Jumbled Paragraphs - Primer

  • Director, Verbal Ability | Elite's Grid

    Parajumbles are among the most common constituents of any Aptitude test. In a Parajumble, we are given a paragraph (which is generally an extract of an article) with jumbled sentences. We have to rearrange the sentences in the right order so that the paragraph makes sense. PJs are one of the few areas in VA that even non-frequent readers can master. A few strategies to tackle PJs:

    1. Firstly, read the sentences and try to comprehend what the central idea or theme of the paragraph is.

    2. More often than not, the opening sentence is a vague generalization. The easiest method to solve PJs is to identify the opening statement and eliminate the options.

    3. Another way of making the job easier is to identify Mandatory Pairs. There will be various ways in which two sentence are inter-connected. We have to identify these and proceed with the elimination of irrelevant options. The most common links are:

      (i) Lists

      (ii) Examples and other follow ups.

      (iii) Connecting words such as ‘hence’, ‘therefore’, ‘thus’ etc.

      (iv) Continuation of an idea.

    4. The next step is to identify the last statement. Generally, identifying the last sentence is easier because we can apply the strategies of solving a para-completion to identify these. The last statement should conclude the paragraph, must be logically connected to the entire paragraph and should not be abrupt.

    5. The fastest way of solving any problem is to use logic and smart-work. Eliminate the options, work around the statements. There is no alternative of focus. If you can understand the paragraph, you are bound to get it right.

    A standard instruction for a PJ will be along the following lines:

    "Choose the most logical order of sentences from among the given choices to construct a coherent paragraph".

    Overtime I have realized that in speed focused exams like XAT, NMAT, IIFT, GMAT etc (read : all exams apart from CAT), one does not have the luxury of time and hence one has to quickly decide on how to approach a question.

    Of course there is no alternative of reading the entire question and then eliminating the options one by one – and this method is especially recommended for the first two, three months of your preparation but after that, you may want to focus on BOTH speed and accuracy. It won’t help if you solve 1 question per minute with only 60 percent accuracy or 1 question per 10 minutes with 100 percent accuracy. You need to solve the questions swiftly and get them RIGHT.

    Strategy 1: The 5 W approach

    5W approach refers to the 5 questions that you should ask yourself while reading the PJ. These are:

    • What: What does that pronoun refer to? what is the main idea? what is the structure? what is the author trying to say ?
    • Why: Why is this option wrong? Why the sudden transition? Why does this order makes sense ?
    • When: When did the event mentioned in the paragraph happens? When did author chose to give an example? What is the chronology ?
    • Who: Who is that He, She, They, etc in the para ?
    • Where: Where do the events take place? Where do these acronyms come from? What do the mean ?

    If you can answer these, you finally have the gist of the paragraph and you don’t even need the options to mark the right answer.

    Strategy 2: The beginning and the end

    A PJ is as good as the structure it fits. If you can identify the appropriate beginning and the conclusion or ending, in most of the cases you will either end up solving the question or eliminate most of the options. As mentioned earlier, the beginning of any paragraph is generally smooth. It will present a vague or general idea or problem without any specific case. Yes, there will be exceptions but identifying the appropriate introductory statement will never hurt.Same goes with the ending statement – it will either end up with a contrasting statement to the solution provided or a specific case of the problem introduced. Solving Para-completions will help you a long way to identify the appropriate concluding statement.

    Here is an example. Please try this using only the information and strategy discussed above.

    a. The when part at least is becoming clearer: After some academic skirmishes over the past decade, most biologists agree that the Pilbara Hills of Western Australia contain traces of life dating back nearly 3.5 billion years.
    b. The evidence for life gathered so far includes fossilized microbial mats called stramotolites and tiny features embedded in rocks, thought by many researchers to be microfossils.
    c. Recently, evidence has been found in the same region for an entire fossilized ecosystem.
    d. There are really three puzzles rolled into one here: the when, where and how of biogenesis.
    e. Now a focus of intense international research, the ancient rocks jut from arid hillsides in a wild and desolate terrain about four hour’s drive through the bush from the coastal town of Port Headland.

    1. daebc
    2. bdaec
    3. ebcda
    4. dabec

    The “when, where and how” in D hints at three further statements answering the questions in that order. A clearly answers the “when”, B answers the “where” and E answers the “how”. Hence DABE are in that order. C continues the mention of “the region” and thus should be placed immediately after E. Hence 4.

    The trick here is not to look at the paragraph as a whole and trying to identify the actual introductory statement and the conclusion, but to break down the paragraph based on its structure and then selecting the correct order in which the statements fits as a pair, a triplet or more. Glance at the options to determine which statement can be the opening statement so as to limit down my choices of first statement. Then, try to connect the statements with others, eliminate a few options and proceed. Then try to find the mandatory pairs. Sometimes they are easy to spot - the structure, examples etc (more on this in a while) give you a hint. But that's all. Most of the times that is enough to solve the question. But, under any circumstances, do not make the mistake of reading the options first and then trying to arrange the sentences in that order so as to check whether that makes sense or not. This is the biggest mistake you can make with respect to VA.

    Strategy 3: Structutre

    As mentioned earlier, comprehending the structure helps a long way to crack the parajumbles. A few common structures are:

    1. General Problem to specific, case based problem, and it’s solution
    2. Cause and effect relationship.
    3. An idea, its details, a contrasting idea and the latter’s details.
    4. A generalization and it’s argument with examples
    5. An idea and it’s examples with a counter argument
    6. A general problem with a course of action.
    7. An act and its counter citing examples.

    A few examples:

    A. Events intervened, and in the late 1930s and 1940s, Germany suffered from “over-branding”.
    B. The British used to be fascinated by the home of Romanticism.
    C. But reunification and the federal government's move to Berlin have prompted Germany to think again about its image.
    D. The first foreign package holiday was a tour of Germany organized by Thomas Cook in 1855.
    E. Since then, Germany has been understandably nervous about promoting itself abroad.

    a. ACEBD
    b. DECAB
    c. BDAEC
    d. DBAEC

    AE is a mandatory pair as A introduces the cause and E gives the effect.­ Hence, A,B are eliminated. Going by chronology of events, D should precede AE, and as B introduces the idea of travel before Germany suffered over branding. Hence C is the correct option.

    A. While caste discrimination is banned, caste associations may be difficult to proscribe.
    B. In these circumstances, caste rallies cannot be proscribed by judicial fiats, not because they are prone to misapplication but because the Constitution guarantees all forms of social association.
    C. However, it also protects against discrimination on the grounds of religion, creed, caste and gender.
    D. This is a subtle distinction that needs to be kept in mind.
    E. And in certain circumstances, positive caste discrimination in favour of historically disadvantaged groups is permitted too.

    1. BCDAE
    2. ABCDE
    3. ADBCE
    4. BDCAE

    Correct sequence is BCDAE. B gives an outline of the paragraph by introducing the problem. C further continues it. The "it" in C refers to the constitution. D further outlines and contrasts the points mentioned in B and C. Therefore BCD is a mandatory triplet. E logically follows A, and thus AE is another pair, in that order. But A can not be the appropriate opening statement as it lacks context. Hence BCDAE - 1.

    Strategy 4: The flow of Ideas

    also, again, as well as, besides, furthermore, in addition, likewise, moreover, similarly, consequently, hence, otherwise, subsequently, therefore, thus, as a rule, generally, for instance, for example, for one thing, above all, aside from, barring, besides, in other words, in short, instead, likewise, on one hand, on the other hand, rather, similarly, yet, but, however, still, nevertheless, first of all, to begin with, at the same time, for now, for the time being, in time, later on, meanwhile, next, then, soon, the meantime, later, while, earlier, simultaneously, afterward, in conclusion, with this in mind, after all, all in all, to sum up Etc, are examples of words that smoothen up the flow of ideas. They organize and connect the sentences logically.

    An example from CAT 2001:

    A. Passivity is not, of course, universal.
    B. In areas where there are no lords or laws, or in frontier zones where all men go armed, the attitude of the peasantry may well be different.
    C. So indeed it may be on the fringe of the un-submissive.
    D. However, for most of the soil-bound peasants the problem is not whether to be normally passive or active, but when to pass from one state to another.
    E. This depends on an assessment of the political situation.

    1. BEDAC
    2. CDABE
    3. EDBAC
    4. ABCDE

    One of the easiest questions to ever appear in the CAT and one that could be solved in seconds. CD is a mandatory pair here. One doesn’t need to be a genius to realize that the ‘it’ in C refers to the attitude mentioned in B. And D presents a counter statement, which can be placed only immediately after C – a supporting statement. Hence the answer is 4, because of the link CD

    Strategy 5: CHRONOLOGY

    Dates, time periods or events are also a very good way of cracking PJs. The chronology should be right.

    When, etc are the words you should look for.

    Two more examples.

    1. To get a head start, early the next morning the farmer started covering ground quickly because he wanted to get as much land as he could.
    2. Late in the afternoon he realized the condition he had to fulfil to get the land was to get back to the starting point by sundown.
    3. Even though he was tired, he kept going all afternoon because he did not want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to gain more wealth.
    4. There is a story about a wealthy who was once offered all the land he could walk on in a day, provided he come back by sundown to the point where he started.

    A. 4312
    B. 3124
    C. 4132
    D. 4123

    1 comes after 4 as it follow the story beginning in 4. 3 follows 4 - the time factors mentioned in the statement is indicative of this. 2 concludes the process and reveals the mistake. Hence C.

    A) Nehru was a voracious reader: he read 55 books from May 21, 1922 till January 29, 1923 alone.
    B ) He delved into philosophy, and turned the pages of history to illuminate his understanding of the ideas and movements, which stood apart as the catalyst for momentous changes.
    C) In so doing, he looked through other people’s writings to understand how simple, ordinary men and women became heroes, and how their strivings made history stirring and epoch-making.
    D) Prison had made a man of him, he told the Socialist leader, Acharya Narendra Deva (1889-1956), while they were in jail for the last time in 1942.

    1. BDCA
    2. DACB
    3. ABCD
    4. ADBC

    A mentions 1923, D states 1942, so logically, A should come before D. Hence, we can eliminate option 1 and 2. From the remaining options and the structure of para,we can conclude that BC is a mandatory pair. B should be placed immediately after A as B continues the idea presented – Nehru read books, books about what? Hence, 3

    Strategy 6: YOUR BRAIN and LOGIC!

    As mentioned in almost all my posts, there is no alternative of applying logic to questions. You should have common sense to figure out how and why a sentence should be placed to structure the paragraph. For example, if one writes an article on human anatomy, it is evident that one would generally start from the brain and move to other parts in a logical sequence. An author will not place toes immediately after explaining synapses and muscles.

    1. Arrived here on Sunday by an early morning flight.
    2. Dubai-based Win Gautam who is the
    3. Accused in the Rs 50 crore Before guns kickback case.
    4. He is scheduled to appear in the trial court By Wednesday.

    A. 2134
    B. 2314
    C. 1432
    D. 1342

    Logic will take you places. 23 is a sentence as nothing else can come after the trailing question statement in 2. And now, the logic. If I have to appear in the trial court on Wed, I will be in the city prior to that. Hence 1 should come before 4. Because if the order was reversed, it would imply that I missed my meeting as I landed in the city on a Sunday AFTER the trial took place.

    Strategy 7: Looking out for the clues in a paragraph, there can be many types

    1. Personal or demonstrative pronouns
    2. Acronyms
    3. hints
    4. transition phrases

    How this is useful: Sentence A mentions a person, say Balram Okaka, and sentence B states that “HE is managing White House efficiently. Hence we can conclude that A should come before B

    Another sitter:

    1. His political career came to an abrupt end with China's military operation.
    2. He attracted as as repelled.
    3. He was responsible for the debacle.
    4. A man of paradoxes, Menon remained an enigma.

    A. 4312
    B. 1342
    C. 4213
    D. 4123

    1,2,3 mention ‘he’ and only 4 contain a name. So, 4 should be the starting sentence. Now, 13 is a mandatory pair as ‘attraction’ mentioned in 2 cannot mean a debacle. Furthermore, 2 introduces the analogy of attraction, repulsion and the debacle that ensued. Hence C.


    Also dubbed as the "Chhota Rajan" approach, this strategy aims at looking for the acronyms. It relies on the assumption that if a para has any acronyms, then any sentence containing the extended form or full name of the acronym should be generally placed before that sentence.


    1. If you are used to having your stimulation come in from outside, your mind never develops its own habits of thinking and reflecting
    2. Marx thought that religion was the opiate, because it soothed people's pain and suffering and prevented them from rising in rebellion
    3. If Karl Marx was alive today, he would say that television is the opiate of the people.
    4. Television and similar entertainments are even more of an opiate because of their addictive tendencies.

    A. 2134
    B. 1423
    C. 2431
    D. 3241

    D is the right answer. 32 is a a mandatory pair as 3 has the full name of Karl Marx. 4 follows 2, the link is the “opiate” tendencies of religion and then the juxtaposition provided in 4.

    Tip: Always look out for any word or words that might give you a hint on how to proceed further. Some examples are: Accordingly, in order to, because, so...that, consequently, therefore, given, thus, hence, when...then, if...then, Premise, Conclusion, Support, Example, Continuation, Furthermore, Additionally, Also, And, Too, as well, besides, indeed, likewise, moreover etc..

    Always look for similarities and contrasts presented in the paragraph. Generally, a paragraph is structured as:

    1. Argument/ Idea
    2. Similarity/ Example
    3. Contrast/ difference
    4. Conclusion

    Look for conjunctions, sentence adverbs, etc. that indicate a relationship two ideas. Words like: Albeit, Nevertheless, Although, Nonetheless, But, Notwithstanding, Despite, on the contrary, even though, on the other hand, however, rather than, In contrast, Still, In spite of, While, Instead of, yet.

    Strategy 8: Demonstrative pronouns

    This, That, These, Those etc, are demonstrative pronouns.And we know "This" and "that" refer to singular nouns and "these" and "those" refer to plural nouns.Just like Personal Pronouns, Demonstrative pronouns can also be used to identify mandatory pairs. If a sentence uses “these”, we can easily infer that generally, the preceding sentence should explain what “these” refer to.

    Another Ex:

    1. They argue that it is this, which has led to the bankruptcy in many states.
    2. Here was a commission whose members worked very hard, did exemplary research and homework, before coming up with a list of recommendations that balanced economic efficiency with safety nets for disadvantaged labour.
    3. It reminds us of the political shenanigans during the implementation of the Fifth pay Commission.
    4. How many times have you heard experts, politicians and the finance minister refer to the implementation of the pay hikes following the commission's report as the singular cause for the increase in government expenditure?
    5. Barring P. Chidambram, who was then the finance minister, every single political party and politician opposed the implementation of the recommendations and are directly responsible for the current fiscal crises in the Centre and the states.

    A. 42513
    B. 34125
    C. 25143
    D. 45213

    41 is a mandatory pair as ‘they’ in 1 can only refer to the parties mentioned in 4 - experts, politicians and the finance minister. Hence B. Solved in less than 15 seconds!
    CAT questions are generally snipped and cropped out of news articles (especially from the economist, hindu and occasionally ToI), They are generally the first paragraphs of the articles. But sometimes, as in this question, the question is cropped from the middle of the article. And hence, sentences starting from pronouns are a possibility, however bleak. "it" cannot refer to politicians. I understand the notion behind "politicians are not human" but we still refer to them with "they" or "them".
    Only statement 2 mentions anything about the hard-work and the positive aspects of the commission along with their recommendations. 5 rebuffs the positive aspects of the research by stating the adage that it causes fiscal crisis. So 25 is another mandatory pair. seldom you will encounter a question where one statement does not make sense in any order whatsoever (here, that statement is 3). In these cases, almost always, that irrelevant statement can be placed at the beginning of the para. Always remember, the mid sentences will always be structured, and the concluding statement will be smooth and relevant in such cases. As an author, I can tell you this that no sane writer ever jumps from one idea to another without a few transition words. The beginning of a para may seem weird, but it can not defy the flow and structure.
    in more general terms. I will first combine the sentences:

    Can " Barring P. Chidambram, who was then the finance minister, every single political party and politician opposed the implementation of the recommendations and are directly responsible for the current fiscal crises in the Centre and the states. " be the reason why many states went into bankruptcy?

    Or, the states getting bankrupted is an argument used to rebuke the recommendation?

    To state it in more general terms. I will first combine the sentences:

    Can " Barring P. Chidambram, who was then the finance minister, every single political party and politician opposed the implementation of the recommendations and are directly responsible for the current fiscal crises in the Centre and the states. " be the reason why many states went into bankruptcy?

    Or, the states getting bankrupted is an argument used to rebuke the recommendation?

    1. The paternalism of the Planning Commission has outlived its time.
    2. One is the baseless distinction between Plan and non-Plan expenditure, which has led to all sorts of distortions in resource transfers.
    3. Second, it should restructure centrally sponsored schemes in order to restore the fiscal space of the States.
    4. The body, rightly informed by the principle of the government being an "enabler rather than provider of first and last resort", has other messes to sort out.

    A. 1234
    B. 4231
    C. 3241
    D. 4123

    This one is fairly simple. Since 2 and 3 are part of a list, they should be in continuation, hence 23 is a mandatory pair. Thus, we can eliminate option C. Now, “other messes to sort out” in 4 indicates that it should be placed before a list, that is 23. Hence 423 is a mandatory pair. Thus we can safely eliminate A and D. Hence option B is the correct order.

    Another (and quicker) way of solving this question is the elimination of options. Either 1 or 4 have to be the opening sentence, thus we can safely eliminate C. This also helps us to determine that there isn’t any other sentence between 2 and 3, as the order is same in the rest of the options. 4 will precede 2 and 3, as discussed above, thereby leaving us with only 1 option – B.

    5 sentence Parajumble.

    The structure is the same as a 4 sentence PJ - except there are 5 sentences that have to be rearranged. The previous question was an example. Here is another one:

    1. The Civil Aviation Ministry should learn from history and stop meddling with the cycle of creative destruction and with the forces of a free market.
    2. But the Centre should not be playing knight in shining armor, particularly at a time when public sector banks have enough bad debt on their hands.
    3. It may be recalled that no good came out of banks being forced to convert a chunk of their loans to the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines into equity, and that too at a stiff premium on the market price.
    4. But there is a very thin line between a professed commitment to customer welfare and unwanted interference.
    5. It is by no means certain at this juncture that SpiceJet will go the Kingfisher way; it may well earn a fresh lease of life if the funding that it is trying to cobble together materializes.

    A. 41352
    C. 53241

    Sentence 3 gives a story and sentence 5 takes it further. Hence, 35 is a mandatory pair. Sentence four gives a generalization and 1 relates it to the given scenario of the CAM interfering with the operations of Airlines and forces of free market. Thus, 14 is a mandatory pair. Sentence 2 logically follows 35 and concludes the paragraph too. Hence the correct sequence is A (41352).
    Tip: You will seldom find a specific case being discussed in the opening statement. The mention of Kingfisher and Spicejet without any background information is sufficient to eliminate C.

    1. He is like a Kantian listening to consequentialist arguments: he refuses to think that way.
      2.But on the other hand, that is "not what they should say, given their position as a whole".
    2. Suppose Jones has a religious conviction that he should base his political views on his religious convictions.
    3. Jones listens to the arguments and objections of others with different views, but is unconvinced.
    4. On the one hand, public reason liberals might seem to tell Jones to refrain from public discussion and voting.

    A. 34152
    C. 52341
    D. 35241

    A specific example following the detailed arguments. As evident from the options, 52 is a mandatory pair. 3 introduces a specific scenario and hence is the best introductory statement. Also, 4 presents a scenario, an idea, and 1 further provides details to that specific idea. Hence 41 is another mandatory pair. Now, 41 should be placed before 52 as the “that is what they should say” in 4 clearly refers to the liberals’ opinions. Hence A is the correct sequence. When you are facing a problem to decide on which pair should follow which, isolate the statements in half and make two pairs: 1st and 4th, and 2nd and 3rd (-- that is 15 and 24 in the above case) and try to analyse whether the statements make sense.

    6 sentence parajumbles with both the opening and last sentence fixed in the right place.

    1. India, which has two out of every five TB patients in the world, is on the brink of a major public health disaster.
      A. If untreated, a TB patient can die within five years.
      B. Unlike AIDS, the great curse of modern sexuality, the TB germ is airborne, which means there are no barriers to its spread.
      C. The dreaded infection ranks fourth among major killers worldwide.
      D. Every minute, a patient falls prey to the infection in India, which means that over five lakh people die of the disease annually.
    2. Anyone, anywhere can be affected by this disease.

    a. CADB
    b. BACD
    c. ABCD
    d. DBAC
    e. DACB

    1C is a mandatory pair as C gives a brief outline of the harms of the infection. B6 is another mandatory pair as B gives the medium of spread, the reason or cause; 6 gives the effect. Ans is 1.

    From a theory perspective, that is all there is for Parajumbles. I hope you learned something worthwhile

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