In the previous post, we discussed a strategy to approach RCs and solved an actual passage from CAT 2017 Slot 2. In this post, we will take up a few more passages from the same slot and execute the strategy.
PASSAGE 2, 531 words
During the frigid season it’s often necessary to nestle under a blanket to try to stay warm. The temperature difference between the blanket and the air outside is so palpable that we often have trouble leaving our warm refuge. Many plants and animals similarly hunker down, relying on snow cover for safety from winter’s harsh conditions. The small area between the snowpack and the ground, called the subnivium might be the most important ecosystem that you have never heard of.
The subnivium is so well-insulated and stable that its temperature holds steady at around 32 degree Fahrenheit. Although that might still sound cold, a constant temperature of 32 degree Fahrenheit can often be 30 to 40 degrees warmer than the air temperature during the peak of winter. Because of this large temperature difference, a wide variety of species depend on the subnivium for winter protection.
For many organisms living in temperate and Arctic regions, the difference between being under the snow or outside it is a matter of life and death. Consequently, disruptions to the subnivium brought about by climate change will affect everything from population dynamics to nutrient cycling through the ecosystem.
The formation and stability of the subnivium requires more than a few flurries. Winter ecologists have suggested that eight inches of snow is necessary to develop a stable layer of insulation. Depth is not the only factor, however. More accurately, the stability of the subnivium depends on the interaction between snow depth and snow density. Imagine being under a stack of blankets that are all flattened and pressed together. When compressed, the blankets essentially form one compacted layer. In contrast, when they are lightly placed on top of one another, their insulative capacity increases because the air pockets between them trap heat. Greater depths of low-density snow are therefore better at insulating the ground.
Both depth and density of snow are sensitive to temperature. Scientists are now beginning to explore how climate change will affect the subnivium, as well as the species that depend on it. At first glance, warmer winters seem beneficial for species have difficulty surviving subzero temperatures; however, as with most ecological phenomena, the consequences are not so straightforward. Research has shown that the snow season (the period when snow is more likely than rain) has become shorter since 1970. When rain falls on snow, it increases the density of the snow and reduces its insulative capacity. Therefore, even though winters are expected to become warmer overall from future climate change, the subnivium will tend to become colder and more variable with less protection from the above-ground temperatures.
The effects of a colder subnivium are complex. For example, shrubs such as crowberry and alpine azalea that grow along the forest floor tend to block the wind and so retain higher depths of snow around them. This captured snow helps to keep soils insulated and in turn increases plant decomposition and nutrient release. In field experiments, researchers removed a portion of the snow cover to investigate the importance of the subnivium’s insulation. They found that soil frost in the snow-free area resulted in damage to plant roots and sometimes even the death of the plant.
7. The purpose of this passage is to
- introduce readers to a relatively unknown ecosystem: the subnivium
- explain how the subnivium works to provide shelter and food to several species.
- outline the effects of climate change on the subnivium.
- draw an analogy between the effect of blankets on humans and of snow cover on species living in the subnivium.
8. All of the following statements are true EXCEPT
- Snow depth and snow density both influence the stability of the subnivium.
- Climate change has some positive effects on the subnivium.
- The subnivium maintains a steady temperature that can be 30 to 40 degrees warmer than the winter air temperature.
- Researchers have established the adverse effects of dwindling snow cover on the subnivium.
9 . Based on this extract, the author would support which one of the following actions?
- The use of snow machines in winter to ensure snow cover of at least eight inches.
- Government action to curb climate change.
- Adding nutrients to the soil in winter.
- Planting more shrubs in areas of the short snow season.
10 . In paragraph 6, the author provides examples of crowberry and alpine azalea to demonstrate that
- Despite frigid temperatures, several species survive in temperate and Arctic regions.
- Due to frigid temperatures in the temperate and Arctic regions, plant species that survive tend to be shrubs rather than trees.
- The crowberry and alpine azalea are abundant in temperate and Arctic regions.
- The stability of the subnivium depends on several interrelated factors, including shrubs on the forest floor.
11. Which one of the following statements can be inferred from the passage?
- In an ecosystem, altering any one element has a ripple effect on all others.
- Climate change affects temperate and Arctic regions more than equatorial or arid ones.
- A compact layer of wool is warmer than a similarly compact layer of goose down.
- The loss of the subnivium, while tragic, will affect only temperate and Arctic regions.
12 . In paragraph 1, the author uses blankets as a device to
- evoke the bitter cold of winter in the minds of readers.
- explain how blankets work to keep us warm.
- draw an analogy between blankets and the snowpack.
- alert readers to the fatal effects of excessive exposure to the cold.
If necessary, be ready to change track
As outlined in the previous post, the best approach is to go from paragraph to questions. So what do you see as soon as you move to the questions after reading the first paragraph? The first three questions are not related to the first paragraph and also not related to any specific paragraph.
Does this is mean that you will abandon the whole approach just because it does not apply to one passage? Absolutely not. Go ahead and look at the rest of the questions
The last question is related to Paragraph 1 and is a free gift.
Why does the author give the example of blankets?
To show that snowpack does for animals what blankets for human beings. The only option that has both subnivium and snowpack is option C!
Going through the questions you would have seen that the only other specific question is related to para 6, all the rest are based on the whole passage. So you can drop going from para to question until you reach para 6, which anyway is the last paragraph.
Since are no questions pertaining to a single paragraph, you are left with no option but to read the whole passage before moving to the questions.
It does make sense to write short one-liners for each para — para content outline — as you move ahead just to keep track.
- What is subnivium?
- What does subnivium do?
- Why is subnivium important?
- How is subnivium formed?
- How climate change will affect negatively subnivium?
- Effects of a colder subnivium cue to climate change
To answer primary purpose questions it is always useful to look at the para content outline we made above and analyze the same — four paras about subnivium and two about the climate change and subnivium.
So the two protagonists of this passage are subnivium and climate change. The primary purpose thus must have both of these protagonists.
Options A, B, and D are ruled out, leaving us with only C.
This is a detail question and it makes sense to check the relevant para to verify the information. Everything EXCEPT B is stated. Another way to eliminate — can climate change ever have any positive effect in general? Hence, B!
Since the author is talking about the importance of subnivium and the large-scale impacts of climate change on the same, he or she would support steps to prevent climate change — all the rest of the options cure the symptoms but not the disease — making option B the right answer.
The beginning of the paragraph itself says that the effects of the colder subnivium are complex and then talks about the role played by shrubs and how the decomposition of shrubs releases nutrients.
The example of shrubs is used to support the argument that the effects of the colder subnivium are complex.
Only one option has both the words subnivium and shrubs in it, option D! The word complex has been paraphrased as several unrelated factors.
An inference question that is based on the whole passage. In case you forgot, always choose rejection over selection.
Option A cannot be rejected since it is says everything is inter-related, which is what the passage is saying — climate change to subnivium to shrubs to nutrients. So keep option A.
Option B is incorrect since we do not have any information about other regions.
Option C will be a rocket since you might be coming across the term since “goose down” for the first time! Move to the next option.
Option D cannot be inferred since there is no information about the effect on other regions.
You have two options A and C. Since you do not understand C and cannot reject A, you can either mark A or leave the question. Remember you have already got 15 marks in fairly quick time. So do you want to break your head or waste time over goose down? Nope.
The question-maker should have given some thought to the fact that the alternate meaning of the word “down” itself is something that many test-takers would have absolutely no clue about. Knowing the meaning of the word down when used a noun, should have no bearing in the determining reasoning skills for a career in management!
Down as a noun refers to the soft, fine, fluffy feathers which form the first covering of a young bird or an insulating layer below the contour feathers of an adult bird.
The fourth paragraph says that low-density snow is warmer. So which one is less dense wool or goose down? Goose down, and hence it will be warmer, making C incorrect and A correct.
PASSAGE 3, 526 words
The end of the age of the internal combustion engine is in sight. There are small signs everywhere: the shift to hybrid vehicles is already underway among manufacturers. Volvo has announced it will make no purely petrol-engined cars after 2019 and Tesla has just started selling its first electric car aimed squarely at the middle classes: the Tesla 3 sells for $35,000 in the US, and 400,000 people have put down a small, refundable deposit towards one. Several thousand have already taken delivery, and the company hopes to sell half a million more next year. This is a remarkable figure for a machine with a fairly short-range and a very limited number of specialized charging stations.
Some of it reflects the remarkable abilities of Elon Musk, the company’s founder, as a salesman, engineer, and a man able to get the most out his factory workers and the governments he deals with. Mr. Musk is selling a dream that the world wants to believe in.
This last may be the most important factor in the story. The private car is a device of immense practical help and economic significance but at the same time a theatre for myths of unattainable self-fulfillment. The one thing you will never see in a car advertisement is traffic, even though that is the element in which drivers spend their lives. Every single driver in a traffic jam is trying to escape from it, yet it is the inevitable consequence of mass car ownership.
The sleek and swift electric car is at one level merely the most contemporary fantasy of autonomy and power. But it might also disrupt our exterior landscapes nearly as much as the fossil fuel-engined car did in the last century. Electrical cars would, of course, pollute far less than fossil fuel-driven ones; instead of oil reserves, the rarest materials for batteries would make undeserving despots and their dynasties fantastically rich. Petrol stations would disappear. The air in cities would once more be breathable and their streets as quiet as those of Venice. This isn’t an unmixed good. Cars that were as silent as bicycles would still be as dangerous as they are now to anyone they hit without audible warning.
The dream goes further than that. The electric cars of the future will be so thoroughly equipped with sensors and reaction mechanisms that they will never hit anyone. Just as brakes don’t let you skid today, the steering wheel of tomorrow will swerve you away from danger before you have even noticed it.
This is where the fantasy of autonomy comes full circle. The logical outcome of cars which need no driver is that they will become cars which need no owner either. Instead, they will work as taxis do, summoned at will but only for the journeys we actually need. This the future towards which Uber is working. The ultimate development of the private car will be to reinvent public transport. Traffic jams will be abolished only when the private car becomes a public utility. What then will happen to our fantasies of independence? We’ll all have to take to electrically powered bicycles.
13. Which of the following statements best reflects the author’s argument?
- Hybrid and electric vehicles signal the end of the age of internal combustion engines
- Elon Musk is a remarkably gifted salesman.
- The private car represents an unattainable myth of independence.
- The future Uber car will be environmentally friendlier than even the Tesla.
14. The author points out all of the following about electric cars EXCEPT
- Their reliance on rare materials for batteries will support despotic rule.
- They will reduce air and noise pollution.
- They will not decrease the number of traffic jams.
- They will ultimately undermine rather than further driver autonomy.
15 . According to the author, the main reason for Tesla’s remarkable sales is that
- in the long run, the Tesla is more cost-effective than fossil fuel-driven cars.
- the US government has announced a tax subsidy for Tesla buyers.
- the company is rapidly upscaling the number of specialized charging stations for customer convenience.
- people believe in the autonomy represented by private cars.
16 . The author comes to the conclusion that
- car drivers will no longer own cars but will have to use public transport.
- cars will be controlled by technology that is more efficient than car drivers.
- car drivers dream of autonomy but the future may be public transport.
- electrically powered bicycles are the only way to achieve autonomy in transportation.
17. In paragraphs 5 and 6, the author provides the example of Uber to argue that
- in the future, electric cars will be equipped with mechanisms that prevent collisions.
- in the future, traffic jams will not exist.
- in the future, the private car will be transformed into a form of public transport.
- in the future, Uber rides will outstrip Tesla sales.
18 . In paragraph 6, the author mentions electrically powered bicycles to argue that
- Musk were a true visionary, he would invest funds in developing electric bicycles.
- our fantasies of autonomy might unexpectedly require us to consider electric bicycles.
- in terms of environmental friendliness and safety, electric bicycles rather than electric cars are the future.
- electric buses are the best form of public transport.
I had mentioned in the previous post that I have received a specific query quite a few times with respect to the paragraphs to question approach —
What if the answer to a question is spread out over two or three paragraphs and not a single one? And this is not the — all of the following are stated EXCEPT — type of question but a question specific to one argument.
The first paragraph and the question related to it is exactly this type. So let’s dive in.
As soon as you read the first paragraph and go to the questions you will come across question 15, which is related to it but will you find the answer in it?
The last sentence of this paragraph says — This is a remarkable figure for a machine with a fairly short-range and a very limited number of specialized charging stations.
The question — According to the author, the main reason for Tesla’s remarkable sales is that
The sentence says why the sales figure is remarkable.
The question is asking you for the reason behind this remarkable sales figure and not why the figure is remarkable.
To suggest an analogy, if the passage is saying that it is remarkable that such a young kid scored a century on debut, the question is asking how did he manage to score such a remarkable century.
So will you find the answer in paragraph 1? Nope.
You know that paragraph 2 will take this forward and give you reasons for this remarkable figure.
The first sentence itself states that the partial reason is this. The next sentence gives another reason.
At this juncture, since the reason is not yet clear, it makes sense to read the next paragraph. Even if you go to the question and read the options you will find that none of the options have been mentioned paras 1 and 2.
This states that the most important factor for the sales has been that Mr.Musk is selling a dream. What is the dream?
The private car is a theatre for myths of unattainable self-fulfillment.
If you go back to question 15 after reading this paragraph, you should be able to answer the question by elimination.
Options A, B, and C have nothing to do with a dream that Musk is selling! They can be eliminated. You can mark option D and change the answer if the subsequent paras counter it.
The first line of this para will validate your choice of option D — The sleek and swift electric car is at one level merely the most contemporary fantasy of autonomy and power.
Para 1 introduces the question, para 2 hints at the answer, para 3 gives you the answer through rejection and para 4 finally states the answer unequivocally.
This is what I meant by getting a big stride in to get right to the pitch of the ball. Commentators use this phrase most in case of batsmen playing spinners bowling into the rough
It is not a ball to go back to; if you do you will be rapped on the pads or be bowled by the sharp turn. If you go half forward, it will sneak through bat and pad or take an edge.
The only option is to get a big stride and smother the turn from the rough.
You will have to take that big stride, read three paras, and answer the one question.
These are the kind of question that really test your faith in the process and make minor adjustments. Based on one odd question, test-takers tend to question the whole process and go back to their old methods, which never did them any good in the first place.
By now you will have seen that the remaining questions are based on paras 5 and 6 and the passage as a whole. So no point going to the questions. Also, it makes sense to read 5 and 6 together since question 17 refers to both 5 & 6 and 18 to 6 only.
Paragraph 5 and 6
Question 17 asks you the reason the author uses the Uber example. The answer is fairly direct — The private car will become public transport as stated in option C.
Question 18 is also fairly easy — we have to buy bicycles to fulfill our fantasies of autonomy.
So you already have 9 marks by going para to questions. This will happen all the time when there are 6 questions, there will be at least 3 questions that refer to specific parts.
If you read the whole passage and then went to the questions you would have answered questions in a different sequence and that might not be a pleasant experience as you will discover.
What about the remaining questions?
What is really important when going back to the leftover questions is to pick out the detail questions first and not get stuck on Summary questions such as Central Idea, Primary Purpose and Main argument, which 9 out 10 times will end up being tricky, especially if the options are going to use only 5 to 6 words!
You are better off solving questions such as the passage states all the following EXCEPT
So you should start with question 14.
This is again a question that to be done using the method of rejection.
Options A and B are clearly stated. It is handling options C and D that gets tricky.
Option C is stated since the author says, in the last paragraph, that electric cars will not reduce traffic jams. It will result in fewer jams only when people shift from private transport to public transport. So option C is also true as per the passage. Once you have rejected three options you are left with the right option.
Some of you might still feel that option D is implied. Option D, like option C, is not a direct consequence of electric cars, it is an outcome that is possible only when there is a larger shift that happens of cars from private to public transport.
Now you have to approach the two summary questions 13 and 16.
At this point, you can take a call whether to further invest time to answer potentially tricky summary questions or collect 12 marks and exit.
The best way to answer question 13 is to take each option and see if it best reflects the passage as a whole.
What is the passage about if we want to do a para content outline?
- The remarkable sales of electric cars, especially Tesla
- The reason behind the sales of electric cars
- The reason behind the sales of electric cars
- The future imagined with implications of a switch to electric cars
- The future imagined with implications of a switch to electric cars
- The future imagined with implications of a switch to electric cars
The passage is about the reason behind the sales of the electric car and the future imagined with implications of a switch to electric cars.
- Option A refers only to the death of the IC engine and is hence incorrect.
- Option B is limited to Elon Musk
- Option C talks about the reason behind the sales of electric cars — the dream or myth of independence.
- Option D is not stated anywhere in the passage
Even if Option C is limited, by rejection it is still the best option you are left with.
The only question now left is Question 16.
This talks about a conclusion that the author has reached. Whenever it is a conclusion or inference one has to pay close attention to the wording — words like will happen, should happen etc.
Now, this is not the simplistic advice that is usually doled out — avoid extreme options. This assumes that authors will never advocate extreme options, which like all assumptions is just that — an assumption.
what I am asking you to do is to verify whether the author has made this specific claim or can it be inferred with certainty— this will happen or this should happen.
Coming to question 16,
- Option A says cars drivers will have to use public transport. The passage says that private cars might become redundant this does not mean that people have to use, they might no longer feel the need to use.
- Option B says that technology will be more efficient than drivers, the passage only says that technology can do things that are currently done by drivers not that it can do it better.
- Option C is mentioned in the last paragraph and also see that the option says may be the future, which is exactly what the passage does — imagine a possible future
- Option D can be eliminated since passage does not say that bicycles are the only way to autonomy
From both of these passages, you would have seen that going from para to questions can definitely increase your accuracy.
Another learning is that rejection is always the best option on CAT RCs when faced with a tough question.
And most importantly you have the option to leave a few questions having scored enough marks at a quick pace rather than get greedy and waste a lot of time with a few remaining tough ones.
In the next post, I will take up the two remaining passages from the second slot of CAT 2017.