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Manasi Sinari
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The skill-set a student needs to do well in English has changed substantially. An impressive reading speed and knowledge of a wide variety of words, phrases or idioms of the language is no longer as important as the ability to think and answer questions in Reading Comprehension.

The questions are tougher, because you may not find the answer clearly stated in the passage. The answers have to be “inferred”, meaning that you have to understand the context in which the author has made a particular remark or point, and infer why he said something or what it means.

You can read the passage any number of times, if you lack the skill to make proper inferences, you will not be able to answer the question. And the trouble is that inferences, by nature, are subjective; and hence some answer choices may appear too close to make a clear choice.

In this introductory article, let us discuss some of the types of questions that appear in Reading Comprehension:

• Title of the passage: The passages given in the CAT paper are typically extracts from a larger text, so no title is clearly stated. You may have to look at the answer choices and see which of the possible titles is the ‘most appropriate’. Note the words ‘most appropriate’.

The answer may not be the best possible title that you can give to the passage; but it is the best among the given options. Some general guidelines are: try to look for a title that is neither too broad nor too specific; and one that expresses the theme that is consistent throughout the passage you have read.

• Central idea: A variation of the question regarding choosing a title is when you are asked to choose the central idea of the passage. Here you have to pick out a statement that correctly paraphrases the main idea of the passage or identify the author’s objective in writing the passage that you have been given.

• Author’s tone/ attitude towards a subject: This is an important type of question. You are asked to pick out tone or style the author has employed while writing the passage you have just read.

The author may have been analytical-he has analysed the cause and future repercussions of the given issue. He could have been sarcastic-gently poking fun at some one’s view or idea.

Or he may be simply descriptive or objective, describing the features of a particular place or work of art, for example.

Make sure you fully understand these terms. Most importantly, read a lot during your preparation phase. This will go a long way in recognize a particular tone when you see it

• Who is the author?: This is another type of inferential question-you have to choose who you think the author is. Is he a journalist? Is he a professor? Is he a student? Is he a corporate professional?

You will need practice to answer such questions. The answer depends upon the style that the writer has employed while writing.

A journalist, for example, is supposed to be unbiased and examine both sides of the particular issue, while a corporate professional may advance the particular view his corporate holds towards the issue under discussion.

• The author’s opinions: You will often find questions stating that the author is “most likely to agree or disagree with which of the following statements?” These are sometimes quite tricky as once again, these are pure inference-type questions, with no explicit answer stated in the passage.

Not only do they test your comprehension skills, but you have to put yourself in the author’s shoes and try to understand his attitude or views towards the topic. Once gain, the answer could be contentious, the question statement, phrased with a “most likely” itself ensures this!

• Factual questions: These are the easiest type of questions. You merely need to find the answer in the passage, which is usually clear and explicit. As long as you concentrate while reading, these questions should not pose any problem.

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Sidharth Balakrishna is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and has been employed with the world's top Marketing, Management Consultancy and energy firms. Besides his regular Corporate job, he has written a number of books and articles for various reputed publications, is a Faculty with top Business Schools and has held seminars across the country.

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