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Plan for CAT RC Preparation

If you are reading this, I assume you understand the importance of CAT RCs: they accounted for 70% of the questions last year, and we can expect something similar this year. So what can be done for this mighty bugbear? RCs might be giving you sleepless nights, and you might be urgently in need of a fix for this area. Well, I have a simple roadmap that you should follow.

Your CAT RC Arsenal

The first step for winning the battle with CAT RCs is to accumulate the resources you need to fight this battle. At this stage, I strongly recommend the following resources for RC practice:

For Basic Level-1 Practice: CAT 1995-1999
For Medium Level-2 Practice: CAT 2000-2008 (some CAT passages in this set will be of Level-3 nature).
For Advanced Level-3 Practice: Mock CATs of major CAT players.

I have significantly simplified the above guidelines, and you might face some hurdles. For example, there will be passages in the CAT 2000-2008 set that will challenge you at times and might be of the Level-3 variety. So kindly be prepared for that. But overall, you will be able to cover a comprehensive set of reading material and reading levels in the passages above. It will provide you 360-degree coverage of RC topics.

Remember, this is only one part of the prep. The second part, General Reading, is covered in the last section of this article.

How to approach CAT RC practice?

In simple terms, you need to establish your current proficiency levels. Once you have done that, you can pick a suitable level to start your practice. The only caveat here is that lower the level, higher the practice required.

Recommended practice:
Level-1: If you are at this level, solve at least 6 Level-1 passages and 1 Level-2 passage; a total of 7 passages a day at least. You should do this for the next 15 days, and then you should shift to Level-2.
Level-2: If you are at this level, solve at least 3 Level-2 passages and 1 Level-3 passage; this makes it a total of 4 passages a day at least. Do this for 15 days and then shift to Level-3.
Level-3: If you are at this level, then solve 3 Level-3 passages a day. Remember, this is the minimum amount of practice required in a day.

Caveat: If you solve a good level section test or attempt a mock on any given day, that covers your RC practice for the day. Make sure you carry out the analysis in this case and perfect your learning from each RC passage.

How to attempt Practice Reading Comprehensions?

Broadly speaking, there are two approaches possible while solving a passage:
Questions first: Read the question stems before you solve the passage.
Passage first: Read the passage before you attempt the question.
My order of mentioning the above approaches should provide you with a subtle hint so as to the approach I prefer: I like to read the questions first. The reason is very simple: my mind shifts to the ninja mode and starts searching for the relevant information while reading. In a way, this enables the mind to know what to search for in the passage.

Remember, I am not suggesting that you adopt this particular approach but simply stating what works for me. What you should do is check your accuracy for these approaches and see what works for you.

Once you have identified your approach, this brings us to the second part of solving the passage: how do you read a passage? One short and simple reply is: ACTIVE READING.

It is a simple method where you already have a set of instructions for your brain while reading the passage. What are these instructions? Ask your brain to do the following:
a. Focus on the main ideas of each paragraph.
b. Identify the central theme of the passage.
c. Identify the key evidence presented by the author.
d. Identify key inflexion points; these are places where the author introduces a contrary argument.
e. Identify the style of the author (factual/opinionated/analytical/narrative/critical/criticising).
f. Identify key elements that link with the question stems.

Once you keep the above in mind, what happens is you kill one important human tendency: the tendency to waver while reading. This is the one thing which kills us while reading. As soon as we encounter something new or challenging, the brain starts to waver and head into other directions. You need to stop that, and you do that by channelling your energy in the above directions. Instruct your brain to think along certain lines only and then you will see a noticeable difference in the quality of your reading. Yes, you heard me right. You can become a quality reader by following the above advice.

How to analyse Practice Reading Comprehensions?

Well, this is the key part of your daily RC practice. Now that you have applied the key principles of ‘ACTIVE READING’ to your RC practice sessions, you need to figure out how to analyse your attempt as well. The key elements for analysing RC passages are:

1. Basic step
Make sure you again attempt the questions you got wrong in the first attempt. This is a fairly common-sense thing to do, right?

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2. Get your GUT FEEL right
Make sure you glance your correct answers and identify the ones you got right on the basis of LOGIC and on the basis of GUT FEELING. This is the telling blow for your Verbal Ability Scoring Consistency: scoring consistency can be elusive for a lot of you. There are times when you do very well and then others when you score miserably? Our GUT FEELING is to blame for this. This is just one aspect that you cannot control and the day your gut-feel deserts you, your scores tumble. This is why it is critical for you to analyse your attempts and check what proportion of your correct answers fall into this category. Try to understand the logic behind these questions and improve your comprehension abilities.

3. Do not fuss about Vocabulary
Vocabulary is important, but the not the be all and end all of your RC attempts. Learn 5 to 7 new words from every passage and stop just about there.

4. Instead of Vocabulary, focus on Subject Knowledge
This is the critical part of Reading Comprehensions. Instead of focusing on particular words, focus on particular traits of knowledge in a passage. For example, if the passage is based on Neo-liberal economics, make sure you explore all related terms to this branch of economics and develop an understand of this domain. This is what will help you deal with passages based on economics. The subjects you might encounter would be such as psychology, philosophy, sociology, etc. and it is extremely vital for you to prepared for key terminologies from these subjects. Once you are familiar with keywords from these subjects, it will be far easier for you to understand passages from these contexts.

The above are the four analysis points that you should keep in mind while solving RC passages. This brings us to the last part of this article, Reading for CAT RCs.

Reading for CAT RCs

This is a tough one. You must be severely challenged for time and this is the stage where you need to strike an ideal balance with preparation for other subjects as well. I wish I could have said that you simply need to practice RCs at this stage and not worry about reading. But this is not the case. You need to make sure you keep reading every day. Make sure you read 3 to 5 quality articles every day. Take out little snippets of time during the day. Do not make reading a sole activity for a stretch of time. Instead, take out mini-breaks among your other preparation activities and read an article or two for 10 to 15 minutes. This way, your preparation for other areas will not be hampered, and you will be able to read.

With this, I complete the first article in this series of posts on CAT RCs. I will be posting articles focusing exclusively on each aspect of RC prep in the next few 2 weeks. All the articles will be put up in a common repository on the homepage so that you do need to search for this series of articles.

Do post your RC woes in the comment section below.

Happy Learning..:)

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