Reading Comprehension Previous Year Questions (CAT) - Set 0005

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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 2003 Retest)

    At first sight, it looks as though panchayati raj, the lower layer of federalism in our polity, is as firmly entrenched in our system as is the older and higher layer comprising the Union Government and the States. Like the democratic institutions at the higher level, those at the panchayat level, the panchayati raj institutions (PRIs), are written into and protected by the Constitution. All the essential features, which distinguish a unitary system from a federal one, are as much enshrined at the lower as at the upper level of our federal system. But look closely and you will discover a fatal flaw. The letter of the Constitution as well as the spirit of the present polity has exposed the intra-State level of our federal system to a dilemma of which the inter-State and Union-State layers are free. The flaw has many causes. But all of them are rooted in an historical anomaly, that while the dynamics of federalism and democracy have given added strength to the rights given to the States in the Constitution, they have worked against the rights of panchayats.

    At both levels of our federal system there is the same tussle between those who have certain rights and those who try to encroach upon them if they believe they can. Thus the Union Government was able to encroach upon certain rights given to the States by the Constitution. It got away with that because the single dominant party system, which characterised Centre-State relations for close upon two decades, gave the party in power at the Union level many extra-constitutional political levers. Second, the Supreme Court had not yet begun to extend the limits of its power. But all that has changed in recent times. The spurt given to a multi-party democracy by the overthrow of the Emergency in 1977 became a longterm trend later on because of the ways in which a vigorously democratic multi-party system works in a political society which is as assertively pluralistic as Indian society is. It gives political clout to all the various segments which constitute that society. Secondly, because of the linguistic reorganisation of States in the 1950s, many of the most assertive segments have found their most assertive expression as States. Thirdly, with single-party dominance becoming a thing of the past at the Union level, governments can be formed at that level only by multi-party coalitions in which State-level parties are major players. This has made it impossible for the Union Government to do much about anything unless it also carries a sufficient number of State-level parties with it. Indian federalism is now more real than it used to be, but an unfortunate side-effect is that India's panchayati raj system, inaugurated with such fanfare in the early 1980s, has become less real.

    By the time the PRIs came on the scene, most of the political space in our federal system had been occupied by the Centre in the first 30 years of Independence, and most of what was still left after that was occupied by the States in the next 20. PRIs might have hoped to wrest some space from their immediate neighbour, the States, just as the States had wrested some from the Centre. But having at last managed to checkmate the Centre's encroachments on their rights, the States were not about to allow the PRIs to do some encroaching of their own.

    By the 1980s and early 1990s, the only national party left, the Congress, had gone deeper into a siege mentality. Finding itself surrounded by State-level parties, it had built walls against them instead of winning them over. Next, the States retaliated by blocking Congress proposals for panchayati raj in Parliament, suspecting that the Centre would try to use panchayats to bypass State Governments. The suspicion fed on the fact that the powers proposed by the Congress for panchayats were very similar to many of the more lucrative powers of State Governments. State-level leaders also feared, perhaps, that if panchayat-level leaders captured some of the larger PRIs, such as district-level panchayats, they would exert pressure on State-level leaders through intra-State multi-party federalism.

    It soon became obvious to Congress leaders that there was no way the panchayati raj amendments they wanted to write into the Constitution would pass muster unless State-level parties were given their pound of flesh. The amendments were allowed only after it was agreed that the powers of panchayats could be listed in the Constitution. Illustratively, they would be defined and endowed on PRIs by the State Legislature acting at its discretion.

    This left the door wide open for the States to exert the power of the new political fact that while the Union and State Governments could afford to ignore panchayats as long as the MLAs were happy, the Union Government had to be sensitive to the demands of State-level parties. This has given Statelevel actors strong beachheads on the shores of both inter-State and intra-State federalism. By using various administrative devices and non-elected parallel structures, State Governments have subordinated their PRIs to the State administration and given the upper hand to State Government officials against the elected heads of PRIs. Panchayats have become local agencies for implementing schemes drawn up in distant State capitals. And their own volition has been further circumscribed by a plethora of “Centrally-sponsored schemes”. These are drawn up by even more distant Central authorities but at the same time tie up local staff and resources on pain of the schemes being switched off in the absence of matching local contribution. The "foreign aid" syndrome can be clearly seen at work behind this kind of "grass roots development".


    1. The central theme of the passage can be best summarized as

    a. Our grassroots development at the panchayat level is now driven by the "foreign aid" syndrome.
    b. Panchayati raj is firmly entrenched at the lower level of our federal system of governance.
    c. A truly federal polity has not developed since PRIs have not been allowed the necessary political space.
    d. The Union government and State-level parties are engaged in a struggle for the protection of their respective rights.

    2. The sentence in the last paragraph, “And their own volition has been further circumscribed...”,
    refers to:

    a. The weakening of the local institutions' ability to plan according to their needs.
    b. The increasing demands made on elected local leaders to match central grants with
    local contributions.
    c. The empowering of the panchayat system as implementers of schemes from State capitals.
    d. The process by which the prescribed Central schemes are reformulated by local elected

    3. What is the "dilemma" at the intra-State level mentioned in the first paragraph of the passage?

    a. Should the state governments wrest more space from the Union, before considering the
    panchayati system?
    b. Should rights similar to those that the States managed to get be extended to panchayats as well?
    c. Should the single party system which has withered away be brought back at the level of
    the States?
    d. Should the States get "their pound of flesh" before allowing the Union government to
    pass any more laws?

    4. Which of the following most closely describes the 'fatal flaw' that the passage refers to?

    a. The ways in which the democratic multiparty system works in an assertively pluralistic society like India's are flawed.
    b. The mechanisms that our federal system uses at the Union government level to deal with
    States are imperfect.
    c. The instruments that have ensured federalism at one level, have been used to achieve the opposite at another.
    d. The Indian Constitution and the spirit of the Indian polity are fatally flawed.

    5. Which of the following best captures the current state of Indian federalism as described in the passage?

    a. The Supreme Court has not begun to extend the limits of its power.
    b. The multi-party system has replaced the single party system.
    c. The Union, state and panchayati raj levels have become real.
    d. There is real distribution of power between the Union and State level parties.

  • Global Moderator

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

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    Question 2

    (CAT 2003 Retest)

    While I was in class at Columbia, struggling with the esoterica du jour, my father was on a bricklayer's scaffold not far up the street, working on a campus building. Once we met up on the subway going home– he was with his tools, I with my books. My father wasn't interested in Thucydides, and I wasn't up on arches. My dad has built lots of places in New York City he can't get into: colleges, condos, office towers. He made his living on the outside. Once the walls were up, a place took on a different feel for him, as though he wasn't welcome anymore. Related by blood, we're separated by class, my father and I. Being the white-collar child of a blue-collar parent means being the hinge on the door between two ways of life. With one foot in the working-class, the other in the middle class, people like me are Straddlers, at home in neither world, living a limbo life.

    What drove me to leave what I knew? Born bluecollar, I still never felt completely at home among the tough guys and anti-intellectual crowd of my neighbourhood in deepest Brooklyn. I never did completely fit in among the preppies and suburban royalty of Columbia, either. It's like that for Straddlers. It was not so smooth jumping from Italian old-world style to US professional in a single generation. Others who were the first in their families to go to college, will tell you the same thing: the academy can render you unrecognisable to the very people who launched you into the world. The ideas and values absorbed in college challenge the momand- pop orthodoxy that passed for truth for 18 years. Limbo folk may eschew polyester blends for sea-isle cotton, prefer Brie to Kraft slices. They marry outside the neighbourhood and raise their kids differently. They might not be in church on Sunday.

    When they pick careers (not jobs), it's often a kind of work their parents never heard of or can't understand. But for the white-collar kids of bluecollar parents, the office is not necessarily a sanctuary. In Corporate America, where the rules are based on notions foreign to working-class people, a Straddler can get lost. Social class counts at the office, even though nobody likes to admit it. Ultimately, corporate norms are based on middle-class values, business types say. From an early age, middle-class people learn how to get along, using diplomacy, nuance, and politics to grab what they need. It is as though they are following a set of rules laid out in a manual that blue-collar families never have the chance to read.

    People born into the middle class to parents with college degrees have lived lives filled with what French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu calls 'cultural capital'. Growing up in an educated environment, they learn about Picasso and Mozart, stock portfolios and crème brulee. In a home with cultural capital, there are networks: someone always has an aunt or golfing buddy with the inside track for an internship or some entry-level job. Dinner-table talk could involve what happened that day to mom and dad at the law firm, the doctor's office, or the executive suite. Middle-class kids can grow up with a sense of entitlement that will carry them through their lives. This 'belongingness' is not just related to having material means; it also has to do with learning and possessing confidence in your place in the world. Such early access and direct exposure to culture in the home is the more, organic, legitimate' means of appropriating cultural capital, Bourdieu tells us. Those of us possessing 'ill-gotten Culture' can learn it, but never as well. Something is always a little off about us, like an engine with imprecise timing. There’s a greater match between middle-class lives and the institutions in which the middle class works and operates– universities or corporations. Children of the middle and upper classes have been speaking the language of the bosses and supervisors forever.

    Blue-collar kids are taught by their parents and communities to work hard to achieve, and that merit is rewarded. But no blue-collar parent knows whether such things are true in the middle-class world. Many professionals, born to the working-class, report feeling out of place and outmanoeuvred in the office. Soon enough, Straddlers learn that straight talk won't always cut. Resolving conflicts head-on and speaking your mind doesn't always work, no matter how educated the Straddler is.

    In the working-class, people perform jobs in which they are closely supervised and are required to follow orders and instructions. That, in turn, affects how they socialise their children. Children of the workingclass are brought up in a home in which conformity; obedience and intolerance for back talk are the normthe same characteristics that make a good factory worker.


    1. When Straddlers enter white-collar jobs, they get lost because

    a. they are thrown into an alien value system.
    b. their families have not read the rules in corporate manuals.
    c. they have no one to guide them through the corporate maze.
    d. they miss the 'mom and pop orthodoxy'.

    2. What does the author's statement, "My father wasn't interested in Thucydides, and I wasn't up on arches," illustrate?

    a. Organic cultural capital.
    b. Professional arrogance and social distance.
    c.  Evolving social transformation.
    d. Breakdown of family relationships.

    3. Which of the following statements about Straddlers does the passage NOT support explicitly?

    a. Their food preferences may not match those of their parents.
    b. They may not keep up some central religious practices of their parents.
    c. They are at home neither in the middle class nor in the working-class.
    d. Their political ideologies may differ from those of their parents.

    4. According to the passage, which of the following statements about 'cultural capital' is NOT true?

    a. It socializes children early into the norms of middle class institutions.
    b. It helps them learn the language of universities and corporations.
    c. It creates a sense of enlightenment in middleclass children
    d. It develops bright kids into Straddlers.

    5. According to the passage, the patterns of socialization of working-class children make them most suited for jobs that require

    a. diplomacy.
    b. compliance with orders.
    c. enterprise and initiative.
    d. high risk taking.

  • Global Moderator

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

  • Global Moderator

    Question 3

    (CAT 2003 Retest)

    The invention of the gas turbine by Frank Whittle in England and Hans von Ohain in Germany in 1939 signalled the beginning of jet transport. Although the French engineer Lorin had visualized the concept of jet propulsion more than 25 years earlier, it took improved materials and the genius of Whittle and von Ohain to recognize the advantages that a gas turbine offered over a piston engine, including speeds in excess of 350 miles per hour. The progress from the first flights of liquid propellant rocket and jetpropelled aircraft in 1939 to the first faster-thansound (supersonic) manned airplane (the Bell X–1) in 1947 happened in less than a decade. This then led very rapidly to a series of supersonic fighters and bombers, the first of which became operational in the 1950s. World War II technology foundations and emerging Cold War imperatives then led us into space with the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the placing of the first man on the moon only 12 years later- a mere 24 years after the end of World War II.

    Now, a hypersonic flight can take you anywhere in the planet in less than four hours. British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and the air forces of several other countries are going to use a single-engine cousin to the F/A–22 called the F–35 Joint Strike Fighter. These planes exhibit stealthy angles and coatings that make it difficult for radar to detect them, among aviation’s most cutting-edge advances in design. The V–22, known as tilt-rotor, part helicopter, part airplane, takes off vertically, then tilts its engine forward for winged flight. It provides speed, three times the payload, five times the range of the helicopters it’s meant to replace. The new fighter, F/A–22 Raptor, with more than a million parts, shows a perfect amalgamation of stealth, speed, avionics and agility.

    It seems conventional forms, like the Predator and Global Hawk are passé, the stealthier unmanned aerial vehicles (VA Vs) are in. They are shaped like kites, bats and boomerang, all but invisible to the enemy radar and able to remain over hostile territory without any fear of getting grilled if shot down. Will the UAVs take away pilots’ jobs permanently? Can a computer-operated machine take a smarter and faster decision in a warlike situation? The new freeflight concept will probably supplement the existing air traffic control system by computers on each plane to map the altitude, route, weather and other planes;and a decade from now, there will be no use of radar any more.

    How much bigger can the airplanes get? In the ‘50s they got speed, in the ‘80s they became stealthy. Now, they are getting smarter thanks to computer automation. The change is quite huge: from the fourseater to the A380 airplane. It seems we are now trading speed for size as we build a new Super-jumbo jet, the 555 seater A380, which will fly at almost the same speed of the Boeing 707, introduced half a century ago, but with an improved capacity, range, greater fuel economy. A few years down the line will come the truly larger model, to be known as 747X. In the beginning of 2005, the A380, the world’s first fully double-decked superjumbo passenger jet, weighing 1.2 million pounds, may carry a load of about 840 passengers.

    Barring the early phase, civil aviation has always lagged behind the military technologies (of jet engines, lightweight composite materials etc.). There are two fundamental factors behind the decline in commercial aeronautics in comparison to military aeronautics. There is no collective vision of our future such as the one that drove us in the past. There is also a need for a more aggressive pool of airplane design talents to maintain an industry that continues to find a multibillion dollar-a-year market for its product.

    Can the history of aviation technology tell us something about the future of aeronautics? Have we reached a final state in our evolution to a mature technology in aeronautics? Are the challenges of coming out with the ‘better, cheaper, faster’ designs somehow inferior to those that are suited for ‘faster, higher, further’? Safety should improve greatly as a result of the forthcoming improvements in airframes, engines, and avionics. Sixty years from now, aircraft will recover on their own if the pilot loses control. Satellites are the key not only to GPS (global positioning system) navigation but also to in-flight communications, uplinked weather, and even in-flight e-mail. Although there is some debate about what type of engines will power future airplaneslightweight turbines, turbocharged diesels, or boththere is little debate about how these power plants will be controlled. Pilots of the future can look forward to more and better on-board safety equipment.

    1. According to the first paragraph of the passage, which of the following statements is NOT false?

    a, Frank Whittle and Hans von Ohain were the first to conceive of jet propulsion.
    b. Supersonic fighter planes were first used in the Second World War.
    c. No man had travelled faster than sound until the 1950s.
    d. The exploitation of jet propulsion for supersonic aviation has been remarkably fast.

    2. What is the fourth paragraph of the passage, starting, “How much bigger ... .” about?

    a. Stealth, speed, avionics, and agility of new aircraft.
    b. The way aircraft size has been growing.
    c. Use of computer automation in aircraft.
    d. Super-jumbo jets that can take more than 500 passengers.

    3. What is the most noteworthy difference between V-22 and a standard airplane?

    a. It can take off vertically.
    b. It has winged flight.
    c. It has excellent payload.
    d. Its range is very high.

    4. Why might radars not be used a decade from now?

    a. Stealth technology will advance so much that it is pointless to use radar to detect aircraft.
    b. UAVs can remain over hostile territory without any danger of being detected.
    c. Computers on board may enable aircraft to manage safe navigation on their own.
    d. It is not feasible to increase the range of radars.

    5. According to the author, commercial aeronautics, in contrast to military aeronautics, has declined because, among other things,

    a. speed and technology barriers are more easily overcome in military aeronautics.
    b. the collective vision of the past continues to drive civil and commercial aeronautics.
    c. though the industry has a huge market, it has not attracted the right kind of aircraft designers.
    d. there is a shortage of materials, like light weight composites, used in commercial aeronautics.

  • Global Moderator

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

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    Question 4

    (CAT 2003 Retest)

    Pure love of learning, of course, was a less compelling motive for those who became educated for careers other than teaching. Students of law in particular had a reputation for being materialistic careerists in an age when law was becoming known as “the lucrative science” and its successful practice the best means for rapid advancement in the government of both church and state. Medicine too had its profit-making attractions. Those who did not go on to law or medicine could, if they had been well trained in the arts, gain positions at royal courts or rise in the clergy. Eloquent testimony to the profit motive behind much of twelfth-century education was the lament of a student of Abelard around 1150 that “Christians educate their sons .... for gain, in order that the one brother, if he be a clerk, may help his father and mother and his other brothers, saying that a clerk will have no heir and whatever he has will be ours and the other brothers.” With the opening of positions in law, government, and the church, education became a means for advancement not only in income but also in status. Most who were educated were wealthy, but in the twelfth century, more often than before, many were not and were able to rise through the ranks by means of their education. The most familiar examples are Thomas Becket, who rose from a humble background to become chancellor of England and then archbishop of Canterbury, and John of Salisbury, who was born a “plebeian” but because of his reputation for learning died as bishop of Chartres.

    The instances of Becket and John of Salisbury bring us to the most difficult question concerning twelfthcentury education: To what degree was it still a clerical preserve? Despite the fact that throughout the twelfth century the clergy had a monopoly of instruction, one of the outstanding medievalists of our day, R. W. Southern, refers with good reason to the institutions staffed by the clergy as “secular schools.” How can we make sense out of the paradox that twelfth-century schools were clerical and yet “secular”?

    Let us look at the clerical side first. Not only were all twelfth-century teachers except professionals and craftsmen in church orders, but in northern Europe students in schools had clerical status and looked like priests. Not that all really were priests, but by virtue of being students all were awarded the legal privileges accorded to the clergy. Furthermore, the large majority of twelfth-century students, outside of the possible exception of Italy, if not already priests became so after their studies were finished. For these reasons, the term “cleric” was often used to denote a man who was literate and the term “layman” one who was illiterate. The English word for cleric, clerk, continued for a long time to be a synonym for student or for a man who could write, while the French word ‘clerc’ even today has the connotation of intellectual.

    Despite all this, twelfth-century education was taking on many secular qualities in its environment, goals, and curriculum. Student life obviously became more secular when it moved out from the monasteries into the bustling towns. Most students wandered from town to town in search not only of good masters but also of worldly excitement, and as the twelfth century progressed they found the best of each in Paris. More important than environment was the fact that most students, even though they entered the clergy, had secular goals. Theology was recognized as the “queen of the sciences,” but very few went on to it. Instead they used their study of the liberal arts as a preparation for law, medicine, government service, or advancement in the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

    This being so, the curriculum of the liberal arts became more sophisticated and more divorced from religion. Teaching was still almost exclusively in Latin, and the first book most often read was the Psalter, but further education was no longer similar to that of a choir school. In particular, the discipline of rhetoric was transformed from a linguistic study into instruction in how to compose letters and documents; there was a new stress on logic; and in all the liberal arts and philosophy texts more advanced than those known in the early Middle Ages were introduced.

    Along with the rise of logic came the translation of Greek and Arabic philosophical and scientific works. Most important was the translation of almost all the writings of Aristotle, as well as his sophisticated Arabic commentators, which helped to bring about an intellectual revolution based on Greek rationalism. On a more prosaic level, contact with Arabs resulted in the introduction in the twelfth century of the Arabic numeral system and the concept of zero. Though most westerners first resisted this and made crude jokes about the zero as an ambitious number “that counts for nothing and yet wants to be counted,” the system steadily made its inroads first in Italy and then throughout Europe, thereby vastly simplifying the arts of computation and record keeping.


    1. According to the passage, what led to the secularization of the curriculum of the liberal arts in the twelfth century?

    a. It was divorced from religion and its influences.
    b. Students used it mainly as a base for studying law and medicine.
    c. Teaching could no longer be conducted exclusively in Latin.
    d. Arabic was introduced into the curriculum.

    2. According to the author, in the twelfth century, individuals were motivated to get higher education because it

    a. was a means for material advancement and higher status.
    b. gave people with wealth an opportunity to learn.
    c. offered a coveted place for those with a love of learning.
    d. directly added to the income levels of people.

    3. According to the passage, twelfth century schools were clerical and yet secular because

    a. many teachers were craftsmen and professionals who did not form part of the church.
    b. while the students had the legal privileges accorded to the clergy and looked like priests, not all were really priests.
    c. the term ‘cleric’ denoted a literate individual rather than a strict association with the church.
    d. though the clergy had a monopoly in education, the environment, objectives and curriculum in the schools were becoming secular.

    4. What does the sentence “Christians educate their sons. ..will be ours and the other brothers” imply?

    a. The Christian family was a close-knit unit in the twelfth century.
    b. Christians educated their sons not so much for the love of learning as for material gain.
    c. Christians believed very strongly in educating their sons in the Church.
    d. The relationship between Christian parents and their sons was exploitative in the twelfth

    5. According to the passage, which of the following is the most noteworthy trend in education in twelfth-century Europe?

    a. Secularization of education.
    b. Flowering of theology as the queen of the sciences.
    c. Wealthy people increasingly turning to education.
    d. Rise of the clergy’s influence on the curriculum.

  • Global Moderator

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

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