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How to prepare for CAT verbal ability section (VARC)

How to prepare for CAT verbal ability section VARC

CAT Verbal Ability Preparation

While discussing CAT  Verbal Ability, we mean CAT Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC). To represent both,we will use the term CAT Verbal Ability.

But how is CAT verbal ability different from CAT reading comprehension? The CAT exam has not defined CAT syllabus. There is no prescribed Verbal Ability (VARC) Syllabus. However, if we go by past years’ CAT verbal pattern, we find that the syllabus consists of: Reading Comprehension and Verbal Ability. For educators like me, Reading Comprehension is different from verbal ability. Everything apart from CAT reading comprehension falls under CAT verbal ability.

The CAT verbal ability consists of: TITA parajumbles, Odd Sentence, Paragraph Summary, Paragraph Completion, Word Usage, Grammar, and vocabulary based fill in the blanks. This pattern for CAT Verbal Ability is more or less the same for all other MBA entrance exams. You can have a look at the CAT syllabus below:

CAT 2018 Syllabus

Before we go ahead, let’s have a look at the recent sectional breakup of CAT Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section

CAT Verbal Ability Sectional breakup
Verbal Ability Reading Comprehension pattern
As per CAT 2017 and CAT 2018 pattern
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)
Total no of VARC Questions
Total no of Verbal Ability Questions
Total time to attempt the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension questions
60 Minutes
Marks for each correct answer
Negative marks for each wrong answer (only for MCQ)
Difficulty Level of Verbal Ability Questions
Moderate to High
No of questions carrying no negative marking7

Dissecting the Reading Comprehension part of CAT VARC

The good thing with the recent CAT Verbal Ability section is that 70% of the questions come from reading comprehension. It is a good thing because to excel in reading comprehension you need not be a master of grammar or vocabulary. Aspirants with poor grammar and vocabulary can master this section in less than a month, provided they follow the right approach and study from the right material.

What are some of the student-friendly changes in CAT Verbal Ability?

The CAT verbal ability section is no longer the way it used to be. Now we have 70% of the questions form reading comprehension alone. The passages are easy to read and understand; the options, however, are close and need careful reading for the right answer to be arrived at. Since option elimination is based on reasoning, even someone who is completely new to CAT VARC can improve in this area in less than a month.

How should you deal with the reading comprehension part of CAT verbal ability?

  1. Develop a good reading habit:Since reading comprehension (RC) is all about speed reading, you must gradually develop a good reading habit in order to adapt quickly to any kind of content, while reading the RC passages
  2. Understand Question Types: There are different types of questions that come in CAT RC. Understanding these question types would help you work out a strategy for different types of questions. On the one hand there are questions that are indirect and, therefore, demand understanding, while, on the other hand, there are questions that are direct and, therefore, demand speed. You must have a separate strategy for each of these question varieties.
  3. Develop the right approach: Developing the right approach is the most important and critical step. Without a proper approach, it would be very difficult for you to arrive at the right answer convincingly. There is a reason why the right answer is the right answer, and the wrong answer is the wrong answer. You must understand these reasons, which will sharpen your reasoning skills and give you the confidence .
  4. Focus on accuracy: At the start, you should not worry much about accuracy. Your focus should be arriving at the right answer, even if that means giving more than the necessary time. Once you start getting the answers correct, you will realize that you approach is falling in place. You can then start working on speed, by taking the questions under strict time constraints
  5. Develop the right speed: As you practice more and more questions and gain confidence, speed is something that gradually comes to you. Moreover, you should not push for speed at the cost of accuracy. The only way you can increase your speed is by practicing as much as possible.
  6. Practice from the right source: Most of us often talk of reading comprehension speed, but not many of us realize the significance of having access to the right practice material. The passages that you solve must have relevant content, followed by relevant questions and good explanations. You should not waste your time on material that is abstruse and incoherent.
  7. Write sectional tests: To further improve accuracy and increase confidence while solving CAT reading comprehension questions, you must focus on the sectional tests. The sectional tests will test your ability to read quickly and attempt the right questions. The right balance between speed and accuracy can be established by taking a good number of sectional tests

CAT Grammar and Vocabulary

The CAT Verbal Ability no longer tests the students in these two areas, at least directly. Nevertheless, these two areas are important because they help you improve your reading comprehension. The greater your understanding of new words, the better your comprehension is likely to be.

How to improve CAT vocabulary?

  1. Become a voracious reader: Every now and then when you come across a new word, you must take note of it. At the start, it might be very annoying, but gradually you will start remembering the words, and you will see improvements in your overall understanding of articles and passages
  2. Solve vocabulary based puzzles and fill in the blanks questions: This can be the most rewarding way of improving CAT vocabulary. Ideally, you should try not only to learn new words but also to understand their application.The best way to learn their application is to solve questions on vocabulary based fill in the blanks, word usage etc.
  3. Focus on word root: Word roots can be a creative way towards improving vocabulary for CAT. Though there is no specific word list prescribed by CAT, by using word roots aspirants can add more words to their vocabulary effortlessly.
  4. What if I keep on forgetting words: If you come across 20 words today, it is quite possible that after a ten-day period you may not remember a single word from that list. But if you continue with your daily reading exercise, and keep on solving vocab based puzzles without a break, then you will start coming across these words again and again.You will remember a word only if you have come across it at least 5 to 6 times in a month. To let this happened, you must persist. Don’t expect miracles in just a week. Only after two months would you see some noticeable changes.

How to improve CAT grammar?

Only three topics are important in Grammar: Subject Verb Agreement, Modifiers and Parallel Construction. These three topics cover almost every aspect of CAT grammar.

You can watch the playlist videos here to get a good hold on these three topics:


CAT Parajumbles

Parajumbles for CAT have been a part of CAT Verbal Ability for the past twenty years. Though the CAT exam pattern did change in CAT 2015 with the introduction of parajumbles questions without options [TITA type], the approach to solve parajumbles still remains the same.

The minor change that we saw in CAT 2015 was that instead of picking the right option, the candidates were asked to enter the right answer—in this case, the right sequence.

Since 2015, the para jumble questions in CAT have been without options. Notwithstanding this change, parajumbles were and will always be an important part of CAT Verbal section. The parajumbles from previous year CAT papers are the best source for practice.

Here is an article on CAT parajumbles that will help you better understand how to devise a strategy for TITA Parajumbles:

How to Prepare for Parajumbles

CAT ODD Sentences

The next important area that you have to work on is Odd Sentence, which is just another form of Parajumbles.

Steps to solve odd one sentences out questions:

  1. Look for the sentence that is most likely to start a paragraph, that sentence which introduces an idea, or a concept, and that which is not abrupt often starts a paragraph.
  2. Your next step should be to establish a connecting link; here the parajumbles come into the picture. The sentence that is taking the idea forward on similar lines will come next in the sequence. See whether the subjects in the sentences are linked or not.
  3. Repeat Step 2 mentioned above; check if there is some coherence to the paragraph that is formed after the logical arrangement of the sentences.
  4. The sentence that you find difficult to fit into the sequence is the odd sentence, and often the right answer.
  5. Don’t go just by appearances. The subject matter of the odd sentence out may be very similar to that of the other sentences, but it is not just about subject matter. We must ask the question: Are they logically related. Even if the sentences are not logically related, they all might be independently grammatically correct, and yet they may not form a coherent paragraph.

How to approach Odd Sentences

CAT Para Summary

The new variety that has of late come in CAT Verbal Ability  is ‘Para Summary’. This is relatively a new question type, and hence little is known about how to approach them. However, I have designed video solutions of CAT 2017 Paragraph Summary Questions. You can go through these videos, and you will get a fair understanding of CAT para summary questions.

Watch: How to approach CAT Para Summary Questions

  1. Read the paragraph carefully; you must try to understand the paragraph. If you have not understood the paragraph, the chances are that you would not be able to pick the right summary. Please leave the question if you are not at all able to understand the contents of the paragraph.
  2. Once you have understood the passage, you must try to pick the subject matter of the passage. Look for the important nouns in the passage and connect them such that you create the right logical relationship between those nouns.
  3. With this logical link between the nouns, you must start comparing the options. Option comparison is a very important step. The right option must not have anything apart from what is given in the passage; the right option must not distort information, and lastly, the right option must not leave out any critical information. Usually, the options distort information or add something that is not given in the paragraph.
  4. You must look for the differences between the options. The point of difference should be evaluated. You should see if the passage has any hint that helps you understand which option is better and which is not.
  5. Start with the elimination process, checking out those options that you feel have flaws in them.
  6. Finally, choose the right answer.

These are some of the things that you have to work on to ensure that you do well in the in CAT Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section.

You can try our online course here:

CAT online Verbal Course

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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