English Language Proficiency Test : Purpose

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Purpose

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.

The purpose of the passage is to __________________.

Possible Answers:

argue that Pluto should still be classified as a planet.

explain, in detail, the characteristics of "dwarf planets"

explain how Pluto was re-classified as a "dwarf planet"

argue that other planets should also be reclassified.

Correct answer:

explain how Pluto was re-classified as a "dwarf planet"

Explanation:

The focus of the passage is to explain the reasons for re-classifying Pluto, using the criteria established by the International Astronomical Union. The writer accepts the current scientific classification of Pluto and provides not specific details about either the characteristics of "dwarf planets" or the criteria used to classify Pluto in 1930.

Example Question #2 : Purpose

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.

In Sentence 6, what object does the image “a cataract of golden hair” invoke?

Possible Answers:

Plait

Waterfall

Eyes

Nest

Woven basket

Correct answer:

Waterfall

Explanation:

A cataract is a waterfall, but even if you didn’t know this definition, you could note that the girl’s hair is “streaming down over her shoulders.” While hair could resemble a plait (braid), woven basket (intricate braid), or nest (tangles), only a waterfall would stream or flow.

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

Example Question #3 : Purpose

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.

In Sentence 5, which detail does the speaker find most striking?

Possible Answers:

That the wheels had unusually broad tires

That the road was winding

None of these

That the road had only faint traces of wheels

That the road had strange hoof-prints in it

Correct answer:

That the road was winding

Explanation:

The use of the word “apparently” is key here. The speaker notes the other details in Sentence 5 without editorializing or commenting upon them, but his use of the word “apparently” implies that he’s surprised the wheels are so wide. We can infer from this word that the wheels the speaker is familiar with are much more narrow, and that he can hardly believe that the tracks he sees belong to wheels at all.

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

Example Question #4 : Purpose

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.

Which of the following does not describe the passage’s setting?

Possible Answers:

Urban

Rustic

Pastoral

Idyllic

Bucolic

Correct answer:

Idyllic

Explanation:

The setting is idyllic (a synonym for peaceful) as well as bucolic and rustic (both synonyms for rural). It is also pastoral, which describes an idealized depiction of simple country life. The passage is decidedly not urban, which describes cities and metropolises.

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

Example Question #5 : Purpose

1 It has afforded the Author great amusement and satisfaction, during the progress of this work, to learn, from country friends and from a variety of ludicrous statements concerning himself in provincial newspapers, that more than one Yorkshire schoolmaster lays claim to being the original of Mr. Squeers. 2 One worthy, he has reason to believe, has actually consulted authorities learned in the law, as to his having good grounds on which to rest an action for libel; another, has meditated a journey to London, for the express purpose of committing an assault and battery on his traducer; a third, perfectly remembers being waited on, last January twelve-month, by two gentlemen, one of whom held him in conversation while the other took his likeness; and, although Mr. Squeers has but one eye, and he has two, and the published sketch does not resemble him (whoever he may be) in any other respect, still he and all his friends and neighbours know at once for whom it is meant, because—the character is so like him.

3 While the Author cannot but feel the full force of the compliment thus conveyed to him, he ventures to suggest that these contentions may arise from the fact, that Mr. Squeers is the representative of a class, and not of an individual. 4 Where imposture, ignorance, and brutal cupidity, are the stock in trade of a small body of men, and one is described by these characteristics, all his fellows will recognise something belonging to themselves, and each will have a misgiving that the portrait is his own.

What is one purpose of this passage?

Possible Answers:

To request more reviews of the author’s work

To accuse schoolteachers of not understanding the author’s work

To provide humorous anecdotes about one reaction to the author’s writing

To complain about widespread reactions to the author’s writing

To solicit further responses from schoolteachers

Correct answer:

To provide humorous anecdotes about one reaction to the author’s writing

Explanation:

The passage relates the way various schoolteachers have responded to the author’s character. It does so in a vivid and humorous way, employing sarcasm and purposely euphemistic language for comical effect.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby (1838).

Example Question #6 : Purpose

1 It has afforded the Author great amusement and satisfaction, during the progress of this work, to learn, from country friends and from a variety of ludicrous statements concerning himself in provincial newspapers, that more than one Yorkshire schoolmaster lays claim to being the original of Mr. Squeers. 2 One worthy, he has reason to believe, has actually consulted authorities learned in the law, as to his having good grounds on which to rest an action for libel; another, has meditated a journey to London, for the express purpose of committing an assault and battery on his traducer; a third, perfectly remembers being waited on, last January twelve-month, by two gentlemen, one of whom held him in conversation while the other took his likeness; and, although Mr. Squeers has but one eye, and he has two, and the published sketch does not resemble him (whoever he may be) in any other respect, still he and all his friends and neighbours know at once for whom it is meant, because—the character is so like him.

3 While the Author cannot but feel the full force of the compliment thus conveyed to him, he ventures to suggest that these contentions may arise from the fact, that Mr. Squeers is the representative of a class, and not of an individual. 4 Where imposture, ignorance, and brutal cupidity, are the stock in trade of a small body of men, and one is described by these characteristics, all his fellows will recognise something belonging to themselves, and each will have a misgiving that the portrait is his own.

What is another purpose of this passage?

Possible Answers:

To complain about the schoolteachers’ boycott of the author’s work

To announce a countersuit against the libelous schoolteachers

None of these

To explain why a critic’s review of the author’s work is unjust

To act as a disclaimer that one of the author’s characters is not based on a real person

Correct answer:

To act as a disclaimer that one of the author’s characters is not based on a real person

Explanation:

Sentences 3 and 4 serve to explain that, although certain people may recognize themselves in the author’s character, the character is not based on a real person. Rather, the character based is on an entire class of people to which the complainers belong. Note how the author suggests “that these contentions may arise from the fact, that Mr. Squeers is the representative of a class, and not of an individual. Where imposture, ignorance, and brutal cupidity, are the stock in trade of a small body of men, and one is described by these characteristics, all his fellows will recognize something belonging to themselves, and each will have a misgiving that the portrait is his own.”

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby (1838).

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