Students are usually already familiar with the Reading Comprehension format from other types of tests. These questions test your ability to read and comprehend complex ideas and theories from a range of topics including economics, history, science and technology.
Each test contains 3-4 RC passages. Each passage is comprised of 40-60 lines of text, followed by 4-5 consecutive questions.

An example of two RC questions in the verbal section of the GMAT:
The progress of biotechnology brings the potential for ever more intimate and disruptive interventions into human bodies and the natural environment. Each new technology brings unique possibilities, challenges, and dilemmas. Technologies have different technical implications and different “social constitutions”. And yet there are lessons from past technologies that we can apply to those currently emerging. There are ways in which the social, political, and ethical concerns that may come to govern their emergence can be anticipated.

 

There have been various attempts, especially in the last decade, to improve engagement between scientists and public groups on issues involving biotechnology. Engagement exercises, whether with particular non-science stakeholders or members of the general public, reveal layers of societal concern with these technologies. There is typically concern with the eventual downstream risks and the ethical implications of technologies. But these things are hard to assess in advance due to the profound uncertainty that surrounds emerging technology.

 

Public engagement typically also reveals a set of “upstream” concerns. When brought into dialogue about emerging technologies, before it is clear what the risks are likely to be, members of the public will typically express concern about the trajectory of technological pathways. A report of one large public dialogue exercise on Synthetic Biology drew out five questions for scientists that characterized public concerns about this nascent technology: What is the purpose? Why do you want to do it? What are you going to gain from it? What else is it going to do? How do you know you are right?

 

These questions get to the heart of the politics of emerging technologies and the foundations of public trust in scientific research. Conventional technology assessment considers the downstream products of research and innovation with a focus on technological risk and ethics. More recent anticipatory governance approaches, such as “constructive technology assessment”, “real-time technology assessment”, and “responsible innovation”, attempt to broaden the debate to include consideration of the processes and purposes of research, in line with the five questions above. Such approaches emphasize the importance of democratic deliberation in “opening up” the technological options and trajectories for appraisal.

 

1. It can be inferred from the passage that which of the following would NOT be a “downstream” concern that the public might have in response to an emerging technology?
A. What the long-term impact on the environment will be.
B. Which species will be adversely affected by the implementation of a technology.
C. Which problem the technology is designed to address.
D. What the cost to the public will be.
E. How durable the technology is.

 

2. The passage suggests that, in the past, which of the following was true with respect to public engagement in biotechnological innovation?
A. Public opinion bore no impact on biotechnological exploration.
B. Political and scientific institutions colluded on technologies for special interest.
C. The public distrusted the motives of biotechnology institutes.
D. Public engagement was limited to the activities of political organizations.
E. The public was less involved in biotechnology.

 

Answers and Explanations:
1. It can be inferred from the passage that which of the following would NOT be a “downstream” concern that the public might have in response to an emerging technology?
The question asks which of the following concerns would be considered an “upstream” rather than a “downstream” concern.
A. The impact on the environment would be an example of a “downstream” concern, a concern for the future impact of a new biotechnology, rather than of a “downstream” concern, a concern regarding the immediate aspects of an upcoming innovation.
B. The impact on the environment would be an example of a “downstream” concern, a concern for the future impact of a new biotechnology, rather than of a “downstream” concern, a concern regarding the immediate aspects of an upcoming innovation.
C. Correct. The intended purpose of the nascent technology is an “upstream” concern, meaning that it relates to questions of pertinence and purpose.
D. The cost to the public would be would be an example of a “downstream” concern, a concern for the future impact of a new biotechnology, rather than of an “upstream” concern regarding questions of pertinence and purpose upcoming innovation.
E. The technology’s durability would be an example of a “downstream” concern, a concern for the future implications of a new biotechnology, rather than of an “upstream” concern regarding questions of pertinence and purpose of an upcoming innovation.

 

2. The passage suggests that in the past which of the following was true with respect to public engagement in biotechnological innovation?
The question asks what was formerly true regarding the public’s engagement with biotechnology, as opposed to its engagement today.
A. The text never makes the absolute assertion that public opinion had never before impacted biotechnological exploration.
B. The text does not imply that there had ever been a negative intent behind public engagement biotechnology.
C. While the text suggests that addressing the public’s concern with ‘upstream’ aspects of biotechnological research will increase public trust, it nowhere suggests that the public distrusted institutes.
D. The text does not discuss the activities of political organizations.
E. Correct. “There have been various attempts, especially in the last decade…” implies that in the past the public was less involved in the direction of biotechnology research.

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