Tips to solve passage based questions in CAT 2019

    Urvashi Singhal Urvashi Singhal
    Exams Prep Master

    Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC) is one of the most important and high scoring section of the CAT examination. The weightage of Reading Comprehension is higher in CAT than in any other MBA entrance examination.

    • Reading comprehension in the CAT 2019 constitutes 24% of the exam.
    • VARC comprises in total 34 questions out of which 24 questions are from RC.
    • Number of questions in VARC from passage have been increased to 70% from 45%.

    CAT is conducted by IIMs. It is divided into three sections:

    • Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (RC)
    • Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)
    • Quantitative Ability (QA)

    For the past four years, CAT exam pattern has remained the same.

    Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)1023471 hour
    Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)963281 hour
    Quantitative Ability (QA)10234111 hour

    Reading Comprehension Weightage in CAT exam

    The revised pattern of CAT 2019 allots following weightage to RC.

    Total Questions in CAT Exam100Weightage Awarded
    Total Questions in VARC Section3470% Sectional Weightage to RC based Questions (24 RC, 10 Others)
    Number of Reading Comprehension passages in CAT Exam53 Long RC Passages followed by 6 questions each; 2 Short passages followed by 3 questions each
    Total Reading Comprehension Questions 2424% Overall Weightage for RC Questions in CAT
    Type of Reading Comprehension based questionsMultiple Choice QuestionsAll 24 RC based questions are of MCQ type, other 10 questions are Non-MCQ type
    Scoring Pattern for Reading Comprehension questions in CAT+3 for each correct answer-1 for each wrong answer

    Reading Comprehension- Sectional Analysis

    Reading comprehension mainly tests how fast a candidate can read the information (given in the form of passages) accurately, and can assimilate that information and answer the questions. Before coming on to how one can attempt this section, it is important to understand what all components does this section comprise. RC has now become the first section of CAT exam instead of last. The RC questions help in achieving high sectional score as well as overall increased CAT percentile. The composition of the section is as follows:

    RC Questions for CAT 2019Sectional Composition
    Section NameVerbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)
    Total VARC Questions34
    Number of Reading Comprehension Passages for CAT5
    Type of RC Passages for CAT3 Long RC Passages; 2 Short RC Passage
    Total questions Based on Reading Comprehension passages24
    Bifurcation of RC Based QuestionsLong RC passage- 6 Questions each (Total 18 questions); RC passage- 3 questions each (Total 6 questions)
    Type of Questions Based on RC PassagesTMCQs
    Time to attempt the section60 Minutes
    Marks for Each Correct Answer+3
    Negative Marks for Each Wrong Answer-1
    Difficulty Level of RC passagesModerate to Tough

    Type & Number of Reading Comprehension Questions in CAT

    Though the baseline of the RC passages remain same with chances of vocabulary and idioms/phrases to be repeated, the idea of the passage may change with the current scenario. A broader understanding of the type and number of questions in RC section is given below.

    CAT 2019 –Type of RC based questionsExpected number of questionsKey features
    Reasoning questions4-5Statement, Assumption, True-False, Inference, Judgement 
    Vocabulary based Questions5-6Describing similar meaning of the word/phrase used in the RC passage
    Opposite Meaning questions2-3Picking out the answer option with the opposite meaning of the word/phrase as used in the passage
    Thought based3-4Summarising the idea as expressed in the passage
    Fact verification2-3Choosing the answer that agrees/disagrees with the idea expressed by the author

    How to Prepare for Reading Comprehension? - Key Tips

    Reading Comprehension requires different preparation strategy. Following are the guiding points on how to prepare Reading Comprehension for CAT Exam:

    • Prepare as per latest trends in CAT exam.
    • Read the Best books on Reading Comprehension
    • Go through Updated CAT Reading Comprehension Preparation Material of Best Coaching Institutes
    • Read CAT toppers’ Reading Comprehension Preparation Strategy
    • Take CAT Reading Comprehension Mocks.
    • Understand the English vocabulary.
    • Continue with consistent flow of thoughts in Reading Comprehension Passages.
    • Read between the lines to crack the meaning
    • Arrive at the correct option for the questions based on Reading Comprehension passages for CAT.
    • Make reading editorials, articles in the newspaper a regular practice.
    • Underline the difficult words-search out their meanings and put them to use in writing and conversation. Tests have shown a trend that if the number of unfamiliar words in a passage is more, the reader may lose track of the passage. However, if the number is less, the reader can still grasp the idea of the passage with skipping a few unfamiliar words.

    Study Material for Reading Comprehension for CAT

    No matter if you are attending any coaching class or preparing self for CAT, you may require help from other external sources as well in the form of practice papers, e-notes or books.

    Some of the prominent books recommended by CAT toppers are:

    • How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT- Sharma and Upadhyay
    • 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary Mass Market Paperback- Wilfred Funk & Norman Lewis/ Simon & Schuster
    • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT- Nishit K Sinha

    Sample RC Question (CAT 2018 Question Paper- Slot 1)

    “Everybody pretty much agrees that the relationship between elephants and people has dramatically changed,” [says psychologist Gay] Bradshaw. . . . “Where for centuries humans and elephants lived in relatively peaceful coexistence, there is now hostility and violence. Now, I use the term ‘violence’ because of the intentionality associated with it, both in the aggression of humans and, at times, the recently observed behavior of elephants.” . . .
    Typically, elephant researchers have cited, as a cause of aggression, the high levels of testosterone in newly matured male elephants or the competition for land and resources between elephants and humans. But. . . Bradshaw and several colleagues argue. . . that today’s elephant populations are suffering from a form of chronic stress, a kind of species-wide trauma. Decades of poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture. . . .
    Elephants, when left to their own devices, are profoundly social creatures. . . . Young elephants are raised within an extended, multitiered network of doting female caregivers that includes the birth mother, grandmothers, aunts and friends. These relations are maintained over a life span as long as 70 years. Studies of established herds have shown that young elephants stay within 15 feet of their mothers for nearly all of their first eight years of life, after which young females are socialized into the matriarchal network, while young males go off for a time into an all-male social group before coming back into the fold as mature adults. . . .
    This fabric of elephant society, Bradshaw and her colleagues [demonstrate], ha[s] effectively been frayed by years of habitat loss and poaching, along with systematic culling by government agencies to control elephant numbers and translocations of herds to different habitats. . . . As a result of such social upheaval, calves are now being born to and raised by ever younger and inexperienced mothers. Young orphaned elephants, meanwhile, that have witnessed the death of a parent at the hands of poachers are coming of age in the absence of the support system that defines traditional elephant life. “The loss of elephant elders,” [says] Bradshaw . . . "and the traumatic experience of witnessing the massacres of their family, impairs normal brain and behavior development in young elephants.”
    What Bradshaw and her colleagues describe would seem to be an extreme form of anthropocentric conjecture if the evidence that they’ve compiled from various elephant researchers. . . weren’t so compelling. The elephants of decimated herds, especially orphans who’ve watched the death of their parents and elders from poaching and culling, exhibit behavior typically associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related disorders in humans: abnormal startle response, unpredictable asocial behavior, inattentive mothering and hyper-aggression. . . .
    [According to Bradshaw], “Elephants are suffering and behaving in the same ways that we recognize in ourselves as a result of violence. . . . Except perhaps for a few specific features, brain organization and early development of elephants and humans are extremely similar.” 

    Q 1: The passage makes all of the following claims EXCEPT: 

    1. elephant mothers are evolving newer ways of rearing their calves to adapt to emerging threats. 

    2. the elephant response to deeply disturbing experiences is similar to that of humans. 

    3. human actions such as poaching and culling have created stressful conditions for elephant communities. 

    4. elephants establish extended and enduring familial relationships as do humans. 

    Q 2: Which of the following statements best expresses the overall argument of this passage? 

    1. Recent elephant behaviour could be understood as a form of species-wide trauma-related response. 

    2. Elephants, like the humans they are in conflict with, are profoundly social creatures. 

    3. The relationship between elephants and humans has changed from one of coexistence to one of hostility. 

    4. The brain organisation and early development of elephants and humans are extremely similar

    Q 3: Which of the following measures is Bradshaw most likely to support to address the problem of elephant aggression? 

    1. Funding of more studies to better understand the impact of testosterone on male elephant aggression. 

    2. The development of treatment programmes for elephants drawing on insights gained from treating post-traumatic stress disorder in humans. 

    3. Studying the impact of isolating elephant calves on their early brain development, behaviour and aggression. 

    4. Increased funding for research into the similarity of humans and other animals drawing on insights gained from human-elephant similarities. 

    Q 4: In paragraph 4, the phrase, “The fabric of elephant society . . . has(s) effectively been frayed by . . .” is: 

    1. an accurate description of the condition of elephant herds today. 

    2. a metaphor for the effect of human activity on elephant communities. 

    3. an exaggeration aimed at bolstering Bradshaw’s claims. 

    4. an ode to the fragility of elephant society today.

    Q 5: In the first paragraph, Bradshaw uses the term “violence” to describe the recent change in the human-elephant relationship because, according to him: 

    1. there is a purposefulness in human and elephant aggression towards each other. 

    2. elephant herds and their habitat have been systematically destroyed by humans. 

    3. human-elephant interactions have changed their character over time. 

    4. both humans and elephants have killed members of each other’s species

    ANSWERS: Q1. 4, Q2. 1, Q3. 2, Q4. 2, Q5. 1



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