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
The original Hellenistic community was idealized, the Greeks’ own golden dream—a community never achieved but only imagined by the Macedonian Alexander, who was possessed of the true faith of all converts to a larger vision. The evolving system of city-states had produced not only unity with a healthy diversity but also narrow rivalries. No Hellenic empire arose, only scores of squabbling cities pursuing bitter feuds born of ancient wrongs and existing ambitions. It was civil strife made possible by isolation from the great armies and ambitions of Asia.
Greek history could arguably begin in July of 776 B.C., the First Olympiad, and end with Theodosus’s ban on the games in 393 A.D. Before this there had been a long era of two tribes, the Dorians and Ionians, scarcely distinguishable to the alien eye, but distinctly separate in their own eyes until 776. After Theodosus' ban most of the Mediterranean world was Greek-like, in fact, but the central core had been rendered impotent by diffusion.
During the eventful Greek millennium, the Olympics reflected not the high ideals of Hellenes but rather the mean reality of the times. Its founders had created a monster, games that twisted the strategists’ aspirations to unity to fit the unpleasant reality of the Hellenistic world. The games not only mirrored the central practices of the Greek world that reformers would deny but also imposed the flaws of that world. Like the atomic theory of the Greek philosophers, the Greek gamers’ theories were far removed from reality; they were elegant, consistent, logical, and irrelevant.
Part religious ritual, part game rite, in the five-day Olympic Games, various athletes coming together under the banner of their cities; winning became paramount, imposing defeat a delight. As Greek society evolved, so, too, did the games, but rarely as a unifying force. Athletes supposedly competing for the laurel of accomplishment in the name of idealism found that dried olive leaves changed to gold. Each local polis (city-state) sought not to contribute to the grandeur of Greece, but to achieve its own glory. As in the real world, in the games no Greek could trust another, and each envied rivals' victories. The Olympic spirit was not one of communal bliss but bitter lasting competition institutionalized in games.
Question: Considering the arguments made in the passage, with which of the following statements would the author be most likely to agree?
[A] The Olympics is the oldest organized sporting event in history.
[B] Greece had more internal divisions than other ancient civilizations.
[C] Sporting events sometimes create more problems than they solve.
[D] Alexander was the most successful military leader of ancient Greece.
Review the author’s main point in the passage: the Olympic Games didn’t bring Greece together; they just reinforced divisions. Scan for an answer choice that touches on this main point: choice (C). Using the denial test to double-check works: if the author thought that sporting events never did this, he couldn’t believe what he does about the Games.
(A): Out of Scope. The author never makes this claim in the passage.
(B): Out of Scope. While the author thinks that Greece had serious divisions, he never compares the severity to that of other civilizations.
(D): Out of Scope. The author never discusses the military ability of Alexander at all.
Question: In the context of the passage, the phrase “dried olive leaves changed to gold” (lines 38 - 39) refers to:
[A] the peace achieved by Greek city-states during Olympic years.
[B] the benefits that athletes could expect to derive from Olympic victories.
[C] the political unification of Dorian and Ionian tribes in 776 B.C.
[D] the spread of Greek culture during the period from 776 B.C. to 393 A.D.
Go back to review the phrase in context. The author argues at the end of the paragraph that “the winner’s spoils were...political and economic gain.” The phrase must therefore mean that athletes were in it to win for the money. (B) broadens this only slightly.
(A): Out of Scope. The phrase is referring to athletes, but the author would probably argue that peace did not in fact increase during Olympic years.
(C): Faulty Use of Detail. This refers to a detail in 2 which has nothing to do with the phrase.
(D): Faulty Use of Detail. As above, though this may have happened, the phrase doesn't deal with it.
Question: For which of the following statements does the passage provide some evidence or united ancient explanation?
[A] Alexander Greece through a series of military conquests.
[B] The divisions among Greek city-states were reflected in the Olympics.
[C] The Olympic Games could not have occurred without a city-state system.
[A] II only
[B] III only
[C] I and II
[D] II and III
Take a moment to remind yourself of the author’s main point about the Games and look at the layout of the choices before trying to answer. RN II is the most frequent, so hit that first. RN II is basically the author’s main argument, and the passage itself is explanation and example for this. Eliminate (B). RN I offers a point not made by the passage: the author argues that Alexander never truly unified Greece (and he offers no evidence for this). Eliminate (C). The author never makes the claim in RN III, and therefore (D) can be eliminated. (A) alone is left.
(B): Opposite. As described above.
(C): Opposite. As above.
(D): Opposite. As above.
Question: Suppose that a Greek wrestler had just won the Olympic wrestling contest. Which of the following rewards would he have been LEAST likely to receive?
[A] A sense of pleasure in defeating an opponent
[B] A grant of land from his own city-state
[C] A political office in his own city-state
[D] A monetary prize from another city-state
4 discusses the rewards associated with victory; take a second to read it quickly before looking for an answer choice that doesn’t match. While the wrong answer choices are all perks awarded by an athlete’s home city, (D) immediately jumps out as a sign of cooperation and friendship between city-states, which the author would argue didn’t exist.
(A): Opposite. The author argues that “imposing defeat [was] a delight.”
(B): Opposite. This would fit with the economic value the author says was associated with winning.
(C): Opposite. This, too, would be a tangible perk of winning.
Question: Which of the following, if true, would most STRENGTHEN the author’s claims about the Olympic Games in ancient Greece?
[A] Contested outcomes of Olympic events sometimes caused wars between city-states.
[B] The Olympic Games began long before Alexander united all of the city-states.
[C] Most city-states regularly applauded the Olympic victories of athletes from other city-states.
[D] Each city-state was only allowed to send one athlete per Olympic event.
Review the author’s main point about the Games in Greece: they made the disunity between the city-states even worse than it already was. Look for a fact that would reinforce this point: (A) is an example of disunity specifically triggered by the Games themselves.
(B): Out of Scope. This would have no effect on the author’s argument that the Games fostered competition.
(C): Opposite. This would weaken the author’s claim that city-states were at each others’ throats during the games.
(D): Out of Scope. The number of athletes would probably have little effect on how the city-states regarded each other.
Question: The statement: “The Olympic spirit was not one of communal bliss but bitter lasting competition institutionalized in games” (lines 40-42) indicates that the author believes that:
[A] the Greeks were more internally divided than other Mediterranean civilizations.
[B] the Greek millennium was a period of constant warfare.
[C] the Olympic Games did not serve a beneficial national purpose.
[D] the First Olympiad in 776 B.C. began the decline of Greek civilization.
Review the phrase in context; it reinforces the author’s main point that the Games made a bad situation worse. Looking for a similar point leads to (C). The author clearly believes that the Games made the Greeks’ warlike tensions worse than they already were.
(A): Out of Scope. The author doesn’t discuss the divisions in other civilizations.
(B): Distortion. The author argues that the Greeks were constantly divided, but doesn’t claim that they were always at war as a result.
(D): Opposite. The author argues in 2 that this marked the beginning of Greek history, and so surely couldn’t also represent the point of decline.