English Comprehension for CLAT Exam

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.”  
George R.R. Martin

What is Comprehension? 

Comprehension means ‘understanding’. Not a superficial understanding but an understanding in depth with  all the ramifications of thoughts (both expressed and  implied). Sometimes thoughts are so embedded in the  cobweb of words that it becomes rather diffi cult to follow,  at first glance, the drift of thought.

An average student  may read the passage and yet fail to grasp the main  ideas. Mere skimming over the surface is not of much  help. For language is the art of concealing thought. A  proper understanding of the given passage, therefore,  requires, among other things, a fairly good command  over English, a keen power of observation, a quick  understanding of the central idea, a knack to detect  error in logic, a quick reading habit, a sufficient stock  of words and a little bit of imagination.

While attempting questions pertaining to reading comprehension, a student should only focus on the data and information provided in the passage and not add things from his own knowledge. The reader should not get swayed by his personal views and opinions on the topic discussed in the passage.

Reading Comprehension In CLAT

You will be provided passages of about 450 words each. These passages will be derived from contemporary or historically significant fiction and non-fiction writing, and would be of a standard that a 12th standard student may be able to read in about 5-7 minutes.

Each passage will be followed by a series of questions that will require you to demonstrate your comprehension and language skills, including your abilities to:

- Read and comprehend the main point discussed in the passage, as well as any arguments and viewpoints discussed or set out in the passage;

- Draw inferences and conclusions based on the passage;

- Summarise the passage;

- Compare and contrast the different arguments or viewpoints set out in the passage; and

- Understand the meaning of various words and phrases used in the passage.

Read More and More!

For starters, one of the best ways in which one can hone the ability to attempt reading comprehension exercises well is by developing the habit to read generally. This will help one to read quickly over a period of time, even finding the exercise rejuvenating. Reading diverse pieces, books and articles also sharpens one’s vocabulary and ability to comprehend ideas.

For maximum utility of time, you can depend on News Channels. You can select certain talk shows aired on some good English news channels like NDTV, CNN IBN or TIMES NOW and watch them regularly. This will improve your general awareness, give you an analytical perspective, keep you updated with news from different sectors, and also improve your English.

It is seen that students normally end up trying to blindly read more and more without a framework, a direction or a focus. As a result, the returns from reading that students achieve are not proportional to the effort that they put into their reading.

Tips to Save Time

Some techniques to save time are:

- A technique that may be helpful is to go through the questions at a glance. Then, while reading the passage, keep your eyes open for answers or words you may have encountered while reading the questions.

- As you read the passage, mark the difficult words and lines that seem important or significant to you.

- Avoid leaving reading comprehension questions for the end of the paper/examination.

- Do not get intimidated by the size of the passage. Read it like a story rather than a question in an examination paper.

- If there is shortage of time, before reading the passage, glance at the questions so you may get a fair idea of what to focus on while reading it.

- Always read the passage and try to understand it from the author’s perspective.

- Do not get intimidated by difficult words or phrases used in the passage. Generally, it is the overall understanding of the paragraph that matters and not each and every word/phrase.

- Try to ascertain the meaning of the word by referring to surrounding/ accompanying words and sentences.

- Mark out key events and characters, if any, mentioned in the passage.

- In terms of long-term preparation, maintain a list of difficult words or phrases that you may come across in daily reading, for instance, in newspaper articles, books or other preparatory material for examinations.

- Practise questions on reading comprehension beforehand to develop the habit of reading faster and becoming comfortable with the same.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I read the passage first or the questions first?

There is no perfect answer to this. It would depend totally on the approach the candidate is comfortable with. A more efficient approach may be to glance at the questions before reading the passage so that on reading the passage, the candidate can understand the parts on which to focus during the exercise.

How should I answer a question if there is a contradiction between the facts stated in the RC and those that I know of through the news and other specific knowledge I have acquired, relating to an issue?

The golden rule in such a case is to always stick to what is stated in the passage. Remember that while you may have access to additional or conflicting information on the issue, the examiner who has framed questions on the RC based them on the facts stated in the passage itself.

What to look in a passage?

The first subject of first paragraph is topic if it is not an example sentence. If the first sentence is an example, then the subject of sentence after example becomes topic. The topic is noun.

How to sort information?

Mark all nouns which explain topic. Keep in mind the sequence of these nouns. 90% questions relate to these nouns either directly or indirectly. The rest of the questions are associated with adjectives and adverbs. For practice, write these nouns and associated words.

How to locate key word/s of a question?

Questions often have key word/s in the form of noun. It helps in finding what is asked. It also helps in locating answer. Very often you will find that the key word/s match with the list of nouns you have made.

Example: Following is the sample passage from official CLAT website 

The summer he turned 82, my father lost his stories. He was still vibrant, garrulous and energetic, and initially none of us noticed that his anecdotes were getting repetitive, that he was forgetting names and places, that he was confusing times and references. A man of many narratives, we listened to his oft-repeated tales, sometimes with feigned patience and sometimes with visible impatience.

Till the day the stories stopped. The words dried out. The memories disappeared. The change happened so gradually that its final suddenness took us, his immediate family by complete surprise. And when the stories dried up, the energy seemed to drain away from his soul. This loss of energy was immediately and visibly apparent as this was one trait, above all others that characterised my father.

A child of Partition, Baba had left his native Barisal in present-day Bangladesh, on the eve of this momentous event in 1947, at the age of 14. My grandmother, widowed since the birth of my father, her youngest son, decided to leave their sprawling homestead with extensive farming lands and immigrate to the yet-to be formed republic of India, along with her four other sons. Thus, family lore tells us, she liquidated some of her assets, packed her immediate family and necessary belongings onto a steamer and sailed into the teeming, seething city of Calcutta to set up a new life.

A seminal rupture in the subcontinent, Partition had wreaked havoc among countless families, uprooted and flung far and wide without any recourse. Baba often became that recourse – his contribution making a significant difference to families struggling to survive with some degree of dignity. It seemed his experience of early loss and deprivation had in a strangely converse way, endowed him with a generosity of soul that I have yet to encounter in another person.

It was thus shocking to see this extraordinary man with the mind, heart and soul of a Colossus shorn of his spirit.

In an effort to revive his flagging interest, I urged him to start writing down stories from his life. I bought him a notebook and with great flourish announced his assignment.

Stories were my particular stock in trade. I’d nurtured an early passion for storytelling and story writing into a teaching career focussed on literacy. I used specific strategies to build a writing habit in my students, centred on the belief that we all have stories to tell. As the children became confident and joyful storytellers, their acquisition of benchmarked literacy skills outstripped that of their peers.

Could I use these same strategies to draw the forgotten stories from Baba? Would these forgotten stories in turn help him reconstruct a sense of self?

1. Which of the following most accurately expresses the author’s main idea in the passage?

 (a) As people get older, they tend to lose their memories.

 (b) Asking an old person who is losing their memory to write down stories from their life may help them reconstruct their sense of identity.

 (c) Partition was a very disruptive event in our subcontinent’s history, and we should ensure our grandchildren know about it.

 (d) It can sometimes be tiresome and boring to listen to old people telling the same stories over and over again.

Answer: (b)


The correct answer is (b) - asking an old person who is losing their memory to write down stories from their life may help them reconstruct their sense of identity. This is apparent from the way in which the author describes how their father was losing his memory, how the author asks him to write down stories from his life, and finally, in the last paragraph of the passage, where the author describes how they wondered if asking their father to write down such stories would help them ‘reconstruct a sense of self’. While the points set out in (a), (c), and (d) may have been discussed in the passage, none of these is the author’s main point, as the idea in option (b) is the one that is discussed at most length and in depth.

2. Why did the author think that asking their father to write down stories would help him?

 (a) Because the author had come across genetics research which indicated that this had helped other people as well.

 (b) Because the author thought that thinking about the past would help their father regain his memory.

 (c) Because the author had seen how their students had benefitted tremendously from similar strategies in their teaching career.

 (d) Because the author had done the same thing in the past and had regained their memory as a result.

Answer: (c)


The correct answer is (c) - because the author had seen how their students had benefitted tremendously from similar strategies in their teaching career. This is clear from the second to last paragraph of the passage, where the author describes how deploying similar strategies with their students helped the students far outstrip benchmarked literacy skills. Option (b) does not provide an answer to the question at all. Options (a) and (d) are not supported by any information in the passage.

3. What does the word ‘garrulous’ as used in the passage mean?

 (a) Quiet and restrained.

 (b) Tall and handsome.

 (c) Moody and reflective.

 (d) Excessively talkative.

Answer: (d)


The correct answer is (d) - excessively talkative. This is apparent from how the author describes their father in the first paragraph, and talks about his ‘many narratives’ and ‘of the repeated tales’. Options (a) and (c) are contrary to the author’s description of their father in the portion of the passage where the word ‘garrulous’ is used, and there is nothing in that portion of the passage to support (b) as the correct answer.

4. What role did the author’s father play for families uprooted by the Partition?

 (a) He acted as a source of help to them in a difficult situation through his generosity of soul.

 (b) He helped them find lost family members and put them in touch with them.

 (c) He helped them by providing food and medicines when they were in need.

 (d) He told them stories of their homeland, since he had such a large store of stories and anecdotes.

Answer: (a)


The correct answer is (a) - he acted as a source of help to them in a difficult situation through his generosity of soul. This is clear from the fourth paragraph of the passage. There is nothing in the passage to support option (b) or (c) as the correct option. While the author’s father, we are told, had a lot of stories to tell, there is nothing in the passage to indicate he told these stories to families uprooted by the Partition nor that hearing such stories helped them; therefore, (d) cannot be the correct answer.

5. Why did the sudden stop in their father’s stories take the author and their family by surprise?

 (a) Because the stop in stories was accompanied with an increase in his analysis of news and current affairs, and the author and their family were very interested in the same things.

 (b) Because one day the author asked their father about the Partition, and he had forgotten that it had ever occurred.

 (c) Because the author wanted to hear more stories about their grandmother, and he refused to talk about her.

 (d) Because the author and their family used to listen to his stories impatiently since he would often repeat them, and had not noticed he was forgetting or confusing some parts of the stories.

Answer: (d)


The correct answer is (d) - because the author and their family used to listen to his stories impatiently since he would often repeat them, and had not noticed he was forgetting or confusing some parts of the stories. The author explains this in the first paragraph, and describes how they were taken by surprise one day when the stories stopped, in the second paragraph. There is no information in the passage to support (a), (b), or (c) as the correct option.

Now you are well acquinted with Englisdh Comprehension, why not try this quiz for clat exam?