CAT Prep: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension

CAT Verbal Ability Reading Comprehension

Of all the sections on the exam, Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension seems like it would be the most difficult to prepare for. After all, by the time you take the CAT, your verbal skills have pretty much been set in place for years, right? No! Just as learning math formulas and reviewing charts and graphs can help you with other sections of the CAT, so too can learning strategies to prep yourself for the first section of the test. So here they are: my best tips for how to prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT.


Obvious, right? Not necessarily! When you’re preparing for the CAT, it can feel like a waste of time to work on materials that aren’t explicitly about the test. But these are exactly the kinds of materials that will help you master the Verbal section of the test. Spending as little as 15 minutes a day reading English-language publications can boost your score enormously by familiarizing yourself with good grammar, complex vocabulary, and reading for things like tone and point of view. That’s if, of course, you ….

Work with Good Materials

While reading fiction and gossip magazines may be more fun, you’ll really want to spend your English-language reading time on test-like materials. What are these? Our GMAT bloggers have some great suggestions for finding passages. What else can help? Reading publications like the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, and The Economist will prep you subject-wise for a lot of the material you’ll see on the CAT—not just in the Verbal section, either.

Focus on One Question Type at a Time

As you begin your preparation for the CAT Verbal section, don’t try to take on everything at once! On the most recent official mock exam posted online, the Verbal section featured the following types of questions, in the following order:

  1. Passage-based questions (8 passages with 3 questions each)
  2. Summary-based questions (3 questions)
  3. Ordering sentences (4 questions)
  4. Odd-sentence out (3 questions)

Of course, when you do practice tests or even practice sections, you’ll work on all question types. But in terms of studying and drilling, go thoroughly through each type of question and make sure that you understand and have mastered it before going on to the next.

Review Your Progress

Of all the advice I give students, this is probably the most important. When you’ve finished a set of drills, a practice section, or a mock exam, don’t just look at your score! That completed practice is a treasure trove of information. Spend at least as much time analyzing what you did right and what you did wrong (saving your notes can help you recreate your approaches) as you did on the practice in the first place. If you’re missing questions of a type you’ve previously studied, consider returning to refresher lessons on that topic to keep yourself sharp.

The Final Key

No matter how you choose to structure your study for the CAT Verbal section, keep this in mind: studying concepts like grammar or vocabulary in isolation is not nearly as worthwhile as studying them in context. What does this mean for you as a test-taker? You’re better off putting practice problems, rather than words, on notecards. You’re better off reading as much as you can in English than staring at lists of grammar rules. The more you learn in the context of the test and materials that mirror the test’s content and structure, the better off you’ll be during the official exam.

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