How to Effectively Tackle Jumbled Paragraph Questions

Saturday, September 26th, 2020


How to Effectively Tackle Jumbled Paragraph Questions

Sentence rearrangement or Jumbled paragraph questions have been a regular feature in the Verbal Ability section of the CAT. In this question type 4-5 sentences are given in a random order without any indication of the introductory or the concluding sentences. The sentences, when logically reorganized, form a coherent paragraph.

This question type can be quite difficult since the subject matter and the sentences in which they are contained are often dense and complex. At times, the sentences can be lengthy and the theme esoteric or scholarly – something an average CAT aspirant is not very familiar with. These question types can often also be very time consuming as a sentence sometimes may seem to have more than one logical sequence preceding or succeeding it. Additionally, since 2015, CAT has made this question type as a TITA question, with no options. Therefore, the option elimination technique used to solve these questions previously is no longer possible. But with diligent practice and keeping in mind certain principles they can be a high scoring sub-section of the Verbal Ability section of the CAT.

Since 2015, (as mentioned earlier) Jumbled Paragraph questions have been TITA questions, that is, the questions have no options. Therefore, they have to be solved in their entirety as the option elimination technique is no longer possible. Since TITA questions do not have negative marking, students are strongly advised to positively attempt all Jumbled paragraph questions, irrespective as to whether they are confident of the answer or not. Therefore, since these are must-attempt questions, mastering them becomes even more important than before.

Various methods of solving Jumbled Paragraph questions

1. The logical method – In this method, the student is required to navigate through all the sentences given and rearrange them logically in a conventional manner by finding links between sentences. These links can be discovered by logically sequencing the concepts or ideas discussed in the sentences. Furthermore, these links can be made by following some conventions of verbal construction in the sentences. In this method, the students are advised to first identify the introductory sentence and then find logical connections between sentences. An introductory sentence can be identified by the fact that it makes sense independently on its own. A disadvantage of this method is that it generally takes a long time to rearrange sentences in this way.

Example:

A) This, however, is a supreme irony since it overlooks the fact that this is one of the most coruscating satires on morals and behaviour ever written.

B) It is generally thought to be concerned with Lemuel Gulliver’s adventures in Lilliput and Blefuscu, where the protagonist is surrounded by people 6 inches tall.

C) It anticipated many current debates in law, philosophy of mathematics, the seeking of human immortality, personhood and animal rights.

D) Travels into Several Remote nations of the World by English sea-captain Lemuel Gulliver, or Gulliver’s Travels is sometimes perceived as a story for children.

E) It still stands as one of the great and timeless satires of all time, and one of the best primers ever written on political science, such as it exists.

Solution: This example, in spite of its five sentences, is fairly easy once you understand what is being said. Statement D has to be the first sentence, as it mentions the book being discussed by name – i.e., Gulliver’s Travels. It makes sense independently. The BA link is also quite easy to find-A qualifies B by showing how the book’s nature is misunderstood. E continues the idea about it being a satire, so it should follow A. Hence, [DBAEC].

2. Making use of Nouns and their Pronouns – In this method, the student will make maximum use of Nouns and their pronouns to help form linkages between sentences. Sentences with nouns will usually (but not always) precede sentences with their pronoun antecedents. Pronouns like it, they, he/she, etc. replace nouns and it makes sense that they follow the noun which they replace.

Example:

A) The idea that a civilization could sustain itself on the basis of such a transgression is an ethical, spiritual, and metaphysical monstrosity.

B) No degree of prosperity could justify the accumulation of large amounts of highly toxic substances which nobody knows how to make ‘safe’ and which remains an incalculable danger to the whole of creation for historical or even geological ages.

C) It means conducting the economic affairs of man as if people really do not matter at all.

D) To do such a thing is a transgression against life itself, a transgression infinitely more serious than any crime ever perpetrated by man.

Solution: Sentence B is the introductory sentence. It makes sense independently on its own and introduces the theme of the paragraph – the dangers of accumulating large amounts of highly toxic substances. DA is a logical pair. D talks about ‘transgression’ and A follows with ‘such a transgression…’

C, with the pronoun ‘it’ (referring to the idea of civilization) is the concluding sentence.

Hence, [BDAC].

3. Identifying the Introductory sentence and the Concluding sentence – You will mainly encounter two kinds of sentence construction: Sentences which make sense as a whole or sentences which only when added to other sentences start making complete sense. While choosing the starting sentence, we usually choose sentences that make sense independently on their own. Keep in mind that the sentences form a paragraph. Therefore, there will be a definitive concluding sentence in the mix of sentences. The concluding sentence will ‘complete the theme expressed in the sentences’ and thereby end the paragraph.

Example:

A) Whether it is the energy crisis, crime on the streets or meals lacking nutritious balance, there inevitably are those who will believe that advertising made it happen.

B) Name a natural problem and someone will almost certainly find a way to blame it on advertising.

C) The era of modern consumerism sparks endless debates over proposals to restrict advertising to children or require specific types of information in ads for cigarettes and liquor.

D) While the problems are often easy to recognize, answers are elusive.

Solution: Reading the paragraph carefully it is obvious that the theme of the paragraph is the negative effects or problems of advertising. Therefore, B is likely to be the introductory statement while you may have spotted that D is the most likely concluding sentence since it mentions that the problems (of advertising) though easy to recognize have answers that are elusive.

4. Thought-Extender/Reverser – Some words function to signal the extension of a particular thought/idea/argument by providing examples, analogies, further arguments: additionally, also, similarly, further, again etc.

Some words function to signal the reversal of a particular thought/idea/argument by providing exceptions, counter arguments, contrasts: but, contrarily, unlike, etc. So these sentences (Extenders/Reversers), usually, follow the sentences, which contain the main or original thought/ idea/argument.

Thought Extender Example:

A) Even more complex life can adapt to hostile places.

B) We know that a functioning ecosystem does not require sunlight or photosynthesis.

C) When scientists in the deep-sea submersible Alvin went tooling around the mid-ocean ridges, they found hot vents covered with shrimp and mouthless tube worms.

D) In the early 1990s, researchers found that the basaltic rock deep beneath Washington State contains an abundance of microbes totally cut off from the photosynthetic world.

Solution: D follows B as D is an example of the fact mentioned in B – functioning ecosystem does not require sunlight or photosynthesis. A similar relationship exists between C and A respectively. C is an example of the fact mentioned in A. Hence, [BDAC].

Thought Reversal Example:

Example:

A) So long as men believe that the initiation of physical force by some men against others is a proper part of an organized society, hatred, violence, brutality, destruction, slaughter and the savage gang warfare of group against group are all they can or will achieve.

B) But when men propose to live in an industrial civilization by them oral concepts of those jungle savages, with nuclear missiles and H-bombs at their disposal, they deserve the catastrophes they ask for.

C) It might be understandable that primitive, savage tribes could not conceive of a way of life without resort to physical violence – and the bloody chaos of tribal warfare was all they achieved, as those who remained on that level still demonstrate today.

D) When physical force becomes the ultimate arbiter, men are driven to connive, conspire and gang upon one another in order to destroy rather than be destroyed, the best perish, but the Attilas rise to the top.

Solution: A is clearly the introductory sentence as it makes sense independently on its own. D follows by continuing on the theme of ‘physical force’ in society. CB is a logical pairing. B with the contrary word ‘but’ reverses the thoughts expressed in sentence B.

Hence, [ADCB].

Techniques used by CAT to confuse test takers

Very often, the CAT will use certain well established techniques so that these methods mentioned above are rendered redundant.

  1. The CAT will give 4-5 sentences in which the first sentence will be from an earlier paragraph while the remaining sentences form the next paragraph. Therefore, this sentence will not form a strong logical link with any other sentence. In this scenario, if one sentence does not form an effective logical linkage with any other sentence it is likely to be the introductory sentence – A. All other sentences, B, C, D and E must have some sort of logical connection.
  2. The CAT will give 4-5 sentences in which the sentence with the pronoun may precede the sentence with its noun form. Usually the sentence with the noun form comes first followed by the sentence with its pronoun antecedent but at times CAT can reverse this order.
  3. The CAT will give 4-5 sentences in which the sentence with the pronoun does not come immediately after the sentence with its noun form but later after a gap of atleast one sentence. Whenever, students see sentences with nouns and their pronouns they quickly assume that the sentence with the pronoun should come directly after the sentence containing its noun form. But this isn’t always the case.

As mentioned earlier, Jumbled Paragraphs are TITA questions. Therefore, since they do not have any negative marks for a wrong attempt, these questions must be attempted without fail. Secondly, while solving this question type, it would be advisable to solve the question in its entirety by rearranging the sentences logically – irrespective of Noun/Pronoun or Identifying the introductory/Concluding sentence clues in questions. While these clues may prove useful in rearranging sentences quickly, please take note of the various tricks (detailed above) that CAT uses frequently to confuse test takers and solve each Jumbled Paragraph completely by establishing the logical sequences between the sentences.

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