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Strategies to score a 97+ percentile in VARC

Now that we are entering the final phase of CAT prep, it is important to make sure that we are in our best shape come the d-day. Now, all of us are preparing for the day when everything would go according to plan. But what about those days where you will find it extremely difficult to move ahead? The important thing to understand here is that you should be so prepared that you hit the mandatory 97 percentile in a section irrespective of the contents of the test, your frame of mind and other factors that are beyond your control. Let’s look at the sub-section wise things that you could do to be extremely strong on the defensive front.

Reading Comprehension

The time is pretty limited to start a reading habit now. Instead, my suggestion is to solve 2–3 good RC’s every day. So, by the time you take CAT 2017, you should be done with at least 150-180 RCs which is sufficient practice. Where do you solve RC’s from? Multiple sources:

Past CAT papers: Easily the most relevant and the closest to CAT level RCs. Do all RCs from all available papers (1990–2008). The ones before 2001 should have longer RCs and more questions. But it doesn’t matter. What is more important is comprehension and accuracy. Don’t worry too much about timing yourself or reading faster initially.The focus is more on comprehension than on reading speed and so, you would need to improve that first.Once you can comprehend well and quickly, you can crack the speed code easily.

GMAT RCs: The next best source after past CAT papers. Purchase the GMAT Official Guide (any edition works). So that will help you solve the difficult RCs as you desire. The good thing about GMAT RCs is that you will get good explanations for each question which will help you identify the traps come the actual test. Ensure that you understand the solution to a question completely before proceeding to the next one.

The above 2 sources should help you get to the 150 RC mark till CAT. In case you wish to practice more, you may refer to GRE and LSAT RCs which again are extremely good.

The other thing that would help you is maintaining a small document or a notebook covering the various new concepts/theories you come across. It is advisable to have a working knowledge of a few economics, finance, history, arts, geography, technology and biology concepts so that you don’t face an issue when you are reading a passage for the first time. If the first reaction to an RC passage is surprise/fear, you can pretty much promise yourself that it is going to be a rocky ride.

2. Paragraph Completion

Paragraph Jumbles (PJ) questions and their derivative – odd sentence out questions are the 2nd most common question type in CAT. Here are a few useful methods to help you decode these question types:

(i) Pronouns/shortened name/surname/nickname: If there is a pronoun in a sentence (he/she/it/they etc.), there should be a preceding statement that introduces the subject in most of the cases. Paper setters try to negate this strategy a fair bit when they make sure that there are two subjects in a particular parajumble with one being named after the pronoun for the other is exhausted thereby confusing aspirants. The way to work around this trap is by making sure that you identify the subject and the action it is performing. In most of the cases, there will be a difference between the ‘deeds’ of the two subjects which will make you choose the right link by simply maintaining continuity of thought.

(ii) Tenses: Ideally, all the sentences will be in the same tense. If there is a reference to a past incident, you have to make sure that all the statements involving the past incident are adjacent to each other. If there is a present and a futuristic scenario being told, you need to make sure that all the arguments of the present point towards the future and so on. This is not a difficult thing to do and once you have sufficient knowledge of tenses, you should be good to go.

(iii) Transition Words: Words such as ‘but’, ‘therefore’, ‘hence’, etc. are transition words. Sentences starting with these words generally give an idea as to which sentence comes before this sentence. For example, for sentences starting with ‘hence’ and ‘therefore’ among others, the sentence coming before this current one will convey the same idea as the current one. On the other hand, sentences starting with ‘but’ and ‘however’ among others, will convey an opposite idea to the sentence coming before the current one. Hence, noticing transition words can be pretty useful in solving these question types.

Sources to prepare from: Past CAT papers, current and past mocks

3. Paragraph Completion

A majority of the rules for solving parajumbles are applicable in paragraph completion questions. The things to keep in mind here are logical consistency, continuity with the preceding part of the para, non-introduction of a fresh topic, keeping the trend of generic to specific or vice versa depending on the preceding sentences, continuity in terms of tenses and so on.

Sources to prepare from: Past CAT papers, current and past mocks

4. Grammar

For grammar, the way to go about is to know the more important topics and focus on them. Focus on articles, subject-verb agreement, modifiers, parallelism, idioms and tenses. Almost all questions will fall under these categories. A good book for knowing these concepts is the Manhattan Sentence Correction Guide (Not Wren and Martin!!!!). Although the Manhattan SC Guide is meant for the GMAT, it covers these topics from the basics. So it should help you understand these concepts.

5. Vocabulary

CAT has moved away from testing aspirants on vocabulary over the past few years. However, with IIM-L conducting the test this year, it’s better to be prepared. The best source for preparing for vocabulary will be a set of good flashcards (not Word Power Made Easy!!!). My recommendation is the Magoosh GRE Flashcards which covers the more important that you should and the contextual usage. Another really useful source is Barrons 1100. These 2 sources should suffice for vocab prep. Beyond this, it’s a matter of luck whether you encounter the words that you know. Also a caution – don’t spend too much time on vocab. Instead, prepare for this only while travelling or when taking a break. It’s better to focus on the more important topics first.

6. Other Topics

Among the remaining topics, paragraph summary will be the most important. In the summary ensure that all important points are covered. As a crude thumb rule, options with only examples can be eliminated easily. The facts are the ones that are more important.

Parting Shot!

I guess this wraps up the topics. Beyond this, it’s simply a matter of practice. As the oft-stated cliche goes, the quality of practice is more important than the quantity of practice. Ensure that you review the questions that you have answered thoroughly. Ideally, if the same question is asked to you later, you should be able to answer it correctly this time around.

Wish you all the best with your CAT 2017 preparation!

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