By Tanuj Kalia
Reading, as I have said earlier, is the single most important activity which will help any CLAT aspirant improve his English language skills especially comprehension and vocabulary.
And when you write on what you’ve read, you are forced to recollect what the author said, what her arguments were, whether you agreed and disagreed with her etc. This is the essence of critical reasoning.
Reading a lot and writing a lot are important. More important, however, is improving how you approach these two tasks. Lets look at how to read.
1. Attack the text: Whenever you read a magazine article or a newspaper piece, its important that you treat it with urgency. (You can imagine yourself to be a Spartan on a war or a Pit Bull in a dog fight; both looking to see how the intestines of their species look like. Yuck!)
(Lets move to more pleasant ruminations) Read aggressively, underline a few good words and phrases and mark the important points and facts. Keep a dictionary and a notebook handy. Do this well and your GK, English and Critical Reasoning requirements will be well taken care of.
2. Read Eclectically: You might love to read Chetan Bhagat but that shouldn’t stop you to read Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s columns in the Indian Express. (Well, the general Chetan Bhagat’s fan won’t really know who Mr. Mehta is, but you should).
If you love poetry, continue with it, but also read up a few plays. Read technology related stuff and economics and spirituality and jurisprudence.
Read eclectically. That will help you be well versed with the lingo used in various fields and will arm you with a good understanding of various writing styles, sentence constructions and argument’ structures etc. This will stretch your brain muscles sufficiently enough to make them stronger.
3. Read tough texts: Judgments given by various Indian courts can be hard to read. The judges not only have great vocabulary and the knowledge to quote from various places but also the tendency to suffer from a pompous version of verbal diarrhea.
The same can be said of critical reasoning passages a CLAT aspirant might be tested upon. Reading a few tough texts can help you to slowly increase your speed and grasping levels for such tough texts.
A Pratap Bhanu Mehta article or LSAT sample passages are good examples of tough texts. While reading. don’t give up on them. Work on them like a stone cutter works on his stone: a big boulder takes the shape of a beautiful statue, stroke by stroke.
4. Read fast: The average speed of an average person is 250 words per minute. With some effort and training that can go up to 2000 wpm. 750 wpm is perfectly doable. The output of this little exercise can be prodigious.
A 5000 word CLAT paper will then be read in 7 minutes and not in 20 minutes. And 13 minutes can be, laddy, the difference between failure and success.
Evelyn Wood’s or Tony Buzan’s speed reading books should do wonders to your reading speed. These books will also help you learn the art of skimming and swimming texts and easily hunt for the required information. This too is an ace skill for any competitive exam.
(Rejoice! This is your “I have the power” He-man moment).
5. Read slow: When you are preparing for CLAT, with untrained brain muscles trying hard to decipher tough texts, you can and must go slow.
Also, while reading, say, a poem as a part of the ‘eclectic reading strategy’ (corporate entities can give normal tasks, a ‘strategy’ like name), you can afford to go slow.
Don’t overdo speed reading, especially in a legal reasoning question. Why? Res Ipsa Loquitur.
Summary: Attack, Eclectic, Tough Texts, Fast, Slow
Tanuj Kalia is a 4th year student at NUJS and is presently interning at LST.