Reading Comprehension Previous Year Questions (CAT) - Set 0002

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    Previous years`s CAT questions: Reading Comprehension

    Post your solutions as reply to respective questions below.

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    Question 1

     ( CAT 2007 )

    The difficulties historians face in establishing cause-and-effect relations in the history of human societies are broadly similar to the difficulties facing astronomers, climatologists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, geologists, and palaeontologists. To varying degrees each of these fields is plagued by the impossibility of performing replicated, controlled experimental interventions, the complexity arising from enormous numbers of variables, the resulting uniqueness of each system, the consequent impossibility of formulating universal laws, and the difficulties of predicting emergent properties and future behaviour. Prediction in history, as in other historical sciences, is most feasible on large spatial scales and over long times, when the unique features of millions of small-scale brief events become averaged out. Just as I could predict the sex ratio of the next 1,000 newborns but not the sexes of my own two children, the historian can recognize factors that made inevitable the broad outcome of the collision between American and Eurasian societies after 13,000 years of separate developments, but not the outcome of the 1960 U.S. presidential election. The details of which candidate said what during a single televised debate in October 1960 could have given the electoral victory to Nixon instead of to Kennedy, but no details of who said what could have blocked the European conquest of Native Americans.

    How can students of human history profit from the experience of scientists in other historical sciences? A methodology that has proved useful involves the comparative method and so-called natural experiments. While neither astronomers studying galaxy formation nor human historians can manipulate their systems in controlled laboratory experiments, they both can take advantage of natural experiments, by comparing systems differing in the presence or absence (or in the strong or weak effect) of some putative causative factor. For example, epidemiologists, forbidden to feed large amounts of salt to people experimentally, have still been able to identify effects of high salt intake by comparing groups of humans who already differ greatly in their salt intake; and cultural anthropologists, unable to provide human groups experimentally with varying resource abundances for many centuries, still study long-term effects of resource abundance on human societies by comparing recent Polynesian populations living on islands differing naturally in resource abundance.

    The student of human history can draw on many more natural experiments than just comparisons among the five inhabited continents. Comparisons can also utilize large islands that have developed complex societies in a considerable degree of isolation (such as Japan, Madagascar, Native American Hispaniola, New Guinea, Hawaii, and many others), as well as societies on hundreds of smaller islands and regional societies within each of the continents. Natural experiments in any field, whether in ecology or human history, are inherently open to potential methodological criticisms. Those include confounding effects of natural variation in additional variables besides the one of interest, as well as problems in inferring chains of causation from observed correlations between variables. Such methodological problems have been discussed in great detail for some of the historical sciences. In particular, epidemiology, the science of drawing inferences about human diseases by comparing groups of people (often by retrospective historical studies), has for a long time successfully employed formalized procedures for dealing with problems similar to those facing historians of human societies.

    In short, I acknowledge that it is much more difficult to understand human history than to understand problems in fields of science where history is unimportant and where fewer individual variables operate. Nevertheless, successful methodologies for analyzing historical problems have been worked out in several fields. As a result, the histories of dinosaurs, nebulae, and glaciers are generally acknowledged to belong to fields of science rather than to the humanities.

    1) Why do islands with considerable degree of isolation provide valuable insights into human history?

    (a) Isolated islands may evolve differently and this difference is of interest to us.
    (b) Isolated islands increase the number of observations available to historians.
    (c) Isolated islands, differing in their endowments and size may evolve differently and this difference can be attributed to their endowments and size.
    (d) Isolated islands, differing in their endowments and size, provide a good comparison to large islands such as Eurasia, Africa, Americas and Australia.
    (e) Isolated islands, in so far as they are inhabited, arouse curiosity about how human beings evolved there.

    2) According to the author, why is prediction difficult in history?

    (a) Historical explanations are usually broad so that no prediction is possible.
    (b) Historical out comes depend upon a large number of factors and hence prediction is difficult for each case.
    (c) Historical sciences, by their very nature, are not interested in a multitude of minor factors, which might be important in a specific historical outcome.
    (d) Historians are interested in evolution of human history and hence are only interested in log term predictions.
    (e) Historical sciences suffer from the inability to conduct controlled experiments and therefore have explanations based on a few long-term factors.

    3) According to the author, which of the following statements would be true?

    (1) Students of history are missing significant opportunities by not conducting any natural experiments.
    (2) Complex societies inhabiting large islands provide great opportunities for natural experiments.
    (3) Students of history are missing significant opportunities by not studying an adequate variety of natural experiments.
    (4) A unique problem faced by historians is their inability to establish cause and effect relationships.
    (5) Cultural anthropologists have overcome the problem of confounding variables through natural experiments.

  • Global Moderator

    Answer: 1) C 2) B 3) C

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    Question 2

    ( CAT 2007 )

    Human Biology does nothing to structure human society. Age may enfeeble us all, but cultures vary considerably in the prestige and power they accord to the elderly. Giving birth is a necessary condition for being a mother, but it is not sufficient. We expect mothers to behave in maternal ways and to display appropriately maternal sentiments. We prescribe a clutch of norms or rules that govern the role of a mother. That the social role is independent of the biological base can be demonstrated by going back three sentences. Giving birth is certainly not sufficient to be a mother but, as adoption and fostering show, it is not even necessary!

    The fine detail of what is expected of a mother or a father or a dutiful son differs from culture to culture, but everywhere behaviour is coordinated by the reciprocal nature of roles. Husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, waiters and customers, teachers and pupils, warlords and followers; each makes sense only in its relation to the other. The term ‘role’ is an appropriate one, because the metaphor of an actor in a play neatly expresses the rule-governed nature or scripted nature of much of social life and the sense that society is a joint production. Social life occurs only because people play their parts (and that is as true for war and conflicts as for peace and love) and those parts make sense only in the context of the overall show. The drama metaphor also reminds us of the artistic licence available to the players. We can play a part straight or, as the following from J.P. Sartre conveys, we can ham it up.

    Let us consider this waiter in the cafe. His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. He comes towards the patrons with a step a little too quick. He bends forward a little too eagerly; his voice, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer. Finally there he returns, trying to imitate in his walk the inflexible stiffness of some kind of automaton while carrying his tray with the recklessness of a tightrope-walker....All his behaviour seems to us a game....But what is he playing? We need not watch long before we can explain it: he is playing at being a waiter in a cafe.

    The American sociologist Erving Goffman built an influential body of social analysis on elaborations of the metaphor of social life as drama. Perhaps his most telling point was that it is only through acting out a part that we express character. It is not enough to be evil or virtuous; we have to be seen to be evil or virtuous.

    There is distinction between the roles we play and some underlying self. Here we might note that some roles are more absorbing than others. We would not be surprised by the waitress who plays the part in such a way as to signal to us that she is much more than her occupation. We would be surprised and offended by the father who played his part ‘tongue in cheek’. Some roles are broader and more far-reaching than others. Describing someone as a clergyman or faith healer would say far more about that person than describing someone as a bus driver.

    1) What is the thematic highlight of this passage?

    (a) In the absence of strong biological linkages, reciprocal roles provide the mechanism for coordinating human behaviour.
    (b) In the absence of reciprocal roles, biological linkages provide the mechanism for coordinating human behaviour.
    (c) Human behaviour is independent of biological linkages and reciprocal roles.
    (d) Human behaviour depends on biological linkages and reciprocal roles.
    (e) Reciprocal roles determine normative human behavior in society

    2) Which of the following would have been true if biological linkages structured human society?

    (a) The role of mother would have been defined through her reciprocal relationship with her children.
    (b) We would not have been offended by the father playing his role ‘tongue in cheek’.
    (c) Women would have adopted and fostered children rather than giving birth to them.
    (d) Even if warlords were physically weaker than their followers, they would still dominate them.
    (e) Waiters would have stronger motivation to serve their customers.

    3) It has been claimed in the passage that “some roles are more absorbing than others”. According to the passage, which of the following seem(s) appropriate reason(s) for such a claim?.

    A. Some roles carry great expectations from the society preventing manifestation of the true self.
    B. Society ascribes so much importance to some roles that the conception of self may get aligned with the roles being performed.
    C. Some roles require development of skill and expertise leaving little time for manifestation of self.

    (a) A only
    (b) B only
    (c) C only
    (d) A & B
    (e) B & C


  • Global Moderator

    Answer: 1) E 2) B 3) D

  • Global Moderator

    Question 3

    ( CAT 2007 )

    Every civilized society lives and thrives on a silent but profound agreement as to what is to be accepted as the valid mould of experience. Civilization is a complex system of dams, dykes, and canals warding off, directing, and articulating the influx of the surrounding fluid element; a fertile fenland, elaborately drained and protected from the high tides of chaotic, unexercised, and inarticulate experience. In such a culture, stable and sure of itself within the frontiers of 'naturalized' experience, the arts wield their creative power not so much in width as in depth. They do not create new experience, but deepen and purify the old. Their works do not differ from one another like a new horizon from a new horizon, but like a madonna from a madonna.

    The periods of art which are most vigorous in creative passion seem to occur when the established pattern of experience loosens its rigidity without as yet losing its force. Such a period was the Renaissance, and Shakespeare its poetic consummation. Then it was as though the discipline of the old order gave depth to the excitement of the breaking away, the depth of job and tragedy, of incomparable conquests and irredeemable losses. Adventurers of experience set out as though in lifeboats to rescue and bring back to the shore treasures of knowing and feeling which the old order had left floating on the high seas. The works of the early Renaissance and the poetry of Shakespeare vibrate with the compassion for live experience in danger of dying from exposure and neglect. In this compassion was the creative genius of the age. Yet, it was a genius of courage, not of desperate audacity. For, however elusively, it still knew of harbours and anchors, of homes to which to return, and of barns in which to store the harvest. The exploring spirit of art was in the depths of its consciousness still aware of a scheme of things into which to fit its exploits and creations.

    But the more this scheme of things loses its stability, the more boundless and uncharted appears the ocean of potential exploration. In the blank confusion of infinite potentialities flotsam of significance gets attached to jetsam of experience;

    for everything is sea, everything is at sea -
    .... The sea is all about us;
    The sea is the land's edge also, the granite
    Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
    Its hints of earlier and other creation ...

    - and Rilke tells a story in which, as in T.S. Eliot's poem, it is again the sea and the distance of 'other creation' that becomes the image of the poet's reality. A rowing boat sets out on a difficult passage. The oarsmen labour in exact rhythm. There is no sign yet of the destination. Suddenly a man, seemingly idle, breaks out into song. And if the labour of the oarsmen meaninglessly defeats the real resistance of the real waves, it is the idle single who magically conquers the despair of apparent aimlessness. While the people next to him try to come to grips with the element that is next to them, his voice seems to bind the boat to the farthest distance so that the farthest distance draws it towards itself. 'I don't know why and how,' is Rilke's conclusion, 'but suddenly I understood the situation of the poet, his place and function in this age. It does not matter if one denies him every place - except this one. There one must tolerate him.'

    1) In the passage, the expression “like a madonna from a madonna” alludes to

    (a) The difference arising as a consequence of artistic license.
    (b) The difference between two artistic interpretations.
    (c) The difference between ‘life’ and ‘interpretation of life’.
    (d) The difference between ‘width’ and ‘depth’ of creative power.
    (e) The difference between the legendary character and the modern day singer.

    2) The sea and ‘other creation’ leads Rilke to

    (a) Define the place of the poet in his culture.
    (b) Reflect on the role of the oarsman and the singer.
    (c) Muse on artistic labour and its aimlesseness.
    (d) Understand the elements that one has to deal with.
    (e) Delve into natural experience and real waves.

    3) According to the passage, the term “adventurers of experience” refers to

    (a) Poets and artists who are driven by courage.
    (b) Poets and artists who create their own genre.
    (c) Poets and artists of the Renaissance.
    (d) Poets and artists who revitalize and enrich the past for us.
    (e) Poets and artists who delve in flotsam and jetsam in sea.

  • Global Moderator

    Answer: 1) B 2) A 3) D

  • Global Moderator

    Question 4

    (CAT 2006)

    Fifteen years after communism was officially pronounced dead, its spectre seems once again to be haunting Europe. Last month, the Council of Europe‘s parliamentary assembly voted to condemn the crimes of totalitarian communist regimes,“ linking them with Nazism and complaining that communist parties are still legal and active in some countries.“Now Goran Lindblad, the conservative Swedish MP behind the resolution, wants to go further. Demands that European Ministers launch a continent-wide anti-communist campaign - including school textbook revisions, official memorial days, and museums - only narrowly missed the necessary two-thirds majority. Mr. Lindblad pledged to bring the wider plans back to the Council of Europe in the coming months.

    He has chosen a good year for his ideological offensive: this is the 50th anniversary of Nikita Khrushchev‘s denunciation of Josef Stalin and the subsequent Hungarian uprising, which will doubtless be the cue for further excoriation of the communist record. Paradoxically, given that there is no communist government left in Europe outside Moldova, the attacks have if anything, become more extreme as time has gone on. A clue as to why that might be can be found in the rambling report by Mr. Lindblad that led to the Council of Europe declaration. Blaming class struggle and public ownership, he explained different elements of communist ideology such as equality or social justice still seduce many“ and a sort of nostalgia for communism is still alive.” Perhaps the real problem for Mr. Lindblad and his right-wing allies in Eastern Europe is that communism is not dead enough - and they will only be content when they have driven a stake through its heart.

    The fashionable attempt to equate communism and Nazism is in reality a moral and historical nonsense. Despite the cruelties of the Stalin terror, there was no Soviet Treblinka or Sorbibor, no extermination camps built to murder millions. Nor did the Soviet Union launch the most devastating war in history at a cost of more than 50 million lives - in fact it played the decisive role in the defeat of the German war machine. Mr. Lindblad and the Council of Europe adopt as fact the wildest estimates of those killed by communist regimes (mostly in famines) from the fiercely contested Black Book of Communism, which also underplays the number of deaths attributable to Hitler. But, in any case, none of this explains why anyone might be nostalgic in former communist states, now enjoying the delights of capitalist restoration. The dominant account gives no sense of how communist regimes renewed themselves after 1956 or why Western leaders feared they might overtake the capitalist world well into the 1960s. For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialization, mass education, job security, and huge advances in social and gender equality. Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the West, and provided a
    powerful counterweight to Western global domination.

    It would be easier to take the Council of Europe‘s condemnation of communist state crimes seriously if it had also seen fit to denounce the far bloodier record of European colonialism - which only finally came to an end in the 1970s. This was a system of racist despotism, which dominated the globe in Stalin‘s time. And while there is precious little connection between the ideas of fascism and communism, there is an intimate link between colonialism and Nazism. The terms lebensraum and konzentrationslager were both first used by the German colonial regime in south-west Africa (now Namibia), which committed genocide against the Herero and Nama peoples and bequeathed its ideas and personnel directly to the Nazi party.

    Around 10 million Congolese died as a result of Belgian forced labour and mass murder in the early twentieth century; tens of millions perished in avoidable or enforced famines in British-ruled India; up to a million Algerians died in their war for independence, while controversy now rages in France about a new law requiring teachers to put a positive spin on colonial history. Comparable atrocities were carried out by all European colonialists, but not a word of condemnation from the Council of Europe. Presumably, European lives count for more.

    No major twentieth century political tradition is without blood on its hands, but battles over history are more about the future than the past. Part of the current enthusiasm in official Western circles for dancing on the grave of communism is no doubt about relations with today‘s Russia and China. But it also reflects a determination to prove there is no alternative to the new global capitalist order - and that any attempt to find one is bound to lead to suffering. With the new imperialism now being resisted in the Muslim world and Latin America, growing international demands for social justice and ever greater doubts about whether the environmental crisis can be solved within the existing economic system, the pressure for alternatives will increase.


    1. Among all the apprehensions that Mr. Goran Lindblad expresses against communism, which one gets admitted, although indirectly, by the author?

    a. There is nostalgia for communist ideology even if communism has been
    abandoned by most European nations.
    b. Notions of social justice inherent in communist ideology appeal to critics of
    existing systems.
    c. Communist regimes were totalitarian and marked by brutalities and large
    scale violence.
    d. The existing economic order is wrongly viewed as imperialistic by proponents
    of communism.
    e. Communist ideology is faulted because communist regimes resulted in
    economic failures.

    2. What, according to the author, is the real reason for a renewed attack against communism?

    a. Disguising the unintended consequences of the current economic order
    such as social injustice and environmental crisis.
    b. Idealising the existing ideology of global capitalism.
    c. Making communism a generic representative of all historical atrocities,
    especially those perpetrated by the European imperialists.
    d. Communism still survives, in bits and pieces, in the minds and hearts of people.
    e. Renewal of some communist regimes has led to the apprehension that
    communist nations might overtake the capitalists.

    3. The author cites examples of atrocities perpetrated by European colonial regimes in order to

    a. compare the atrocities committed by colonial regimes with those of
    communist regimes.
    b. prove that the atrocities committed by colonial regimes were more than those
    of communist regimes.
    c. prove that, ideologically, communism was much better than colonialism and
    d. neutralise the arguments of Mr.Lindblad and to point out that the atrocities
    committed by colonial regimes were more than those of communist regimes.
    e. neutralise the arguments of Mr. Lindblad and to argue that one needs to go
    beyond and look at the motives of these regimes.

    4. Why, according to the author, is Nazism closer to colonialism than it is to communism?

    a. Both colonialism and Nazism were examples of tyranny of one race over
    b. The genocides committed by the colonial and the Nazi regimes were of similar
    c. Several ideas of the Nazi regime were directly imported from colonial regimes.
    d. Both colonialism and Nazism are based on the principles of imperialism.
    e. While communism was never limited to Europe, both the Nazis and the
    colonialists originated in Europe.

    5. Which of the following cannot be inferred as a compelling reason for the silence of the Council of Europe on colonial atrocities?

    a. The Council of Europe being dominated by erstwhile colonialists.
    b. Generating support for condemning communist ideology.
    c. Unwillingness to antagonize allies by raking up an embarrassing past.
    d. Greater value seemingly placed on European lives.
    e. Portraying both communism and Nazism as ideologies to be condemned

  • Global Moderator

    Answer: 1. C 2. B 3. E 4. A 5. D

  • Global Moderator

    Question 5

    (CAT 2006)

    My aim is to present a conception of justice which generalizes and carries to a higher level of abstraction the familiar theory of the social contract. In order to do this we are not to think of the original contract as one to enter a particular society or to set up a particular form of government. Rather, the idea is that the principles of justice for the basic structure of society are the object of the original agreement. They are the principles that free and rational persons concerned to further their own interests would accept in an initial position of equality. These principles are to regulate all further agreements; they specify the kinds of social cooperation that can be entered into and the forms of government that can be established. This way of regarding the principles of justice, I shall call justice as fairness. Thus, we are to imagine that those who engage in social cooperation choose together, in one joint act, the principles which are to assign basic rights and duties and to determine the division of social benefits. Just as each person must decide by rational reflection what constitutes his good, that is, the system of ends which it is rational for him to pursue, so a group of persons must decide once and for all what is to count among them as just and unjust. The choice which rational men would make in this hypothetical situation of equal liberty determines the principles of justice.

    In ‘justice as fairness’, the original position is not an actual historical state of affairs. It is understood as a purely hypothetical situation characterized so as to lead to a certain conception of justice. Among the essential features of this situation is that no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength, and the like. I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities. The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance. This ensures that no one is advantaged or disadvantaged in the choice of principles by the outcome of natural chance or the contingency of social circumstances. Since all are similarly situated and no one is able to design principles to favor his particular condition, the principles of justice are the result of a fair agreement or bargain.

    Justice as fairness begins with one of the most general of all choices which persons might make together, namely, with the choice of the first principles of a conception of justice which is to regulate all subsequent criticism and reform of institutions. Then, having chosen a conception of justice, we can suppose that they are to choose a constitution and a legislature to enact laws, and so on, all in accordance with the principles of justice initially agreed upon. Our social situation is just if it is such that by this sequence of hypothetical agreements we would have contracted into the general system of rules which defines it. Moreover, assuming that the original position does determine a set of principles, it will then be true that whenever social institutions satisfy these principles, those engaged in them can say to one another that they are cooperating on terms to which they would agree if they were free and equal persons whose relation with respect to one another were fair. They could all view their arrangements as meeting the stipulations which they would acknowledge in an initial situation that embodies widely accepted and reasonable constraints on the choice of principles. The general recognition of this fact would provide the basis for a public acceptance of the corresponding principles of justice. No society can, of course, be a scheme of cooperation which men enter voluntarily in a literal sense; each person finds himself placed at birth in some particular position in some particular society, and the nature of this position materially affects his life prospects. Yet a society satisfying the principles of justice as fairness comes as close as a society can to being a voluntary scheme, for it meets the principles which free and equal persons would assent to under circumstances that are fair.

    1. A just society, as conceptualized in the passage, can be best described as:

    a. A Utopia in which everyone is equal and no one enjoys any privilege based on
    their existing positions and powers.
    b. A hypothetical society in which people agree upon principles of justice which
    are fair.
    c. A society in which principles of justice are not based on the existing positions
    and powers of the individuals.
    d. A society in which principles of justice are fair to all.
    e. A hypothetical society in which principles of justice are not based on the
    existing positions and powers of the individuals.

    2. The original agreement or original position in the passage has been used by the author as:

    a. A hypothetical situation conceived to derive principles of justice which are not
    influenced by position, status and condition of individuals in the society.
    b. A hypothetical situation in which every individual is equal and no individual
    enjoys any privilege based on the existing positions and powers.
    c. A hypothetical situation to ensure fairness of agreements among individuals in
    d. An imagined situation in which principles of justice would have to be fair.
    e. An imagined situation in which fairness is the objective of the principles of
    justice to ensure that no individual enjoys any privilege based on the existing
    positions and powers.

    3. Which of the following best illustrates the situation that is equivalent to choosing "the principles of justice" behind a "veil of ignorance"?

    a. The principles of justice are chosen by businessmen, who are marooned on an
    uninhabited island after a shipwreck, but have some possibility of returning.
    b. The principles of justice are chosen by a group of school children whose
    capabilities are yet to develop.
    c. The principles of justice are chosen by businessmen, who are marooned on an
    uninhabited island after a shipwreck and have no possibility of returning.
    d. The principles of justice are chosen assuming that such principles will govern
    the lives of the rule makers only in their next birth if the rule makers agree
    that they will be born again.
    e. The principles of justice are chosen by potential immigrants who are unaware
    of the resources necessary to succeed in a foreign country.

    4. Why, according to the passage, do principles of justice need to be based on an original agreement?

    a. Social institutions and laws can be considered fair only if they conform to
    principles of justice.
    b. Social institutions and laws can be fair only if they are consistent with the
    principles of justice as initially agreed upon.
    c. Social institutions and laws need to be fair in order to be just.
    d. Social institutions and laws evolve fairly only if they are consistent with the
    principles of justice as initially agreed upon.
    e. Social institutions and laws conform to the principles of justice as initially
    agreed upon.

    5. Which of the following situations best represents the idea of justice as fairness, as argued in the passage?

    a. All individuals are paid equally for the work they do.
    b. Everyone is assigned some work for his or her livelihood.
    c. All acts of theft are penalized equally.
    d. All children are provided free education in similar schools.
    e. All individuals are provided a fixed sum of money to take care of their health.

  • Global Moderator

    Answer: 1. C 2. A 3. D 4. B 5. D

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