Para Completions - A Primer

  • Director, Verbal Ability | Elite's Grid

    Para-completions, technically a part of Critical Reasoning segment of Aptitude Tests, has been an area that a lot of students avoid like a plague. Here is an attempt to make the segment seem easier.

    Introductory Question:

    To appreciate why the debate about academic freedom is not yet exhausted, and probably never will be exhausted, we need to understand two points. First, that while there is something special about the academy that requires freedom of speech, there is nothing that should make us privilege academic freedom above other forms of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is a right, not a privilege. We need to defend academic freedom. But we need to recognize, too, that freedom of expression in the academy is intimately related to freedom of expression more widely in society. Our ability to defend academic freedom is intimately linked to our ability and willingness to defend freedom of expression more widely. So, I will talk today about the academy and academic freedom. __________

    1. And second, to defend free speech, whether in the academy or in society more widely, we need to know not simply why freedom of expression is important but also in what ways that freedom is being threatened.
    2. But I will talk much more about the wider social context of free speech and the assault upon it.
    3. The second point is an extension of the first.
    4. And the attack on free speech lies in our own freedom, for free speech is freedom.

    Pause for a moment now before looking at the answer below. Make a note of how you’re approaching the question.

    Ans - 2
    Source -
    Time taken to set the question and 2 answer choices: 78 seconds (Important point, will be discussed)

    Explanation: Focusing solely on the last couple of lines is easy to arrive at the answer - 2.
    1 and 3 can be easily eliminated as they don't conclude the paragraph but introduces a new idea.
    4 is out of context.
    Here, the current para needs to be concluded. You will seldom come across cases where a new idea is introduced in the concluding sentences.

    Moving on. In Para-completions, we have to determine the last line that logically follows the given paragraph. A few pointers:

    1. The last sentence should conclude the sentence, and not just continue it.
    2. Another strategy is to eliminate the seemingly general and out-of-context sentences
    3. Generally, the last sentence should not introduce any new information and merely outline the idea presented in the paragraph.
    4. Logical connectives are the things that you should be looking for: Any continuation of list? Any examples to carry on the statements mentioned?

    Para-completion is nothing else but a test of your comprehension skills. All it asks of you is to complete a missing line from a paragraph, and this line is generally the last line of the paragraph. It is a pretty simple thing to do, isn’t it?

    Here are a few tips in a nutshell. These will be elaborated further.

    1. Comprehend The Paragraph.
    2. Identify the thought and main idea of the paragraph.
    3. Eliminate irrelevant options.
    4. Continue the thought identified in the Paragraph.

    Have a look at this CAT question:

    The audiences for crosswords and Sudoku, understandably, overlap greatly, but there are differences, too. A crossword attracts a more literary person, while Sudoku appeals to a keenly logical mind. Some crossword enthusiasts turn up their noses at Sudoku because they feel it lacks depth. A good crossword requires vocabulary, knowledge, mental flexibility and sometimes even a sense of humor to complete. It touches numerous areas of life and provides an “Aha!” or two along the way. ( _____________)

    1. Sudoku, on the other hand, is just a logical exercise, each one similar to the last.
    2. Sudoku, incidentally, is growing faster in popularity than crosswords, even among the literati.
    3. Sudoku, on the other hand, can be attempted and enjoyed even by children.
    4. Sudoku, however, is not exciting in any sense of the term.

    Pause (again) for a moment now before looking at the answer below. Make a note of how you’re approaching the question.

    First Things first: Read the paragraph completely to determine what it is all about. The first step, and the most important one, to solve any problem, is to understand that problem. As they say, Knowing is winning half the battle.
    And one doesn’t need to be an expert to see that this paragraph is about crossword puzzles and how they are better than Sudoku.

    Second thing: Identify the main idea: The multi-dimension nature of crosswords.

    Third thing: Continue the thread of thought keeping in mind the main idea.

    Keeping the above in mind, we reach our answer: Option 1.
    It continues the main theme of the paragraph while moving away from the last line but being in touch with the thought of the last line. It acts as the perfect contrast for crosswords and what it does not offer in comparison

    The important Point: Getting inside the examiner's head:
    Notice, how a general PC question is framed:
    Don't just solve this, notice the structure.
    Good so far? Let’s move on to another important point:

    Coming to the point from the previous and the first question: The takeaway is that although the paragraph is selected very carefully, the options are not.
    Generally, the test maker will just select the next sentence as an option of the para.
    And will make two options based on the content of the paragraph.
    This is both good news and bad news. As the probability of getting a decent article whose paragraphs can be separated from one another without much effort is nonexistent, but the good news is, it is possible to separate the sentences and articles.

    This is where reading and practice comes into the picture.
    I have generally seen people who are good in reasoning fair very well in PC and PJ because more than knowledge of language these two topics demand analytical knowledge.

    Summing up:

    The paper setter will take a short paragraph from a book or an article and remove the last sentence. Now, he has to make three good, but incorrect, choices that are on the same lines as the author. NOT AN EASY TASK.
    So there have to be many similarities between the paragraph and the correct answer.
    There is only one strategy: Identify these similarities and details and you are good to go.

    Strategy 2: Scope
    It largely refers to the subject of the passage and the main idea contained therein. The answer choice should roughly follow the same scope as the question main idea.

    Example: If the passage discusses the process of rains, options about global warming are highly unlikely to be correct.

    When a choice is out of scope, it is discussing issues or subjects that are different from those in the passage. To generalize, any option that is not in sync with the scope of the passage will be incorrect and should be eliminated. Well, with a few exceptions of course.

    Strategy 3: Continuity
    An issue that has been discussed and closed in the paragraph will not be taken up again. It is the last thought or issue that has to be taken forward and not something that is dead and buried. The ideas presented needs to be continued and concluded. The last line will not merely continue the ideas presented, but also conclude it smoothly.

    Strategy 4: Tone and Writing Style

    More often than not, the writing style of an author remains similar throughout a passage. Unless the author is James Joyce, off course no one shifts to a different writing style, not in the same paragraph.

    Example: If half the paragraph follows narration style, the answer choice will also follow the same style, instead of descriptive one.

    Similarly, if the author of the paragraph has a favorable opinion on an issue then the correct answer choice should also reflect it. The tone of the passage and the correct answer choice has to be the same. If the passage is laudatory, it is not possible for the correct answer choice to be critical.

    Strategy 5: Parallel Structure.
    The structure is maintained throughout in the passage. The lines of reasoning are either similar or contrasting.

    If I am describing the pros of love marriage, and to continue on similar lines, I will describe the pros of arranged marriage too in the description.
    An author doesn't make jump shifts while writing an article. And most of the times, he will use an analogy to present an argument in a better way.

    1. I am sometimes attacked for imposing 'rules'. Nothing could be further from the truth. I hate rules. All I do is report on how consumers react to different stimuli. I may say to a copywriter, "Research shows that commercials with celebrities are below average in persuading people to buy products. Are you sure you want to use a celebrity?" Call that a rule? Or I may say to an art director, "Research suggests that if you set the copy in black type on a white background, more people will read it than if you set it in white type on a black background."

    (CAT 2006)

    1. Guidance based on applied research can hardly qualify as 'rules'.
    2. Thus, all my so called 'rules' are rooted in applied research.
    3. A suggestion perhaps, but scarcely a rule.
    4. Such principles are unavoidable if one wants to be systematic about consumer behavior.
    5. Fundamentally it is about consumer behavior - not about celebrities or type settings.

    Pause (yet again) for a moment now before looking at the answer below. Make a note of how you’re approaching the question.

    Explanation: The paragraph starts with the author mentioning that he does not impose ‘rules’. To validate his assertion he gives two examples, X and Y. And then see the structure-
    Example X followed by “Call that a rule?”
    Example Y followed by….
    what will you choose except option 3? You need a sentence which would point to example Y, implying that Y is not a rule.

    Strategy 6: Contrast Structure.

    Just like the last one, this too falls on the same lines.
    Generally, the author will present two ideas or objects and contrast the two, mostly unbiased. Better explained with an example.

    Question on Contrast Structure:
    In the evolving world order, the comparative advantage of the United States lies in its military force.
    Diplomacy and international law have always been regarded as annoying encumbrances, unless they can be used to advantage against an enemy. Every active player in world affairs professes to seek only peace and to prefer negotiation to violence and coercion.

    (CAT 2006)

    1. However, diplomacy has often been used as a mask by nations which intended to use force.
    2. However, when the veil is lifted, we commonly see that diplomacy is understood as a disguise for the rule of force.
    3. However, history has shown that many of these nations do not practice what they profess.
    4. However, history tells us that peace is professed by those who intend to use violence.
    5. However, when unmasked, such nations reveal a penchant for the use force.

    Pause (one more time!) for a moment now before looking at the answer below. Make a note of how you’re approaching the question.

    Solution: If you see the contrast happening between diplomacy and use of force you will end up with option 1 and 2. Option 2 has to be chosen because it is providing an intended contrast to “Each player professes to seek..” by the words “when the veil is lifted..”. If you go by the implied meaning of “someone is professing to have or do something…” you automatically get a notion that something is hidden behind. And the words “veil is lifted…” bring out the notion in words by telling you that the hidden thing is unmasked.

    Another Question?

    When Houdini made the decision to focus on escapes instead of magic tricks, it was considered professional suicide. There wasn’t a market for escape acts. There wasn’t a demand for it. It had never been done before. No one knew what it was worth and no one could tell him how long or how demanding his act should be.
    Who could have imagined that Houdini would succeed by spending more than an hour and a half doing just one trick, in a closed room, out of sight of the audience?
    Where is it written in the magician’s manual that the best way to become famous ___________

    1. is to fake not only the outcome but the event itself?
    2. is to fake only the outcome not the event itself?
    3. is to fake neither the outcome nor the event?
    4. is to fake either the outcome or the event?

    Solution: Option 1.

    Pause (Okay, last time) for a moment now before looking at the answer below. Make a note of how you’re approaching the question.

    A magician’s act is dependent on the skill of the magician. How well can he fake the outcome? He always uses tricks to perform magic. Fake cards, Fake hats, Fake wands etc. are used to come to the desired outcome. Houdini would perform the trick out of sight of the audience, which means not only the outcome was faked but the event itself was faked.

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  • The ultimate article here.
    4 Rules to Crack the Paragraph Completion questions in the CAT
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