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
Although many may argue with my stress on the continuity of the essential traits of American character and religion, few would question the thesis that our business institutions have reflected the constant emphasis in the American value system on individual achievement. From the earliest comments of foreign travelers down to the present, individuals have identified a strong materialistic bent as a characteristic American trait.
The worship of the dollar, the desire to make a profit, the effort to get ahead through the accumulation of possessions, all have been credited to the egalitarian character of the society. As Tocqueville noted in his discussion of the consequences of a democracy’s destruction of aristocracy: “They have swept away the privileges of some of their fellow creatures which stood in their way, but they have opened the door to universal competition.”
A study of the comments on American workers of various nineteenth-century foreign travelers reveals that most of these European writers, among whom were a number of socialists, concluded that social and economic democracy in America has an effect contrary to mitigating compensation for social status. American secular and religious values both have facilitated the “triumph of American capitalism,” and fostered status striving.
The focus on equalitarianism and individual opportunity has also prevented the emergence of class consciousness among the lower classes. The absence of a socialist or labor party, and the historic weakness of American trade-unionism, appear to attest to the strength of values which depreciated a concern with class.
Although the American labor movement is similar to others in many respects, it differs from those of other stable democracies in ideology, class solidarity, tactics, organizational structure, and patterns of leadership behavior. American unions are more conservative; they are more narrowly self-interested; their tactics are more militant; they are more decentralized in their collective bargaining; and they have more full-time salaried officials, who are on the whole much more highly paid. American unions have also organized a smaller proportion of the labor force than have unions in these other nations.
The growth of a large trade-union movement during the 1930s, together with the greater political involvement of labor organizations in the Democratic party, suggested to some that the day—long predicted by Marxists—was arriving in which the American working class would finally follow in the footsteps of its European brethren. Such changes in the structure of class relations seemed to these observers to reflect the decline of opportunity and the hardening of class lines. To them, such changes could not occur without modification in the traditional value system.
A close examination of the character of the American labor movement suggests that it, like American religious institutions, may be perceived as reflecting the basic values of the larger society. Although unions, like all other American institutions, have changed in various ways consistent with the growth of an urban industrial civilization, the essential traits of American trade unions, as of business corporations, may still be derived from key elements in the American value system.
Question: If the claims made in the passage about American and foreign labor unions are correct, how would the unions be expected to react during a strike against a corporation?
[A] American labor unions would be less likely than foreign unions to use violence against a corporation.
[B] American labor unions would be more likely than foreign unions to use violence against a corporation.
[C] American labor unions would be less likely than foreign unions to bargain with a corporation.
[D] American labor unions would be more likely than foreign unions to bargain with a corporation.
Where are the differences between foreign and American labor unions mentioned? 5. Scanning down the answer choices shows that you need to focus on the use of violence and bargaining. 5 argues that American labor unions are more militant and that bargaining techniques are “more decentralized,” though this doesn’t indicate whether the American unions are more or less likely to bargain than their foreign counterparts. Scanning the choices armed with these facts turns up (D).
(A): Opposite. The author argues that the American unions are more militant than their foreign counterparts.
(C): Out of Scope. We have nothing in the text to indicate the relative likelihood that an American union would bargain.
(D): Out of Scope. As above.
Strategy Point: Scanning answer choices vertically to see if a certain pattern occurs can be helpful in predicting.
Question: If a critic of the author’s viewpoint brought up examples as a rebuttal to the passage, the existence of which of the following phenomena would most strongly challenge the information in the passage?
[A] American union leaders who are highly paid to negotiate on behalf of workers
[B] American labor organizations that avoid involvement in non-labor issues
[C] American workers with a weak sense of group solidarity
[D] American corporations that are more interested in helping people than in making a profit
An incorporation question. We’re looking for something that challenges that author’s main ideas. Quickly review the main ideas in the passage before scanning the choices. While three of the choices fit characteristics the author mentions, choice (D) indicates that corporations are characterized more by their altruism than by their capitalism, which runs directly counter to the author's point in 1.
(A): Opposite. The author argues in 7 that American labor unions have more full-time salaried officials than their foreign counterparts.
(B): Opposite. The author also makes this point in 7 when discussing “narrow self-interest.”
(C): Opposite. The author discusses a difference in class solidarity in 7.
Question: Based on the information given in the passage, which of the following is/are NOT true?
[A] American society emphasizes class solidarity over individual achievement.
[B] American unions are less interested in non-labor issues than unions in other democracies.
[C] American labor organizations and American religious institutions share some of the same values.
[A] I only
[B] II only
[C] II and III
[D] I, II and III
Look for Roman numerals that counter what the author is arguing. Start with RN II, which appears in three out of four answer choices. Where does the author discuss the difference between American unions and others? Hit the fifth paragraph. The author argues that American unions are more “narrowly self-interested.” RN II must therefore be true, and all the answer choices but (A) can be eliminated. RN III is true based on line 54-55. RN I runs counter to the author’s main point, most forcefully expressed in s1 and 2, that class solidarity is less important than equality of opportunity.
(B): Opposite. As above. 24
(C): Opposite. As above.
(D): Opposite. As above.
Question: Suppose that an American union decides that its members should take an active part in national politics. What effect would this information have on the author’s view of American unions?
[A] It would support that view.
[B] It would contradict that view.
[C] It would neither support nor contradict that view.
[D] It would support that view only if it could be shown that getting involved in politics was for society’s good.
Predict how this new information could be incorporated into the passage. What characteristic of labor unions in general would political action involve? The willingness to engage in non-labor issues. The author argues in 7 that American unions are less likely to take part in this sort of activity, and this new information would therefore contradict the author’s argument. (B) fits.
(A): Opposite. Since political involvement is non-union activity, the author’s point about such activity would be weakened.
(C): Opposite. The author makes a clear argument on the point, and so the information must have some impact on the argument.
(D): Out of Scope. The overall good of society isn’t a focus of this particular part of the author’s argument.
Question: In the context of the passage, the phrase strong materialistic bent, as used in the sentence, “From the earliest comments of foreign travelers down to the present, individuals have identified a strong materialistic bent as being a characteristic American trait,” refers to:
[A] European socialists’ view of aristocrats.
[B] European travelers’ concern with democracy.
[C] American society’s emphasis on acquiring wealth.
[D] American religion’s criticism of secular values.
Go back to review the relevant line numbers. Reading the few lines that come afterwards illuminate the meaning of the phrase: the “materialistic bent” seems to be, according to the author, the focus on profit-making and possessions as a mean of advancement. Choice (C) fits.
(A): Faulty Use of Detail. The author mentions the opinions of European socialists in the passage, but in reference to Americans.
(B): Distortion. The European travelers are forming an opinion about American characteristics, not necessarily democracy as a whole.
(D): Out of Scope. Though it would seem to fit as a criticism religion might make of secular values, the author never uses it in this way.
Question: According to the passage, all of the following have influenced the outlook of the American labor movement EXCEPT:
[A] secular values.
[B] religious values.
[C] urban industrial civilization.
[D] foreign labor movements.
What is the author’s main argument about the influences of American labor movements? The author makes the point that American labor unions are most influenced by the American value system and culture. While three of the answer choices are described by the author as being American influences, foreign labor movements are of course not American and so would not have influenced the outlook of their American counterparts. (D) it is.
(A): Opposite. The author mentions secular values at the beginning of 3.
(B): Opposite. This is mentioned in conjunction with secular values in 3 also.
(C): Opposite. This, though not an American value, is mentioned as an influence in 7.
Question: According to the passage, which of the following is a part of the “traditional value system”?
[A] Class solidarity
[B] Individual achievement
[C] Urban industrialization
[D] Marxist ideology
Look for something that fits in with the traditional American system that the author discusses throughout the passage, or eliminate three answer choices that clearly don’t fit. (B), individual achievement, is touted in 1 as one of the central values of the American system.
(A): Opposite. This is a value of foreign democracies, not an American traditional value.
(C): Faulty Use of Detail. While this is mentioned as an influence on American labor unions, it’s not a part of the traditional value system.
(D): Faulty Use of Detail. Marxist ideology is described as a quality of foreign labor unions, not American values.