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


The woman-suffrage campaign was indeed as much evangelism—a kind of social gospel—as it was politics. The copious documentation left behind in the wake of the suffragist movement recounts a story of missionary zeal, untiring political tuition, and a commitment to the conception of America as an experiment in civic justice. Underpinning this ideology were strands of American exceptionalism laced with occasional self-righteousness and appeals to female moral superiority revealing suffragists as having an eclectic social philosophy oscillating between the poles of preaching women’s superior virtues and proclaiming their essential humanity.
Leading suffragists exploited political rhetoric, effectively turning the great American narratives, biblical and civic, stories of new beginnings, brave struggles, repentance and renewal, to their own purposes. Southern suffragists often coupled panegyrics to woman’s purity with appeals to racial and ethnic prejudices. One leader argued openly in 1903 that “enfranchisement of women would insure immediate and durable white supremacy.”
Educated adults of the day—and the suffragists were overwhelmingly drawn from the ranks of the educated—knew their Bunyan, understood that overcoming adversity was a test of character, and even believed that overcoming adversity was the way character was formed. Above all, suffragists saw in the vote a great engine for social change, a way to tap woman’s greater capacity for human empathy, her status as “the mother of the race.” Women, they believed, would vote en bloc, for the good of humanity, and the world would look different forever. Some argued that if the moral power of women could be utilized through the ballot, human suffering would be alleviated; social wrongs would be righted; a new democratic age would begin.
No consensus has been reached on the dimensions of the gender gap, its importance or its potential for affecting the outcome of elections or public policy more generally. Our attention should be focused not so much on whether women will vote or govern differently from men, but rather on why suffrage is so vital to a democratic society. Suffrage is to the individual what sovereignty is to states. Civic emancipation, of which the franchise is the indispensable feature, is the only sure and certain basis for democratic political life even if it cannot accomplish every good end.
Even more moderate suffragists believed that American women who know history “will always resent the fact that American men chose to enfranchise Negroes fresh from slavery before enfranchising American wives and mothers, and allowed hordes of European immigrants totally unfamiliar with the traditions and ideals of American government to be enfranchised and thus qualified to pass upon the question of the enfranchisement of American women.” Suffragists sought to capitalize on this anti-immigrant, anti-black sentiment in order to promote their own ends—a story that has been told, and lamented, by later generations of feminists and historians.

Question: In the context of the passage, political rhetoric, as it is used in the second paragraph, refers to:
[A] The guidelines used by political speechwriters.
[B] The suffragettes’ effective presentation of American ideology in order to make political gains.
[C] The suffragettes’ circumlocution of historical facts and ideas in an attempt to confuse voters.
[D] The code that successful politicians must follow during an election campaign.
Option (B)

Jump back to the lines referred to in order to get a sense for what this piece of the passage says. Woman suffragists used rhetoric to advance their cause. Do a bit of paraphrasing of (B) to realize that it says the same thing.
Wrong answers:
(A): Out of Scope. There’s no mention of any set of guidelines.
(C): Distortion. Though they may have turned history to their own purposes, there’s no indication that they attempted to deceive or confuse the public.
(D): Out of Scope. This is simply misinterpreting the phrase, punishing those who guessed without reading in context.

Question: With which of the following statements would the author most likely agree?
[A] Suffragette exploitation of American ideology was a severe violation of moral principles.
[B] Due to their lack of education, the suffragettes believed that their prejudice against blacks and immigrants had no similarity to the prejudice they experienced as women.
[C] Suffragists were ahead of their time in believing that “women...would vote en bloc...for the good of humanity....”
[D] The end result suffragettes achieved, civic emancipation, is essential to maintaining a democratic society.
Option (D)

Make sure that the author’s main arguments are kept in mind before jumping to the answer choices. Only one of the four remotely approaches anything the author argues, and all of 4 is spent arguing it. Choice (D) is simply a summary of the paragraph.
Wrong answers:
(A): Faulty Use of Detail. Suffragist exploitation of ideals is mentioned, but the author has no negative take on it. Suffragist exploitation of prejudices is both mentioned and lamented, but this doesn’t tie into the use of American ideology.
(B): Opposite. The author argues just the opposite: they were well-educated (3), and they did see a parallel between the prejudices.
(C): Opposite. The author points out that this belief turned out not to be true after all, so they couldn’t possibly have been ahead of their time in believing it (4).

Question: Based on information as presented in the passage by the author, which of the following statements is definitely NOT true?
[A] Women suffragists often came from educated backgrounds and had a solid understanding of American politics.
[B] To promote their own cause, suffragists took advantage of popular sentiments toward immigrants.
[C] Women tend to vote in distinct patterns related to their gender.
[D] Many suffragists believed that women were part of a superior group.
Option (C)

A scattered detail question. Eliminate answers, keeping an eye out for one that might look bad from the start. The three wrong ones can be knocked out with a good map, and (C) jumps out as not supported by the passage because the author argues in 4 that just the opposite happens. This point has come up in several questions already. When the author’s opinion or the facts differ from the opinions of the passage’s subjects, there are sure to be questions that test whether you’ve picked up on the difference.
Wrong answers:
(A): Opposite. Mentioned in 3
(B): Opposite. Mentioned in 5
(D): Opposite. Mentioned in 2

Question: If given the chance to read various opinions on the topic of the suffragist movement, the author would most likely agree with which of the following statements?
[A] Suffragists didn’t realize that their exploitation of other minorities was hypocritical in itself.
[B] The suffragists’ ultimate achievement may not guarantee a good society, but it does ensure the survival of democracy.
[C] The suffragists’ extensive knowledge of American history helped them to accurately predict women’s voting patterns.
[D] The suffragist movement may have helped women gain rights, but it did not help society progress on any other level.
Option (B)

Keep the author’s main points in mind, as well as the direction the previous questions have taken. Good societies and democracies are mentioned in s 3 and 4; use them to evaluate (B). The suffragists believed that their success would ensure a better society as women voted together. This didn’t happen, but it did, according to the author, advance the cause of democracy. (B) is more or less a summary of these two paragraphs.
Wrong answers:
(A): Opposite. The author suggests that woman suffragists were well-aware of the principles and effects of the techniques they used.
(C): Opposite. The author argues in 3 that suffragists predicted female voting patterns incorrectly.
(D): Opposite. The point of 4 is that democracy and society as a whole benefited from the suffragist movement.
Strategy Point: If several previous questions have focused on one particular theme, later questions may do the same. Questions will repeatedly reward you for understanding just a few basic concepts.

Question: The passage implies that modern-day feminists and historians would most likely feel that tactics used by suffragists were:
[A] valid, yet often hurt minorities such as immigrants and blacks.
[B] useless and functioned to prevent women from finally gaining the right to vote.
[C] effective, but compromised the integrity of their pursuit of equality.
[D] ignorant since the suffragists did not consider other groups.
Option (C)

Find where the passage discusses “modern day feminists and historians,” or, if you don’t remember the phrasing, where tactics are discussed. 5 has them both. Quickly reread the relevant text and paraphrase: The groups today are unhappy that suffragists used prejudice to advance their aims. The only answer choice that encapsulates this is (C).
Wrong answers:
(A): Opposite. They’re considered invalid precisely because they hurt minority groups.
(B): Out of Scope. Since women did get the right to vote, this answer choice makes no sense.
(D): Opposite. Even if one assumes the views are considered ignorant, it’s not because other groups were ignored. The suffragists took pains to pay particular (negative) attention to the victimized groups.

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