UPSC IAS exam preparation - Basic of Comprehension - Lecture 4


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Basic of Comprehension

DIRECTIONS: Given below are passages followed by questions based on them. You are required to read the passages and answer the questions accordingly. 

Passage I

Also called the Macbeth complex, individuals with this complex experience guilt whenever they achieve success or come close to it. As a result of this feeling of guilt, they have an urge to undo or to reverse the behaviour that led to the success. 

Collins, Moore and Unwalla in their book ‘The Enterprising Man’ suggest that most entrepreneurs characteristically have unresolved conflicts with their fathers. According to them, most entrepreneurs have a combination of an emotionally close and rewarding mother and an absent or distant and passive father. The child feels that he has ‘won’ his mother’s love through his own achievement and has therefore displaced his father. This sometimes brings on strong guilt feelings in the boy, causing him to fear revenge from the father. 

Success on the job may then bring about anxiety produced by the subconscious fear of the father’s revenge. To avoid this anxiety and to assuage guilt when successful, the person seeks punishment and often brings about his own failure. Financial losses lead to relief from this anxiety and produce magnificent behaviour in the face of reversals. Such an individual’s career is often marked by a series of ups and downs. A frequent pattern is his striving hard to achieve a goal, but just as the goal is within reach, the person sabotages himself. His inability to tolerate success brings on deficient behaviour. 

One entrepreneur – the one discussed earlier who left his father’s company to start his own business, has clear unresolved issues with his father. Although a person of considerable ability, he has twice failed when success was within reach. Both times, just when it seemed that nothing could stop him, he made blunders that produced great losses. In the face of these financial losses he behaves magnificently, covering all his creditors who continue to have faith in him. However, to capitalise on his own ability and to justify his creditors’ faith in him, he has to first acknowledge and then resolve these subconscious, self-defeating impulses. He chooses to sabotage himself because of his inability to deal with success - for that might mean displacing his father.
Both fear of success and fear of failure are causes of self-inflicted failure. Coping with these, as with most inner conflicts, requires primarily, a self-awareness or insight. Insights - real, genuine glimpses of who we really are and why we behave in the ways we do, are reached only with difficulty and sometimes with real psychic pain. As Carl Rogers, the famed psychologist says in ‘Encounter Groups”, “...we expect the (awareness) process to be painful if it leads towards growth – in fact, believe all growth is turbulent and disturbing as well as satisfying”. Insights, although painful, are the building blocks of growth. Only when we are aware of what holds us back can we do something about overcoming those restrictions. In general, the fear of failure manifests in starting difficulties – beginning something. People with fear of failure tend to postpone, put off or otherwise avoid doing something until it reaches crisis proportions and then do too little, too late. Fear of success manifests in ending difficulties. These people start strong and pick up strength as they go along and then near the end, just when success is around the corner, make unpressurised, impulsive decisions that negate all the earlier hard work. Your pattern of behaviour can tell you whether you have either of these ‘fears’ and to what extent.
  • According to the passage, a person suffering from ‘Macbeth Complex’ 
  1. is basically pusillanimous.
  2. remains undaunted in the face of most severe crisis.
  3. shows a career graph marked by a series of ups and downs.
  4. is anxious to succeed.
  • What causes self-inflicted failure? 
  1. Macbeth Complex
  2. Ups and downs in one’s career
  3. Fear of success and fear of failure
  4. Starting and ending difficulties
  • What does the author of Encounter Groups say in the passage?
  1. Entrepreneurs have unresolved conflicts with their fathers.
  2. The awareness process is painful for all, all the time.
  3. The awareness process is painful if it leads to growth.
  4. Entrepreneurs usually suffer from the Macbeth Complex.
  • How does the entrepreneur about whom the passage has talked behave in the face of financial losses? 
  1. He turns cynical and distrustful.
  2. He covers all his creditors who continue to have faith in him.
  3. He postpones doing everything.
  4. He magnificently denies everything to himself.
  • What could be the a suitable title for the passage? 
  1. Self-inflicted Failure
  2. Macbeth Complex
  3. Fear of Success
  4. Fear of Failure
Passage II

One of the most dramatic scientific adventures of this century is the exploration of space. We are not content to understand that it is infinite. We want landmarks, so to speak platforms for our satellites, or mathematical slots into which we can aim our space vehicles. We want to comprehend space; to define it; in a sense to use it. The other great cosmic reality is time. We may speculate about either end of our earthly existence. We may trust in immortality in the face of incomprehensible death; but, as in our efforts to define space, we must in our definition of time start where we are. All we can know is that man’s average ration of time is three score and ten years. What we do with our known allotment is what concerns us. Of most immediate concern is what we do with the smaller blocks of time within our grasp: the next week, the next day, the next hour, this very hour.

We all share a common belief that life is too short to be little. Yet the greatest frustration is that so much of life is just that. Perhaps more significant and dramatic than space exploration is an investigation of our use of time. “What folly,” said John Howe, “to dread the thought of throwing away life at one, and yet have no regard to throwing it away by parcels and piecemeal.”

As with space, we are not content to comprehend time only as infinite. For many people the pressing questions is “How am I going to manage my time?” Very busy people with many external demands do not have time on their hands. The next hour is very well programmed. This programming or structuring, is what people try to achieve, and when they are unable to do it themselves, they look to others to structure time for them. “Tell me what to do.” “What shall I do next?” What we need is leadership.

Structure hunger is an outgrowth of recognition hunger, which grew from the initial stroking hunger. The small child has not the necessary comprehension of time to structure it but simply sets about things which feel good, moment to moment. As he gets a little older he learns to postpone gratifications for greater rewards: “I can go outside and make pies with Susie now, but if I wait twenty more minutes and keep my nice dress on, I can go to the shopping centre with Daddy.” This is basically a problem in structuring time. Which alternative will be more fun? Which will bring a greater reward? As we grow older we have more and more choices. However, the NOT OK position keeps us from exercising these choices as freely as we might think we do.

In our observation of transactions between people, we have been able to establish six types of experiences, which are inclusive of all transactions. They are withdrawal, rituals, activities, pastimes, games and intimacy.

Withdrawal although is not a transaction with another person, can take place, nonetheless, in a social setting. A man having lunch with a group of boring associates more concerned about their own stroking than his may withdraw into the fantasy of the night before when the stroking was good. His body is still at the lunch table, but he isn’t. Schoolrooms on a nice spring day are filled with bodies whose occupants are down at the swimming hole, shooting into space on a blazing rocket, or recalling how nice it was kissing under the tree. Whenever people withdraw in such fashion it is always certain that the withdrawal keeps them apart from those they are with bodily. This is fairly harmless unless it happens all the time, or unless your wife is talking to you.

A ritual is a socially programmed use of time where everybody agrees to do the same thing. It is safe, there is no commitment to or involvement with another person, the outcome is predictable, and it can be pleasant in so far as you are in step or doing the right thing. There are worship rituals, greeting rituals, cocktail party rituals, bedroom rituals. The ritual is designed to get a group of people through the hour without having to get close to anyone. They may but they don’t have to. It is more comfortable to go to a High Church Mass than to attend a revival service where one may be asked, “Are you saved, brother?” Sexual relations are less awkward in the dark for people for whom physical intimacy has no involvement at the level of personality. There is less chance for involvement in throwing a cocktail party than in having a dinner for six. There is little commitment, therefore little fulfillment. Rituals, like withdrawal, can keep us apart. 
An activity, according to Bernce, is a common convenient, comfortable and utilitarian method of structuring time by a project designed to deal with the material of external reality. Common activities are keeping business appointments, doing the dishes, building a house, writing a book, shovelling snow, and studying for exams. These activities, in that they are productive or creative, may be highly satisfying. They may also lead to satisfactions in the future in the activity and there is no need for intimate involvement with another person. There may be, but there does not have to be. Some people use their work to avoid intimacy, working at night at the office instead of coming home, devoting their lives to making a million instead of making friends. Activities, like withdrawal and rituals, can keep us apart. 
  • The author is least likely to agree with the statement that 
  1. Our immediate concern is what we do with our smaller blocks of time-the next week, the next day, the next hour etc.
  2. We all share the saying that life is too short to be little.
  3. Our greatest frustration is that life has become so hectic.
  4. An investigation of our use of time is more significant and dramatic than the space exploration.
  • “As with space, we are not content to comprehend time only as infinite.” Which of the following is true with respect to this statement? 
  1. For many people the important problem is that of time management.
  2. Many busy people with many external demands do not have time on their hands.
  3. The programming or structuring of time is difficult for many people, so they look to others, for leadership.
  4. All of the above.
  • All of the following are reasons for : “One of the most dramatic scientific adventures of this century is the exploration of space” except 
  1. we are not pleased to understand that it is infinite.
  2. we want landmarks, say platforms for our satellites or mathematical slots into which we can aim our space vehicles.
  3. we want to comprehend space.
  4. we want to define the comprehension of space in a sense to use it.
  • “Withdrawal though not a transaction with another person, can take place in a social setting”: Which of these is true with respect to this statement?
  1. A man having lunch with a group of boring companions more concerned about their own stroking than his, may withdraw into his own fantasy.
  2. A person withdrawing from his colleagues may be successful in hiding it.
  3. Whenever people withdraw into their fantasies they are mentally apart; it is harmless if it does not happen all the time. 
  4. All of the above
  • The author is most likely a 
  1. professional psychologist
  2. professional economist
  3. sociologist
  4. newspaper editor
Passage iii 

We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom ... symbolising an end as well as a beginning... signifying renewal as well as change for I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago. 

The world is very different now, for man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forbears fought are still at issue around the globe. . .the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hands of God. We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. 

Let the word go forth from this time and place ... to friend and foe alike ... that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans ... born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage ... and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed and to which we are committed today ... at home and around the world. 

Let every nation know ... whether it wishes us well or ill ... that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge ... and more... . 

... In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger; I do not shrink from this responsibility ... I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it ... and the glow from that fire can truly light the world... 
... And so, my fellow Americans ... ask not what your country can do for you ... ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world ... ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the Freedom of Man. 

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds; let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
  • The celebration as mentioned in the passage is the celebration of 
  1. freedom from oppression and foreign rule.
  2. the dawn of an era of renewal.
  3. the victory of the democratic party.
  4. None of the above
  • The passage refers to "God's work" as pertaining to 
  1. the work that every man must do to justify his livelihood.
  2. the work of priests and religion.
  3. the work of creating an equal and just world for every man to inhabit.
  4. granting liberty to man using the state as an instrument and means.
  • In what respect is the world today different from that of the yesteryears?
  1. It is today ruled by America, which was not so earlier.
  2. Mankind has the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and human life.
  3. Though mankind has developed ideals of progress and civilisation, yet it sticks to the ancient traditions.
  4. The world today offers more liberty and choices to the individual via the state.
  • The passage seems to be 
  1. a part of a speech given by a leader speaking to his people.
  2. a speech given by a quack.
  3. a humanitarian at a public speaking forum where he is trying to rekindle the spirit of equality and liberty amongst his countrymen.
  4. a self-help book promoted by the government in order to motivate its citizens.
  • The author would most certainly agree with the statement that
  1. it is imperative for man to justify his existence and prove his worthiness by carrying out the deeds as prescribed by God.
  2. The sole criterion of being a worthy citizen is when one indulges in self-less work of humanity.
  3. Human liberty as a fundamental right is still not pervasive in its ideal state across the globe.
  4. Human rights violation is rampant across the world and needs to be tackled as a universal phenomenon and not as isolated cases.

Groucho Marx once said that a black cat crossing one's path signifies that the animal is going somewhere. Yet around this innocuous movement of dark domesticated felines has grown a whole superstitious cowling of dread. Similarly – and, particularly of late – the disconnect between what we're scared of and what actually befalls us has widened into chasmic proportions – thanks in no small part due to vested interests with self-serving agendas stoking such artificial fears at the expense of reality. 

For example, to paraphrase Groucho, a racially profiled person crossing the path of an overweening Homeland Security official in an American airport these days only signifies that the man is going somewhere – notwithstanding his facial characteristics, demeanour or gear. Yet the all-embracing inclusive phobia of terrorism will have him segregated, strip searched and subject to third-degree interrogation before letting him board. Other passengers who are subsequently suckered into the same alarm syndrome then fail to take into account the fact that in spite of the horrific nature of the 9/11 events, air travel continues to remain the safest mode of transport, next only to rail. 

The problem is our intelligence is being so incessantly insulted by lopsided priorities, that our hierarchy of fears has become totally skewed in the process. Things we needn't necessarily be scared of, we are; whereas we neither take vigorous cognisance of nor act accordingly on things we normally should be alarmed about. For instance, the chances of being devoured by a man-eating carnivore while on safari in an African jungle is not only a no-brainier but, probabilistically speaking, substantially less than even marginal. On the other hand, the likelihood of being bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito and then succumbing to some virulent form of sub-Saharan malarial infection is a very real danger which most of us hardly heed till we're nearly felled. 

It's the same thing with the constantly looming threat of war that our governments would have us believe is an always impending if not forgone finale. Military build-ups, nuclear armament, exaggerated border events and shaky deterrence or peace talks only serve the ulterior purpose of foisting a fake sense of nationalism as a buffer against the fear of dying. Whereas the truth is that the leading cause of death in all developed and developing countries, including India, is cardiovascular disease, or CVD, followed by cerebral strokes and cancer. War doesn't even figure in the top 10. 

More importantly, the real fear here is CVD's on the rise. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was responsible for less than 10% of all deaths worldwide. Today, that figure is about 30%. Between 1990 and 2020, heart disease alone is anticipated to increase by 120% for women and 137% for men in developing countries, compared to age-related increases of between 30% and 60% in developed countries. Also, by the time heart problems are detected, the underlying cause is usually quite advanced, having progressed for decades. Not only that, according to WHO more than one billion adults worldwide are overweight and 300 million are clinically obese. Even more disturbing are increases in childhood obesity, leading to large increases in diabetes and hypertension. If these trends continue, mortality rates will increase in all countries in the coming years. 

In other words, people's fears don't need to be brushed aside as much as they need to be re-prioritised. If we can somehow come to realise that fears concerning terrorism, bombings and war are debilitating because they're largely fictitious, we could perhaps learn to relax, adopt a more laidback lifestyle and pay greater attention to addressing other more life-threatening conditions whose preventable risk factors are responsible for most of the burden of diseases. We could then begin to improve our lifestyles by paying attention to things like high BP, tobacco use, harmful and hazardous alcohol intake, high cholesterol, being overweight and physical inactivity.

Fear of the unknown may be greater than the fear of the known but it's also disproportionately so. The faster we can assert our intelligence instead, the faster will we be in a position to face the real issues we need to tackle.
  • As per the passage, what is the underlying similarity the author is trying to bring about in the feline and racially profiled person? 
  1. Both are conspicuous; the feline being dark and the racially profiled person with different physical characteristics.
  2. Both are crossing paths and are thereby marked as carriers of evil.
  3. Crossing path signifies that the creature is going somewhere.
  4. Both are harmful creatures whose presence is inauspicious and subjected to scrutiny.
  5. Both are harmless creatures but considered as evil and harmful, thereby subjected to scrutiny.
  • According to the passage, whom should we be more scared about: a man-eating carnivore or a disease-carrying mosquito? 
  1. The fear of being eaten by a man-eating carnivore is much more than the fear of being bitten by disease-carrying mosquito; but as the chances of the latter is much less than that of the former, one should be more scared of the former, which is equally fatal. 
  2. The fear of being eaten by a man-eating carnivore is much less than the fear of being bitten by disease-carrying mosquito; and as the chances of the former is also much more than that of the latter, one should be more scared of the former, which is equally fatal.
  3. The fear of being eaten by a man-eating carnivore is much more than the fear of being bitten by disease-carrying mosquito; but as the chances of the former is much less than that of the latter, one should be more scared of the latter, which is equally fatal.
  4. The fear of being eaten by a man-eating carnivore is much more than the fear of being bitten by disease-carrying mosquito; and as the chances of the former is also much more than that of the latter, one should be more scared of the former, which is equally fatal.
  5. The fear of being eaten by a man-eating carnivore is much less than the fear of being bitten by disease-carrying mosquito; but as the chances of the former is much less than that of the latter, one should be more scared of the latter, which is equally fatal.
  • What is the comparison drawn between war and CVDs? 
  1. Both war and CVD are fatalistic in nature and hence we are obsessed with them.
  2. We are more concerned about threat of war and its implications – which is very less likely to happen; whereas we should be more concerned about CVDs which are becoming the key cause of deaths all over the world.
  3. The probability of both is increasing day by day leading to added complexities in an already over-burdened lifestyle.
  4. We are more concerned about CVDs which are becoming the leading cause of death vis-à-vis less probability of war and its implications.
  5. We are more concerned about threat of war and its implications – which is more likely to happen and is becoming the leading cause of death; but we are also concerned about rise in number of deaths caused due to CVDs.
  • What is meant by 'Fear of the unknown may be greater than the fear of the known but it's also disproportionately so'? 
  1. Fear of unknown is fear of war, which is less in us; fear of known is rise in deaths due to CVDs, which is more in us; but these fears are unreasonable as probability of war is much less in comparison to the rise of CVDs.
  2. Fear of unknown is fear of war, which is less in us; fear of known is rise in deaths due to CVDs, which is more in us; but these fears are reasonable as probability of war is much less in comparison to the rise of CVDs.
  3. Fear of unknown is fear of war, which is more in us; fear of known is rise in deaths due to CVDs, which is less in us; but these fears are unreasonable as probability of war is much more as compared to the rise of CVDs.
  4. Fear of unknown is fear of war, which is more in us; fear of known is rise in deaths due to CVDs, which is less in us; but these fears are unreasonable as probability of war is much less in comparison to the rise of CVDs.
  5. Fear of unknown is fear of war, which is more in us; fear of known is rise in deaths due to CVDs, which is also more in us; but these fears are unreasonable as probability of war is much less in comparison to the rise of CVDs.
  • It can be inferred from the passage that 
  1. we tend to fear more what is media propagated rather than the real causes of ailments.
  2. we have a skewed sense of priorities that leads us to errant beliefs of imminent and potential danger.
  3. media propagated hype of war and terrorism has lead to an irrational fear of the unknown.
  4. CVDs need to be at the top of our priority list as they are on a steady rise for quite some years now.
  5. post 9/11 the racial segregation has multiplied to an irrational level revealing the true nature of our fears.
Passage V

The moment of raising capital is the moment you breathe life into the unborn child. It is a defining moment, one which will have a deep, cascading impact on many things downstream. Entrepreneurs get so caught up with first the idea of selling their dream and then the fact that someone is willing to put money into the dream, that they overlook one key dimension: the colour of money.

In today's world, there is more money chasing a few good ideas than the other way round. So, if you truly have a good idea and a team in place that will sweat it out, there is no dearth of capital. It is therefore critical that you make a careful decision on the source of funding the venture. 

There are many ways to fund your enterprise and you need to do what is right, based on your unique situation. Before you press into action, it is always a good idea to look around the experience of similarly situated entrepreneurs, network with people who are members of organisations like TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs), and talk to knowledgeable and trustworthy finance people to determine the most appropriate vehicle for funding. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions here. If you have an idea that requires full-time work for a while and you need some working capital to do it, see if you can do so from your own savings or a small loan. If it is something that requires a dozen of you to sweat it out for a year, seek an 'angel' investor – usually a wealthy private investor who gives you your first half-a-million dollars. Only later should you seek venture capital. Typically, venture capital funds come in two types – early state and late state. Early-state funds can be up to a few million dollars and the venture capitalist (VC) would expect a large ownership in exchange. The funds should be enough to last a couple of years at least and give you a sufficiently long runway – long enough for you to take off for a second round investment from a second set of VCs. Usually, if you are doing well, the organisation is shaping up as something valuable and the relationship with the VC is healthy, your VC will help in getting the next investor.

Each time you raise money, you dilute the ownership of the company. Hence you would have to finely balance the amount of money you raise and the proportionate control you give up. The trick is to raise enough money, well before your current working capital runs out and from the right kind of investors. The process of raising money is full-time work and if you have to do it too often, it is a huge distraction from the actual act of running the organisation. So, one must tread this path with care. Choosing the right investor is like matrimony. Exciting and perilous. Just as you would not jump into matrimony without due diligence, you do not want to hitch your wagon here without thinking a lot of things through. So, here we go with a few golden rules. I believe, whenever you make any choice, you also choose the consequences. Choosing the right investor is all the more important because there is no science to it and on many counts, you will have to make your call based finally on what your gut feeling says. I know of many ventures gone wrong because the entrepreneur did not exercise due diligence and chose the wrong set of investors.

It is important that you choose investors who understand your business – in other words, stay away from what is called 'dumb' capital. When the word goes around that you are looking for money, a lot of people will offer their money – many will promise that they will not interfere in your work. Non-interference cannot be the reason why you choose to raise money from someone. Anyone who puts in hard-earned money must and will hold you accountable and you better embrace that discipline. It is good for everyone, particularly so for the internal controls, systems and processes that will fall in place when there is fiscal accountability. Once a quarter, a couple of days of concentrated interaction with your investor is essential to the health of the organisation. 
  • The author feels that the colour of money is a key dimension because
  1. with a good idea and a good team it is not difficult to raise capital.
  2. by being careful, one has to raise money only once, and one can avoid diluting the ownership.
  3. the process of raising money is full-time work and if you have to do it too often, it is a huge distraction from the actual act of running the organisation.
  4. one should look for a private investor before seeking venture capital.
  5. money coming from unreliable sources can pose serious threat to the growth of the organization.
  • The passage suggests that one should not bring in investors that don't understand the business, as 
  1. investors promise ‘no interference’ when you need money and later hold you accountable.
  2. fiscal accountability to those who understand is good for internal controls, systems and processes
  3. ‘non interference’ from those who don't understand cannot be the reason for investors to provide money
  4. venture capitalist investors expect a large ownership in exchange.
  5. they will be offering advice which might not be relevant and potentially harmful.
  • Avoiding 'dumb capital' refer to procuring capital from 
  1. investors that make 'no interference promises'.
  2. investors that take an active interest in the business.
  3. investors that understand your business.
  4. investors that are right as per your gut feeling.
  5. investors that promise large amounts of unaccounted money.
  • According to the passage, the right way to choose an investor for capital is by
  1. using one's own savings and a small loan initially.
  2. seeking a wealthy private investor and then a venture capitalist. 
  3. collecting funds from knowledgeable and trustworthy finance people.
  4. matching the idea requirement with the method of finance.
  5. taking small loans from more than one source initially.
  • Reducing the risk of diluting the ownership of the company can be ensured by 
  1. collecting enough funds before the working capital runs out.
  2. following up capital procurement from one's own funds with funds from venture capitalists.
  3. keeping money-raising activities intermittent with operational activity periods.
  4. Ensuring there is no dearth of working capital.
  5. collecting funds large enough to last atleast a couple of years.

While the era of the blockbuster may have peaked, its effect on our assumptions about media has not. The existing media and entertainment industries are still oriented around finding, funding, and creating blockbusters.

Entertainment products, be they movies, TV shows or albums, can be expensive to make, market, and distribute. For instance, the average cost of a Hollywood production is $60 million, with at least that much additionally required for marketing. Yet, it is as hard as ever to predict which films will strike a chord with consumers, which is why tried-and-true actors and directors command such high salaries – they bring a little predictability to a woefully unpredictable business. But even stars make flops, so the studios, labels and networks employ a portfolio approach to spread their risk.

Like venture capitalists, they spread their bets over a number of projects, investing in each one enough money to give it a fighting chance at becoming a hit. They expect that, at best, most of the projects will break even, and a few will flat-out fail. That means that the few that are hits, must compensate for the drag of the others. 

In that sense, these businesses absolutely need hits. And not just profitable products – we are talking huge blow-through-the numbers megahits. The high costs of production and the uncertainties of success put pressure on the winners not just to win, but to win big. And the rest? Well, those would be the misses. Never mind that they may have been critically acclaimed or even heard or seen by millions of people. If those products don’t make back their money manyfold, they are just not doing their job to support the rest of the portfolio.

Setting out to make a big hit is not the same as setting out to make a good movie. There are things you do and don’t do in the quest to draw tens of millions of paying viewers. You do pay as much as you can for the biggest-name star you can lure to your project. You don’t try to be “too smart”. You do have a happy ending. You don’t kill off the star. If it’s an action movie, more effects are better than fewer. And all things being equal, it probably should be an action movie. Certainly, it’s possible to break these rules and still have a hit, but why take chances? After all, you’re investing a lot of money.

This hit-driven mindset has leaked out of the Hollywood boardrooms and into our national culture. We have been conditioned by the economic demands of a hit machine to expect nothing less. We have internalised the bookkeeping of entertainment risk capital. This is why we follow weekend box office results as we do professional sports – keeping score and separating the clear winners from the seemingly obvious losers. 

In our fixation on star power, we cheer the salary inflation of A-listers and follow their absurd public lives with an attention that far exceeds our interest in their work. From superstar athletes to celebrity CEOs, we ascribe disproportionate attention to the very top of the heap. We have been trained, in other words, to see the world through a hit-coloured lens. 

If it is not a hit, it is a miss. It has failed that economic test and, therefore, should never have been made. With this hit-driven mindset, history is written by the blockbusters, and the best test of quality is box-office gross. And this doesn’t just apply to Hollywood. It’s how we assign space on store shelves, fill time slots on television, and build radio playlists. It’s all about allocating scarce resources to the most ‘deserving’, which is to say, the most popular.

Ultimately, our response to a hit culture is to reinforce the hit culture. The world of shelf space is a zero-sum game: One product displaces another. Forced to choose, each link in the entertainment industry naturally enough chooses the most popular products, giving them privileged placement. By putting our commercial weight behind the big winners, we actually amplify the gap between them and everything else. Economically, this is the same as saying, “If there can only be a few rich, let them at least be super-rich.” The consequence of this is that the steep slope of the demand curve becomes even steeper.
  • The businesses attached to entertainment products need hits because
  1. to be profitable the films need to strike a chord with the consumers.
  2. in the event of a few misses, hits can help them break even.
  3. the industries are oriented around finding, funding and creating blockbusters.
  4. if the products don’t earn back the money invested manifold, they are not able to support the rest of the portfolio.
  5. funds are spread across a number of projects.
  • The passage suggests that we have internalised the bookkeeping of entertainment risk capital, as 
  1. we have always believed in the economic demands of a hit machine to expect nothing less.
  2. we follow weekend box office results the same way as we do professional sports.
  3. we keep scores and separate the clear winners from the obvious losers.
  4. we have worked out a failsafe formula for hits.
  5. All of the above 
  • What is the meaning of ‘internalise’ with reference to the passage?
  1. to incorporate as through learning, socialisation, or identification.
  2. to make subjective or give a subjective character to
  3. to acquire as part of one’s language competence.
  4. to understand the intricacies of the entertainment industry.
  5. All of the above
  • We ensure that the steep slope of the demand curve becomes steeper by
  1. giving scarce shelf space to winners.
  2. ensuring that more hits than misses see the light of the day.
  3. expecting nothing less from the hits.
  4. reinforcing the hit culture.
  5. roping in experienced actors and working according to a formula.
  • According to the passage, probability of misses can be offset by
(1) keeping the cushion of a portfolio structure.
(2) at least ensuring they are critically acclaimed or seen by millions of people.
(3) investing in each one enough money to give it a fighting chance at becoming a hit.
(4) hiring tried-and-true actors and directors.
(5) spreading investments over a number of projects.

Basics of ComprehensioN 
Passage I

Most entrepreneurs are born optimists, refusing to think about the possibility of failure. They believe “success is just around the corner” or that “the tide will turn”. What reinforces this view is that very often, whenever one does contemplate closing down, an order comes through or there is encouraging feedback from existing customers. This keeps him going. All the while the new order hasn’t generated more orders and existing customers though satisfied, are not buying anymore. The entrepreneur dips into his savings, hocks his house, takes loans, dips into his kids’ college funds... in short, behaves almost like an inveterate gambler. 

Such businesses sometimes drag on for 5-10 years before ultimately closing down. In the process, exacting a very heavy toll in terms of the entrepreneur’s time, money and lost opportunities. 

Most entrepreneurs who have faced this living death failure, regret not so much the eventual closure as the fact that they didn’t close down much earlier. 

Reckless persistence enables ordinary people with only a dream and a fistful of rupees, overcome impossible odds. However, it is reckless persistence that also ruins lives, breaks up families and spoils one’s chances of future entrepreneurial success. 

Running a start-up business is like learning to ride a bicycle. Every time you fall, you pick yourself up; but you have to be careful you don’t fall so hard you can’t get up again.
  • According to the passage what keeps entrepreneurs going?
  1. The sheer joy of being in control
  2. The high rate of success associated with entrepreneurial endeavours
  3. Continuous inflow of orders
  4. Orders coming in at times when they have started contemplating closure
  • What does the author seek to imply by saying “Most entrepreneurs are born optimists”?
  1. Their optimism contributes to their success.
  2. They never fail because of their optimism.
  3. They are over-optimists who never consider failure a possibility.
  4. They are born as optimists, that is why they are entrepreneurs.
  • What would best describe the tone of the passage? 
  1. Admonishing
  2. Irreverential
  3. Analytical
  4. Bizarre
  • The term “living death failure” as used in the passage describes
  1. The death of an entrepreneurial business effort after taking its toll on the entrepreneur’s resources.
  2. The failure that sometimes causes death of many entrepreneurs.
  3. Reckless ways of most entrepreneurs that make their lives resemble living death.
  4. The effort of entrepreneurs which break-up their families and contribute to their failure.
  • The diction and style of the author as used in this passage may be best described as
  1. Narrative
  2. Lucid
  3. Verbose
  4. Pedantic
  • What could be a suitable title for the passage? 
  1. Gamblers and Entrepreneurs
  2. Familial Consequences of Entrepreneurial Failures
  3. The Last Gasp of Entrepreneurial Ventures
  4. Hidden Facts of Entrepreneurial Failures
Passage II

Harvard psychologist David McClelland’s studies point to the achievement motive as possibly the single largest factor in the success of an entrepreneur. People with a high need for achievement are characterised by the desire to do something better, faster, more efficiently and with less effort. More importantly, they are moderate risk takers with a need for constant feedback on performance. These individuals prefer working on moderately difficult tasks in which the probability of success is between 30 per cent and 50 per cent (McClelland). They show great persistence when failing at moderately difficult tasks and low persistence with high difficulty tasks. This combination of characteristics uniquely suits the high achievement oriented individual, to entrepreneurial activity. 

The High achievement oriented individual is usually successful at entrepreneurial start-up and generally makes quite a lot of money (money for him is a means of keeping score - a performance feedback). However, this individual is often unable to expand further because he finds it difficult to delegate and to motivate people under him. Start-up firms need a high achievement oriented founder. But as the business grows, ironically, the same qualities that made him a successful entrepreneur now contribute to his downfall. He finds it difficult to expand the business. He may start subsidiaries or new ventures; but because of his difficulties in delegation, these usually lose money and have to be shut down, creating a drain on the resources of the parent company - perhaps leading to the closure of that company. The achievement oriented individual has to learn to delegate and to let go of controls.
  • According to the passage, how would a high achievement oriented individual react to a high difficulty task? 
  1. By taking such tasks in his own stride
  2. By showing a high degree of persistence
  3. By showing a low degree of persistence
  4. By shunning such tasks
  • Which of the following behavioural traits is not shown by people with high achievement motive? 
  1. Desire to better the existing order of things
  2. Desire to make things aesthetically more appealing
  3. Desire to make things more efficient
  4. A need for constant feedback on performance
  • The tone of the passage may be best described as 
  1. Fervent
  2. Documentary
  3. Extolling
  4. Exegetic
  • What is the function of money for a low achievement oriented individual?
  1. Acts as a means of keeping score
  2. A means to live in the materialistic world
  3. A medium of flaunting his success to others
  4. Cannot be determined
  • The sentence that would best summarize the passage could be
  1. Achievements of the Harvard psychologist – David McClelland
  2. Delegation and learning how to let go of controls
  3. Achievement motive and Entrepreneurial behaviour
  4. The success of entrepreneurs in organizational settings
  • Why does a high achievement individual fail to expand his business?
  1. Because his success is not tolerated by the powerful in the society
  2. Because he finds delegation and motivation difficult
  3. Because his success is not solid but hollow
  4. Because Venture Capital is not available for further growth
Passage III

It is a fact of life that there are many, of course, who desire no alteration and who, when it is attempted, will oppose it. They have found the existing social order profitable. They desire only such changes as will ensure that they are profitable in the future. There are, however, others who are conscious of a desire for a new social order, but who do not grasp the implications of their desire. Unless they take the pains not only to act, but also to reflect, they will end up realizing nothing. When they desire to place economic life on a better foundation, they can only repeat, parrot-wise, the word, “Productivity”, because that is the word that rises first to their minds, regardless of the fact that productivity is the foundation on which economic life is already based. They forget that in the nineteenth century which saw the greatest increase in productivity, economic discontent was most acute. When they are touched by social compunction, they can think of nothing more original than the diminution of poverty. They do not understand that poverty is a symptom and a consequence of social disorder which demoralizes a few by excessive riches. At the same time it demoralizes the poor by excessive poverty.
  • The author says that 
  1. no person is interested in change
  2. no person alone can really bring about changes
  3. some people desire change due to future concerns
  4. no person desires change due to future concerns 
  • We may conclude that 
  1. increase in productivity always leads to economic well-being
  2. decrease in productivity always leads to economic well-being
  3. increase in productivity doesn’t always lead to economic well-being
  4. None of the above
  • “Poverty can be removed by increasing productivity alone.”
  1. True
  2. False
  3. Can’t say
  4. None
  • People who desire no change in the social system are generally those who
  1. dislike it the most
  2. like it the most
  3. stand to gain from the current form 
  4. stand to gain from its future form
Passage IV

The Indian Banking System comprises indigenous money lending, commercial banking, cooperative banking and the nationalised banks. The indigenous system is still greatly practised which reminds us of one of the traditions being followed for centuries. The commercial banking sector, which emerged with the beginning of the 20th century, is representative of the English system of banking of the 19th century. The co-operative banking system was specially aimed at promoting co-operative movement in villages to finance rural requirements through co-operative societies. With the reconstruction of the Imperial Bank of India into the State Bank of India and its subsidiaries stepping in, the public sector of the banking industry now stands fully strengthened with nationalisation of the twenty major commercial banks. The remaining commercial banks are those which have meagre resources commanding in aggregate 1/7th of the total banking business.

Nevertheless, the importance of the commercial banks which played a great role in the development of trade, commerce and industry in India, cannot be overlooked. The commercial banks are constituted as exchange banks of the India, joint banks, both being scheduled and non-scheduled banks. The exchange banks are mostly foreign (non-Indian). Specialising in the finance of foreign trade, they also finance internal trade, do general banking business relating to financing of import and export trade which mostly involves the financing of the movements. Besides advancing loans to local manufacturers and merchants to obtain their exchange business, loans are made against the pledging of gold and silver ornaments for the purpose.
  • From the passage, we can say that the author is 
  1. a trader
  2. a newspaper baron
  3. a marketing professional
  4. finance editor of a newspaper 
  • The nationalised commercial banks have 
  1. less than 1/7 of the total banking assets
  2. nearly 1/7 of the total banking assets
  3. less than 6/7 of the total banking assets
  4. None of the above 
  • The author is underscoring the role of commercial banks in India.
  1. True
  2. False
  3. Maybe
  4. None
  • The author is most likely to agree with the idea that 
  1. the foreign banks in India have lost their focus
  2. the public sector of banking industry is extremely weak
  3. nationalisation of banks has strengthened the public sector banking 
  4. None of the above
Detailed Solutions
  1. Ans.(3). Clearly (3) as mentioned in the passage. 
  2. Ans.(3). This option comprehensively captures the reason for self-inflicted failure as described by the passage. Rest of the choices are partially or fully incorrect. 
  3. Ans.(3). Mentioned clearly in the passage “… we expect the (awareness) process to be painful if it leads towards growth.” 
  4. Ans.(2). option (2) is clearly mentioned in the passage while other options are considered nowhere. 
  5. Ans.(1). Most comprehensive choice.
  6. Ans.(3). The author states options (1), (2) & (4) in para 1, 2 & 3 respectively. Option (3) is not clearly stated.
  7. Ans.(4). All the three options are indicated in para 3 verbatim. 
  8. Ans.(4). Options (1), (2) & (3) are clearly given in the para 1. Hence, by exclusion, the answer is (4). 
  9. Ans.(4). All the three options have been clearly discussed in para 6. 
  10. Ans.(3). Option (2) is clearly absurd. It is not a news item, therefore reject option (4). Option (1) comes close but can be discarded as no disease process or mental illness is discussed. The passage talks of types of social activities, hence the answer is (3).
  11. Ans.(4). Though the passage talks of the celebration of freedom, the passage does not talk specifically of the nature of freedom attained. Thus, option (1) is incorrect. Option (2) is irrelevant in the given context. Option (3) is incorrect as it is negated by the opening paragraph of the passage. Hence, option (4), is the correct option.
  12. Ans.(3). The passage referring to "God's work" pertains to option (3). Options (1) and (2) are incorrect as they are irrelevant in the given context. Option (4) is incorrect as it is negated by the second paragraph of the passage. Hence, option (3) is the correct option.
  13. Ans.(2). The second paragraph of the passage manifests option (2) as the difference between the world of today and the world of yesteryears. Options (1) and (4) are incorrect as they have not been directly mentioned in the passage. Option (3) is incorrect as it fails to address the basic irony and delicate balance between the present world and the world of yesteryears. Hence, option (2) is the correct option.
  14. Ans.(1). Option (1) is the required option. One can infer this from a thorough reading of the speech. In fact, it is the speech of John F. Kennedy. Option (2), (3) and (4) are incorrect as they are irrelevant in the given context. Hence option (1) is the correct option.
  15. Ans.(3). Going by the tone of the author (narrator), the basic stress has been on 'freedom' and "human liberty" which he pledges to keep fighting for. Option (3) upholds the same vision, since it would be the reason why the narrator would need to fight for human liberty. Hence option (3) is the correct answer. The rest of the options are not supported by the passage.
  16. Ans.(5). The passage says the ‘innocuous’ movement of dark domesticated feline – which means harmless movement. The basic similarity between the cat and the profiled person is that even if they are harmless, but due to our irrational fears their presence is dreaded and harmful. Option (1) only draws the similarity between the physical characteristics of the entities. Option (2) again tells about the similarity between their movements – both are crossing paths. Option (3) gives only superficial similarity – in fact it tells the meaning of 'crossing paths'. Option (4) is incorrect as it says that 'both are harmful creatures'. Option (5) is most appropriate as it correctly tells that even though they both are harmless, yet they are considered as subjects of harm.
  17. Ans.(3). The passage states that the chances of being bitten by mosquito are more than that of being eaten by man-eating carnivore and therefore we should be more scared of the former. Therefore, option (3) is correct. Option (1) is incorrect as it wrongly states that chances of being bitten by mosquito are less. Option (2) is incorrect as it wrongly states that fear of being eaten by man-eating carnivore is less. Option (4) is incorrect as it wrongly states that chances of being eaten by man-eating carnivore are more. Option (5) is incorrect as it wrongly states that fear of being eaten by man-eating carnivore is less.
  18. Ans.(2). According to the passage, we are more concerned for war – the probability of which is very less as compared to the rise in cardio vascular diseases. The passage says that we should be more concerned about CVDs, which are on rise in the world and is becoming the major cause of deaths, and be less concerned about war – which may not happen at all. Option (1) is incorrect as it does not convey the comparison. Option (3) is incorrect as the probability of war is not increasing  but is less. Option (4) is incorrect as it says we are more concerned about CVDs – but as per the passage we are more concerned about war (whereas we should be more concerned about CVDs). Option (5) is incorrect as it says that the probability of war is more and that we are concerned about CVDs.
  19. Ans.(4). According to the passage, fear of unknown in fear of war and fear of known is the increasing in mortality rate due to rise in CVDs. But this fear of war which is more in us than fear of CVDs is less meaningful. This is so because war is very less likely to happen – so less real; but increase in CVDs is very much happening.
  20. Ans.(2). The author has stressed that we tend to fear things that are irrational (as the chances of happening are quite miniscule) like wars, terrorism etc. as these are hyped by the media or intentionally propagated by governments. On the other hand we tend to ignore much more real threats like CVDs, the chances of which happening are much higher. The rest of the options are not supported by the passage.
  21. Ans.(3). Option (1) is almost contradictory. Option (2) is untrue, as there is no claim in the passage about having to raise money only once. Following the order of private and then VC is something applicable in case the idea requires a team, to sweat it out for a year. Thus, option (4) is ruled out. Only option (3) gives a contextual reason. Option (5) is out of context.
  22. Ans.(2). The passage does not claim that all from the set that promises ‘no interference’ actually interfere later. Hence option (1) is ruled out. Option (4) is related only to investors who promise not to interfere. Only option (2) forms a sound basis. Options (3) and (4) are beyond context.
  23. Ans.(3). The last paragraph clearly says one needs investors that understand one’s business. Hence, option (3) is the answer.
  24. Ans.(4). Options (1), (2) and (3) are applicable under different situations. Only option (4) puts down the generalisation from the author.
  25. Ans.(1). The last but one paragraph indicates option (1) as the right answer.
  26. Ans.(2). The actual reason for the desperate need is that ‘hits’ help. Overcome  the uncertainties associated with how consumers will react to the movies. Thus, option (2) gives the reason.
  27. Ans.(3). The statement aims at establishing that we are involved in a process of book keeping. Option (3) speaks of this. Hence only option (3) forms a sound basis.
  28. Ans.(1). Contextually, option (1) is the appropriate answer.
  29. Ans.(4). Option (4) is the appropriate answer, which is elaborated upon in the last paragraph.
  30. Ans.(1). The question is of salvaging the situation, which is done by employing a portfolio approach.
Home Assignment 
  1. Ans.(4). The passage clearly mentions that “whenever one does contemplate …”. 
  2. Asn.(3). Reading the first sentence can easily clarify that (3) represents what the author intends to convey. 
  3. Ans.(3). Analytical would best describe the tone of the passage because the author has tried to analyze the behaviour traits of entrepreneurs that contribute to their failure. 
  4. Ans.(1). Option (4) is vague and ambiguous and (2) & (3) are nowhere mentioned in the passage. 
  5. Ans.(2). Option (2) best describes the diction and style of the author as the writer attempts clear, simple, logical and easy understanding of his words by the reader.
  6. Ans.(4). The passage details the reasons and facts that contribute to the failure of entrepreneurial efforts, so option (4) is the best. 
  7. Ans.(3). The passage clearly mentions this in the 2nd last line of the 1st paragraph. 
  8. Ans.(2). Obvious, as this is the only option not mentioned in the passage. 
  9. Ans.(2). The passage is presenting facts or documenting facts based on the study of David McClelland. 
  10. Ans.(4). The answer to this question cannot be determined as low achievement oriented individuals have not at all been talked about in this passage. 
  11. Ans.(3). The passage talks about both the achievement motive and how it affects the behaviour of entrepreneurs. Hence the choice. Rest of the options are only partially correct. 
  12. Ans.(2). This has been mentioned in the passage explicitly while other factors have not been talked about anywhere.
  13. Ans.(3). From 3rd statement.  
  14. Ans.(3). From 7th statement.  
  15. Ans.(2). From 7th statement.  
  16. Ans.(3). From 1st, 2nd statement.   
  17. Ans.(4). Passage is not on marketing. Barons don’t write articles. Traders don’t write articles. 
  18. Ans.(4). From last statements of para 1   
  19. Ans.(1). “Underscoring” means “highlighting.”  (Fooled you ! right ?)  
  20. Ans.(3). Penultimate statement of para 1 tells us about this.    



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PT's IAS Academy: UPSC IAS exam preparation - Basic of Comprehension - Lecture 4
UPSC IAS exam preparation - Basic of Comprehension - Lecture 4
Excellent study material for all civil services aspirants - begin learning - Kar ke dikhayenge!
PT's IAS Academy
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