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CAT: Last-minute prep tips for Verbal Ability

Last updated on: November 5, 2009 15:25 IST

Photographs: Gouri Nanda Sangeetha Sashidharan

The CAT or Common Admission Test 2009 is approaching fast. This year it will be conducted from November 28 (Saturday) to December 7 (Monday). With less than a month to go, it is now time for a reality check on your preparation level. Have you been reading and working on your grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure?

Will you be able to find an assumption hidden in the author's idea? How do you know what is implied in the passage? Can you logically complete a paragraph in the given time?

Do you know the difference between words that sound similar? And do they make sense in a sentence? Also, now that CAT is a computer-based test (CBT), will you get less or more time to answer questions?

How do you address these problems? Here are some suggestions to help you up your verbal score.

Sangeetha Sashidharan is an independent education consultant, with 12 years of experience in the field of training for various entrance examinations such as CAT, GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS and SAT.

Careers360 is a complete careers magazine.

Reading Comprehension (RC)

Last year, 20 of 40 questions were based on RC. Before that, it was 12 of 25 and in 2006 it was a whopping 15 of 25 questions. This pattern indicates that you cannot afford to skip RC questions. Remember, RC is like data interpretation.

And it is the only section, where the answers are right in front of you. So, you must learn how to find them. Practise these strategies daily.

During the test
Here are some quick tips to help you absorb information, faster and more precisely.

  • Make sure you read the RC, as you would, say, a magazine article.
  • You should also try to mentally summarise what the author wants to say in each paragraph.
  • Make it a point to link the ideas in each section to those in the previous paragraphs.

This way, you may be able to answer all questions without reading the passage again.

When you are through with reading, you must be in a position to answer the following questions without referring to the passage:

  • What is the author trying to convey?
  • Why has the author written this passage?
  • How has the author structured his/ her thoughts?
  • How can you convey in two sentences, the core idea and impact of each paragraph?
  • What is the mood of the author?

Vocabulary and word usage

For the past two years, word usage questions were based on words that sounds similar, context appropriateness, awkward
usage and incorrect phrases.

Remember, these are tricky questions and the options are bound to confuse you unless you know all words.

The bad news is that there is no easy way around these questions except in the fill-in-the-blanks section where you can work with the logic of the sentence. Questions based on idioms and phrases are likely to appear.


Usually, grammar questions in CAT are presented in these formats: Choose the incorrect sentence, choose that part of the sentence, which is incorrect or the GMAT style sentence correction where a part of the sentence is underlined and you have to choose the right option. They could include word usage as well.


For some time now, students have been expecting GMAT-style Critical Reasoning questions. However, as a rule, the CAT never falls for predictions.

Jumbled sentences have always been a favourite. Fact and Inference Judgment questions popped up in a difficult avatar a few years ago.

Syllogisms, once popular, are pretty easy to solve and you will be lucky if they appear in CAT 2009. The section 'Complete the idea or paragraph' tests your ability to understand the flow of logic. Heed these tips to improve your reasoning score.

The new format
Log on to the CAT web site (, and take a tutorial for the computer-based test format. During the test, you can mark questions that you wish to answer a little later. You will be more comfortable when you understand how the RC passages appear. As the format of CAT has changed you should practise reading passages on a computer screen. Now, test your reading speed vis-a-vis a hardcopy test.

Good luck!

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