English Language Proficiency Test : Compare and Contrast

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for English Language Proficiency Test

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Example Question #1 : Compare And Contrast

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. . .

Turner most likely compares the American frontier with the European frontier because ________________.

Possible Answers:

very few people knew what the American frontier was at that time

the American frontier was a new term that he had just invented

his audience was mostly made up of Europeans, instead of Americans

many of the people in his audience thought of the American frontier and European frontiers as being similar

Correct answer:

many of the people in his audience thought of the American frontier and European frontiers as being similar

Explanation:

Because he spends very little time describing what the American frontier was, we can make a reasonable guess that Turner's audience already knew about both the American and European frontier (otherwise, the audience would have required more information), which is why "Very few people knew what the American frontier was at that time" and "The American frontier was a new term that he had just invented" are incorrect answers. In addition, Turner discusses other very American things, like canoes and Cherokees, later in the essay, which makes it unlikely that his audience is mostly Europeans.

The only explanation we can reasonably conclude from the given text is that Turner believed his audience thought that the American and European frontiers were similar. This is supported by the fact that he compares the two frontiers right before he gives his definition for the frontier. 

Example Question #1 : Compare And Contrast

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.

What is a key difference between the first paragraph and the second paragraph of the above excerpt?

Possible Answers:

In the first paragraph, the author raises the question of how to define the province of Ethics; in the second paragraph, the author answers this question

In the first paragraph, the author gives examples of ethical judgments; in the second paragraph, the author tells us that Ethics is indefinable

In the first paragraph, the author defines Ethics; in the second paragraph, the author raises the question of how to define the province of Ethics

In the first paragraph, the author gives examples of ethical judgments; in the second paragraph, the author raises the question of how to define the province of Ethics

In the first paragraph, the author argues that Ethics is pointless; in the second paragraph, the author asks us why we care about Ethics

Correct answer:

In the first paragraph, the author gives examples of ethical judgments; in the second paragraph, the author raises the question of how to define the province of Ethics

Explanation:

The first paragraph is full of examples of types of ethical judgments. In the second paragraph, the author observes that giving such examples will not suffice to definitively determine what the province of Ethics is. Furthermore, the author points out that it is still an open question what is "common and peculiar" to ethical judgments in the second paragraph.

Example Question #2 : Compare And Contrast

1 "Camelot—Camelot," said I to myself. 2 "I don't seem to remember hearing of it before… Name of the asylum, likely."

3 It was a soft, reposeful summer landscape, as lovely as a dream, and as lonesome as Sunday.  4 The air was full of the smell of flowers, and the buzzing of insects, and the twittering of birds, and there were no people, no wagons, there was no stir of life, nothing going on.  5 The road was mainly a winding path with hoof-prints in it, and now and then a faint trace of wheels on either side in the grass—wheels that apparently had a tire as broad as one's hand.

6 Presently a fair slip of a girl, about ten years old, with a cataract of golden hair streaming down over her shoulders, came along. … 7 The circus man paid no attention to her; didn't even seem to see her.  8 And she—she was no more startled at his fantastic make-up than if she was used to his like every day of her life. 9 She was going by as indifferently as she might have gone by a couple of cows; but when she happened to notice me, then there was a change! 10 Up went her hands, and she was turned to stone; her mouth dropped open, her eyes stared wide and timorously, she was the picture of astonished curiosity touched with fear. 11 And there she stood gazing, in a sort of stupefied fascination, till we turned a corner of the wood and were lost to her view. 12 That she should be startled at me instead of at the other man, was too many for me; I couldn't make head or tail of it.

What type of figurative language is seen in Sentence 3?

Possible Answers:

Hyperbole

Paradox

Onomatopoeia

Metaphor

Simile

Correct answer:

Simile

Explanation:

Similes are rhetorical devices that employ “like” or “as” to make comparisons. This is the device we see with “as lovely as a dream” and “as lonesome as Sunday.” Metaphors also make comparisons, but they don’t use “like” or “as.” Hyperbole is literary exaggeration, paradox is a contradictory statement, and onomatopoeia is a word that mimics the sound of the thing it is describing.

Passage adapted from Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)

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