All Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts Resources
Example Question #8 : Reading: Informational Text
Adapted from “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings” (1900) by William James
Some years ago, while journeying in the mountains of North Carolina, I passed by a large number of 'coves,' as they call them there, or heads of small valleys between the hills, which had been newly cleared and planted. The impression on my mind was one of unmitigated squalor. The settler had in every case cut down the more manageable trees, and left their charred stumps standing. The larger trees he had girdled and killed, in order that their foliage should not cast a shade. He had then built a log cabin, plastering its chinks with clay, and had set up a tall zigzag rail fence around the scene of his havoc, to keep the pigs and cattle out. Finally, he had irregularly planted the intervals between the stumps and trees with Indian corn, which grew among the chips; and there he dwelt with his wife and babes--an axe, a gun, a few utensils, and some pigs and chickens feeding in the woods, being the sum total of his possessions.
The forest had been destroyed; and what had 'improved' it out of existence was hideous, a sort of ulcer, without a single element of artificial grace to make up for the loss of Nature's beauty. Ugly, indeed, seemed the life of the squatter, scudding, as the sailors say, under bare poles, beginning again away back where our first ancestors started, and by hardly a single item the better off for all the achievements of the intervening generations.
“Talk about going back to nature!” I said to myself, oppressed by the dreariness, as I drove by. Talk of a country life for one's old age and for one's children! Never thus, with nothing but the bare ground and one's bare hands to fight the battle! Never, without the best spoils of culture woven in! The beauties and commodities gained by the centuries are sacred. They are our heritage and birthright. No modern person ought to be willing to live a day in such a state of rudimentariness and denudation.
Then I said to the mountaineer who was driving me, "What sort of people are they who have to make these new clearings?" "All of us," he replied. "Why, we ain't happy here, unless we are getting one of these coves under cultivation." I instantly felt that I had been losing the whole inward significance of the situation. Because to me the clearings spoke of naught but denudation, I thought that to those whose sturdy arms and obedient axes had made them they could tell no other story. But, when they looked on the hideous stumps, what they thought of was personal victory. The chips, the girdled trees, and the vile split rails spoke of honest sweat, persistent toil and final reward. The cabin was a warrant of safety for self and wife and babes. In short, the clearing, which to me was a mere ugly picture on the retina, was to them a symbol redolent with moral memories and sang a very pæan of duty, struggle, and success.
I had been as blind to the peculiar ideality of their conditions as they certainly would also have been to the ideality of mine, had they had a peep at my strange indoor academic ways of life at Cambridge.
Which of the given options most accurately reflects the meaning of "ulcer" as it is being used in the passage?
You might have heard of an "ulcer" as something that a harried lawyer or businessman on television complains about while swigging milk in an old movie. A stomach ulcer is, indeed, a common and dangerous ailment. In medical terms and "ulcer" refers to any open sore on the skin or internal organs of a person or animal.
Here, the usage is obviously to some extent figurative, since the ulcer is a shack in the forest. Knowing the medical connotation, you can tell that the connotation will be negative and probably related to the literal meaning: the shack is acting as a wound, or "blemish" on the otherwise healthy skin (or stomach lining) of the forest.
Example Question #9 : Reading: Informational Text
Adapted from “Geographical Evolution” by Archibald Geikie (1879)
In the quaint preface to his Navigations and Voyages of the English Nation, Hakluyt calls geography and chronology "the sunne and moone, the right eye and the left of all history." The position thus claimed for geography three hundred years ago by the great English chronicler was not accorded by his successors, and has hardly been admitted even now. The functions of the geographer and the traveller, popularly assumed to be identical, have been supposed to consist in descriptions of foreign countries, their climate, productions, and inhabitants, bristling on the one hand with dry statistics, and relieved on the other by as copious an introduction as may be of stirring adventure and personal anecdote. There has indeed been much to justify this popular assumption. It was not until the key-note of its future progress was struck by Karl Ritter, within the present century, that geography advanced beyond the domain of travellers' tales and desultory observation into that of orderly, methodical, scientific progress. This branch of inquiry, however, is now no longer the pursuit of mere numerical statistics, nor the chronicle of marvelous and often questionable adventures by flood and fell. It seeks to present a luminous picture of the earth's surface, its various forms of configuration, its continents, islands, and oceans, its mountains, valleys, and plains, its rivers and lakes, its climates, plants, and animals. It thus endeavours to produce a picture which shall not be one of mere topographical detail. It ever looks for a connection between scattered facts, tries to ascertain the relations which subsist between the different parts of the globe, their reactions on each other and the function of each in the general economy of the whole. Modern geography studies the distribution of vegetable and animal life over the earth's surface, with the action and reaction between it and the surrounding inorganic world. It traces how man, alike unconsciously and knowingly, has changed the face of nature, and how, on the other hand, the conditions of his geographical environment have moulded his own progress.
With these broad aims geography comes frankly for assistance to many different branches of science. It does not, however, claim in any measure to occupy their domain. It brings to the consideration of their problems a central human interest in which these sciences are sometimes apt to be deficient; for it demands first of all to know how the problems to be solved bear upon the position and history of man and of this marvelously-ordered world wherein he finds himself undisputed lord. Geography freely borrows from meteorology, physics, chemistry, geology, zoology, and botany; but the debt is not all on one side. Save for the impetus derived from geographical research, many of these sciences would not be in their present advanced condition. They gain in vast augmentation of facts, and may cheerfully lend their aid in correlating these for geographical requirements.
In no respect does modern geography stand out more prominently than in the increased precision and fullness of its work. It has fitted out exploratory expeditions, and in so doing has been careful to see them provided with the instruments and apparatus necessary to enable them to contribute accurate and definite results. It has guided and fostered research, and has been eager to show a generous appreciation of the labours of those by whom our knowledge of the earth has been extended. Human courage and endurance are not less enthusiastically applauded than they once were; but they must be united to no common powers of observation before they will now raise a traveller to the highest rank. When we read a volume of recent travel, while warmly appreciating the spirit of adventure, fertility of resource, presence of mind, and other moral qualities of its author, we instinctively ask ourselves, as we close its pages, what is the sum of its additions to our knowledge of the earth? From the geographical point of view - and it is to this point alone that these remarks apply - we must rank an explorer according to his success in widening our knowledge and enlarging our views regarding the aspects of nature.
The demands of modern geography are thus becoming every year more exacting. It requires more training in its explorers abroad, more knowledge on the part of its readers at home. The days are drawing to a close when one can gain undying geographical renown by struggling against man and beast, fever and hunger and drought, across some savage and previously unknown region, even though little can be shown as the outcome of the journey. All honour to the pioneers by whom this first exploratory work has been so nobly done! They will be succeeded by a race that will find its laurels more difficult to win - a race from which more will be expected, and which will need to make up in the variety, amount, and value of its detail, what it lacks in the freshness of first glimpses into new lands.
What is the meaning of the underlined and bolded phrase "topographic details"?
The details of the relationships between geographical features
The surface details of a location or object
The scientifically measurable details of a location
The details of the land-surface of a specific region, excluding bodies of water
The surface details of a location or object
This question interrogates your understanding of a technical term, used in context. You may have heard of "topographic maps," which is the topic here. Topographic maps show the surface details of a landscape, those features that are visible to the naked eye. Topographic maps do not make any claims about the nature or composition of any of these objects, they merely display what is visible and on the surface. Topographic maps include not just land-based objects, but bodies of water as well.
There is also, however, a context clue that could have pointed you to the correct answer. The sentence tells us that modern geography attempts to "produce a picture which shall not be one of mere topographic detail." The use of mere here indicates that the author finds this sort of detail in some way insufficient, namely in that topographic detail does not attempt to understand the "relations which subsist between the different parts of the globe," in other words, it does not investigate beyond the surface, for deeper details.