'A to Z' of CAT Verbal Ability section

Verbal Ability, a challenging section in CAT, is often underestimated by most applicants. However, it holds great significance for securing a call from prestigious IIMs and other renowned MBA colleges. Unfortunately, many students make the mistake of neglecting this section and only prepare for it at a later stage.
The CAT pattern underwent changes in 2020, with the total number of questions reduced from 76 to 66 in 2021. CAT 2021 consisted of 24 questions in VARC, 20 in DILR, and 22 in Quantitative Ability. The time allocated for the CAT exam is 120 minutes.
In this article, we will delve into the key topics of the VARC section while exploring effective strategies for preparation.
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Importance of VARC section in CAT
Just like the Quantitative aptitude section, verbal ability holds significant weightage in the CAT exam. With a total of 24 VARC questions in CAT, it is essential to ace the section well. Out of 24 questions, 19 are MCQs while the rest 5 are non-MCQs. In the VARC section, there were 4 reading comprehension passages having 16 questions. The remaining Verbal section had a total of 8 questions out of which 3 were Para jumbles questions, 3 were Summary questions and 2 question was on odd sentence. Each question carries 3 marks while -1 is deducted for each wrong answer. Similar to other sections, you are required to complete VARC in 40 minutes. While the questions are based on the fundamental topics of English, the format of questions often makes them tricky and complex to handle.
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Given below are the main topics of CAT Verbal Ability section:
CAT Verbal Ability: Syllabus
CAT Verbal Ability questions are from the following key topics:
  • Reading Comprehensions(RCs)
  • Grammar
  • Verbal Reasoning
    • Para-jumbles
    • Critical Reasoning
    • Misfit Sentence/Error Corrections
    • Summary Writing
    • Para-completion
CAT Verbal Ability: The Right Strategy and Approach
Here we will analyze the individual constituents of the CAT Verbal Ability section:
  • Reading Comprehensions:
    Reading Comprehensions form the most important segment of the CAT Verbal Ability section. RC questions constitute 18 questions of total 26 in VARC section.
    • RC passages are based on a variety of topics. So, here diverse reading comes to your rescue. You are likely to score well if you are well-versed with a wide spectrum of topics.
    • Passages from areas such as philosophy and sociology require you to have good comprehension skills while the passages from business/economics require you to be familiar with the basic terminology of these areas. So, read articles from as many areas as possible.
    • The second important aspect for RCs is practice. The two best resources for practicing CAT level RCs are : previous year papers and Mock CAT RCs. These offer you the highest quality and most appropriate material for preparation. Make sure that you regularly practice RCs. The more you practise, the better will be your speed and accuracy in RCs.
    • Practicing RCs also improves your grammar and vocabulary, thereby helping you in other areas as well.
    Remember, this is the only question type that is sure to come in CAT Verbal Ability section.
  • Grammar:
    CAT used to feature 3-4 grammar questions till 2015. After that, there have been no direct questions from grammar. Nevertheless, you need to be aware of english grammar to crack other types of VA questions.
    • To score fairly well in VA questions, make yourself well acquainted with the basics of English Grammar. You can consult any good book on Basic English grammar (like High School Grammar and Composition by Wren & Martin) to polish your basic grammar skills.
    • Studying the basics can help you tackle questions with greater accuracy and better speed.
    • It is highly recommended that you go through the previous year CAT verbal ability questions.
  • Verbal Reasoning:
    After the RC part, verbal reasoning has been the other important part of CAT VA. 6-8 questions are generally asked in form of Para-jumbles, Misfit sentences, Summary Writing or Critical Reasoning. Previously, Para-completion questions also made a regular appearance in the exam.
    • It is crucial that you practice questions from this area regularly.
    • Your performance in this area depends upon your reading skills along with your ability to make logical inferences.
    • Majority of these topics do not have any hard and fast rules but have a simple series of instructions that you need to follow in order to solve these questions.
  • Vocabulary:
    Many a times, the difference in 94 and 96 percentile is due to that one word meaning that hindered your understanding of the given text. Therefore, it is essential that you build up your word power.
    • Strengthen your vocabulary by learning new words daily. You can refer to our power-packed Vocab Builder for enhancing vocabulary skills: The purpose of various word lists provided in this section is to enrich your vocabulary and help you perform well in the verbal section in your CAT exam.
    • Even though, there have been no direct questions based on vocabulary in CAT for the last three years, but vocabulary plays a vital role in enhancing your efficiency in all the areas discussed above. It expands your ability to understand complex reading material.
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Final Tips
  • You need to have a strong foundation in core concepts of Grammar and Reading
  • You must have a good knowledge of current affairs and other GK related topics.
  • Refer to our E-library section for useful recommendations and suggestions with respect to the books you should be reading. The section outlines the list of books course-wise that you should take up for reading.
  • You should regularly read newspapers, articles/editorials of The Hindu, magazines like Reader’s Digest and online blogs of proficient writers like Ramchandra Guha etc.
After covering all these areas for your CAT preparation, it is necessary that you test yourself with some mock questions to evaluate your CAT Verbal Ability preparation. You can find tests online or opt for test series with us. They will test your preparation in real time and help you to work on your weak sections. Last but not the least, the most important step to do well in your CAT verbal ability is to practice a lot of reading comprehensions.

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