Let Sherlock Holmes help you solve Sentence Exclusion questions in CAT

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Sentence exclusion questions

Sentence exclusion questions test one important skill: to detect an anomaly in data.

The fly in the ointment.

The scratch on the lens.

The bug in the software.

The Van Buren supernova – that did not exist in the original Vermeer painting – which Sherlock must discover in order to beat Moriarty’s deadline of 10 seconds.

Indeed, if approached logically, it should be a 10 or may be 20 or 30-second affair to spot the odd sentence among the given four.

How to approach a Sentence exclusion question:

Sentence exclusion is a new twist on the old Parajumbles question. A ‘misfit’ sentence is added to the paragraph, which is already jumbled. Out of the four given sentences, any 3 are going to form a coherent paragraph. The fourth needs to be ‘taken out’. This creates an extra difficulty as the test taker not only needs to find the misfit sentence but also unscramble the remainder of the para in order to reach correct answer.

Before we learn how to approach the sentence exclusion questions, let us look at how we would approach an ‘Odd Word’ question, the process of which is remarkably similar to solving a sentence exclusion question.

Look at the following words, and find the odd one among them.

Taxi     Plane   Bike     Walk

The answer is obvious: Walk.

What is more important is to see what our brain just did to reach the correct answer.

  1. You read the given words in the given order
  2. You quickly determined what the three of them have in common: they are vehicles
  3. You ascertained that the fourth does not share this commonality, and you found the answer

When we answer the sentence exclusion questions, this is exactly what we need to do.

  1. We read the given sentence in the given order
  2. We determine what all except one have in common
  3. We confirm that the odd sentence deviates from the topic, and we finalise the correct order

Of course, the Step 2 here is not as easy as the Step 2 of the ‘Odd Word’ question. 

How to find what the given sentences have in common:

The answer is simple. Find the commonality in the para.

Just like Sherlock who discovers that the dubious affair of the Vermeer painting involved the murders of an astronomy enthusiast and an astrophysics professor. What could astronomy have to do with a centuries-old painting? Therein lies the anomaly – the Van Buren supernova in the fake painting, the supernova that was discovered in 1858 after the original was painted by the Dutch master Vermeer in 1640s.

Apply Sherlock’s method. Find the commonality in the paragraph.

The easiest way to find the commonality is to first learn ‘what is going on’ in the para.

In other words, find the topic of discussion. When we find the topic, we will know what the 3 ‘correct’ sentences in the question will need to have in common.

Where do we most commonly find the topic? The opening sentence of the paragraph.

Find the opening sentence of the paragraph using the usual Parajumbles techniques. The opening sentence usually describe the timeline, which usually goes from the past to the present, the full names of the people involved in the discussion, the idea or the concept or the definition that will be elaborated upon in the following sentences, and usually does not start abruptly, such as “However….”, or, “But…”.

Once we find the opening sentence, we need to unscramble the paragraph by finding the definite connections within the paragraph. In case you have missed our post on Parajumbles techniques, please go here for a detailed discussion on how to find the opening sentence and the subsequent connections.

The sentence you cannot include the paragraph despite following the usual Parajumbles connections is usually the misfit.

A reverse-way of identifying the misfit:

The misfit sentence is usually made more difficult to detect by making it look like a part of the given paragraph. It will usually feature the same people involved in the main discussion and the same broad theme (For example, the para may be about WWII, and the misfit may be about WWI).

There are nevertheless some obvious signs that indicate a misfit:

  1. Inconsistent tense – This is perhaps the most common sign of a misfit. The entire paragraph may be in one tense or one time frame, and then there may be a sentence that sticks out like a sore thumb because it has an entirely different tense. Be on the lookout for this one.
  2. Inconsistent tone – The para may be entirely formal or sometimes informal in tone, and the misfit sentence has the opposite tone.
  3. The ‘Also’ type – The entire para may talk about one thing that a person or persons has/have been doing, and the misfit may talk about something entirely different that the same people may have done. This is usually made difficult due to the commonality of people.
  4. The ‘Opposite’ type – The para tries to prove one a thing, the misfit tries to prove the opposite. This may seem easy to spot, but is usually made difficult by making the opposition subtle.

For example: How, in such an alien and inhuman world, can so powerless a creature as Man preserve his aspirations untarnished? A strange mystery it is that Nature, omnipotent but blind, in the revolutions of her secular hurryings through the abysses of space, has brought forth at last a child, subject still to her power, but gifted with sight, with knowledge of good and evil, with the capacity of judging all the works of his unthinking Mother. In spite of Death, the mark and seal of the parental control, Man is yet free, during his brief years, to examine, to criticise, to know, and in imagination to create. The freedom, however, is often exploited by Man to rule all other species on the earth. To him alone, in the world with which he is acquainted, this freedom belongs, and in this lies his superiority to the resistless forces that control his outward life.

Observe how the sentence in bold subtly contradicts and deviates from the main theme of the paragraph.

The ‘reverse-way’, of course, only works if you have some idea of what is happening in the paragraph. One cannot begin by assuming the misfit on the basis of a minor difference.

To summarise,

  1. Find the main theme by finding the opening sentence
  2. Find at one connection, which gives you a reason to single out a misfit
  3. Put the rest of the paragraph together by eliminating the misfit.

Most importantly, I reiterate, do not assume the misfit. It could very well be the one you least expect.

“‘Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?’

‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.’

‘The dog did nothing in the night-time.’

‘That was the curious incident,’ remarked Sherlock Holmes.’”

–       From Silver Blaze

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Let Sherlock Holmes help you solve Sentence Exclusion questions in CAT

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