Reading Comprehension for XAT – Guiding Principles to Solve RC Questions

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

Reading Comprehension for XAT - Guiding Principles to Solve RC Questions

The XAT Verbal and Logical Ability section consisted of 13-14 Reading Comprehension (RC) questions out of a total of 26 questions in XATs 2018 and 2019. Therefore, this question type is of utmost importance, if you, the test taker, want to clear the cut offs for this section and secure a high percentile. It is important to know that this section has traditionally been quite difficult and hence the raw scores for clearing the cut offs have always been on the lower side.

In cricketing parlance, appearing for the XAT Verbal and Logical Ability section is akin to a batsman walking out to bat on a bowler friendly wicket. You must exercise considerable care in answering questions in this section since the XAT has negative marking to the tune of 0.25 marks (out of 1 mark) for every wrong answer attempt. Only a good practice of XAT mock tests will build in you the astute judgement necessary in knowing which questions to answer and which to leave alone. Just as a good batsman leaves many good balls and does not attempt to play them, you too, must learn to attempt only those questions whose answers you are reasonably sure of.

Techniques for Reading (Reading Comprehension) passages

  1. Skimming or selective reading of a passage at a fast clip will help you to answer the theme. Central idea, title and tone of the passage.
  2. Scanning or reading for select information implies searching for the required information from a part of the passage. This will help you to answers questions that are direct or specific and located in parts of the passage.
  3. Intensive Reading or reading every part of the passage and trying to understand every sentence of the passage will help you to answer questions based on inference, which of the following is true/untrue and the EXCEPT questions.

Characteristics of XAT Reading Comprehension

XAT RCs are generally taken from the fields of Philosophy, Psychology, History, Art, research articles and areas which are unfamiliar to most science, commerce and engineering students. These areas have been deliberately chosen to put most test takers out of their comfort zones and see if they can adapt quickly to understanding and absorbing matter that is foreign to them. Most passages are abstract or argumentative in nature with matter that is often dense and are frequently on topics that are alien or of not much interest to the test taker. Unlike CAT, which has passages that are frequently interesting to read, XAT passages are invariably boring and difficult to comprehend.


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    If this wasn’t challenging enough, XAT includes poems in its RC section which are even more abstract and difficult to comprehend. XAT has been including at least one poem in its RC section for several years now and the questions asked therein require a considerable sense of imagery and understanding of abstruse matter on the part of the test taker to be able to answer them.

    However, this is not the time to press the PANIC button. Remember, others are in the same boat as you. Keep a cool head and take this section as a challenge that has to be conquered. A few guiding principles are given below that should help you navigate this question type without too much difficulty.

    Guiding Principles for Answering Reading Comprehension Questions

    • Although XAT passages and poems are difficult to comprehend, XAT will never give a passage that requires prior knowledge of any subject to be able to answer the questions that follow. A careful and intensive reading of the passage will be sufficient to answer most questions.
    • If you cannot narrow the answer to TWO options, then I strongly suggest that you do not attempt that particular question.
    • IMPORTANT TIP: It has been observed in almost all past XAT tests that in any difficult question, 3 or 4 options are invariably wide off the mark leaving the test taker with a clear opportunity to narrow the answer down to 1 or 2 options. Therefore, always have a good look at the answer options before leaving any question unattempted.
    • In most answer options, there will be at most only ONE close option, not more. If you can identify this wrong option and eliminate it you will have cracked the question.
    • Another feature of the XAT that has been observed in the past is that the most difficult RC questions invariably occur first, followed by easier RC questions towards the middle and ending part of the RC sub-section. Therefore, it may be a good idea to start backwards.
    • EXCEPT questions, Which of the following is NOT TRUE, Which of the following is CONTRARY to… questions may seem difficult at first to answer but are actually the easiest questions in this sub-section. This is because 4 options will have been mentioned/will be in conformity with the passage and the correct answer choice will not have been mentioned at all in the passage or will be wide off the mark.
    • Make yourself aware of tones such as naïve, ironical, hyperbolic, sarcastic, objective etc.
    • Understand the differences between inferences, conclusions and assumptions.
    • If you are still not confident of this question type after reading the principles listed above, then I suggest you skim and scan the passages, answer the tone/theme/central idea/title/direct question of the passage and move on to other areas of the section quickly. Do not get bogged down with one question or passage. However, at the same time, please do not leave more than 8 questions in this section unattempted as XAT will penalize you to the extent of 0.1 mark per question.
    • MOST IMPORTANT POINT – Learn to leave questions unattempted whose answers you have no clue of. DO NOT be egoistic and macho and try and attempt all questions (including the questions whose answers you cannot narrow down to two options). This foolhardiness on your part will in most likelihood drag down your percentile. Secondly, you will have expended a lot of time in answering only a few questions. Developing a good judgement about the questions to leave alone can come about only by practicing a lot of mock tests.
    • Develop a sense of imagery. This will help in answering questions asked from poems – For example, ‘A Black Lake’ will symbolize? Answer: Freshwater lakes are colourless. A lake that is black in colour suggests the opposite – water that is black because it is dirty, polluted and poisoned by chemical effluents and where new plants or fish cannot grow or breed. Therefore, the black lake symbolizes a lack of regeneration.
    • Cultivate good reading habits. In the run up to the XAT, allocate some time every day for reading good material such as the 100 Best Books in Gutenberg and other classics.
    • Prepare a strategy before entering the exam hall. There is no one size fits all strategy for XAT RCs. Are you going to attempt most of the RC questions or only the theme/ central idea/ direct questions that one can answer after merely skimming and scanning passages? This strategy should be honed only after having taken several mock tests and finding the best method for you. However, remember to keep the strategy flexible. If you had previously thought of answering only the direct questions but find some of the answers to inferential questions easy to spot, then go ahead and attempt those questions as well.

    Happy Solving!

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