How to Effectively Tackle Reading Comprehension Specific Questions

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

how to Effectively Tackle Reading Comprehension Specific Questions

Reading Comprehension (RC) passages have been a constant and important feature of the CAT’s Verbal Ability (VA) section since the exam’s inception. Since, 2015, their importance have been further enhanced as the CAT has added more questions containing this question type in the VA section. Currently, fully 24 questions (out of 34 in the Verbal Ability section) are RC questions. This means approximately 70% of the Verbal Ability section consists of RC questions.

Since these questions are typical Multiple Choice questions, (with negative marks for wrong attempts) and the number of questions are approximately 70% of the total VA section, it is without doubt the most important and significant portion of the VA section. Its importance cannot be underestimated and failure to master this question type would in all probability result in the test taker failing to attain the cut-offs for this section.

Mastering these questions would involve the ability to read and comprehend the matter contained in passages quickly – among other skills. However, the CAT contains passages that are frequently diverse in their themes, tones and styles of writing. Moreover, the degree of denseness, in terms of writing style, of each passage may differ from one another. It has been noticed that during some years, the CAT has a tendency of giving difficult, abstract passages and at other periods, simple, easy-to-understand passages. Add the fact that the passages are from diverse subjects – from business and economics, to art, language, philosophy, psychology, current affairs, scientific philosophy etc., and it becomes clear that the ability to comprehend the passages well will involve lots of hard work, a wide reading habit as well as lots of practice. For example, a typical engineering graduate would probably find philosophy passages to be beyond his scope of comprehension. She or he then has no choice but to knuckle down hard and practice solving lots of questions from philosophy based passages.

Another reason as to why this question type is difficult also relates to the diversity of themes of the passages. Currently, the CAT contains six RC passages and they can often be of six different themes. It is human nature for test takers to find it difficult to comprehend passages whose themes are outside their areas of interest or expertise. This difficulty – to comprehend and understand diverse passages – is partly out of fear and also partly out of a lack of interest in these subjects. Therefore, cultivating a wide reading habit – even on unfamiliar and uninteresting topics – and working hard on solving lots of RC passages on different themes is the only way forward for CAT aspirants.

What are Reading Comprehension Specific Questions

RC questions consist of two question types – Specific and Summary questions. Specific questions are those whose answers are contained only in specific part/parts of the passage while Summary questions would involve reading and comprehending the entire passage. In this article, we will deal only with Specific RC questions.

Examples of Reading Comprehension Specific Questions

  1. In Dr. Thompson’s view, CyArk owning the copyright of its digital scans of archaeological sites is akin to:
  2. By “digital colonialism”, critics of the CyArk–Google project are referring to the fact that:
  3. The “long pedigree” of the aim to shift civil servants to improve their living standards implies that this move:
  4. We can infer that Calthorpe’s statement “still jars” with most people because most people:
  5. According to the passage, which of the following is not responsible for language’s ability to change us?

One can note from the questions given above that their answers are likely to be contained only in specific parts of the respective passages. Secondly, note that vocabulary based questions have been cleverly embedded in a few of these examples. (Examples: 2, 3 and 4). If a test taker does not know the meaning of ‘digital colonization’, ‘pedigree’ or ‘jars’ then s/he will probably not be in a position to answer these questions correctly. Thirdly, many of the questions are a negative “EXCEPT”, “not responsible…” type of questions which require the additional skill of being able to identify and eliminate several wrong answer options.

Techniques Required to Solve Reading Comprehension Specific Questions

Step 1: THE WARMING UP STAGE – Skimming – Read the entire passage quickly. It is not necessary at this stage to understand or comprehend every bit or sentence of the passage. Getting a gist of what the passage is about Just like your body when exercising, your mind too requires to be put through its paces. It is like a muscle after all. This strategy helps the mind to focus on the topic at hand. Try and remember the gist of each paragraph of the passage.

Note: Some specific RC questions may have their answers in two separate parts of the passage. Therefore, reading the entire passage is important.

Step 2: Scanning – Searching for select information. Now read every question one at a time and refer back to parts of the passage where the answers are contained. If you are able to remember the gist of every paragraph, you should be able to locate the part containing the answer every quickly. Make a note of reading atleast two sentences before and after the sentence which contains the answer.

Step 3: In the Zone – Intensive Reading. For confirmation – read the sentences containing the answer closely and intensively.

If you do not know the meaning of certain words in the case of vocabulary based questions, read around the sentence containing the answer and try and infer its meaning. If you cannot get the meaning even with this strategy, leave the question un-attempted.

Important Tips for answering Reading Comprehension questions

  • Since Reading Comprehension passages are diverse in their themes in the CAT, the test taker must practice and cultivate a wide reading habit as early as possible. In fact, reading practice should be the first item on your bucket list while preparing for the CAT. Publications that contain good, standard English writing styles are The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The New Yorker, Aeon, The Washington Post as well as classics. For classics the test taker can refer to Gutenberg’s list of the 100 best books.
  • Since there are approximately two minutes allotted for each VA question (34 questions to be answered in 60 minutes), practicing speed reading is essential. Speed reading implies reading passages quickly while at the same time being able to comprehend the passage well. Therefore, time yourself while reading. After a few weeks your speed should have increased substantially.
  • Read on a wide variety of topics. Do not confine yourself only to topics that are of interest to you. (such as sports or entertainment based articles) Develop some grit or base camp discipline and attack books and articles that are outside your sphere of interest.
  • Get plenty of practice. Solve all mock CAT tests that you can lay your hands on.

Happy Solving!

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