English for Competitive Exams

English for Competitive Exams

While most Indian students are comfortable with the quantitative section of competitive exams such as CAT, GMAT, GRE, IELTS, etc, English for competitive exams remains a challenge for many. With equal weightage, if not more, to English for competitive exams as to Maths, it’s imperative to gain clarity about basic grammar rules, understand the skills it needs to crack the verbal section of competitive exams and get extremely comfortable and confident with English for competitive exams. 

Does the “English monster” petrify you and gives you doubts about cracking the competitive exam you are preparing for? Worry not, you will conquer and win over this monster after reading this guide. This blog will help you gain clarity on the general English for competitive exams, best English books for preparation of such exams, golden rules of grammar, tips to improve your score in the verbal section of various competitive exams, types of questions for English in the competitive exams.

General English for Competitive Exams 

Most competitive exams test the verbal skills of candidates with questions based on topics like Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives, Adverbs, Tenses, Prepositions, Conjunctions, Active and Passive Voice, Reporting Speech, Diction, etc. Knowledge of these topics will help you answer the questions on the verbal section of competitive exams. 

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Basic Error Types for English for Competitive Exams

  • Subject-Verb Agreement 
  • Parallelism 
  • Verb Forms
  • Comparisons 
  • Modifiers 
  • Grammatical Construction 
  • Diction 
  • Logical Prediction 
  • Idioms 
  • Rhetorical Construction 
  • Vocabulary 

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English Grammar for Competitive Exams 

Here is a list of a few must-know grammar rules to help you prepare for English for competitive exams and crack the verbal section of any competitive exam: 

  • When a Noun or Pronoun is placed before a gerund (ing-word), it must be in the possessive case. For example, I was pleased with Robert’s coming here. But the possessive case cannot be used with a gerund when the noun devotes a lifeless thing. For example, there is no danger of the wall (not wall’s) falling down. 
  • A Proper Noun becomes a common noun when it is used in plural form or when an article is placed before it. For example Five Gandhis, the Miltons, etc.
  • A Collective Noun takes a Singular Verb when the whole group is considered as one unit. Example: The Committee consists of 5 members. But if we refer the members of the community separately, the verb takes the plural form. Like, The community have taken their seats. 
  • While confessing a fault (or expressing negative idea) the should be – first, second and then third. However, when expressing praise or positive idea, the sequence of personal pronouns is second, third and then first.
  • Few/Fewer/Many is used before Countable Nouns while Less/Lesser/Much is used before Uncountable Nouns. 
  • An Adverb should never be placed between ‘to‘ and the Verb.
  • When the subjects joined by ‘either-or’, or ‘neither-nor’ are of different persons, the Verb will agree in person and number with the Noun nearest to it. 
  • If connectives like ‘with’, ‘together with’, ‘as well as’, ‘accompanied by‘, etc are used to combine two subjects, the verb agrees with the subject mentioned first. 
  • ‘That‘ in a sentence is used for crucial information while ‘which‘ is used for additional information. 
  • Generally ‘as‘ is followed by a Verb and ‘like‘ is followed by a Noun. 
  • ‘Like‘ is used to present similarity whereas ‘such as‘ is used to give examples.
  • Compared to‘ is used to draw a comparison between unlike things while ‘Compared with‘ is used to draw a comparison between like things.
  • Advice is an Uncountable Noun. ‘Advices’ is wrong. 

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Key Topics Covered in English for Competitive Exams

Here are the major topics that are usually covered under the section of English for Competitive exams, be it CAT, SSC or other prominent entrance exams.

VocabularyCloze Test
Fill in the Blanks
Idioms and Phrases
Synonyms & Antonyms
Spelling Test
One-word Substitution
GrammarSentence Correction
Active-passive Voice
Direct-indirect speech
Reading ComprehensionAn extract is provided with the corresponding
questions and answers

Now, let’s impart you with the key tips and tricks to crack these English section topics in competitive exams:

Cloze Test

A unique combination of ‘fill in the blanks’ with ‘reading comprehension’, a cloze test comprises of a paragraph having some missing words in it that the student is asked to add. As a prominent part under English for competitive exams, while taking a cloze test, you must first try to familiarize yourself with the flow and context of the passage.

Tips:

Under this topic for English for competitive exams, remember to

  • Read the passage meticulously and carefully.
  • Link sentences to each other which will help you find the right word to fill in the blanks
  • Assess the type of word you need to fill which will depend upon the grammar, tenses, prepositions and vocabulary used in the passage.
  • Gauge the tone of the passage and negate options accordingly which will give you the right answer.
  • Highlight keywords that are frequently or prominently used.

Idioms & Phrases

Idioms and phrases can be another bewildering topic you might encounter while preparing for English for competitive exams. English idioms and phrases can be quite complex to understand and tackle, there are some useful tricks that can help you memorise them easily. Here is a list of hacks and tricks that can assist you in remembering idioms and phrases as well as their meanings.

  • Comprehend the context of an idiom or phrase especially in the situation which it is used. The most important quality of idioms and phrases is that they are situational, contextual as well as might suit one situation or even more than that.
  • Don’t mug up idioms, phrases and their meanings but try to build up a story or visual around them which will help you remember them in the long run.
  • You can also delve deeper into an idiom or phrase and their origins which can further assist you in cracking this section of English for Competitive exams.

One-word Substitution

The master key for nailing one-word substitution is to constantly practice them through different sample papers and mock tests. Read newspapers regularly and try learning five new words every day. Your vocabulary will significantly play an important role in solving one-word substitution.

Sentence Correction

In English for competitive exams, you will come across sentence correction questions which many find confusing and complex to solve. This topic depends upon various other grammar concepts such as subject-verb agreement, modifiers, tenses, amongst others. While practising this topic, some of the essential tips you can utilise are:

  • Start with locating errors in the questions, they might be in the structure, placement of verbs, or even in dictions (affect instead of effect).
  • Once you have found the error, the next thing is to eliminate the wrong options.
  • Sometimes shorter answer is the right one because long options are added to confuse the student. So, choose accordingly. 
  • Substitute your answer within the sentence and see if it makes sense. If it does, select it otherwise go through the sentence again and reconsider the other options.

Reading Comprehension

As a prominent inclusion under English for competitive exams, Reading Comprehension comprises of a passage which is then followed by certain objective or multiple-choice questions that the test-taker needs to answer. The useful tips and tricks for nailing Reading Comprehension are as follows:

  • Narrow down upon a central idea that has been talked about in the passage.
  • Comprehend the context of the paragraph and note down the key pointers discussed.
  • While solving questions, use those key pointers and once you have found the answers, connect them with the content of the passage to recheck.
  • For synonym or antonym-related questions, choose the option which suits the content of the passage and your vocabulary will also play a pivotal role in finding the right answer for these types of questions.

Vocabulary to Improve English for Competitive Exams 

While working on your English for competitive exams, it’s also important to build a strong vocabulary. Read our blog on 50 difficult words and meanings to start building a foundation of extensive vocabulary that will help you master English for competitive exams. 

In addition to this its also important to understand the difference between similar words that have been confusing us from the longest time. 

  • Lie – be in or assume a horizontal or resting position on a supporting surface
    Lay – put (something) down gently or carefully
  • Hanged – kill (someone) by tying a rope attached from above around their neck and removing the support from beneath them
    Hung – suspend or be suspended from above with the lower part dangling free (used for things, not people) 
  • Adapt – make suitable 
    Adopt – take a child as one’s own
  • Allusion – pleasant and good-tempered 
    Illusion – false notion 
  • Beside – by the side 
    Besides – in addition to 
  • Childish – Silly 
    Childlike – Innocent 
  • Historic – famous or important in the history 
    Historical – pertaining to the history 
  • Verbal – relating to words
    Verbose – wordy
  • Disinterested – free from bias or prejudice 
    Uninterested – not interested 

Tips to Master your English for Competitive Exams 

Here are a few tips and tricks to improve English for competitive exams: 

Read Newspapers Regularly 

Importance of reading newspapers regularly not only adds to your knowledge but also helps you improve your vocabulary and broaden your horizons, provided you read it the right way.

  • Firstly, time your reading for every major article, keep the stopwatch running. This simple act will make you faster and focused.
  • Don’t miss the editorials. Editorial articles are big and rich and they should form the core of your reading practice.
  • Use highlighters and pens to mark new words, difficult phrases, key ideas, etc that you come across while reading the newspaper. 
  • Write down everything you have learned (like new words, phrases, etc ) in a separate place and review it periodically.

Keep Revising Grammar Rules 

With so many concepts and rules for the grammar you need to remember for English for competitive exams, it will be a good idea to revise the grammar rules on a daily or weekly basis.

  • You can prepare flashcards and carry them with you while you are travelling and make sure you go through them whenever you get time. 
  • Make sure you use the vocabulary and grammar rules that you use in your writings; be it an assignment or a mere WhatsApp message. 

Recommended Read: Best English Grammar Books

Prepare for the Reading Comprehension

Nailing the reading comprehension section of English for the competitive exam depends on your reading speed, efficient analysis, repeated practice and strong vocabulary. Here are a few tips to understand this section:

  • Focus on the linking words like yet, however, on the other hand, but, in contrast, in conclusion, in addition, etc. This will allow you to establish a structure to the text.
  • Never get too lost in the details and try to understand the whole passage. Instead, work from the questions back to the passage. Once you have read the question, you know exactly what you are looking for and this will help you fetch the answer easily.

Excel at Spotting Errors 

While improving your English for competitive exams calls for going into the basics of grammar and honing the verbal ability skills, its also important to excel the ability to identify the errors quickly and reaching the correct answer effectively. 

  • Read the sentence completely and understand the meaning and structure of the sentence.
  • Try to find the evidence for your answer, instead of choosing an answer just because you think it is correct.
  • Remember that answer choices in passive voice are usually incorrect. 
  • Scan the answer choices for obvious differences and low hanging fruits – the first and last words of each answer choice, pronouns, and verbs. 

Build a Strong Vocabulary

Having a strong vocabulary can always help you ace the English for competitive exams. You can use the following techniques:

  • Learn at least one new word every day and use it in general conversations.
  • Flashcard can be the best way to memorise words easily.
  • Make use of smartphone apps like U-Dictionary, Vocab24, English Grammar Ultimate, Duolingo, English Grammar Handbook, etc. to learn on the go.

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Work on Your Listening Skills

Having strong listening skills gives you the ability to apply your knowledge of the language in everyday settings.

  • Listen to English TV, online videos, podcast, radio, movies or whatever you can find.
  • After listening to a short passage, try to think of questions that could be asked and try answering them accordingly.
  • If you have difficulties in understanding the accent, practice by playing an audio message and then read the content. It is important to work on your pronunciation.
  • Focus on the meaning, try to understand the idea and draw conclusions.

Time Management

Time Management is the key to master English for competitive exams. Try to finish the section as soon as possible because it will give you an upper hand over others.

We hope that all these concepts, type of questions, grammar rules, and tips and tricks will help you prepare well for English for competitive exams. If you need any help with the preparation of competitive exams like GMAT, GRE, IELTS, etc, you can get in touch with Leverage Edu and kickstart your journey to success. 

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