Tips to Slay the VARC dragon!

Over the years, the pattern has been like -- a 3 hours exam, with three sections of 1 ho

In this post we will be majorly talking about how to tackle the VARC section of CAT.ur time limit each. The VARC is the opening section of the CAT exam, and this positioning makes it the most crucial section; fare your way well through it and you become more confident, lest you get an anxiety attack in no time!
Understanding of a Paper (or a section) along with the understanding of own strengths and weaknesses are the two essential blocks of deciding the strategy for attempting it.
The Game
In a VARC section of the CAT, you are expected to read through a few passages and answer questions on those passages. On the surface of it, it does seem that there is no pattern to this madness and that every passage is completely disconnected. That you cannot build common skills to take on the section. In cricket also, every delivery is different and a good bowler can hit you with 6 different lengths/lines/speeds in an over. Yet, a good batsman can face all of them because they have built the skills to do so. What are those skills? To name a few, it could be watching the ball carefully, maintaining a good stance, being aware of the field setup, analysing previous deliveries of the bowler and combining that with knowledge of what the bowler is known for and so on.
For a CAT aspirant, the skills to take on are somewhat similar – the ability to separate a one line meaning from each paragraph in a passage, string together these meanings to form a 5-6 line summary of the passage and what it says, anticipate meanings from the next paragraph based on the tone and language of the previous paragraph and to contextualise all the questions with regards to the passage and its messages and facts only. These are broadly, the only skills any RC reader has. This is the game.

Decoding the CAT 2020 VARC
The CAT 2020 paper structure is not yet final, but we assume it to remain the same, similar to three back to back sectional tests and hence having a separate approach to tackle each of the three sections is required.
The 2019 CAT VARC section was one of the dreariest VARC nightmares a student can have! This section was a keyplayer in bringing the score for overall 99 percentile down, as well as bringing the sectional score down for itself.
The 2018 CAT VARC section had 34 questions to be attempted in 60 minutes, now the question arises, how many questions to attempt? If we look at the raw scores for the 99%isle of the last three years we see a drop.
In 2015, a score of 78 in VARC was required for a 99%ile, in 2016 a score of 75, in 2017 the score required was 73 to get in the 99%iler category while 2018 saw a drop in level of difficulty as compared to CAT 2017 as the raw score required for a 99%ile was 75 marks.
You must not panic if the level of difficulty rises, or remains the same as CAT 2019, in CAT 2020; for that would mean, fewer questions to attempt in more time!
Thus, an aspirant need not attempt all questions, rather very smartly pick 24-25 questions to be attempted with 100% accuracy or pick 28-29 questions if your accuracy is about 85%. Now, once we know the marks that we have to pocket in VARC, let’s see ‘HOW’ to get them! In this post, we will discuss the strategy to successfully tackle the Verbal and Reading Comprehension section. To understand the section, let us look at the question types that are likely to appear in the VARC section for CAT 2020, look at the skills required to answer them and also simultaneously look at the general comfort level with each of these question types.

Reading Comprehension: Reading Comprehension passages or what were called “unseen passages” in school are the nemesis of a large number of students because of poor (or lack of) reading habits. The passages can be from different areas and the questions can be factual or inferential.
The good thing is that the length of passage in the Computer Based CAT VARC section has decreased as compared to its paper & pencil version. It is advisable to attempt those passages first that are from a subject you are comfortable with. If you are not good in Critical Reasoning, then it is okay to leave the inferential questions as it will help you cut down on the negative score. But always try to improve upon your weak areas!

Comfort Level: Throughout our school & college years and even today, we don’t read a lot because of which we are, by and large, not comfortable with most kinds of RC passages. Particularly, we do not find inferential,psychological, philosophical, literary, medical or biological passages enjoyable and hence avoid them in the paper. The RC passage topics that we prefer attempting in the paper are business, economics, current affairs, politics, history, and mythology.
Verbal Ability:
Vocabulary questions in CAT VARC section like synonyms, antonyms & analogies, are knowledge-based questions and can be answered correctly only if you know the meaning of the word and/or the choices. Hence a good vocabulary is essential to do well in these types of questions. The good thing about these questions is that they consume very little time – a single reading of the question and the choices is enough to determine if you can/cannot answer the question. Reading the question or the choices, again and again, will not give you the answer. It is advisable to leave these questions if we do not get the answer in a single reading. One should never hesitate in leaving out the difficult questions as the 1 hour per section has to be utilized judiciously to maximize attempts.
Comfort Level:
Most of us are not good with vocabulary, but are good with an approximate idea of the word; also most of us are able to get the correct answer by an elimination of choices. However, if one does not know the meaning of the word, we should leave the question.
Sentence Correction, like vocabulary, is knowledge based. If you do not know the rule of grammar to be applied, you are unlikely to get it correct and hence the question should be left un-attempted. However, if you have a good reading habit, you should be able to get most of the questions correct by instinct/gut feel.
Sentence Correction and Vocabulary typically contribute the most to the negative score of the students because of our propensity to mark an answer without being sure of the answer. Guesswork should be avoided in all knowledge based questions.
This is the weak area of most of us. We do not know hardcore grammar, however, because of our reading habit many times we are able to identify which part of the statement is incorrect. So, simple questions of sentence correction should be attempted but if the complexity of the question is high, the question should be left.
Sentence completion (fill in the blanks) questions in CAT VARC section are based on knowledge of vocabulary as well as grammar but can be worked out based on the context and elimination of choices especially if the question has more than one blank. It is worthwhile reading the question statement 2 – 3 times as guesswork based combination of knowledge and elimination of choices usually works in these questions.
Because of our reading habit, the contextual meaning of a word comes very easily to us and this helps us in sentence completion fill in the blanks. We should usually attempt all sentence completion questions.
Para-jumbles and Deductive logic are logic based questions in the CAT VARC section and no prior knowledge of any area is required. Hence you can work your way through in these questions even if the logic is not completely clear. Also, the choices are of great help in these questions. It is advisable to move back and forth between the question and the choices to get to the correct answer. For example, in Parajumbles, identify the opening or closing or a logical pair and eliminate the choice that does not adhere to it. Successively eliminate the incorrect choices to get the correct answer.