How Rahul aced English

Revised Infographic_9thJulyRahul was both anxious and nervous. His dream company was about to visit his college for placements, and he desperately wanted to crack the online assessment to bag the position. He worked hard, practicing logical and numerical ability. He did everything that an aspirant usually does – he watched inspiring videos, solved a battery of mock tests, and even remembered to take care of his health. He was quite confident that he will make it. Finally, the dreaded day arrived; Rahul gave the exam and waited for the results with bated breath. The results were announced and to his dismay, Rahul did not pass the test. He was devastated. His mentor in college consoled him. She enquired about his scores in each section. It came to light that the test had sectional cut-offs and though Rahul had performed exceptionally well in the remaining portions, he hadn’t crossed the cut-off for the English section.

As they say, failures teach us more than success ever can. Rahul took responsibility for his failure and acknowledged the importance of English. He researched a lot to find answers to these questions that were popping in his mind.

Why do recruiters use English assessments for hiring along with Aptitude and Technical assessments?

Recruiters across the world acknowledge the importance of English, given it is the primary language for most official communication. Almost every field in the market, ranging from management to sales and marketing, requires decent English language skills. Even if one is not in a client facing role, one needs to communicate internally in the organization, and so recruiters aim for people who not only have technical expertise but who also can communicate their ideas well. Rahul realized that in a world where everyone else is learning English if he doesn’t take it seriously as well, he will fall behind.

What are the components of English Assessment?

After analyzing the test papers of various companies, Rahul found that almost all recruiters follow a similar pattern when it comes to the English section. The most common components of an English assessment are:

  1. Reading Comprehension
  2. Verbal ability
  3. English Grammar

Reading Comprehension:

Rahul found Reading Comprehensions to be tricky. Information intensive passages can be mentally exhausting to read. Attempting questions linked to it, though rewarding, can be time-consuming. Mostly, multiple questions follow the same passage, and if one comprehends it well there are quite a few points to score. All the passages can be classified under the following sub-headings based on their area of study:

– Passages based on Social Sciences (History, Geography, Politics, etc.)

– Passages based on Economics and Business (Business events, Economic theories, etc.)

– Passages based on Science (Developments in Physics, Astronomy, Medicine, etc.)

– Passages based on the Liberal Arts (Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology, etc.)

– Passages based on current affairs and latest events

– Miscellaneous Passages (which can have a combination of the above topics)

The questions asked from these passages can be classified as:

  1. Lexical Questions: Items where one needs to understand the key vocabulary of the passage and answer accordingly.

Ex. What does “enchanted” mean as used in the passage?

  1. Interpretative/Inferential Questions: Items where one needs to understand facts that are not explicitly stated in the passage and answer questions like what if, why, and how. 
  1. Read and Reply (Literal Questions): Items where one needs to answer things that are directly stated in the text. 

Rahul read English newspapers from around the world to polish his comprehension abilities. When he had a tough time concentrating on the topics, he didn’t like such as politics or economics, he’d read a piece from the science and technology section which he was crazy for. Slowly but surely, he became comfortable reading complex passages as well as ones on topics that were new to him. He looked up the words he found difficult on online dictionaries like the one from Oxford. Visiting the newspaper stand in his hostel common room was easy enough, and cruising through editorials and special reports in The Hindu, Business Standard and Hindustan Times gave him enough practice to ace the Reading Comprehension questions.

 Verbal ability:

Verbal ability was a crucial part of all the tests Rahul analyzed. These questions test the ability to understand and critically evaluate the given information. Questions that test one’s command over vocabulary and sentence formation also fall under this category. The sub-topics covered are as under:

  1. Synonyms and Antonyms/ Vocabulary
  2. Odd One Out/ Verbal Analogy
  3. Sentence Formation/ Sequencing
  4. Phrases and Idioms.

Questions asked from Synonyms and Antonyms/ Vocabulary are either one-word substitutions or fill in the blanks. On analyzing the papers, Rahul realized that most recruiters prefer to use commonly confused words and one can easily get command over these questions. A lot of words that come from the same roots have similar meanings. Using this knowledge, he found it easy to relate that bellicose and belligerent are similar in meaning, for example.

In Verbal analogy questions, one needs to identify the relationship of the elements in the question to select the correct answer, while Odd One Out questions check one’s ability to differentiate between the given options. Rahul practiced these questions as stress busters, and that was enough to improve his grades. It not only increased his confidence but also helped in scoring more marks. Verbal analogy was tricky at first, so he gave each question time and tried to filter the options based on criteria like the form of speech the question asked for, the proper tense and the nuance in meaning.

Rahul loved to read blogs and magazines, and he realized that was how he had to look at sequencing questions to arrive at the correct answers. All he had to do was read the given set of sentences and arrange them sequentially to form a meaningful passage.

For phrases and idioms, he just needed to have an idea of conversational English. It had been a little tough for him since English wasn’t his first language, but with all the reading he had taken to after the debacle, he found it easy to answer most questions in the category.

He also gained from his college’s book club. It was tough to sit through their meetings at first, especially since he hadn’t read many books himself. But as he got through a couple of them week after week, he found the meetings to be a great place to pick up conversational English skills. That made sections like Vocabulary and verbal reasoning easier still!

English Grammar:

Grammar is the structure and sound of any language. While scrolling through the feed of his online dating app, Rahul read a study which implied that people on the app are 14% less likely to chat with someone who uses poor grammar.  It was only obvious that recruiters also prefer those with good grammar. Being strong in grammar would surely give him an edge over his peers and could be useful in his daily life as well. The most important sections in Grammar were:

  1. Articles and Prepositions
  2. Tenses and Gerunds
  3. Speech and Voice
  4. Sentence Correction

Most of the times fill in the blank questions were asked from the first two topics. Questions requiring Rahul to change the speech or voice became pretty easy too once he had practiced them for a few hours.

Sentence correction questions required him to identify the error in a given statement. These errors could be grammatical or contextual. Commonly tested concepts included:

  1. Subject-Verb agreement
  2. Redundancy
  3. Error in Modifiers
  4. Parallelism
  5. Homonyms and Homophones

Rahul got stuck a few times in these questions when the target error was of redundancy and parallelism, while his friends got stuck on different errors he knew how to spot. With collaboration and persistence, he understood what to look for in sentence structures, and which words paired with each other and which ones didn’t. In no time, he was getting them right every time!

There were lots of websites that had mock tests and tutorials on all such problems as well. Rahul went through them and was glad to not spend a penny.

Seeing him work this hard, his parents picked up a Wren and Martin and sent him the book. Rahul was fond of solving English questions by this point, and he found an immense sense of achievement in getting through the book. He completed a few exercises on every topic, and he was raring to go by the time the next big company rolled in with its assessment.

Sometimes by losing a battle, you can find a new way to win the war. After analyzing the components of English assessment, Rahul practiced questions from various test series. He worked extremely hard to improve his English. He had already fortified his Logical ability and Numerical ability sections. He easily cracked the online examination of a corporate giant and received the highest package in his batch. Rahul did not let failures overtake him. He worked hard and made it happen. BE LIKE RAHUL.

Want to know how Rahul aced the Logical and Quant portions?


Contributed By – Deepika Pant
Assessment Team, Aon CoCubes

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