AP English Language : Evaluating Evidence and Examples

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Language

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Example Question #1 : Evaluating Evidence And Examples

Adapted from On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859)

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries.

Society can and does execute its own mandates, and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs be protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence, and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

According to Mill, why is social tyranny more devastating than many kinds of political oppression?

Possible Answers:

It is made worse by the freedom to bear arms cherished in a number of free societies.

It is all-encompassing and difficult to evade.

It is limited in scope and thus risks being underestimated.

It overcomes the biases of many people, making the fury of the mob even worse than the fury of politicians.

It is quite pedestrian and awful to the intellectual classes.

Correct answer:

It is all-encompassing and difficult to evade.

Explanation:

The key selection for this question is, "Though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself." Notice three things listed in this: (1) It leaves fewer means of escape—i.e. it is more difficult to evade. (2) It is more penetrating into the details of life. (3) It even enslaves the soul itself. Because of these points, Mill believes that social pressure and tyranny can be much worse than political tyranny.

Example Question #2 : Evaluating Evidence And Examples

Adapted from On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859)

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries.

Society can and does execute its own mandates, and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs be protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence, and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

Based on the passage’s remarks, which of the following would be an example of the way that the social tyranny of the majority expresses itself?

Possible Answers:

The citizens of a small town talk disapprovingly of a new, seemingly radical young teacher.

The prime minister takes war-time power to lead the army without any oversight.

A city council outlaws all dog-walking within its bounds without consulting the voters.

A king suppresses all publications as being dangerous to the kingdom.

A small group of people in a town gather to burn down someone's house.

Correct answer:

The citizens of a small town talk disapprovingly of a new, seemingly radical young teacher.

Explanation:

The idea of social pressure and tyranny by the majority is explained here in terms of the subtle but pervasive type of pressure that can be caused by a group. This usually happens without any central planning. It is more like the quiet rumors and whisperings of people, who thus cause difficulties for those whom they shun or wish to shun. This is best described in the scenario of the little town, exerting pressure "in the background"—real pressure, though, that will likely cause the young teacher to be ousted.

Example Question #1 : Evaluating Evidence And Examples

Adapted from Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)

In the famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two houses utter not a syllable of “a right to frame a government for themselves.” You will see that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties that had been long possessed and had been lately endangered. They state “in the first place” to do “as their ancestors in like cases have usually done for vindicating their ancient rights and liberties, to declare;”—and then they pray the king and queen, “that it may be declared and enacted, that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and declared are the true ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom.”

You will observe that from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means, our constitution preserves a unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection, or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement, grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional policy working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of providence, are handed down to us and from us in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. In this choice of inheritance, we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchers, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual, native dignity. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to preserve a rational freedom than the course that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.

The first paragraph's invocation of the Declaration of Right is intended to accomplish which of the following?

Possible Answers:

To provide an example of progressive, revolutionary political reasoning derived from an analogously tumultuous period

To demonstrate the flawed thinking of liberal revolutionary sympathizers with an extended metaphor

To excite the religious passions of the reader with an allegory

To provide an example of the possible negative consequences of reactionary political legislation from an analogously tumultuous period

To provide an example of tradition-oriented political reasoning derived from an analogously tumultuous period

Correct answer:

To provide an example of tradition-oriented political reasoning derived from an analogously tumultuous period

Explanation:

The invocation of the language of, and reasoning behind, the Declaration of Right primarily functions as an example of tradition-oriented political reasoning ("their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties, that had been long possessed"), from an analogously tumultuous period ("which had lately been endangered"). Burke's citation of the Declaration of Right provides an established framework that both is derived from, and functions as evidentiary justification for, his argument that political traditions and rights are inherited and must be conserved.

The quoting and discussion of the Declaration is neither a metaphor nor an allegory; it is a citation of a relevant piece of legislation. 

Burke assumes the audience's support for and belief in the fundamental necessity of the Declaration, hence his using it as support for his own arguments.

Example Question #3 : Evaluating Evidence And Examples

Adapted from "The Social Compact" in Social Contract & Discourses by Jean Jaques Rousseau (1913 ed.)

I suppose men to have reached the point at which the obstacles in the way of their preservation in the state of nature show their power of resistance to be greater than the resources at the disposal of each individual for his maintenance in that state. That primitive condition can then subsist no longer, and the human race would perish unless it changed its manner of existence.

But, as men cannot engender new forces but only unite and direct existing ones, they have no other means of preserving themselves than the formation, by aggregation, of a sum of forces great enough to overcome the resistance. These they have to bring into play by means of a single motive power and cause to act in concert.

This sum of forces can arise only where several persons come together; but, as the force and liberty of each man are the chief instruments of his self-preservation, how can he pledge them without harming his own interests and neglecting the care he owes to himself? This difficulty, in its bearing on my present subject, may be stated in the following terms:

"The problem is to find a form of association that will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before." This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution.

The clauses of this contract are so determined by the nature of the act that the slightest modification would make them vain and ineffective; so that, although they have perhaps never been formally set forth, they are everywhere the same and everywhere tacitly admitted and recognized, until, on the violation of the social compact, each regains his original rights and resumes his natural liberty, while losing the conventional liberty in favor of which he renounced it.

These clauses, properly understood, may be reduced to one—the total alienation of each associate, together with all his rights, to the whole community; for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all; and, this being so, no one has any interest in making them burdensome to others.

Moreover, the alienation being without reserve, the union is as perfect as it can be, and no associate has anything more to demand; for, if the individuals retained certain rights, as there would be no common superior to decide between them and the public, each, being on one point his own judge, would ask to be so on all; the state of nature would thus continue, and the association would necessarily become inoperative or tyrannical.

Finally, each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody; and as there is no associate over whom he does not acquire the same right as he yields others over himself, he gains an equivalent for everything he loses, and an increase of force for the preservation of what he has.

What is the author's point in stating in the underlined selection of paragraph two that "men cannot engender new forces"?

Possible Answers:

To prove that the only solution is thus for men to join together

To reiterate the weakness of men when compared to other animals in nature

To assert that men must rely on their individual strength alone

To establish the technological limitations of warfare

To propose a new scientific theory regarding human ability

Correct answer:

To prove that the only solution is thus for men to join together

Explanation:

"Forces" here refers to man's powers of "preservation," as explained in the first paragraph. We can right away eliminate "the technological limitations of warfare," as there is no mention of either technology or war, and "the weakness of men when compared to other animals," as there is no mention of other animals. Rousseau does not put forth a scientific theory, so that cannot be the correct answer, either. Because men cannot "engender new forces," the author argues, they cannot "rely on their individual strength alone," but must instead join forces and combine their abilities.

Example Question #58 : Tone, Structure, And Purpose Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from a work by Oscar Wilde in Selected Prose of Oscar Wilde (1914)

Art begins with abstract decoration, with purely imaginative and pleasurable work dealing with what is unreal and non-existent. This is the first stage. Then Life becomes fascinated with this new wonder, and asks to be admitted into the charmed circle. Art takes Life as part of her rough material, recreates it, and refashions it in fresh forms, is absolutely indifferent to fact, invents, imagines, dreams, and keeps between herself and reality the impenetrable barrier of beautiful style, of decorative or ideal treatment. The third stage is when Life gets the upper hand, and drives Art out into the wilderness. That is the true decadence, and it is from this that we are now suffering.

Take the case of the English drama. At first in the hands of the monks Dramatic Art was abstract, decorative, and mythological. Then she enlisted Life in her service, and using some of life’s external forms, she created an entirely new race of beings, whose sorrows were more terrible than any sorrow man has ever felt, whose joys were keener than lover’s joys, who had the rage of the Titans and the calm of the gods, who had monstrous and marvelous sins, monstrous and marvelous virtues. To them she gave a language different from that of actual use, a language full of resonant music and sweet rhythm, made stately by solemn cadence, or made delicate by fanciful rhyme, jeweled with wonderful words, and enriched with lofty diction. She clothed her children in strange raiment and gave them masks, and at her bidding the antique world rose from its marble tomb. A new Cæsar stalked through the streets of risen Rome, and with purple sail and flute-led oars another Cleopatra passed up the river to Antioch. Old myth and legend and dream took shape and substance. History was entirely re-written, and there was hardly one of the dramatists who did not recognize that the object of Art is not simple truth but complex beauty. In this they were perfectly right. Art itself is really a form of exaggeration; and selection, which is the very spirit of art, is nothing more than an intensified mode of overemphasis.

But Life soon shattered the perfection of the form. Even in Shakespeare we can see the beginning of the end. It shows itself by the gradual breaking-up of the blank-verse in the later plays, by the predominance given to prose, and by the over-importance assigned to characterization. The passages in Shakespeare—and they are many—where the language is uncouth, vulgar, exaggerated, fantastic, obscene even, are entirely due to Life calling for an echo of her own voice, and rejecting the intervention of beautiful style, through which alone should life be suffered to find expression. Shakespeare is not by any means a flawless artist. He is too fond of going directly to Life, and borrowing Life’s natural utterance. He forgets that when Art surrenders her imaginative medium she surrenders everything.

The author most likely references Shakespeare to demonstrate that __________.

Possible Answers:

he, the author of the passage, is far more gifted at understanding the manner in which prose ought to be constructed

no man is exempt from the responsibility to mix art and life in a responsible and careful manner

he, the author of the passage, better understands that combining art and life can only produce work of a lesser quality

even the most famous and prodigious of authors are subject to the unfavorable involvement of life in the pursuit of art

life has gradually been creeping into artistic depiction and that this situation has only worsened in the time since Shakespeare’s death

Correct answer:

even the most famous and prodigious of authors are subject to the unfavorable involvement of life in the pursuit of art

Explanation:

Even at the time this was written, perhaps more so, Shakespeare was considered the pinnacle of literary achievement (particularly in Britain). When the author says “Even Shakespeare. . .” it is clear that his intention is to demonstrate how even the most famous, the most gifted of authors ruins his art by including too much of life. “The passages in Shakespeare—and they are many—where the language is uncouth, vulgar, exaggerated, fantastic, obscene even, are entirely due to Life calling for an echo of her own voice, and rejecting the intervention of beautiful style, through which alone should life be suffered to find expression.“ The author seems to be saying that Shakespeare’s art suffers from his unfavorable involvement with life.

Example Question #3 : Evaluating Evidence And Examples

Adapted from Volume 1 of History of Woman Suffrage by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage (1887)

Change is a law of life, and the development of society a natural growth. Although to this law we owe the discoveries of unknown worlds, the inventions of machinery, swifter modes of travel, and clearer ideas as to the value of human life and thought, yet each successive change has met with the most determined opposition. Fortunately, progress is not the result of pre-arranged plans of individuals, but is born of a fortuitous combination of circumstances that compel certain results, overcoming the natural inertia of mankind. There is a certain enjoyment in habitual sluggishness; in rising each morning with the same ideas as the night before; in retiring each night with the thoughts of the morning. This inertia of mind and body has ever held the multitude in chains. Thousands have thus surrendered their most sacred rights of conscience. In all periods of human development, thinking has been punished as a crime, which is reason sufficient to account for the general passive resignation of the masses to their conditions and environments.

Again, "subjection to the powers that be" has been the lesson of both church and state, throttling science, checking invention, crushing free thought, persecuting and torturing those who have dared to speak or act outside of established authority. Anathemas and the stake have upheld the church, banishment and the scaffold the throne, and the freedom of mankind has ever been sacrificed to the idea of protection. So entirely has the human will been enslaved in all classes of society in the past, that monarchs have humbled themselves to popes, nations have knelt at the feet of monarchs, and individuals have sold themselves to others under the subtle promise of "protection"—a word that simply means release from all responsibility, all use of one's own faculties—a word that has ever blinded people to its true significance. Under authority and this false promise of "protection," certain beliefs have been inculcated, certain crimes invented, in order to intimidate the masses. Hence, the church made free thought the worst of sins, and the spirit of inquiry the worst of blasphemies; while the state proclaimed her temporal power of divine origin, and all rebellion high treason alike to God and the king, to be speedily and severely punished. In this union of church and state mankind touched the lowest depth of degradation.

All these influences fell with crushing weight on woman; more sensitive, helpless, and imaginative, she suffered a thousand fears and wrongs where man did one. Lecky, in his "History of Rationalism in Europe," shows that the vast majority of the victims of fanaticism and witchcraft, burned, drowned, and tortured, were women. Society, including our systems of jurisprudence, civil and political theories, trade, commerce, education, religion, friendships, and family life, have all been framed on the sole idea of man's rights. Hence, he takes upon himself the responsibility of directing and controlling the powers of woman, under that all-sufficient excuse of tyranny, "divine right."

The people who demand authority for every thought and action, who look to others for wisdom and protection, are those who perpetuate tyranny. The thinkers and actors who find their authority within, are those who inaugurate freedom. Obedience to outside authority to which woman has everywhere been trained, has not only dwarfed her capacity, but made her a retarding force in civilization, recognized at last by statesmen as a dangerous element to free institutions. Hence, in the scientific education of woman, in the training of her faculties to independent thought and logical reasoning, lies the hope of the future.

The author uses the work of Lecky to reinforce which part of her argument?

Possible Answers:

That women are incapable of protecting themselves from the evils of mankind without the combined efforts of every woman working together

That women have suffered far more than men as a result of religious persecution and religion’s desire to undermine the growth of the masses

That the treatment of women in Medieval Europe is representative of the manner in which man has always tried to control woman

That women were afforded significantly less respect in Medieval Europe and were often associated with heresy and demonic behavior

That there is no such thing as religious truth, and religion is simply a tool to control the masses and keep women subjugated

Correct answer:

That women have suffered far more than men as a result of religious persecution and religion’s desire to undermine the growth of the masses

Explanation:

In the paragraph before she references Lecky, the author discusses the negative impact organized religion has had on the role of women in society. In addition, prior to mentioning Lecky's work, the author states, “All these influences fell with crushing weight on woman; more sensitive, helpless, and imaginative, she suffered a thousand fears and wrongs where man did one.” Then, when discussing Lecky's work, the author says “Lecky, in his History of Rationalism in Europe, shows that the vast majority of the victims of fanaticism and witchcraft, burned, drowned, and tortured, were women.” The author thus uses Lecky to reinforce her argument that women have suffered far more than men as a result of religious persecution.

Example Question #153 : Content Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from Walden by Henry Thoreau (1854)

Still we live meanly, like ants; it is error upon error, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has for its occasion a superfluous and evitable wretchedness. Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.

Our life is like a German Confederacy, made up of petty states, with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell you how it is bounded at any moment. The nation itself, with all its so-called internal improvements, which, by the way are all external and superficial, is just such an unwieldy and overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of calculation and a worthy aim, as the million households in the land; and the only cure for it, as for them, is in a rigid economy, a stern and more than Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose. It lives too fast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not, but whether we should live like baboons or like men is a little uncertain. If we do not get out sleepers, and forge rails, and devote days and nights to the work, but go to tinkering upon our lives to improve them, who will build railroads? And if railroads are not built, how shall we get to heaven in season? But if we stay at home and mind our business, who will want railroads? We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us. Did you ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man, an Irishman, or a Yankee man. The rails are laid on them, and they are covered with sand, and the cars run smoothly over them. They are sound sleepers, I assure you.

The underlined sentence functions as __________ in context.

Possible Answers:

a concrete example of how the reader can simplify

an authorial aside only loosely related to the passage’s main topic

a use of figurative language to emphasize the author’s point

a transition into the ideas discussed in the next paragraph

a counterpoint to a critic’s rebuttal

Correct answer:

a concrete example of how the reader can simplify

Explanation:

The underlined sentence is, “Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.” Its position as the last line of the first paragraph may make it seem like “a transition into the ideas discussed in the next paragraph,” but as the second paragraph begins on an entirely new point, this isn’t the best answer. It is related to the author’s discussion of simplicity, so we can’t say that it is “an authorial aside only loosely related to the passage’s main topic.” No critics are mentioned in the passage, so we can’t claim it to be “a counterpoint to a critic’s rebuttal.” While it is emphasizing the author’s point, it’s not using figurative language to do so, so “a use of figurative language to emphasize the author’s point” can’t be correct either. This leaves us with one answer choice, the correct one: the sentence is functioning as “a concrete example of how the reader can simplify.” This is especially visible in that it directly follows the author’s exhortation of “Simplify, simplify.”

Example Question #62 : Identifying And Analyzing Important Details In Humanities Passages

Adapted from Walden by Henry Thoreau (1854)

Still we live meanly, like ants; it is error upon error, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has for its occasion a superfluous and evitable wretchedness. Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.

Our life is like a German Confederacy, made up of petty states, with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell you how it is bounded at any moment. The nation itself, with all its so-called internal improvements, which, by the way are all external and superficial, is just such an unwieldy and overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of calculation and a worthy aim, as the million households in the land; and the only cure for it, as for them, is in a rigid economy, a stern and more than Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose. It lives too fast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not, but whether we should live like baboons or like men is a little uncertain. If we do not get out sleepers, and forge rails, and devote days and nights to the work, but go to tinkering upon our lives to improve them, who will build railroads? And if railroads are not built, how shall we get to heaven in season? But if we stay at home and mind our business, who will want railroads? We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us. Did you ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man, an Irishman, or a Yankee man. The rails are laid on them, and they are covered with sand, and the cars run smoothly over them. They are sound sleepers, I assure you.

Which of the following things is NOT mentioned in the passage as something the author feels is excessive?

Possible Answers:

Traveling at thirty miles per hour

Building railroads

Catching more fish than one can eat

Exporting ice

Communicating using a telegraph

Correct answer:

Catching more fish than one can eat

Explanation:

In the second paragraph, the author states, “Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not; but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain,” so “exporting ice,” “communicating using a telegraph,” and “traveling at thirty miles per hour” are all mentioned as something the author feels is excessive, so none can be the correct answer. This leaves us with “building railroads” and “catching more fish than one can eat.” While “catching more fish than one can eat” perhaps sounds seems like the most excessive answer choice, it is not mentioned in the passage at all, whereas the author spends much of the latter half of the second paragraph talking about railroads and says, “But if we stay at home and mind our business, who will want railroads?” “Catching more fish than one can eat” is thus the correct answer.

Example Question #12 : Identifying And Analyzing Important Details In Humanities Passages

Adapted from the Advertisement to Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth (1798)

It is the honorable characteristic of Poetry that its materials are to be found in every subject which can interest the human mind. The evidence of this fact is to be sought, not in the writings of Critics, but in those of Poets themselves.

The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure. Readers accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will perhaps frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and awkwardness: they will look round for poetry, and will be induced to enquire by what species of courtesy these attempts can be permitted to assume that title. It is desirable that such readers, for their own sakes, should not suffer the solitary word Poetry, a word of very disputed meaning, to stand in the way of their gratification; but that, while they are perusing this book, they should ask themselves if it contains a natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents; and if the answer be favorable to the author's wishes, that they should consent to be pleased in spite of that most dreadful enemy to our pleasures, our own pre-established codes of decision.

Readers of superior judgement may disapprove of the style in which many of these pieces are executed it must be expected that many lines and phrases will not exactly suit their taste. It will perhaps appear to them, that wishing to avoid the prevalent fault of the day, the author has sometimes descended too low, and that many of his expressions are too familiar, and not of sufficient dignity. It is apprehended, that the more conversant the reader is with our elder writers, and with those in modern times who have been the most successful in painting manners and passions, the fewer complaints of this kind will he have to make.

An accurate taste in poetry, and in all the other arts, Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed, is an acquired talent, which can only be produced by severe thought, and a long continued intercourse with the best models of composition. This is mentioned not with so ridiculous a purpose as to prevent the most inexperienced reader from judging for himself; but merely to temper the rashness of decision, and to suggest that if poetry be a subject on which much time has not been bestowed, the judgement may be erroneous, and that in many cases it necessarily will be so.

Which of the following most fully lists solutions considered by Sir Joshua Reynolds to the acquiring of “an accurate taste in poetry”?

Possible Answers:

Several hours of dialogue with a piece followed by the prevention of others from reading it.

Erroneous judgement of a piece and the insurance that it isn't read by inexperienced readers.

Severe focus and unerring attention to detail.

Intense contemplation and extended periods of reading the highest quality pieces.

Preoccupation with the facts of a piece and a careful consideration of the popularity of it.

Correct answer:

Intense contemplation and extended periods of reading the highest quality pieces.

Explanation:

Of the choices several are quite similar. We can eliminate the answer that reads “Severe focus and unerring attention to detail,” as it does not quite fit with the text, as the passage does not discuss an attention to detail, only a prolonged exposure to a piece. The answer choice “Preoccupation with the facts of a piece and a careful consideration of the popularity of it” negates itself by suggesting a piece has to be popular, while the passage only suggests it has to be of high quality. Therefore, the answer “Intense contemplation and extended periods of reading the highest quality pieces” most fully lists the solutions considered.

Example Question #4 : Evaluating Evidence And Examples

Adapted from The Idea of a University by John Henry Newman (1852)

I have been insisting, in my two preceding Discourses, first, on the cultivation of the intellect, as an end which may reasonably be pursued for its own sake; and next, on the nature of that cultivation, or what that cultivation consists in. Truth of whatever kind is the proper object of the intellect; its cultivation then lies in fitting it to apprehend and contemplate truth. Now the intellect in its present state, with exceptions which need not here be specified, does not discern truth intuitively, or as a whole. We know, not by a direct and simple vision, not at a glance, but, as it were, by piecemeal and accumulation, by a mental process, by going round an object, by the comparison, the combination, the mutual correction, the continual adaptation, of many partial notions, by the employment, concentration, and joint action of many faculties and exercises of mind.

Such a union and concert of the intellectual powers, such an enlargement and development, such a comprehensiveness, is necessarily a matter of training. And again, such a training is a matter of rule. It is not mere application, however exemplary, which introduces the mind to truth, nor the reading many books, nor the getting up many subjects, nor the witnessing many experiments, nor the attending many lectures. All this is short of enough. A man may have done it all, yet be lingering in the vestibule of knowledge. He may not realize what his mouth utters; he may not see with his mental eye what confronts him; he may have no grasp of things as they are, or at least he may have no power at all of advancing one step forward of himself, in consequence of what he has already acquired, no power of discriminating between truth and falsehood, of sifting out the grains of truth from the mass, of arranging things according to their real value, and, if I may use the phrase, of building up ideas. Such a power is the result of a scientific formation of mind; it is an acquired faculty of judgment, of clear-sightedness, of sagacity, of wisdom, of philosophical reach of mind, and of intellectual self-possession and repose—qualities which do not come of mere acquirement. The bodily eye, the organ for apprehending material objects, is provided by nature; the eye of the mind, of which the object is truth, is the work of discipline and habit.

This process of training, by which the intellect, instead of being formed or sacrificed to some particular or accidental purpose, some specific trade or profession, or study or science, is disciplined for its own sake, for the perception of its own proper object, and for its own highest culture, is called Liberal Education; and though there is no one in whom it is carried as far as is conceivable, or whose intellect would be a pattern of what intellects should be made, yet there is scarcely any one but may gain an idea of what real training is, and at least look towards it, and make its true scope and result, not something else, his standard of excellence; and numbers there are who may submit themselves to it, and secure it to themselves in good measure. And to set forth the right standard, and to train according to it, and to help forward all students towards it according to their various capacities, this I conceive to be the business of a University.

Which of the following quotations shows that Newman does not think his standard to be an unattainable ideal?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

"He may not realize what his mouth utters; he may not see with his mental eye what confronts him; he may have no grasp of things as they are, or at least he may have no power at all of advancing one step forward of himself, in consequence of what he has already acquired"

"This process of training, by which the intellect, instead of being formed or sacrificed to some particular or accidental purpose, some specific trade or profession, or study or science, is disciplined for its own sake, for the perception of its own proper object, and for its own highest culture, is called Liberal Education"

"And to set forth the right standard, and to train according to it, and to help forward all students towards it according to their various capacities"

"A man may have done it all, yet be lingering in the vestibule of knowledge."

Correct answer:

"And to set forth the right standard, and to train according to it, and to help forward all students towards it according to their various capacities"

Explanation:

The key phrase in the correct answer's sentence is, "And to help forward all students towards it according to their various capacities." This implies that not everyone will fully gain the skills of liberal education, but inasmuch as people can accomplish these goals, it is indeed able to be done.

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