If a poll was conducted among CAT aspirants on the most hated question type in English section, possibly Sentence Correction and Para Completion would top the charts. Unfortunately the prerequisite for doing well in both these question types would mean going back in time and inculcating a “good reading habit”. You will rarely find someone who has been reading regularly not doing well in these question types. Obviously, going back in time is ruled out and since we are targeting CAT 2014, which is just 3 months away, “develop a good reading habit” is stupid advice.

We will look at grammar later but first let us try and resolve the issue of Para Completion because the approach to tackle Para Completion questions can be applied to critical reasoning and inferential questions in RC passages and hence can impact 5-6 questions in the VALR section.

First let us understand how most of the Para Completion questions are framed. Typically, the question creator will take a short paragraph from a book or an article and remove the last sentence and your Para Completion question and the correct answer choice are ready. The only thing missing are the three incorrect choices. Now creating three good, but incorrect, choices is not only hard work (who wants to work hard?) but also requires the content creator to think like the author, which is not easy, so he/she will usually be able to create only one good/close choice and two not so good choices.

We need to hence remember that the correct answer choice in Para Completion is an extension of the passage and is written by the same person who wrote the passage, so there have to be similarities between the paragraph and the correct answer choice. If we are able to identify the similarities or dissimilarities between the paragraph and the choices we have tamed the monster. Identifying similarities is usually more difficult than identifying dis-similarities and it I have my 4 Rules to identify the incorrect choices. Obviously eliminating 3 incorrect choices will give us the answer.

4 Rules to Master Para Completion

Rule 1: Scope 
Scope loosely refers to the subject of the passage and the issues discussed in it. Scope of the correct answer choice should be the same as that of the passage. For example, if the passage discusses the benefits of Nuclear Energy, choices discussing Solar Power are unlikely to be correct. When a choice is out of scope, it is discussing issues or subjects that are different from those in the passage. Thus any choice that is not in sync with the scope of the passage will be incorrect and should be eliminated.

Rule 2: Scale
Consider a passage on the outbreak of bird flu in a city, the correct answer choice will also focus on the city, it will not significantly change the scale (or size) of the problem. Thus any choice that extends the bird flu problem of the city to the country or reduces it to a small part of the city is unlikely to be correct. In other words the scale (or size) of the issue/problem will be similar in the paragraph and the correct answer choice.

Rule 3: Tone
If the author of the paragraph has a favourable opinion on an issue then the correct answer choice should also reflect it. The tone of the passage and the correct answer choice has to be the same. If the passage is laudatory, it is not possible for the correct answer choice to be critical.

Rule 4: Continuity
Just as Ganges flows from Gangotri to Rishikesh to Varanasi and cannot reverse its direction, an issue that has been discussed and closed in the paragraph will not be taken up again, remember from Rishikesh Ganges can flow only to Varanasi and not to Gangotri. It is the last thought or issue that has to be taken forward and not something that is dead and buried.

How to apply these 4 Rules?

Obviously you start by reading the paragraph and going thru the choices. Check each choice for similarity with the passage on account of Scope (syllabus), Scale (size) Tone and Continuity (flow). Any choice that does not adhere to these four has to be incorrect and eliminated.
1. If you are able to eliminate 3 out of 4 choices the remaining choice is the answer.
2. If you are able to eliminate 2 out of 4 choices, compare the two remaining choices and the one which is closer to the paragraph in terms of scope, scale, tone and continuity is the answer.
3. If you are able to eliminate only 1 out of 4 choices, move on to the next question.
4. If you are unable to eliminate any choice – obviously this need not be discussed.

To help you understand the application of these rules I have discussed 4 Para Completion question below. After going thru these examples try applying these rules to Para Completion questions of Mock CAT past CAT papers.

These rules will also work for Summary and Critical Reasoning questions and inferential questions in RC passages.


Application of 4 Rules to a few questions for better  understanding:

Q1. Teaching creationism in American public schools has been outlawed since 1987 when the Supreme Court ruled that the inclusion of religious material in science classes was unconstitutional. In recent years, however, opponents of the theory of evolution – first developed by Charles Darwin, have regrouped, challenging science education with the doctrine of “intelligent design”, which has been carefully stripped of all references to God and religion. Unlike traditional creationism, which claims that God created the earth in six days, proponents of intelligent design say the workings of this planet are too complex to be ascribed to evolution. There must have been a designer working to a plan – that is, a creator. _____________________

(a) However, these kinds of teachings are unacceptable to the American public.
(b) However, there are many schools that are in favour of teaching traditional creationism to the students.
(c) However, such beliefs are not substantial enough to convince the American courts to allow teaching the subject in its schools.
(d) However, the American government believes that the students must have the knowledge of traditional creationism, as well as, intelligent design.
(e) However, some believe that parents should decide what subjects should be taught to their children

Choice (a): Incorrect, change of scope, the paragraph does not discuss the views of the American public.
Choice (b): Incorrect, change of scope, the paragraph does not discuss the views of the schools.
Choice (c): Could be correct, scope is view of American courts, and the tone is the same as the view is the same in another similar situation.
Choice (d): Incorrect, change of scope from view of American Courts to views of the American Government.
Choice (e): Incorrect, change of scope from view of American Courts to views of the parents.

Correct answer: Choice (c)



Q2. The Ninth Schedule was created by Jawaharlal Nehru’s government as a vessel to protect agrarian reform legislation. Nehru’s vessel became a constitutional dustbin for Indira Gandhi’s and later governments to provide immunity for any kind of legislation relating to elections, mines and minerals, industrial regulation, requisition of property, monopolies, coal or copper nationalisation, general insurance, sick industries, acquiring the Alcock Ashdown company, Kerala Chitties Act, Tamil Nadu reservations of 69 per cent and so on. _____________________

(a) This misuse is only characteristic of the political situation in India.
(b) Protection has become a veil for rampant corruption.
(c) No principle underlies this selection.
(d) Theoretically, all state and Union legislations lack substance.
(e) The dustbin was of limitless capacity.

Choice (a): Incorrect, scale (or scope) has changed from Indira Gandhi’s and later Governments to entire political class.
Choice (b): Incorrect, change of scope, corruption has not been discussed in the paragraph and hence out of syllabus
Choice (c): Could be correct, it has a tone of disapproval like the paragraph and it talks about all kind of legislation (no principle) but introduces a new concept – principle and hence the scope is possibly different.
Choice (d): Incorrect, scale has changed to encompass all legislations and scope has changed by including both state and the Union.
Choice (e): Correct on account of tone (disapproving) and continuity (dustbin) and does not have a problem of either scale or scope.

Correct answer: Choice (e)


Q3. The digital-storytelling movement started in the early 1990s with performance artists such as San Francisco-based Atchley. But the technique is just beginning to take hold in the world of e-business. At last fall’s national Digital Storytelling Festival in Crested Butte, Colo., nearly half of the people signed up represented corporations. “The stories that people are telling on the Web around corporate brands are astounding,” says Atchley. “Knowledge is best shared and remembered through a good story, and companies are just starting to catch on to all that this can mean.”__________________

(a) If so, digital storytelling will see that computer prices continue to plummet.
(b) If so, digital storytelling will link high-speed data lines and more people to the Web.
(c) If so, digital storytelling will help companies to know more than what they knew earlier.
(d) If so, digital storytelling will only become more popular.
(e) If so, digital storytelling will only become less popular.

Choice (a): Incorrect, change of scope – Computer prices out of syllabus.
Choice (b): Incorrect, change of scope – High speed data lines & web are not discussed in the paragraph.
Choice (c): Incorrect, change of scope – The focus of the paragraph is on digital storytelling and not on how it will help companies.
Choice (d): Correct, on account of Scope & Continuity. The focus of this choice is on digital storytelling and also takes forward the impact of interest of companies – more popularity.
Choice (e): Incorrect, change of tone – the paragraph talks only of increasing popularity while the choice is making digital storytelling less popular.

Correct answer: Choice (d)


Q4. No fewer than 70,000 workers would have been needed to lug limestone blocks from desert miles away to the building sites of the pyramids. Yet there is little evidence that the pharaohs had to coerce their subjects to leave their fields and families in order to build a monument whose completion any single worker would certainly never see. All people apparently willingly participated in the pageant of immortality-made-real. With no hope of a berth for themselves in the tomb, the workers nonetheless must have taken comfort from knowing that their king, their earthly representative, would live on for them in perpetuity.
(a) Here was a culture that would persist, just as its pharaohs would live on in their silent palaces.
(b) The Egyptian hoi polloi became immortal by proxy.
(c) King Tut — and ended the brief experiment in monotheism in favour of the older religion with its promise of an afterlife.
(d) The solemn bearing of these great structures reminds people today of the way an entire culture fashioned a collective immortality in astonishing stone.

Choice (a): Incorrect, culture is not mentioned in the paragraph, out of scope.
Choice (b): Could be correct on account of scope, workers or common people, and continuity from last statement.
Choice (c): Incorrect, on account of scale reducing from Pharoahs in general to King Tut in particular and the scope changing to religion.
Choice (d): Incorrect, scope is workers and not the structures

All the Best