English Language Proficiency Test : Theme

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Theme

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 theme of the passage is ________________.

Possible Answers:

people should listen to advice before they become involved in difficult situations

treat others, including animals, the way you yourself want to be treated

sometimes, the simplest solution is the best one

people should not make important decisions when they are angry

Correct answer:

treat others, including animals, the way you yourself want to be treated

Explanation:

Hal is clearly being punished for his mistreatment of the dogs. Had he treated them in a more humane way, they would not have run off and caused the sled to run over him.

Example Question #2 : Theme

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.

The theme of this passage can best be described as _______________.

Possible Answers:

inspirational

depressing

unrealistic

consoling

Correct answer:

inspirational

Explanation:

After stating that America's entry into World War I will come at a great cost, President Wilson goes on to link his reasons for going to war with the lofty goals upon which our nation was founded.

Example Question #1 : Theme

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 10, what does “timorously” mean?

Possible Answers:

Nervously

Shockingly

Grimly

Boldly

Melodramatically

Correct answer:

Nervously

Explanation:

The dictionary definition of timorous is fearful, nervous, or lacking confidence. However, you also could infer this definition from the rest of the girl’s body language in Sentence 10: “Up went her hands, and she was turned to stone; her mouth dropped open… she was the picture of astonished curiosity touched with fear.”

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

Example Question #2 : Theme

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 is the overall tone of the passage?

Possible Answers:

Hopeful and even-tempered

Interrogatory and at times exclamatory

Peaceful and yet slightly unsettled

Jarring and yet not disagreeable

Disturbing and faintly surreal

Correct answer:

Peaceful and yet slightly unsettled

Explanation:

The lush, vivid sensory details and the idyllic landscape make the tone peaceful and serene. However, the character’s uneasiness at the foreignness of the landscape also makes the tone a bit unsettled. We can tell that all is not as it seems in this lovely setting, and the words portend something major on the horizon.

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

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