Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reading Comprehension Exercise

Read the following Passages and answer the questions following the passages. Post your answers in the comments and I'll give the correct answers everyday midnight.

(This passage was written in 1978.)

Recent years have brought minority-owned businesses in the United States unprecedented opportunities—as well as new and significant risks. Civil rights activists have long argued that one of the principal reasons why Blacks, Hispanics, and other minority groups have difficulty establishing themselves in business is that they lack access to the sizable orders and subcontracts that are generated by large companies. Now Congress, in apparent agreement, has required by law that businesses awarded federal contracts of more than $500,000 do their best to find minority subcontractors and record their efforts to do so on forms filed with the government. Indeed, some federal and local agencies have gone so far as to set specific percentage goals for apportioning parts of public works contracts to minority enterprises.

Corporate response appears to have been substantial. According to figures collected in 1977, the total of corporate contracts with minority businesses rose from $77 million in 1972 to $1.1 billion in 1977. The projected total of corporate contracts with minority businesses for the early 1980’s is estimated to be over 53 billion per year with no letup anticipated in the next decade. Promising as it is for minority businesses, this increased patronage poses dangers for them, too. First, minority firms risk expanding too fast and overextending themselves financially, since most are small concerns and, unlike large businesses, they often need to make substantial investments in new plants, staff, equipment, and the like in order to perform work subcontracted to them. If, thereafter, their subcontracts are for some reason reduced, such firms can face potentially crippling fixed expenses. The world of corporate purchasing can be frustrating for small entrepreneurs who get requests for elaborate formal estimates and bids. Both consume valuable time and resources, and a small company’s efforts must soon result in orders, or both the morale and the financial health of the business will suffer.

A second risk is that White-owned companies may seek to cash in on the increasing apportionments through formation of joint ventures with minority-owned concerns. Of course, in many instances there are legitimate reasons for joint ventures; clearly, White and minority enterprises can team up (team up: v.(使)结成一队, 合作, 协作) to acquire business that neither could acquire alone. But civil rights groups and minority business owners have complained to Congress about minorities being set up as “fronts” with White backing, rather than being accepted as full partners in legitimate joint ventures.

Third, a minority enterprise that secures the business of one large corporate customer often runs the danger of becoming—and remaining—dependent. Even in the best of circumstances, fierce competition from larger, more established companies makes it difficult for small concerns to broaden their customer bases: when such firms have nearly guaranteed orders from a single corporate benefactor, they may truly have to struggle against complacency arising from their current success.

1. The primary purpose of the passage is to

(A) present a commonplace idea and its inaccuracies

(B) describe a situation and its potential drawbacks

(C) propose a temporary solution to a problem

(D) analyze a frequent source of disagreementB

(E) explore the implications of a finding

2. The passage supplies information that would answer which of the following questions?

(A) What federal agencies have set percentage goals for the use of minority-owned businesses in public works contracts?

(B) To which government agencies must businesses awarded federal contracts report their efforts to find minority subcontractors?

(C) How widespread is the use of minority-owned concerns as “fronts” by White backers seeking to obtain subcontracts?

(D) How many more minority-owned businesses were there in 1977 than in 1972?E

(E) What is one set of conditions under which a small business might find itself financially overextended?

3. According to the passage, civil rights activists maintain that one disadvantage under which minority-owned businesses have traditionally had to labor (to suffer from some disadvantage or distress “labor under a delusion”) is that they have

(A) been especially vulnerable to governmental mismanagement of the economy

(B) been denied bank loans at rates comparable to those afforded larger competitors

(C) not had sufficient opportunity to secure business created by large corporations

(D) not been able to advertise in those media that reach large numbers of potential customersC

(E) not had adequate representation in the centers of government power

4. The passage suggests that the failure of a large business to have its bids for subcontracts result quickly in orders might cause it to

(A) experience frustration but not serious financial harm

(B) face potentially crippling fixed expenses

(C) have to record its efforts on forms filed with the government

(D) increase its spending with minority subcontractorsA

(E) revise its procedure for making bids for federal contracts and subcontracts

5. The author implies that a minority-owned concern that does the greater part of its business with one large corporate customer should

(A) avoid competition with larger, more established concerns by not expanding

(B) concentrate on securing even more business from that corporation

(C) try to expand its customer base to avoid becoming dependent on the corporation

(D) pass on some of the work to be done for the corporation to other minority-owned concernsC

(E) use its influence with the corporation to promote subcontracting with other minority concerns

6. It can be inferred from the passage that, compared with the requirements of law, the percentage goals set by “some federal and local agencies” (lines 14-15) are

(A) more popular with large corporations

(B) more specific

(C) less controversial

(D) less expensive to enforceB

(E) easier to comply with

7. Which of the following, if true, would most weaken the author’s assertion that, in the 1970’s, corporate response to federal requirements lines (18-19) was substantial

(A) Corporate contracts with minority-owned businesses totaled $2 billion in 1979.

(B) Between 1970 and 1972, corporate contracts with minority-owned businesses declined by 25 percent.

(C) The figures collected in 1977 underrepresented the extent of corporate contracts with minority-owned businesses.

(D) The estimate of corporate spending with minority-owned businesses in 1980 is approximately $10 million too high.E

(E) The $1.1 billion represented the same percentage of total corporate spending in 1977 as did $77 million in 1972.

8. The author would most likely agree with which of the following statements about corporate response to working with minority subcontractors?

(A) Annoyed by the proliferation of “front” organizations, corporations are likely to reduce their efforts to work with minority-owned subcontractors in the near future.

(B) Although corporations showed considerable interest in working with minority businesses in the 1970’s, their aversion to government paperwork made them reluctant to pursue many government contracts.

(C) The significant response of corporations in the 1970’s is likely to be sustained and conceivably be increased throughout the 1980’s.

(D) Although corporations are eager to cooperate with minority-owned businesses, a shortage of capital in the 1970’s made substantial response impossible.C

(E) The enormous corporate response has all but eliminated the dangers of over-expansion that used to plague small minority-owned businesses.

Passage 2

Woodrow Wilson was referring to the liberal idea of the economic market when he said that the free enterprise system is the most efficient economic system. Maximum freedom means maximum productiveness; our “openness” is to be the measure of our stability. Fascination with this ideal has made Americans defy the “Old World” categories of settled possessiveness versus unsettling deprivation, the cupidity of retention versus the cupidity of seizure, a “status quo” defended or attacked. The United States, it was believed, had no status quo ante. Our only “station” was the turning of a stationary wheel, spinning faster and faster. We did not base our system on property but opportunity—which meant we based it not on stability but on mobility. The more things changed, that is, the more rapidly the wheel turned, the steadier we would be. The conventional picture of class politics is composed of the Haves, who want a stability to keep what they have, and the Have-Nots, who want (a touch of: 有一a touch of instability and change in which to scramble for the things they have not. But Americans imagined a condition in which speculators, self-makers, runners are always using the new opportunities given by our land. These economic leaders (front-runners) would thus be mainly agents of change. The nonstarters were considered the ones who wanted stability, a strong referee to give them some position in the race, a regulative hand to calm manic speculation; an authority that can call things to a halt, begin things again from compensatorily staggered “starting lines.”

Reform” in America has been sterile because it can imagine no change except through the extension of this metaphor of a race, wider inclusion of competitors, “a piece of the action,” as it were, for the disenfranchised. There is no attempt to call off the race. Since our only stability is change, America seems not to honor the quiet work that achieves social interdependence and stability. There is, in our legends, no heroism of the office clerk , no stable industrial work force of the people who actually make the system work. There is no pride in being an employee (Wilson asked for a return to the time when everyone was an employer). There has been no boasting about our social workers—they are merely signs of the system’s failure, of opportunity denied or not taken, of things to be eliminated. We have no pride in our growing interdependence, in the fact that our system can serve others, that we are able to help those in need; empty boasts from the past make us ashamed of our present achievements, make us try to forget or deny them, move away from them. There is no honor but in the wonderland (wonderland: n.仙境, 奇境) race we must all run, all trying to win, none winning in the end (for there is no end).

1. The primary purpose of the passage is to

(A) criticize the inflexibility of American economic mythology

(B) contrast “Old World” and “New World” economic ideologies

(C) challenge the integrity of traditional political leaders

(D) champion those Americans whom the author deems to be neglectedA

(E) suggest a substitute for the traditional metaphor of a race

2. According to the passage, “Old World” values were based on

(A) ability

(B) property

(C) family connections

(D) guild hierarchiesB

(E) education

3. In the context of the author’s discussion of regulating change, which of the following could be most probably regarded as a “strong referee” in the United States?

(A) A school principal

(B) A political theorist

(C) A federal court judge

(D) A social workerC

(E) A government inspector

4. The author sets off (set off: to set apart: make distinct or outstanding the word “Reform” with quotation marks in order to

(A) emphasize its departure from the concept of settled possessiveness

(B) show his support for a systematic program of change

(C) underscore the flexibility and even amorphousness of United States society

(D) indicate that the term was one of Wilson’s favoritesE

(E) assert that reform in the United States has not been fundamental

5. It can be inferred from the passage that the author most probably thinks that giving the disenfranchised “a piece of the action” is

(A) a compassionate, if misdirected, legislative measure

(B) an example of Americans’ resistance to profound social change

(C) an innovative program for genuine social reform

(D) a monument to the efforts of industrial reformersB

(E) a surprisingly “Old World” remedy for social ills

6. Which of the following metaphors could the author most appropriately use to summarize his own assessment of the American economic system ?

(A) A windmill

(B) A waterfall

(C) A treadmill

(D) A gyroscopeC

(E) A bellows

7. It can be inferred from the passage that Woodrow Wilson’s ideas about the economic market

(A) encouraged those who “make the system work”

(B) perpetuated traditional legends about America

(C) revealed the prejudices of a man born wealthy

(D) foreshadowed the stock market crash of 1929B

(E) began a tradition of presidential proclamations on economics

8. The passage contains information that would answer which of the following questions?

I. What techniques have industrialists used to manipulate a free market?

II. In what ways are “New World” and “Old World” economic policies similar?

III. Has economic policy in the United States tended to reward independent action?

(A) I only

(B) II only

(C) III only

(D) I and II onlyC

(E) II and III only

9. Which of the following best expresses the author’s main point?

(A) Americans’ pride in their jobs continues to give them stamina today.

(B) The absence of a status quo ante has undermined United States economic structure.

(C) The free enterprise system has been only a useless concept in the United States.

(D) The myth of the American free enterprise system is seriously flawed.D

(E) Fascination with the ideal of “openness” has made Americans a progressive people.

Answers of above passages

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