A Step Beyond Reading the Reading Comprehensions

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Before you start reading this, make sure you’ve read the three previous posts of the ‘Reading Comprehension Series’. Find the first one here, second one here and the third one here.

Once you’ve tackled the problem of actually READING the comprehension and getting a general idea of what you may be tested on, you need to be familiar with the kind of questions that may be asked.  As far as I have studied, the past year CLAT papers mostly have had similar kinds of questions:

1) Those that test you on your vocabulary i.e., the meanings of certain ‘difficult’ words used in the passage. Dealing with such questions becomes easier if you have a habit of reading (yes, I know it’s annoying how much I stress on the word READ, but it is a necessary evil which will not only help you now, but is something without which you CANNOT survive in law school. So better develop this habit soon). Most of you will be familiar with words used in easy to moderately difficult RCs. While you may not know the EXACT meaning of a particular word, you may have a vague notion of what it means. So in such a situation, read the options and choose the one which seems familiar to your idea of what the meaning is. Sometimes, the people who set the paper can be devious. There may be two options very similar in meaning to the word in question, but alas! There is only one right option. So in such a scenario, what you do is locate the word in the passage and try to understand the CONTEXT in which it is used. This can be done by reading a couple of sentences before and after the infernal word. Contextually understanding the meaning of a word can also work in cases where you have no idea whatsoever of the meaning. This can end well in some cases. However, I would suggest that you either make a vocabulary list or find a moderate level one online and familiarize yourself with some words. You can also go through past year papers to try and figure out what level of ‘toughness’ is your vocabulary tested on and proceed accordingly.

2) Those that ask the meanings of certain common phrases (eg: as slippery as an eel, as tough as leather etc) or phrases which have been lifted out from the passage and you have to answer according to what you feel the author ‘means’ by it. For common phrases again, I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with a basic list of them. (Here’s one on Idioms) You could try figuring out their meaning according to the context or the way in which they have been used. This should not be too difficult.
Questions which make you think about what the author ‘means’ by it can be a bit tricky. For these you need to have read the RC carefully.

3) Those that question you on certain factual details of the RC. Again, reading it carefully should solve this problem.

4) Those that require you to analyse the RC and the author’s emotions/viewpoint/arguments. Eg: What would the author most likely agree/disagree with? Which of the following if true would strengthen or weaken the author’s argument? To solve these kinds of questions, read the previous article in this series. Also, remember to watch out for certain KEY words. These may be adjectives the author uses or certain tools like sarcasm or irony that he makes use of. For example: “I abhor people who cut trees, trees are sacred entities and only capitalists intent on personal profits would be callous enough to shamelessly cut trees. Here the author probably agrees with the fact that capitalists have no respect for nature and that he dislikes them.

5) You will be asked to choose a ‘conclusion’ which you feel best fits the RC. For this again, you need to keep in mind that the conclusion should neither be too broad, i.e., deal with a matter that the RC only briefly touches upon or too narrow i.e., only one matter mentioned in the RC.

6) Questions that ask you to pick a title for the RC. (Refer to the previous article in the series) Again, this should not be too broad or too narrow.

Also, always remember that if you ever get confused between two options, go back to whatever part of the passage deals with that question and read it again. Then read the question again, CAREFULLY along with ALL the options. You should probably find your answer this time around.

I may have missed out on a particular type of question, my apologies for that. RCs are probably half as annoying as I’m making them out to be, but it’s always good to be prepared for the worst (yes, I’m a sadist). And you will always gain from an intensive preparation, if not during the exam then maybe later. Most of all, you should learn to relax while dealing with an RC. Don’t worry too much about questions that seem tricky at first but can be easily solved if you have read the RC properly. Just go with the flow of the passage, read it carefully and deal with the questions one at a time. This should be one section that you should not spend too much time on, but an RC which has been attempted well can generally take your score a little higher since they comprise of a substantial percentage of the paper.

So, good luck. Just keep reading and ENJOY what you read. The rest, as they say, ‘will come naturally.’

Tanisha Pande,
Batch of 2017.

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