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


While most archeologists believe that primitive European societies were patriarchal in both their social and religious structures, a new controversial theory challenges these traditional views. This theory suggests that during the Stone Age there thrived in and around Europe peace-loving, matriarchal communities in which men and women lived together as equals, respected nature, and worshipped a nurturing deity called the Great Goddess.
The people of “Old Europe”—Europe from 7000 B.C. to 3500 B.C.—lived in stable agricultural societies in which women headed clans and men labored as hunters and builders, but neither sex acted as a dominant force with respect to the other. War was shunned and craftspeople created comfortable dwellings and graceful ceramics instead of weapons. Like the woman-centered social system, the religion of Stone Age Europe focused on women in its veneration of the life-generating Great Goddess and other female deities. Worship was closely linked to the themes of respect for life and regeneration.
Proponents of this theory contend that this peaceful and harmonious society was shattered by waves of Indo-European invaders in about the year 3500 B.C., when marauders from the Russian steppes transformed Europe from a peaceful, agrarian culture to one in which men dominated women and wars raged. Social and sexual egalitarianism were replaced by patriarchy and hierarchy, and warrior gods dethroned the Great Goddess. With the widespread decimation of Old Europe, the goddess-centered religion went underground. However, its symbols have reappeared over the centuries in the forms of the female deities of Greece and Rome, in the Virgin Mary, and in the belief in spiritual forces lurking within the natural world.
The theory of the Great Goddess has been hailed by feminist social critics, artists, and religious thinkers for providing an important alternative to traditional, patriarchal mythologies and paradigms, as well as for providing a new and more positive model for the human relationship to the natural world.
Eminent anthropologist Ashley Montagu calls the theory “a benchmark in the history of civilization,” yet many other investigators into prehistoric Europe consider the theory an unsubstantiated and idealistic version of history. To a number of critics, the chief problem in this radical theory is one of method. Traditional archeologists, taking issue with unorthodox speculation on ancient belief systems, contend that archeological evidence may tell us something about what people ate in the small villages of prehistoric Europe, how they built their homes, and what they traded, but cannot tell us much about what the dwellers of the ancient world actually thought. To them, such speculation is illegitimate. The most severe critics warn that, in blurring the distinction between intuition and fact, proponents of the new theory have failed as scientists.
But supporters of the theory of a goddess-worshipping Old Europe counter that such critiques reveal a certain narrow-mindedness on the part of scientists rather than weaknesses on the part of their theory arguing that some degree of speculation is important, perhaps even necessary, for the sake of progress in archeology and other fields. This element of speculation helps reveal the implications of a theory.

Question: Which of the following would be contrary to what a proponent of the theory of the Great Goddess most likely believes?
[A] The available archaeological evidence does not rule out the idea that Old European matriarchal communities existed.
[B] The field of archaeology has been dominated in the past by male-oriented scholarship.
[C] Matriarchy is conducive to establishing a healthy relationship with the natural world.
[D] The decimation of Old European society wiped away all traces of the Great Goddess religion.
Option (D)

Keep the main elements of the Great Goddess theory in mind as you review the choices. Look for an answer choice that a proponent of this theory would have no opinion on or would disagree with. (D) fits nicely: 3 states explicitly that traces remained.
Wrong answers:
(A): Opposite. The proponent would have to agree with this, or there would be no logical way to believe the theory.
(B): Opposite. This is addressed in 4.
(C): Opposite. This is also explicitly stated in 4.

Question: Supporters of the Great Goddess theory might justifiably counter the traditionalist argument that archeological evidence “cannot tell us much about what the dwellers of the ancient world actually thought” (lines 49-50) by pointing out that the traditionalist argument implies that:
[A] archeology cannot hope to be anything more than a fruitless enterprise.
[B] there is no good reason to think that primitive European society was socially patriarchal.
[C] understanding the thinking of more modern cultures should likewise be considered impossible.
[D] ancient people functioned at a considerably lower intellectual level than do modern humans.
Option (B)

If the matriarchal theory is weak because the current evidence can’t say much about what the ancients actually thought, how could supporters of the theory use that fact to their advantage? If, as critics argue, we can’t know what the Europeans thought one way or the other, there should be no more support for the patriarchal model than for the matriarchal, making the criticism pointless. (B) matches nicely.
Wrong answers:
(A): Distortion. The fact that little is known about the way ancient Europeans thought wouldn’t mean that all aspects of archeology are fruitless.
(C): Out of Scope. The thinking of modern cultures isn’t relevant to a criticism based on ancient archaeology.
(D): Out of Scope. The intellectual level of the ancients isn’t mentioned, nor would it be relevant to this part of the argument if it were.

Question: Based on the information in the passage, which of the following statements about prehistoric European society would traditional archeologists most likely consider illegitimate?
[A] The people were agrarian and not nomadic.
[B] Food was cooked in clay vessels over a fire.
[C] Arrows and spears were the most commonly used instruments of warfare.
[D] The people were worried about invasion.
Option (D)

Use your momentum from the last question to start this one out. We know only two main things about traditional archaeologists: they advocate a patriarchal model, and, as described in the question above, they’re skeptical that archaeology can cast much light onto what ancient peoples actually thought. Scan the answer choices for a statement that runs afoul of one of these. Only choice (D) fits either one, referring to a “worry” that traditionalists would say we can’t know anything about.
Wrong answers:
(A): Out of Scope. This would be the sort of statement that a traditionalist would believe could potentially be backed up by evidence.
(B): Out of Scope. Like (A), entirely factual and therefore verifiable.
(C): Out of Scope. As above.

Question: If it were conclusively demonstrated through archeological evidence that the society of Old Europe had in fact been patriarchal and warlike, one would expect those who had supported the Great Goddess theory to contend that:
[A] it was a mistake to have extended the bounds of scientific scholarship to the realm of imagination.
[B] speculating incorrectly had nevertheless been a valuable exercise.
[C] no one could have anticipated that the more unorthodox theory would be the correct one.
[D] traditional archeologists must have doctored the evidence to fit their conclusions.
Option (B)

An application question. How would the proponents of the Great Goddess theory react to information that proved the theory wrong? Try to find something in the passage that they might still be able to use to the theory’s credit. The last paragraph captures the main response they’d have: even if the theory is wrong, it was a good exercise that spurred debate and provided alternatives to traditional theories. Choice (B) summarizes this.
Wrong answers:
(A): Opposite. The proponents of the theory would argue that this is exactly the value of the theory.
(C): Opposite. The proponents of the theory do speculate this, even if the question stem proves them wrong.
(D): Distortion. Though the Great Goddess proponents might consider traditional archaeologists too traditional, there’s no evidence they’d consider them dishonest.

Question: Which of the following maxims seems most in agreement with the argument that the supporters of the Great Goddess theory put forth in response to criticism?
[A] Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.
[B] A mind is like a parachute in that it only works when open.
[C] He who does not understand his opponent’s arguments does not understand his own.
[D] The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Option (B)

Before jumping into the answer choices, make sure you’re clear on the main argument the Great Goddess theorists use to respond to criticism. They have no evidence to counter with, but argue that unorthodox theories are useful for their own sake, because they stimulate dialogue. Keeping this in mind will quickly yield (B).
Wrong answers:
(A): Out of Scope. Violence has nothing to do with the response the Great Goddess theorists make to criticism.
(C): Distortion. Though they might argue that new theories increase understanding, there’s no indication that the traditionalists don’t understand the Great Goddess theory.
(D): Out of Scope. This has nothing to do with the theorists’ response.

Question: A proponent of the matriarchal theory might argue that the theory serves all but which of the following purposes?
[A] Showing the existence of bias in the scientific establishment
[B] Providing a model of sexual equality for present-day society to emulate
[C] Broadening the unnecessarily conservative limits of conventional archeology
[D] Demonstrating that matriarchies are consistently more egalitarian than are patriarchies
Option (D)

An application question. Three of the answer choices will fit in with what a proponent of the matriarchal theory would argue. s 3 and 4 particularly describe matriarchal versus patriarchal culture. Keep an eye out for a wrong answer choice that contradicts what the matriarchal theory says or is outside the argument’s scope. Choice (D) fits the latter criterion: There’s nothing in the Great Goddess argument that suggests all matriarchal societies are more equal than all patriarchies (note the word "consistently").
Wrong answers:
(A): Opposite. This is mentioned in the last paragraph.
(C): Opposite This is mentioned in 4.
(D): Opposite. This is also a point of the last paragraph.

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