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

The planned expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into Eastern Europe has been compared by one sour critic to the behavior of a couple in a crumbling marriage, who instead of going to a marriage counselor decide to try to save their relationship by having a baby, or possibly even several babies. NATO itself is in the middle of a very confused debate about its identity and role, and partly as a result it is difficult to detect any honest, coherent discussion in the West of the necessity for expansion and of how it will affect relations with Russia, the security of the Ukraine and the Baltic States, and the peaceful integration of Ukraine into Europe.

The official Western line at present is that NATO expansion is meant to “strengthen European security,” but not against Russia or against feared Russian aggression. Nevertheless all public discussion in Poland, and much of it in the United States has been conducted in terms of the need to contain a presumed Russian threat and to prevent Russia from exerting influence on its neighbors—influence that is automatically viewed as illegitimate and threatening to the West.

The overwhelming majority of Russian politicians, including most liberals, now believe it is necessary that most of the former Soviet Union excluding the Baltic States be within a Russian sphere of influence. They see this not as imperialism but as a justifiable defense of Russian interests against a multiplicity of potential threats (radical Islam, future Turkish expansionism), of Russian populations outside Russia, and of areas in which Russia has long maintained a cultural presence—Ukraine, for example.

This does not necessarily involve demands for hegemony over Russia’s neighbors, but it certainly implies the exclusion of any other bloc’s or superpower’s military presence. In justification Russians point to the Monroe Doctrine and to the French sphere of influence in Africa. Most educated Russians now view Western criticism as mere hypocrisy masking Western aggrandizement.

The attitude of the entire Russian political establishment to the expansion issue is now strongly and unanimously negative, though the government hopes for the moment to continue exerting influence against expansion by cooperating with NATO—hence its agreement to join the Partnership for Peace. The reasons for Russian opposition are these: NATO expansion is seen as a betrayal of clear though implicit promises made by the West in 1990-91, and a sign that the West regards Russia not as an ally but as a defeated enemy. Russians point out that Moscow agreed to withdraw troops from the former East Germany following unification after NATO promised not to station its troops there.

Now NATO is planning to leapfrog over eastern Germany and end up 500 miles closer to Russia, in Poland. Western arguments that the 1990 promise to Mikhail Gorbachev referred only to East Germany, not to the rest of Eastern Europe, though strictly speaking correct, are not unnaturally viewed by Russians as purely jesuitical.

Russian officials say that the NATO expansion would lead to a reversal of the previous pro-Western policy of the Yeltsin and Gorbachev governments. Also, Russians fear that NATO expansion will ultimately mean the inclusion of the Baltic States and Ukraine within NATO’s sphere of influence, if not in NATO itself—and thus the loss of any Russian influence over these states and the stationing of NATO troops within striking distance of the Russian heartland. The West’s inability publicly to rule out the possible future incorporation of any country in NATO makes it very difficult to assuage Russian fears.


Question: In the context of the analogy in the first paragraph, the couple is to the baby as:
[A] NATO is to Russia.
[B] Russia and NATO together are to an Eastern European country.
[C] NATO is to an Eastern European country.
[D] Eastern Europe is to NATO.
Answer
Option (C)


Explanation
Go back to the first paragraph to review the analogy. NATO itself is compared to the couple; its new members are compared to the baby. Choice (C) matches the prediction.

Wrong answers:

(A): Out of Scope. The author describes NATO as adversarial towards Russia, which couples (hopefully!) wouldn’t be toward a baby.

(B): Out of Scope. The couple refers to NATO alone.

(D): Distortion. This answer choice confuses the pieces of the analogy.


Question: If the author of this passage were asked in an interview about his feeling regarding potential action that NATO might take with regard to the passage, he would probably give his greatest support to which of the following actions by NATO?
[A] Admitting officially that NATO expansion is meant to contain the Russian threat
[B] Halting expansion once Poland has been absorbed into NATO
[C] Stating publicly that Ukraine will never be included in NATO’s sphere of influence
[D] Reconsidering plans to establish a presence in Eastern Europe
Answer
Option (D)


Explanation
Review what the author wants NATO to do: avoid threatening Russia’s sphere of influence, and keep implicit promises. The final sentence of the passage laments the "West's inability...to rule out" incorporating "any country" into NATO. Therefore the author would support reconsidering the West's position, choice (D).

Wrong answers:

(A): Out of Scope. While the author wouldn’t mind this, it doesn’t solve the main problems of NATO expansion.

(B): Out of Scope. As above, though the author wouldn’t argue against this, it’s already far beyond what the author would want in terms of expansion.

(C): Out of Scope. As with the other two wrong answer choices, though the author wouldn’t consider this unwelcome, it would be far better to declare all countries in Russia’s sphere of influence out of bounds for NATO.


Question: Judging from the passage, the “clear though implicit promises” made by the West to Russia in 1990-91 were promises that:
[A] the West would allow Russia to station troops in Poland.
[B] the West would not station troops in any East European country.
[C] the West would withdraw its troops from East Germany following unification.
[D] the West would leapfrog over East Germany into Poland.
Answer
Option (B)


Explanation
Where does the author mention these promises? Go back to 5. In the second half of the paragraph, the author argues that promises to stay out of East Germany were in spirit the same as promises to stay out of Eastern Europe. (B) rewards the habit of reading in context.

Wrong answers:

(A): Out of Scope. This is never mentioned in the paragraph.

(C): Distortion. Russia withdrew its troops, not the West.

(D): Opposite. The author argues that the promises implied just the opposite.


Question: Based on the passage, which of the following could be considered true beliefs of the majority of Western diplomats?
[A] II only
[B] II and III
[C] I and III
[D] I, II and III
Answer
Option (C)


Explanation
Take a second to separate what the author argues the diplomats say from what he believes they mean. The author believes that NATO’s true goal is to contain Russia, even if it’s not said outright. Look for choices that fit with this, reading back in the passage as needed. RN III would fit this view: the West would consider this unjust aggression. Eliminate (A). RN I fits with the author’s opinion of the unstated goal of NATO: to contain a threatening Russia. However, NATO clearly desires "the peaceful integration of Ukraine into Europe" (1) and therefore most likely believes that the Ukraine will eventually become part of NATO (as Russia fears, 7). Eliminate RNII and (C) is your answer.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. Denies RN I.

(B): Opposite. Denies RN I.

(D): Opposite. RN II is incorrect.


Question: Based on the passage, which of the following could one most reasonably expect of a country that is attempting to expand its sphere of influence?
[A] A complete cessation of communication with potential enemies
[B] A declaration that the purpose of expansion is greater security
[C] A stubborn refusal to admit defeat when it has in fact been suffered
[D] A prolonged period of careful planning and diplomatic negotiation
Answer
Option (B)


Explanation
Consider spheres of influence in the context of the passage. Both NATO and Russia want to expand their spheres of influence. What do the two have in common in doing so? The author argues that both claim to be doing so in the name of national security. Choice (B) rewards the prediction instantly.

Wrong answers:

(A): Out of Scope. There’s nothing in the passage to suggest that this would happen.

(C): Out of Scope. As above, there’s nothing in the passage to suggest this...

(D): Out of Scope. ...or this.

Strategy Point: Pay attention not only to differences between principal players in a passage, but to any explicit or implied similarities. The MCAT tests your ability to see both contrasts and similarities.


Question: Which of the following theories seems most in agreement with the Russian justification for maintaining a Russian sphere of influence?
[A] It’s all right to do something if someone else has done it.
[B] If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
[C] If you can’t beat them, you should join them.
[D] You can never accumulate too much power and influence.
Answer
Option (A)


Explanation
Summarize the Russian’s argument for maintaining a sphere of influence, as described in paragraphs 3 and 4. A nation needs a sphere of influence in order to protect itself, and other nations have done the same thing (examples include the Monroe Doctrine). (A) emphasizes the latter point.

Wrong answers:

(B): Distortion. Though a sphere of influence implies responsibility to act in one’s own defense, this isn’t the justification for having one.

(C): Distortion. The Russian justification isn’t that they should be a part of the dominant sphere of influence; it’s that they should be allowed to maintain their own.

(D): Distortion. This takes the idea of a limited sphere of influence to extremes that aren’t supported by the passage.

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