Decoding the CAT Verbal Ability section


A concise overview of VA and RC section for CAT 2021


Verbal Ability is one of the most difficult sections in CAT and is often undermined by most of the CAT applicants. Few realize that it's important to do well in this section for a call from prestigious IIMs and other reputed MBA colleges. Most students commit the error of neglecting the verbal section and prepare for it at a later stage as they are focussed on Quantitative aptitude. There was a change in the CAT pattern for the year 2020. CAT 20 exam had a total of 76 questions. There were 26 VARC questions, 24 DI & LR questions and 26 Quantitative Ability questions. Moreover, the time duration to attempt the CAT 20 exam was 120 minutes. In this article, you will learn about the key topics of VARC section and the preparation strategy for each one of them.

Importance of VARC section in CAT


VA and RC section is the rank booster in MBA entrance examination as majority of candidates tend to take this section lightly as they feel that ‘English’ can be managed later.

Just like the Quantitative aptitude section, verbal ability holds 26% weightage in the CAT exam. With a total of 26 VARC questions in CAT, it is essential to ace the section well. Out of 26 questions, 22 are MCQs while the rest 4 are non-MCQs. In the VARC section, there were 4 reading comprehension passages having 18 questions. The remaining Verbal section had a total of 8 questions out of which 3 were Para jumbles questions, 4 were Summary questions and 1 question was on odd sentences. Each question carries 3 marks while -1 is deducted for each wrong answer. Similar to other sections, you are required to complete VARC in 40 minutes. While the questions are based on the fundamental topics of English, the format of questions often makes them tricky and complex to handle.


Syllabus of CAT Verbal Ability section


CAT Verbal Ability questions are from the following key topics


  • Reading Comprehensions(RCs)
  • Grammar
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Para-jumbles
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Misfit Sentence/Error Corrections
  • Summary Writing
  • Para-completion


CAT Verbal Ability : How to approach


Here we will analyze the individual constituents of the CAT Verbal Ability section:


Reading Comprehensions:

Reading Comprehensions form the most important segment of the CAT Verbal Ability section. RC questions constitute 18 questions of total 26 in VARC section.


RC passages are based on a variety of topics. So, here diverse reading comes to your rescue. You are likely to score well if you are well-versed with a wide spectrum of topics.

Passages from areas such as philosophy and sociology require you to have good comprehension skills while the passages from business/economics require you to be familiar with the basic terminology of these areas. So, read articles from as many areas as possible.


The second important aspect for RCs is practice. The two best resources for practicing CAT level RCs are:-

Previous year papers

Mock CAT RCs.

These offer you the highest quality and most appropriate material for preparation. Make sure that you regularly practice RCs. The more you practise, the better will be your speed and accuracy in RCs. Practicing RCs also improves your grammar and vocabulary, thereby helping you in other areas as well. Since RCs are sure to be asked in the exam, only a fool can afford to take this section for granted.



CAT used to feature 3-4 grammar questions till 2015. After that, there have been no direct questions from grammar. Nevertheless, you need to be aware of english grammar to crack other types of VA questions.

To score fairly well in VA questions, make yourself well acquainted with the basics of English Grammar. You can consult any good book on Basic English grammar (like High School Grammar and Composition by Wren & Martin) to polish your basic grammar skills.

Studying the basics can help you tackle questions with greater accuracy and better speed.

It is highly recommended that you go through the previous year CAT verbal ability questions.


Verbal Reasoning:

After the RC part, verbal reasoning has been the other important part of CAT VA. 6-8 questions are generally asked in form of Para-jumbles, Misfit sentences, Summary Writing or Critical Reasoning. Previously, Para-completion questions also made a regular appearance in the exam. It is crucial that you practice questions from this area regularly.

Your performance in this area depends upon your reading skills along with your ability to make logical inferences. Majority of these topics do not have any hard and fast rules but have a simple series of instructions that you need to follow in order to solve these questions. This section is all about the thinking skills of the candidate. The examiner is evaluating whether the candidate can understand what is being asked through statements and if he or she can take a logical decision or not.



Many a times, the difference in 90 and 95 percentile is due to those few game changing words that hindered your understanding of the given text. Therefore, it is essential that you build up your word power gradually.

Strengthen your vocabulary by learning new words daily. You can refer to our Vocab Booster booklet for enhancing vocabulary skills: The purpose of various word lists provided in this section is to enrich your vocabulary and help you perform well in the verbal section in your CAT exam.

Even though, there have been no direct questions based on vocabulary in CAT for the last three years, but vocabulary plays a vital role in enhancing your efficiency in all the areas discussed above. It expands your ability to understand complex reading material.


The Key to master vocabulary - Learning new words on a daily basis. Merely mugging up words won’t make a difference and its imperative for a candidate to make sentences using the words so as to know their meanings in the correct perspectives.





The VA & RC section of MBA Entrance calls for primarily three things :-

  1. Speed in reading

  2. Understanding the meaning and context

  3. Good command over vocabulary


Candidates need to remember that like any other language, English is also to be learned like a language. There are no shortcuts and the section can’t be completed in a few days or a couple of months. Practising RCs and reading good content should be a part of daily life of a serious candidate. An impeccable command over English comes gradually and consistency becomes the key when it comes to cracking the VA & RC section of CAT.


Candidates are advised to read a good newspaper daily and go through editorials to learn the art of understanding the meaning in the right context or perspective as asked by the examiner.