English Language Proficiency Test : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

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Example Question #1 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

Since its discovery and classification as the ninth planet in our solar system in 1930, Pluto has been the subject of much controversy in the scientific community.  Its small size and extreme distance from Earth have made gathering specific data about its characteristics difficult, and no real consensus exists amongst astronomers about the information that is known about Pluto.  In 2006, the International Astronomical Union created an official definition for the term "planet" which listed three criteria for classification:

  1. The object must be in orbit around the sun.
  2. The object must be massive enough to be rounded into a sphere by its own gravity.
  3. The object must have "cleared the neighborhood" around its orbit.

Because Pluto is much smaller than the other objects in its orbit, it fails to meet the third condition and has since been known as a "dwarf planet".  Some scientists have gone so far as to suggest that Pluto may actually be one of the many moons of its neighboring planet, Neptune.

When Pluto was first discovered in 1930, astronomers estimated that it may be as large as earth and thus were confident that it was, in fact, a planet.  As our ability to gather information about outer space continues to improve through more powerful telescopes and space probes, scientists are now able to use the new, more accurate information they receive to accurately classify objects in space.  While some still argue that Pluto meets the accepted criteria to be known as a planet, for the time being, conventional scientific thinking will hold that our solar system only has eight planets.

Throughout the passage, the writer primarily relies upon the following rhetorical appeal __________________.

Possible Answers:

A logical argument that Pluto may, in fact, actually be a moon rather than a true planet

An emotional appeal to readers to support the idea that Pluto should still be considered a planet

Pointing out the logical flaws in classifying planets primarily by size

The authority of the International Astronomical Union which has defined the specific criteria for a body to be classified as a "planet"

Correct answer:

The authority of the International Astronomical Union which has defined the specific criteria for a body to be classified as a "planet"

Explanation:

While the author acknowledges the ongoing debate in the scientific community, the final sentence of the passage, "conventional scientific thinking will hold" indicates an acceptance of the criteria established by the International Astronomical Association and the application of its criteria to Pluto.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

Passage adapted from The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

Again Hal's whip fell upon the dogs. They threw themselves against the breast-bands, dug their feet into the packed snow, got down low to it, and put forth all their strength. The sled held as though it were an anchor. After two efforts, they stood still, panting. The whip was whistling savagely, when once more Mercedes interfered. She dropped on her knees before Buck, with tears in her eyes, and put her arms around his neck.

"You poor, poor dears," she cried sympathetically, "why don't you pull hard?--then you wouldn't be whipped." Buck did not like her, but he was feeling too miserable to resist her, taking it as part of the day's miserable work.

 One of the onlookers, who had been clenching his teeth to suppress hot speech, now spoke up:--

 "It's not that I care a whoop what becomes of you, but for the dogs' sakes I just want to tell you, you can help them a mighty lot by breaking out that sled. The runners are froze fast. Throw your weight against the gee-pole, right and left, and break it out."

 A third time the attempt was made, but this time, following the advice, Hal broke out the runners which had been frozen to the snow. The overloaded and unwieldy sled forged ahead, Buck and his mates struggling frantically under the rain of blows. A hundred yards ahead the path turned and sloped steeply into the main street. It would have required an experienced man to keep the top-heavy sled upright, and Hal was not such a man. As they swung on the turn the sled went over, spilling half its load through the loose lashings. The dogs never stopped. The lightened sled bounded on its side behind them. They were angry because of the ill treatment they had received and the unjust load. Buck was raging. He broke into a run, the team following his lead. Hal cried "Whoa! whoa!" but they gave no heed. He tripped and was pulled off his feet. The capsized sled ground over him, and the dogs dashed on up the street, adding to the gayety of Skaguay as they scattered the remainder of the outfit along its chief thoroughfare. 

The first paragraph primarily appeals to the reader's ______________.

Possible Answers:

understanding of the main problem faced by Hal and the dogs

knowledge of dog-sledding that has been reinforced earlier in the passage

sense of pity due to the mistreatment of the dogs

recognition of Hal as a expert in dog-sledding

Correct answer:

sense of pity due to the mistreatment of the dogs

Explanation:

The writer is appealing primarily to the reader's emotions, with phrases such as "whistling savegly" and "with tears in her eyes."

Example Question #3 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

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 refers to African-Americans who have been "nursing your children" and "watching by sick-bed of your mothers" primarily to appeal to readers' __________________.

Possible Answers:

sense of justice

ability to think logically

emotions

religious beliefs

Correct answer:

emotions

Explanation:

The speaker mentions to various ways in which African-Americans have served Southern society in the past. From the tenderness of nursing young children to the sadness evoked by a sick-bed, the main appeal is to the readers' emotions.

Example Question #4 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

This passage is adapted from President Woodrow Wilson's Speech to Congress (1917) asking for a Declaration of War against Germany.

It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts -- for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.

President Wilson uses the phrase, "spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured" in order to __________________.

Possible Answers:

demonstrate why the American political system is superior to those of other nations

explain that war is the only way in which democracy can be established

remind his audience that the American people had to fight a terrible war in order to establish the free, democratic system they currently enjoy

complain that Americans do not respect the sacrifices made by their ancestors

Correct answer:

remind his audience that the American people had to fight a terrible war in order to establish the free, democratic system they currently enjoy

Explanation:

The reference to "the principles that gave her birth" is a clear allusion to both the Declaration of Independence that defined those principles and the Revolutionary War that was fought to establish them.

Example Question #5 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

This passage is adapted from Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (1901)

The nature of these vast retail combinations, should they ever permanently disappear, will form an interesting chapter in the commercial history of our nation. Such a flowering out of a modest trade principle the world had never witnessed up to that time. They were along the line of the most effective retail organization, with hundreds of stores coordinated into one, and laid out upon the most imposing and economic basis. They were handsome, bustling, successful affairs, with a host of clerks and a swarm of patrons. Carrie passed along the busy aisles, much affected by the remarkable displays of trinkets, dress goods, shoes, stationery, jewelry. Each separate counter was a show place of dazzling interest and attraction. She could not help feeling the claim of each trinket and valuable upon her personally and yet she did not stop. There was nothing there which she could not have used—nothing which she did not long to own. The dainty slippers and stockings, the delicately frilled skirts and petticoats, the laces, ribbons, hair-combs, purses, all touched her with individual desire, and she felt keenly the fact that not any of these things were in the range of her purchase. She was a work-seeker, an outcast without employment, one whom the average employé could tell at a glance was poor and in need of a situation.

Which of the following terms best describes Carrie's reaction to the department store?

Possible Answers:

Resentment

Nostalgia

Apathy

Amazement

Correct answer:

Amazement

Explanation:

The writer describes the store as "vast," "bustling," and "successful." Carrie is described as being "much affected" by the goods that she sees, "each counter was show place of dazzling interest. Therefore, the best description for her reaction would be "amazed."

Example Question #6 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

1 All her life Miss Elizabeth Dwarris had been a sore trial to her relations. 2 A woman of means, she ruled tyrannously over a large number of impecunious cousins, using her bank-balance like the scorpions of Rehoboam to chastise them, and, like many another pious creature, for their soul’s good making all and sundry excessively miserable. 3 Nurtured in the evangelical ways current in her youth, she insisted that her connections should seek salvation according to her own lights; and, with harsh tongue and with bitter gibe, made it her constant business to persuade them of their extreme unworthiness. 4 She arranged lives as she thought fit, and ventured not only to order the costume and habits, but even the inner thought of those about her: the Last Judgment could have no terrors for any that had faced her searching examination. 5 She invited to stay with her in succession various poor ladies who presumed on a distant tie to call her Aunt Eliza, and they accepted her summons, more imperious than a royal command, with gratitude by no means unmixed with fear, bearing the servitude meekly as a cross which in the future would meet due testamentary reward.

In Sentence 2, what rhetorical device does “scorpions of Rehoboam” represent?

Possible Answers:

Simile

Parallelism

Metonymy

Allusion

Alliteration

Correct answer:

Allusion

Explanation:

Allusion is a reference to another literary (or sometimes historical, artistic, etc.) thing, place, or event (e.g. the title of the novel Brave New World alludes to the lines “O brave new world, / That has such people in ‘t!” in Shakespeare’s The Tempest). Alliteration is the repetition of similar sounds at the beginning of multiple words (e.g. “two torn tulips”). Simile is a comparison using “like” or “as” (e.g. “the still pond is like a looking glass”). Metonymy is the substitution of one word for another word that’s commonly associated with it (e.g. using “throne” to discuss a monarchy). Parallelism is the use of clauses with identical grammatical patterns, syntax, or meter (e.g. “She expected nothing, hoped for everything, and received something”).

Passage adapted from W. Somerset Maugham’s The Merry-Go-Round (1904)

Example Question #7 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

1 All her life Miss Elizabeth Dwarris had been a sore trial to her relations. 2 A woman of means, she ruled tyrannously over a large number of impecunious cousins, using her bank-balance like the scorpions of Rehoboam to chastise them, and, like many another pious creature, for their soul’s good making all and sundry excessively miserable. 3 Nurtured in the evangelical ways current in her youth, she insisted that her connections should seek salvation according to her own lights; and, with harsh tongue and with bitter gibe, made it her constant business to persuade them of their extreme unworthiness. 4 She arranged lives as she thought fit, and ventured not only to order the costume and habits, but even the inner thought of those about her: the Last Judgment could have no terrors for any that had faced her searching examination. 5 She invited to stay with her in succession various poor ladies who presumed on a distant tie to call her Aunt Eliza, and they accepted her summons, more imperious than a royal command, with gratitude by no means unmixed with fear, bearing the servitude meekly as a cross which in the future would meet due testamentary reward.

In Sentence 4, what literary device can be seen in the phrase “the Last Judgment could have no terrors for any that had faced her searching examination”?

Possible Answers:

Hyperbole

Synesthesia

Verisimilitude

Juxtaposition

Parallelism

Correct answer:

Hyperbole

Explanation:

Here, the author exaggerates the wrath of Miss Dwarris, saying that the Last Judgment was preferable to facing her. This use of dramatic exaggeration is known as hyperbole. Parallelism is the use of clauses with identical grammatical patterns, syntax, or meter (e.g. “She expected nothing, hoped for everything, and received something”). A juxtaposition is a contrast between two things (often an unexpected and rewarding one). Verisimilitude is the appearance of reality or truth (without necessarily being actually real or true). Synaesthesia is the conflation of different sensory perceptions (e.g. a velvety sound, a bright flavor).

Passage adapted from W. Somerset Maugham’s The Merry-Go-Round (1904)

Example Question #8 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

1 Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow, attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia.

2 … According to the custom which has descended from age to age among the monarchs of the torrid zone, Rasselas was confined in a private palace, with the other sons and daughters of Abyssinian royalty, till the order of succession should call him to the throne.

3 The place which the wisdom or policy of antiquity had destined for the residence of the Abyssinian princes was a spacious valley in the kingdom of Amhara, surrounded on every side by mountains, of which the summits overhang the middle part. 4 The only passage by which it could be entered was a cavern that passed under a rock, [and the] outlet of the cavern was concealed by a thick wood, and the mouth which opened into the valley was closed with gates of iron, forged by the artificers of ancient days, so massive that no man, without the help of engines, could open or shut them.

5 From the mountains on every side rivulets descended that filled all the valley with verdure and fertility, and formed a lake in the middle, inhabited by fish of every species, and frequented by every fowl whom nature has taught to dip the wing in water. 6 This lake discharged its superfluities by a stream, which entered a dark cleft of the mountain on the northern side, and fell with dreadful noise from precipice to precipice till it was heard no more.

What literary device opens Sentence 1?

Possible Answers:

Hubris

Hyperbole

Apostrophe

Metaphor

Conceit

Correct answer:

Apostrophe

Explanation:

Sentence 1 begins with a direct address to the reader, “Ye.” This is the definition of apostrophe, a direct address to a reader. Conceits are elaborate and extended metaphors, and metaphors are comparisons that don’t employ “like” or “as” (e.g. “the queen is a ferocious lion”). Hyperbole is the use of extreme exaggeration (e.g. “this suitcase weighs a ton”). Hubris is excessive pride leading in literature to a tragic downfall.

Passage adapted from Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas: Prince of Abyssinia (1759)

Example Question #9 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

1 Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow, attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia.

2 … According to the custom which has descended from age to age among the monarchs of the torrid zone, Rasselas was confined in a private palace, with the other sons and daughters of Abyssinian royalty, till the order of succession should call him to the throne.

3 The place which the wisdom or policy of antiquity had destined for the residence of the Abyssinian princes was a spacious valley in the kingdom of Amhara, surrounded on every side by mountains, of which the summits overhang the middle part. 4 The only passage by which it could be entered was a cavern that passed under a rock, [and the] outlet of the cavern was concealed by a thick wood, and the mouth which opened into the valley was closed with gates of iron, forged by the artificers of ancient days, so massive that no man, without the help of engines, could open or shut them.

5 From the mountains on every side rivulets descended that filled all the valley with verdure and fertility, and formed a lake in the middle, inhabited by fish of every species, and frequented by every fowl whom nature has taught to dip the wing in water. 6 This lake discharged its superfluities by a stream, which entered a dark cleft of the mountain on the northern side, and fell with dreadful noise from precipice to precipice till it was heard no more.

What sonic effect can be heard in Sentence 5?

Possible Answers:

Chiasmus

Assonance

Alliteration

None of these

Onomatopoeia

Correct answer:

Alliteration

Explanation:

The recurrent use of the “f” sound at the beginning of words (“From,” “filled,” “fertility,” “formed,” “fish,” “frequented,” “fowl”) is a classic example of alliteration, the repetition of similar sounds at the beginning of multiple words. Assonance is the repetition specifically of vowel sounds, and onomatopoeia is the use of a word that mimics the sound of the thing it is describing (e.g. “pop” or “buzz”). Chiasmus is the use of a crisscross or reverse structure in a sentence or paragraph and is not a sonic effect at all.

Passage adapted from Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas: Prince of Abyssinia (1759)

Example Question #10 : Identifying Rhetorical Devices

"During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was - but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit." 

Adapted from "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe (1839)

The bolded phrase above could be interpreted as use which rhetorical device? 

Possible Answers:

Hyperbole

Cliché

Anaphora 

Personification

Correct answer:

Personification

Explanation:

This phrase gives non-human objects human characteristics. 

Melancholy is an adjective that describes the emotion of feeling pervasively sad. 

Describing a house as melancholy gives the house an emotion. Houses cannot have emotion. 

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