Reading Comprehension Previous Year Questions (CAT) - Set 0001
Previous years`s CAT questions: Reading Comprehension
Post your solutions as reply to respective questions below.
( CAT 2008 )
Language is not a cultural artifact that we learn the way we learn to tell time or how the federal government works. Instead, it is a distinct piece of the biological makeup of our brains. Language is a complex, specialized skill, which develops in the child spontaneously, without conscious effort or formal instruction, is deployed without awareness of its underlying logic, is qualitatively the same in every individual, and is distinct from more general abilities to process information or behave intelligently. For these reasons some cognitive scientists have described language as a psychological faculty, a mental organ, a neural system, and a computational module. But I prefer the admittedly quaint term “instinct.” It conveys the idea that people know how to talk in more or less the sense that spiders know how to spin webs. Web-spinning was not invented by some unsung spider genius and does not depend on having had the right education or on having an aptitude for architecture or the construction trades. Rather, spiders spin spider webs because they have spider brains, which give them the urge to spin and the competence to succeed. Although there are differences between webs and words, I will encourage you to see language in this way, for it helps to make sense of the phenomena we will explore.
Thinking of language as an instinct inverts the popular wisdom, especially as it has been passed down in the canon of the humanities and social sciences. Language is no more a cultural invention than is upright posture. It is not a manifestation of a general capacity to use symbols: a three-year-old, we shall see, is a grammatical genius, but is quite incompetent at the visual arts, religious iconography, traffic signs, and the other staples of the semiotics curriculum. Though language is a magnificent ability unique to Homo sapiens among living species, it does not call for sequestering the study of humans from the domain of biology, for a magnificent ability unique to a particular living species is far from unique in the animal kingdom. Some kinds of bats home in on flying insects using Doppler sonar. Some kinds of migratory birds navigate thousands of miles by calibrating the positions of the constellations against the time of day and year. In nature's talent show, we are simply a species of primate with our own act, a knack for communicating information about who did what to whom by modulating the sounds we make when we exhale.
Once you begin to look at language not as the ineffable essence of human uniqueness but as a biological adaption to communicate information, it is no longer as tempting to see language as an insidious shaper of thought, and, we shall see, it is not. Moreover, seeing language as one of nature‟s engineering marvels - an organ with “that perfection of structure and co-adaptation which justly excites our admiration,” in Darwin‟s words - gives us a new respect for your ordinary Joe and the much-maligned English language (or any language). The complexity of language, from the scientist‟s point of view, is part of our biological birthright; it is not something that parents teach their children or something that must be elaborated in school - as Oscar Wilde said, “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” A preschooler‟s tacit knowledge of grammar is more sophisticated than the thickest style manual or the most state-of-the-art computer language system, and the same applies to all healthy human beings, even the notorious syntax-fracturing professional athlete and the, you know, like, inarticulate teenage skateboarder. Finally, since language is the product of a well-engineered biological instinct, we shall see that it is not the nutty barrel of monkeys that entertainer-columnists make it out to be.
1. According to the passage, which of the following does not stem from popular wisdom on language?
(a) Language is a cultural artifact.
(b) Language is a cultural invention.
(c) Language is learnt as we grow.
(d) Language is unique to Homo sapiens.
(e) Language is a psychological faculty.
2. Which of the following can be used to replace the “spiders know how to spin webs” analogy as used by the author?
(a) A kitten learning to jump over a wall
(b) Bees collecting nectar
(c) A donkey carrying a load
(d) A horse running a Derby
(e) A pet dog protecting its owner‟s property
3. According to the passage, which of the following is unique to human beings?
(a) Ability to use symbols while communicating with one another.
(b) Ability to communicate with each other through voice modulation.
(c) Ability to communicate information to other members of the species.
(d) Ability to use sound as means of communication.
(e) All of the above.
4. According to the passage, complexity of language cannot be taught by parents or at school to children because
(a) children instinctively know language.
(b) children learn the language on their own.
(c) language is not amenable to teaching.
(d) children know language better than their teachers or parents.
(e) children are born with the knowledge of semiotics.
5. Which of the following best summarizes the passage?
(a) Language is unique to Homo sapiens.
(b) Language is neither learnt nor taught.
(c) Language is not a cultural invention or artifact as it is made out.
(d) Language is instinctive ability of human beings.
(e) Language is use of symbols unique to human beings.
Answer: 1) e 2) b 3) b 4) a 5) d
( CAT 2008 )
When I was little, children were bought two kinds of ice cream, sold from those white wagons with canopies made of silvery metal: either the two-cent cone or the four-cent ice-cream pie. The two-cent cone was very small, in fact it could fit comfortably into a child's hand, and it was made by taking the ice cream from its container with a special scoop and piling it on the cone. Granny always suggested I eat only a part of the cone, then throw away the pointed end, because it had been touched by the vendor's hand (though that was the best part, nice and crunchy, and it was regularly eaten in secret, after a pretence of discarding it).
The four-cent pie was made by a special little machine, also silvery, which pressed two disks of sweet biscuit against a cylindrical section of ice cream. First you had to thrust your tongue into the gap between the biscuits until it touched the central nucleus of ice cream; then, gradually, you ate the whole thing, the biscuit surfaces softening as they became soaked in creamy nectar. Granny had no advice to give here: in theory the pies had been touched only by the machine; in practice, the vendor had held them in his hand while giving them to us, but it was impossible to isolate the contaminated area.
I was fascinated, however, by some of my peers, whose parents bought them not a four-cent pie but two two-cent cones. These privileged children advanced proudly with one cone in their right hand and one in their left; and expertly moving their head from side to side, they licked first one, then the other. This liturgy seemed to me so sumptuously enviable, that many times I asked to be allowed to celebrate it. In vain. My elders were inflexible: a four-cent ice, yes; but two two-cent ones, absolutely no.
As anyone can see, neither mathematics nor economy nor dietetics justified this refusal. Nor did hygiene, assuming that in due course the tips of both cones were discarded. The pathetic, and obviously mendacious, justification was that a boy concerned with turning his eyes from one cone to the other was more inclined to stumble over stones, steps, or cracks in the pavement. I dimly sensed that there was another secret justification, cruelly pedagogical, but I was unable to grasp it.
Today, citizen and victim of a consumer society, a civilization of excess and waste (which the society of the thirties was not), I realize that those dear and now departed elders were right. Two two-cent cones instead of one at four cents did not signify squandering, economically speaking, but symbolically they surely did. It was for this precise reason, that I yearned for them: because two ice creams suggested excess. And this was precisely why they were denied me: because they looked indecent, an insult to poverty, a display of fictitious privilege, a boast of wealth. Only spoiled children ate two cones at once, those children who in fairy tales were rightly punished, as Pinocchio was when he rejected the skin and the stalk. And parents who encouraged this weakness, appropriate to little parvenus, were bringing up their children in the foolish theatre of “I'd like to but I can't.” They were preparing them to turn up at tourist-class check-in with a fake Gucci bag bought from a street peddler on the beach at Rimini.
Nowadays the moralist risks seeming at odds with morality, in a world where the consumer civilization now wants even adults to be spoiled, and promises them always something more, from the wristwatch in the box of detergent to the bonus bangle sheathed, with the magazine it accompanies, in a plastic envelope. Like the parents of those ambidextrous gluttons I so envied, the consumer civilization pretends to give more, but actually gives, for four cents, what is worth four cents. You will throw away the old transistor radio to purchase the new one, that boasts an alarm clock as well, but some inexplicable defect in the mechanism will guarantee that the radio lasts only a year. The new cheap car will have leather seats, double side mirrors adjustable from inside, and a panelled dashboard, but it will not last nearly so long as the glorious old Fiat 500, which, even when it broke down, could be started again with a kick.
The morality of the old days made Spartans of us all, while today's morality wants all of us to be Sybarites.
1) Which of the following cannot be inferred from the passage?
(a) Today‟s society is more extravagant than the society of the 1930s.
(b) The act of eating two ice cream cones is akin to a ceremonial process.
(c) Elders rightly suggested that a boy turning eyes from one cone to the other was more likely to fall.
(d) Despite seeming to promise more, the consumer civilization gives away exactly what the thing is worth.
(e) The consumer civilization attempts to spoil children and adults alike.
2) In the passage, the phrase “little parvenus” refers to
(a) naughty midgets.
(b) old hags.
(c) arrogant people.
(d) young upstarts.
(e) foolish kids.
3) The author pined for two two-cent cones instead of one four-cent pie because
(a) it made dietetic sense.
(b) it suggested intemperance.
(c) it was more fun.
(d) it had a visual appeal.
(e) he was a glutton.
4) What does the author mean by “nowadays the moralist risks seeming at odds with morality”?
(1) The moralists of yesterday have become immoral today.
(2) The concept of morality has changed over the years.
(3) Consumerism is amoral.
(4) The risks associated with immorality have gone up.
(5) The purist‟s view of morality is fast becoming popular
5) According to the author, the justification for refusal to let him eat two cones was plausibly
Answer: 1) c 2) d 3) b 4) b 5) a
( CAT 2008 )
A remarkable aspect of art of the present century is the range of concepts and ideologies which it embodies. It is almost tempting to see a pattern emerging within the art field - or alternatively imposed upon it a posteriori - similar to that which exists under the umbrella of science where the general term covers a whole range of separate, though interconnecting, activities. Any parallelism is however - in this instance at least - misleading. A scientific discipline develops systematically once its bare tenets have been established, named and categorized as conventions. Many of the concepts of modern art, by contrast, have resulted from the almost accidental meetings of groups of talented individuals at certain times and certain places. The ideas generated by these chance meetings had twofold consequences. Firstly, a corpus of work would be produced which, in great part, remains as a concrete record of the events. Secondly, the ideas would themselves be disseminated through many different channels of communication - seeds that often bore fruit in contexts far removed from their generation. Not all movements were exclusively concerned with innovation. Surrealism, for instance, claimed to embody a kind of insight which can be present in the art of any period. This claim has been generally accepted so that a sixteenth century painting by Spranger or a mysterious photograph by Atget can legitimately be discussed in surrealist terms. Briefly, then, the concepts of modern art are of many different (often fundamentally different) kinds and resulted from the exposures of painters, sculptors and thinkers to the more complex phenomena of the twentieth century, including our ever increasing knowledge of the thought and products of earlier centuries. Different groups of artists would collaborate in trying to make sense of rapidly changing world of visual and spiritual experience. We should hardly be surprised if no one group succeeded completely, but achievements, though relative, have been considerable. Landmarks have been established - concrete statements of position which give a pattern to a situation which could easily have degenerated into total chaos. Beyond this, new language tools have been created for those who follow - semantic systems which can provide a springboard for further explorations.
The codifying of art is often criticized. Certainly one can understand that artists are wary of being pigeon-holed since they are apt to think of themselves as individuals - sometimes with good reason. The notion of self-expression, however, no longer carries quite the weight it once did; objectivity has its defenders. There is good reason to accept the ideas codified by artists and critics, over the past sixty years or so, as having attained the status of independent existence - an independence which is not without its own value. The time factor is important here. As an art movement slips into temporal perspective, it ceases to be a living organism - becoming, rather, a fossil. This is not to say it becomes useless or uninteresting. Just as a scientist can reconstruct the life of a prehistoric environment from the messages codified into the structure of a fossil, so can an artist decipher whole webs of intellectual and creative possibility from the recorded structure of a "dead" art movement. The artist can match the creative patterns crystallized into this structure against the potentials and possibilities of his own time. AS T.S Eliot observed, no one starts anything from scratch; however consciously you may try to live in the present, you are still involved with a nexus of behaviour patterns bequeathed from the past. The original and creative person is not someone who ignores these patterns, but someone who is able to translate and develop them so that they conform more exactly to his - and our - present needs.
1) Many of the concepts of modern art have been the product of
(a) ideas generated from planned deliberations between artists, painters and thinkers.
(b) the dissemination of ideas through the state and its organizations.
(c) accidental interactions among people blessed with creative muse.
(d) patronage by the rich and powerful that supported art.
(e) systematic investigation, codification and conventions
2) In the passage, the word "fossil" can be interpreted as
(a) an art movement that has ceased to remain interesting or useful.
(b) an analogy from the physical world to indicate a historic art movement.
(c) an analogy from the physical world to indicate the barrenness of artistic creations in the past.
(d) an embedded codification of pre-historic life.
(e) an analogy from the physical world to indicate the passing of an era associated with an art movement.
3) In the passage, which of the following similarities between science and art may lead to erroneous conclusions?
(a) Both, in general, include a gamut of distinct but interconnecting activities.
(b) Both have movements not necessarily concerned with innovation.
(c) Both depend on collaborations between talented individuals.
(d) Both involve abstract thought and dissemination of ideas.
(e) Both reflect complex priorities of the modern world.
4) The range of concepts and ideologies embodied in the art of the twentieth century is explained by
(a) the existence of movements such as surrealism.
(b) landmarks which give a pattern to the art history of the twentieth century.
(c) new language tools which can be used for further explorations into new areas.
(d) the fast changing world of perceptual and transcendental understanding.
(e) the quick exchange of ideas and concepts enabled by efficient technology.
5) The passage uses an observation by T.S. Eliot to imply that
(a) creative processes are not 'original' because they always borrow from the past.
(b) we always carry forward the legacy of the past.
(c) past behaviours and thought processes recreate themselves in the present and get labeled as 'original' or 'creative'.
(d) 'originality' can only thrive in a 'greenhouse' insulated from the past biases.
(e) 'innovations' and 'original thinking' interpret and develop on past thoughts to suit contemporary needs.
Answer: 1) c 2) e 3) a 4) d 5) e
( CAT 2008 )
To summarize the Classic Maya collapse, we can tentatively identify five strands. I acknowledge, however, that Maya archaeologists still disagree vigorously among themselves - in part, because the different strands evidently varied in importance among different parts of the Maya realm; because detailed archaeological studies are available for only some Maya sites; and because it remains puzzling why most of the Maya heartland remained nearly empty of population and failed to recover after the collapse and after re-growth of forests.
With those caveats, it appears to me that one strand consisted of population growth outstripping available resources: a dilemma similar to the one foreseen by Thomas Malthus in 1798 and being played out today in Rwanda, Haiti, and elsewhere. As the archaeologist David Webster succinctly puts it, "Too many farmers grew too many crops on too much of landscape." Compounding that mismatch between population and resources was the second strand: the effects of deforestation and hillside erosion, which caused a decrease in the amount of useable farmland at a time when more rather than less farmland was needed, and possibly exacerbated by an anthropogenic drought resulting from deforestation, by soil nutrient depletion and other soil problems, and by the struggle to prevent bracken ferns from overrunning the fields.
The third strand consisted of increased fighting, as more and more people fought over fewer resources. Maya warfare, already endemic, peaked just before the collapse. That is not surprising when one reflects that at least five million people, perhaps many more, were crammed into an area smaller than the US state of Colorado (104,000 square miles). That warfare would have decreased further the amount of land available for agriculture, by creating no-man's lands between principalities where it was now unsafe to farm. Bringing matters to a head was the strand of climate change. The drought at the time of the Classic collapse was not the first drought that the Maya had lived through, but it was the most severe. At the time of previous droughts, there were still uninhabited parts of the Maya landscape, and people at a site affected by drought could save themselves by moving to another site. However, by the time of the Classic collapse the landscape was now full, there was no useful unoccupied land in the vicinity on which to begin anew, and the whole population could not be accommodated in the few areas that continued to have reliable water supplies.
As our fifth strand, we have to wonder why the kings and nobles failed to recognize and solve these seemingly obvious problems undermining their society. Their attention was evidently focused on their short-term concerns of enriching themselves, waging wars, erecting monuments, competing with each other, and extracting enough food from the peasants to support all those activities. Like most leaders throughout human history, the Maya kings and nobles did not heed long-term problems, insofar as they perceived them.
Finally, while we still have some other past societies to consider in this book before we switch our attention to the modern world, we must already be struck by some parallels between the Maya and the past societies. As on Mangareva, the Maya environmental and population problems led to increasing warfare and civil strife. Similarly, on Easter Island and at Chaco Canyon, the Maya peak population numbers were followed swiftly by political and social collapse. Paralleling the eventual extension of agriculture from Easter Island's coastal lowlands to its uplands, and from the Mimbres floodplain to the hills, Copan's inhabitants also expanded from the floodplain to the more fragile hill slopes, leaving them with a larger population to feed when the agricultural boom in the hills went bust. Like Easter Island chiefs erecting ever larger statues, eventually crowned by pukao, and like Anasazi elite treating themselves to necklaces of 2,000 turquoise beads, Maya kings sought to outdo each other with more and more impressive temples, covered with thicker and thicker plaster - reminiscent in turn of the extravagant conspicuous consumption by modern American CEOs. The passivity of Easter chiefs and Maya kings in the face of the real big threats to their societies completes our list of disquieting parallels.
1) According to the passage, which of the following best represents the factor that has been cited by the author in the context of Rwanda and Haiti?
(a) Various ethnic groups competing for land and other resources
(b) Various ethnic groups competing for limited land resources
(c) Various ethnic groups fighting with each other
(d) Various ethnic groups competing for political power
(e) Various ethnic groups fighting for their identity
2) By an anthropogenic drought, the author means
(a) a drought caused by lack of rains.
(b) a drought caused due to deforestation
(c) a drought caused by failure to prevent bracken ferns from overrunning the fields.
(d) a drought caused by actions of human beings.
(e) a drought caused by climate changes.
3) According to the passage, the drought at the time of Maya collapse had a different impact compared to the droughts earlier because
(a) the Maya kings continue to be extravagant when common people were suffering.
(b) it happened at the time of collapse of leadership among Mayas.
(c) it happened when the Maya population had occupied all available land suited for agriculture.
(d) it was followed by internecine warfare among Mayans.
(e) irreversible environmental degradation led to this drought.
4) According to the author, why is it difficult to explain the reasons for Maya collapse?
(a) Copan inhabitants destroyed all records of that period.
(b) The constant deforestation and hillside erosion have wiped out all traces of the Maya kingdom.
(c) Archaeological sites of Mayas do not provide any consistent evidence.
(d) It has not been possible to ascertain which of the factors best explains as to why the Maya civilization collapsed.
(e) At least five million people were crammed into a small area.
5) Which factor has not been cited as one of the factors causing the collapse of Maya society?
(a) Environmental degradation due to excess population
(b) Social collapse due to excess population
(c) Increased warfare among Maya people
(d) Climate change
(e) Obsession of Maya population with their own short-term concerns.
Answer: 1) a 2) d 3) c 4) d 5) e
( CAT 2007 )
To discover the relation between rules, paradigms, and normal science, consider first how the historian isolates the particular loci of commitment that have been described as accepted rules. Close historical investigation of a given specialty at a given time discloses a set of recurrent and quasi-standard illustrations of various theories in their conceptual, observational, and instrumental applications. These are the community's paradigms, revealed in its textbooks, lectures, and laboratory exercises. By studying them and by practicing with them, the members of the corresponding community learn their trade. The historian, of course, will discover in addition a penumbral area occupied by achievements whose status is still in doubt, but the core of solved problems and techniques will usually be clear. Despite occasional ambiguities, the paradigms of a mature scientific community can be determined with relative ease.
That demands a second step and one of a somewhat different kind. When undertaking it, the historian must compare the community's paradigms with each other and with its current research reports. In doing so, his object is to discover what isolable elements, explicit or implicit, the members of that community may have abstracted from their more global paradigms and deploy it as rules in their research. Anyone who has attempted to describe or analyze the evolution of a particular scientific tradition will necessarily have sought accepted principles and rules of this sort. Almost certainly, he will have met with at least partial success. But, if his experience has been at all like my own, he will have found the search for rules both more difficult and less satisfying than the search for paradigms. Some of the generalizations he employs to describe the community's shared beliefs will present more problems. Others, however, will seem a shade too strong. Phrased in just that way, or in any other way he can imagine, they would almost certainly have been rejected by some members of the group he studies. Nevertheless, if the coherence of the research tradition is to be understood in terms of rules, some specification of common ground in the corresponding area is needed. As a result, the search for a body of rules competent to constitute a given normal research tradition becomes a source of continual and deep frustration.
Recognizing that frustration, however, makes it possible to diagnose its source. Scientists can agree that a Newton, Lavoisier, Maxwell, or Einstein has produced an apparently permanent solution to a group of outstanding problems and still disagree, sometimes without being aware of it, about the particular abstract characteristics that make those solutions permanent. They can, that is, agree in their identification of a paradigm without agreeing on, or even attempting to produce, a full interpretation or rationalization of it. Lack of a standard interpretation or of an agreed reduction to rules will not prevent a paradigm from guiding research. Normal science can be determined in part by the direct inspection of paradigms, a process that is often aided by but does not depend upon the formulation of rules and assumption. Indeed, the existence of a paradigm need not even imply that any full set of rules exists.
1) What is the author attempting to illustrate through this passage?
(a) Relationships between rules, paradigms, and normal science.
(b) How a historian would isolate a particular ‘loci of commitment’.
(c) How a set of shared beliefs evolve in to a paradigm.
(d) Ways of understanding a scientific tradition.
(e) The frustrations of attempting to define a paradigm of a tradition
2) The term ‘loci of commitment’ as used in the passage would most likely correspond with which of the following?
(a) Loyalty between a group of scientists in a research laboratory.
(b) Loyalty between groups of scientists across research laboratories.
(c) Loyalty to a certain paradigm of scientific inquiry.
(d) Loyalty to global patterns of scientific inquiry.
(e) Loyalty to evolving trends of scientific inquiry.
3) The author of this passage is likely to agree with which of the following?
(a) Paradigms almost entirely define a scientific tradition.
(b) A group of scientists investigating a phenomenon would benefit by defining a set of rules.
(c) Acceptance by the giants of a tradition is a sine qua non for a paradigm to emerge.
(d) Choice of isolation mechanism determines the types of paradigm that may emerge from a tradition.
(e) Paradigms are a general representation of rules and beliefs of a scientific tradition.
Answer: 1) d 2) c 3) e
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