Some (Un)truths about VA/RC
Oct 17, 2017
Every year mock test season sees students come up to me and complain, “ Sir, Quant, LR to theek hai lekin Verbal main score nahin aa raha, accuracy bhi nahin hai”. I am sure most Verbal Ability mentors refuse to give any prescriptive advice for this gripe. This is due to two reasons.
First, language is not science and any rule we prescribe will always have exceptions.
Secondly, consider for a moment that I advise you, “ Parajumbles without options bahut mushkil hote hain. Inmein accuracy will always be an issue. These should be last priority”
Yes, kindly think over the above line. Take a moment. The problem with dispensing any such advice is that if you are like 90 percent of aspirants you would have interpreted the above as, ”Parajumbles without options chchod dena”. The test which you would sit for would possibly have a couple of sitter type Parajumbles without options which you would not even have read, as, “ Hriday Sir ne kaha tha Parajumbles mat karna”
This is precisely the reason Verbal Faculty don’t give prescriptive advice as usually the students mistake the wood for the trees.
Disclaimer dealt with, I will stick out my neck and give some prescriptive advice on some common (false) beliefs or (un)truths about Verbal Ability for CAT.
Belief 1: Do passages that are shorter and have more questions.
If the passage features a “Post Hegelian critique of the Enlightenment’s effect on the Protestant work ethic”, and you are unaware of Hegel, the Enlightenment, who Protestants are, and the questions are also inferential you had better leave the passage even if it be of just 200 words and has 6 questions”. Always see how comfortable you are with the subject matter. This should be the primary filter. Length/ No of questions is a secondary filter.
Belief 2: Attempt less, ensure you have 100 % accuracy.
Last year I mentored a competent student who had read Literature for her degree. She attempted 9 or 10 questions and got all right and got a brilliant 65 percentile or so, which effectively ruled out her chances of making it to any IIM. I would ask her later why she attempted so less. Her reply ,” feedback from peers”. Stop listening to that negativity spreading idiot whose biggest claim to fame was that he finished 16 bottles of beer in one go.
Assuming the same level of difficulty as last year, to score decently in Verbal Ability you need a minimum attempt of 20+ with 90 percentage accuracy. I would in fact strongly recommend a 30+ attempt. ( Mind you, I am not saying accuracy is not important. I would set the minimum accuracy threshold at 75 % to 80 % accuracy)
(This problem is further compounded by Coaching institutes who give God difficulty level RC’s. The last available CAT papers ( 2004-2008) were of this difficulty level. Accuracy in such papers was very important. CAT papers of recent years were much simpler and a drastic change in difficulty level is not expected. )
Belief 3: Speed Reading helps.
I would wager, a reading speed of 200 to 250 words or per minute is more than sufficient to attempt all CAT passages thoroughly. Anyone claiming to read at 900 words per minute would do well to read this quote by Woody Allen. “ I finished War and Peace in 20 minutes. It is about Russia”. ( War and Peace is over 1000 pages in length, has over 600 characters and is perhaps the most intricate, complex novel to come out of Russia) The greater the speed the lesser the comprehension.
Mind you, you do need to skim at times especiallly in IIFT and SNAP. But speed reading is a Load of BS
Belief 4: Parajumbles without options are difficult.
For all you know, they may be doable. The key is to judge before you actually start solving them if you should try to solve them or not. Two heuristics ( thumb rules) I use are the length of the lines and density of content. If the statements run into two or three lines or if it features jargon from philosophy, culture studies, literary theory etc, I keep away. ( I use the second heuristic at times in selecting RC’s also)
Belief 5: Odd One Out questions should be left alone:
False. Although in theory, Odd One Out questions require the entire parajumble to be solved, in practice they are far easier. Further, if your probability of getting a Parajumble without option right is just 1/120 , for odd one's out it is 1/5 and these are TITA type. Go for It!
A parting point, as I said in the beginning, take all the above with a pinch of salt. Language is not science.
“All battles are won, blood sweat and tears in the mind first.” VA/RC is easier than it is made out to be. Win the battle in your mind first and success will be yours!