CAT Verbal Tips & Tricks

CAT Verbal Tips & Tricks
If you’re struggling to bring up your CAT Verbal score, don’t despair! A lot of students get frustrated, thinking that this section of the exam is impossible to prepare for because the content of the passages varied. Not so! This is, after all, a standardized test. What does that mean for you as a test-taker? Only good things. While the content may (and does) change from exam to exam, certain CAT verbal tips & tricks can help you boost your score, whether you’re reading about ice-cream cones or Greek architecture.

Note: In this post, I’m delighted to share many of Kevin Rocci’s outstanding posts with you. You’ll note that he works primarily on the GMAT. This is not to encourage you to study for the CAT by studying for the GMAT! The tests are very different and so are the ways they present passages and ask questions about them. However, the strategies Kevin presents for working through complex reading materials on the GMAT work very well for the CAT, too, and I’d hate to deprive you of his expertise!

Read Better and Smarter

“Oh, read better?” I can hear you saying. “Great tip. So to improve my reading scores, I’ll just read better, then.”

No! That’s not what I mean. Or rather, it is, but I mean it in a specific way. To master CAT Verbal, you really need to read actively.

We’re so used to reading passively—like how we read magazines, newspapers, or fiction. It’s the equivalent of watching TV. Everyone knows how annoying it is to watching TV with a person who keeps asking, “Who’s that? Why is she doing that? What’s happening now?” But that person is actively watching!

And while I don’t recommend you do that while watching TV (at least for the sake of your social life), you need to ask yourself questions while you’re reading CAT passages. In the first place, this will help you zero in on the main idea. But it will keep you engaged, and even help you predict some of the question types—and maybe even answers— that you’ll encounter as the question set goes on.

Develop a Superpower

An everyday superpower, that is. Get good at taking notes on your “rough sheets.”

These sheets (also known as “scratch paper” or “note paper) are given to you by the invigilator on test day. And you’d be astonished (I know I am!) by the number of students who only start to use them once Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning pops on the screen. No! No, no, no! You should be taking notes throughout the verbal section, too.

What kind of notes? The kind that will help you answer questions, of course! (More on this soon—and CAT test-takers can ignore Kevin’s final tip about not using pen and paper!)

Put Yourself in the Author’s Shoes

One thing that we’ve seen on recent CATs is questions about the author’s tone and point of view. For a lot of students, these questions seem unsolvable. How on earth can we know what the author’s thinking? Well, there are active reading strategies to help here, too.

Look for emotional words as you go—and especially words that might not seem emotional but have “connotations” (associations) that are particularly negative or positive. “Poverty” has a negative connotation, while “welfare abuser” has a much stronger negative connotation. As you read, jot down any words with emotional power (good or bad) on your rough sheets. This will help you as you go back and consider POV and tone.

ID the Main Idea and Structure…Before the Test Asks You

If you know what the main idea and the structure of the passage are, you’re halfway to answering a question correctly before you even see it. Why? A lot of questions will ask you to relate details, outside information, or even tone to the author’s subject, main idea, and structure. If you have these written out clearly on your rough sheets, you’ll save valuable time answering questions—and give yourself a better shot at answering them with a clear understanding of the text.

Looking at the first and last paragraphs, and then the first sentence of each body paragraph, is a start to identifying the main idea of the passage. In terms of structure, I’ll refer you to Kevin, who will tell you all about structure words.

Again, reading actively will help you get the subconscious basis for all of this really solid before you even put pen to paper.

Question the Question

If you’ve taken official practice exams or looked at previous years’ papers, you’ve probably noticed that the CAT looooooves to ask wordy and confusing questions. That’s why it’s so important to look at the question and immediately ask: What is this question asking me to do?

Because of the specialized vocabulary the CAT uses in the Verbal section, brushing up on some of the most commonly used terms in this section can help you out in ID’ing exactly what you’ll need to do. After all, you can’t know how to answer a question until you know what it’s asking!

Double-check your understanding before trying to answer the question by rephrasing it in your own words.

Practice, Practice, Practice

At the end of the day, just learning these strategies and watching Kevin’s videos (as awesome as we both are) isn’t going to help you that much on CAT Verbal. But you know what does? Taking these strategies and actually applying them to a practice exam. Or, preferably, more than one. Ideally, lots!

The first time you do this, I suggest you don’t time yourself at all. Using strategies like active reading can make you go a little slower—at first. As you go on, start to incorporate time back into your practice, and you’ll see that, in the end, they actually end up taking the same amount of time, or even less, than your earlier, non-strategic practice did.

And, what’s more, you’ll be getting more questions right!

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