In this final post of this series, we will solve the two remaining passages and fine-tune the methods discussed so far.
What if there is only one paragraph?
The GMAT has over the years consistently had two long and two short passages — one para passages — in its Verbal Reasoning section.
The single paragraph RC has never appeared in the Verbal Ability section of the CAT — barring the sole passage in last year’s second slot. Even Slot 1 did not have one. Suffice to say that it seems to be by accident rather than by design.
Typewriters are the epitome of a technology that has been comprehensively rendered obsolete by the digital age. The ink comes off the ribbon, they weigh a ton, and second thoughts are a disaster. But they are also personal, portable and, above all, private. Type a document and lock it away and more or less the only way anyone else can get it is if you give it to them. That is why the Russians have decided to go back to typewriters in some government offices, and why in the US, some departments have never abandoned them. Yet it is not just their resistance to algorithms and secret surveillance that keeps typewriter production lines – well one, at least – in business (the last British one closed a year ago). Nor is it only the nostalgic appeal of the metal body and the stout well-defined keys that make them popular on eBay. A typewriter demands something particular: attentiveness. By the time the paper is loaded, the ribbon tightened, the carriage returned, the spacing and the margins set, there’s a big premium on hitting the right key. That means sorting out ideas, pulling together a kind of order and organising details before actually striking off. There can be no thinking on screen with a typewriter. Nor are there any easy distractions. No online shopping. No urgent emails. No Twitter. No need even for electricity – perfect for writing in a remote hideaway. The thinking process is accompanied by the encouraging clang of keys, and the ratchet of the carriage return. Ping!
Which one of the following best describes what the passage is trying to do?
A) It describes why people continue to use typewriters even in the digital age.
D) It shows that computers offer fewer options than typewriters.
According to the passage, some governments still use typewriters because:
A) they do not want to abandon old technologies that may be useful in the future.
D) they can control who reads the document.
The writer praises typewriters for all the following reasons EXCEPT
A) Unlike computers, they can only be used for typing.
Now that there is only one paragraph to read, we know there is only one way to go — from the passage to the questions.
Once you go to the questions, it becomes important, as discussed in the previous post, to look at the sequence in which you have to attempt the questions. It is always advisable to finish off the detail questions first and then proceed to the summary questions.
The first question is a summary question and hence needs to be left for later.
Question 20 is a detail question that is very direct and I don’t need to solve it for you to arrive at the answer as option D.
Did you notice the paraphrasing? The passage says the only way anyone can get a typewritten document is if you hand it over, which is why some governments have reverted to them.
This has been paraphrased to — they can control who reads the document.
Very often test-takers are subconsciously looking for the same wording to be used in the options, as in the passage.
This expectation tends to have two negative fallouts.
Firstly, they fall for trap options that use the phrasing from the passage but tweak the logic. Secondly, they tend to, at first glance, quickly reject the correct option since it uses different words. So ensure that you are reading for logic and not for phrasing.
Question 21 takes paraphrasing to a new level and hence can become tricky. But any tricky question can become easy if you go by rejection.
- The author clearly says that when typing there are no distractions and lists them out. This has been paraphrased to — they can’t be used for anything other than typing. So this can be rejected since it is an EXCEPT question.
- Option B has been clearly stated that since you can’t revise you have to be attentive to what you type. So this can be rejected since it is an EXCEPT question.
- Option C is tricky. Does the author praise the noisiness of typewriters? The word/phrase that is used is “encouraging clang”, clang does mean noise and the author finds the clang encouraging. The author lists this as one of the things to like about typewriters. So this can be rejected since it is an EXCEPT question.
- The author does not mention the messiness of typewriters as one of the reasons for liking it. So this has to be your answer.
Now we can go to the summary question, which is the primary purpose question.
- Option A cannot be rejected since the passage talks about how some governments are using it for security reasons and then lists all the other positive things about typewriters
- Option B is incorrect since the author makes no claim that typewriters will continue to be used
- Option C is close but it talks only about the personal benefits and not the security benefits
- Option D is incorrect since the passage is not about computers versus typewriters
So by rejection, you are again left with the right option, in this case, A.
If you read this passage in under 3 minutes and answered the other two questions in about 4 minutes, you will have 6 marks in about 7 minutes. If you found yourself even remotely struggling with this question then you should have asked yourself whether you want to waste time over this.
Despite their fierce reputation. Vikings may not have always been the plunderers and pillagers popular culture imagines them to be. In fact, they got their start trading in northern European markets, researchers suggest.
Combs carved from animal antlers, as well as comb manufacturing waste and raw antler material has turned up at three archaeological sites in Denmark, including a medieval marketplace in the city of Ribe. A team of researchers from Denmark and the U.K. hoped to identify the species of animal to which the antlers once belonged by analyzing collagen proteins in the samples and comparing them across the animal kingdom, Laura Geggel reports for LiveScience. Somewhat surprisingly, molecular analysis of the artifacts revealed that some combs and other material had been carved from reindeer antlers. G iven that reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) don’t live in Denmark, the researchers posit that it arrived on Viking ships from Norway. Antler craftsmanship, in the form of decorative combs, was part of Viking culture. Such combs served as symbols of good health, Geggel writes. The fact that the animals shed their antlers also made them easy to collect from the large herds that inhabited Norway.
Since the artifacts were found in marketplace areas at each site it’s more likely that the Norsemen came to trade rather than pillage. Most of the artifacts also date to the 780s, but some are as old as 725. That predates the beginning of Viking raids on Great Britain by about 70 years. (Traditionally, the so-called “Viking Age” began with these raids in 793 and ended with the Norman conquest of Great Britain in 1066.) Archaeologists had suspected that the Vikings had experience with long maritime voyages [that] might have preceded their raiding days. Beyond Norway, these combs would have been a popular industry in Scandinavia as well. It’s possible that the antler combs represent a larger trade network, where the Norsemen supplied raw material to craftsmen in Denmark and elsewhere.
Once you read the first two paragraphs you will see there are no questions on both of them.
The first specific question you will encounter will be question 23 which is based on the third paragraph.
This question is like a CR question and the answer to this is option D. The presence of artifacts 70 years before the raids is used to highlight the argument that trade relations began before the raids.
We are now left with question 24 and question 22.
As discussed, always move from detail to summary questions and you should approach the last question.
Option A is not mentioned and hence is the answer since this is an EXCEPT question. The passage says that Vikings might have brought raw material to make combs from Norway to Denmark. The question-maker cleverly slips in the reindeer instead of raw material.
The summary question again is best solved by elimination.
The passage is about the image of Vikings — they are not the fierce pillagers that they are considered to be.
Based on this you can eliminate options A and B since they do not mention or refer to the popular the perception, image or view of Vikings
Between C and D, the latter says — besides being violent pillagers. This means that the author supports or acknowledges the fact that Vikings were violent pillagers. The author nowhere states this.
Whenever you are caught between two options, always look for ways to reject.
Is this all there is to it?
The three posts might make it seem as if RC on the CAT is terribly easy. They might make you wonder if it is so simple, then why do I keep scoring such low percentiles on the SimCATs. Are IMS SimCATs unreasonably tough? But if they are easy then, those who are currently scoring higher than you will score still higher than you and in percentile terms, things will not change.
Well, this is what I have to say about it.
IMS SimCATs are made deliberately tougher for two reasons.
Exam pressure or pressure of the D-Day makes easy questions seem medium and medium ones seem difficult.
So even if you encounter moderate stuff on CAT day, it will seem tougher due to exam pressure. We might as well give you that experience beforehand.
One thing that is for certain though is the language and complexity of arguments on the CAT RC passages will be easier than that on the SimCATs.
But no, this is not all that is there to it. The para to questions approach will increase your accuracy on detail questions and improve your ability to navigate through the passage. But it still does not cover the big skill required to master RC.
One of the skills you need to master is to never lose track of what the passage is primarily about. This you should be able to spot in the first two paragraphs.
The really good readers
- subconsciously follow the thread of the argument as it builds up to, supports or elaborates on the main argument
- they do not need to take notes to do the same
- know that all sentences are not equal and vary their reading speed accordingly
- they do not read all passages and parts of the passages at the same speed and vary it according to the content
Writing and making notes can make the whole process of solving an RC way longer than it should be. What is a better way?
Pause after each paragraph and ask yourself what is the main idea that this passage is obsessed with and plant that into your head using the fewest words possible.
If you can master this skill and execute the paragraphs to question strategy then you will see your RC scores shoot up.
And don’t forget the cardinal rules — rejection over selection, and if you can’t make up your mind between two options walk away before it is too late.