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Different Types of RC Questions

RC is a tool which is used by the examiners to test a person’s ability to understand and analyse text drawn from different areas. It also tests a person’s ability to draw inferences, and if necessary to apply the inference in a new context or framework.

Reading passages do not directly test the general awareness or subject knowledge of any particular field, although a broad awareness of different areas is helpful in increasing the comfort level, and consequently the confidence level with which a person handles the passages. RC questions may test you on either what is given in the passage or what can be deduced from the passage. The idea is to get as close as possible to the mind of the author—what he wants to convey through the framework of ideas interwoven in the passage. From the examination point of view, the RC questions can be broadly subdivided into six categories. A student should try to master different RC question types to excoriate the fear of RC from his mind forever.

  1. Main Idea Question
  2. Explicit Detail or Direct Question
  3. Inference Question
  4. Logical Structure Question
  5. Tone or Attitude based Question
  6. Extended Application Question

Main Idea Question

Main idea of a passage can be defined as the most succinct summary that encompasses the passage.

These questions are very important and test one’s ability to understand the overall theme of the passage, mainly ‘what the passage is precisely about’. One needs to have a fair understanding of what the passage talks about ‘as a whole’, and not be confused by the facts, explanations and examples given by the author to support the main idea. main idea is generally indicated in the first part of the passage. Rarely, it could also come in the concluding part of the article.

Sometimes, the main idea question may be based on supplying a suitable title for the passage. A suitable title is one which captures the major elements of the passage in the shortest logical manner.

Explicit Detail or Direct Question

These questions use the phrases like ‘According to the passage ….’, or ‘The author/passage mentions the following except:’ These questions are easier to tackle as they test one’s ability to find specific information given in the passage. One has to locate the detail in the form of information, Data or Statistics as mentioned in the passage.

These questions provide direct clues like line references which make them easier to crack. Sometimes, these questions can also ask the contextual meaning of an underlined or italicized word as it has been used in the passage. This type of questions may not be frequently asked in the CAT now but appear in SNAP and FMS test.

Inference Questions

To infer is to draw or deduce something on the basis of what is given in or implied by the passage. These questions are favorite of the CAT. The students find these questions challenging, as answering these questions requires a careful reading of the passage, which includes the ability to read between the lines, ability to interconnect the different logical elements given in the passage.

These questions typically use words like infer, imply, arrive at, deduce, surmise, etc. To handle these questions one must refer back to that part of the passage from where the inference has been drawn, correlate the concepts if necessary, and narrow down the answer choices. Both the aspects are important: to read the context given in the passage, and to gradually eliminate the answer choices to arrive at the best solution.

Generally, the students get stuck up between the last two options. One must settle for the answer choice which is more clearly and specific on the basis of the main idea of the passage.

Logical Structure Question

These questions ask about why the author introduces a specific point, gives a particular example, or quotes somebody in the passage. Sometimes, these questions also ask about overall development of the passage about ‘WHY’ the author uses a particular example, anecdote, refutation, or counter argument to develop the passage.

These questions mainly focus on ‘WHY’ of the subject matter. Therefore, it becomes important to read the mind of the author. These questions generally give you a line reference from where the example or quote has been taken. If you carefully read two to three lines above or below the line from where the text has been taken and work with the options, you can hit the bull’s eye. Remember the answer can never be within the of line reference, as the question is ‘WHY’ that particular thing has been mentioned.

Tone/Attitude Based Question

These questions test your ability to find out the underlying emotion of a particular line, paragraph or passage as a whole. One has to judge the attitude of the author towards his subject. These questions are not common in the CAT and other B-school entrance tests, however, a fair understanding of tone helps one to understand the passage better and faster. One must develop the ability to understand the different shades of mood displayed by the author. Vocabulary plays an important role in handling these questions as the words like eulogistic or satirical are not used commonly used in colloquial or written English.

Attempt these questions only if you have a fairly clear idea of the emotional underpinning of the sentence or paragraph in question.

Extended Application Question

Application based questions take the logic a step further to that involved in inference questions. They test the ability to apply what you have learnt from the passage into a new context or framework, sometimes even unrelated to the passage. These questions are a bit challenging to the students, as they test one’s ability to think creatively and see things in new light.

These questions generally look like: ‘The author would most likely/least likely agree with ….’ ‘Which of the following statements if true would most strongly strengthen/weaken the argument’ ‘the writer/target audience of the passage is most likely ……’

To handle these questions one must meticulously narrow down the options keeping an eye on the main idea, scope and tone of the passage. These questions should be touched only when one has developed a clear understanding of the passage.

Another format of the application question is ‘which of the following is likely to be the title of the forthcoming/next article written by the author.’ These questions can be easily cracked if you carefully read the last paragraph and find out where the author leaves the passage, what are the unexplained issues or explanations which leave room for further discussion, analysis or elucidation.

Learning Objectives

After going through this chapter, you get to know:

  1. Why Reading Comprehension passages are given maximum weightage in the English section.
  2. How to answer different types of question on RC and Understand the technique required.
  3. How to read better and avoid inadequate ways of reading.

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