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


In the 1930s the Payne Foundation funded studies attributing juvenile crime to movie violence, complete with testimonials of youthful offenders that they had gotten larcenous ideas from the silver screen. Legions of censors from the Hays Office monitored Hollywood output to make sure that, at the least, crime didn’t pay. In the 1950s, Dr. Frederic Wertham made a name for himself by attributing all manner of delinquencies to the mayhem depicted in comic books. If today’s censorious forces smell smoke, it is not in the absence of fire.

In recent years, market forces have driven screen violence to an amazing pitch. As the movies lost much of their audience—especially adults—to television, the studios learned that the way to make their killing, so to speak, was to offer on big screens what the networks would not permit on the small. Thus, decades ago the “action movie”—a euphemism for, among other things, grisly violence—aimed to attract the teenagers who were the demographic category most eager to flee the family room. At the same time, the technologies of special effects steadily advanced to permit more graphic representations. We have witnessed the burgeoning of a genre that budding auteurs throughout the world aspire to imitate.

Aiming to recoup losses and better compete with cable, television programmers struck back; the networks lowered their censorship standards and pruned their “standards and practices” staffs; the deregulatory Federal Communications Commission clammed up; and the local news fell all over itself cramming snippets of gore between commercials.

I have denounced movie violence for more than two decades, all the way back to The Wild Bunch and The Godfather. I consider Hollywood’s slashes, spatters, chainsaws and car crashes a disgrace, a degradation of culture, and a wound to the souls of producers and consumers alike. I also think liberals are making a serious mistake by pursuing their vigorous campaign against violence in the media. However morally and aesthetically reprehensible today’s screen violence, the crusades of former Illinois senator Paul Simon and Attorney General Janet Reno against television violence, as well as Catharine MacKinnon’s war against pornography are cheap shots.

There are indeed reasons to attribute violence to the media, but the links are weaker than recent headlines would have one believe. The attempt to demonize the media distracts attention from the real causes of—and the serious remedies for—the epidemic of violence.

The sheer volume of alarm can’t be explained by the actual violence generated by the media’s awful images. Rather, Simon, Reno, and MacKinnon—not to mention former vice president Dan Quayle and the Reverend Donald Wildmon—have signed up for the traditional American pastime. The campaign against the devil’s images threads through the history of middle-class reform movements. For a nation that styles itself practical, at least in technical pursuits, we have always been a playground of moral prohibitions and symbolic crusades.

The question the liberal crusaders fail to address is not whether these images are wholesome but just how much real-world violence can be blamed on the media. Assume, for the sake of argument, that every copycat crime reported in the media can plausibly be traced to television and movies. Let us make an exceedingly high estimate that the resulting carnage results in 100 deaths per year that would otherwise not have taken place. These would amount to 0.28 percent of the total of 36,000 murders accidents, and suicides committed by gunshot in the United States in 1992.

That media violence contributes to a climate in which violence is legitimate—and there can be no doubt of this—does not make it an urgent social problem. Violence on the screens, however loathsome, does not make a significant contribution to violence on the streets. Images don’t spill blood. Rage, equipped with guns, does. Desperation does. Revenge does. As liberals say, the drug trade does; poverty does; unemployment does. It seems likely that a given percent increase in decently paying jobs will save thousands of times more lives than the same percent decrease in media bang-bang. And once in a while—meaning far too often—some grotesque images inspire emulation.

Both big and small screens have taught impressionable people—or at least reinforced their propensity to practice—thrilling new ways to lacerate flesh. In 1982, after the cable television broadcast of The Deer Hunter, several people killed themselves playing Russian roulette, which was featured in the movie. American youths recently were killed and maimed when they lay down on the center strip of a highway, imitating a scene from Disney’s movie The Program. A few months ago, a 17-year-old French youth blew himself up after learning from an episode of MacGyver how to build a bomb in a bicycle handle, at least according to his mother, who is suing the head of the channel for manslaughter.

Question: The passage suggests that having more stringent controls on media violence would NOT have a great effect on the death rate because:
[A] the numbers of deaths resulting from so-called “copycat” acts of violence composes only a small portion of violent deaths each year.
[B] the number of deaths resulting from so-called “copycat” acts of violence would remain unchanged nonetheless.
[C] networks and film studios lack the personnel to enforce any new regulation.
[D] there exists no definite link between media violence and actual violence.
Option (A)

Why does the author argue that the campaign against media violence is misguided? He essentially argues that media violence is not a big deal, a drop in the bucket. (A) states the same.

Wrong Answers:

(B): Out of Scope. Though this might be true, it’s not the basis of the author’s objection to the campaigns against media violence. He’s more concerned with the argument that the problem isn’t big to begin with.

(C): Out of Scope. This argument isn’t made anywhere in the passage.

(D): Distortion. The author acknowledges that there is an occasional definite link, but makes the argument that the frequency is very low.

Question: The passage suggests most strongly that the volume of concern regarding media violence is unwarranted because:
[A] America has always been “a playground of moral prohibitions” and ideological quests.
[B] the relationship between the number of annual deaths and deaths attributed to media violence does not merit it.
[C] demonizing the media does little to remedy its ills.
[D] the causes and effects of violence are less certain that critics of media violence believe.
Option (B)

Predict by again reviewing the author’s main point: the level of concern is unwarranted because the amount of actual violence caused by media violence is too low to merit such attention (7). (B) quickly rewards the efficient prediction.

Wrong Answers:

(A): Faulty Use of Detail. The author makes this point in s1 and 6, but only to suggest that there’s a tradition of such campaigns against violence and vice. The main point is that media violence simply doesn’t do that much damage.

(C): Faulty Use of Detail. Though this can be inferred from the author’s point in 5, it doesn’t provide the author’s reason why demonizing the media doesn’t do much good.

(D): Out of Scope. Though this also might be able to be inferred from the passage, it’s not the author’s main point about why crusades against media violence do little good.

Question: Of all of the following, which does the author NOT believe can be linked to violence?
[A] Rage
[B] Poverty
[C] Revenge
[D] Desperation
Option (B)

While the author lists three of these factors as causes of violence, he says only that liberals attribute violence to (B), not that he himself considers that to be a cause.

Wrong Answers:

(A): Opposite. This is mentioned in the eighth paragraph.

(C): Opposite. As above, and in the same place.

(D): Opposite. Also in the same place

Question: If delivered in a paper that sought to undermine the points of this passage, which of the following statements, if true, would most seriously weaken the passage’s central argument?
[A] The number of violent acts depicted in the media has remained more or less constant for the past decade.
[B] A Canadian study reported a sixteen-percent increase in violent crimes after exposure to television and film episodes in which violent acts were depicted.
[C] Politicians and celebrities are assisting effectively in diminishing violence.
[D] Films belonging to the “action” genre have found little acceptance at the box office.
Option (B)

What is the author’s central argument? That media violence doesn’t cause much actual violence, and so there should be little worry about it. Look for a choice that establishes the link that the author denies: (B) does just this, suggesting that media violence does cause actual violence.

Wrong Answers:

(A): Out of Scope. Though this would contradict the author’s point in 2, it wouldn’t weaken the overall argument that there’s little link between violence and its representation.

(C): Out of Scope. Even if this were true, the author would respond that the violence reduced probably isn’t caused by the media in the first place.

(D): Out of Scope. Though this would also contradict a point made in 2, it doesn’t weaken the author’s argument that an overall link is weak.

Question: In the context of the passage, the use of the phrase “traditional American pastime” (lines 51-52) by the author is understood to mean:
[A] making an unpopular stand on a moral issue.
[B] championing a cause with moral overtones.
[C] using popular issues to corrupt political campaigns.
[D] effecting change through sharp criticism.
Option (B)

Go back to the referenced line numbers. What does the author argue that the American pastime is? The author says that it’s the “campaign against the devil’s images” and expands this by arguing that America loves “moral prohibitions and symbolic crusades.” (B) fits.

Wrong Answers:

(A): Distortion. The author never argues that the stands being made are unpopular. If anything, they’re too popular.

(C): Out of Scope. The author never mentions the corruption of political campaigns.

(D): Distortion. Though most of this choice is right, there’s no indication that the change that’s being effected comes about as a result of criticism that’s particular sharp.

Question: Paying attention to all of the arguments made by the author, which of the following claims does the passage neither directly support nor contradict?
[A] The conclusions of the Payne Foundation studies of the 1930s were scientifically sound.
[B] The marked increase in media violence can be attributed to the continued financial success of those movies and programs that contain scenes of violence.
[C] The movie studios exploited the desire for teenagers to go outside their homes for entertainment by offering films that contained violent scenes.
[D] Television networks responded to the imagery in films by raising their own standards for content.
Option (A)

Look for an answer choice that reflects a claim the author simply leaves alone without evaluating. (A) is such a claim: the author mentions the Payne Foundation study in 1 but doesn’t refute it or provide evidence in support of it.

Wrong Answers:

(B): Opposite. The author makes this point in 2.

(C): Opposite. This point is also made in 2.

(D): Opposite. The author contradicts this point in 3.

Question: The broadcast networks have recently proposed a system of rating program content, similar to those ratings in the film industry. Which of the following best characterizes the relevance of this statement?
[A] The statement acknowledges that the networks have taken little responsibility in patrolling the content of their programming.
[B] The statement implies that those who speak out against media violence have had significant success in convincing the networks to enforce stricter content standards.
[C] The statement suggests that some convincing evidence supporting a stronger link between media violence and violent acts has been found.
[D] The statement suggests that networks will decrease the amount of shows that contain violent content.
Option (B)

If the broadcast industry is just now proposing a rating system, what could have been the cause of this? Quite possibly the backlash to the increased violence that the author discusses. (B) says the same: those who have spoken out against media violence have made an impact on the networks.

Wrong Answers:

(A): Opposite. This choice would suggest that the networks have taken action to at least patrol the content of their programming, though they might not necessarily change that content.

(C): Out of Scope. The stations might simply be reacting to pressure. There’s no suggestion that the action is being taken because they’ve acknowledged a link between violence in the media and the real world.

(D): Out of Scope. Though the networks will rate content, this doesn’t mean that they’ll change it.

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