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The following questions are from Reading Comprehension for Verbal Ability for CAT. Practice RC Passages for CAT. We have 4 RC Passages. Please scroll the page to see them all. Reading Comprehension questions are an integral part of the CAT Exam. RC Passages and the accompanying questions account for around 24 questions out of 34 questions in CAT Verbal Section. If you would like to take these questions as a Quiz, head on here to take these questions in a test format, absolutely free.

Passage 1 : CAT Reading Comprehension: Power in language

The first systems of writing developed and used by the Germanic peoples were runic alphabets. The runes functioned as letters, but they were much more than just letters in the sense in which we today understand the term. Each rune was an ideographic or pictographic symbol of some cosmological principle or power, and to write a rune was to invoke and direct the force for which it stood. Indeed, in every Germanic language, the word “rune” (from Proto-Germanic *runo) means both “letter” and “secret” or “mystery,” and its original meaning, which likely predated the adoption of the runic alphabet, may have been simply “(hushed) message.”

Each rune had a name that hinted at the philosophical and magical significance of its visual form and the sound for which it stands, which was almost always the first sound of the rune’s name. For example, the T-rune, called *Tiwaz in the Proto-Germanic language, is named after the god Tiwaz (known as Tyr in the Viking Age). Tiwaz was perceived to dwell within the daytime sky, and, accordingly, the visual form of the T-rune is an arrow pointed upward (which surely also hints at the god’s martial role). The T-rune was often carved as a standalone ideograph, apart from the writing of any particular word, as part of spells cast to ensure victory in battle.

The runic alphabets are called “futharks” after the first six runes (Fehu, Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raidho, Kaunan), in much the same way that the word “alphabet” comes from the names of the first two Hebrew letters (Aleph, Beth). There are three principal futharks: the 24-character Elder Futhark, the first fully-formed runic alphabet, whose development had begun by the first century CE and had been completed before the year 400; the 16-character Younger Futhark, which began to diverge from the Elder Futhark around the beginning of the Viking Age (c. 750 CE) and eventually replaced that older alphabet in Scandinavia; and the 33-character Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, which gradually altered and added to the Elder Futhark in England. On some inscriptions, the twenty-four runes of the Elder Futhark were divided into three ættir (Old Norse, “families”) of eight runes each, but the significance of this division is unfortunately unknown.

Runes were traditionally carved onto stone, wood, bone, metal, or some similarly hard surface rather than drawn with ink and pen on parchment. This explains their sharp, angular form, which was well-suited to the medium.

Much of our current knowledge of the meanings the ancient Germanic peoples attributed to the runes comes from the three “Rune Poems,” documents from Iceland, Norway, and England that provide a short stanza about each rune in their respective futharks (the Younger Futhark is treated in the Icelandic and Norwegian Rune Poems, while the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc is discussed in the Old English Rune Poem).

While runologists argue over many of the details of the historical origins of runic writing, there is widespread agreement on a general outline. The runes are presumed to have been derived from one of the many Old Italic alphabets in use among the Mediterranean peoples of the first century CE, who lived to the south of the Germanic tribes. Earlier Germanic sacred symbols, such as those preserved in northern European petroglyphs, were also likely influential in the development of the script.

The earliest possibly runic inscription is found on the Meldorf brooch, which was manufactured in the north of modern-day Germany around 50 CE. The inscription is highly ambiguous, however, and scholars are divided over whether its letters are runic or Roman. The earliest unambiguous runic inscriptions are found on the Vimose comb from Vimose, Denmark and the Øvre Stabu spearhead from southern Norway, both of which date to approximately 160 CE. The earliest known carving of the entire futhark, in order, is that on the Kylver stone from Gotland, Sweden, which dates to roughly 400 CE.

The transmission of writing from southern Europe to northern Europe likely took place via Germanic warbands, the dominant northern European military institution of the period, who would have encountered Italic writing firsthand during campaigns amongst their southerly neighbors. This hypothesis is supported by the association that runes have always had with the god Odin, who, in the Proto-Germanic period, under his original name *Woðanaz, was the divine model of the human warband leader and the invisible patron of the warband’s activities. The Roman historian Tacitus tells us that Odin (“Mercury” in the interpretatio romana) was already established as the dominant god in the pantheons of many of the Germanic tribes by the first century.

From the perspective of the ancient Germanic peoples themselves, however, the runes came from no source as mundane as an Old Italic alphabet. The runes were never “invented,” but are instead eternal, pre-existent forces that Odin himself discovered by undergoing a tremendous ordeal.

  1. The word “pantheon” in the passage refers to

    1. A temple of all the gods
    2. All the gods collectively of a religion
    3. A monument or building commemorating a nation's dead heroes
    4. A domed circular temple at Rome, erected a.d. 120–124 by Hadrian
    Choice B

  2. Which of the following statements is incorrect?

    1. Unlike the Latin alphabet, which is an essentially utilitarian script, the runes are symbols of some of the most powerful forces in the cosmos
    2. Runic writing was probably first used in southern Europe and was carried north by Germanic tribes.
    3. The word “rune” and its meaning was derived from the runic alphabet.
    4. The first runic alphabets date back to the 1st century CE.
    Choice C

  3. Which of the following can be inferred from the passage?
    a. Runic script was most likely derived from Old Italic script.
    b. Runes were not used so much as a simple writing system, but rather as magical signs to be used for charms.
    c. In the Proto-Germanic period, the god Tiwaz was associated with war, victory, marriage and the diurnal sky.
    d. The knowledge of the meanings attributed to the runes of the Younger Futhark is derived from the three Rune poems.

    1. All the above
    2. ii and iv
    3. i, ii and iv
    4. i and iii
    Choice D

  4. Which of the following cannot be reasonably inferred with regard to the beliefs of the Proto-Germanic people?

    1. Odin came upon the runes after going through a lot of torment.
    2. The name of a rune was almost always the first sound of a God’s name
    3. The cosmological power represented by a rune was invoked by writing it.
    4. Proto-German Gods were modeled on humans.
    Choice B

Passage 2 : CAT Reading Comprehension: Upholding the Law

Hard cases, it is said, make bad law. The adage is widely considered true for the Supreme Court of India which held in the height of the Emergency, in ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla that detenus under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) could not approach the judiciary if their fundamental rights were violated. Not only was the law laid down unconscionable, but it also smacked of a Court more “executive-minded than the executive”, complicit in its own independence being shattered by an all-powerful government. So deep has been the impact of this judgment that the Supreme Court’s current activist avatar is widely viewed as having its genesis in a continuing need to atone. Expressions of such atonement have created another Court made to measure — this time not to the measure of the government but rather the aggrandised self-image of some of its judges.

Let us look back to the ADM Jabalpur case. As a court of law, the Supreme Court was called upon in the case to balance the interest of public order in an Emergency with the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed to every person. Nine High Courts called upon to perform the same function had found a nuanced answer by which they had held that the right to life cannot be absolutely subservient to public order merely because the government declared so — the legality of detentions could be judicially reviewed, though the intention of the government would not be second-guessed by the Court. This was a delicate balance. The Supreme Court however reversed this view and made the right to life and personal liberty literally a bounty of the government. Given that the consequences of their error were entirely to the government’s advantage, it was widely viewed as the death of an independent judiciary. The excessively deferential, almost apologetic language used by the judges confirmed this impression.

Today, however, while public interest litigation has restored the independent image of the Supreme Court, it has achieved this at the cost of quality, discipline and the constitutional role judges are expected to perform. The Court monitors criminal trials, protects the environment, regulates political advertising, lays down norms for sexual harassment in the workplace, sets guidelines for adoption, supervises police reform among a range of other tasks of government. That all these tasks are crucial but tardily undertaken by government can scarcely be questioned. But for an unelected and largely unaccountable institution such as the Supreme Court to be at the forefront of matters relating to governance is equally dangerous — the choice of issues it takes up is arbitrary, their remit is not legal, their results often counterproductive, requiring a degree of technical competence and institutional capacity in ensuring compliance that the Court simply does not possess. This sets an unhealthy precedent for other courts and tribunals in the country, particularly the latter whose chairpersons are usually retired Supreme Court Justices. To take a particularly egregious example, the National Green Tribunal has banned diesel vehicles more than 10 years old in Delhi and if reports are to be believed, is considering imposing a congestion charge for cars as well. That neither of these are judicial functions and are being unjustly being usurped by a tribunal that has far exceeded its mandate, is evidence of the chain reaction that the Supreme Court’s activist avatar has set off across the judicial spectrum.

Finally, the Court’s activism adds to a massive backlog of regular cases that makes the Indian justice delivery mechanism, slow, unreliable and inefficient for the ordinary litigant. As on March 1, 2015, there were over 61,000 cases pending in the Supreme Court alone. It might be worthwhile for the Court to set its own house in order, concomitantly with telling other wings of government how to do so.

As we mark 40 years of the Emergency and the darkest period in the Supreme Court’s history, it might be time to not single-mindedly harp on the significance of an independent judiciary. Judicial independence, is and must remain a cherished virtue. However, it would be blinkered to not confront newer challenges that damage the credibility of our independent judiciary today — unpardonable delays and overweening judges taking on the mantle of national government by proxy. The Supreme Court 40 years on is a different institution — it must be cognizant of its history but not at the cost of being blind to its present.

  1. Which of the following is a suitable title for the passage?

    1. An Atonement Gone Too Far
    2. Sanctimony from a Ruined Pedestal
    3. The ADM Jabalpur's Case: The Supreme Court's Darkest Hour
    4. Overcompensating for Past Mistakes
    Choice A

  2. The author says that the Supreme Court was “more executive-minded than the executive” during the Emergency. Which of the following options captures the essence of what the writer means by the phrase: 'more “executive-minded than the executive”'?

    1. The Supreme Court abdicated its independence to an authoritarian government by embracing its perspective.
    2. The Supreme Court was more emphatic than the Government about exercising executive power under the MISA.
    3. The Supreme Court reflected the unconscionable actions taken by the government by upholding its laws.
    4. The Supreme Court wanted to curry favor with the government through its deferential decisions during Emergency.
    Choice B

  3. Which of the following cannot be reasonably inferred from the passage?

    1. The Supreme Court was complicit in curbing judicial independence during the Emergency.
    2. Public interest litigations have, post-Emergency, led to the judiciary overreaching into the realm of legislature.
    3. The Indian Judiciary ought not indulge in general supervisory jurisdiction to correct actions and policies of government.
    4. The Indian judiciary must be equipped with technical competence and institutional capacity to ensure compliance to orders passed in relation to public interest litigations.
    Choice D

  4. The word “egregious” in the passage is farthest in meaning to :

    1. outrageous
    2. flagitious
    3. distinguished
    4. arrant
    Choice C

  5. Which of the following is the author least likely to agree with?

    1. The rise in judicial activism is in danger making the Supreme Court diffuse and ineffective, encroaching into the functions of government.
    2. Where the Supreme Court is only moved for better governance and administration, which does not involve the exercise of any proper judicial function, it should refrain from acting.
    3. Adoption, police reform and environment issues are the remit of the judiciary.
    4. The Indian judicial system needs to focus on clearing the massive backlog of cases to re-establish its credibility.
    Choice C

Passage 3 : CAT Reading Comprehension: Upholding the Law

Sound the alarm! The kingdom of letters has admitted Trojan horses: James Frey, JT Leroy, Misha Defonseca, Margaret B. Jones, Herman Rosenblat, and now Matt McCarthy, portions of whose baseball memoir, the New York Times reports, are “incorrect, embellished or impossible.” The watchmen have let down their guards.

I write: Hold your horses. In the rush to diagnose these fake memoirs as symptoms of a diseased culture, we have failed to consider an equally plausible alternative. What if the exposure of fake memoirists is not due to an increased frequency of lying, but rather to our increased ability to root out liars and hold them accountable for their verisimilitudes? Perhaps the outings of these hoaxes mark not a blurring of the line between fact and fiction, but a further demarcation.

Indeed, it may be helpful to remember that the novel was born from exactly such confusion. One of the standards by which the earliest novels were judged was their ability to convince readers that their narratives were, in fact, real. Authors deployed several tricks to scaffold the illusion. 'Robinson Crusoe' was “written by himself,” according to the novel’s title page, which omitted Daniel Defoe’s name. Samuel Richardson’s novel 'Pamela', an attempt to instruct in good conduct through entertainment, was written as a series of letters penned by the heroine. In his preface to the novel, which excluded his name altogether, Richardson included several real letters from friends to whom he had shown the manuscript, but he changed the salutation from “Dear Author” to “Dear Editor” and even, writing under the guise of “editor,” praised “Pamela’s” letters. However, this was a lie, but not a hoax. Richardson wanted his novels to be read with "Historical Faith", since they contained, he believed, "the truth of the possible- the truth of human nature". Richardson’s authorship was revealed shortly after Pamela’s publication, but rather than serving time on Oprah’s couch, he was hailed as an innovator of the novelistic form.

Whereas novels were unashamedly fake memoirs at their conception, our recent hoaxes suggest that the line between the genres, once drawn, cannot easily be erased. This is in no small part due to the Internet’s surveillance. All along, historians had raised questions about Misha Defonseca, who claimed to have survived the Holocaust by living with a pack of wolves, but the engine of her downfall was her former publisher Jane Daniel’s blog. James Frey’s sine qua non of the fudged-memoir genre, A Million Little Pieces, was debunked by the website The Smoking Gun, which posted his actual arrest records and compared them to Frey’s embellished retellings. Deborah Lipstadt used her blog to gather evidence against Herman Rosenblat’s memoir.

If anything, you could argue that the fact-checkers are doing too good a job. There seems to be some risk that, in attempting to hold memoirs to journalistic standards of factuality, the watchdogs miss the forest for the trees, fixating on minor details in books whose general pictures are correct. The New York Times includes in its dossier against Matt McCarthy disputations by teammates who McCarthy alleges threatened children and made fun of Hispanics, as though their denials of having said such self-incriminating things were more trustworthy than McCarthy’s accusations. When Jose Canseco published his baseball memoirs Juiced and Vindicated, reviewers caviled over minor details and unsubstantiated claims, including that Alex Rodriguez had used steroids. Recent events have proven the gist of Canseco’s memoirs largely correct.

Indeed, it seems unlikely that, say, every claim in Casanova’s The Story of My Life would hold up to such scrutiny. And yet, if we knew this were the case, would we excise it from the canon? Writers’ enormous talents can sometimes render moot questions of their works’ factuality; our fraudsters, meanwhile, attempted to compensate for their meager talents by actually inhabiting their bloated fictions. They suffer not an excess of imagination, which can illuminate even the most mundane experiences, but a retreat from it. And yet simply because they lost their handles on the truth does not mean that the culture also has. Maybe the symptom of our age is not the fake memoirists themselves, but the catching of fake memoirists. In which case: Sound the church bells! The traitors are routed! The watchmen won!

  1. Which of the following is a suitable title for the passage?

    1. How to write a memoir
    2. The age of literary fraud
    3. Who is afraid of fake memoirists
    4. Writing in the age of the internet
    Choice C

  2. Which of the following is the author unlikely to agree with?

    1. There isn’t more literary fraud in our age. More fraud is coming to light due to the Internet’s surveillance.
    2. The line dividing novels and fake memoirs was never clear.
    3. As long as the main or essential part of a memoir is correct, it does not matter if lesser details do not stand up to verification.
    4. There exists now a widespread, diseased culture of literary fraud.
    Choice D

  3. With regard to the novel ‘Pamela’, the author states that Richardson’s artifice “ was a lie, but not a hoax”. What does he mean?

    1. It was an unintentional deception that contained the truth of human nature and was hence acceptable to readers.
    2. It was just a ploy to capture the imagination of the readers with the truth of the possible.
    3. It was a deception perpetrated simply to make money.
    4. It was a mere prank, and did not generate public interest.
    Choice B

  4. The word ‘verisimilitude’ in the passage is farthest in meaning to

    1. absurdity
    2. plausibility
    3. authenticity
    4. credibleness
    Choice A

Passage 4 : CAT Reading Comprehension: Power in language

Considered amongst the greatest works of Western literature, the Iliad, paired with its sequel, the Odyssey, is attributed to Homer.

However, that the author of the Iliad was not the same as the compiler of the fantastic tales in the Odyssey is arguable on several scores. The two epics belong to different literary types; the Iliad is essentially dramatic in its confrontation of opposing warriors who converse like the actors in Attic tragedy, while the Odyssey is cast as a novel narrated in more everyday human speech. In their physical structure, also, the two epics display an equally pronounced difference. The Odyssey is composed in six distinct cantos of four chapters ("books") each, whereas the Iliad moves unbrokenly forward with only one irrelevant episode in its tightly woven plot. Readers who examine psychological nuances see in the two works some distinctly different human responses and behavioral attitudes. For example, the Iliad voices admiration for the beauty and speed of horses, while the Odyssey shows no interest in these animals. The Iliad dismisses dogs as mere scavengers, while the poet of the Odyssey reveals a modern sentimental sympathy for Odysseus's faithful old hound, Argos.

But the most cogent argument for separating the two poems by assigning them to different authors is the archeological criterion of implied chronology. In the Iliad the Phoenicians are praised as skilled craftsmen working in metal and weavers of elaborate, much-prized garments. The shield which the metalworking god Hephaistos forges for Achilles in the Iliad seems inspired by the metal bowls with inlaid figures in action made by the Phoenicians and introduced by them into Greek and Etruscan commerce in the 8th century B.C. In contrast, in the Odyssey Greek sentiment toward the Phoenicians has undergone a drastic change. Although they are still regarded as clever craftsmen, in place of the Iliad's laudatory polydaidaloi ("of manifold skills") the epithet is parodied into polypaipaloi ("of manifold scurvy tricksters"), reflecting the competitive penetration into Greek commerce by traders from Phoenician Carthage in the 7th century B.C.

One thing, however, is certain: both epics were created without recourse to writing. Between the decline of Mycenaean and the emergence of classical Greek civilization—which is to say, from the late 12th to the mid-8th century B.C.—the inhabitants of the Greek lands had lost all knowledge of the syllabic script of their Mycenaean fore-bears and had not yet acquired from the easternmost shore of the Mediterranean that familiarity with Phoenician alphabetic writing from which classical Greek literacy (and in turn, Etruscan, Roman, and modern European literacy) derived. The same conclusion of illiterate composition may be reached from a critical inspection of the poems themselves. Among many races and in many different periods there has existed (and still exists sporadically) a form of purely oral and unwritten poetic speech, distinguishable from normal and printed literature by special traits that are readily recognizable and specifically distinctive. To this class the Homeric epics conform. Hence it would seem an inevitable inference that they must have been created either before the end of the 8th century B.C. or so shortly after that date that the use of alphabetic writing had not yet been developed sufficiently to record lengthy compositions. It is this illiterate environment that explains the absence of all contemporary historical record of the authors of the two great epics.

It is probable that Homer's name was applied to two distinct individuals differing in temperament and artistic accomplishment, born perhaps as much as a century apart, but practicing the same traditional craft of oral composition and recitation. Although each became known as "Homer, " it may be (as one ancient source asserts) that “homros “was a dialectal word for a blind man and so came to be used generically of the old and often sightless wandering reciters of heroic legends in the traditional meter of unrhymed dactylic hexameters. Thus there could have been many Homers. The two epics ascribed to Homer, however, have been as highly prized in modern as in ancient times for their marvelous vividness of expression, their keenness of personal characterization, their unflagging interest, whether in narration of action or in animated dramatic dialogue.

  1. Which of the following cannot be reasonably inferred from the passage?

    1. Before the 12th century BC , the use of syllabic writing existed in Ancient Greece.
    2. Phoenician traders flourished in Greece at the time the Homeric epics were composed.
    3. Greek, Roman and modern European literacy can be traced back to the Phoenicians.
    4. Iliad and Odyssey are purely oral poetic speech, set to rhyme.
    Choice D

  2. Which of the following can be characterized as the main idea of the passage?

    1. There could have been many Homers, old and often sightless wandering reciters of heroic legends.
    2. Attributing the composition of the Iliad and Odyssey to one Homer is erroneous.
    3. Both Iliad and Odyssey were created without recourse to writing.
    4. The Iliad and the Odyssey are of distinct literary types, physical structure and style.
    Choice B

  3. The term epithet as used in the passage is farthest in meaning to

    1. Sobriquet
    2. Moniker
    3. Nickname
    4. Jargon
    Choice D

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