CAT 2019 Reading Comprehension Questions with Solutions

Around the world, capital cities are disgorging bureaucrats. In the post-colonial fervour of the 20th century, coastal capitals picked by trade-focused empires were spurned for “regionally neutral” new ones . . . . But decamping wholesale is costly and unpopular; governments these days prefer piecemeal dispersal. The trend reflects how the world has changed. In past eras, when information travelled at a snail’s pace, civil servants had to cluster together. But now desk-workers can ping emails and video-chat around the world. Travel for face-to-face meetings may be unavoidable, but transport links, too, have improved. . . .

Proponents of moving civil servants around promise countless benefits. It disperses the risk that a terrorist attack or natural disaster will cripple an entire government. Wonks in the sticks will be inspired by new ideas that walled-off capitals cannot conjure up. Autonomous regulators perform best far from the pressure and lobbying of the big city. Some even hail a cure for ascendant cynicism and populism. The unloved bureaucrats of faraway capitals will become as popular as firefighters once they mix with regular folk.

Beyond these sunny visions, dispersing central-government functions usually has three specific aims: to improve the lives of both civil servants and those living in clogged capitals; to save money; and to redress regional imbalances. The trouble is that these goals are not always realised.

The first aim—improving living conditions—has a long pedigree. After the second world war Britain moved thousands of civil servants to “agreeable English country towns” as London was rebuilt. But swapping the capital for somewhere smaller is not always agreeable. Attrition rates can exceed 80%. . . . The second reason to pack bureaucrats off is to save money. Office space costs far more in capitals. . . . Agencies that are moved elsewhere can often recruit better workers on lower salaries than in capitals, where well-paying multinationals mop up talent.

The third reason to shift is to rebalance regional inequality. . . . Norway treats federal jobs as a resource every region deserves to enjoy, like profits from oil. Where government jobs go, private ones follow. . . . Sometimes the aim is to fulfil the potential of a country’s second-tier cities. Unlike poor, remote places, bigger cities can make the most of relocated government agencies, linking them to local universities and businesses and supplying a better-educated workforce. The decision in 1946 to set up America’s Centres for Disease Control in Atlanta rather than Washington, D.C., has transformed the city into a hub for health-sector research and business.

The dilemma is obvious. Pick small, poor towns, and areas of high unemployment get new jobs, but it is hard to attract the most qualified workers; opt for larger cities with infrastructure and better-qualified residents, and the country’s most deprived areas see little benefit. . . . Others contend that decentralisation begets corruption by making government agencies less accountable. . . . A study in America found that state-government corruption is worse when the state capital is isolated—journalists, who tend to live in the bigger cities, become less watchful of those in power.


Question 1:
According to the author, relocating government agencies has not always been a success for all of the following reasons EXCEPT:

  1. high staff losses, as people may not be prepared to move to smaller towns.
  2. the difficulty of attracting talented, well-skilled people in more remote areas.
  3. increased avenues of corruption away from the capital city.
  4. a rise in pollution levels and congestion in the new locations.
Show Answer
OPTION: 4
This is a question that has double negative, you must carefully read the question, simplify it and then try to eliminate the options. According to the author, relocating government agencies has not always been a success. You have to mark the option that is not one of the reasons. The option that is the reason will go out, and the one that is not will be the right choice.

Once you understand the question, it becomes quite a simple one. The corruption point has been mentioned towards the end of the passage. So option 3 is the reason. Staff losses and difficulty of attracting talent are both mentioned in the passage.

Option 4 is nowhere mentioned and has to be the right choice.


Question 2:
According to the passage, colonial powers located their capitals:

  1. based on political expediency.
  2. to promote their trading interests.
  3. where they had the densest populations.
  4. to showcase their power and prestige.
Show Answer
OPTION: 2
You will not get a question easier than this.

In the first paragraph, we have the following lines: In the post-colonial fervour of the 20th century, coastal capitals picked by trade-focused empires were spurned for “regionally neutral” new ones…

Thus we get to know that colonial powers were focussed on trade. Option 2 is the right choice.


Question 3:
The “long pedigree” of the aim to shift civil servants to improve their living standards implies that this move:

  1. takes a long time to achieve its intended outcomes.
  2. has become common practice in several countries worldwide.
  3. is supported by politicians and the ruling elites.
  4. is not a new idea and has been tried in the past.
Show Answer
OPTION: 4
 This is primarily a vocabulary question. Pedigree means history. So a long pedigree means something that has a history. Thus option 4 becomes the right choice.


Question 4:
The “dilemma” mentioned in the passage refers to:

  1. relocating government agencies to boost growth in remote areas with poor amenities or to relatively larger cities with good amenities.
  2. keeping government agencies in the largest city with good infrastructure or moving them to a remote area with few amenities.
  3. concentrating on decongesting large cities or focusing on boosting employment in relatively larger cities.
  4. encouraging private enterprises to relocate to smaller towns or not incentivising them in order to keep government costs in those towns low.
Show Answer
OPTION: 1
This question has come from the second last paragraph of the passage.

“The dilemma is obvious. Pick small, poor towns, and areas of high unemployment get new

jobs, but it is hard to attract the most qualified workers; opt for larger cities with infrastructure

and better-qualified residents, and the country’s most deprived areas see little benefit. . . .”

In short, the dilemma is pick small towns or opt for larger cities.

Option 2 says keep government agencies in large cities, but the issue is opt x or opt y, not opt x or keep y

Option 3 does not even mention the two choices, while option 4 talks about private enterprise, which is definitely out of scope.

Option 1 is the best answer, relocate to remote areas or to relatively larger cities, opt x or opt y.


Question 5:
People who support decentralising central government functions are LEAST likely to cite which of the following reasons for their view?

  1. It reduces expenses as infrastructure costs and salaries are lower in smaller cities.
  2. Policy makers may benefit from fresh thinking in a new environment.
  3. More independence could be enjoyed by regulatory bodies located away from political centres.
  4. It could weaken the nexus between bureaucrats and media in the capital.
Show Answer
OPTION: 4
We have to choose an option that would not be used by people who support decentralizing of central government functions.

If the option supports decentralization, then it is out or else it is in.

Option 1 supports decentralization and has been discussed in the passage, the cost factor has been extensively discussed by the author.

New ideas and autonomy in regulation is given in the second paragraph. Thus options 2 and 3 are out,

Option 4 is not a reason given in support of decentralization.


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