How to read for Reading Comprehension for CAT ?

We have discussed at length what books to read and what blogs/websites to read. Beyond what to read, it is important to know how to read.

Do not “consciously read” all the time

When it comes to RC passages, there is this perception that one has to consciously remember names & dates, register details and stow away facts & figures from the passage. So, we tend to practice for this by “consciously reading” all the time. So, every article, passage, blog or story is read with an agenda – to retain, recollect and regurgitate. This creates two problems – 1) You miss the themes. You only remember the facts and 2) Reading becomes a chore.

So, you become like the sports journalist tasked with submitting a match report 15 minutes after the match ends. There is no joy in watching the sport you love. Your mind is continuously thinking of phrases and turning points for the report.

Read for the joy

The best authors transport you to a different world. Read to go to that world. For the love of God, do not read PG Wodehouse novels because that would help you with CAT preparation. The man who created the Empress of Blandings and Jeeves would turn in his grave if he were to know that his books were being “studied” to crack an exam. The curse of Wooster would forever hang over you if you tried that.

It is impossible to pick humour if you are reading “consciously” all the time. This passage from MJ Akbar has phrases “The Delhi government has already issued restaurant alerts through radio ads, saying anyone who tries to eat out is anti-national” and “All we did was to introduce the Commonwealth to Indian standards of hygiene”. If you read this well, you will have a smile on your face for 20 minutes. If you read in ‘RC’ mode, chances are that the entire passage seems unfunny.

Speed Reading is for losers

Do this exercise. Take a standard book source, read 10 pages from it and compute the number of words you can read per minute. Do this every day from 6 am to 6 20 am and then chant ‘Om’ 108 times. Chances are that your health will improve because of the chanting.

Speed reading is bakwas. There, I said it. You cannot suddenly read quickly. The guys for whom speed-reading techniques worked are making a mistake with causality.

A man goes to his doctor because he’s been feeling very ill for days. The doctor gives him several sets of pills.

The doctor instructs; “Take the green pill with two big glasses of water when you get up. An hour later, take the white pill with another glass of water. Take the blue pill with a big glass of water after lunch. Mid afternoon, take the orange pill with plenty of water, and repeat that at dinner. Then, just before going to bed, take the red pill with several big glasses of water.”

The man is alarmed at huge volume of medicine he has been given to take, and nervously asks, “What’s the diagnosis? What’s wrong with me?”

The doctor says, “You’re dehydrated.”

All speed-reading tips are like these tablets. Speed improves with more reading, everything else is just garnishing.

Of course, there is one foolproof way to improve reading speed.

But I guess you are not looking for this.

Skimming paragraphs, skipping words, jumping sentences, thinking phrases instead of mere words are all suggested techniques to improve your reading speed. They will also simultaneously muddle your brain and make you addled in the exam.

Read slowly

I cannot emphasize this enough. Read slowly. Do not get suckered into trying to read quickly.

Each passage is going to have roughly 500-600 words. At an average reading speed, you can finish it in 3 minutes. If you read well, comprehend everything and are clear about the passage at the end of these 3 minutes, you will get a rock star score. You will do really well to not try to save another 30 seconds.

Every time you run into pressure in the VA section, the temptation is to try and read quicker. The correct response is to read slower. Make an effort to read at your natural pace. Don’t rush-read.


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