MCAT Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills Practice Test 4

Home > MCAT Test > MCAT critical analysis and reasoning skills practice tests

Test Information

Question 5 questions

Time minutes

See All test questions

Take more free MCAT critical analysis and reasoning skills practice tests available from


According to a 2014 report by Oxfam International, the world's richest 85 people possess as much as the poorest 3.5 billion, and nearly half of all wealth is owned by just 1 percent of the global populace. Many measures of inequality, when plotted annually, adopt a potentially disconcerting U-shape: declining after the reforms implemented by many industrialized populations in the wake of the Great Depression, inequality is now returning to levels not seen since the 1920s—and on the verge of surpassing them. With statistics like these, elite figures, from the President of the United States to the Pope of the Catholic Church, have had to admit that inequality has become a prominent issue.

The truly interesting question concerns neither the existence of economic inequality nor the fact of its continuing growth, but its origin. What has caused—and even more crucially, what is perpetuating—this polarization in wealth? After weighing the evidence, my contention is that this development is ultimately a political outcome, not an economic one. By this I mean it is the product of deliberate decisions by political leaders (elected, appointed, or otherwise) and other influential socioeconomic elites, rather than the natural result of market forces, as many other scholars have suggested.

At issue are the differing political fortunes of two factions, the centrality of which have been recognized by economists from Karl Marx to Thomas Piketty, laborers and capitalists, the class of workers and the owners who employ them. When labor was politically ascendant (for instance, in the aftermath of FDR's New Deal), inequality decreased. However, with the rise of the political ideology of neoliberalism (embraced by leaders on both ends of the accepted political spectrum, like the United Kingdom's Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair and the United States's Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton), inequality began to rebound.

Neoliberalism purports to promote "free markets," but perhaps a better characterization of it is the promotion of the free movement of capital. Capital tends to have its own law of gravity, except that it seems to fall upwards, accumulating in floating paradises known as tax havens that contain the coffers of the planet's wealthiest. Few people would vote explicitly for this program, yet most governments in democratic nations throughout the world are filled with officials who act in ways that further the polarization of wealth, whether knowingly or unwittingly.

Much of the ascendance of neoliberal ideology stems from a discrepancy in organization. The United States presents a clear-cut example of one side of this phenomenon. From 1940 to 1980, between about one-fifth and one-quarter of all employed workers in the United States were members of labor unions. According to Piketty et al., 1940–80 is also the bottom of the inequality U-curve. Subsequently, there was a precipitous decline in union participation in the 1980s, followed by continuing erosion, so that now only about one-ninth of all US workers are union members—all the while, inequality has steadily climbed upwards.

On the other side, the capitalists have only become better organized. In fact, their mobilization—not coincidentally—shortly precedes the extensive disempowerment of unions in and around the 1980s. For example, the infamous yet influential Powell Memorandum (written in 1971 by a man who would become a US Supreme Court Associate Justice) explicitly advocated coordinated action among capitalists: "Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations." That "careful long-range planning" has paid serious dividends.

1. Which of the following would specifically bolster the author's primary line of argumentation?

I. Evidence that coordination among capitalists in the 1970s directly contributed to the decline of labor unions in the 1980s

II. Findings demonstrating that current levels of inequality have eclipsed the historical records set in the 1920s

III. A study showing that the rate of polarization of wealth has increased since the global financial crisis of 2007–8

  • A. I only
  • B. I and II only
  • C. II and III only
  • D. I, II, and III

2. Based on the passage, what is the author's most likely reason for regarding a U-shaped curve as "potentially disconcerting" (paragraph 1)?

  • A. Inequality has returned to a level not seen since before the Great Depression.
  • B. Deliberate choices by political leaders have led to an increase in inequality.
  • C. The extreme polarization of wealth has detrimental consequences for society.
  • D. The growth in inequality shows how capitalists are motivated solely by greed.

3. Which of the following, when taken in conjunction with the information presented by the passage, would best explain the author's use of "not coincidentally" (paragraph 6)?

  • A. The ascendance of neoliberalism in democratic politics is largely responsible for the rise in inequality.
  • B. The capitalists began coordinating their efforts immediately after recognizing unions were losing their power.
  • C. A majority of citizens decided to relinquish membership in the working class and become capitalists instead.
  • D. The democratically elected politicians financed by neoliberal organizations enacted anti-labor policies.

4. The author suggests a correlation between each of the following pairs of phenomena EXCEPT:

  • A. more coordination among capitalists and less coordination among laborers.
  • B. higher participation in labor unions and lower levels of equality.
  • C. strength of organization and political success in democratic nations.
  • D. the rise of neoliberalism and a widening of the gap between rich and poor.

5. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), the US Supreme Court ruled that restrictions on political advocacy spending by capitalist corporations, labor unions, and other associations were prohibited by the First Amendment. Assuming that such spending is effective, the most reasonable expectation based on the passage is that inequality in the United States will:

  • A. stop increasing because the ruling eliminates regulations that were promoting the polarization of wealth.
  • B. continue increasing because corporations will be able to outspend unions, resulting in more pro-capitalist policies.
  • C. begin decreasing because unions will be able to outspend corporations, resulting in more pro-labor policies.
  • D. remain at its present level because corporations and labor unions are treated equally under the ruling.