How to improve VARC scores in the CAT exam? - Samarpan Singh, IIM A

I belong to Sundarpur, a small village in Bihar. I did my primary schooling till class 5 in my village. My father is a M.Sc. in Mathematics. He is a farmer and also used to teach children in the nearby school whereas my mother is a housewife. He felt the village won’t be able to provide me with the right educational nurture. So I went to Nepal and stayed with my relative to complete school till class 10th there.
I was good in maths maybe it was in my genes and engineering seemed the best course for me according to me and my father. However, I wanted to pursue engineering in my own country, India. I prepared for the well-known JEE exam to get admission in the prestigious IITs and NIT. However it was my destiny and stroke of luck that I came to Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana for B.Tech Agricultural Engineering. This was because of a good rank and my agricultural background. I was consistent in my academics since my childhood and I performed well in P.A.U. too.
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Why MBA, you ask?
I was quite satisfied with my life here but I was quite unsure about what to do after my B.Tech. Since I had studied agriculture through my degree, I knew I wanted to be linked to the agri sector itself. Yet, I was clueless about what to do. Then came the turning point of my life where a session was conducted by our college for honouring the Bullseye students Nishima Kathuria (IIM A FABM), Abhishek Chanchal (IIM L FABM) and Vanshika Jain (IRMA). I had known about CAT however I thought it to be an extreme tough exam to crack. This was mainly because of my fear of English language, but also due to the high cutoff for GEM (General Engineer Male) candidates. The switching of career from agricultural engineering to management also didn’t quite please me. But when I came to know that there existed a course on MBA in Food and Agri Business Management (FABM), I knew it was “the thing” for me where I could apply the learnings and experience I gained in my under graduation. 
I started preparing for CAT in January 2019. I was a bit late to join however the teachers were very helpful. I believe to clear an exam like CAT one needs to know his strengths and weaknesses. My strength was Maths and I wanted to score above 98 percentile in it. But I was very anxious about my english language skills. 
I had average English and I was worried that the VARC section might bring my percentile low. The major problem I had in English was that it was difficult for me to understand RC passages. My reading speed was also slow. Because of this my speed and accuracy in the VARC section was always hampered and I could not score well.
So, how did I improve my english for VARC?
  • In the beginning days of my coaching I devoted at least two hours to read newspapers daily; mostly ‘The Hindu’. I used to read its editorial, opinion, and explained sections. I even covered the sports section. 
  • Additionally, I regularly read 1500 to 2000 word articles from Aeon website. I focussed mostly on understanding the essence of passages and at the same time forming opinions which helped me later at the time of interview. 
  • I also focussed on ‘Bull word’ and ‘Word Power Made Easy’ type of exercises to improve my vocabulary. 
  • I found the ‘root verb word’ approach to be easier along with associating word meaning with images.
After the topic of Reading Comprehension was discussed in the class, our mentor Sakshi mam suggested all the students to practise RCs from the booklets, Bull Verb 1 and Verb Initiative. 
  • I made it a ritual to do two RCs every day and kept a stopwatch to see how much time I was taking. I took around 15-17 minutes initially which was way higher than the desired 8-10 minutes. 
  • After completion of the two books I moved towards the online chapter wise tests of Bullseye and finished all the tests they had provided. I had quite improved by then and my marks started to improve in English from around 20 to 45. 
  • I didn’t get relaxed there and started the hitbullseye full length test series which gave me better practice and good results. The video solution and test analysis provided by hitbullseye was very helpful. 
In this way with small steps with right direction & guidance I was able to improve my English. Since I had mediocre English I focussed more on understanding the essence of a passage rather than the meaning of each and every word and sentence. I always maintained a goal to minimize errors and manage time well.
What about the other sections?
Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR) was a challenge for me and at times I even got negative marks in this section. However with constant practice and guidance from Jasneet Sir I at least managed to score 75 plus percentile in it which was a success for me since at least I was able to score some marks and get an average percentile. 
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Quantitative Ability was my fortress. However I never took it lightly and focussed on understanding concepts, increasing accuracy with speed. I was able to score 98 plus percentile.
I got an overall 95+ percentile in CAT however I was quite disappointed in being unable to clear 80% in DILR which meant I missed calls from New IIMs and IIM Lucknow FABM. However IIM Ahmedabad was quite generous in giving me an interview call for FABM. I didn’t waste much time and used to come on the weekends for interview preparation at Bulls eye, Chandigarh. I am highly grateful for the guidance by Rajeev Sir and Sanmeet Sir. Their belief in me has helped me to perform quite well in my interview. Coming summers, I am joining IIM Ahmedabad (FABM) for my PGDM. I am very excited about this opportunity. 
To future Aspirants, 
My suggestion to all the students is to plan well, know your strengths and weaknesses and prepare well for the interview. It is less about your English and appearance and more about who you are inside. I advise all not to lose hope and just don’t relax until your interviews are over.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down. The only thing that matters is how many times you get up”.
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