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…Those amused by all the evidence of gullibility should remember the Cardiff Giant. In 1868, in upstate New York, what seemed to be the remnants of a gigantic human being were unearthed. Thousands came to see it at a dollar a view. The director of the New York State Museum called it “the most remarkable object yet brought to light in this country.” The first human had been found and was American. The Giant was in fact a badly made gypsum statue, aged with ink, sand, and acid.
Britain has just completed a Research Assessment Exercise in which ten thousand scientists were graded by their supposed peers. A low score means no more money, a high one an extra slice of cake. Its results were predictable. Those who have get more; those who have not get nothing. Expect a wave of fraud inquiries the next time the government inspectors come round. The deceits will be less fun to unravel than was Piltdown since those who commit them are making pathetic efforts to save a career rather than grandiose attempts at fame. There is, certainly, some dishonesty. Perhaps there is more than there was. It can be blamed on the intrusion into the laboratory of the moral of the marketplace.
What to accept about the past is, too often, a matter of the spirit of the time. The first human fossil, Neanderthal Man, was, in 1856, dismissed as the remains of a soldier who had crept into a cave and died during Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. A society later entranced by evolution was not yet ready to believe even genuine evidence. As soon as it was, though, the bones brought a political message.
The delighted Germans upon whose territory Neanderthal Man was found ascribed his prominent brow ridges to a habit of frowning while deep in Teutonic thought. Science is the easiest place for a villain to make a living. It is not at all like working in a bank: far from the meticulous process of cross–checking that is its public image, science is a profession that depends uniquely on faith. Nearly all results are accepted and the question of audit scarcely arises. Usually a fraud is safe enough. More than half of all scientific papers are never referred to again, even by their authors.
No doubt there lurk in that academic undergrowth great monsters of deceit. Most, though, have done no harm apart from unmerited tenure for their begetters. Why bother to transplant skin from a black to a white mouse when you can get the same effect with a felt-tip pen? Why not claim that intestinal worms cause cancer (a Nobel Prize was won for that) or that water retains a memory of the substances once dissolved in it even when diluted a billion billion times? Checking the scientific books is a task as joyless as accountancy. Nowadays, though, the clerks have taken over. There is a new demand for double–entry bookkeeping.
Some years ago the U.S. Congress set up the Office of Research Integrity to check a supposed crisis of scientific cheating. Its credentials were dubious, but the inquisitors entangled many scientists in a web of innuendo. More than a hundred fell into its clutches. Nearly all were found innocent but many had their careers damaged. Scientific fraud is quite extraordinarily rare. The reason is simple. Science is a card game against Nature, the ultimate opponent. The hope is to deduce the hand she holds from the few clues she is willing to disclose. It is possible to win every time by faking one’s own cards, but that removes the whole point of playing the game.
Question: Through his repeated references to banking and accountancy, the author of this passage demonstrates his belief that:
[A] scientists are becoming more like accountants.
[B] scientists are too eager for government grants.
[C] science thrives where there is mutual trust.
[D] science thrives with constant external scrutiny.
Question: In the fifth paragraph. the author mentions the Nobel Prize—“Why not claim that intestinal worms cause cancer (a Nobel Prize was won for that),”—in order to elaborate his point that:
[A] some frauds succeed by their very audacity.
[B] the scientific élite is easily deceived.
[C] the Nobel Prize is awarded for reasons solely based upon scientific merit.
[D] the best scientists are often the most unethical.
Question: In the discussion of the Cardiff Giant, why does the author describe the it as an American?
[A] To deride the thousands of Americans who paid to see it
[B] To show how Americans of 1868, as opposed to Europeans of 1856, were eager to embrace the theory of evolution
[C] To imply that the director of the New York State Museum was in on the hoax
[D] To illustrate the patriotic pride of nineteenth–century Americans
Question: Several years ago two professors from Utah claimed to have fused atomic nuclei in a test–tube. They received worldwide attention for a few weeks. According to the author, all of the following may have motivated their “cold fusion” lie EXCEPT:
[A] their need for grant money
[B] their contempt for oversight bureaucracies
[C] their desire for international recognition
[D] their attempt to protect their job security
Question: In the context of the passage as put forth by the author, what effect did the “spirit of the time” (line 24) have on scientists and on people interested in science?
[A] It inclined the scientists toward fraud and made the public more susceptible to such fraud.
[B] It limited their curiosity about matters of science.
[C] It encouraged scientists to seek fame and the public to admire scientists.
[D] It inclined them to force scientific evidence into the context of their own national histories.
Question: Within the context of the passage, what can be inferred about scientists from the author’s card game analogy?
[A] That research scientists tend to be very competitive with one other
[B] That research scientists face great temptations to cheat when compiling data
[C] That research scientists believe that they are probing the secrets of nature
[D] That most research scientists “fake their cards,” perpetuating their continued recognition
Question: Which of the following statements is best inferred from the author’s observation that one should “expect a wave of fraud inquiries the next time the government inspectors come round” (lines 15-16)?
[A] Government inspectors tend to be like inquisitors and entangle scientists in a web of suspicion.
[B] A new oversight policy is likely to reduce the amount of scientific fraud in Britain.
[C] Scientists who receive low scores in the Research Assessment Exercise are no less competent than those who receive high scores.
[D] Scientists who receive low scores in the Research Assessment Exercise are under pressure to produce interesting research.