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
PassageIn public Greek life, a man had to make his way at every step through the immediate persuasion of the spoken word. Whether it be addressing an assembly, a law-court or a more restricted body, his oratory would be a public affair rather than under the purview of a quiet committee, without the support of circulated commentary, and with no backcloth of daily reportage to make his own or others’ views familiar to his hearers. The oratory's immediate effect was all-important; it would be naive to expect that mere reasonableness or an inherently good case would equate to a satisfactory appeal. Therefore, it was early realized that persuasion was an art, up to a point teachable, and a variety of specific pedagogy was well established in the second half of the fifth century. When the sophists claimed to teach their pupils how to succeed in public life, rhetoric was a large part of what they meant, though, to do them justice, it was not the whole. The contests of Attic tragedy exhibit all the tricks of this trade, as well as the art of the poets; and the private life of the Greeks was lived so much in public that the pervasive rhetorical manner crept in here too.
Skill naturally bred mistrust. If a man of good will had need of expression advanced of mere twaddle, to learn how to expound his contention effectively, the truculent or pugnacious could be taught to dress their case in well-seeming guise. It was a standing charge against the sophists that they ‘made the worse appear the better cause,’ and it was this immoral lesson which the hero of Aristophanes’ Clouds went to learn from, of all people, Socrates. Again, the charge is often made in court that the opponent is an adroit orator and the jury must be circumspect so as not to let him delude them. From the frequency with which this crops up, it is patent that the accusation of cleverness might damage a man. In Greece, juries, of course, were familiar with the style, and would recognize the more evident artifices, but it was worth a litigant’s while to get his speech written for him by an expert. Persuasive oratory was certainly one of the pressures that would be effective in an Athenian law-court.
A more insidious danger was the inevitable desire to display this art as an art. It is not easy to define the point at which a legitimate concern with style shades off into preoccupation with manner at the expense of matter, but it is easy to perceive that many Greek writers of the fourth and later centuries passed that danger point. The most influential was Isocrates, who polished for long years his pamphlets, written in the form of speeches, and taught to many pupils the smooth and easy periods he had perfected. This was a style of only limited use in the abrupt vicissitudes of politics. Isocrates took to the written word in compensation for his inadequacy in live oratory; the tough and nervous tones of a Demosthenes were far removed from his, though they, too, were based on study and practice. The exaltation of virtuosity did palpable harm. This was not due mainly to the influence of Isocrates: public display was normal and inevitable for a world which talked and listened far more than it read. The balance was always delicate, between style as a vehicle and style as an end in itself.
We must not try to pinpoint a specific moment when it, once and for all, tipped over; but certainly, as time went on, virtuosity weighed heavier. While Greek freedom lasted, and it mattered what course of action a Greek city decided to take, rhetoric was a necessary preparation for public life, whatever its side effects. When the study became, in the gloomiest sense of the word, academic, only the side effects remained, and they were not such as to encourage depth of thought. It had been a source of strength for Greek civilization that its problems, of all kinds, were thrashed out very much in public. The shallowness which the study of rhetoric might (not must) encourage was the corresponding weakness.
Question: If the author of the passage traveled to a political convention and saw various candidates speak he would most likely have the highest regard for an orator who:
[A] roused his hearers to immediate and decisive action.
[B] understood that rhetoric serves an aesthetic as well as a practical purpose.
[C] relied on facts and reason rather than on rhetorical devices in making his case.
[D] passed on the techniques he had perfected to many students.
Question: Historians agree that those seeking public office in modern America make far fewer speeches in the course of their campaign than those seeking a public position in ancient Greece did. The author would most likely explain this by pointing out that:
[A] speeches are now only of limited use in the abrupt vicissitudes of politics.
[B] modern politicians need not rely exclusively on speeches to make themselves known.
[C] modern audiences are easier to persuade through rhetoric than were the Greek audiences.
[D] modern politicians do not make a study of rhetoric as did the Greeks.
Question: The passage suggests that there were times when being particularly adept at rhetoric was NOT to a Greek’s advantage because:
[A] success in public life naturally bred considerable jealousy in rivals.
[B] public figures forfeited their right to a private life.
[C] listeners were wary of being misled by skillful language.
[D] verbosity was a character trait not held in high regard among the Greeks.
Question: Even though the author states that “persuasive oratory was certainly one of the pressures that would be effective in an Athenian law-court,” (lines 38-39) which of the following claims would most weaken the author’s assertion that “the accusation of cleverness might damage a man” (lines 32-33) in Greek court?
[A] Greek juries frowned on personal attacks on an opponent’s methods.
[B] Alerting the jury to the possibility of deceit caused them to doubt what they subsequently heard.
[C] Those accused of cleverness usually counterattacked with a similar accusation.
[D] Greek citizens naturally expected some speakers to use rhetorical tricks.
Question: Implicit in the statement that the exaltation of virtuosity was not due mainly to Isocrates because public display was normal in a world that talked far more than it read is the assumption that:
[A] Isocrates was actually concerned as much with the content of his speeches as with their style.
[B] excessive concern with style is bound to arise in a world dominated by public display.
[C] the Greeks were guilty of exalting virtuosity in their public art and architecture as well.
[D] Isocrates was less influential than previous historians estimated.
Question: In the context of the passage, the term side effects (line 65) refers primarily to:
[A] an understanding of the importance of public debate to maintaining freedom.
[B] a misplaced emphasis on rhetorical style as opposed to substance.
[C] a tendency to ignore the potential of the written word.
[D] the exclusion from leadership of those not proficient in oratory.