How to prepare for VARC Section of CAT?

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In CAT, VARC (Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension) is considered to be the most dreadful section. Many students have a lot of problems regarding this section, like where to start and what resources to refer to and the list goes on. In this section, we are going to focus on some pointers and resources that can help you achieve your dream percentile. The VARC section tests your reading and comprehension abilities, which helps you in case study reading. Now, let’s understand the percentage-wise breakdown of topics in the VARC section over last 5 years [*this graph is prepared by taking the data from CAT 2018-2022 Papers]Now, you know the pattern and the abilities that you are being tested for. Let’s focus on the strategy and resources. Basically, you have to focus on three key aspects.

  • Vocabulary : Imagine that you come across a word and don’t know the meaning of that particular word. This is a situation that you are most likely to face when you start your preparation. Now, there is a two-way approach to this: First, you can start developing your vocabulary by referring to “Word Power Made Easy” by Norman Lewis. Second, learn to understand the meaning of the word on the basis of the given context.

  • Reading ability : This is the most basic aspect that you need to focus on.
For developing your reading ability, you need to read a lot on a diverse range of topics: science, politics, history, philosophy, economics, etc. Start by reading a newspaper: The Hindu, The Economic Times, The Indian Express—pick any topic of your interest. Gradually, move to essays by authors like George Orwell and Bertrand Russell, as their writing styles are slightly easy to understand and will make you familiar with the kind of writing you might face in the exam. You can refer to online sources for articles like Aeon essays, The Guardian, The Mint, and The Economist. You can also refer to “How to Read Better and Faster”. You must devote at least one hour a day to reading. After a month or two, start timing yourself. This will help you develop your reading speed.

  • Comprehension: The next aspect that you need to focus on is your comprehension ability. Even if you develop your reading speed, that doesn’t mean you can crack the section. For that, you must be able to comprehend what you read. Here are some points to help you develop your comprehension ability:
                  • Grammar: A good command of grammar can be very handy in RCs and Para jumbles. Grammar will help you understand what the central idea is                     or how the ideas are connected in the passage. For a good grasp on grammar, refer to “Wren and Martin”.
                  • Focus on understanding the structure of the passage. How are the paragraphs and ideas connected?
                  • Focus on understanding the tone and style of the passage as well as what the author is trying to convey.
                  • Focus on key words like “but, “however, in contrast, “unfortunately,” etc. that can help you understand the intention of the author.

  • Practice and Mock-Taking : After working on the above-mentioned aspects for a month, start practicing RCs. You can start with RC 99. While solving the RC questions, focus on why the particular option is right or wrong. Understand why the question went wrong—is it because you were not able to understand the central idea or a particular paragraph?—and devise a strategy accordingly. Start taking mock exams so that you can adapt to the timed environment of the exam.

The aforementioned aspects and resources can surely help you in your preparation. Try to make yourself comfortable with reading and comprehending, as through these you can solve any type of question and it will also be useful in the long run.