To Comprehend, Or Not To Comprehend: Anirban Mukherjee
Anirban Mukherjee is a dual degree holder in Economics and Computer Science from BITS Pilani. He graduated in 2014 and has been working in Oracle ST as a software developer. He scored 99.53 in CAT 2015 and got calls from all old IIMs and will be joining IIM Calcutta for its 2016-18 batch. Anirban is a debating enthusiast on socioeconomic issues and politics and a self confessed foodie, movie buff and music lover.
I am no expert at cracking the Indian middle class gateway to management stardom known as CAT, but having scored a decent percentile this time by the sake of which I have managed to gain admission into IIM Calcutta, I feel worthy enough to write this article. While preparing for it, I had used the general resources that everyone does: coaching institute material, AIMCATS , SIMCATS, and Pagalguy fundae. One common thing that I had noticed in discussion forums is that the emphasis on the verbal part of the test is very less as compared to the amount of dialogue that takes place regarding quant and DI. People are regularly discussing about how to find the remainder of 123^75^100 when divided by 99 (which btw has less than 10^-9 % probability of coming in CAT, and an even lesser chance of you getting it right during the exam, so you might as well concentrate on boring profit and loss sums), but minimal discussion takes place about gaining an upper hand in the verbal section.
I managed to get my CAT percentile (99.53) with strong help from my verbal section (99.67), followed by Quant (98.3) and DI (97.15). The major chunk of the verbal section in CAT 2015 rested on testing reading comprehension skills, which was about 24 out of the 34 questions or nearly 71%. My article thus mentions some of the strategies one can use to ace any reading comprehension passage.
1. Be familiar with the content: This point is for those who do not possess a habit of reading on a daily basis. CAT RC passages often tend to focus on topics like social sciences, environmental issues, economical situations and organizational anecdotes. Sometimes we get long winded philosophical ones too based on the works of Aristotle or the plays of Shakespeare. For the first category, it is useful if one regularly reads articles or editorial pieces from The New York Times, the Economist, Vox or Indian ones such as the Hindu and the Indian Express. Passages might be directly derived from some of these publications. Philosophical passages would feel easier for those exposed to reading literature or classics in the past.
2. Modulate reading speed: Try to read fast over the portions of the passage which offer pure informational content and statistics and slow down over the parts which require understanding an argument. Questions are nearly always from the parts of the passage which involve dissecting an argument or analyzing some exception to a rule.
3. Identify the core argument: You must understand the underlying theme of the passage while you make a mental structure of it in your head. A question on the central theme is almost always there. Jot down points on the rough sheet to do this faster.
4. Don’t make unstated assumptions: One extremely important point is to avoid making unstated assumptions while reading the passage. It is possible for instance that we get a passage based on politics or on human rights which we are familiar with ( for example on the rise of Trump or on feminism) and we get so excited that we disregard the author’s viewpoint and use our own pre-existing biases to answer the questions and get everything incorrect. This sin is unforgivable when it comes to RCs.
5. Learn how to eliminate between two closest options: Finally we are often in the situation that we close in on two out of four options for an answer, and we cannot make up our mind. What we need to do is to go back to the passage, find the number of arguments in favour of both the options and compare. Or we find any possible counterargument or situation in the passage which gets violated by choosing one of our two options. Then we take a deep breath (optional) and select the right answer.
6. Learn which questions to leave: There will be one or two questions out of 24 which are framed weirdly, or options are not distinguishable enough, or you are plainly not being able to get it. These have been put for you to not attempt it and you should ideally not waste time on these questions and leave them right for the end, or outright skip them.
With these strategies, I was able to attempt 23 out of 24 questions in the RC section. (The part II section had no negative marking so I attempted all 10, making it 33 out of 34) I could say that I was confident of around 20 and guessed 3 of which I felt had a greater than 50% chance of being correct. I hope you find these tips useful and wishing you all the best for CAT 2016. Finally, at the end of the day, this is just another aptitude test, and maintaining good confidence and low stress will work wonders.