How to Increase Your VA Accuracy on the CAT: One thing that has always bothered me a lot whenever I interact with students, is that they seem to be very reluctant to let go of their playing-the-percentages attitude to tests. Throughout school and college, we tend to study by playing the percentages — giving importance to topics as per the number of questions that appear from that topic in the exam.
While this might be a great strategy for school and college exams, as far as aptitude tests go, this strategy is suicidal purely because of the fact that the difficulty level and the number of questions across areas do not follow a fixed pattern.
How is this related to Verbal Ability in the current pattern of the CAT? The increase in the weightage of Reading Comprehension started with CAT 2015 when the CAT moved to a 3-section pattern from a 2-section one. So until 2015, RC was something that people conscientiously avoided. But the moment it changed to three sections with RC having almost a 70% wieghtage people started ignoring VA.
Verbal Ability has almost become a side-show relegated to the last 10 minutes of the section and even within VA, the bulk of the time goes to the second most useless question type in the history of Verbal Ability question types across tests — Parajumbles. I think as a strategy this is quite misplaced since CAT is always about picking out the questions that will give you three marks in the shortest possible time and having the technique to hit high accuracy levels in executing a solution.
The VA questions are TITA, and hence carry no negative marking, that does not mean that you answer them in a cavalier fashion. You should look at them like legitimate deliveries, off which you should to score 3 marks, rather than treat them like free-hits!
In this post, we will look at How to Increase Your VA Accuracy on the CAT Strategies that will help you maximize the return on time invested in the three VA question types you will encounter. We will use the actual VA questions from recent years to discuss strategies and Increase Your VA Accuracy on the CAT.
How to Crack the Summary Question and Increase Your VA Accuracy on the CAT
The only way to reach higher accuracy levels on VA is to move from solving questions based on gut-feel to using a process to arrive at the answer. Leave your gut to what it does best — digestion! What is the usual process? Read the passage, read the options and then if it is an easy question, the answer will become obvious, if it is a tough question, you will get caught between two options. Where is the space for reasoning in all of this or when does the reasoning happen?
So the first step is to stop after reading the paragraph and formulate what you are looking for. Every paragraph will be about three big ideas (at most) — X, Y, and Z — all the rest of the sentences will be supporting arguments. After reading the paragraph you have to paraphrase the X and Y and Z of it, using the least number of phrases. You then proceed to check each option to see whether it has the X, the Y, and the Z
Let us take a question from CAT 2017 and see how to execute this process.
QUESTION 1: Easy
North American walnut sphinx moth caterpillars (Amorpha juglandis) look like easy meals for birds, but they have a trick up their sleeves-they produce whistles that sound like bird alarm calls, scaring potential predators away. At first, scientists suspected birds were simply startled by the loud noise. But a new study suggests a more sophisticated mechanism: the caterpillar’s whistle appears to mimic a bird alarm call, sending avian predators scrambling for cover.
When pecked by a bird, the caterpillars whistle by compressing their bodies like an accordion and forcing air out through specialised holes in their sides. The whistles are impressively loud – they have been measured at over SO dB from 5 cm away from the caterpillar – considering they are made by a two-inch long insect.
X — NAW Sphinx look like easy meals but they are not.
Y — They have a trick — they produce whistles that sound like bird alarm calls, scaring potential predators away.
Z — The whistles are impressively loud (for their small size)
- North American walnut sphinx moth caterpillars will whistle periodically to ward off predator birds – they have a specialized vocal tract that helps them whistle.
- North American walnut sphinx moth caterpillars can whistle very loudly; the loudness of their whistles is shocking as they are very small insects.
- North American walnut sphinx moth caterpillars, in a case of acoustic deception, produce whistles that mimic bird alarm calls to defend themselves.
- In a case of deception and camouflage, North American walnut sphinx moth caterpillars produce whistles that mimic bird alarm calls to defend themselves.
- Incorrect. Does not mention X, Y or Z — an easy prey, alarm call, loudness.
- Incorrect. Only mentions Z.
- Correct. Mentions X and Y. Paraphrases trick to acoustic deception.
- Incorrect. Mentions X and Y but adds an idea that is not present — camouflage, which means changing colour to blend in with surroundings to avoid detection, the passage only mentions vocal deception.
Option 3 lacks Z but has to be the option you must choose since it has two important ideas, X and Y. The VA of this CAT had two summary questions, let us look at the other one so that we can get a proper hang of the process.
QUESTION 2: Difficult
Both Socrates and Bacon were very good at asking useful questions. In fact, Socrates is largely credited with corning up with a way of asking questions, ‘the Socratic method,’ which itself is at the core of the ‘scientific method,’ popularised by Bacon. The Socratic method disproves arguments by finding exceptions to them, and can therefore lead your opponent to a point where they admit something that contradicts their original position. In common with Socrates, Bacon stressed it was as important to disprove a theory as it was to prove one – and real-world observation and experimentation were key to achieving both aims. Bacon also saw science as a collaborative affair, with scientists working together, challenging each other.
X — Socrates introduced and Bacon popularised the scientific method and asking questions
Y — Socrates and Bacon both tested theories by asking to determine exceptions and testing it against real-world observation and experimentation.
Z — In common with Socrates, Bacon stressed it was as important to disprove a theory as it was to prove one – and real-world observation and experimentation were key to achieving both aims.
- Both Socrates and Bacon advocated clever questioning of the opponents to disprove their arguments and theories.
- Both Socrates and Bacon advocated challenging arguments and theories by observation and experimentation.
- Both Socrates and Bacon advocated confirming arguments and theories by finding exceptions.
- Both Socrates and Bacon advocated examining arguments and theories from both sides to prove them.
- Incorrect. Z is incorrectly captured — they did not advocate only disproving theories by asking questions but stressed the importance of both.
- Incorrect. Z is incorrectly captured — they did not advocate only challenging arguments by asking questions but stressed the importance of both.
- Incorrect. Z is incorrectly captured — they did not want to confirm arguments but to test them through questioning and finding exceptions.
- Correct. Z is correctly encapsulated — examining arguments from both sides to prove them is the nothing but a paraphrase of proving and disproving to test an argument.
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