The perception that the CAT is difficult is manly owing to the difficulty of its quantitative ability section. However, as one progresses in their preparation for the test, they soon realize that the decisive part of the CAT is not quantitative ability but the verbal ability section.
To put it in perspective the candidates’ observation and the realization are not misplaced. In most cases one attempt to prepare for the CAT only when they are reasonably comfortable with quantitative ability (quant). After that the competition lies in the verbal ability section. The successful candidates’ scores in the quantitative sections are generally within a narrow range from 35 to 45 percent of the marks in that section. Data Interpretation (DI) scores also do not vary much. However, the verbal scores range from 40 to 90 percent of the marks in that section and almost fifty percent of the candidate’s total marks and thus make a significant impact on the overall percentile. Another aspect of the verbal section is that it is the verbal section is that it is the only section in which one can maximize the score if additional time is devoted to it. In quant, and DI additional time may help a candidate to merely identify more questions that cannot be solved. But given enough time there is almost no question in verbal with the exception of perhaps vocabulary and grammar questions that one cannot attempt with a reasonable degree of certainty. The maximum significance of the verbal section in the CAT is its ability to distinctly influence a candidate’s overall percentile.
About 70 % of the total marks in the verbal section should be attempted. Since most successful candidates will have maximized their score in verbal, a modest attempt will not be sufficient to reach a percentile to get a call. A mere cut off score will be useful only if you are able to score extremely well in the other two sections which may prove to be more difficult than scoring well in verbal.
The CAT generally allows some freedom of choice in RC passages. When there are three passages, students generally attempt only two. Choose the passages that you are most comfortable reading. This will differ from person to person – a commerce graduate is likely to choose an economic passage over a technical one that an engineer might. To ensure accuracy, adequate comprehensive of the matter that you are reading is essential. You must remember that the questions in the CAT are specific with the right option sufficiently answering the specific nature of the query. Hence, do not be misled by the so called close options before marking your answer.
Generally the CAT distributes questions equally between RC and non RC. Ideally it is also advisable to divide your attempts that way. However since non RC questions (vocabulary grammar) are less time consuming, one may be able to devote more time to RC.
For example if the section contains 30 questions, 10-12 attempts in RC with about 75 percent accuracy should definitely fetch calls.
You must never do that intact try and score maximum marks in RC because grammar and vocabulary are not areas you can rely on for high marks. Also, do not miss out on the easy questions in the non RC part of the section. Attempt whichever one you feel most comfortable with first. However, if you are attempting the verbal section last, it is advisable to attempt RC first because in the last five minutes of the exam starting on anew passage is not possible You will still be able to attempt a couple of non RC questions at that time.
Prepare the way you would for other topics. However, remember that these skills are acquired over along period of time. Solve as many questions in these areas as possible. Learn grammar and vocabulary backwards. This may be more useful than going through fundamentals now. If you are using a wordlist, intensify it close to the examination so that your memory does not fall out.
Solve as many questions as possible for practice. Tests material will be ideal. Tests give you a mixed bag of questions. However, in the practice mode, you need not time yourself. Cover a large area with good accuracy. Take at least two full length tests and several section tests every week to make sure that all these tests and most of the practice happen on screen. Spend at least an hour on verbal every day.