade, have registered for CAT 2022 and will vie for more than 150 B-schools with more than 300 different courses that will be on offer in the 2023 academic session.  

The last 3-4 days before the exam will be very crucial for your academic career. You might have spent months or years preparing that too under the guidance of professional coaching institutes. Yet your strategy for taking the exam on D-day would be purely yours and would matter the most. 

Why do you need a special strategy for VARC?

VARC is usually the most challenging for most students. Hence, its importance cannot be overstated. The language for VARC is by default English. Not that challenge comes because it is in English but because it checks your logical comprehension of some areas that is stated in words. Even if the language of Section-I were your mother tongue, the intrinsic challenges or difficulties would still remain the same. Please bear in mind that most of the IIMs or any top B-schools usually have separate Cut-offs for each section. This means that they would give you calls based on your performance in each of the three sections as well as your performance in all of the three sections taken together. Hence, you are strongly advised to make extra efforts to get good marks in VARC also and thereby make the cut. 

Does this mean that other sections are not as important?

The answer is a resounding ‘No, each section is equally important. But our experience shows that most of the Indian students who stand a genuine chance to make it to the top twenty or twenty-five percentile are traditionally better off with numbers than with words when it comes to tests of aptitude. This means that their aptitude or reasoning skills with respect to verbal ability are somewhat not as good as the other types of reasoning skills. This phenomenon is too stark in exams like GRE, GMAT, and XAT. It also shows a somewhat similar trend in CAT or other frontline MBA entrance tests. Hence, handling the VARC probably needs a special strategy as opposed to QA. 

Importance of VARC

VARC is a very critical component in any competitive exam. It checks the basic ability of a student who can explain his/her thoughts and ideas clearly with the help of appropriate words and well-constructed sentences. To master this part, excellent sentence-forming skills and vocabulary are important. The key is the reading ability of passages, sentences, instructions, options, etc. So, read every line carefully from the word go.  

It is important to note that to have a good hold on your Verbal Ability you need to have the following

  1. Appropriate Vocabulary

  2. Correct grammatical expression

  3. Comprehension

Note that, VARC questions would be based on Reading Comprehension (RC), Para summary, odd one out, para completion and Para Jumble (rearranging the parts of a passage). The reading comprehension passages would be based on an eclectic mix of various topics from a variety of subjects. Passages can be narrative, analytical, critical, descriptive or merely factual. Therefore, to ace this section you should possess excellent reading skills and a basic understanding of a host of subjects (of course at a layman’s level).  Passages would be short (350-450 words) but usually pedantic or academic. Chances are high that out of four passages one or two would be abstract. But whatever may be the type of passage, the type of the question would not be a straight pick from the passage. The RC questions in the last two years increasingly resemble the critical reasoning questions. The questions are expected to be MCQ type only. On the other hand, VA questions comprise Para summaryodd one out, and para completion and are expected to be both MCQ and Non-MCQ (TITA) types. 

Preparation Tips for VARC

The CAT 2022 CARC section focuses on the English Language Skills of the students and their interpretation of the paragraphs and understanding of the ideas conveyed. the section will have 26 questions with Para Jumbles, Sentence Correction, and Completion and Summary Based questions. Check the detailed preparation tips for this section here.

Candidates are advised to revise basic concepts of grammar like Parts of Speech, Subject Verb Agreement, etc, Synonyms, Antonyms, and Sentence Completion in order to understand the questions more clearly and answer better. Even though in CAT, questions from these areas do not come, a thorough grasp of grammar and control in vocabulary is very essential to have a good comprehension of the passages and other questions.   

In Reading Comprehension, questions asked are often implicit in nature. The clarity in the concepts of Grammar and good control of vocabulary help improve comprehension. Practice comprehension and writing skills under a strict timer to test their speed and accuracy. My advice to the aspirants will be:

  • Do not undermine the importance of VARC (Section-1) vis-a-vis other Sections
  • Four reading comprehension passages of around 400 words are expected, so, candidates are advised to focus on time management
  •  Passages are based on somewhat serious topics with tough language 
  •  A lot of questions will be based on inference, assumption, etc from the given information may be expected
  •  Candidates must make a habit of noting the scope of the passage 
  • Apply the STAMP technique while eliminating the wrong options (explained later in the article) 

Now let’s look at some important and recommended strategies for VARC

I. Reading Comprehension

1. Understanding and interpretation skills are fundamental

  • Understanding and interpretational skills are fundamental to scoring marks in the reading comprehension section. You must go through the passage minutely not to have missed the scope of the passage. What you read and what connections you draw depend on how you read and comprehend the passage in a short time. If a candidate is unable to give proper time to the whole passage they can always read the first and last paragraphs and use the elimination technique based on the understanding of these two. For the remaining part, you can apply skimming. Here, apply the STAMP technique. STAMP is an acronym for Scope, Tone, and Author’s Main Point.

For applying the STAMP technique do the following:

  • A critical eye is important to determine what has been discussed in the passage and what logic you will be using to answer the questions that follow.
  • Using deduction or induction, cause and effect reasoning, giving analogy & example, model construction, hypothesis, negation technique, etc. understand the structure of the passage.
  • Understand the tone of the passage well. In each of the implicit questions, the correct option would definitely reflect the tone of the passage.
  • The answer to the implicit or inferential questions must be in line with the main idea of the passage and also reflects the tone of the passage set in the introduction.

Follow the tips given below for the reading comprehension section and understand the passage:

  • A passage largely consists of an introduction (beginning part), a body (may comprise two or three paragraphs), and a conclusion (the last part). Understand the structure and flow of the passage.
  • The introductory paragraph is very important as sets the tone of the passage and highlights the main idea while the body will contain all the details which elaborate the scope and justifies the author’s main points.
  • Finally, the last paragraph is given to help draw a summary of the whole thing (conclusion).
  • Identify the keywords used in the passage and come back to the passage quickly to locate them.
  • Try to anticipate and make predictions. If it turns out to be right, it will help in answering an implicit question easily, but in case of a mistake, it can be corrected as well.

2. Concentrate on the vocabulary used

  • The skills that go into building a pool of skillful human resources are the ones such as skills of analysis and comprehension, powers of logic, deduction, and the capacity to arrive at a correct decision under severe time constraints. CAT aims at a rigorous evaluation of the mental faculties: a harmonious blend of speed, accuracy, and precision to meet formidable challenges in a profession. A good repertoire of Vocabulary is useful to meet the challenges in the evaluation of the above-mentioned skills. The understanding of words in the context, and their connotation helps the comprehension of the given matter. The choice provided may be narrowed down to two but the final answer needs you to know the word exactly.
  • 3. Correct understanding of grammatical expressions makes reading easy and fast. Paying attention to the rules of grammar will help in understanding the expressions made.

II. Para summary

  • The paragraph summary question asks to succinctly capture the essence of a paragraph, which is usually about 100 to 150 words. The paragraph is usually followed by four options or some can come as a TITA question. Here are a few things that you must do:
  • Read the paragraph carefully; you must try to find the most important words (keywords) in the paragraph. Try to match the option that reflects those keywords in some way.
  • Once you have understood the passage, pick the central or main idea of the passage. Try to match the option that bears the central or main idea of the passage.
  • Note the logical flow of the passage. Compare the options that bring out the logical link between the keywords and the main idea.
  • Option comparison is very important. The summary must not have anything apart from what is given in the passage. The right option must not distort information and leave out any critical information.
  • If two options are very close, mark the one that shows the essence in a simple way. Two close options might be equally true but the correct one will talk about the essence, while the incorrect one will focus on the insignificant details.

III. Odd one-out 

Usually, odd one-out questions in CAT have five sentences out of which four sentences form a coherent paragraph and one sentence is odd or a misfit in the context of the paragraph.  These questions are usually followed by four options or some can come as a TITA question. Here are a few things that you must do:

  1. Identify the sentence that is most likely the opening sentence of the paragraph. The sentence that introduces an idea, or a concept often starts a paragraph.
  2. Establish a connecting link between the sentences. Here the concept of para jumbles comes in handy. 
  3. The main idea of the paragraph flow either from general to particular or from particular to general through the sentences. It cannot be haphazard. The sentence that takes the idea forward on similar lines will come next in the sequence.  
  4. After the logical arrangement of the sentences, check if there is some coherence to the paragraph that is formed.
  5. The sentence that you find difficult to fit into the sequence is the odd or a misfit in the context of the paragraph. That sentence, and often the right answer.

IV. Para completion

In some of the past years, we have seen these types of questions.  Para Completion questions test the candidate’s thought process, and their ability to conclude, summarize, continue or keep track of an idea or an argument. There can be a sentence omitted from the middle of the paragraph or at the end. But often it is the last line that is omitted. The last line can be a conclusion or the continuation of an idea. So, act accordingly.

V. Para Jumble

Usually, the para-jumble questions in CAT have four sentences which are to be rearranged to form a coherent paragraph. These questions are usually followed by four options or some can come as a TITA question. Here are a few things that you must do:

  1. Identify the sentence that is most likely the opening sentence of the paragraph. The sentence that introduces an idea, or a concept often starts a paragraph. 
  2. Form a mandatory pair of sentences by establishing a connecting link between two sentences. Here the concept of keywords and grammar come in handy. Like pronoun used in a sentence must have an antecedent, mostly in the form of the noun in one of the previous sentences.  
  3. The main idea of the paragraph flow either from general to particular or from particular to general through the sentences. It cannot be haphazard. The sentence that takes the idea forward on similar lines will come next in the sequence.  
  4. When a name is mentioned in a number of sentences, the full name or formal name will always come before the short form of the name. 
  5. After the logical arrangement of the sentences, check if there is some coherence to the paragraph that is formed.

The use of the STAMP technique is very useful even in Para Jumble, Para summary, odd one out, and para completion. No correct option in these types of questions would miss the important scope, the tone, and the main point of the statements/passages given in these types of questions.

There! Keep the above in mind and make the best use of this time to solidify your preparation for the VARC section of the CAT 2022


Wish you all the best. 

About The Expert

CAT 2022 Expert

Falguni Goswami is the founder and Head of Career bandhu Education. He is a renowned career counsellor and an Ex-Indian Air Force veteran with 30+ years of experience as senior faculty in coaching institutes like T.I.M.E and Career Launcher.

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