VA-LR section in CAT is an interesting section because it has approximately 10 questions each from 3 different areas, English Usage Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension, because of which even if you are comfortable in only 2 out of these 3 areas you can hit the jackpot because an attempt of around 22 with around 3-4 errors would result in clearing the sectional cutoff of all the IIMs.
Topic 1: English Usage
The 10 questions of English Usage consist of around 2 questions each from Grammar, Phrasal Verbs, Sentence Completion, Para Jumbles and Para Completion. Let us look at each of these question types separately.
Phrasal Verbs: Maximum of 1 minute per question is recommended because if you do not know the answer you will not get it by multiple readings of the question also.
Grammar: You should spend about 2 minutes for each of these questions because they typically have 4 statements and you may need to read the statements carefully two times. If even after reading the statement twices you are unable to conclude if it is correct or incorrect, leave it and move on to the next statement. Every time you identify a statement to be grammatically correct or incorrect, move on to the choices to eliminate the incorrect choice(s).
Sentence Completion: These questions can be comfortably done in about 1.5 minutes each. Here too you need to keep eliminating choices with every blank.
Para Jumbles: It is okay to spend about 3 minutes in each of these questions because identifying the mandatory pair or opening statement or closing statement can take time. If you do not rush thru these questions you can get them right most of the time.
Para Completion: In these questions that you read the paragraph carefully and move on to elimination of choices. You may need to go back and forth between the paragraph and the choices hence up to 3 minutes per questions is acceptable.
The total time that is recommended for the 10 EU questions is 15 – 20 minutes, based on your comfort level with the various question types. Less than15 minutes will imply rushing thru the questions and making silly mistakes while more than 20 minutes will lead to time wastage and increase your errors due to hair splitting.
Topic 2: Reading Comprehension
RC typically has 3 passages with 3 – 4 questions per passage. For most of the students the default plan for RC should be to attempt only 2 passages in 15 minutes which would translate to about 5 – 6 attempts.
If you are pathetic in RC then choose carefully and attempt only one passage in 10 minutes. It is however important that you are comfortable with the passages that you choose to attempt. Also it is not necessary for you to attempt all the questions from the passages that you choose, it is better to leave a question than to get mark an incorrect answer and get negative marks.
If RC is your strong point then you should target all 3 passages in 20-25 minutes.
Topic 3: Analytical Reasoning
These 10 questions can be broken into 3 data sets of 2-3 questions and 3 single questions. Most of the students should target around 6-8 out of 10 AR questions in 25 minutes. For those of you who are strong in QA but dread RC these 10 are must do questions. You can afford to spend up to 35 minutes for these 10 questions but should ensure 100% accuracy. In fact in CAT 2011, students who attempted all AR questions and left rest of the EULR questions un-attempted had a score of over 85%ile.
The table below suggests the target attempts and the time distribution for different types of students. This is only suggestive and you should based on your own strengths and weakness work out the break up of time between EU, LR and RC and the target attempts. Test it in a copuple of papers and refine it based on how it works for you.
Sequencing of Question Types: Until and unless there are strong reasons to the contrary, it is advisable to start this section with EU questions then move on to AR questions and attempt RC in the end. The subjectivity is RC is greater than that in AR and hence while you can be sure of the answer in AR, in RC most of the times surety of answer is much lower.
CAUTION: It is important to remember that in EU as well as RC there should be NO Guesswork, the rule When in Doubt Leave has to be strictly adhered to. Focus on accuracy and not on attempts.