Reading Comprehension: Tips, Questions And Preparation

VARC Preparation Tips for MBA 2022

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Vipra Shrivastava

Vipra ShrivastavaSenior Manager - Content

Updated on Sep 19, 2022 14:48 IST

Reading Comprehension (RC) is one of the most challenging aspects of MBA entrance exam preparation. Unlike Quantitative Aptitude or Data Interpretation, the Reading Comprehension section of CAT or GMAT cannot be prepared by memorizing formulae or practicing questions. Reading Comprehension is a skill that is to be acquired and can be acquired only over a period of time.  

Reading Comprehension section of CAT, XAT, GMAT, SNAP, IIFT, NMAT, CMAT, etc. carry significant weightage and can make or break your overall performance. Good Reading Comprehension skill is not only crucial to entrance exam performance but is also essential for other aspects of MBA admission process such as Group Discussion (GD), Written Ability Test (WAT) and Personal Interview (PI).

Having good communication is the most desirable skill in the post-MBA life. To be a good business manager one not only needs to be a good leader but also a good communicator. Communication and leadership skills form the basis of a candidate's selection for MBA admission. In the GD, WAT or PI, candidates are judged on how well and lucidly they can present their point of view. The hard work done during Reading Comprehension preparation will be immensely useful in GD/WAT and PI.

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Reading Comprehension for CAT and other MBA Exams

Let’s look at the weightage of Reading Comprehension in some of the top MBA entrance exams. The number of  RC questions presented in the table below is based on the last year's question paper of every exam. This should be seen as a reference and in the upcoming exams, the number of Reading Comprehension questions could be higher or lower.

MBA Entrance Exams

Verbal Ability Weightage

CAT

18/24 questions

XAT

12/26 questions

MAT

20/40 questions

CMAT

6/25 questions

SNAP

8/34 questions

IIFT

16/35 questions

MAH CET

15/50 questions

How to Prepare for Reading Comprehension

  • The only sure shot way to crack Reading Comprehension section of any exam is by developing the habit of reading. Put 1.5 to 2 hours into reading per day.
  • In most probability, the exam will have passages you would not have read before. For that scenario, the best option is to read on a variety of topics.
  • Choose variety of  topics to read because the passages can be from Economics, Philosophy, History, Sociology, Politics, Literature, Science, Arts, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Biographies, Psychology or other fields. Also Read: Types of Reading Comprehension questions
  • Don’t do speed reading in the exam. Take your time and read the passage paying attention to details. If you do this, you’ll be able to answer all the questions in one go. You won’t have to go back and forth between questions and the passage to find the answers.
  • However, you cannot take too much time in reading passages on the exam day. So, the solution here is to develope the habit of fast reading but without missing important points. Those who are avid readers, need not worry. Those who are not, start reading from the early stage of MBA preparation.
  • You may adopt the strategy of reading the questions before the passage, but remember this strategy works on fact based passages. CAT Reading Comprehension passages are inference-based so don’t apply this strategy in CAT exam. Similarly, in XAT, the RC section has boring and dense passages from Psychology, Philosophy, Art or Research paper or sometimes even poems. Thus, the wise thing to do is read the passage first and then the questions.
  • In CAT, Reading Comprehension dominates the VARC section, thus there is no running away from it. The option to prepare better in VA and leave out RC is not there in CAT. In fact, even in other MBA entrance exams, it is advisable not to skip RC passages as it can directly affect your sectional score, which in turn may impact the overall score/percentile.
  • There is no formula, no theorem to crack a Reading Comprehension passage. So, all that you can do is practice. Practice adequate number of sample RC passages of different variety and time yourself. After every practice session, assess your performance. Take the test again to see whether you can crack the same passage in lesser time. Your should aim at more accuracy in lesser time.
  • Having a good reading habit will also help you in improving Vocabulary and Grammar. Note down unfamiliar words, phrases and idioms you come across while reading. Check their meaning and origin to build your vocabulary.

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CAT Reading Comprehension Passages

Check out the topics of CAT Reading Comprehension passages of last two years. CAT Reading Comprehension section is considered the toughest among all MBA entrance exams. It you can crack it, you can crack Reading Comprehension section of any exam.

CAT 2021 RC topics

SLOT 1

SLOT 2

SLOT 3

  • Mayan Civilization
  • Utopia and Dystopia
  • Marshmallow Experiment
  • Evolution of Tea as a Drink
  • Language/ Indigenous People
  • Why Fiction Trumps Truth
  • Colonialism/Nationalism
  • Knowledge and Problems of Knowledge is a Scandal to Philosophy
  • Nanotechnology
  • Language Instinct
  • Time Accuracy Entropy
  • Unconscious and Psychoanalysis

CAT 2020 RC Topics

Slot 1

Slot 2

Slot 3

Anarchism

Investing in renewable energy technologies

Travel writing and feminism during colonial times

Migration of Northern Seals

Piracy in international trade

The need for economic literacy in the general population

Currency of Tang Dynasty

Freudian models of aggression

Screen time and undercurrents of social class

Grammar/Vocabulary

A study of visualization

An analysis of human nature

CAT 2019

CAT 2018

Slot 1

British Folk Music

Genetics

Topophilia

India’s view on its legacy of Second World War

Emperor Penguins

Plastic Pollution

Internet Shopping and Choice Anxiety

Elephant society

Origin of Story of Alladin

Consumer behaviour studies

Slot 2

Dense Cities

Grover snails

Google and archaeology

Meritocracy and diversified teams

Distributing Bureaucracy

Use of technology in essential services

Language & Culture

Rings of Saturn and their age

Passage on British Colonial Policy

Human resource and learning

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Best Books for Reading Comprehension

Listed below are some of the popular books and novels for Reading Comprehension preparation recommended by MBA experts:

  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • Cosmos by Carl Sagan
  • An Illustrated Retelling of Mahabharata – Jaya by Devdutt Patnaik
  • India in Slow Motions by Mark Tully
  • Capitalism & Freedom by Milton Friedman
  • Maximum City by Suketu Mehta
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam
  • Shantaram by David Gregory Roberts
  • Around the world in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
  • The Time Machine by HG Wells
  • Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
  • Something Fresh by P G Wodehouse
  • Where Eagles Dare by Alistair McLean

News and Journals to read for Reading Comprehension section for CAT and other MBA entrance exams are listed below:

  • The Hindu
  • Time
  • Business Week
  • Newsweek
  • The Economist
  • National Geographic
  • Fortune
  • Business World

Download Free VARC Question Bank for Practice

Click to Download

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Prepare for Study Abroad Exams:

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FAQs Related to Reading Comprehension (RC)

Q: What is the key to score well in Reading Comprehension section of CAT?

A: Reading Comprehension passages of CAT often pose challenge to test takers. The key to score well in RC is long-term preparation. There is no alternative to reading. Developing reading habit is a necessity. You can crack this section if you don’t have the habit of reading because 18 questions are based on RC passages.

Q: Is it true that someone who is weak in English can’t score well in Reading Comprehension?

A: It is true that, one needs to have strong base in English to fare well in Reading Comprehension. Those whose English language is not so strong, however, must not feel demotivated. They can crack Reading Comprehension questions correctly too. All they need is to start preparation early and put in extra effort. Start reading books and novels at least nine months before the entrance exam. Keep a dictionary with you and mark the difficult words. Make notes of common idioms and phrases. Revise word meaning and concepts of Grammar every alternate day.

Q: How early should I start reading novels for Reading Comprehension?

A: To develop a reading habit, one should start reading books and newspapers every day for at least one hour daily from at least six to eight months before the entrance exam.

Q: Which are the best books for Reading Comprehension preparation?

A: Best books for VARC preparation are Word Power Made Easy by Normal Lewis and High School English Grammar by Wren & Martin. Candidates must also practice books such as,  How To Prepare For Verbal Ability And Reading Comprehension For CAT by Arun Sharma and Meenakshi Upadhyay,  The Pearson Guide to Verbal Ability for the CAT and Other MBA Entrance Examinations by Sujit Kumar and  The Pearson Guide to Verbal Ability and Logical Reasoning for the CAT by Nishit K Sinha.

Q: What type of Reading Comprehension passages are there in CAT?

A: CAT exam has inference based Reading Comprehension passages. The topics range from Economy, Natural Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences to Current Affairs. The types of questions are:
  • Central theme based questions
  • Vocabulary based questions
  • Inference based questions
  • Title based questions
  • Paragraph and Structure based questions
  • Tone based questions

Q: What type of Reading Comprehension passages are there in XAT?

A: In XAT, Reading Comprehension passages are from Philosophy, Psychology, History, Art, research articles. Sometime, the XAT RC section also has one to two poems. These topics test the candidates, who are largely Science, Commerce and Engineering graduates, on their ability to come out of their comfort zone and adapt to unfamiliar situations.

Q: What are the topics on which I should read books for RC preparation?

A: Candidates must read books on philosophy, science, astronomy, psychology, sociology, history, geography, economy, art & culture, literature, fiction novels, auto-biographies and biographies.

Q: How many RC questions does CAT have?

A: CAT has about 18 Reading Comprehension questions. There are about four to five passages of 500-600 words each having four to five questions. VARC is the first section of CAT, which is helpful in reading and understanding dense passages.

Q: Which type of questions does VARC section comprise?

A: The VARC section typically comprises MCQs based on Grammatical concepts like tenses, articles, noun/pronoun, conjunctions, subject-verb agreement; Verbal Ability questions on word meaning, one word substitution, fill in the blanks and para-jumbles. The RC section has questions based on passages.

Q: Why is it necessary to practice sample questions of Reading Comprehension?

A: It is necessary to practice sample questions of Reading Comprehension because all the MBA entrance exams are speed based test and there is just about minute allotted to each question. By practicing sample questions, you will get the practice of reading 600-plus words passages fast, develop speed and accuracy in solving question and learn the skill to choose which question to answer and which one to skip to avoid negative marking.

Q: What is the best preparation strategy for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension?

A: To prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, stick to the traditional path of concepts first and practice later. Study English grammar and Verbal Ability first to understand the concept. Then practice a number of sample questions of different kinds to gain confidence, speed and accuracy. For RC passages, develop the habit of reading from early stages. Read books from various genres.
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