English Comprehension

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English Comprehension is one of the most important sections in BBA, MBA Entrance exams and all the important recruitment tests. CAT conducted by IIMs awards 70% weightage only to the questions based on English Comprehension passages in its VARC section. Out of the 34 questions in the Verbal Ability and Reading comprehension section, 24 are based on English comprehension only. IIFT, XAT, CMAT, SNAP, NMAT, all award high weightage to English comprehension in their verbal ability section. IIFT has earmarked a separate section on English Comprehension in its entrance exam.


The undergraduate BBA/BMS entrance tests like DU JAT, IPM AT, NPAT, SET among others also focus on skills to solve the questions based on English Comprehension passages.


English Comprehension in the Exam: Know the Basics
Before  exploring on how to prepare English Comprehension, it is very important to know what is English Comprehension – its difficulty level, improving reading skills, importance in the exam, how much time is required to prepare for it, how to plan preparation of English Comprehension among others.


5 Key aspects on English Comprehension Preparation

  • Which Management Exams focus more on English Comprehension?
  • How much weightage is awarded to English Comprehension in different exams?
  • Which are the best books to prepare for English Comprehension?
  • Type of Questions asked on English Comprehension Passages?
  • How to answer the Questions based on English Comprehension?

Let us clarify on each aspect of English Comprehension


Importance & Weightage of English Comprehension
Following National level management exams award high importance to English language comprehension for admission to MBA/PGDM courses in colleges:

Management Entrance Exam
Sectional Weight of English Comprehension Questions
Overall Weightage of English Comprehension in Exam
CAT conducted by IIMs
XAT conducted by XLRI
SNAP by SIU Pune
IIFT Entrance Test by IIFT

Best Books for English Comprehension Preparation
There are two things to understand before going to select the English Comprehension preparation books - Which are the good English Comprehension preparation books & study material and out of them how to choose the best books for English Comprehension. Below are shared the best books to prepare for English Comprehension:

  • How to Prepare for Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CAT’- by Arun Sharma & Meenakshi Upadhyay
  • Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for the CAT’ - by Nishit K Sinha
  • Arihant Book on Verbal Ability: Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension by Ajay Singh
  • Practice and Study Material by CL and IMS
  • Booklets by TIME
  • Editorial Articles in News papers

Why these are the best books for English Comprehension? The answer to this question is that these English comprehension books are of latest edition as per current exam pattern; contains  Free English comprehension Tests and English Comprehension passages with answers and English Comprehension online practice test


English Comprehension: Passage Based Questions
English Comprehension based question pattern and type in different exams may vary from exam to exam. The English comprehension passages in CAT are taken as example: 

Type of English Comprehension based questions
Expected number of questions
Key features
Reasoning type of questions
Statement, Assumption, True-False, Inference, Judgement 
Vocabulary based Questions
Explaining the similar meaning of the word/phrase used in the RC passage
Opposite Meaning questions
Picking out the answer option with the opposite meaning of the word/phrase as used in the passage
Thought based
Summarising the idea as expressed in the passage
Fact verification
Choosing the answer that agrees/disagrees with the idea expressed by the author

Type of English Comprehension Passages in CAT


Following type of Long and Short English Comprehension Passages appear in CAT exam:

CAT English Comprehension passages
Number of questions
Type of Questions
Long Passage-1 – Usually moderate based on facts
MCQs with 1/3 Negative Marking
Long passage-2 – Moderate to difficult with rich vocabulary – more literary and opinion based
MCQs with 1/3 Negative Marking
Long passage-3 – Difficult-based on abstract topic/opinion based/literature based, may contain too many unknown vocabulary words
MCQs with 1/3 Negative Marking
Short passage-1 – Moderate to difficult; business-economy/geography based
MCQs with 1/3 Negative Marking
Short passage-2- sometimes difficult with difficult words; based on historical facts, opinion, future plans
MCQs with 1/3 Negative Marking
Short Passage-3 – may be more difficult than other two; usually on Abstract topic
MCQs with 1/3 Negative Marking

The difficulty level of English comprehension passages and questions in other exams is moderate and not so difficult as CAT.  


How to Answer English Comprehension Questions
You need to improve your reading speed and monitor your time to attempt the English Comprehension passages. One English Comprehension passage followed by 4-5 questions should not take more than 15 minutes to answer. Step wise process to answer the questions based on English Comprehension passages is:  

  • Understand the English vocabulary,
  • Continue with Consistent flow of thoughts in the Passage
  • Read between the lines to crack the meaning
  • Arrive at the correct and decisive answer option for the questions based on English  Comprehension passage

Key tips to Prepare & Crack the English Comprehension Passages

  1. Make it the regular practice to read the editorials, articles in the news paper.
  2. Underline the difficult words-search out their meanings and put them to use in writing, in conversation etc. Tests have shown that the number of unfamiliar words in a passage, if exceeds about one in twenty, the reader will lose track. If the proportion is lower, the reader may skip over the unfamiliar words and grasp, at least the general meaning.
  3. This procedure reinforces the parts that the reader half-knows. Then he or she can look up those new words that seem most interesting or important, to have proper understanding of the passage.
  4. Have a good book on grammar and English comprehension with plenty of exercises. Get your concepts cleared and then attempt the exercises. At a later stage on line mock tests will enable you to have proper feel of examination hall and your level of preparation as well. So take on the challenge.
  5. Read the passage/article fairly quickly to get the general idea.
  6. Read again, if possible, a little slowly so as to understand the details.
  7. Write a summary in your own words neatly and precisely – with one third/fourth in length to the original length of the passage.
  8. Use complete sentences, Take care to understand.
  9. Make a chart on time consumed in reading and writing the summary of the passage. Check whether the time is getting reduced after a day or two.
  10. Go for versatile reading with different topics. Try to mark and note down the interesting/important words or sentences.