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CAT Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension Syllabus 2021, Important Topics, Difficulty Level & Pattern

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Urvashi Singhal

Exams Prep Master | Updated On - May 1, 2021

CAT Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC) syllabus includes topics like Jumbled Sentences, Para-completion, Odd Sentences, etc. A total of 34 questions will be asked in CAT exam from CAT VARC syllabus. Around 23-24 CAT VARC Questions will be from RC and 10-11 from VA. Download CAT VARC Previous Year Question Papers

To score high in CAT VARC section, aspirants need to focus on vocabulary, grammar, verbal reasoning, and reading comprehension. The time allotted for this section is 60 minutes out of the 3 hours for the entire CAT Exam. Check CAT Exam Pattern

CAT Latest Updates:

  • May 1: As per test takers of previous year, with good preparation strategy candidates can score high in this section. Read More 
  • April 28: CAT VARC sectional cut-off accepted by various IIMs ranges between 70-85 percentile. Check Here

The level of questions for the VARC Section is generally moderate to difficult. Check CAT VARC Paper Analysis

Highlights of CAT VARC 2021

Section Name Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)
Allotted Time 60 minutes
Total Number of Questions 34
Number of Reading Comprehension Questions 23 - 24
Number of Verbal Ability Questions 10 - 11
Marks Awarded for Each Correct Answer + 3
Negative Marks for Each Wrong Answer -1
Difficulty Level of Questions Moderate to Difficult

CAT VARC Syllabus 2021

Candidates can check the sectional syllabus of CAT VARC provided in the tables below: 

CAT RC Syllabus

CAT Reading Comprehension Sectional Syllabus

  • Current Affairs - Issues affecting social life, foreign relations, governance policies and schemes such as Triple Talaq, CAA, Covid 19 Pandemic, Clean India Project, migration of citizens from one country to another, world-wide intolerance. 
  • Business and Economics - Global Economic Change, Environmental Economic Growth, Indian Demonetization Effect, Government Waste Expenditure. 
  • Literature - Passages from various books of English literature, essays written by great philosophers and thinkers, different speeches of great personalities like Charles Dickens, Aristotle, Martin Luther King, Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi, and Churchill among others.
  • Science and Culture - Transition into the modern world, disappearing society with technological advancement. 
  • Abstract Topics and Fiction - Such passages make the candidates think a lot and put themselves in the shoes of the author before addressing the questions asked because they are opinion-based. 
  • Historical Events - Events leading to social changes such as the French Revolution and the War of Roses. Social changes in Indian Culture and thoughts expressed by various activists that are still of great relevance.
  • Mythology - Such passages seek to connect mythological events with the actual social system and answers must be given accordingly.
CAT VA Syllabus

CAT Verbal Ability Sectional Syllabus

CAT Verbal Ability Syllabus
Essence of short paragraph/summary Jumbled paragraphs
Odd sentences in jumbled paragraphs Error correction in the verb, noun, pronoun, adjective, adverb and other parts of speech in sentences
Correcting the sequence of sentences in articles such as giving the correct usage of conditional statements, time clauses, reported speech, and passive writing Use of vocabulary in selecting the correct pair of words
Filling in blanks with appropriate vocabulary  Use of vocabulary in RC passages to identify the right synonyms and antonyms
Completing the last statements of paragraphs Critical reasoning
Analogies  Usage of phrasal verbs 
Facts, inference, and judgement Sentence completion
Irrelevant sentences  -

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Weightage of Topics

Weightage of Important Topics in CAT VARC

VARC Topics Expected Number of Questions
Inferences, Statements, Arguments 10-12
RC Passage 2-3
Questions on Author’s assumption 2-3
Synonyms & antonyms 3-4
Para Summary 3-4
Jumbled paragraphs 3-4
Error Correction 1-2
Fill in the blanks 1-2
Analogies 1-2
Vocabulary 3-4
Irrelevant Statements 1-2
Para Completion 1-2
CAT VARC Important Topics

Important Topics in CAT VARC

Topic Name Key Features Expected Number of Questions
Jumbled Paragraphs 5 jumbled sentences are to be arranged in the right order  3 - 4
Summary/Inference of Short Paragraphs Small paragraphs of 4-5 sentences are followed by 4 answer options 3 - 4
Picking the Odd Sentence in a Jumbled Paragraph 5 jumbled sentences from which one odd sentence is to be picked out 3

Type of Topics in Reading Comprehension

Passage Type Key Features  Expected Number of Questions
Long Passage 1 Moderate level Based on facts 6
Long passage 2  Moderate to difficult level Rich in vocabulary and based on literary terms and opinions 6
Long passage 3  Difficult level Based on abstract topics and literature and can contain a tough vocabulary  6
Short passage 1  Moderate to difficult level Based on business, economy or geography 3
Short passage 2 Occasionally difficult level Rich vocabulary and based on historical facts, opinions, future plans 3
Short Passage 3  Difficult level Based on an abstract topic 3

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CAT VARC Preparation Books

Candidates can check the best books for CAT preparation provided in the table below. These books will help you in your preparation. 

CAT VARC Book Author Description
Word Power Made Easy Normal Lewis  ‘Word Power Made Easy’ helps in improvement of vocabulary. It explains accurate usage of words. It is categorised into oriented sections and you can review exercises at the end of every chapter. 
Mastering the Verbal Ability for CAT Ajay Singh With over 200 passages for preparation, ‘Mastering the Verbal Ability for CAT’ is an excellent CAT VARC study material.
How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT Arun Sharma and Meenakshi Upadhyay ‘How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT’ has a topic-wise segregation. The material is very comprehensive. It also provides mock tests and analyses of previous years’ papers. 

Newspapers and Magazines for CAT VARC Preparation

CAT VARC Newspaper and Magazines Description
The Hindu It allows you to explore factual, complex, insightful and challenging content. Read the editorial section everyday. 
Times of India/Hindustan Times  It has great language usage to help with grammar and vocabulary development. 
The Economic Times  It is a great newspaper to read articles on business and economics twice a week
The New York Times This newspaper can be accessed online through its website with a paid subscription. High-quality content is brought out by this newspaper. Blogs like ‘The Stone’ are must-reads on the website.
The Guardian The Guardian does not require a paid subscription. You can access fascinating reading material for free. 
Frontline  This is a magazine full of details. The reading of brilliant articles highlighting tales from around the world can add tremendous value to your preparation. 
Outlook/India Today/The Week Read from these magazines for very interesting content with high-quality language.
Business Today/Business India Reading from these magazines regularly is sure to help you with CAT VARC
The Economist It is a great online journal which reports on foreign issues of all kinds. There are several articles on politics, economy, culture, fashion, sports, and books. The style of writing can serve as an idea for how you must attempt the CAT VARC section. All articles are almost perfectly grammatical and crisp. 
The Atlantic  They write long-form and well-researched pieces.
Newyorker  Here, you will find an extremely high-quality style of writing on numerous subjects.

Diffuclty Level of VARC

Difficulty Level of CAT VARC Question Paper

Candidates can check CAT VARC Paper Analysis of the previous year to get an idea about the difficulty level of VARC question papers. 

VARC Slot 1 Analysis

Topic Number of Questions Type of Question Difficulty Level
Reading Comprehension 18 MCQ Medium to Difficult
RC-1: Currency in the Tang Empire 4 MCQ Easy to Medium
RC- 2: Elephant Seal Migration 5 MCQ Medium to Difficult
RC-3: the importance of Grammar 5 MCQ Easy to Medium
RC-4: Subsets of Anarchist philosophy 4 MCQ Medium to Difficult
Verbal Ability 8 MCQ and TITA Medium
Out of Context sentence 2 TITA Easy to Medium
Para Jumbles (4 sentences) 3 TITA Medium to Difficult
Summary 3 MCQ Easy to Medium

VARC Slot 2 Analysis

Topic Number of Questions Type of Question Difficulty Level
Reading Comprehension 18 MCQ Medium to Difficult
RC-1: Piracy in International Waters 4 MCQ Easy to Medium
RC- 2: Renewable Energy Technologies 5 MCQ Medium to Difficult
RC-3: The Study of Visual Culture 5 MCQ Easy to Medium
RC-4: Aggression - Theories and Models 4 MCQ Medium to Difficult
Verbal Ability 08 MCQ & TITA Medium
Para Jumbles 3 TITA Medium to Difficult
Out of Context Sentence 2 TITA Easy to Medium
Summary 3 MCQ Easy to Medium

VARC Slot 3 Analysis

Topic No. of Questions Ideal Attempt
Reading Comprehension 18 (5+5+4+4) 14-15
Verbal Ability - Parajumbles 3 3
Verbal Ability - Summary 3 3
Verbal Ability - Parajumbles (Odd-sentence out) 2 2

Preparation Tips for CAT Reading Comprehension (RC)

The following tips will be helpful to develop your reading comprehension skills - 

  • Pick a passage from a magazine, book, newspaper or novel every day to understand your Reading Comprehension abilities. 
  • Work on developing your vocabulary by making flashcards of the words that appear new to you while reading. Read these flashcards often. 
  • To boost your vocabulary, enjoy what you read. Do not consider it a relentless chore. 
  • Summarize your readings with clarity. 
  • Interpret the passage aloud when you feel tired. 
  • Reach every part of a given text. Do not skip any parts, however minor they may seem. 
  • Discuss your readings and their interpretations with your friends and have rational debates with the vocabulary learnt. 

Preparation Tips for CAT Verbal Ability (VA)

The following tips will be helpful to develop your verbal ability - 

  • Read different genres of magazines and books, even those that are out of your comfort zone. This will help you come across many new words. 
  • Try a number of mock tests for VARC to expose yourself to a range of questions that assess your verbal ability. 
  • Use the apt verbal ability study material while preparing for CAT VARC. You will have to look at sample CAT papers and determine the right book according to the syllabus. 
  • To make learning enjoyable, download mobile applications such as Vocabulary Builder, Word by Word, and so on.
  • When you learn new words or phrases, use them in your day-to-day communication with friends or family. It will help you remember the use of those words. 
  • When you get bored with reading, turn to watching movies/TV series and playing word games to grasp more words. 
  • Highlight challenging words from the dictionary and learn their meanings. It is recommended that you keep your dictionary handy when watching films or reading books. 

Read Toppers Preparation Tips:

Common Mistakes to Avoid while Attempting CAT VARC Section

  • Ignoring details - Ensure that you do not misunderstand the questions. Lay off overconfidence and ensure that you read attentively in order to provide the correct answers. 
  • Spending more time on VA Non-McQs – It is very common for students to spend a large chunk of their answering time in attempting VA Non-MCQs. Allot a specific time duration for each question and try your best not to exceed it. 
  • Rushing through RC passage readings  – Students often rush the reading of RC passages. This can lead to missing out on important keywords that might be required to give correct answers. Ensure that you read every passage with concentration. 
  • Losing track of sectional time limit  – Do not get very immersed in answering VARC questions and forget the sectional time limit which can cause you to risk the loss of many marks. 



Question: What is verbal ability and reading comprehension?

Ans. Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension are part of every competitive exam. Verbal Ability tests your vocabulary and sentence-formation abilities. Reading Comprehension involves the interpretation of sentences and finding answers to questions that are asked from passages.

Question: How do you score a 99 percentile in VARC?

Ans. To score a 99 percentile in VARC, you must consistently read on various topics like Current Affairs, Literature, Philosophy, and Politics; memorize grammatical rules; and get a rich vocabulary. 

Question: What is the most important topic in VARC?

Ans. The most important part in VARC is the Reading Comprehension (RC) because about 70% of the questions in VARC come from it. 

Question: What are the best books to prepare for CAT VARC?

Ans. The best books to prepare for CAT VARC are - 

  • ‘Word Power Made Easy’ by Norman Lewis 
  • ‘Mastering the Verbal Ability for CAT’ by Ajay Singh 
  • ‘How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT’ by Arun Sharma and Meenakshi Upadhyay

Question: Is ‘Word Power Made Easy’ good for VARC?

Ans. Yes, ‘Word Power Made Easy’ by Norman Lewis is good for VARC. It can greatly help in improving your vocabulary. 

Question: How to prepare for Verbal Ability?

Ans. Read well-articulated content regularly to grasp good grammar and vocabulary. This will help you prepare for Verbal Ability. 

Question: What are the most important topics for Verbal Ability?

Ans. The most important topics for verbal ability are - Jumbled Paragraphs, Summary/Inference of Short Paragraph, and Picking the Odd Sentence in a Jumbled Paragraph. 

Question: What are the expected topics for Reading Comprehension?

Ans. The expected topics for Reading Comprehension are - Literature, Current Affairs, Politics, History, Business, Economy, Geography, and Abstract topics. 

Question: How many questions should I attempt to get 95+ percentile in VARC?

Ans. To get 95+ percentile in VARC, you must attempt 23 - 25 questions with 90% accuracy. 

Question: Where can I find the best VARC preparation resources online?

Ans. The best online resources for VARC preparation can be found from the websites of newspapers like The Hindu and The Guardian. 

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, which will be updated soon subject to the notification issued by the University/College.

CAT 2021 : 4 answered questions


Ques. Will 87.15% in CAT fetch me a call from GIM and KJ Somaiya?

● Top Answer By Kiran Chugh on 05 Apr 21

Ans. For GIM the required CAT percentile is around 85-90 percentile. The CAT cutoff trend for KJ Somaiya is as follows.  Category  VARC DI & LR QA Overall General  85 80  80 90 NC-OBC 75 70 70 80 SC 70 65 65 75 ST 60 60 60 75 DA 60 60 60 75 Apart from the CAT scores, there are other parameters that play crucial roles in getting admission to KJ Somaiya. Discussed below are such parameters with the assigned weightage.  Qualifying Examination - CMAT/GMAT/CAT/XAT - 50% Group Discussion - 12% Personal Interview - 15% Work Experience - 5% Past Academic Record - 10% Outstanding Achievements - 8% Hope you got an idea about the cutoff required to secure admission at KJ Somaiya and GIM. Read more
1 Answer

Ques. I am currently in second year of my engineering and I really wish to do my MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. How can I start now to ensure a good rank in CAT?

● Top Answer By Keshav Jindal on 30 Mar 21

Ans. A friend of mine attended IIM Ahmedabad. Based on his experience, here are a few points you should take into account for your preparation.  Score more than 4.5 GPA Get two years of work experience Crack CAT with 99.9+%ile Perform well in WAT PI. Apart from the basics, here are a few suggestions that should help you in preparing.  Online CAT coaching: There are many institutes that offer online coaching classes on weekends. Just follow their guidelines on every subject. This option helps you to handle both engineering and CAT parallelly and saves a lot of your time and effort. 100 minutes of CAT: A daily session for 100 minutes of CAT practice questions at home or college will boost your confidence. Some practice after college hours will boost your problem-solving skills. Enjoyment on holidays: On festive occasions, allot most of your time for CAT practice. Maximum time should be allocated to CAT practice questions. You can even make it 6 hours on special holidays. If you are still an engineering student, and in the third year, allot 120 minutes daily to CAT practice. Similar has to be done in the fourth year. Once you are done with your graduation, you would get a lot of time. Now, you need to increase the practice hours to 9 hours per day. If you aren’t satisfied with the online classes, you can even join any renowned coaching center for a 90 days fast track coaching. This could even increase your confidence level. Your only target should be to secure a very good percentage in Engineering. Graduation percentage also plays a major role at the time of selection into the IIMs. You must balance both CAT and Engineering at the same time. Graduation should always be your first priority. Complete the engineering tasks, and then move on to CAT practice. These exams are very challenging. Failures are a very common thing here. Just don’t feel discouraged if you fail. Keep trying and keep your confidence levels up.Read more
1 Answer

Ques. What is the difference between CAT and IIFT syllabuses?

● Top Answer By Sandhya R on 19 Mar 21

Ans. IIFT Entrance Examination and CAT, both share a similar kind of syllabus for some sections while it differs for the others. Both IIFT and CAT have the verbal ability test, data interpretation, quantitative aptitude and logical reasoning sections. The major differences are IIFT syllabus includes a general knowledge section whereas the CAT does not. Similar syllabus for the following sections - Quantitative Ability - The difficulty level of IIFT is lower when compared to CAT. Verbal Ability - The overall difficulty level of RC's in IIFT is easier as compared to CAT. IIFT has a Grammar and Vocabulary section as well which is not seen in CAT that often. Logical Reasoning - The difficulty level of this section is equal for both the exams and the topics that are covered are also the same. Data Interpretation - The new Format of CAT with online calculator facility makes it easier for the students while the long DI Questions in IIFT without any calculator become a difficult problem for the students. If the student is not that good with numbers, they should try clearing this section just for the sake of sectional cut off. General Knowledge - IIFT has one of the toughest GK Sections as compared to other Management Entrance Examinations and this is why the cutoffs are extremely low too. However, CAT, on the other hand, does not have this section. The difference is the Platform as CAT is conducted on an online platform over different sessions. For IIFT, you have to make use of Pen and Paper and it is conducted in a single exam window. CAT has 2.2 lakh aspirants on an average who sit for a number of seats that are provided in a number of B Schools except IIMs. IIFT is taken by around only 60,000 students who fight for around 300 seats that are spread across 3 campusesRead more
1 Answer

Ques. Who can rate CAT, XAT, SNAP, IIFT, MICAT, TISS, or NMAT in terms of difficulty level?

● Top Answer By Janvi Bhambri on 01 Feb 21

Ans. Among all these examinations, XAT is most difficult, followed by CAT. The difficulty level of the exams, in descending order (most difficult to easy) is XAT> CAT> IIFT> SNAP> TISS> NMAT. Now, let us dive into a detailed analysis behind the assigned ranks and the difficulty level. IIFT-  The questions asked in IIFT are a mixture of moderate and difficult.  The struggle lies in the attainment of marks within the cut-off range, both total cut-off and individual section cut-off.  Therefore, the students have no option but to perform exceedingly well in all sections, GK included.  The acceptance rate of IIFT is comparably low, only 400 students get admitted out of 50000 students. SNAP –  The entrance exam is easy but the tough part is to score marks that will be eligible for admission into Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, or SCHMID branch.  These are the branches which are of good quality, unlike the rest of them. TISS-  The exam pattern of TISS is easy but the GK section is the most dangerous part among them.  The questions asked in the GK section comprise both general knowledge and current affairs, therefore the portions are cover is endless. NMAT-  NMAT exam can be successfully cleared with proper preparation. The questions asked are conceptually based.  No negative marks are given for wrong answers, hence the students are free to attempt all the questions fearlessly.  MICAT is pretty easy. If you want a career in brand marketing and advertising it is necessary.  Therefore, from the above discussion, you can estimate the logic behind ranking the difficulty level of exams.Read more
1 Answer


What is the weightage?
rakhisree chatterjee

Hi, There are three sections in the CAT 2020question paper Section I Verbal Ability and Reading ComprehensionSection II Data Interpretation and Logical ReasoningSection III Quantitative Ability. For more information, please refer to the following link, CAT Exam Pattern.