Which passages should we select in CAT-RC? And, How?
It is just about a month to CAT and even after so much study and practice, the 'evergreen' nagging questions with respect to CAT-RC remain:
1. Considering that I cannot attempt all the RC passages in the given time, how many passages should I target?
2. If there is such a golden number, let's say 4 (out of 5), how should I select the passages?
3. HOW TO PRIORITIZE THE PASSAGES I SELECTED? That is, after deciding to attempt 4 passages, how should I decide their order? Which ones should I attempt first and which ones last?
4. Most importantly, how much time should I devote to each RC passage, in general, or each RC question, in particular?
We have the best answers, but first, you must promise that you will practice them. Without rigorous practice no method is effective.
Question 1. Considering that I cannot attempt all the RC passages in the given time, how many passages should I target?
Answer: Obviously, this question is relevant to those who have the "speed" problem in RC, that is, they have a good accuracy in RCs but are not able to read as fast as required. The others will try to attempt all the questions, right?
Apart from the speed problem, some troubling hurdles to consider are 1. The passages are in different subject areas. 2. They are of different language difficulty levels. 3. They are of different idea-complexity levels. 4. The questions are of different types too, some of which are time-consuming. Most importantly, 4. The overall time available is not as much as one would want to.
So, what is the golden number? Our answer: at least 4 passages out of the five given. (Go for at least 3 if you greatly slow.) But our golden number for an average reader-cum-comprehender is four out of five.
We know that there will be three long and two short passages. Therefore, two combinations are suggested: (Please do not forget that this is RC strategy. We are assuming that you look at all the non-RC questions and attempt at least 6 of them).
Combo-1: Two long 6-question RCs (12 Qs in all) + 2 short 3-question RCs (6 Qs in all). The total comes to 18 questions, which is fine so far as you will look at all the Non-RC Questions and answer at least 6 of them. The overall total comes to 24, which is a reasonable number for an average student.
Combo-2: All the three long 6-question RCs (18 Qs in all) + 1 short 3-question RC (3 Qs in all). The total comes to 21, which is a great number to look at. If we consider the Non-RC Questions and answer at least 6 of them. The overall total comes to 27, which is a more than reasonable for an average student
In case you are curious to know how much accuracy you need to be in the safe zone for CAT. The answer is at least 80%.
Question 2. If there is such a golden number, let's say 4 (out of 5), how should I select the passages?
Answer: Now that we have decided on the golden number of RC passages (at least 4, to be precise) to be tackled in the CAT, how do go about selecting them?
Well, the selection depends on the proper application of two methods:
Method 1: SKIMMING OF PASSAGES: Skimming is "reading the passage quickly so as to note only those important points in and about the passage that help us to answer the question: "Whether to attempt the passage or not?"
The points to be gathered are the subject area, topic, central idea, main supporting ideas, conclusion, difficulty level of language and complexity of ideas.
Method 2: SKIMMING OF QUESTIONS: Now, you read just the question stems. A question stem is the just the question part of the question set, that is, without the answer choices. You must try to gather the same inferences as detailed above. More importantly, check the question type too, especially the numbers of "time-consuming", "comprehension" and "fact-based questions". This will be a part of decision-making. Do not forget to make note of all these points on the scrap papers.
TIME TO BE TAKEN FOR THIS: 30 seconds for long passages and 15 seconds for the shorter ones. A total of 2.5 minutes.
After about 2 to 2.5 minutes, you will have on the scrap paper, passage-wise the subject area, the topic, the language difficulty, the idea difficulty etc. You must now compare the data with your strengths and weaknesses and decide. Let's say you belong to the category of those who are not good at philosophy, sociology, and other such "difficult" areas, but you are good at science, technology, business, politics, economics, and other such "common" areas, then you must avoid a passage belonging to the hard areas and select and go for those passages in the "common areas".
More importantly, when it comes to language difficulty and idea complexity, you must attempt a passage that is easy on the language or ideas regardless of the fact that belongs to the "hard" area. From your experience by now, you must have realized that even if the subject area is difficult or unfamiliar, if the passage happens to be easy to read with simple to understand ideas, then we can actually attempt the same and get correct answers too. do not be simplistic and start rejecting the passages based on one parameter. You may end up rejecting all which is not desirable, right? Also, the question types should be used only from the point of view of time-consumption and RC Approach.
So, be methodical and fast, but, more importantly, be wise!
Question 3. HOW TO PRIORITIZE THE PASSAGES I SELECTED? That is, after deciding to attempt 4 passages, how should I decide their order? Which ones should I attempt first and which one last?
Answer: Of course, you should have a pre-decided order of attempting the selected passage. But the answer is obvious, isn't it? Again, you should use your knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses. The first passage should be the one that has all its attributes matching your strength. The last one in the list should be the one that does not match your strengths on any count. The other passages come in between. You must use your mock experiences, post-mock analyses and impressions here as greatly as possible.
Important point: You must decide the order while selecting the passage as discussed in the answer to question 2.
Question 4. Most importantly, how much time should I devote to each RC passage, in general, or each RC question, in particular?
Answer: With respect to this question, we should work in reverse. Let's take Combo-2 above, that is, about 20 RC questions and about 5 Non-RC questions. A total of 25. Now, wisdom tells us that we should devote 1 to 1.5 minutes to Non-RC questions. This means, for the 5 questions that you attempt, you will take about 7.5 minutes. Now, let's say you took about 3 minutes for the Skimming-Selection-Process. That is 10.5 minutes. If we remove this from 60 minutes, we are left with 49.5 minutes. Let's say you take about 12 minutes for the long passages and 6 minutes for the short ones. So, 3 long and one short would mean about 36 + 6 minutes = about 42 minutes. The remaining about 7.5 minutes are for you to decide. You may expend them on Non-RC or the remaining one RC passage. That is your call. These 7.5 minutes or so are also important to deal with an emergency or unexpected situations. For instance, you thought the first passage you selected would be a cakewalk but it turned out to be a stumper, then you may end up spending a couple of minutes more there. (Let us clarify here that you should be aware of such exigencies and how much time you expand on them because if you get carried away you will later have trouble finishing the test satisfactorily).
In short: 2 minutes per RC question and 1 to 1.5 minutes per Non-RC question. This way, the time you have to devote for other things like selection of passages, deciding on the strategy, etc., can also be taken care of.
Finally, before saying "All the Best", we would like to remind you not forget to practice all the methods detailed above. Remember the age-old wisdom: Practice Makes Perfect!
All the best!
Also, check our other MBA related blogs