GMAT RC: Practice Passage of the Day!

Try this short little passage from Manhattan GMAT — thankfully not all GMAT passages are super-long!

Measuring more than five feet tall and ten feet long, the Javan rhinoceros is often called the rarest large mammal on earth. Though the habitat of the Javan rhino once extended across southern Asia, now there are fewer than one hundred of the animals in Indonesia and fewer than a dozen in Vietnam. The decline of the species may have progressed too far to be reversed.

For centuries, farmers who wished to cultivate the rhino’s habitat viewed the animals as crop-eating pests and shot them on sight; during the colonial period, hunters slaughtered thousands for their horns, as poachers still do today. The surviving Vietnamese herd has diminished to the point that it can no longer maintain the genetic variation necessary for long-term survival.

The Indonesian herd cannot be used to supplement the Vietnamese population because, in the millions of years since Indonesia separated from the mainland, the two groups have evolved into separate sub-species. The Indonesian rhinos are protected on the Ujung Kulon peninsula, which is unsettled by humans, and still thought to have sufficient genetic diversity to survive.

The lack of human disturbance, however, allows mature forests to replace the shrubby vegetation preferred by the animals. Human benevolence may prove little better for these rhinos than past human maltreatment.

Question #1 – Which of the following best expresses the author’s attitude toward the likely fate of the Javan Rhino?
A) optimistic about the Indonesian rhino’s long-term survival
B) resigned to the eventual extinction of the species
C) uncertain about the on-going impact of farmers and hunters
D) pessimistic about the species’ chances for survival
E) ambivalent about the long-term outcome for the Javan rhinoceros

Here’s how I’d break down this passage:

Topic: Javan rhino

Scope: ability of rhino to survive

1st chunk: to introduce the endangered Rhino

2nd chunk: to explain why the rhino is endangered & that Viet herd can’t survive

3rd chunk: to describe how 1 solution won’t work (can’t mix the Indo herd — diff. sub-species)

4th chunk: to emphasize that the Indo herd, though protected, might not survive either (lack of food source)

Overall Purpose: to describe the causes of endangerment & challenges facing 2 rhino species

Question Rephrase: How does the author feel about the fate of the rhino?

Prediction: It needs to be something negative, since the author offers no hope for either species. In fact, he makes it a point to say that the Indo rhino will also likely die out.

We can eliminate A, C and E since they are positive or neutral.

Between “resigned” and “pessimistic,” choice (D) is the more negative choice and therefore correct. Beware of the potential confusion in the phrase “may prove little better.” That means it will NOT prove better. The author provides no hope whatsoever.