Cracking the English section remains one of the three ramparts for aspirants trying to scale the 'Great Wall of CAT'. With around two-and-ahalf months remaining for the most important management entrance examination, let us see how one can prepare for the English section in the CAT 2016 examination.
We need to understand that scoring good marks in the section is critical, since good institutes have the concept of sectional cut-offs. Getting good marks in one section and doing badly in the other will hamper your chances since the institutes are looking for people who demonstrate an all-round ability on top of the skills required to become a manager.
The verbal ability (VA) portion of the section checks reading and working comfort in English, the global language of business communication. It emphasises reading skills, as is clear from the high weightage to reading comprehension (RC) and reading-oriented VA in the recent years. Hence, now preparation should focus on improving reading skills, more in width than in depth. What this means is that CAT is looking at your ability to read a wide-range of reading material in some depth, but not the ability to read a small range of reading material in great depth. So, concentrate on reading things that you may not have read earlier, for example: philosophy spirituality, religion, social sciences, humanities and science. Ideally, you should spend approximately 80 per cent of your time on reading and solving questions related to these. Memorising rules of grammar or cramming up words, at this stage, will bear little benefit so do not worry too much about these. You may spend at most 20 per cent of your preparation time in doing these activities. Please note that solving questions on the pattern of the previous years' examination is much more beneficial than only learning words/rules of grammar.
Continue to give mock exams on a regular basis. This will improve your mental and physical stamina to attempt a tough examination and also prepare you for unexpected situations. Since the CAT pattern is unpredictable, a test-series, like the AIMCATs, with many types of tests patterns and difficultly levels is important. Further, analysis of your mock exams is even more important since this helps to understand one's strengths and weaknesses, build stronger concepts, practice one's skills, capitalise on one's strengths and remove one's problems.
Follow up on the analysis by working on your weak areas. Whatever emerges as a strength area, can be practiced less and whatever emerges as a weak area should be practiced more. Take sectional tests to improve your weaknesses of low speed, silly mistakes and subject weaknesses. After you attempt a practice RC, don't check the answers immediately. Instead, check all the difficult words from a dictionary and all the difficult concepts from the internet. Read the article again. Check which answers you want to change. Then check the keys. You will find that in many cases, you have improved your answers.
While attempting the examination, allocate time proportionate to the marks of the two sub-sections of RC and VA. Try to read all the questions in the given time, doing the questions you know and leaving the ones you are not sure of. Do not get stuck on one sub-section since the target should be to at least read all the questions. If you have time left after one subsection you can transfer this balance time to the other section. In RC, devote some time to scanning the passages and questions and choose passages with easy questions, not necessarily the easiest passages, since it is for answering questions that you will get marks, not just reading the passages. Attempt as many passages as you can. If there are some difficult (inferential) questions in a passage, leave them, without being tempted by the thought that you must do these since you have done others from the same passage. Similarly, if you plan to leave a passage, check for some easier (non-inferential) questions that you may be still able to attempt.
If you are bothered about two options being similar in an RC/VA question, focus on the difference between the options and not the similarity. The answer lies where the difference lies. Please note that CAT may give you questions with more than one correct answer (up to all correct answers). In this case, look for the option that is the best option. Similarly, CAT may give a question with all wrong answers. In this case, look for the least wrong answer.
The writer is the chief knowledge expert at T.I.M.E., New Delhi