Language section of the CAT

The language section of the CAT tests a candidate’s proficiency at various levels in English, including his / her expertise in the usage and comprehension of words.

You can adopt two kinds of strategies to improve your test scores in the verbal ability and reading comprehensive section of the CAT–short term strategies and medium to long term strategies. No matter which strategy you decide to adopt, it is crucial to remember that your ability to read and comprehend English, depends on your efficiency in the language at various levels. Thus, in order to improve your scores, it is imperative that you gauge your expertise at each of these levels.

Generally aptitude exams like the CAT, test a candidate’s proficiency at each of the following levels: word level, sentence level (viz multiple words) paragraph level (multiple sentences) and passage level (multiple paragraphs). Besides, these tests also assess your expertise at the chapter level (multiple passages) and book level focusing on how you can maximize your word power in the CAT.

How can you increase your word power?

Over the past few years, the CAT and other management entrance exams in India have laid more emphasis on candidate’s functional knowledge of words rather than his / her ability to memories words by rote learning (something that is still required for exams like the GRE)

Here is what you need to do in order to improve your comprehension of words in the CAT:

Know your current ability:

Judge the level of your vocabulary through your understanding of general articles in a newspaper or a magazine. Any newspaper or magazine article is written for the average reader. Hence, if you are unable to comprehend such an article, it indicates that your vocabulary is below par. So make a note of the number of words you fail to understand in an article of say 1000 words.

While doing this, there might be two types of words you will struggle to understand:

1) words that you don’t know but can understand the meaning of, which are in the context of the passage.
2) Words that you are unfamiliar with and that prove as a hurdle to your comprehension of the passage.

The number of words in both the above mentioned categories would give you an indication of the level of your vocabulary. A person with good skills in language would be able to go through a 1000-1500 word passage, while encountering a maximum of nine words that are not understandable to him / her.
A newspaper like The Times of India would be the perfect paper to start with for this exercise, In fact, if you conduct an analysis of the CAT and other management aptitude exams, and evaluate the kind of words they required students to be familiar with over the last few years, you would realize that there is actually no world that you might miss out on, if you comprehensively and dedicatedly read a paper like The Times of India for a period of six to 12 months.

Note down the words and memorize their meanings – not through the dictionary definitions, but by attaching a visual value to each word.

It might also be a good idea to look up the thesaurus and group words with similar meanings so that you can memorize multiple words through one word.

Perform this exercise until you reach a point where the number of unknown words, in every 1000-1500 word article, comes down to a single digit number.

Lastly, part from words, you should also look at developing your knowledge of English by going through idioms, phrases and phrasal verbs. Refer to a good dictionary or a list of phrasal verbs, which you could download from the internet, for the purpose.