If yes, then the following might the most important article you will read, especially wrt VA section.
Before I ventured into teaching VA for CAT, I studied Pharmacy where I learnt in Pharmacokinetics that in order to bring about a drastic change in the rate of a pharmaceutical process, we must alter the step that dictates the phenomenon the most. Trying to manipulate a step which has little significance would barely bring any perceptible change. Same, my friends, is true for your CAT preparation!! You are at, say, 50 percentile and wish to jump to 99+. How do you think you are going to make that big a jump? There are topics and subtopics in each of the three sections, but are all of them equally critical? If not then which are the ones on which your performance in the exam broadly rests? A wise man proportions his belief to the available evidence. So let us look at some data to see the distribution of the 34 VA questions across different broad question categories – Reading Comprehension (RC), Critical Reasoning (CR), Grammar and Vocabulary, in that order.
CAT 20——-18————–8—————–0————————0 (CAT 20 had 26 Qs in VA instead of the usual 34 in the preceding 6 yrs)
a) recent trend has to be a parameter of relevance. I am sure that while preparing for your end-semester exams, you pick the end-sem papers of previous 3-4 years as your cornerstone, and do not worry what was asked 10-15 years back.
b) there has been remarkable consistency in the number of questions asked in CAT (100) and in the individual sections (34 in VA) in the last 5 years, before which it is hard to find such consistency and thus difficult to observe any clear pattern.
One may also point out that I am focusing on only one exam wherein there is a multitude of other tests that do have quite a few, or perhaps a lot of, questions from Grammar and vocabulary sub-sections. Understand that CAT is the mother of all MBA entrance exams you would appear for, for no other exam acts as a gateway to so many and such illustrious colleges, including the elite IIMs. There is a reason the name of most of your study groups on watsapp and Telegram is CAT preparation and not MBA entrances preparation!
I discuss at length in my classes why CR, and especially RC, remain such darlings of CAT and the cornerstone for any test that wishes to ascertain your rationality, however, I will steer clear of that discussion here for the want of time. The point is VA in CAT, in the present context, is all about RC and CR. If I further breakdown CR, we see that almost all the questions asked under this broad category in the recent years are from 3 topics – Summary, Parajumbles and Out of Context. While the first two are known old devils that have been appearing in CAT since always, Out of Context is a recent, somewhat unique (and cryptic) addition. I may choose to write about this question type some other night if I so feel like, and that, I am sure, will ruffle a few feathers here and there 😛
So that brings us back to what we started with. Is what we are focusing on as important as much we are focusing? Are we sure we are not fixated on certain areas because we are good at them or because we find them interesting? You can be the stud who knows almost every word in the newspaper, but what would you do with that vocabulary if there are no questions where it is tested? Grammar could well be made out to be almost half the syllabus in terms of volume, but what’s the point of your spending so much time and effort on it if you will barely get any questions that require any understanding of grammar? Also, I hope we are not avoiding proportionate effort in some areas owing to the amount of labour it would take there or because it requires us to do things beyond our comfort zone. You know which area I am alluding to 😝
Think. Reflect. ADAPT.
With my 10 years of experience of teaching VA for CAT, and having scored over 99 percentile in VA section on many occasions, if there is one thing that I can say is sure to catalyse your accuracy and improve your comprehension in RC and most of CR questions (all in CAT), it is READING DIVERSE GENRES. Whenever you read CAT RC passages (RCs), the single biggest factor that governs your comprehension of that passage is your familiarity with the field/genre to which that RC belongs. Understand that CAT makers do not write these passages themselves. These passages are basically excerpts taken from articles posted on internationally renowned magazines and websites such as http://time.com/, https://www.nytimes.com/, https://www.theguardian.com/ international etc. So whoever writes these articles, does so for the readers of these websites and magazines. And like any other article, these belong to a particular genre and thus find place in the relevant section of the magazine or newspaper before they are picked up by someone to be turned into an RC.
Now when we read or watch anything, we go for something of our choice- a young college girl might like to read a fashion magazine, a sports fan would pick up Sportstar or watch sports channel, my political enthusiast father would prefer the front page of the newspaper and watch political debates, I would confine myself to The Economic Times or maybe Bigg Boss, a male engineer would
rather watch….well, let’s not go there . You have got the larger point anyway. We all read what matches our interest which naturally makes what we read interesting for us, and are thus easily comprehensible. But imagine if one day you pick up something that belongs to an area totally unfamiliar to you. Imagine a person who has never had the inkling of the farthest of particle of philosophy is given to read the works of the great Jacques Derrida or Friedrich Nietzsche!! (if you think just their names are complex, you have no idea what’s in store for you when you read their work :D). And that is what happens to you when you read RCs, basically articles, that lie outside the area of your interest. Why does that happen? Simple.
1. You DO NOT get to choose the RCs that would appear in CAT. You have to attempt whatever is thrown at you, which, as a matter of fact, is all luck!
2. RCs that you would encounter would be from diverse genres. I would encourage you to go through some of the 20 RCs (5 in each of the two slots) that appeared in CAT 17 & 18 and are readily available online. You may even go through RCs from previous years. You would discover for yourself how CAT selects passages eclectically, a beautiful mix of passages from philosophy, religion, history, science, technology, social issues, fiction, literature and what not. And with about 15 to 20 genres out there, what are the chances that you would be lucky enough to get all or most of you 5 CAT RCs from the 2-4 genres that you are comfortable with? For an average person who has familiarity with 3-4 genres at best, on a fair day he would have only 1 reason to cheer and 4 to lament while attempting CAT RCs.
So what should you, as rational and informed people, do so that you do not end up fretting when you face RCs in CAT and before that in the exhaustive series which we, at Unacademy, have planned for you? You must develop familiarity with all (or as many as possible) different genres. Read the previous sentence thrice. You must read diverse articles from varied fields so that there remains no genre that you are alien to. While that may seem like a punishment in the beginning, the rewards it would reap you in the long run would be rich! If you think reading is an excruciating pain, you have a choice- face this pain either during the preparation or in the exam! There is a well-known saying in army academies across the world- the more you sweat during the training, the less you bleed in the war. Also, know that it is only a matter of time and habit before you develop curiosity in areas beyond your realm of interest, and then it would be a smooth sail after which RCs would not seem as frightening as they might now do. But that would take persistent and conscious effort to step out of your comfort zone and read what you have never read. To implement the above, I strongly suggest the following:
1. Read one novel every week.
It goes without saying that each novel should be from a genre that you have hitherto been unintroduced to. I generally share a list of authors and novels and also give some genre-wise suggestions in my classes. You would find that in the next post.
2. Read the front page and editorial section of The Hindu newspaper. Add Oped (right next to editorial) to this after a month of beginning.
Front page contains the news of national and international importance, adding substantially to your knowledge repository. All this awareness about current affairs would come handy when you participate in Group Discussions (GD), Personal Interviews (PI), Extempore etc., all of which comprise the second stage of preparation. Editorial is one page in the newspaper (usually page number 10 in The Hindu) which has articles from diverse fields. If you are game for it, do read the Oped page, which is the immediate next page to the editorial. And for God’s sake stop reading ToI. ToI to newspapers is what AajTak is to news channels and what fight sequences in South Indian movies are to fights in reality.
3. Read 1-2 articles every alternate day from https://aeon.co/. The website comprises carefully selected, and highly informative and diverse articles with CAT-level difficulty. In fact, CAT itself has picked 6 of its RCs in the last 5 years from this website!
Having made those earnest recommendations, I concede that only a small percentage of you would actually follow all that I have suggested with the sincerity that is required, but so would be the percentage of the students who would make it to a prestigious B school.
Remember, if it is worthy, it won’t be easy to get; if it is easy to get, it can’t be worthy. “The world is at Sharda University” and not at IIMs for a reason. Where do YOU want to land? If you seriously want to get into a top-of-the-charts B school, you must be mentally prepared to give your 100%, no less. We, at Unacademy, resolve to put in our most sincere efforts to see you through the various obstacles in your path to success, and expect you match us in that. Your choices and efforts today will decide your tomorrow. This current sentence that you are reading has no relevance with the topic of discussion here, and has been introduced solely to mock and expose any competitor who mindlessly lifts this article without even reading it completely and tries to pass it off as theirs. All the best! Let the game begin!!
The author of the article is part of VA faculty at Unacademy and unapologetically takes more pride in his understanding of MBA entrance exams than others are willing to concede 😉
Following is the list of the authors whose books/authors I suggest you read from now on. The idea behind reading these books is to choose the sequence in which you would want to read the books from different genres and to explore the areas that you have hitherto been either oblivious to or uninterested in. Take this as an opportunity to read some wonderful masterpieces rather than a drudgery being forced upon you. Performing it as a customary rite would prevent you from experiencing the pleasure of reading such accomplished and ingenious compositions. As Amir Khan rightly puts it in Three Idiots- The fright of a whip’s lash does make even a lion sit on a chair, but we call him well-trained, not well-educated! Ultimately our aim is the same as yours- your selection at a reputed B-School! And I assure you that this exercise is imperative and well directed towards actualizing that goal. Obviously, you won’t find Chetan Bhagat or Paulo Coelho in my list of recommendations as the purpose behind reading here is edification, not just entertainment.
Happy reading!!! 🙂
Do leave a comment mentioning what did you like, what you didn’t and what more would you like to be added to this. You may even mention on what other aspects of VA/ CAT preparation you would like me to blog about.
Dickens- Great expectations
A tale of two cities
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and sensibility
Jostein Garder- Sophie’s World
George Orwell-Animal Farm, 1984
D H Lawrnce- Sons and lovers
George Bernard Shaw- Complete works
Complete series of Sherlock Holmes
Mark Twain- Adventures of Hucklebery Finn, Adventures of Tom Sawyer
R L Stevenson- Kidnapped, Treasure Island
Dostoevski- Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karmazov
Bram Stoker- Dracula
Mary Shelly- Frankenstein
J D Salinger- The Catcher in the Rye
Jules verne- Around the world in 80 days, Journey to the center of the earth
Alexandre Dumas- The Three Musketeers, Count of Monte Cristo
Sophie’s world by Jostein Gaarder (for beginners)
The Republic by Plato (advance level)
The Prince- Philosophy+Politics (easy language) by makaveli
Any by Karl Marx
Freedom at Midnight
Discovery of India- Jawahar Lal Nehru
Sunny Days by Sunil Gavaskar
Tale of a Tiger by Mak Pataudi
Perfect questions perfect answers
Bhagwat Gita by A C Bhaktivendanta (Best, must read)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Jean Paul Sartre
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru
Jerome Klapka Jerome
D H Lawrence
George Bernard Shaw
Louisa May Alcott
F. Scott Fitzgerald
J. D. Salinger
Daphne du Maurier
H. H. Munro
P. G. Wodehouse
R L Stevenson