CAT Questions | Reading comprehension on Humanities

Reading comprehensions form an important part in the entrance exams for PGDM/MBA course as they form 50% of all the questions of Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension in most exams. They are included in the “VARC” section of CAT question paper that translates to Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension”. Apart from CAT, these questions also form a part of MBA/PGDM exams like XAT, SNAP, IIFT etc. Reading comprehension can cover many topics like History, Geography, Natural Sciences etc. Here, we will discuss the reading comprehensions on Humanities.

Below are the details about the concept for different competitive MBA exam:

CAT :

Reading Comprehension (Humanities)
YearNo of QuestionsGood attemptDifficulty
2019
Slot 153Moderate
Slot 251 to 2Difficult
     
2018
Slot 153Moderate
Slot 252 to 3Moderate
     
2017
Slot 153Moderate
Slot 252 to 3Difficult

XAT :

Reading Comprehension (Humanities)
YearNumber of QuestionsGood attemptDifficulty
201964 to 5Easy to Moderate
    
201874 to 5Moderate
    
201741 to 2Difficult

SNAP : 

 

Reading Comprehension (Humanities)
YearNumber of QuestionsGood attemptDifficulty
201931 to 2Moderate
    
2018
    
201762 to 3Difficult

Variety of Topics in this Chapter

The Reading Comprehension passages in CAT question paper includes humanities as a topic as well.

Humanities have a broad spectrum of topics from which one can expect the passage for CAT question paper. This may include topics from literature, philosophy, law, politics, religion, and art.

The passage from humanities usually requires thinking about what the author wants to convey. It might not be data-driven like in the case of economics or geography but requires attentiveness while reading.

It is always advisable to skim through the passage once to understand the basic story of the passage. One might skip the specifics in this chance. The next reading, when one is comfortable with the passage length and basic idea, should be in-depth.

If required, one can also read the questions on the passages beforehand which can help the student to navigate better.

 

Some Questions from Previous Papers

Some important questions on reading comprehension on economics from previous year papers are given below which can help in the preparation of CAT and similar exams. 

Passage:

Contemporary internet shopping conjures a perfect storm of choice anxiety. Research has consistently held that people who are presented with a few options make better, easier decisions than those presented with many……. Helping consumers figure out what to buy amid 

an endless sea of choice online has become a cottage industry unto itself. Many brands and retailers now wield marketing buzzwords such as curation, differentiation, and discovery as they attempt to sell an assortment of stuff targeted to their ideal customer. Companies find such shoppers through the data gold mine of digital advertising, which can catalogue people by gender, income level, personal interests, and more. Since Americans have lost the ability to sort through the sheer volume of the consumer choices available to them, a ghost now has to be in 

the retail machine, whether it’s an algorithm, an influencer, or some snazzy ad tech to help a product follow you around the internet. Indeed, choice fatigue is one reason so many people gravitate toward lifestyle influencers on Instagram—the relentlessly chic young moms and perpetually vacationing 20-somethings—who present an aspirational worldview, and then recommend the products and services that help achieve it. . . . 

For a relatively new class of consumer-products start-ups, there’s another method entirely. Instead of making sense of a sea of existing stuff, these companies claim to disrupt stuff as Americans know it. Casper (mattresses), Glossier (makeup), Away (suitcases), and many others have sprouted up to offer consumers freedom from choice: The companies have a few aesthetically pleasing and supposedly highly functional options, usually at mid-range prices. 

They’re selling nice things, but maybe more importantly, they’re selling confidence in those things and an ability to opt-out of the stuff rat race. . . . 

One-thousand-dollar mattresses and $300 suitcases might solve choice anxiety for a certain tier of consumer, but the companies that sell them, along with those that attempt to massage the larger stuff economy into something navigable, are still just working within a consumer market that’s broken in systemic ways. The presence of so much stuff in America might be more valuable if it were more evenly distributed, but stuff’s creators tend to focus their energy on those who already have plenty. As options have expanded for people with disposable income, the opportunity to buy even basic things such as fresh food or quality diapers has contracted for much of America’s lower classes. 

For start-ups that promise accessible simplicity, their very structure still might eventually push them toward overwhelming variety. Most of these companies are based on hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital, the investors of which tend to expect a steep growth rate that can’t be achieved by selling one great mattress or one great sneaker. Casper has expanded into bedroom furniture and bed linens. Glossier, after years of marketing itself as no-makeup makeup that requires little skill to apply, recently launched a full line of glittering colour cosmetics. There may be no way to opt-out of stuff by buying into the right thing.

 

Q1. Which one of the following best sums up the overall purpose of the examples of Casper and Glossier in the passage?

1. They are increasing the purchasing power of poor Americans 

2. They are facilitating a uniform distribution of commodities in the market

3. They are exceptions to a dominant trend in consumer markets 

4. They might transform into what they were exceptions to

 

Answer. 4

Explanation:

Casper and Glossier were exceptions to the internet shopping space in that they offered consumers freedom from choice by offering only a few items (refer paragraph 2). But they were eventually forced to offer a wider product catalogue because of pressures from investors who expected a steep growth rate that could not be met with only a few products. Thus, they were forced to change to offer a greater variety of products and eventually become like most other start-ups as highlighted in paragraph 1. Thus, they were at first exceptions but then became like other internet companies. This explanation points to option 4 as being the correct answer. Option 1 is incorrect. The passage mentions “poor Americans” only in the context of them not being catered to by internet start-up companies. Option 2 contradicts the assertion made in paragraph 3. Casper and Glossier, like most other start-ups, cater only to those with high disposal incomes. Option 3 is partly correct. Casper and Glossier were exceptions to the dominant trend in consumer markets. They offered few products and thus freedom from choice for the customer who was hitherto plagued with too many choices. But pressure from their investors eventually forced them to offer a wider product catalogue and now they are like any other internet start-up company. Option 3 does not mention this fact and can thus be eliminated. Hence, the correct answer is option 4. 

 

Q2. A new food brand plans to launch a series of products in the American market. Which of the following product plans is most likely to be supported by the author of the passage?

1. A range of 10 products priced between $5 and $10

2. A range of 25 products priced between $10 and $25

3. A range of 10 products priced between $10 and $25

4. A range of 25 products priced between $5 and $10

Answer. 1

Explanation:

The author is in favour of fewer choices for customers – refer to paragraph 1. Furthermore, in paragraph 3, he bemoans the fact that most start-ups are catering only to those with disposal incomes. The following extract from paragraph 3 confirms this assertion, “The presence of so much stuff in America might be more valuable if it were more evenly distributed, but stuff’s creators tend to focus their energy on those who already have plenty. As options have expanded for people with disposable income, the opportunity to buy even basic things such as fresh food or quality diapers has contracted for much of America’s lower classes.” This extract points to option 1 is the correct answer option. It offers the fewest choices at the lowest prices that would make these items affordable to the American lower classes. Options 2 and 4, with a wider choice of products, can be immediately eliminated. Option 3 has few items but at higher prices compared to that of option 1. Therefore, option 3 can also be eliminated. Hence, the correct answer is option 1. 

 

Q3. Based on the passage, all of the following can be inferred about consumer behaviour EXCEPT that:

1. Having too many product options can be overwhelming for consumers 

2. Consumers are susceptible to marketing images that they see on social media

3. Consumers tend to prefer products by start-ups over those by established companies 

4. Too many options have made it difficult for consumers to trust products

Answer. 3

 Explanation:

 We have to choose that option that cannot be inferred from the passage. Option 1 can be inferred from the passage. Refer to paragraph 1. The following extract, “Indeed, choice fatigue is one reason so many people gravitate toward lifestyle influencers on Instagram…” proves that option 2, too, can be inferred from the passage. Option 3 cannot be inferred from the passage. The passage is entirely about internet start-ups and is silent on established companies and the fact that consumers tend to prefer products from start-ups than from established companies has neither been mentioned nor can it be inferred from the passage. Option 4, too, can be inferred from the passage. Paragraph 2 mentions the relatively new breed of internet start-ups that sell few products and offer customers’ freedom from choice and this has resulted in consumers buying from them since “they’re selling a confidence in those things, and an ability to opt-out of the stuff rat race. . .” Hence, the correct answer is option 3. 

 

Q4. All of the following, IF TRUE, would weaken the author’s claims EXCEPT:

1. The annual sale of companies that hired lifestyle influencers on Instagram for marketing their products was 40% less than those that did not. 

2. The empowerment felt by purchasers in buying a commodity was directly proportional to the number of options they could choose from 

3. Product options increased market competition, bringing down the prices of commodities, which, in turn, increased purchasing power of the poor 

4. The annual sales growth of companies with fewer product options were higher than that of companies which curated their products for target consumers. 

Answer. 4

Explanation:

In paragraph 1, the author believes that internet start-ups that offer too many choices in terms of their product offerings were not a good or smart way of being successful. He praises internet start-ups which offer few product offerings or freedom from choice for the customer and feels it is a good move on the part of these companies. Therefore, growth in sales for internet start-ups with few product offerings is expected to be higher than those for start-ups with wide product offerings. This conforms with the assertion made in option 4, which is, that the annual sales growth of companies with fewer product options were higher than that of companies which curated their products for target consumers. Thus, option 4 does not weaken the author’s claim. In paragraph 1, the following extract, “Indeed, choice fatigue is one reason so many people gravitate toward lifestyle influencers on Instagram—the relentlessly chic young moms and perpetually vacationing 20-somethings—who present an aspirational worldview, and then recommend the products and services that help achieve it. . . .” directly contradicts option 1. Thus, option 1 is eliminated. 

Option 2, too, weakens the author’s claim. The following extract from paragraph 1, “Contemporary internet shopping conjures a perfect storm of choice anxiety. Research has consistently held that people who are presented with a few options make better, easier decisions than those presented with many…” combined with “Indeed, choice fatigue is one reason so many people gravitate toward lifestyle influencers on Instagram—the relentlessly chic young moms and perpetually vacationing 20-somethings—who present an aspirational worldview, and then recommend the products and services that help achieve it. . . .” proves that far from empowerment felt by purchasers in buying a commodity being directly proportional to the number of options they could choose from, too many choices cause choice anxiety and choice fatigue. Option 2 is also eliminated. If (many) product options increased competition, brought down the price of commodities and increased the purchasing power of the poor then this option will directly weaken the author’s claim that all product offerings do is to bewilder the customer. In paragraph 1, the author claims that the problem of internet shopping is far too many choices for the customer resulting in choice anxiety. Since option 3 mentions an advantage of this wide choice of product offerings it too weakens the author’s claim in the passage and can be eliminated. Hence, the correct answer is option 4. 

 

Q5. Which of the following hypothetical statements would add the least depth to the author’s prediction of the fate of start-ups offering few product options?

 

1. An exponential surge in their sales enables start-ups to meet their desired profit goals without expanding their product catalogue. 

2. Start-ups with few product options are no exception to the American consumer market that is deeply divided along class lines 

3. With the motive of promoting certain rival companies, the government decides to double the tax-rates for these start-ups. 

4. With Casper and Glossier venturing into new product ranges, their regular customers start losing trust in the companies and their products. 

Answer. 1

Explanation:

The question asks us to identify the option that offers “least depth” or contradicts the prediction of the fate of start-ups offering few product options. The fate of these new start-ups is to offer a greater variety (expand their product catalogue) to achieve steep growth rates as demanded by their investors. Option 1 contradicts this by stating that were there to be an exponential surge in sales among these start-ups that meet their desired profit goals without expanding their product catalogue then there would be no reason for these companies to expand their product catalogue or offer greater variety. Thus, option 1 is the correct answer. Option 2 is true according to the passage but does not answer the question of the author’s prediction of the fate of start-ups offering few product options. Nor does it contradict the passage as it is supposed to. Thus, option 2 is eliminated. If the government doubles the tax rates for these companies, then it is likely that their revenues will be adversely impacted but it too does not answer the prediction of start-ups with few product offerings having to expand their product catalogue. If they offer more products, these too would be taxed in the same proportion. Option 3 is also eliminated. Option 4 is also an incorrect answer. What is the fate of start-ups? They have to offer more products to satisfy the demands of investors. But what if these start-ups were to offer more products and start losing their regular customers? They have to do it nevertheless because their investors who have invested in their companies expect a steep growth rate and this steep growth rate cannot be achieved by offering only a few products. Thus, option 4 is also eliminated. Hence, the correct answer is option 1. 

 

 

How to deal with that topic preparation

For the understanding of the candidate, preparation has been divided into 3 levels:

Level 1:

  • The basic step towards understanding reading comprehension passages and solving them is through developing a reading habit. An avid reader always has a lesser difficulty of navigating through the whole passage without losing concentration. The candidate can read anything they like: Novel, newspaper, course books, movie reviews etc.
  • Start forming a summary of what you read and try understanding the idea behind what you have read. Try and analyse the mindset of the author and the inferences that he is aiming to make in the passage
  • At least read three to four articles per week so that you are comfortable with reading complex and lengthy paragraphs as well. This exercise will also cause you to develop the ability to skim through the article and find relevant facts easily

Level 2:

  • Once the reading habit is developed, start reading topics specific to the ones that could be asked in the CAT paper
  • Reading the editorials of the newspapers and business magazines can help the student to familiarize with the concepts on which the passages could be based
  • Students should also keep time to check the reading speed. A score of 300 words per minute is good but understanding while reading is also of prime importance and should not be neglected.

Level 3:

  • Once the students cross above two levels, they are ready to solve the CAT question papers from the previous years along with other exam papers like XAT, IIFT etc.
  • Also, it is very important to solve a variety of questions from various topics. Some passages would be of moderate difficulty and others might be extremely difficult. Hence, the more a student practices, the more will be his chances of scoring high
  • Try using the elimination strategy as explained above to solve the question effectively

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