Reading Comprehension Tips – Writing Styles of Passages in CAT Exam

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Reading Comprehension Tips – Writing Styles of Passages in CAT Exam

RC Writing Styles

As the name states, writing styles is the way a writer chooses to express himself/herself through a piece of writing. But what exactly would be a writing styles for RC? Well, just like each one of us has a unique dressing style, so does CAT RCs differ in the way they are written. And just like you dress differently for different occasions and places, so does a passage is written according to its purpose, audience and context. But the question is why it is important to identify the writing style of a passage?

Well, the author intends to convey some ideas and opinions through his/her writing style. You will know the kind of questions to expect and how to answer them correctly with a specific approach to each passage written in a particular style. Knowing about different writing styles is critical to developing a better understanding of RC passages. This will definitely save time and help you score high in the most essential part of CAT Verbal Ability section. But, how do you think the various writing styles differ from each other? It does depend on some factors like structure, choice of words, expression and complexity of language. Generally, RC passages present information in the following six writing forms:

  • Narrative
  • Descriptive
  • Factual/Expository/Informative
  • Argumentative/Persuasive
  • Analytical
  • Abstract

Now, let’s see how can you identify each writing style and devise your RC strategy accordingly.

To start with, Narrative style of writing is one of the easiest to identify since these passages are written in form of a story. The author intends to narrate some events or personal experiences through such passages. In other words, these passages would appear most interesting to read if you are a bibliophile! Novels, anecdotes, autobiographies, histories, etc. are mostly written in a narrative style. As you would know, some of the most popular movies are based on best selling narrative books. So, you can start with reading the plot summaries of your favourite movies to get a glimpse of the narrative style of writing. After all, any narrative passage requires you to imagine the scenes and setting and understand the characters to connect with the plot. All you would need to do is:

  • Try to identify the main ideas conveyed in the beginning, middle and the last
  • While reading the passage, try to extract the underlying message that the author wants to convey through the story.
  • Also, the tone of the author will help you understand the emotions he/she is going through while narrating the story. Both direct and indirect questions may be asked from these passages.

Next type is the descriptive style of writing. As you would guess, descriptive passages intend to describe a place, person, thing or event in a great detail. Such passages generally include a lot of adjectives, adverbs and metaphors so as to paint a picture of that particular thing in the reader’s mind. Suppose you visit a popular tourist place, how will explain the beauty of it? Here, you would need to adopt a descriptive style. Most of the tourist guides, journals, magazines and poetry are written in a descriptive way. While tackling descriptive RC passages, just keep a few things in mind:

  • A good idea for such passages is to go through the questions before reading the passage. This will save time and help you spot the required answers easily since most of the questions asked from these passages are direct.
  • Do not get distracted by figurative language used in the passage. Instead, try to stay focused on understanding the contextual meaning and answer the vocabulary based questions accordingly.

Another type is factual form of writing. The purpose of factual style of writing is to impart information to the reader in a logical and objective manner along with some facts and figures. Probably, such passages won’t really interest you if you are not in the habit of reading newspapers. News stories, instruction manuals, research papers and reports present information in a factual form. Well, if you are fond of cooking, then you would know that even recipe books are written in a factual way. A great idea to master such passages is to start reading news reports, which will eventually help you in later stages also. While reading factual passages:

  • Facts and figures may tend to confuse you, so focus on the main points and purpose of the passage. Here also, you are advised to glance through the questions before reading the passage. This way, you will be able to make mental notes of the crucial information needed to answer the questions.
  • Most of the questions asked are direct and require you to identify the key points. g. key features of a scientific report/research.

A common type of writing is an argumentative/persuasive style of writing. The author writes in an argumentative way so as to convince the reader of some particular beliefs and opinions regarding a subject. In other words, such passages cite instances, justifications and facts to support a stand taken on the given topic. You must have come across advertisements that tend to influence you to buy some products or services. Well, most of the advertisements, reviews and complaint letters are written in a persuasive form. A good way to understand such passages is to start with reading newspaper editorials that support a particular point of view regarding the latest policies or events. You can ace such RC passages by:

  • Understand the author’s point of view regarding the subject being discussed. This way you will also be able to comprehend the implicit information and answer ‘the author agrees/disagrees’ questions well.
  • This style of writing often uses continuity words like ‘in the same way, likewise, additionally,’ These serve as an indicator of the examples used by author to justify his/her stand.
  • The tone and organization of the passage also helps to answer the indirect or inferential questions

A variant of the above stated writing style is an analytical form of writing. Unlike the argumentative form, the analytical style of writing presents arguments and examples for examining the topic from all angles. The difference between the two is the way a group discussion varies from a debate. Suppose you are asked to tell the pros and cons of a particular product or decision, how do you present it? Here comes the role of analytical form of writing. You will be required to present justifications in favour of as well as against the subject. Even the movie reviews usually adopt an analytical style of writing. Some of the newspaper editorials, technical reports and magazine articles portray the given subject in an analytical way. E.g. any controversial court case is generally presented in an analytical form of writing in newspapers. A good strategy for such RC passages would be:

  • Identify the central theme of the passage and the ideas build-up around it.
  • In these passages, you will frequently come across contrast words like however, nonetheless, despite, but, Such words are used to present arguments and counterarguments on the given topic.
  • Focus on the relevant points and do not focus too much on minor details. You are likely to be asked inferential questions from such passages. So, try to formulate your opinion while reading the passage.
  • A good idea to master such passages would be to read about latest happenings and discuss it among your friends so as to analyse from various aspects.

The last kind of writing is called abstract style. As the name says, the abstract style of writing is adopted in passages which deal with abstract topics like that of philosophy. An interesting example of this would be the fantasy books that we all have loved in our childhood days. Such passages do not state all the information explicitly. Abstract style of writing generally encompasses non-material concepts that may be represented in a symbolic way. Why not start with reading about some philosophical topics that interest you? An efficient way to deal with such passages would be:

  • Look for the tone and structure of the passage to figure out the author’s message in the passage.
  • Such passages may appear complex and demand a second reading to understand their essence and meaning.

Finally, you need to invest a good amount of time on reading from variety of sources like newspapers, magazines, journals, etc. Putting it another way, try to inculcate the habit of diverse reading so as to improve your comprehension skills and get well-versed with various writing styles.

In case you have just started with RCs, make notes of the important points while reading the passage. Begin with solving 2-3 RCs daily and identify the writing style for each. As you increase your practice, you will be able to make mental bookmarks of the main ideas given in the passage. Also, practicing RCs from previous year CAT papers and mock tests will enhance your accuracy and speed in exam.

CAT Grammar Basics – Parts of Speech

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