GRE Verbal : Summarizing and Describing Passage Content in Single-Answer Questions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Verbal

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

A Short History of Recent Zoos, by Will Floyd

Throughout the twentieth century, zoos underwent large-scale transformations. Before World War I, zoos were small parts of larger municipal parks, and featured sparse cages with little room for their inhabitants. This model held sway until mid-century, with many zoos struggling to remain open during the Great Depression and World War II. The successful zoos survived through making themselves cheap family entertainment. In the 1960s, zoos began to change in drastic ways. With the growing strength of environmental- and animal-rights movements, the public clamored for more naturalistic and spacious environments in which the animals could live.

The most emblematic of these transformations was the development of the Los Angeles Zoo. In 1966, the cramped and antiquated zoo used grants from the city government to move to a brand-new facility. Although the zoo moved just two miles away, the new location was exponentially bigger, and it featured fresh landscapes that resembled the animals’ natural habitats, instead of dilapidated cages. As the Los Angeles Zoo developed, it was able to work on preservation and conservation efforts for endangered species. New educational programs also became key elements of the Zoo’s mission. Now the old Zoo’s cages stand as ruins and reminders of what past generations saw when they visited years ago.

The author's argument is best summarized as __________.

Possible Answers:

all zoos treat their animals inhumanely

zoos are horrible entertainment for families

zoos changed for the better through a variety of factors

zoos are great reminders of past generations' entertainment options

no contemporary zoo is as good as the old zoos

Correct answer:

zoos changed for the better through a variety of factors

Explanation:

The author lays out how the Los Angeles Zoo changed through enlarging animal environments, treating animals better, and becoming more family-friendly. In particular, the author repeatedly notes how much better the new zoo is as compared to the old one.

Example Question #2 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

History and Myth by Will Floyd

Popular ideas about historical characters are often quite fallacious. In reality, Napoleon Bonaparte was not short, but a perfectly average size for his time. Paul Revere did not make a solo midnight ride to warn the colonial militia that the British were coming. Figures like Robin Hood, Johnny Appleseed, and John Henry have such little actual information about their lives that scholars wonder if they even existed. Despite scholarly concern and arguments, these popular characters and myths continue to form a large part of the common historical imagination.

Recently, some historians have begun to study the myths and legends. No matter how whimsical or ungrounded the stories are, the legends hold a key to how people interpret history. Colleagues seeking to rebut such study have derided those scholars who are analyzing myths. The more skeptical historians accuse the historians who analyze myths and legends as promoting conspiracy theories and providing cover to people with fringe beliefs.  In response, the scholars studying the apocryphal stories claim that they are actually helping to dispel such marginal ideas. By understanding why odd stories and fables get constructed, these new historians say, society is better able to stop new ones from being made. If a historian’s role is to understand the past to navigate the future better, then understanding how myths and legends develop will create a better way to having fewer arise.

The author's argument is best summarized as __________.

Possible Answers:

certain historians are helping promote conspiracy theories with the scholarship

Napoleon Bonaparte was actually average sized, instead of notably short

apocryphal historical stories hold no value for any serious academic scholarship

studying the popular myths and legends of history can be valuable for scholars

the common historical imagination is well separated from any academic consensus

Correct answer:

studying the popular myths and legends of history can be valuable for scholars

Explanation:

The author does detail the back-and-forth between two camps of scholars, one that analyzes the "common historical imagination" and one that is opposed to such study. In the end, though, the author is firmly on the side of the scholars researching myths, noting it "will create a better way to having fewer arise."

Example Question #3 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

A Short History of the Electric Guitar, by Will Floyd

Any modern musical performance is almost impossible to countenance without the presence of an electric guitar. Most of the time it is a solid-body electric guitar, and while they seem ubiquitous and obvious now, that was not always the case. First invented in the early 1930s, the first electric guitar simply amplified existing guitars. No one thought of it as a new instrument, but merely a way to put a microphone inside of the guitar. Through the use of electronic pickups that went straight to an amplifier, the sound of the guitar could be broadcast over loud jazz bands with drums and horns. At the time, most everyone believed an electric guitar still had to look like an acoustic guitar, and all models featured a hollow body acoustic shape that would resonate with the sound of the guitar strings. In all actuality, the only necessity for an electric guitar is an electric pickup to capture their small vibrations. An electric guitar does not, and never did, need a space to resonate the sound of the strings. Instead, it could be a simple block, with the fret-board, strings, and a pick up attached to a piece of lumber. This method is exactly what the famous guitar player and maker Les Paul did with his “Log,” but Les Paul's “Log” revealed some of the biases against a solid-body guitar. While the guitar was just one solid piece of wood, Paul would attach two wings to it that made the guitar look like a hollow body.

Despite Les Paul’s innovations, few manufacturers made a marketable solid-body guitar. Rickenbacker and Bigsby were both companies that made limited productions of solid-body electric guitars. Leo Fender was the first luthier to make a popular, mass-market electric solid-body guitar. Leo Fender started his career by working on radios and other small electronic devices, but developed an interest in building guitars. Immediately after World War II, big bands were considered antiquated, and small honky-tonk and boogie-woogie combos wanted cheaper, sturdier, and better intonated guitars, that they could play faster and louder. Leo Fender obliged with his Esquire guitar. Looking completely unlike any guitar made before, and being extremely thin, with no resonating panels, Fender’s guitar was revolutionary. While Fender continued to tweak it through the years, one thing remains the same: the general shape of the guitar. Renamed first the Broadcaster, then the more famous Telecaster, the silhouette of Fender’s Esquire is still a popular choice among musicians today.

The author's argument is best summarized as __________.

Possible Answers:

the electric guitar needed many developments and technological breakthroughs to reach its level of popularity.

electric guitars are horrible instruments that have never been improved despite many attempts to improve their technology.

guitars are only popular because musicians have misunderstood what Leo Fender and Les Paul were trying to do with their inventions.

Les Paul and Leo Fender ruined the appeal of the guitar by stripping it down and making it less like an acoustic guitar.

the many different technological changes done to the electric guitar have made it completely unrecognizable to certain musicians.

Correct answer:

the electric guitar needed many developments and technological breakthroughs to reach its level of popularity.

Explanation:

The author's argument is conveyed through many different points, but ultimately hangs across all of these topics. The author begins with the notion that the electric solid body guitar seems obvious now, but then notes its odd history. The concept that the electric guitar needed to have the inventions placed upon it is crucial to the passage.

Example Question #4 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

Baseball, Then and Now, by Will Floyd

The twenty-first-century baseball fan would hardly recognize the nineteenth-century version of the national pastime. The massive stadiums, pristine uniforms, and even most articles of equipment integral to the modern game were all unfamiliar to players in the late-nineteenth-century.

The current number of balls and strikes that each batter is allowed was not settled until the 1890s. Fielding gloves were not utilized until the 1880s. Players could even call for a high or low pitch as recently as 1900. The biggest misconception about nineteenth-century baseball from a modern point-of-view is assuming all pitching was done the way it is now. In fact, until 1893 pitchers operated out of a box a mere 45 feet away. The short distance was no problem, as the original rules for pitching required an underhand motion. As athletes have done for centuries, pitchers of the nineteenth century figured out ways to throw harder and circumvent the rules. Eventually, pitchers were taking a running start from 45 feet away and throwing overhand. Baseball players and administrators quickly realized that such pitching was a safety hazard at 45 feet, and it creates a tedious game in which no one could score. Baseball pushed the pitcher back to sixty feet and six inches, introduced the pitcher’s mound, and the slab the pitcher must be rooted to, pushing baseball closer to its modern form. These changes in baseball’s early years made the game the treasured sport it is today.

The author's argument is best summarized as __________.

Possible Answers:

nineteenth-century baseball was such a different game that a modern fan would not recognize it

nineteenth-century baseball is largely the game modern fans know and love

modern baseball is continually attempting to be more like the original version of the game

nineteenth-century baseball featured many features of the modern game, such as large stadiums and modern pitching styles

nineteenth-century baseball is completely uninteresting to a modern baseball fan

Correct answer:

nineteenth-century baseball was such a different game that a modern fan would not recognize it

Explanation:

The author repeatedly highlights the differences between nineteenth-century baseball and the modern version of the game. The main reason for doing this is the author's wish to convey that the modern fan would be surprised at the look of the nineteenth-century game.

Example Question #5 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

Unseen Characters by Will Floyd

Many plays, films, and television shows use the storytelling device of the unseen character. As the name implies, this trope involves a character the audience never directly encounters, but instead only hears about through the words of other characters. A common assumption is that a character that never speaks or is visible to the viewers of a play or film would only be a minor element, left to be the butt of jokes or as a simple way to add depth to a major character. In fact, unseen characters are frequently quite important, and further the plot because of their absence. The most notable instance of such a character is “Godot,” in Samuel Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot.” The two main characters in the play, Vladimir and Estragon, sit patiently by a tree, expecting Godot to come by at any moment. Three other characters, Lucky, Pozzo, and a boy, all speak to Vladimir and Estragon, with Godot never alighting on the stage. Nonetheless, Godot’s machinations in making the men wait—along with his supposed intentions—drive the play’s narrative. Godot, never seen or heard from directly, becomes the largest force in the created world of the play. This use of an unseen character creates an added mystery and increases the tension between the two main characters. Beckett uses the unseen character not as a gimmick or cheap ploy, but instead as the central focus of his play.

The author's argument is best summarized as __________.

Possible Answers:

"Waiting for Godot" is an overrated piece of literature

unseen characters can not successfully play a major role in a great work of literature

unseen characters can be a successful literary device when used well

Vladimir and Estragon in "Waiting for Godot" are excellent examples of unseen characters in literature

unseen characters only work best as the butt of jokes

Correct answer:

unseen characters can be a successful literary device when used well

Explanation:

The author's overall argument focuses on the utility of unseen characters in literature, only using "Waiting for Godot" as an illustration. The use of "Waiting for Godot" demonstrates that unseen characters can be successfully used as an excellent literary device, which is the author's main argument.

Example Question #5 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

Fact and Representation by Will Floyd

Professional wrestling is frequently criticized because of its unreality. For the wrestlers, promoters, and fans who love professional wrestling, the very fact that professional wrestling is “fake” is central to their love of wrestling. This love finds its home in the concept of “kayfabe.” Kayfabe is the fabricated world of wrestling, covering every element of its storytelling, from the outlandish characters to bitter feuds, even to the specific politics about which wrestler will become champion.

Throughout the twentieth century, kayfabe was a closely guarded secret held only by those who were in the know about a wrestling company. Wrestlers could not appear out of character at any moment they were in public, for fear this revelation would give away the secrets of the wrestling promotion. A good guy wrestler could never even socialize with a bad guy wrestler, for fear that fans would see enemies together. While still quite fake, this strict adherence to the created world issued an air of believability for wrestling’s biggest fans. In recent years, wrestling’s curtain of believability has been torn apart, as the internet has allowed many personal details about wrestlers to come to light. Nonetheless, many wrestling fans still only refer to their heroes by their created names, understanding them through their invented personalities.

The author's argument is best summarized as __________

Possible Answers:

professional wrestling is unimportant because of its use of "kayfabe."

to understand professional wrestling, one has to understand the role of "kayfabe."

the existence of "kayfabe" is highly disputed among wrestling fans and enthusisasts.

"kayfabe" has been a destructive force in the history of professional wrestling.

the best professional wrestling promotions have never relied too much on "kayfabe."

Correct answer:

to understand professional wrestling, one has to understand the role of "kayfabe."

Explanation:

The author details the history, uses, and varieties of "kayfabe" in professional wrestling, By doing this, the author is highlighting how central the practice of kayfabe is for wrestling, and the fact that it truly is the key to understanding the appeal and success of professional wrestling.

Example Question #6 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

"Developments in Understanding Ancient Greek Art" by Will Floyd

Most people imagine stark white temples and plain marble statues as the ideal of ancient Greek art. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the ancient Greeks lavished their statues, sculptures, and buildings with bright colors. The common misconception of plainly adorned Hellenic art can be blamed on the ancient Greeks’ biggest proponents in history. Enlightenment-era classicists eagerly visited ancient ruins in the eighteenth century and saw artifacts that had been weathered to plain white stone through decades of neglect. By the time nineteenth-century archaeologists found proof that the Parthenon and images of the Gods were meant to be in vivid hues, eminent scholars in Europe refused to countenance that pure white marble was not antiquity’s aesthetic paradigm. Widespread acknowledgement of the ancient Greeks’ adoration of bright colors only came in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as scientific tests proved ancient statuary and buildings had once been covered in polychrome paint.

The author's argument is best summarized as __________.

Possible Answers:

plain white marble is the ideal color for sculpture

a true understanding of Greek art acknowledges their use of color

the Greeks were poor artists who have been overrated in history

twenty-first-century scientific tests will solve all disputes about the ancient world

Enlightenment-era classicists knew nothing about art

Correct answer:

a true understanding of Greek art acknowledges their use of color

Explanation:

The author consistently celebrates both the ancient Greeks' use of color and those people who understand that they used color. Throughout the passage, understanding the use of color by Greek artists is fundamental to appreciating the art.

Example Question #7 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

"The Chemistry of Cooking" by Will Floyd

Molecular gastronomy is a new take on cooking that has spread like wildfire through the culinary world in the last few decades. At its core, molecular gastronomy seeks to redefine and reimagine how food is cooked in restaurant kitchens, using technology, chemistry, and physics to transform pedestrian dishes into surprising forms and textures. These techniques create mystifying dining experiences, while using intimately familiar flavors. Chefs who use molecular gastronomy do not wish merely to be chemists or engineers, but are chefs above all else. To create a special dining experience, the chef begins first and foremost with the dish they wish to serve. Tools like an anti-griddle, a flat top that instantly freezes anything that touches it, or maltodextrin, an additive that can turn liquids into powder, are not there simply to play with the food. A molecular gastronomist will first think of the dish they want to serve, like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Next, they will find a way to get the same flavors and textures in a unique way. The chicken might not be fried, but go through a process that will give it a crispy skin and juicy meat while never broaching hot oil. The mashed potatoes could become a light sauce, and then be put on an anti-griddle to give a new look, texture, and temperature. While the diner will have something that might look like a dessert or a soup, in actuality what they are having is a homestyle dish that they remember from childhood. This sense of familiarity is the ultimate goal of any chef utilizing molecular gastronomy.

The author's main argument is best summarized as __________.

Possible Answers:

molecular gastronomy is an exciting approach to cooking that relies on technology and science

molecular gastronomy is replacing traditional techniques because chefs are lazy

molecular gastronomy is ruining modern chefs

molecular gastronomy is merely a series of gimmicks that no real chefs use

molecular gastronomy has a limited appeal among chefs

Correct answer:

molecular gastronomy is an exciting approach to cooking that relies on technology and science

Explanation:

The author celebrates molecular gastronomy as a way to create "surprising" and "unique" experiences "using technology, chemistry, and physics." At its heart, the passage argues for the good things molecular gastronomy can achieve, perhaps best illustrated in the author's description of a new take on fried chicken and mashed potatoes. The correct answer must reflect this positive outlook on molecular gastronomy.

Example Question #9 : Meaning And Structure In Single Answer Questions

"Technology of the Future" by Will Floyd

Technological revolutions rarely come in expected forms. Predictions of the future are usually found to be humorous in retrospect, as the theories put forward usually involve too much of the present. Typically, an author who imagines the future sees some small developments in the technology already in use, without countenancing a possible sudden change in how gadgets are made. Science fiction from before the personal computer’s rise tended to show computers as large machines only run by specialists. Before the development of tablets, small reading devices belonging to each person were hardly imagined. None of these now-strange conjectures on the future should be ridiculed. Even those researchers and scientists who are trying to create new breakthroughs in technology often have no idea of what their work will produce. The personal computer was initially divided into office models and home models, which were supposed to have different graphics, power, and performance specifics. In reality, people desired the office model in their home. Such adoptions happen all the time in the world of technology, with such disparate examples as the personal computer and the Model T automobile both changing future technology by becoming the most popular forms in the marketplace. Looking to product trends in the marketplace may allow us to predict future technological developments with more accuracy.

The author's argument is best summarized as saying that __________.

Possible Answers:

technological predictions should never be made with any seriousness because they will usually be wrong

the personal computer was a great technological improvement on other computers

predictions of future technology could be improved by focusing on what the marketplace will want

science fiction authors are so bad at predicting the future that they should stop trying

the Model T did not improve much on other automobiles

Correct answer:

predictions of future technology could be improved by focusing on what the marketplace will want

Explanation:

The author does decry the poor performance of predictions of technological revolutions, but also describes exactly why he does so. The author's purpose in doing so is to present an argument about how to improve these predictions. Specifically, the author points to "the marketplace" as a place to find what will be successful.

Example Question #1 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

"Political Representation" by Will Floyd

Pundits often decry the gridlock in Washington, D.C. Partisanship frequently makes legislators oppose bills they have supported in the past. Political grandstanding regularly takes the place of reasoned compromise or deal-making. Many political scientists are trying to find ways to resolve these issues within constitutional boundaries. One of the more popular suggestions is a different voting system called proportional representation. Proportional representation operates under the theory that each vote will help place a candidate in the legislature, rather than the current winner take all method of elections in the United States. Under proportional representation, candidates do not run for a specific seat in a particular district, but instead are part of a ranked list of candidates for each political party; therefore, if a political party receives thirty percent of the votes, thirty percent of the seats will be held by this party. Critics of proportional representation claim the system gives too much power to fringe candidates and political parties, whose only goal would be to destroy the political system. This cynical view of proportional representation stems from the example of countries currently using proportional representation. As it is, political scientists who do argue for proportional representation are trying to find a way around the current problems that exist in the United States’ political system, and feel a third party might create new pressures on the two party system currently causing such problems. The advocates of proportional representation do not argue that proportional representation is a perfect system, but also argue that we are not currently using a perfect system and that we need something to change.

The author's argument is best summarized as __________.

Possible Answers:

proportional representation demonstrates that pundits' complaints about gridlock in Washington, D.C. are completely unfounded

proportional representation is an interesting alternative to current voting systems promoted by some political scientists

proportional representation would solve all problems stemming from elections in the United States' political system

proportional representation should be instantly accepted by all governments in every country

proportional representation is a terribly flawed system for which no serious political scientist would advocate

Correct answer:

proportional representation is an interesting alternative to current voting systems promoted by some political scientists

Explanation:

The passage's tone puts a good deal of distance between the author's own beliefs and opinions and those of the political scientists being discussed. This means the author's argument is less advocation of a position, and more an explanation of an interesting idea in proportional representation.

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