RC Practice with Explanation

Tips on how to approach CAT Reading Comprehension passages
  • Don’t get into the minor details of the passage; just focus on what each paragraph has to say
  • As you read, create a map of the passage; you must remember what thing is located where in the passage
  • Once you read the question, come back to the part of the passage that is likely to have the answer
  • Compare the options and eliminate the incorrect choices based on the evidence that you see in the passage
  • Choose the answer once you are convinced of the right choice

Passage

In all battles two things are usually required of the Commander-in-Chief: to make a good plan for his army and to keep a strong reserve. Both of these are also obligatory for the painter. To make a plan, thorough reconnaissance of the country where the battle is to be fought is needed. Its fields, its mountains, its rivers, its bridges, its trees, its flowers, its atmosphere—all require and repay attentive observation from a special point of view.
I think this is one of the chief delights that have come to me through painting. No doubt many people who are lovers of art have acquired it to a high degree without actually practicing. But I expect that nothing will make one observe more quickly or more thoroughly than having to face the difficulty of representing the thing observed. And mind you, if you do observe accurately and with refinement, and if you do record what you have seen with tolerable correspondence, the result follows on the canvas with startling obedience.
But in order to make his plan, the General must not only reconnoiter the battle-ground; he must also study the achievements of the great Captains of the past. He must bring the observations he has collected in the field into comparison with the treatment of similar incidents by famous chiefs.
Considering that, the galleries of Europe take on a new—and to me at least a severely practical—interest. “This, then, is how —— painted a cataract. Exactly, and there is that same light I noticed last week in the waterfall at ——.” And so on. You see the difficulty that baffled you yesterday; and you see how easily it has been overcome by a great or even by a skillful painter. Not only is your observation of Nature sensibly improved and developed, but also your comprehension of the masterpieces of art.
But it is in the use and withholding of their reserves that the great commanders have generally excelled. After all, when once the last reserve has been thrown in, the commander’s part is played. If that does not win the battle, he has nothing else to give. Everything must be left to luck and to the fighting troops. But these last reserves, in the absence of high direction, are apt to get into sad confusion, all mixed together in a nasty mess, without order or plan—and consequently without effect.
Mere masses count no more. The largest brush, the brightest colors cannot even make an impression. The pictorial battlefield becomes a sea of mud mercifully veiled by the fog of war. Even though the General plunges in himself and emerges bespattered, as he sometimes does, he will not retrieve the day. In painting, the reserves consist in Proportion or Relation. And it is here that the art of the painter marches along the road which is traversed by all the greatest harmonies in thought. At one side of the palette there is white, at the other black; and neither is ever used ‘neat.’ Between these two rigid limits all the action must lie, all the power required must be generated. Black and white themselves placed in juxtaposition make no great impression; and yet they are the most that you can do in pure contrast.

Question: The existence of which of the following would most strongly challenge the author’s conception of the process of painting?
[A] A watercolor of waves crashing on the beach
[B] A famous artist who has never been in a European art gallery
[C] A medieval masterpiece that portrays the gates of heaven
[D] A commander who retreats hastily when his troops are losing.
Answer
Option (C)


Explanation
What does the author’s “conception of the process of painting” consist of? Planning and backup. Search for an answer choice that violates one of those principles. Choice (C) describes a painting of something that can’t be seen and therefore can’t be planned for in the way the author describes. It’s a winner.
Wrong answers:
(A): Opposite. Painting waves on the beach can be planned just like the waterfall that the author describes.
(B): Faulty Use of Detail. While the author mentions the advantages in planning painting gained by visiting European galleries, there’s no reason why one would have to visit a European gallery especially to be great.
(D): Out of Scope. The answer choice deals with battle, but not any part of battle that the author compares to painting.

Question: As the author creates the analogy between war and painting in the passage, the Commander-in-Chief is to the battleground as the:
[A] painter is to the subject being painted.
[B] painter is to the canvas of the painting.
[C] painter is to the paint colors.
[D] painter is to the art gallery.
Answer
Option (A)


Explanation
The Commander-in-Chief is mentioned in the first paragraph, so begin your search there. The author says that the battleground must be inspected and studied. What is the equivalent in painting? The subject being painted. (A) fits the bill.
Wrong answers:
(B): Distortion. A tempting answer choice that might have required careful thought to eliminate if you hadn’t chosen (A) outright. The general studies the battleground he fights the battle on, and likewise, the painter studies the subject he paints the picture of. Solid understanding of the metaphor is crucial. Hone this ability by paraphrasing at every opportunity.
(C): Out of Scope. Colors are mentioned in the last paragraphs when discussing reserves, a completely different part of the passage than the one in question.
(D): Out of Scope. While the author mentions art galleries in the context of planning, it has nothing to do with the metaphor of the battleground.
Strategy Point: Pay attention to keywords mentioned in the question to get an idea of where to search in the passage.

Question: Following the example of the master Manet, the young Matisse often inserted in his pictures areas of white such as tablecloths or crockery that allowed for striking contrasts with black objects such as a knife or a dark bottle. What is the relevance of this information to the passage?
[A] It supports the author’s claim that the great artists are worthy of imitation.
[B] It supports the author’s claim that neither black nor white is ever used ‘neat.’
[C] It weakens the author’s claim that black and white themselves placed in juxtaposition make no great impression.
[D] It weakens the author’s claim that great painters take Nature as their subject.
Answer
Option (C)


Explanation
A synthesis question testing your ability to evaluate the relevance of a new situation to the author’s arguments. Zero in on elements of the new situation that sound relevant to the passage. Black and white are mentioned in the final paragraph. Recall that the author argues that black and white make weak impressions when contrasted. However, in the question stem situation, the impression is strong. We’re looking for an answer that points this out, in other words, one that argues the new situation weakens the author’s view. (C) fits exactly.
Wrong answers:
(A): Out of Scope. Not only does the situation not support the author’s argument, but it has nothing to do with the paragraph on imitation. Don’t get suckered by the false parallel between Matisse and the author’s own discussion of great artists.
(B): Opposite. Right on topic, but the new situation does just the opposite to the author’s claim.
(D): Distortion. While the new situation does weaken the author’s argument, the author never argues that all great painters take Nature as their subject, as this answer choice suggests.

Question: The passage suggests that having the finest art supplies at hand may NOT always be helpful to a painter because:
[A] the painter may not feel creatively inspired.
[B] nothing can make up for a lack of sense of proportion.
[C] the quality of a painting’s colors may not make an impression on the viewer.
[D] painting is in the final analysis a matter of luck.
Answer
Option (B)


Explanation
Where do the “finest art supplies” fit into the passage? While not mentioned explicitly, the author says in lines 43-44 that “The largest brush, the brightest colors cannot even make an impression.” This happens, following the chain of the metaphor, because of a lack of reserves. Later, the reserves are defined: Proportion and Relation. Therefore, the best supplies aren’t useful when these things are lacking. (B) paraphrases this perfectly.
Wrong answers:
(A): Out of Scope. The author mentions nothing about creative inspiration.
(C): Out of Scope. Another answer choice that introduces something (the viewer) that the author doesn’t mention.
(D): Distortion. While the author does mention luck as what a general is left with when nothing is held in reserve, the author certainly doesn’t think that painting has to be nothing more than luck.

Question: Below are listed various opinions that might possibly be ascribed to the author. Based on the passage, which of the following could most reasonably be attributed to the author?
[A] Becoming an artist is a matter of training rather than talent.
[B] One learns more from failures than from successes.
[C] Modern artists can scarcely hope to equal the achievements of the masters.
[D] One can convey ideas about art through analogies of other experiences.
Answer
Option (D)


Explanation
The question asks what opinion could be ascribed to the author—what isn’t stated, but can be inferred. Before looking at the answers, be sure you recall the author’s opinions. While each of the three wrong answer choices is flawed, (D) has nothing specifically to do with painting, but does summarize how the author makes his argument. If the author didn’t believe this, the argument in the passage could never have been made.
Wrong answers:
(A): Out of Scope. There’s no contrast in the passage between talent and training. While the author seems to suggest that certain artistic abilities can be trained, there’s nothing to indicate that he believes this at the expense of talent.
(B): Distortion. While the author does say in the first paragraph that fighting unsuccessfully is more exciting than winning, that doesn’t necessarily mean that more is learned.
(C): Distortion. The author clearly believes that modern artists can learn from the masters, but there’s nothing to suggest that he believes that the masters can’t be equaled. The tone of this answer choice is far more severe and negative than the author’s tone.

Question: The author’s statement “But [the fighting troops], in the absence of high direction, are apt to get into sad confusion, all mixed together in a nasty mess, without order or plan—and consequently without effect” (lines 40-43) assumes that:
[A] chaotic painting cannot have an unintended artistic effect.
[B] an artist naturally resists direction from another individual.
[C] a painting cannot help but reflect the mental state of its painter.
[D] it is impossible for painters to collaborate on a work without confusion.
Answer
Option (A)


Explanation
Yet another question testing your understanding of the author’s extended metaphor. These will be very common in any passage where unusual parallels are drawn. The quoted statement comes from 5; since all of the answer choices mention painting, work through how this part of the metaphor corresponds. The author is arguing that without a reserve, colors, like troops, will be confused and without order and therefore useless. For this to be true, the author must also believe that a painting without order suffers artistically, choice (A). To test an assumption in your practice, use the denial test: If the author does in fact assume X, the argument should fall apart if X is false. In this case, if chaotic painting can have an artistic effect, then the author’s point about confused troops becomes meaningless. The assumption as it is written is therefore valid.
Wrong answers:
(B): Distortion. While the colors lack direction, there’s nothing in the metaphor to indicate the artist resists direction.
(C): Out of Scope. Nothing in the statement is correlated to the author’s general mental state.
(D): Out of Scope. This answer choice mentions confusion, which is also mentioned in the statement. The relevance stops there, though, as the rest of the answer choice is off-topic.

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