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Top Careers & You ® READING COMPREHENSION Introduction Feared by students more than Mondays, Reading

Top Careers & You


Top Careers & You ® READING COMPREHENSION Introduction Feared by students more than Mondays, Reading comprehension




Feared by students more than Mondays, Reading comprehension is a test of your ability to read and understand unfamiliar materials and to answer questions about them. In reading comprehension, you will be given a passage (or let us say a set of passages) to read, which will be like an excerpt from a serious discussion of a topic from the natural sciences, the social sciences, or a business–related field. You’ll then have to answer a group of questions about the passage, testing how well you’ve understood its content. So far so good! Reading Comprehension (RC) makes one of the major test–areas in almost all entrance tests. In the CAT the weightage RC is roughly 50% of the Verbal Ability section. Even in the English Usage Section, more than half the questions (for example, theme based questions) can be solved fast and correctly only if one is good at RC. The weightage and the toughness level of RC vary from test to test. RC in the CAT is the stiffest ordeal. Earlier there generally were 5– 6 passages with the average length of a passage being 600– 800 words. Now the number of passages has come down to four, but the passages are abstract and most of the questions are inference based. Also the passages are from very diverse fields of interest. It is generally seen that students who are voracious readers (fiction/non fiction/general/specific etc.) always have an edge over others who are not given to extensive reading.

Why this Ordeal of Reading Comprehension in CAT?

Reading comprehension, as they say, is designed to measure your ability to handle the varied kinds of sophisticated, complex, and subtle reading that graduate business students are called upon to do. You won’t right now believe the amount of material you would have to go through as a manager. Reading Comprehension prepares you for just that. But work is work! To top it all, in order to answer the questions it’s not enough to understand the basic facts presented in the passage; you also need to notice the more elusive inferences in the passage (that is, ideas that are suggested rather than directly stated) as well as the form, structure, and style of the passage (that is, how the author has chosen to present his/her ideas).

Top Careers & You ® Reading Practice You are not expected to use any informat
Top Careers & You ® Reading Practice You are not expected to use any informat

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Reading Practice

You are not expected to use any information other than the ideas – explicit or implicit – of the passage. You should confine yourself only to the passage. In the long run, the best approach would be to read books widely and extensively and articles of all kinds. Reading the editorials in standard newspapers will be of good support. Speed, stamina and the power to comprehend the printed word will consequently improve. READ, READ & READ!!!! You will have to develop the skill to read the passage fast and with concentration so as to intuitively spot the main theme or thrust of the passage, supporting facts and arguments. This can come only with a good knowledge of English, and a critical approach with sustained practice. While examining the answer choices, you will have to pay attention to the language as well as their import.

The Purpose of Reading: The purpose of reading is to connect the ideas in the passage to what you already know. If you don't know anything about a subject, then pouring words of text into your mind is like pouring water into your hand. You don't retain much. For example, try reading these numbers:

7516324 This is hard to read and remember. 751–6324 This is easier because of chunking. 123–4567 This is easy to read because of prior knowledge and structure. Similarly, if you like sport, then reading the sports page is easy. You have a framework in your mind for reading, understanding and storing information.

Key Point: Good reading means building frameworks for connecting words to thoughts.

Nitty–Gritties of Reading Comprehension

There are three elements of Reading Comprehension to be considered:


Comprehension or Understanding





Toolkit Top Careers & You ® Improving Comprehension Try talking to a person who is


Toolkit Top Careers & You ® Improving Comprehension Try talking to a person who is relatively

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Improving Comprehension

Try talking to a person who is relatively good at RC. More often than not it will turn out that s/he has been fond of reading and has possibly read hundreds of good books other than the normally prescribed text books for routine studies. Avid readers invariably turn out to be inherently good at cracking RC – this applies even to those that might have been reading basically fiction. What could explain this? The most likely reasons are that such persons are not put off by lengthy and even abstract reading, have better and longer concentration and have also learnt to read speedily with good retention. Besides the general awareness level of such persons is also higher as they have gained a lot of awareness through reading. You can also increase our comprehension, retention and speed the same way. Diversified reading, i.e. reading of diversified topics will help you in at least three ways

It will improve your RC as stated and also increase your comfort level with different RC topics.

It will improve your vocabulary, as different subjects use different vocabulary

It will enrich your oral and written expression through the storehouse of ideas gained through such reading. Quite an arduous task but that is the way it goes!!! And it is never too late to get started.

Sticking to the Purpose of Reading

Another point to be kept in mind is that the reading of an RC passage is for a specific purpose that is to answer the questions correctly. When you go through an RC passage, you have to keep two things in mind, viz. the main point of discussion (what the author is driving at) and any ancillary information that will help answer specific questions. So within the limited time available, you ought to be looking for the grain rather than the chaff. Half the passage or more may be irrelevant for your purpose. If you cannot skip it totally, try to speed through it with minimum fuss.

Key Point: Please do not try to enjoy a passage or gain knowledge out of it in an exam. You have the rest of your lives to do that and there are better ways of committing suicide.

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1. What is the subject of the passages that we get for RC?

The passages in any Reading Comprehension would deal with the following subjects:

1. Biological Sciences (Biochemistry, Botany, Medicine, Microbiology, Pharmacy, Zoology, etc.)

2. Humanities (Art, Cinema, Literature, Music etc.)

3. Physical Sciences (Astronomy, Astrophysics, Chemistry, Environmental Sciences, Geology, Mathematics, Physics etc.)

4. Social Sciences (Anthropology, Philosophy – and this one is a favorite - Business, Economics, Education, History, Politics, Psychology, Public Administration, Sociology, etc.) Each of these subjects has its own language.


How much time do we spend on reading the passage?

The goal is to spend no more than 3–4 minutes "reading" the entire passage. Just remember that you don't get any points for reading the passages.

The Reading in Reading Comprehension

Reading a passage in a Reading Comprehension test is like a drive through a strange city. The main idea of the passage is like the overall plan of the city; the main idea of each paragraph is like the plan of the locality through which you are driving. Reading the passage is like driving quickly through the city. You do not waste time memorizing every detail of every locality; you just develop a general sense of the layout of the city.

It is general assumed that all the information in the passage is important to answer the questions correctly, but this isn't true. The questions against an RC passage cover only a small fraction of the passage. You have to identify the important parts and ignore most of the rest. The less time you spend reading the passage, the more time you'll have for gaining the score. Broadly speaking here are two types of questions in Reading Comprehension and neither requires you to memorize specific information:

Caution Top Careers & You ® 1. General questions : To answer these, you need
Caution Top Careers & You ® 1. General questions : To answer these, you need


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1. General questions: To answer these, you need to have an understanding of the main idea and, perhaps, the structure of the passage.

2. Specific questions: Since you'll be asked about only a few specific pieces of information, it makes sense only to have a vague idea of where the specific information is located in the passage. That way you'll know where to look for it if you need it.

Key Point: You get points for answering questions NOT for reading the passage.


Which passages are to be attempted out of the

RC and

which of these are to be attempted first?

This is a question that often intrigues an MBA aspirant, particularly if there are a number of passages to be attempted? Let us try analyzing what to attempt and based on which criteria:

Length of the passage

Accept it or not, this is generally the first thing all of us consider. One always tends to prefer a smaller passage to a longer one. (Who wouldn’t prefer a 1 – page RC to a 3 – page RC?)

Number of questions

The more the number of questions to be attempted, the higher is the probability of you actually attempting more questions.

Type of questions

An analysis during practice of which questions are you comfortable attempting & most often get correct would tell you which kinds of questions should you attempt. More the number of those kinds of questions in a passage, better it is for you to attempt that particular passage.

Subject of the Passage

It is always advisable for you to attempt a passage based on the subject you are acquainted with as the jargon there won’t baffle you. But please don’t delve into the details of a subject of your knowledge. This will increase the time you take. Remember, there are better ways to commit suicide.

Top Careers & You ® Use a combination of all these points to choose the

Top Careers & You


Use a combination of all these points to choose the passage(s) for yourself.

4. Should we attempt all the passages/all the questions?

Related with the above question is a set of others. Should we attempt?

All Questions of All the Passages (AQAP) All Questions of Some Passages (AQSP) Some Questions of All Passages (SQAP) Some Questions of Some Passages (SQSP) Before we answer this set of questions, we ought to know that CAT is a Test of accuracy and speed. RCs are essentially time taking. Even after devoting a lot of time, students are not sure whether they got the right answers. In any case, time is a precious resource in the CAT examination. So the students should

attempt all the questions of all the passages (AQAP) only where they find Easy Passages – Easy Questions (EPEQ)


attempt some questions of all/some passages, where they find Easy Passages – Difficult Questions (EPDQ)

attempt all questions of some (easy) passages (AQSP) if they face an odd very difficult passage







5. we


Ways to Tackle the Questions.

I. Reading pattern passage followed by questions: Reading the passage first and then attacking the questions. Passage Questions

Tips & Traps:

Sometimes in the process, you might spend a lot of time comprehending those parts of passage which aren’t important i.e. on which no questions are asked so beware.

II. Questions followed by passage: Reading the questions followed by reading the passage. Questions Passage

Top Careers & You ® Tips & Traps: The pitfall here might be that you
Top Careers & You ® Tips & Traps: The pitfall here might be that you

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Tips & Traps:

The pitfall here might be that you read Q1 and look for the answer in the passage. Then you read Q2 and search for its answer and so on. Very human to do so! So, for 6 questions you might end up reading the passage at least 4 times if not more. This means wastage of time.

Passage and Questions simultaneously Reading two paragraphs and attempting the questions pertaining to them and so on. Passage Questions Tips & Traps:

This may not lead you anywhere.

So, a little safer strategy is. Question stems



Passage Reading

Question solving The above strategy works! P.S.: Attempting a passage is a very relative process. Therefore, try working on all these strategies and see what suits you the best.

6. Should we underline while we read?

Although we advise students to avoid use of a pen or pencil that runs alongside words, for it hinders speed, a pen/pencil is handy for marking the important points in the passage. While the students are skimming the passage, they should make it a point to underline if and when they come across any phrase/point that they consider very important. This is true particularly where the students have gone through the questions and have a fair idea of what is required of them. Later on, while answering the questions, the students will not need to go through the detail, and can the required information from the underlined part(s) only.

A word of caution! Care should be taken to avoid underlining each and everything in the passage. Everything important means nothing is important. As a thumb rule, the number of words underlined should never exceed 5% of the total number of words in the passage. Also what are to be underlined are the ideas in the form of short phrases, not the detailed statements.

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7. When do we know that we have the right answer?

The Best Strategy is to arrive at the correct answer through a Process of Elimination (POE) of the wrong answers based on the traps that the examiner has set for you.

on our


8. Can






knowledge of the topic?

Strictly, NO. Prior knowledge may help you to get a grip of the topic. But this should not come in way of the requirement to answer the questions based entirely on the information furnished in the passage. Be sure to work within the context of the passage. Your own views or opinions may sometimes conflict with the views expressed in the passage.

However, you will often be able to eliminate some of the answer choices simply on the basis of commonsense, which you will be called upon to use in ample measure.


A number of different reading strategies are tested by multiple–choice questions. Some are straightforward comprehension questions where you are expected to identify stated information. Others require you to read between the lines and infer the writer’s meaning, which may be expressed indirectly. Yet others ask you to identify and interpret opinions and the writer’s attitude. The final questions in the series are often designed to test understanding of overall meaning.

The multiple–choice question may therefore be more complex than it appears and in all cases requires a close reading of the text. The incorrect options or distracters in the multiple–choice question can be of several types.

untrue or contrary to what is stated in the text

not mentioned in the text (although they may be true)

only partially true

true but irrelevant to the question

The correct option will be the only one which is entirely true for a given text and relevant to the question.