When I think about preparing for reading comprehension, I am struck at how similar reading and driving are. You can drive any car if your driving technique works. If your technique is terrible, you can end up ruining every vehicle you own.
Reading fiction is a bit like driving a train. Is there anyone among us who hasn’t dreamed of having the best seat on a train? I would give my arm and a leg to be in the driver’s seat of a German ICE or Swiss Lyria train, the Austrian Railjet, the Italian Frecciarossa or the Shanghai Maglev.
You don’t have to do much as a train driver. You let the train do it all for you. Start your journey, choose a pace, grab a cup of tea and cruise on autopilot. Enjoy the beauty of the universe as you glide by. You will find that there is rarely anything to stop you from your journey.
The feeling I get when I’m reading a great piece of fiction (e.g. The Importance Of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde or Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser) is the same.
I’m in the driver’s seat (read: on my couch). I set a pace, and I’m on autopilot. I take in these beautiful universes created by these geniuses. There is nothing that can stop me. My only difference is that my job doesn’t require me to drink coffee. I choose a vintage Puligny Montrachet or a first-growth Bordeaux, Laphroaig Quarter Kask, Kina Lillet or the tremendous old Pimms No. 1 on ice.
Yes. I’m a snob. It doesn’t matter what I have in my hands when it comes to the reading experience. Fiction reading is fun and never dull.
Reading non-fiction, on the other hand, is like driving to work during rush hour. The Haji Ali-Marine Drive section in Mumbai, the Burrabazaar Street Road section in Kolkata, the Delhi-NCR route or any other road trip in Bangalore. These are the drives that you should not look forward to.
These drives are filled with impediments of all kinds, both living and non-living. They are a complex task that requires a lot of physical and mental effort.
These roads are the ultimate test. You can drive well anywhere if you can do it here. The reading comprehension passages are mainly non-fictional, so the rules for rush hour driving apply while we navigate through them.
It is nearly impossible for most CAT takers to read a complex CAT RC passage in less than 3 minutes. Instead of dictating a superior speed, which will not be possible for every case, I suggest calculating your average reading speed. This will reflect both words-per-minute and comprehension. It is easy:
Step 1: Take four CAT-level passages covering different topics of equal length. (The average length for the CAT is approximately 850 words).
Step 2: Take your time and read the first passage at a comfortable pace. Keep in mind, however, that the following questions will be asked after only one reading:
These questions must be answered in one reading. This is because many RC questions don’t allow you to return to a specific section of the passage to find the answers. Consider the title question. If we cannot answer the question after reading the entire passage, we must re-read it. We don’t have the time.
These three questions are not time-consuming. Count the time it took to read the passage slowly enough to be able to answer the questions. This will give you a better idea of your “effective reading speed”.
Step 3: Repeat the above process for each of the three remaining passages and calculate the average time. Once you have determined the average time, aim to drop 10 seconds. If the average is 5 minutes, you can aim for a drop of 10 seconds when you read more passages. This will help you focus better and put you under enough pressure.
For a few weeks, keep at it. When you feel comfortable with 4.50, drop it to 4.40. Keep decreasing it until you can no longer. You will notice a difference in your focus and speed. Speed and comprehension are often inversely related, but improving the former will always bring speed improvement.
No matter what you are reading, you must always aim to answer these three questions. We cannot afford to be blind readers. It is important to get comfortable with preparing the “gist” of the passage in your head so that you have a consistent, clear central idea upon which to base your answers.
Many RC passages contain difficult words and expressions. These impediments can cause us to lose sight of the bigger goal (the central concept). Individual words or expressions do not serve the central idea. In this instance, we can only mark the word and continue reading. We must read fluently to be able to answer the WHY, WHAT, and HOW.
These problematic words may appear in questions. We can always refer to them later. However, they cannot interrupt our first reading.
The CAT RC passages look a bit like Bollywood movies. The first 10 minutes give enough clues as to what’s going on in the next 10 minutes.
Because the CAT RC passages are non-fictional and therefore structured, it is possible to foresee what’s coming. You can get clues from the first line of the passage about the contents of the next paragraph. Once you’ve read the first paragraph, you will have an idea of the contents of the second half. You can predict the conclusion when you have reached the halfway point of the passage.
This takes a lot of practice to be able. It takes an approach to be able to do this. This will allow you to read the passage faster and help you remember it better. The anticipation process will begin once you have started to read the course to answer the WWH.
Take a look around. Learn from others. I’ve read countless RC passages over the years, but none of them taught me anything new.
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