VARC Strategy by Kislay Jha, iQuanta Student, who converted the Holy Trinity- IIM ABC.

Kislay Jha, an iQuanta 2019 student, scored 99.96 in CAT 2019 and here he has penned down his VARC strategy :


VARC is the first section of your CAT exam and has the potential to the set the tone for the whole paper. It is also considered the most confusing section of the paper, especially for engineers. The main reason behind this is that this section is not very straight-forward like the other two and can’t be improved in only a couple of weeks. In this article, I’ll try to address some FAQs related to this section which might help you in increasing your scores. All of you currently are not at the same footing and will need to put in different levels of efforts to improve yourself.

CAT VARC is not about good vocabulary or perfect grammar, it’s about how well you are able to comprehend a written passage. You can start reading English newspapers like The Hindu or Economic Times, or online articles on Aeon or Aldaily to get used to reading long passages.

Reading Comprehension

How to approach a passage?

I used to follow the most conventional approach i.e. I always read the whole passage before looking at the questions. Some people read the first couple of paragraphs and then simultaneously start solving the questions. Others also first look at all the questions and then start reading the passage. For yourself, you can try all these 3 methods in the mocks and choose the one which suits you best. The most important step is absorbing and understanding what you read. Many times, when the passage is long, you’ll find after reading half the text that you’ve already forgotten everything and need to start again. This wastes a lot of time. Even while attempting the questions, you can’t revisit the whole paragraph every time. To overcome this issue, you can note down the important highlights of the paragraph while reading. This will help formulate a better structure of the content in your head and help you recall which point is mentioned where. Although, this method is advisable only in the early part of preparation. As you get used to reading and retaining long paragraphs, you will no longer need this trick.

How to attempt the questions?
There will be a few easy questions in which you can directly pick the correct option by reading the paragraph. Other than that, most questions in RC are very confusing with similar-looking options. The first rule for solving such questions is that you leave all assumptions behind. The topic of the RC might be familiar to you, but you have to disregard everything you know while reading it. Whatever the author writes, is the truth and you’ve to follow that only.
Always read the question very carefully. For example, consider the following paragraph:
There are two friends Rohan and Mohan. Rohan is going to the market and Mohan is going to the school. Both of them ran towards their respective destinations.
Q. Who among Rohan and Mohan is not going to the school?
Now, obviously the answer is Rohan. But there are many of us who would choose Mohan as the answer because we are in a hurry and careless. These kinds of mistakes have a very negative impact on your score. So always make sure you understand what the question is asking.
Now, the most reliable way to solve the RC questions, in my opinion, is the method of elimination. In most questions, you’ll be able to eliminate two options and be left with two.

In these cases, I’d suggest you always go with your gut feeling and choose one of the two options. Another important point here is that during analysis of such questions, do read the explanation behind the answer irrespective of the fact whether you got it right or wrong. If the other option, which you had not eliminated is the correct answer, then you were atleast half-correct and you can take some confidence from it. But, if you eliminated the right answer at the beginning itself, then you are either not reading the question carefully or not understanding the passage completely or both. If this happens frequently, then you need to keep working on your reading skills.
If you’re scoring low in RCs, then don’t worry too much right now. You’ve time to get used to it and you’ll improve only with practice. There is no shortcut which will suddenly increase your marks in tests. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read the question and the explanation of the answer carefully; the latter step is obviously your analysis part.

Verbal Ability:

I always solved the questions in a sequential order in VARC because I feel that it is a waste of time to initially search for easier questions and then start solving. If you’re able to maintain your concentration for long enough, I’ll advise you to do the same. Otherwise, many people either attempt VA first or solve a couple of VA questions in between RCs.

Parajumbles: These questions are the biggest nightmares of most aspirants. In my case, it was a good day if I got even 2/4 correct. In mocks, you’ll sometimes find PJs with 5 or 6 sentences which makes it tougher. In CAT’19, there were only 4 statements to be arranged which made it a bit easier. To solve PJs, you first of all need to find the opening sentence, usually characterized by introducing the topic. But again, this is not going to be always true, as the paper setters love making it as confusing as possible. Try to find sentence pairs first while attempting and then arrange these pairs, that will make it slightly easier. With practice, you can get better at it and always check out the given explanation at the end to enhance your understanding. Don’t freak out if you’re getting multiple of them wrong. I’d strongly suggest that you still always attempt these questions as they have no negative marking.

Odd-one-out: This is the easier version of PJs where you just need to identify which sentence does not fit the story. It’s a good practice that you try to arrange the remaining 3-4 sentences after removing the odd one. That’ll help you in making a better sense of the question and reducing your mistakes. There is no negative marking in this question also.

Summary: You’ll be given a short paragraph and you need to pick the option which best describes the paragraph. Usually, the options are very similar in these questions. You’ll notice that most of the options cover some part of the paragraph. Try choosing the one which covers most of it. Also, in some options, there might be a couple extra assumptions which are not there in the paragraph. We tend to usually mark those as the answer as it seems to have a broader perspective, but be very careful as the summary is only there to give the basic idea of the passage in lesser words and not give extra information.

Basically, even the VA part of the paper is mostly about how well you understand the text and are able to connect the dots.
Like every section of CAT, you’ll need practice to score high marks in VARC. If you’re comfortable with the language, you’ll not need to put extra effort in this section. Attempting mocks will be enough for you. Others will need to keep working on their reading skills to reach similar levels. Many people also follow GMAT RCs to help in this regard. I don’t have much idea about it, but you guys can check it out.

There are many people who face problems in comprehending large passages. This will get better only with time and practice. As mentioned earlier also, you need to develop a reading habit to overcome this issue. Your concentration levels also play a huge role in this. We get sidetracked when we don’t understand a sentence and then need to start again. Sometimes, the beginning of the passage is tough, but as you read ahead, you’ll find that it starts to make sense. You’ll always be more comfortable with topics familiar to you. That’s why you need to keep reading newspapers and other articles from different sources to increase your comfort level.

CAT’19 had one of the toughest VARC paper in the past few years and those who appeared in Slot-2 are still recovering from the trauma of the article on British Colonialism. There might be 1-2 extra tough RC sets in your paper too, where they will scare you with big words and complicated sentences, but usually, these passages have easier questions also. You also have to keep your morale high while solving such RCs because they will take up your time and make you panicky. If you’re still unable to tackle a tough RC set, then break it down into 3-4 parts. Look at the questions first and then try to find the answer in each part. With practice, only you can understand which methods works best for you.
I’ll be following up this article with preparation strategy on LRDI and QA. In a separate article, I’ll cover topics like, how to give mocks, how many mocks to give and how to analyse them.

– Kislay Jha.
CAT 2019: 99.96%ile
VARC- 99.39%ile
DILR- 99.90%ile
QA- 99.81%ile

IIM A,B,C Convert.
iQuanta 2019.

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