English Language Proficiency Test : Argumentation

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Example Question #1 : Argumentation

This passage is an adapted from Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington (1901)

To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides. Cast down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labour wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South. Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of head, hand, and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your factories. While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen. As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, in nursing your children, watching by the sick-bed of your mothers and fathers, and often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves, so in the future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in defence of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both races one. In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.

The speaker's main argument is that ___________________.

Possible Answers:

African-Americans are superior to immigrants since they already speak English

African-Americans have already proven their value in the South and will continue to be more valuable than immigrants

White Southerners should give African-Americans more opportunities to make up for the way they had treated slaves prior to 1865

Most African-Americans in the South want to leave in search of better economic opportunities elsewhere

Correct answer:

African-Americans have already proven their value in the South and will continue to be more valuable than immigrants

Explanation:

The speaker states that African-Americans "fidelity and you have tested" and have "proved our loyalty to you in the past." He lists the many ways African-Americans have contributed to Southern society and states that, "interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and religious life" with that of white Southerners will create a more prosperous South.

Example Question #2 : Argumentation

Passage adapted from "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" written and delivered by Frederick Jackson Turner during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

The American frontier is sharply distinguished from the European frontier  a fortified boundary line running through dense populations. The most significant thing about the American frontier is, that it lies at the hither edge of free land. In the census reports it is treated as the margin of that settlement which has a density of two or more to the square mile. The term is an elastic one, and for our purposes does not need sharp definition. We shall consider the whole frontier belt, including the Indian country and the outer margin of the ìsettled areaî of the census reports. This paper will make no attempt to treat the subject exhaustively; its aim is simply to call attention to the frontier as a fertile field for investigation, and to suggest some of the problems which arise in connection with it.

In the settlement of America we have to observe how European life entered the continent, and how America modified and developed that life and reacted on Europe. Our early history is the study of European germs developing in an American environment. Too exclusive attention has been paid by institutional students to the Germanic origins, too little to the American factors. The frontier is the line of most rapid and effective Americanization. The wilderness masters the colonist. It finds him a European in dress, industries, tools, modes of travel, and thought. It takes him from the railroad car and puts him in the birch canoe. It strips off the garments of civilization and arrays him in the hunting shirt and the moccasin. It puts him in the log cabin of the Cherokee and Iroquois and runs an Indian palisade around him. Before long he has gone to planting Indian corn and plowing with a sharp stick, he shouts the war cry and takes the scalp in orthodox Indian fashion. In short, at the frontier the environment is at first too strong for the man. He must accept the conditions which it furnishes, or perish, and so he fits himself into the Indian clearings and follows the Indian trails. Little by little he transforms the wilderness, but the outcome is not the old Europe, not simply the development of Germanic germs, any more than the first phenomenon was a case of reversion to the Germanic mark. The fact is, that here is a new product that is American. At first, the frontier was the Atlantic coast. It was the frontier of Europe in a very real sense. Moving westward, the frontier became more and more American. As successive terminal moraines result from successive glaciations,3 so each frontier leaves its traces behind it, and when it becomes a settled area the region still partakes of the frontier characteristics. Thus the advance of the frontier has meant a steady movement away from the influence of Europe, a steady growth of independence on American lines. And to study this advance, the men who grew up under these conditions, and the political, economic, and social results of it, is to study the really American part of our history. . .

The bolded and underlined section could best be described as _____________.

Possible Answers:

a refutation

a problem

a thesis

a conclusion

Correct answer:

a thesis

Explanation:

The statement in question gives the reader the main idea for the paper, otherwise known as the thesis.  The key clue here is the identification of the specific aim or goal of the paper, when Jackson says, "its aim is simply to call attention to the frontier as a fertile field for investigation, and to suggest some of the problems which arise in connection with it" he gives us a clear idea of why and for what exactly he is arguing.

Example Question #3 : Argumentation

Passage adapted from "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" written and delivered by Frederick Jackson Turner during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

The American frontier is sharply distinguished from the European frontier, a fortified boundary line running through dense populations. The most significant thing about the American frontier is, that it lies at the hither edge of free land. In the census reports it is treated as the margin of that settlement which has a density of two or more to the square mile. The term is an elastic one, and for our purposes does not need sharp definition. We shall consider the whole frontier belt, including the Indian country and the outer margin of the is settled areaî of the census reports. This paper will make no attempt to treat the subject exhaustively; its aim is simply to call attention to the frontier as a fertile field for investigation, and to suggest some of the problems which arise in connection with it.

In the settlement of America we have to observe how European life entered the continent, and how America modified and developed that life and reacted on Europe. Our early history is the study of European germs developing in an American environment. Too exclusive attention has been paid by institutional students to the Germanic origins, too little to the American factors. The frontier is the line of most rapid and effective Americanization. The wilderness masters the colonist. It finds him a European in dress, industries, tools, modes of travel, and thought. It takes him from the railroad car and puts him in the birch canoe. It strips off the garments of civilization and arrays him in the hunting shirt and the moccasin. It puts him in the log cabin of the Cherokee and Iroquois and runs an Indian palisade around him. Before long he has gone to planting Indian corn and plowing with a sharp stick, he shouts the war cry and takes the scalp in orthodox Indian fashion. In short, at the frontier the environment is at first too strong for the man. He must accept the conditions which it furnishes, or perish, and so he fits himself into the Indian clearings and follows the Indian trails. Little by little he transforms the wilderness, but the outcome is not the old Europe, not simply the development of Germanic germs, any more than the first phenomenon was a case of reversion to the Germanic mark. The fact is, that here is a new product that is American. At first, the frontier was the Atlantic coast. It was the frontier of Europe in a very real sense. Moving westward, the frontier became more and more American. As successive terminal moraines result from successive glaciations,3 so each frontier leaves its traces behind it, and when it becomes a settled area the region still partakes of the frontier characteristics. Thus the advance of the frontier has meant a steady movement away from the influence of Europe, a steady growth of independence on American lines. And to study this advance, the men who grew up under these conditions, and the political, economic, and social results of it, is to study the really American part of our history. . .

The main idea in this passage is that ___________________.

Possible Answers:

the American frontier was characterized by Europeans

the American frontier was characterized by Native Americans

the American frontier is an important topic that should be studied more

the American frontier is superior to the European frontier

Correct answer:

the American frontier is an important topic that should be studied more

Explanation:

For the answer to this questions, look at Turner's thesis:

"This paper will make no attempt to treat the subject exhaustively; its aim is simply to call attention to the frontier as a fertile field for investigation, and to suggest some of the problems which arise in connection with it."

His aim, or his purpose for writing this paper, was to bring up the idea that the frontier is a "fertile field for investigation", or, in other words, that the frontier is an important topic that needs more investigation.

Example Question #4 : Argumentation

Passage adapted from "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" written and delivered by Frederick Jackson Turner during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

The American frontier is sharply distinguished from the European frontier, a fortified boundary line running through dense populations. The most significant thing about the American frontier is, that it lies at the hither edge of free land. In the census reports it is treated as the margin of that settlement which has a density of two or more to the square mile. The term is an elastic one, and for our purposes does not need sharp definition. We shall consider the whole frontier belt, including the Indian country and the outer margin of the is settled areaî of the census reports. This paper will make no attempt to treat the subject exhaustively; its aim is simply to call attention to the frontier as a fertile field for investigation, and to suggest some of the problems which arise in connection with it.

In the settlement of America we have to observe how European life entered the continent, and how America modified and developed that life and reacted on Europe. Our early history is the study of European germs developing in an American environment. Too exclusive attention has been paid by institutional students to the Germanic origins, too little to the American factors. The frontier is the line of most rapid and effective Americanization. The wilderness masters the colonist. It finds him a European in dress, industries, tools, modes of travel, and thought. It takes him from the railroad car and puts him in the birch canoe. It strips off the garments of civilization and arrays him in the hunting shirt and the moccasin. It puts him in the log cabin of the Cherokee and Iroquois and runs an Indian palisade around him. Before long he has gone to planting Indian corn and plowing with a sharp stick, he shouts the war cry and takes the scalp in orthodox Indian fashion. In short, at the frontier the environment is at first too strong for the man. He must accept the conditions which it furnishes, or perish, and so he fits himself into the Indian clearings and follows the Indian trails. Little by little he transforms the wilderness, but the outcome is not the old Europe, not simply the development of Germanic germs, any more than the first phenomenon was a case of reversion to the Germanic mark. The fact is, that here is a new product that is American. At first, the frontier was the Atlantic coast. It was the frontier of Europe in a very real sense. Moving westward, the frontier became more and more American. As successive terminal moraines result from successive glaciations,3 so each frontier leaves its traces behind it, and when it becomes a settled area the region still partakes of the frontier characteristics. Thus the advance of the frontier has meant a steady movement away from the influence of Europe, a steady growth of independence on American lines. And to study this advance, the men who grew up under these conditions, and the political, economic, and social results of it, is to study the really American part of our history. . .

Why does Turner say the American frontier is worth studying?

Possible Answers:

The frontier affected the daily lives of almost all Americans

The frontier had a big impact on early American political policy

The frontier's history is better documented than other parts of American history

The frontier's history is uniquely American history

Correct answer:

The frontier's history is uniquely American history

Explanation:

In the last line, Turner specifically says, "And to study this advance, the men who grew up under these conditions, and the political, economic, and social results of it, is to study the really American part of our history. . ."

But you could have also found the answer to the question by reading through the second paragraph. Turner talks extensively about how the frontier was resistant to European influence and therefore retained more of its Americanness than most other parts of the country, and that this quality helped shape much of the country as he saw it

Example Question #4 : Argumentation

Passage adapted from "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" written and delivered by Frederick Jackson Turner during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

The American frontier is sharply distinguished from the European frontier, a fortified boundary line running through dense populations. The most significant thing about the American frontier is, that it lies at the hither edge of free land. In the census reports it is treated as the margin of that settlement which has a density of two or more to the square mile. The term is an elastic one, and for our purposes does not need sharp definition. We shall consider the whole frontier belt, including the Indian country and the outer margin of the is settled areaî of the census reports. This paper will make no attempt to treat the subject exhaustively; its aim is simply to call attention to the frontier as a fertile field for investigation, and to suggest some of the problems which arise in connection with it.

In the settlement of America we have to observe how European life entered the continent, and how America modified and developed that life and reacted on Europe. Our early history is the study of European germs developing in an American environment. Too exclusive attention has been paid by institutional students to the Germanic origins, too little to the American factors. The frontier is the line of most rapid and effective Americanization. The wilderness masters the colonist. It finds him a European in dress, industries, tools, modes of travel, and thought. It takes him from the railroad car and puts him in the birch canoe. It strips off the garments of civilization and arrays him in the hunting shirt and the moccasin. It puts him in the log cabin of the Cherokee and Iroquois and runs an Indian palisade around him. Before long he has gone to planting Indian corn and plowing with a sharp stick, he shouts the war cry and takes the scalp in orthodox Indian fashion. In short, at the frontier the environment is at first too strong for the man. He must accept the conditions which it furnishes, or perish, and so he fits himself into the Indian clearings and follows the Indian trails. Little by little he transforms the wilderness, but the outcome is not the old Europe, not simply the development of Germanic germs, any more than the first phenomenon was a case of reversion to the Germanic mark. The fact is, that here is a new product that is American. At first, the frontier was the Atlantic coast. It was the frontier of Europe in a very real sense. Moving westward, the frontier became more and more American. As successive terminal moraines result from successive glaciations,3 so each frontier leaves its traces behind it, and when it becomes a settled area the region still partakes of the frontier characteristics. Thus the advance of the frontier has meant a steady movement away from the influence of Europe, a steady growth of independence on American lines. And to study this advance, the men who grew up under these conditions, and the political, economic, and social results of it, is to study the really American part of our history. . .

What is the purpose of the bolded and underline sentence?

Possible Answers:

To explain why the Native American's lived the way they did

To explain why so few colonists were willing to live on the frontier

To explain why the frontier is so interesting to study

To explain why the frontier changed the European instead of being changed by him

Correct answer:

To explain why the frontier changed the European instead of being changed by him

Explanation:

Just before this sentence, Turner explains to the audience how the colonist was changed by the west (he adopted many Native American customs to survive), and, beginning with this sentence, he explains why the frontier changed the European colonists who came there.

Example Question #6 : Argumentation

Passage adapted from "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" written and delivered by Frederick Jackson Turner during the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

The American frontier is sharply distinguished from the European frontier, a fortified boundary line running through dense populations. The most significant thing about the American frontier is, that it lies at the hither edge of free land. In the census reports it is treated as the margin of that settlement which has a density of two or more to the square mile. The term is an elastic one, and for our purposes does not need sharp definition. We shall consider the whole frontier belt, including the Indian country and the outer margin of the is settled areaî of the census reports. This paper will make no attempt to treat the subject exhaustively; its aim is simply to call attention to the frontier as a fertile field for investigation, and to suggest some of the problems which arise in connection with it.

In the settlement of America we have to observe how European life entered the continent, and how America modified and developed that life and reacted on Europe. Our early history is the study of European germs developing in an American environment. Too exclusive attention has been paid by institutional students to the Germanic origins, too little to the American factors. The frontier is the line of most rapid and effective Americanization. The wilderness masters the colonist. It finds him a European in dress, industries, tools, modes of travel, and thought. It takes him from the railroad car and puts him in the birch canoe. It strips off the garments of civilization and arrays him in the hunting shirt and the moccasin. It puts him in the log cabin of the Cherokee and Iroquois and runs an Indian palisade around him. Before long he has gone to planting Indian corn and plowing with a sharp stick, he shouts the war cry and takes the scalp in orthodox Indian fashion. In short, at the frontier the environment is at first too strong for the man. He must accept the conditions which it furnishes, or perish, and so he fits himself into the Indian clearings and follows the Indian trails. Little by little he transforms the wilderness, but the outcome is not the old Europe, not simply the development of Germanic germs, any more than the first phenomenon was a case of reversion to the Germanic mark. The fact is, that here is a new product that is American. At first, the frontier was the Atlantic coast. It was the frontier of Europe in a very real sense. Moving westward, the frontier became more and more American. As successive terminal moraines result from successive glaciations,3 so each frontier leaves its traces behind it, and when it becomes a settled area the region still partakes of the frontier characteristics. Thus the advance of the frontier has meant a steady movement away from the influence of Europe, a steady growth of independence on American lines. And to study this advance, the men who grew up under these conditions, and the political, economic, and social results of it, is to study the really American part of our history. . .

Why does Turner say that he will "make no attempt to treat the subject exhaustively"?

Possible Answers:

Because nobody knew anything about the American frontier at that time

Because most of his paper was on another topic

Because he originally said he would cover the subject completely

Because there was too much material to cover in one paper

Correct answer:

Because there was too much material to cover in one paper

Explanation:

In the rest of that sentence, Turner says the will only be talking about the frontier as a topic that could be researched more and about some of the issues that are connected to the frontier. This means that he was going to spend his entire essay discussing the frontier but only two small aspects of it, which further implies that he would have needed a lot more time and space to thoroughly discuss the subject.

Example Question #5 : Argumentation

Passage adapted from Political Ideals by Bertrand Russell (1918)

...Security and liberty are only the negative conditions for good political institutions. When they have been won, we need also the positive condition: encouragement of creative energy. Security alone might produce a smug and stagnant society; it demands creativeness as its counterpart, in order to keep alive the adventure and interest of life, and the movement toward perpetually new and better things. There can be no final goal for human institutions; the best are those that most encourage progress toward others still better. Without effort and change, human life cannot remain good. It is not a finished Utopia that we ought to desire, but a world where imagination and hope are alive and active.

Which of the following statements, if true, would undermine the author's argument?

Possible Answers:

A society that is merely secure will be stagnant

Security guarantees creativity in a society

Utopias are, in principle, impossible

The best societies promote creative energies

Creative societies will eventually develop into finished Utopias

Correct answer:

Security guarantees creativity in a society

Explanation:

The author claims that "security and liberty are only the negative conditions for good political institutions." The author then claims that when these negative conditions have been fulfilled by a society,"we need also the positive condition: encouragement of creative energy." Assuming that security guarantees creativity, then the author's contention that security alone is insufficient would be false; after all, a secure society would necessarily have all the benefits of a creative society.

Example Question #6 : Argumentation

Passage adapted from Political Ideals by Bertrand Russell (1918)

...Security and liberty are only the negative conditions for good political institutions. When they have been won, we need also the positive condition: encouragement of creative energy. Security alone might produce a smug and stagnant society; it demands creativeness as its counterpart, in order to keep alive the adventure and interest of life, and the movement toward perpetually new and better things. There can be no final goal for human institutions; the best are those that most encourage progress toward others still better. Without effort and change, human life cannot remain good. It is not a finished Utopia that we ought to desire, but a world where imagination and hope are alive and active.

Which of the following statements, if true, would most support the author's argument?

Possible Answers:

A secure society necessarily promotes creative values

All societies that have failed to encourage creative energies in the past have been overshadowed by their rivals that have encouraged creative energies

A utopian society is, in principle, possible

The most powerful countries in the world protect the political rights of their citizens in a humane manner

The author, Bertrand Russell, is a renowned political philosopher of the 20th century

Correct answer:

All societies that have failed to encourage creative energies in the past have been overshadowed by their rivals that have encouraged creative energies

Explanation:

According to the author, "security alone might produce a smug and stagnant society; it demands creativeness as its counterpart." Therefore, the author's argument would predict that past societies that have failed to promote creative energies have generally been overshadowed by rival societies that have promoted creative energies. If this pattern were always to have held, then the author's contention seems to explain why past societies that have encouraged creative energies have done relatively well.

Example Question #7 : Argumentation

Passage adapted from Political Ideals by Bertrand Russell (1918)

...Security and liberty are only the negative conditions for good political institutions. When they have been won, we need also the positive condition: encouragement of creative energy. Security alone might produce a smug and stagnant society; it demands creativeness as its counterpart, in order to keep alive the adventure and interest of life, and the movement toward perpetually new and better things. There can be no final goal for human institutions; the best are those that most encourage progress toward others still better. Without effort and change, human life cannot remain good. It is not a finished Utopia that we ought to desire, but a world where imagination and hope are alive and active.

Which of the following statements is a premise, or supporting statement, of the author's argument?

Possible Answers:

The best societies are more than merely secure

Artists need to have their creative rights protected

The author, Bertrand Russell, is a well-known philosopher of the 20th century

The best societies not only protect the political liberties of its members, but also encourage constant and creative political reform

Political change must happen in order to prevent the rise of a dictator

Correct answer:

The best societies are more than merely secure

Explanation:

In the first two sentences of the above excerpt, the author claims that the best societies do more than just secure the political rights of its members. In other words, a premise of the author's argument is that security alone does not make a perfect society. It may be tempting to identify the statement that constant political reform, on top on political security, is present in the best societies as a premise of the argument; however, this statement is the conclusion (not a premise) of the argument.

Example Question #8 : Argumentation

Passage adapted from Principia Ethica by G.E. Moore (1903)

It is very easy to point out some among our every-day judgments, with the truth of which Ethics is undoubtedly concerned. Whenever we say, So and so is a good man, or That fellow is a villain; whenever we ask What ought I to do? or Is it wrong for me to do like this?; whenever we hazard such remarks as Temperance is a virtue and drunkenness a vice—it is undoubtedly the business of Ethics to discuss such questions and such statements; to argue what is the true answer when we ask what it is right to do, and to give reasons for thinking that our statements about the character of persons or the morality of actions are true or false. In the vast majority of cases, where we make statements involving any of the terms virtue, vice, duty, right, ought, good, bad, we are making ethical judgments; and if we wish to discuss their truth, we shall be discussing a point of Ethics.

So much as this is not disputed; but it falls very far short of defining the province of Ethics. That province may indeed be defined as the whole truth about that which is at the same time common to all such judgments and peculiar to them. But we have still to ask the question: What is it that is thus common and peculiar? And this is a question to which very different answers have been given by ethical philosophers of acknowledged reputation, and none of them, perhaps, completely satisfactory.

Which of the following statements, if true, would most undermine the author main contention in the above excerpt?

Possible Answers:

The vast majority of philosophers have agreed on a definition of the province of Ethics and the author will agree with the philosophers later in the text from which the excerpt is taken

There is much disagreement over many ethical questions

There is an objective answer to what the province of Ethics is but no philosophers have discovered it is

Temperance is not a real virtue

There are many equally plausible answers to the question of what the province of Ethics is

Correct answer:

The vast majority of philosophers have agreed on a definition of the province of Ethics and the author will agree with the philosophers later in the text from which the excerpt is taken

Explanation:

The author's key contention in the above excerpt is that it is still an open question as to how to adequately define the province of Ethics. If many philosophers, including the author, agreed on a single answer, then this contention seems dubious. In any case, none of the other answers, if true, would place the author's key contention in as much doubt.

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