The first thing that you need to know is that there is no ‘Theory’ of Comprehension Test which will lead you to correct answers; because it is an ‘Art’. It comes with practice and deep understanding. Even though UPSC’s comprehension test is of Moderate level, aspirants end up losing 30-40 precious marks in it that makes all the difference in “being selected”.
Prelims Paper 2 Analysis
The paper 2 consist of 80 questions. A major part of this paper consists of Reading Comprehensions. We have to prepare it very well because around 35% to 40% of paper will be reading comprehension. To solve these reading comprehension problems successfully read The Hindu newspaper daily and give special attention to Editorials. Apart from that, you must follow NCERT books because most of the passages are taken from NCERT and The Hindu. For the Science part of the comprehension test, read the Thursday’s edition of The Hindu.
UPSC introduced this paper pattern in 2011. It replaced optional subjects in prelim because people used to mug up answers for their optional subjects by using notes from the coaching institutes and other resources.
Reading passages is always fun, although time consuming. But questions on passage reading hold one big advantage over other types of questions : they offer easy marks for everyone when compared to questions on Mental Ability, Decision Making, Data Interpretation and so on.
To sharpen and improve your comprehension skills, the first thing that you need to do is to “read a lot”. What you need to read is the same level of stuff that you read for your preparation i.e.,
- Newspapers daily, especially editorials
- Magazines weekly – can be Frontline or Yojana or what you prefer
- Watching discussions on LSTV, RSTV will improve your language skills
Strategy for Reading Comprehension
Paper 2 contains about 6 to 9 passages and each passage contains 2 to 7 questions. You should attempt those passages first, which have the maximum number of questions. Why? Because each comprehension passage you solve will complete approximately 8% of your paper. In CSAT, the examiners don’t write the passage on their own, they simply copy it from a newspaper column, articles etc. They only frame the questions by themselves.
Always Read the Passage First Before Attempting the Questions
This is a simple method but often overlooked by students. Many directly jump to the questions trying to save some time. This paper has been set by UPSC and it follws then that there will be few, if any, direct answers. Rather questions are based on your understanding of the issues raised in the passage or the central message of the passage. And you cannot grasp the message or the point of view of the passage author until you go through it once. Once you have read the passage in its entirety, locating the answers becomes much easier.
Don’t Try too hard to Understand the Passage, just get to the questions
Some passages are really boring and difficult to understand. In such a situation don’t waste too much time trying to figure out the meaning of every sentence and word. Just read the passage once and get to the questions. You can then re-read parts of the passage to get a better understanding before selecting the right option.
Use your Common Sense while Eliminating Options
This might seem controversial but it’s true. Some options seem plain stupid to be correct and if short on time or when options contain multiple choices you can usually safely eliminate those that contain extreme views or impossible inferences.
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This part contain 80 questions. So, You have to attempt 44 questions in the first hour. In the next 40 minutes you have to jump to the decision making section and other sections.
Decision Making Section
Decision making section consists of approx 6 to 8 question and we choose it just after reading comprehension, because of these is “No negative marking” in this section. Also 2 options out of 4 are correct. So, after 1 hour when you completed around 40+ questions, jump to decision making questions and finish those within 15 minutes.
Well, you exhausted 1 hour and 15 minutes and have solved about 50+, now you have remaining 30 questions and 45 minutes. Use 35 to 40 minutes to solve the remaining sections. In the next 5 to 10 minutes, attempt those questions which you have not understood in the first go, and make sure that you attempt at least 70 to 75 question from this part.
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Useful Steps for Reading Comprehension:
- Read the passage very fast, just skim through it within a minute.
- Read the questions with their options.
- Go to the relevant section of the passage.
- Mark the answer which you think is correct.
- Complete all the questions of one passage in one go.
- Always mark the answer by using eliminating method, eliminate those options which are least likely to be correct.
- Do not assume anything on your own.
- Whatever is written in the comprehension, that is the relevant material as far as the answers are concerned.
- The candidates who have poor English skills or are from non-english background, they can refer to basic English grammar by Wren & Martin.
- One more tip for all the students, irrespective of your English skill level: watch good English movies with subtitles, as it will help improving your comprehension skills.
The Comprehension section is of great importance for the candidates preparing for IAS Prelims Exam as around 40-50 per cent of the paper is comprised of questions from this section i.e. around 30-40 questions are asked from this section. This means that mastering the comprehension section is essential to clear the IAS Prelims Exam.
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The Correct Approach to Tackle the Comprehension Passage is as follows:
- Read the comprehension passage properly word by word and mark the important and significant points simultaneously.
- Try to avoid all kind of biases and solve the questions very objectively, strictly on the basis of information provided in the comprehension passage.
- The questions are very tricky sometimes. So, confirm again from the passage before marking the option.
- First, go through all the questions from past years question papers from this section. This will help you understand the kind of questions that are asked in the exam.
- Also see the solution of the questions in order to have an idea of the line of thinking that you have to follow while solving the questions.
- Then try to solve comprehension passages from sample papers from some good books like Tata Mc Graw Hill.
- Time management is a very important factor in GS Paper II. So try to practice as many Comprehension passages as possible so as to increase your speed for reading the passage.
- Reading newspapers helps to increase speed of reading the Comprehension passage.
To Summarize the Key lessons:
- Be careful of extreme and emphasizing words like only, necessarily, permanent, totally, completely etc.
- Be careful with the ‘keywords’.
- First eliminate, then choose.
- While reading try to get the essence (central core/idea/message/view) of the passage.
- Evaluate the options in the light of the essence of the passage.
- Stick to what the passage tells you. Don’t extrapolate from the passage i.e. don’t read too much between the lines.
- Read carefully objectively.
- Keep a check on general and over-arching statements.
- Just be aware of these lessons while you are on a question. With more and more practice supplemented by careful reading, you will be able to solve most questions correctly.
Hope this would clear out the issues you had in comprehension.
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