FREE Reading Comprehension Practice Problems for CAT

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

Reading Comprehension Practice Passage

For years scholars have contrasted slavery in the United States and in Brazil, stimulated by the fact that racial patterns assumed such different aspects in the two countries after emancipation. Brazil never developed a system of rigid segregation of the sort that replaced slavery in the United States, and its racial system was fluid because its definition of race was based as much on characteristics such as economic status as on skin color. Until recently, the most persuasive explanation for these differences was that Portuguese institutions especially the Roman Catholic church and Roman civil law , promoted recognition of the slave’s humanity. The English colonists, on the other hand, constructed their system of slavery out of whole cloth . There were simply no precedents in English common law , and separation of church and state barred Protestant clergy from the role that priests assumed in Brazil.

But the assumption that institutions alone could so powerfully affect the history of two raw and malleable frontier countries seems, on reexamination, untenable. Recent studies focus instead on a particular set of contrasting economic circumstances and demographic profiles at significant periods in the histories of the two countries. Persons of mixed race quickly appeared in both countries. In the United States they were considered to be Black, a social definition that was feasible because they were in the minority. In Brazil, it was not feasible. Though intermarriage was illegal in both countries, the laws were unenforceable in Brazil since Whites formed a small minority in an overwhelmingly Black population. Manumission for persons of mixed race was also easier in Brazil, particularly in the nineteenth century when in the United States it was hedged about with difficulties. Furthermore, a shortage of skilled workers in Brazil provided persons of mixed race with the opportunity to learn crafts and trades, even before general emancipation, whereas in the United States entry into these occupations was blocked by Whites sufficiently numerous to fill the posts. The consequence was the development in Brazil of a large class of persons of mixed race, proficient in skilled trades and crafts, who stood waiting as a community for freed slaves to join.

There should be no illusion that Brazilian society after emancipation was color-blind. Rather, the large population of persons of mixed race produced a racial system that included a third status, a bridge between the Black caste and the White, which could be traversed by means of economic or intellectual achievement, marriage, or racial heritage. The strict and sharp line between the races so characteristic of the United States in the years immediately after emancipation was simply absent. With the possible exception of New Orleans, no special “place” developed in the United States for persons of mixed race. Sad to say, every pressure of society worked to prevent their attaining anything approximating the economic and social position available to their counterparts in Brazil.


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Question: In the passage, the author is primarily concerned with

contrasting the systems of slavery that were established in Brazil and in the United States
criticizing the arguments of those scholars who considered religion and law to be the determinants of the systems of slavery in Brazil and in the United States
describing the factors currently thought to be responsible for the differences in the racial patterns that evolved in Brazil and in the United States
advocating further study of the differences between the racial systems that developed in Brazil and in the United States
pointing out the factors that made the status of Blacks in the United States lower than that of Blacks in Brazil

Question: According to the passage, early scholars explained the differences between the racial systems that developed in the United States and in Brazil as the result of which of the following factors?

Institutional
Demographic
Economic
Geographical
Historical

Question: In the context in which it is found, the phrase “constructed their system of slavery out of whole cloth” implies that the system of slavery established by the English settlers was

based on fabrications and lies
tailored to the settlers’ particular circumstances
intended to serve the needs of a frontier economy
developed without direct influence from the settlers’ religion or legal system
evolved without giving recognition to the slave’s humanity

Question: The author implies that the explanation proposed by early scholars for the differences between the systems of slavery in the United States and in Brazil is

stimulating to historians and legal scholars
more powerful than more recent explanations
persuasive in spite of minor deficiencies
excessively legalistic in its approach
questionable in light of current scholarly work

Question: The author mentions intermarriage, manumission, and the shortage of skilled workers in Brazil primarily in order to establish which of the following?

The environment in which Brazil’s racial system developed
The influence of different legal and economic conditions in Brazil and the United States on the life-style of persons of mixed race
The origins of Brazil’s large class of free skilled persons of mixed race
The differences between treatment of slaves in Brazil and in the United States
The difficulties faced by persons of mixed race in the United States, as compared to those in Brazil

Question: According to the passage, Brazilian laws prohibiting intermarriage were ineffective because Brazil had a

Portuguese Catholic heritage
Small minority of whites
Liberal set of laws concerning manumission
Large number of freed slaves
Shortage of people in the skilled crafts and trades

Question: The use of quotation marks around the word “place” suggests that the author intended to convey which of the following?

An ambivalent attitude toward the city of New Orleans
A negative attitude toward the role of race in determining status in the United States
A critical comment about the maltreatment of persons of mixed race in the United States
A double meaning, indicating both a social status and a physical location
An ambiguity, referring to either the role persons of mixed race actually played, or the role they were assigned by the society

Question: With which of the following statements regarding human behavior would the author of the passage be most likely to agree?

Only a fool or a political candidate would sing very loudly the glories of the institutions of Western culture.
Contact sports—displacements of our abiding impulses to kill—speak of essential human behavior more truthfully than all the theories of psychologists and historians.
Family, church, political party: these are the strong foundations of history and human behavior.
Money and its pursuit: an exploration of that theme will chart accurately the development of civilizations and the determinants of human behavior.
The circumstances in which humans find themselves—more than treasured beliefs or legal prescriptions—mold human behavior.

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