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Tones of the Passages in Reading Comprehension for CAT Exam

tone of RC passage

How to identify author’s tone or tone of the RC passage?

Look for the author’s participation

Authors write things for a variety of reasons. They may just write to report, simply putting down what they take to be the facts, giving no indication of their own feelings, either positive or negative, about those facts. Or they may set down what someone else has reported as fact, without giving any indication of how that person feels about them or how they themselves feel about them.

But often authors write with other purposes in mind. For example, they may write to persuade the reader of the merits of some position, in which case they typically write in such a way that the reader can tell that they have positive feelings with respect to that position.

By contrast, they may write to warn the reader that a view has no merit, in which case they often make evaluative comments that allow the reader to infer what their attitude toward the matter is. Thus, one feature of a text that careful readers pay attention to is whether the author, by taking a certain tone, or by certain word choices, reveals any attitude other than bland neutrality toward the material he or she is presenting.

Also of interest is whether any of the people mentioned by the author in the passage are presented as having any particular attitude toward anything that figures in the passage. These things are potentially important in evaluating what has been read. For example, if an author’s attitude is one of boundless enthusiasm, a careful reader might take what that author says with a grain of salt.

Where to find the author’s tone?

In the CAT Reading Comprehension section, you will encounter questions that ask directly about the author’s attitude or the author’s tone, or the attitude of people that the author discusses. Another kind of question may ask you to consider words or phrases that appear in the passage and to identify those that indicate the attitude of the author, or of people mentioned in the passage, toward some specific thing that is discussed in the passage.

When you are dealing with a question that asks directly about attitude, you should assess the passage with an eye to whether it contains indicators of tone. For example, sometimes an initially positive tone is tempered later by an expression of doubts; or an initially rather dismissive tone might be moderated later by a grudging admission of something worthwhile.

The description of the author’s attitude overall will reflect this and you should choose among the answer choices accordingly. An example will illustrate this point.

Tone of RC passage example:

Question: The attitude of the author of the passage toward the book “The Strange Career of Jim Crow” is best described as one of

  1. qualified approbation
  2. implied skepticism
  3. pointed criticism
  4. fervent advocacy

The hint to the right answer is given in the last paragraph of the passage:

Martin Luther King, Jr., testified to the profound effect of “The Strange Career of Jim Crow” on the civil rights movement by praising the book and quoting it frequently.

The lines above have abundant evidence of the author’s attitude toward the book “The Strange Career of Jim Crow”. Based on this evidence, we can shortlist option A, which suggests a positive attitude.

Thus we see that questions on the tone of the passage or the author can be answered by finding evidence or reference in the passage that suggests or gives an explicit hint at the right answer.

List of Tones for RC Passages

Some of the most common types of RC tones that I have come across are listed in the table below:

Possible toneMeaning of the word
AcerbicHarsh/ severe; bitter
AggressiveForceful; tending towards unprovoked offensiveness
ApatheticEmotionless; not interested/ concerned; indifferent; unresponsive
ApologeticExpressing remorse, regret, sorrow for having failed, injured, insulted or wronged another
BelligerentAggressively hostile; bellicose
BiasedFavouring one thing/person/group over another for personal reasons.
CausticBiting; acerbic
CommiseratingFeeling/ expressing sorrow for; empathizing with; pity
CondescendingPatronizing; showing/implying patronising descent from dignity/ superiority
ContemptuousExpressing contempt/ disdain
Cynicaldisplaying a belief that people are always self-seeking and never altruistic in their actions
DerisiveUnkind and displaying contempt
DisparagingSpeak slightingly; depreciating; belittling
DogmaticAsserting opinions in an arrogant manner; imperious; dictatorial
EmotionalEasily affected by feelings actuated by experiencing love, hate, fear and the like
EthicalDealing with principles of morality; honest; righteous
EuphemisticSubstitution of mild, indirect or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh or blunt
GrandioseMore complicated/ elaborated than necessary; pompous
HumanisticEvincing keen interest in human affairs, nature, welfare, values
HumourousFunny and amusing
IntrospectiveConsider one’s own internal state of feelings
IncendiaryCausing strong feelings
LaudatoryPraising; extolling; applauding
MotivatingImpelling; inciting
ObsequiousFawning; showing servile complaisance; flattering; deferent
PedestrianLacking vitality, imagination, distinction
PopulistEgalitarian; pertaining to the characteristics of common people/ working class
ProvocativeInciting; stimulating; irritating; vexing
RomanticFanciful; impractical; unrealistic; extravagant; exaggerated
SarcasticHarsh, bitter derision; taunting; sneering; cutting remarks
SatiricalIronical; taunting; human folly held up to scorn/ derision/ ridicule
SpeculativeTheoretical rather than practical; thoughtful; reflective; hypothetical
TechnicalUsing terminology or treating subject matter in a manner peculiar to a particular field, as a writer or a book
VitriolicFull of anger and hatred
VituperativeCruel and angry criticism

List of Articles on CAT Verbal Ability

Previous Years CAT RC Passages PDF

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