PREPARATION STRATEGY FOR CLAT 2020
How to approach questions
How to approach questions in the English Language section of the UG CLAT 2020
– Passages intended to test ability to understand and analyse text that is at 12th standard level.
– May be from various topics, including technical and scientific topics, but you will not need any prior knowledge of any specialised areas to understand or analyse the passages.
– Usually a passage will have one point, and arguments or statements that support or counter the idea presented in the main point – try and discern the main point, and see what arguments or statements are presented in support of, or to counter, the main point.
– Once you have figured out the main point of the passage, a simple way to extract usable information from the passage is to focus on : Who, What, Why, When, and Where – you do not have to memorise these points, but keeping them in mind when reading the passage will ensure you have a good grasp over its details, without having to memorise them.
– Pay attention to paragraph structure – usually, a change of paragraph is accompanied by a change in speaker, or a change in the view point being presented. This will help you find differences in viewpoint, or counter arguments more easily when a question asks you to do so. Similarly for words and phrases like ‘however’, ‘on the other hand’, ‘conversely’, etc.
– Vocabulary questions are broadly of two types – one type will simply ask you for the meaning of a particular word or phrase – another type will ask you for the meaning of a word or phrase ‘in the context of the passage’ – in either case, it is helpful to read one or two lines before and after the line in which the word or phrase being asked about appears, so that you are better able to understand the context in which the word is used. Often, you would be able to determine the meaning of the word or phrase by understanding the context in which it is used and eliminating options that do not make sense in that context – even if you did not know the meaning of that word or phrase beforehand.
– Once you have read the passage in this manner, approach the questions – you do not need to remember all the details of the passage before approaching the questions – but if you have a good idea of the main point of the passage and its overall structure, you should be able to find specific details the question asks you for relatively quickly and easily.
– Pay very close attention to the wording of each question – while the questions follow a handful of ‘types’ (we have described them already in the consolidated video), the question-setters will sometimes make slight alterations to the way they are worded, so as to check that you are reading them closely, and can determine the impact of such changes (e.g., Difference in a question which asks ‘Which of the following is the author likely to agree with’ would imply that there is only one option in line with the author’s arguments, while ‘Which of the following is the author likely to most strongly agree with’ would imply that there is more than one option that supports the author’s arguments, but one option in particular provides the strongest support to the author’s arguments; ALSO watch out for double negatives!)
– Make sure you read all the options in a question before choosing the correct answer – even if you are confident that you have found the correct answer in the first or second option you read – sometimes there may be subtle differences in wording in the options, and an option that you think is correct at first sight may not be as good as a later option.
– Try and read some of the same sources that the question setters are using to create questions – you do not have to read the entire book, if the source is a book, but keeping track of sources like newspapers and magazines would be very helpful. In particular, read the opinion and editorial sections of newspapers, as many passages are derived from such sources. (This has the added advantage that it will help your preparations for the Current Affairs and General Knowledge section of the paper as well).
– Having a study group or someone – even one or two people – with whom you can discuss various passages would be very helpful. Once you and your study partner read the same passage, try and form questions and ask them of each other – such as, what is the main point of the author in the passage, what can be inferred from the passage, what arguments would weaken or strengthen the author’s arguments in the passage.
– Practice grammar from any good 10th standard grammar textbook. Some classics, like Wren and Martin’s English Grammar and Composition, are still very very good resources for preparation.
– It may not be possible to develop your vocabulary too much in the days left before the exam – but make sure you stop every time you come across a word you don’t understand – whether in the newspaper, in a textbook, or even while watching a show on the ‘net – and find out its meaning from a dictionary. Some good, free dictionaries are available on the Internet – you can even download free dictionary apps so that you always have a dictionary handy on your phone.
– Make sure you go through all the practice materials and sample papers provided by the CLAT consortium – these are closest in style and level of difficulty to what you may see in the eventual UG CLAT 2020 paper; make sure you go through all the rationales provided, so that you understand why a particular option is right or wrong.
Illustration Question Set
I assume we all believe that bats have experience. After all, they are mammals, and there is no more doubt that they have experience than that mice or pigeons or whales have experience. Bats, although more closely related to us than those other species, nevertheless present a range of activity and a sensory apparatus so different from ours that the problem I want to pose is exceptionally vivid (though it certainly could be raised with other species). Even without the benefit of philosophical reflection, anyone who has spent some time in an enclosed space with an excited bat knows what it is to encounter a fundamentally alien form of life. I have said that the essence of the belief that bats have experience is that there is something that it is like to be a bat. Now we know that most bats perceive the external world primarily by sonar, or echolocation. Their brains are designed to correlate the outgoing sounds with the subsequent echoes, and the information thus acquired enables bats to make precise discriminations of distance, size, shape, motion, and texture comparable to those we make by vision. But bat sonar, though clearly a form of perception, is not similar in its operation to any sense that we possess, and there is no reason to suppose that it is subjectively like anything we can experience or imagine. This appears to create difficulties for the notion of what it is like to be a bat. We must consider whether any method will permit us to extrapolate to the inner life of the bat from our own case, and if not, what alternative methods there may be for understanding the notion. Our own experience provides the basic material for our imagination, whose range is therefore limited. It will not help us to try to imagine that one has webbing on one’s arms, which enables one to fly around at dusk and dawn catching insects in one’s mouth, or that one perceives the world through echolocation. In so far as I can imagine this (which is not very far), it tells me only what it would be like for me to behave as a bat behaves. But that is not the question. I want to know what it is like for a bat to be a bat. Yet if I try to imagine this, I am restricted to the resources of my own mind, and those resources are inadequate to the task. I cannot perform it either by imagining additions to my present experience, or by imagining segments gradually subtracted from it, or by imagining some combinations of additions, subtractions, and modifications.
[Extracted, with edits and revisions, from Thomas Nagel, “What is it like to be a bat?”, in William Lyons (Ed), Modern Philosophy of Mind, Hachette India, 2010.]
1.1 Why does the author choose bats instead of mice, pigeons, or whales to present the main problem in the passage?
(a) Because bats are very similar to us, and it would be very easy for us to imagine what the mind of a bat would be like.
(b) Because they are mammals, and people are willing to accept that mammals have experience.
(c) Because mice, pigeons, or whales, are more closely related to us than bats are.
(d) Because their habits, behaviour, and sense organs are very different from ours, yet people are willing to believe that they have experience.
(Answer: (d)) Rationale: The correct answer is (d) – because their habits, behaviour, and sense organs are very different from ours, yet people are willing to believe that they have experience. The author states in the first paragraph that because of these reasons, the problem they wish to propose would be ‘exceptionally vivid’ if raised with bats. Options (a) and (c) clearly contradict the author’s statements in the same paragraph, and so, neither can be the correct answer. While the author does use the fact that they are mammals to justify the belief that bats have experience, this does not distinguish them from mice or whales, and so, option (b) cannot be the correct answer.
1.2 What does the word ‘alien’ as used in the passage mean?
(a) From another country
(b) Unfamiliar and disturbing
(c) From another planet
(d) Hypothetical or fictional
(Answer: (b)) Rationale: The correct answer is (b) – unfamiliar and disturbing. While options (a), (b), and (c) may all be valid meanings of ‘alien’, only (b) is appropriate in the context of the passage, since the author does not suggest that the bats in question are from another country or planet. The author does not discuss fictional bats either, and so, (d) cannot be the correct option.
1.3 Which of the following is the author most likely to agree with?
(a) That we will only understand bats if we understand the chemical processes behind biological echolocation.
(b) That the experiences of other species are not worth wondering about, since our sense organs are different from theirs.
(c) That we cannot understand the experiences of other species by relying solely upon our own organs of perception.
(d) That the experiences of other species are not worth wondering about, since we have our own experiences to worry about.
(Answer: (c)) Rationale: The correct answer is (c) – that we cannot understand the experiences of other species by relying solely upon our own organs of perception. The author suggests this towards the end of the second paragraph, where they say that bats’ perception and sensory organs are different from ours, and we must “consider whether any method will permit us to extrapolate to the inner life of the bat from our own case, and if not, what alternative methods there may be for understanding the notion.” The author suggests that we do not understand the experience of sensing the world through echolocation, not that we do not understand how echolocation works, and so, option (a) cannot be the correct answer. The author suggests that we have to look for alternate ways of understanding the experiences of other species, not that we should not try to understand them, and so, neither (b) nor (d) can be the correct answer.
1.4 Which of the following is most similar to the problem or question the author discusses in the passage above?
(a) A doctor will not be able to understand what it is like to be an engineer.
(b) A person of one race will not be able to understand what it is like to be a person of another race.
(c) A citizen of India will not be able to understand what it is like to be a citizen of Sri Lanka.
(d) A cricketer will not be able to understand what it is like to be a footballer.
(Answer: (b)) Rationale: The correct answer is (b) – a person of one race will not be able to understand what it is like to be a person of another race. This option describes a problem related to an immutable characteristic, just like the problem in the passage, about how humans cannot understand what it is like to be a bat. The other options all describe problems related to mutable characteristics – after all, it is entirely conceivable that a doctor may change their profession to engineer, or a person changes their citizenship, or a sportsperson their sport – and therefore, cannot be correct.
1.5 What is the author’s main point in the passage above?
(a) That humans will never understand sonar or echolocation, since we do not have the biological apparatus for it.
(b) That our imagination is very weak, and unless we make a dramatic effort, we will not be able to imagine what it is like to be a bat.
(c) That while bats may have experience, it is very difficult for us to understand or describe that experience, since our minds and ways of perception are different from those of bats.
(d) That bats cannot possibly have experience, since their sensory organs and ways of perceiving their surroundings are different from how we perceive and experience the world. (Answer: (c)) Rationale: The correct answer is (c) – that while bats may have experience, it is very difficult for us to understand or describe that experience, since our minds and ways of perception are different from those of bats. The author argues that bats have experience in the first paragraph, goes on to demonstrate how their sensory organs and ways of perceiving the world are different from ours, and finally, concludes that it is very difficult for us to understand what it is like to be a bat, since we are restricted to the resources of our own mind. Option (a) is inaccurate in that it misses the point which is not that we do not understand sonar, but that we do not understand the experience of perceiving the world through sonar. Though the author acknowledges that our imagination is limited by our experience, they do not say that making a dramatic effort will help us overcome this, and so, (b) cannot be the correct answer. Option (d) is incorrect, since the author states at the very beginning of that passage that “we all believe that bats have experience”.