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CAT Reading Comprehension: Should we read the RC questions first?


In CAT verbal section, some of you may be wondering at this point about a commonly heard piece of advice that you should read the question first, and only then turn to the passage. You should, of course, feel free to try this strategy and use it if you find it helpful.

It is our opinion, however, that most people will find this strategy to be unhelpful. There are several reasons for this.

Missing critical information in the passage:

When you read the passage keeping the question in mind, you are likely to miss lots of other critical ideas; in fact, you will read the passage just to find the answer.

The question will weigh so heavily on your mind that you will miss much of the more critical information given in the passage, information that you could later use in solving the other questions of the reading comprehension passage.

In addition to this, we have observed that CAT reading comprehension passages have a good number of critical reasoning type of questions such as strengthening of authors main argument, weakening of the author’s hypothesis and the like.

Understanding the central idea of the passage often helps you eliminate options that are in conflict with the central idea or the author’s main point. If you miss on the central idea, you will end up spending more time on the questions, which otherwise you could have got right in just one reading.

To remember a question, you need energy:

This is the more scientific reason as to why you should stay away from reading the questions first. You must not forget that it takes work to remember the question as you read the passage, and your mental energy is probably better spent on simply trying to comprehend the passage.

CAT reading passages can be quite difficult, involving sophisticated ideas and complex relationships. Answering the questions correctly requires you to get a firm grasp of the big picture in the passage.

If you read everything in the passage with an eye to answering questions about particular details rather than with full attention to the thrust of the passage as a whole, you can easily miss the point of the passage, and you run the risk of failing to grasp what the author agrees and disagrees with as well.

So though you might do well on the questions that ask you about those details, you might very well increase your chances of getting other questions in the set wrong.

In the CAT exam, time is the most critical resource which must be carefully spent:

It is important to remember that time is of the essence. You can read the questions before you read the passages, but you still have to read the question again when you are ready to answer them (you won’t remember precisely what every question asks).

Assume for the sake of argument that it takes roughly five seconds to read each question without reading the responses. There are in all 16 questions that come from reading comprehension. By reading the question first, you will be spending additional 16×5 seconds= 80 seconds again to re-read the question.

Such profligacy could be a severe handicap in a time-bound test such as CAT. Moreover, you will miss on a number of questions whose wrong options you could have safely eliminated because those options are in conflict with the broader message of the passage. Either you will take more time to solve such questions or you will get them completely wrong

The idea of reading the question first sounds good, but we always recommend the correct approach. The right and standard process always works.

List of Articles on CAT Verbal Ability

Previous Years CAT RC Passages PDF

CAT Verbal Ability (topic wise) Questions with Solutions

Reading CompehensionParajumbles
Odd One Out (Odd Sentence)Paragraph Summary
Critical ReasoningGrammar
Daily articles to improve Reading Comprehension

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