Overcome the sense of ambiguity and uncertainty and score high by adopting certain strategies and managing time efficiently.

The English section of the Common Aptitude Test (CAT) is interesting because while it is often the highest scoring section, it also has the greatest level of uncertainty and ambiguity. The key to handling the Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension (VA and RC) section of the CAT is to use the same broad strategies adopted for the entire paper itself.

Firstly, stop worrying about what would be a good score in this section. Cut-offs go up and down with the difficulty level. Last year, for instance, with 40 questions in the VA/RC section, the score required to obtain 85 percentile is estimated to have been around 33-35 (out of 160 ).

The trickiest aspect of the VA & RC section is that there are 2 different question types with fairly different characteristics.

VA questions require knowledge but take less time to tackle. RC, on the other hand, requires very little prior knowledge but requires you to invest time before you can answer even a single question.

Managing your time is the first step to success. To begin with, give good time to this section. Out of the total 135 minutes, give 35-40 minutes for VA/RC. Divide this time between VA and RC. Typically, a 15-25 or a 20-20 division is ideal.

In VA, read the instructions for each question set carefully before answering any questions. Divide the total time for VA across the different question sets.

For instance, if the paper contains 4 sets of questions (3 in each set), 1 based on Vocab, 2 on usage and 1 on Reasoning, you could give around 3-4 minutes for the first, 4-5 minutes each for the 2nd and the 3rd and 5-6 minutes for the 4th.

In RC, first decide how many passages you will attempt based on a quick skimming of the passages. Read the passage first if the passages are abstract and questions inferential or summary type and the questions first if the passage is descriptive and questions factual.

VA & RC will sometimes require intelligent guessing. Ambiguity has been a hallmark of the CAT in the recent past.

Be prepared for it. Do not ponder and waste time over any particular question, especially in the VA & RC section. Either you know it or you don't. Keep your focus on reading all the questions and making intelligent choices on what to omit.

The author is director, T.I.M.E

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