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

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Passage

Few ideas are more deeply entrenched in our political culture than that of impending ecological doom. Beginning in 1962, when Rachel Carson warned that pollution was a threat to all human and animal life on the planet, pessimistic appraisals of the health of the environment have been issued with increasing urgency.
And yet, thanks in large part to her warnings, a powerful political movement was born and a series of landmark environmental bills became law. These laws and their equivalents in Western Europe, along with a vast array of private efforts spurred by environmental consciousness that Carson helped raise, have been a stunning success in both the United States and Europe where environmental trends are, for the most part, positive; and environmental regulations, far from being burdensome and expensive, have proved to be strikingly effective, have cost less than was anticipated, and have made the economies of the countries that have put them into effect stronger, not weaker. In recent years, several worrisome environmental trends have either declined from their peak or ended altogether. The amount of household trash dumped in landfills, for example, has been diminishing since the late nineteen eighties, when recycling began to take hold.
Recycling, which was a fringe idea a decade ago, is now a major growth industry, and is converting more than twenty per cent of America’s municipal wastes into useful products. Despite start-up problems, many municipal recycling programs now pay for themselves. Emissions of chlorofluorocarbons, which deplete the ozone layer, have been declining since 1987. Studies now suggest that ozone-layer replenishment may begin within a decade. Dozens of American cities once dumped raw sludge into the ocean. This category of pollution passed into history in 1992, when the final load of New York City sludge slithered off a barge imaginatively named Spring Brook. Today, instead of being dumped into the ocean, municipal sludge is either disposed of in regulated landfills or, increasingly, put to good use as fertilizer.
America’s record of protecting species threatened with extinction, which is often depicted as dismal, is in truth enviable. Since 1973, when the Endangered Species Act took effect, seven animal species in North America have disappeared. Several hundred others once considered certain to die out continue to exist in the wild. A number of species, including the bald eagle and the Arctic peregrine falcon have been or are being taken off the priority-protection list.
It’s true, of course, that some environmental programs are muddled. For instance, the Endangered Species Act can have the unfair effect of penalizing landholders who discover rare creatures on their property, by prohibiting use of the land. In the main, though, conservation has been an excellent investment. Environmental initiatives worked well even in their early years, when they were driven by top-heavy federal edicts. They work even better as new regulations have centered on market mechanisms and voluntary choice; new acid-rain reductions, for example, are being achieved at unexpectedly affordable rates, thanks to a free-market program under which companies trade pollution “allowances” with each other. Western market economies excel at producing what they are asked to produce, and, increasingly, the market is being asked to produce conservation.
Consider some of what has been accomplished in this country. Thanks to legislation, technical advances, and lawsuits that have forced polluters to pay liability costs, America’s air and water are getting cleaner, forests are expanding, and many other environmental indicators are on the upswing.
Nevertheless, the vocabulary of environmentalism has continued to be dominated by images of futility, crisis, and decline. Nor are environmentalists the only people reluctant to acknowledge the good news; advocates at both ends of the political spectrum, each side for its reasons, seem to have tacitly agreed to play it down. The left is afraid of the environmental good news because it undercuts stylish pessimism; the right is afraid of the good news because it shows that governmental regulations might occasionally amount to something other than wickedness incarnate, and actually produce benefits at an affordable cost.

Question: For which of the following claims does the passage provide some supporting evidence or explanation?
[A] Environmental good news undercuts stylish pessimism.
[B] The vocabulary of environmentalists is dominated by images of doom.
[C] Environmental regulations in Europe have proven to be strikingly effective.
[D] Environmental initiatives have worked when centered on market mechanisms.
Answer
Option (D)


Explanation
An evaluation question. Evaluate each answer choice on whether evidence was provided. (D) is the only answer choice that has actual evidence to support it (trading pollution allowances example, 5).
Wrong answers:
(A): Out of Scope. True, according to the author, but no evidence backs this up.
(B): Out of Scope. As above. We have no specific examples of the pessimism even though it’s mentioned.??
(C): Out of Scope. More of the same. All our evidence is for the United States

Question: Suppose that current models of automobiles emit an average of eighty per cent less pollution per mile than was emitted by cars in 1970. How would this information affect the author’s main point?
[A] It would support the claim.
[B] It would refute the claim.
[C] It would support the claim if it were shown that the emissions reductions were a consequence of environmental bills.
[D] It would support the claim if it were shown that the emissions reductions were not a consequence of environmental bills.
Answer
Option (C)


Explanation
How does this new hypothetical apply to the author’s argument about environmental legislation, which is that it’s been a success? It will support it only if this decrease in pollution came about because of environmental regulations; otherwise, it would have no effect. (C) rewards your careful reasoning.
Wrong answers:
(A): Distortion. A tempting answer choice that punishes test-takers who haven’t thought about the situation in relation to the author’s argument.
(B): Opposite. No matter what the relevance, we can be sure that environmental improvement by itself won’t weaken the author’s claim, let alone refute it.
(D): Distortion. If the reductions weren’t a consequence of the bills, they’d have no effect on the argument and so couldn’t support it.

Question: Which of the following statements is false as it pertains to the information given in the passage?
[A] Chlorofluorocarbons no longer damage the ozone layer.
[B] Technical advances have contributed to conservation.
[C] Raw sludge is no longer a source of ocean pollution for the United States.
[D] Recycling has had an impact on landfill dumping.
Answer
Option (A)


Explanation
A scattered detail question. Usually, one choice will contradict one of the author’s opinions, so be sure you’re clear on those (though sometimes you may have to compare each answer choice to the relevant text in the passage). (A) distorts the author’s statement that CFC emissions are declining and the ozone layer is replenishing. If they were damaging before, there’s no reason to think they’re not damaging now. (A) must therefore be false.
Wrong answers:
(B): Faulty Use of Detail. This is in 6.
(C): Faulty Use of Detail. Found in 3.
(D): Faulty Use of Detail. Also found in 3.

Question: Based on information in the passage, each of the following statements is a plausible explanation of why pessimistic appraisals of the environment continue to be issued EXCEPT:
[A] environmentalists and politicians are unaware of the successes of the movement.
[B] an immense amount of work still needs to be done to save the environment.
[C] optimistic evaluations would have unwanted political repercussions.
[D] environmentalists garner support by arousing concerns and fears.
Answer
Option (A)


Explanation
Another question where the four wrong answer choices are plausible, and the right answer isn’t. Keep in mind that something doesn’t have to be mentioned in the passage to be plausible, but if it’s implausible there must be something in the passage to make it so. Notice that the author directly contradicts (A) in 7, saying that environmentalists are aware of the successes but just prefer to be pessimistic. This question rewards test-takers who have categorized the answer choices and know what type of answer they’re looking for.
Wrong answers:
(B): Opposite. This could in fact be the reason that environmentalists are pessimistic.
(C): Opposite. The author mentions that this is true, and is a plausible reason for pessimism.
(D): Opposite. Another reasonable explanation for why environmentalists might get more mileage by being Cassandras.

Question: According to the passage, which of the following is most likely to be true about the impact of the Endangered Species Act on the overall number of animal species in America?
[A] The Endangered Species Act has caused the number of species to increase gradually.
[B] The Endangered Species Act has caused the number of species to rebound markedly.
[C] The Endangered Species Act has slowed the decline in the number of species.
[D] The Endangered Species Act has had no significant effect on the number of species.
Answer
Option (C)


Explanation
What must the success of the Endangered Species Act mean? Fewer extinctions. Evaluate the answer choices. Only one answer choice, (C), coincides with a drop in extinctions. The other choices punish test-takers who haven’t thought through the consequences of the Act’s success.
Wrong answers:
(A): Distortion. Common sense will tell you that a drop in the number of species going extinct won’t lead to more species being formed. The right answer is a good thing, and this choice is also a good thing; it’s just completely implausible.
(B): Distortion. This choice says the same as (A) and differs only in degree rather than concept.
(D): Opposite. Fewer extinctions mean fewer lost species, which the author declares as a successful, and therefore significant, effect.

Question: The head of the Environmental Protection Agency recently gave a series of speeches pointing out that there were many signs of environmental progress in America. Which of the following best characterizes the relevance of this to the passage?
[A] It supports the claim that efforts at environmental reform have been costly but effective.
[B] It weakens the claim that efforts at environmental reform have been costly but effective.
[C] It supports the claim that the vocabulary of environmentalism is dominated by images of futility.
[D] It weakens the claim that the vocabulary of environmentalism is dominated by images of futility.
Answer
Option (D)


Explanation
How does the new situation fit into the author’s argument? It supports the author’s argument that environmental reform has been effective, but the only choices matching that also claim that the reform has been costly, which the author directly disputes. What else is true about the speeches? They’re positive and made by a prominent environmentalist, which counters the author’s argument that pessimism dominates. (D) matches up nicely.
Wrong answers:
(A): Distortion. The phrase “costly but effective” should be an immediate cue to cut this one.
(B): Distortion. As above.
(C): Opposite. This hits the right part of the author’s argument, but misrepresents what a positive speech would do to that part.

Question: If the claims made in the passage are correct, how would politicians on the political right be expected to react to America’s program to protect endangered species from extinction?
[A] They would extol it because its success is not attributable to governmental regulation.
[B] They would extol it because its success refutes the pessimistic claims of the political left.
[C] They would criticize it because its success was due to costly regulations.
[D] They would criticize it because it has not shown any measurable success
Answer
Option (C)


Explanation
What do we know from the passage about protecting endangered species? Only two things: that it’s been successful but unfair to landowners. Which is the political right more likely to care about? Likely landowners, and the right would likely attack the program on this basis. A quick scan of reaction knocks out (A) and (B), and understanding the reasons for that reaction leads immediately to (C).
Wrong answers:
(A): Opposite. While the right might like a lack of regulation, the program’s success is only because of regulation.
(C): Out of Scope. The right might enjoy refuting the claims of the left, but not if it comes with heavy governmental regulation.
(D): Distortion. While the right will reject the program, they’re concerned less with the aspect of its success than its cost. Furthermore, we already know the program has been successful.

Question: To which of the following hypothetical Congressional actions would the author probably lend the most support, based on the information in the passage?
[A] Establishing a subcommittee that would be devoted to environmental issues
[B] Streamlining the inefficient bureaucracies that arose during environmental reform
[C] Passing legislation that makes anti-pollution regulations difficult to enforce
[D] Passing bills that encourage rather than coerce industries to control pollution
Answer
Option (D)


Explanation
Be sure you grasp the author’s principal opinions before you hit the answer choices, evaluating which one most closely fits in with the author’s ideas in the passage. None of the answer choices relate clearly to the passage except (C) and (D), and of these, the author would only agree with the latter. The last paragraph expands on the author’s idea that reform works best when market factors drive it.
Wrong answers:
(A): Out of Scope. While this might be acceptable to the author, there’s no real concern with the political process in the passage.
(B): Out of Scope. As above. Though the author mentions inefficient programs, there’s no discussion of inefficient bureaucracies behind them.
(C): Opposite. The author would be strongly opposed to making regulations difficult to enforce, which would certainly lead to an increase in pollution.

Question: The existence of which of the following phenomena would most strongly challenge the information in the passage?
[A] A speech by a senator who takes credit for saving his state’s environment
[B] A species of animal that has disappeared in the past year
[C] A prediction by an environmentalist that the ozone layer problem will worsen
[D] A recycling program that is supported by federal funds
Answer
Option (A)


Explanation
An incorporation question. Look for an answer that challenges one of the main points that the author makes. (A) calls the author’s argument about pessimism into question. If a politician is taking credit for saving an entire state environment, then he is positive to an extreme.
Wrong answers:
(B): Out of Scope. The author acknowledges that some species do go extinct. Restating this fact has no impact on the overall argument.
(C): Opposite. This supports the author’s argument that everyone is overly pessimistic.
(D): Out of Scope. This will have no effect on the author’s argument.

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