Reading Comprehension - Preliminary Techniques

 | June 25,2012 10:22 am IST

Reading Comprehension tests your ability to go through material that may or may not be familiar to you and then answer questions based on your understanding of the material, in a limited amount of time. The actual motive behind including RC passages in MBA entrance exams is that managers need to go through large volumes of texts in a short period of time.

Reading the text and understanding what is given directly may not be enough. There may be certain hidden inferences in the passages that need to be identified. Now to comprehend a passage accurately and with reasonable speed, you have to prepare yourselves and practise.


The best way is to read as much as you can. But there are a few things that are to be kept in mind that would enable you to grasp the content in the passage faster and answer the questions in a better way. Answering the questions require something in addition to comprehending the passage successfully. We would be looking at a few such techniques.

Diversify your reading Just reading may not be enough to equip you with all the tools to tackle RC passages. The topics should be as diverse as possible. A reader may be interested in fiction, but may strongly dislike long passages with some abstract topic. There may be a distinct difference in the tone, structure and style of the passage depending on the genre of the topic. Abstract topics require you to concentrate more while reading. The mind has to be trained accordingly to adjust reading speed depending on the difficulty of the passage. This training would be possible only through extensive reading.

Make connections while reading - Often while reading a passage you may have to link two ideas that come along as you read on. It is the linking of connected ideas that help you in getting the holistic view of the passage and enables you to answer the questions faster and more accurately, as the chances of missing out some elusive and minute detail is quite low.

Your only objective is to answer the trailing questions Concentration levels should not dip while reading the passage and one must read the passage with the sole aim to answer the questions that follow the passage. Sometimes you may find that you are familiar with the topic of a particular passage or you might find the passage interesting, and you start reading that passage with a relaxed mind. You may inadvertently overlook something which may be crucial to answer a question. RC passages during the exam are not for increasing your knowledge. Increasing knowledge is to be done while preparing for CAT.

To read the passage first or the questions first? Reading the passage directly may result in you losing time as a result of concentrating on unimportant sections of the RC passage. On the other hand starting off with the questions may result in you re-reading the passage multiple numbers of times in case you try to answer one question after scanning the passage once for every question. Another way is to have the question stems in mind and then go through the passage. The ideal way to go about it to try all the three methods and checking which suits you the best. Initially sticking to the selected strategy would require practice but would definitely benefit in the long run.

Which RC passage should be given priority? There are a few factors that have to be kept in mind before selecting which passage to attempt first. First thing should be the familiarity with the topic. It is easier to comprehend a passage if you have some prior knowledge about the topic. Length of the topic is also very important. You would naturally go for a shorter passage that would require lesser time to read. Lastly the number of questions and their difficulty level should be considered. The more number of questions that you can attempt from a single RC passage, the better chance you have of maximising your score. With practice you can identify which types of question you are more comfortable with and accordingly choose the passage to be attempted first.

Using elimination of options This is one of the most basic techniques that CAT takers usually fail to apply during the exam due to pressure. Using the options judiciously is very important as it helps in clarifying any ambiguity that you may find in the question and it helps in saving time. In case you fail to zero in on any option immediately after reading the question, then evaluate each option carefully and select the option that you feel is the most likely correct answer. One pitfall of this method is that you may go with your instincts without sufficient rational thinking and end up in the negative.

All said and done, these all techniques can be used only after ample practice and you have to try and test all of them to check their usefulness. Technique A may suit a person very well but may be a nightmare for another person. Use the mocks to test all your techniques. The critical component of your CAT preparation is the analysis of your mock results. See how your score varies with each new technique that you use and then lock in on a set of techniques that you think suits you the best.