If you are taking CLAT, you are expected to have a sound base in English. You should be able to speak and write in flawless English.

You should be able to work with complex sentence structures and know the meaning of ‘tough’ words.

But in a sea of 1000s of aspirants having a ‘sound base’ in English, the key to scoring well in the reading comprehension section is speed reading.

The passages you shall be asked to read as part of this section in CLAT may range from 500-2000 words.

You may want to take your own sweet time analyzing the text and realizing its essence like you do in Literature class.

However the reality is that CLAT is a timed competitive exam. This is why the need for speed reading is paramount in CLAT.

You must be very clear that speed reading does not mean simply reading without understanding.

At the same time you must remember that the types of Reading Comprehension questions are vastly different from the ones you might have answered in school.

You may be doubtful regarding what speed reading encompasses. It contains three basic elements—reading, processing and analyzing.

All these three elements must be dealt with while taking care of a fourth and vital element—time.

To save time, try and outline the key ideas presented in each paragraph. If you are confident regarding your memory you may chalk out the outline in your mind.

In general however it is recommended that you make short notes about the gist of each paragraph next to it. The ‘short notes’ could be as short as a word or a phrase.

Seeing that CLAT is now a computerized test you can nonetheless make note of the gist of each paragraph in your rough sheet.

This will help you identify the paragraph in which you can get your answer for each of the questions.

The idea is for you to come back for a quick look at the relevant paragraph when you find that there is a question pertaining to it.

It is always better if you have a general idea about each paragraph in the passage as this means that you do not have to search through the entire body of text once again to find the answer.

This will help you save a lot of time which you can devote to the other sections.

At this stage you should be aware that there are certain things that may pose an issue to speed reading for you.

The first one would be a poor vocabulary. You can be rest assured that CLAT will be providing you passages authored by highly qualified individuals. There is a very big chance that these authors shall use some ‘tough’ words to get their point across.

If you are unable to derive the meaning of a passage just because you are unaware of the meanings of a majority of the terms, it will act as a serious handicap for you while answering the questions.

A second thing that might act as a big obstacle for you is a low attention span. If you are easily distracted and bored, you might not be able to concentrate throughout the length of a passage.

The passage provided might not always be about a subject you like or written in the most interesting way. But remember that if you let your mind wander while reading a passage you will be the ultimate loser!

Therefore your aim should be to remove both these handicaps and equip yourself to identify the relation between sentences and paragraphs, and organize the data provided in a concise manner each time you read a passage.

This shall not be possible in a day or two but will require some effort from you over a period of time. It is imperative that you begin reading editorials in newspapers and magazines.

Not only will it help you improve your vocabulary it will acquaint you with a large number of subject areas.

If you start reading on a daily basis you will find that your concentration levels have increased and you are being able to retain much more information than you could previously.

Let us study a passage and try to identify the key subject area in each paragraph.

Works of art, artefacts, and antiquities form separate classes of object that are undeniably significant to human expression and identity. Just as a mirror reflects the life conditions of individuals and communities, and speaks to the human condition, these objects reflect aspects of the culture of their time and place. Most of all, they reflect creative endeavour and the highest point of human achievement.

A ‘cultural object’ is defined by the significance it has for states, individuals, non-state entities, and groups. It may embody archaeological, ethnological or historical information about the creative process, and about the identity of the group responsible for its production. Regardless of whether the object achieves recognition beyond that group, culture makes ‘identity’ conceivable and converts longing into belonging and solidarity.

Both ‘property’ and ‘heritage’ have been used to describe the relationship between a particular social group and the objects they value, but ‘heritage’ is the more neutral term of the two. Rather than denoting the international community as a title holder, or justifying an unfettered art market, the concept ‘cultural heritage of all mankind’ reflects a common concern that requires a common international commitment to preserve, protect, and keep safe.

States and national legal norms carry most of the responsibility for the protection of the cultural heritage within their own territories, and within territories occupied in wartime.

The inter-continental trade in art has been a feature of the recorded development of the art market ever since its inception 5 000 years ago. Art and cultural objects are rather easily caught up in the quest for an instant personal history and a sense of belonging.

The misappropriation of art and cultural objects is shockingly high. The prosperity of trafficking networks is evident from numerous news updates. It seems sensible, therefore, to define ‘trade’ broadly so as to include legitimate, illegitimate, and illicit trade.

A state that benefits from the trade is unlikely to prioritise strict regulation. Therefore, the unethical, immoral trade is not necessarily critically illegal in every market state, even if it tends to be so in the source state.

Research on the effects of global legal pluralism on the resolution of disputes involving the ownership and restitution of art and cultural objects, has highlighted the absence of uniform law and the social and legal factors that hamper the achievement of harmony.

The effect of private international law argument in litigated art and heritage claims continues to deserve close observation and study. The simultaneous application of different legal systems in one claim, and the technicality of solving competing claims and clashes, is a challenging and worthwhile area, and scholarly interest in this area has been significant. Research has to be updated constantly because the contemporary context of restitution is so dynamic.

Note that this passage has close to 500 words. Having read the passage your first task is to outline the key ideas in the passage.

You will find that the basic ideas in this passage can be summed up as follows:
  1. Works of art, artefacts and antiquities are integral to the cultural identity of communities. The international community as a whole is responsible for the safety and upkeep of these items of immense value
  2. Intercontinental trade has been observed as part of the art market from the start. Cultural objects are used to create a sense of belonging.
  3. Illicit trade in cultural objects is widespread and not illegal in all nations.
  4. There is a lack of uniform law regarding ownership and restitution of cultural property. Research has to be updated constantly in keeping with the dynamic context in which this idea is present.

You will notice that the summary of each paragraph is one or two sentences long. There are two aspects to this.

Firstly, you have very little time to tackle each question so writing long descriptions is not an option.

Secondly, a brief summary is a reflection of your understanding.

If you are able to jot down the most relevant issues in a concise manner that shows that you have understood the subject matter of the passage properly.

It may be possible that you are seriously time strapped when you arrive at this section.

IMPORTANT: In such a situation writing down whole sentences is not a viable option. The best way to go is to note down the key words in a systematic manner. The basic ideas can be noted down in this case as:

  1. Antiquities—integral—cultural identity—international community—responsible—safety and upkeep.
  2. Intercontinental trade—art market—sense of belonging.
  3. Illicit trade—widespread—not illegal everywhere.
  4. No uniform law—restitution—cultural property—research update—dynamic context.

The purpose of Reading Comprehension questions is to compel you to think and analyze instead of simply locating an answer already mentioned in the text.

There can be numerous questions which arise out of this passage, the answers to which are not explicitly mentioned in the passage.

You must understand that there might not always be a perfect answer in the option. You must by principle always choose the answer that is most appropriate.

Let us consider some questions in this regard.
  • What is meant by ‘pluralism’ in the context of this passage?
  1.  Many in number.
  2. Wide variety of ideas.
  3. Large number of books.
  4. Several leading cases.

The answer is option 2. Legal pluralism refers to the coexistence of a number of legal systems within a fixed geographical area. We find that both option 1 and 2 answer the question correctly to a certain extent.

While choosing an answer we have to remember the rule of ‘the most appropriate answer’. In this case though option 1 refers to a numerical quantification, option 2 reflects both numerical and qualitative diversity and is more appropriate in the given context.

  • What according to the author leads to the continuation of immoral trade in the world?
  1. Lack of uniform laws.
  2. Shortage of infrastructure to monitor trade.
  3. Unwillingness of benefiting states to frame regulations.
  4. Inability of governments to persecute perpetrators.

The answer will be option 3. The other three options reflect practical issues with regard to immoral trade in our world. None of these have any reference in the discussion of the passage. Option 3 is clearly mentioned in this regard and is the correct answer.

  • Why is ‘heritage’ being considered to be a neutral term in this passage?
  1. Heritage does not contribute to violence.
  2. Heritage reflects common concern rather than titled ownership.
  3. Heritage is everybody’s property.
  4. Heritage is an inalienable aspect of human life.

The answer is option 2. Options 1 and 3 are premises which have not been proved in the course of the passage. Option 4 may be true in the real world but has not been mentioned or implied within this passage. Therefore option 2 is the most appropriate choice.

  • Which of these is not a feature of cultural objects?
  1. Cultural objects can have a link with personal history.
  2. Cultural objects are entwined with human expression.
  3. Cultural objects bear testimony to human achievement.
  4. Cultural objects have lead to the creation a parallel economy.

The answer will be option 4. The first three options are mentioned within the context of the passage. Option 4 reflects a foreseeable possibility but is outside the scope of the matter discussed in the passage. It is therefore an arbitrary assumption and cannot be considered as an answer to this question.

  • What is the relationship between the two sentences in the second paragraph?
  1. The first sentence describes the effect of the cause stated in the second.
  2. The two sentences reflect independent causes.
  3. The second sentence describes the effect of the cause stated in the first.
  4. The sentences reflect independent effects.

The answer is option 1. The first sentence describes how intercontinental trade of cultural objects has been a feature of the art market since its inception. The second sentence explains why cultural objects are important. The importance of the cultural objects is what causes a trade in them to flourish.

Here are some tips to help you in answering questions of this sort.
  • Use the elimination method and rule out the most absurd answers.
  • Do not use knowledge outside the scope of the passage unless you are specifically asked to do so.
  • Glance through the relevant paragraph once more before selecting an option.
  • Decide on the appropriateness of an answer in view of the discussion of the passage and not your own ideas on the subject.
  • Do not choose options which go beyond the scope of the passage.
Here are some questions for you to consider.
  1. What would be a good title for this passage?
  2. What forms of solutions have been discussed in the passage?
  3. Why does the author equate a sense of belonging to possession of cultural objects?
  4. Why do you think the international community has to participate in safekeeping the cultural property of specific communities?
  5. What is the reasoning provided by the author in favour of a broad definition for ‘trade’?

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