Para Completion questions are deceptively easy - every good PC question gets us four different answers and some reasoning backs each answer. That is the challenging part of PC - you have to find not just a possible solution but also the most probable solution. A challenging PC will have 3 answers that could potentially be the missing sentence of the paragraph. But it will have one option that is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of suitability. Your task is to put yourself into the shoes of the paragraph author. The author is trying to tell you a thought - he is trying to communicate his thinking, his reasons for arriving at some conclusion, some information he thinks is relevant to the point he wants to make. If you understand what the author is trying to communicate, you will understand what the missing sentence should be. When you see the paragraph - see it in its entirety. Try to find the main argument or point of the paragraph - it may or may not be explicitly stated. But everything in the paragraph would circle around this point. Every paragraph is written with the intention of acting on the reader - to inform, persuade, amuse or entertain the reader. You can figure out what the author is trying to do without knowing the missing sentence. The missing sentence would thus be the one that best serves the purpose of the author.
When I was preparing for CAT I would often wonder why para completion questions are part of the CAT examination. There is no real world situation where you as a manager will find some paragraph with one sentence missing. Well they are there for the same reason that Para Jumbles and RCs are there - they test your reading comprehension skills. This skill is extremely important in management education - you will be expected to read hundreds of pages in case studies every week and comprehend information about subjects you are not familiar with. In one week you will have to read and understand about Apple's HR problems, Reliance's accounting issues and Thermax's growth strategy. Lack of familiarity with the subject will not be an excuse then and should not be an excuse now.
When students ask me how to get better at PC or any reading comprehension related topics, I usually ask them to read good quality publications - articles, essays or well-written books. With less than 70 days to CAT, you do not have time to inculcate a reading habit. The most effective way for a student to improve in RC and related topics from now to Nov 16th is to solve as many RCs/PCs/PJs as they can.
The essential tools you must have in your toolkit to tackle Para Completion questions are as follows:
• Understand the chain of thought: This in the only sure-fire way of solving a PC. All other tips and tricks will work about 60% of the time - they are useful in eliminating options but are generally a hacky way of going about solving PC questions. There is a reason why students who are regular readers are good at RC-type questions. It is because they are good at this very essential skill. From today till your CAT examination, read every paragraph with this lens on - try to find the central idea or main point of the paragraph. Every paragraph in PC represents on chain of thought. The author is trying to inform the user of facts, opinions etc so that the reader can go from point A to point B in his own mind. The missing sentence will be a link in this chain of thought. Figure out what the author is driving at and you will know what the missing sentence should be.
• Context of the paragraph: The author usually bases his arguments or information in some context - say India's youth, English media channels, US presidential debates etc. This context defines the scope of the paragraph. The missing sentence, especially if it is the last sentence, will generally be based in the same context. Thus, options that talk about things that are different from this context are less probable options for the last sentence.
• New Ideas: If the missing sentence is the last sentence of the paragraph, it is unlikely that the author will introduce a new idea or concept in the last sentence. When I say new idea I mean something other than the main point or context of the paragraph, illustration of the point or generalization of the point. If the paragraph informs the reader about Ebola in Africa, the last sentence will not be about Malaria in India.
• Contradictory sentences: The last line of a paragraph will almost NEVER contradict the main point of the paragraph. So if the paragraph is about how a book is complete hogwash, the last line will not be about the valid conclusions of the book.
• Concluding sentences: If in the paragraph, the author dances around the main point without explicitly stating it, the last line of the paragraph is likely to be an explicit statement of the point.
• Paragraph Construction: Two common paragraph constructs are A) analogy/illustration followed by stating of the general principle B) Stating of general idea or principle followed by illustrations/arguments. In case A, the last line of the paragraph will most likely be about the principle in general. In case B, the last line will most likely be about how the illustration/analogy ties back to the general principle. The hackiest tool of the toolkit and should be used sparingly.
• Grammar: Look for clues from grammar : If an option uses a pronoun then the subject should be defined unambiguously in the preceding sentences. If it is not defined then you can eliminate the option on that basis. Similarly, if the missing sentence is not the final sentence, and the succeeding sentence uses a pronoun find the option that introduces a suitable subject to receive the pronoun.
• Writing Style: Find the option that is consistent with the passage in writing style. If the paragraph is sarcastic in tone, difficult to read or written in passive voice find the option that is written in the similar style.
Lets put these tools to use:
Q1) Find the most appropriate option to complete the paragraph:
A critic cannot be fair in the ordinary sense of the word. It is only about things that do not interest one that one can give a really unbiased opinion, which is no doubt the reason why an unbiased opinion is always absolutely valueless. The man who sees both sides of a question, is a man who sees absolutely nothing at all. Art is a passion, and, in matters of art, Thought is inevitably colored by emotion, and so is fluid rather than fixed, and, depending upon fine moods and exquisite moments, cannot be narrowed into the rigidity of a scientific formula or a theological dogma. It is to the soul that Art speaks, and the soul may be made the prisoner of the mind as well as of the body. One should, of course, have no prejudices; but, as a great Frenchman remarked a hundred years ago, it is one's business in such matters to have preferences, and when one has preferences one ceases to be fair. It is only an auctioneer who can equally and impartially admire all schools of Art. No; fairness is not one of the qualities of the true critic. It is not even a condition of criticism. Each form of Art with which we come in contact dominates us for the moment to the exclusion of every other form. We must surrender ourselves absolutely to the work in question, whatever it may be, if we wish to gain its secret. ______________.
A) For unless we surrender, our opinion will not be objective
B) For Art is a cruel master that demands absolute submission
C) For in complete surrender, we lose objectivity but gain perspective
D) For the time, we must think of nothing else, can think of nothing else, indeed
Solving it the right way :
The chain of thought till the penultimate sentence is as follows:
An art critic cannot be fair because to be fair means to be completely uninterested in Art. The critic should not be prejudiced but should have preferences as Art requires an emotional response and not scientific objective response. To become an Art critic one needs to immerse oneself in that particular art that one is studying at the moment to have any chance of understanding it.
Option A is unlikely as it is directly contradictory to the main point of the paragraph. The author does not want the art critic to be objective. Instead he wants them to be passionate and emotional.
Option B does not fit in this chain of thought - the author clearly is appreciative of Art and is unlikely to call it cruel. Moreover, it does not extend the chain formed till then nor does it tie it back to the main point of the passage.
Option C is unlikely as the author does not value objectivity in art critics - he considers it worthless. Also, it does not fit in the chain of thought, as the paragraph makes no mention of gaining a different perspective on Art.
Option D links perfectly with the penultimate sentence and extends it by adding that not only must one immerse oneself in the Art under consideration, one must study it exclusively.
Solving it the hacky way:
New Ideas: Option C introduces the new idea of gaining a new perspective on Art. As this has not been mentioned by the author anywhere else in the paragraph we can eliminate option C.
Contradictory Sentences: Option A clearly contradicts the initial part of the passage where the author states that objectivity is not desirable in an art critic. Hence we can eliminate option A.
Writing Style: Between option B and D, option D clearly has the same writing style as the paragraph - it has several subordinate clauses and is rather heavy on using punctuation.
Hence, the correct answer is option D.
Q2) Find the most appropriate option to complete the paragraph:
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. ___________________.
A) Fortunately for us, their best-laid plans unraveled due to unforeseen circumstances
B) And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment
C) Now it is too late to do anything about it
D) No one could have foreseen the destruction they brought with them
Solving it the right way: The chain of thoughts is as follows:
Human beings were unaware that they were being watched and studied by intelligent alien life forms much like they would study bacteria. They went about their life without considering the danger posed by superior alien beings. Now the situation has changed where human beings are now aware of this and our way of thinking has changed.
Option A can be eliminated as the paragraph suggests that our way of thinking has changed implying that the aliens were not unsuccessful in their plans. Moreover this is outcome is unlikely given the regretful tone of the author in the paragraph.
Option B is likely as it logical concludes the chain of thought constructed in the paragraph. The passage speaks about how we were unaware, ignorant and unconcerned. Disillusionment is clearly the next logical step indicating the end of this blissful ignorance.
Option C is unlikely as it is inconsistent with the timeline implied by the paragraph. From the paragraph we can infer that the calamity has already struck and the human race has already been caught unawares. We can infer that not only were humans too late in realizing but that even that knowledge has been known for quite some time.
Option D is inconsistent with the chain of thought of the paragraph as the author rues that we did not foresee this. Hence, it implies that it was something that could have been and should have been foreseen.
Solving it the hacky way:
Writing style: The author has a slightly exaggerated writing style and option A, B and D are more consistent with the style. Hence we can eliminate option C.
Concluding sentences: The author dances around the main point that aliens have attacked us and caught us unawares in the entire paragraph without explicitly stating that. Hence it is likely that he concludes the paragraph with the statement of the event. Hence option A and B are more likely options. Thus, we can eliminate option D.
Contradictory sentences: Option A is clearly contradictory to the statements in the passage where the author implies that the aliens have attacked and human way of thinking has changed as a consequence. Hence, we can eliminate option A.
Maruti Konduri is an alumnus of IIT Bombay and IIM Ahmedabad and is the co-founder of http://cracku.in