CAT 2020 VERBAL ABILITY AND READING COMPREHENSION

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    CAT Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension: Important Topics, Detailed Syllabus, Tips, Resources and Previous Year Analysis

    Anam Shams Anam Shams
    Content Curator

    CAT has three sections - Verbal Ability Reading Comprehension (VARC), Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning (DILR), and Quantitative Ability (QA). In this article, you will find all the information needed about the Verbal Ability Reading Comprehension (VARC) section. This section has a weightage of about 34% in CAT Syllabus. This section focuses on English Language, Grammar, Vocabulary, and Comprehension of Articles, among other aspects.

    • CAT toppers studying at IIM Ahmedabad, Bangalore, FMS Delhi and other top MBA colleges say that they were not well-versed with the language segment when they began their preparation. 

    • However, most of them ended up cracking the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section in CAT with 95 + percentile. What is the mystery behind their preparation plan and how did they crack this section with ease?

    Before we delve deep into understanding how to prepare for CAT Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension and ace it, you will need to know all about the CAT Exam Pattern.

    The largest MBA entrance examination leading to admissions in IIMs, FMS, SPJIMR, MDI, IITs, IMI, IMT, NITIE among other top MBA colleges, Common Admission Test 2020 is scheduled as a computer-based test on 29 November 2020 tentatively.

    CAT VARC Exam Pattern at a Glance

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    Highlights of CAT VARC Section

    Section NameVerbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)
    Allotted Time60 minutes
    Total Number of Questions34
    Number of Reading Comprehension Questions23 - 24
    Number of Verbal Ability Questions10 - 11
    Marks Awarded for Each Correct Answer+ 3
    Negative Marks for Each Wrong Answer-1
    Difficulty Level of QuestionsModerate to Difficult

    Topic Wise Details of CAT VARC Section

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    Important Topics in Verbal Ability and Expected Number of Questions

    Topic NameKey FeaturesExpected Number of Questions
    Jumbled Paragraphs5 jumbled sentences are to be arranged in the right order 3 - 4
    Summary/Inference of Short ParagraphsSmall paragraphs of 4-5 sentences are followed by 4 answer options3 - 4
    Picking the Odd Sentence in a Jumbled Paragraph5 jumbled sentences from which one odd sentence is to be picked out3

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    Important Topics of Reading Comprehension and Expected Number of Questions

    Passage TypeKey Features Expected Number of Questions
    Long Passage 1Moderate level Based on facts6
    Long passage 2 Moderate to difficult level Rich in vocabulary and based on literary terms and opinions6
    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 geography3
    Short passage 2Occasionally difficult level Rich vocabulary and based on historical facts, opinions, future plans3
    Short Passage 3 Difficult level Based on an abstract topic3

    Important Topics and Number of Questions in VARC

    Topic-Wise Detailed Syllabus of Reading Comprehension

    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. 

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    Topic-Wise Detailed Syllabus of Verbal Ability

    • 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
    • Use of vocabulary in RC passages to identify the right synonyms and antonyms
    • Filling in blanks with appropriate vocabulary 
    • Completing the last statements of paragraphs
    • Critical reasoning
    • Analogies 
    • Usage of phrasal verbs 
    • Facts, inference, and judgement
    • Sentence completion
    • Irrelevant sentences 

    Weightage of Important Topics in CAT VARC

    Weightage of Important Topics in VARC

    Expected TopicsWeightage (in percentile)
    Reading Comprehension Passages71
    Para-Jumbles6 - 12 
    Para-Summary6 - 9
    Sentence Completion and Correction6 - 9 
    Odd Sentences3 - 6
    Fill in the Blanks3 - 6
    Word Usage (Vocabulary)3 - 6

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    Preparation Tips to Ace VARC in CAT

    Preparation Tips to Ace Questions in CAT VARC

    Tips for 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 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. 

    Resources to Prepare for CAT VARC

    Resources to Prepare for CAT Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)

    Word Power Made Easy

    Author - 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

    Author - 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

    Authors - 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 for VARC Preparation

    1. The Hindu - It allows you to explore factual, complex, insightful and challenging content. Read the editorial section everyday. 

    2. Times of India/Hindustan Times - It has great language usage to help with grammar and vocabulary development. 

    3. The Economic Times - It is a great newspaper to read articles on business and economics twice a week. 

    4. 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.

    5. The Guardian - The Guardian does not require a paid subscription. You can access fascinating reading material for free. 

    Magazines for VARC Preparation

    1. 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. 

    2. Outlook/India Today/The Week - Read from these magazines for very interesting content with high-quality language.

    3. Business Today/Business India - Reading from these magazines regularly is sure to help you with CAT VARC.

    All the newspapers and magazines mentioned earlier are available as online versions.

    Apart from them, you can read from the following online resources - 

    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.


    Common Mistakes to Avoid while Attempting CAT VARC Section

    1. 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. 

    2. 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. 

    3. 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. 

    4. 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. 

    Must Read Topper Tips

    Topper Tips to Attempt Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC) in CAT

    1. Sruti Sajith (99.59% in CAT 2016)

    • She recommends reading articles on various topics like Philosophy, Technology, Current Affairs, History, Politics, and Literature every day. 
    • She suggests spending a minimum of 30 minutes to analyse every article.
    • She says you can improve your vocabulary through extensive reading of ‘Word Power Made Easy’ by Norman Lewis.
    • She encourages students to make a list of basic grammatical rules and memorize them. 
    • She recommends that you solve as many mock tests as possible. 

    2. Aviral Bhatnagar (99.99% in CAT 2013)

    • He recommends taking regular mock tests to identify your strengths and weaknesses. 
    • He says that one must read a lot of diverse topics to enhance strengths and turn weaknesses into strengths.
    • He says that marking all the easy and moderate level questions and attempting them first is a good strategy for VARC. 
    • He suggests that if you always go wrong in one area, do not attempt it on the day of CAT so that you do not risk negative marking. 

    Desirable Question Attempt to Score 95+ Percentile in VARC

    VARC has a total of 34 questions which can give you a maximum of 102 raw marks. To obtain a 95+ percentile, you will have to obtain 55 - 60 raw marks. By attempting 23 - 25 questions with 90% accuracy, you can achieve that score. 

    IIM Cutoff for CAT VARC Section

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    Cut-off for VARC for IIMs

    IIMSVARC Cut-off (in percentile)
    IIM Ahmedabad70
    IIM Bangalore80
    IIM Calcutta75
    IIM Kozhikode75
    IIM Shillong75
    IIM Lucknow85
    IIM Raipur80
    IIM Rohtak70
    IIM Kashipur80
    IIM Ranchi80
    IIM Indore80
    IIM Tiruchirapalli80
    IIM Udaipur80
    IIM Bodh Gaya80
    IIM Amritsar80
    IIM Nagpur72
    IIM Jammu80
    IIM Visakhapatnam85
    IIM Sambalpur80
    IIM Simraur80

    CAT 2019 VARC Paper Analysis: Slot 1 & 2

    CAT 2019 VARC Analysis

    Slot 1

    Number of Questions34 (24 MCQs, 10 Non-MCQs)
    Allotted Time Limit60 minutes
    Total Marks102
    Difficulty Level Moderate to difficult 
    Cut-off 97 - 99%

    VARC had 34 questions in CAT 2019 Slot 1. 

    • There were 10 Non-MCQs without negative marking.
    • VARC began with Reading Comprehension Passages and closed with Verbal Ability questions.
    • 5 RC passages were followed by 24 MCQs. 
    • There were 10 Non-MCQs in Verbal Ability. 
    • One RC passage On ‘Idea on Folk’ was difficult. Most candidates were unable to answer more than 2-3 questions from this passage.
    • Desired attempts in the VARC section were 24 - 26 questions with 90% accuracy.
    • 55 - 60 marks fetched a percentile between 97 and 99.
    • Difficulty Level - Moderate to Difficult

    Slot 1 Topic-wise Analysis 

    Topic Name Number of QuestionsDifficulty Level
    RC passage 1: Story of Aladdin as shared by Antonio Galland in 1712 and learnt from Syrian storyteller, Diyab5 MCQsModerate
    RC Passage 2: Idea of Folk5 MCQsDifficult with complex vocabulary and sentence formation 
    RC Passage 3: Emperor Penguins in Antarctica - Covering heating, radiation, convection4 MCQsModerate
    RC passage 4: Topophilia, the affective bond between people and place by Yi-Fu Tuan 5 MCQsModerate to Difficult
    RC Passage 5: Contemporary Internet Shopping - Few choices are better than many options5 MCQsModerate
    Parajumbles4 Questions (Non-MCQs)Moderate
    Para Summary3 Questions (Non-MCQs)Moderate
    Odd sentences3 Questions (Non-MCQs)Moderate

    Slot 1 CAT 2019 VARC Cut-off Analysis

    Section NameCut-off (in percentile)Raw Score Required 
    Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VARC)97-9955 - 60

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    Slot 2

    Number of Questions34 (10 MCQs, 24 Non-MCQs)
    Allotted Time Limit60 minutes
    Total Marks102
    Difficulty Level Moderate to difficult 
    Cut-off 97 - 99%


    VARC had 34 questions in CAT 2019 Slot 2. 

    • There were 10 Non-MCQs without negative marking.
    • VARC began with Reading Comprehension Passages and closed with Verbal Ability questions.
    • 5 RC passages were followed by 24 MCQs. 
    • There were 10 Non-MCQs in Verbal Ability 
    • Two RC passages were difficult. Most candidates were unable to answer more than 2-3 questions from these passages.
    • Desired attempts in the VARC section were 23 - 25 questions with 90% accuracy.
    • 55-60 marks fetched a percentile between 97 - 99
    • Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult

    Slot 2 Topic-wise Analysis 

    Topic NameNumber of QuestionsDifficulty Level
    RC passage 1: British Colonialism5 MCQsModerate
    RC Passage 2: Museums, Arts5 MCQsDifficult with complex vocabulary and sentence formation 
    RC Passage 3: Central Governments & Decentralization5 MCQsModerate
    RC passage 4: Ecology5 MCQsModerate to Difficult
    RC Passage 5: Cultural Identity & Language – Egyptian4 MCQsModerate
    Parajumbles4 Questions (Non-MCQs)Moderate
    Para Summary3 Questions (Non-MCQs)Moderate
    Odd sentence Out3 Questions (Non-MCQs)Moderate

    Slot 2 CAT 2019 VARC Cut-off Analysis

    Section NameCut-off (in percentile)Raw Score Required 
    Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)97 - 9955 - 60

    CAT 2020 VARC FAQs

    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

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