HiSET: Language Arts - Reading : Recognizing features of style, structure, tone, and mood

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HiSET: Language Arts - Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Recognizing Features Of Style, Structure, Tone, And Mood

Passage adapted from "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1818)

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert... Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

5  And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear: 

10  'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away."

The sentence "nothing beside remains" is most likely meant to help the reader _________________.

Possible Answers:

provide a humorous contrast

reconsider the credibility of the traveller

elicit sympathy for Ozymandias

understand the theme of the text through irony

Correct answer:

understand the theme of the text through irony


This line "nothing beside remains" presents the irony central to the theme of the poem, that instead of being surrounded by a great civilization, instead the statue is in a vast, empty desert. The tone of the poem is not humorous, and we are not supposed to feel sympathy for the cruel king. There is no reason to doubt the credibility of the traveller. 

Example Question #2 : Recognizing Features Of Style, Structure, Tone, And Mood

Passage adapted from Mark Twain's "Advice to Youth" (1882)

Being told I would be expected to talk here, I inquired what sort of talk I ought to make. They said it should be something suitable to youth-something didactic, instructive, or something in the nature of good advice. Very well. I have a few things in my mind which I have often longed to say for the instruction of the young; for it is in one’s tender early years that such things will best take root and be most enduring and most valuable. First, then. I will say to you my young friends -- and I say it beseechingly, urgently -- 
   Always obey your parents, when they are present. This is the best policy in the long run, because if you don’t, they will make you. Most parents think they know better than you do, and you can generally make more by humoring that superstition than you can by acting on your own better judgment.
   Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any, also to strangers, and sometimes to others. If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. That will be sufficient. If you shall find that he had not intended any offense, come out frankly and confess yourself in the wrong when you struck him; acknowledge it like a man and say you didn’t mean to. Yes, always avoid violence; in this age of charity and kindliness, the time has gone by for such things. Leave dynamite to the low and unrefined.
   Go to bed early, get up early -- this is wise. Some authorities say get up with the sun; some say get up with one thing, others with another. But a lark is really the best thing to get up with. It gives you a splendid reputation with everybody to know that you get up with the lark; and if you get the right kind of lark, and work at him right, you can easily train him to get up at half past nine, every time -- it’s no trick at all.
   Now as to the matter of lying. You want to be very careful about lying; otherwise you are nearly sure to get caught. Once caught, you can never again be in the eyes to the good and the pure, what you were before. Many a young person has injured himself permanently through a single clumsy and ill finished lie, the result of carelessness born of incomplete training. Some authorities hold that the young out not to lie at all. That of course, is putting it rather stronger than necessary; still while I cannot go quite so far as that, I do maintain , and I believe I am right, that the young ought to be temperate in the use of this great art until practice and experience shall give them that confidence, elegance, and precision which alone can make the accomplishment graceful and profitable. Patience, diligence, painstaking attention to detail -- these are requirements; these in time, will make the student perfect; upon these only, may he rely as the sure foundation for future eminence.

What is the tone of this speech?

Possible Answers:





Correct answer:



The tone of the speech is satirical, because Twain is ridiculing the typical speeches given to educate the youth. For example, the line "Always obey your parents, when they are present" gives a common refrain but then modifies it in order to make a point. The speech is not apathetic since Twain says his message is urgent. Instead of being patronizing, it seems to give students a lot of credit for their own intelligence. It is not morose in tone since it is not sad. It is not sincere because the speech is not without pretense. Satirical is the best answer. 

Example Question #3 : Recognizing Features Of Style, Structure, Tone, And Mood

“Society” is an ambiguous term; it may mean much or nothing. Every human being—unless dwelling alone in a cave—is a member of society of one sort or another, and therefore it is well to define what is to be understood by the term “Best Society” and why its authority is recognized. Best Society abroad is always the oldest aristocracy; composed not so much of persons of title, which may be new, as of those families and communities which have for the longest period of time known highest cultivation. Our own Best Society is represented by social groups which have had, since this is America, widest rather than longest association with old world cultivation. Cultivation is always the basic attribute of Best Society, much as we hear in this country of an “Aristocracy of wealth.”

To the general public a long purse is synonymous with high position—a theory dear to the heart of the “yellow” press and eagerly fostered in the preposterous social functions of screen drama. It is true that Best Society is comparatively rich; it is true that the hostess of great wealth, who constantly and lavishly entertains, will shine, at least to the readers of the press, more brilliantly than her less affluent sister. Yet the latter, through her quality of birth, her poise, her inimitable distinction, is often the jewel of deeper water in the social crown of her time.

The most advertised commodity is not always intrinsically the best, but is sometimes merely the product of a company with plenty of money to spend on advertising. In the same way, money brings certain people before the public—sometimes they are persons of “quality,” quite as often the so-called “society leaders” featured in the public press do not belong to good society at all, in spite of their many published photographs and the energies of their press-agents. Or possibly they do belong to “smart” society; but if too much advertised, instead of being the “queens” they seem, they might more accurately be classified as the court jesters of today.

New York, more than any city in the world, unless it be Paris, loves to be amused, thrilled and surprised all at the same time; and will accept with outstretched hand any one who can perform this astounding feat. Do not underestimate the ability that can achieve it: a scintillating wit, an arresting originality, a talent for entertaining that amounts to genius, and gold poured literally like rain, are the least requirements.

Puritan America on the other hand demanding, as a ticket of admission to her Best Society, the qualifications of birth, manners and cultivation, clasps her hands tight across her slim trim waist and announces severely that New York’s “Best” is, in her opinion, very “bad” indeed. But this is because Puritan America, as well as the general public, mistakes the jester for the queen.

As a matter of fact, Best Society is not at all like a court with an especial queen or king, nor is it confined to any one place or group, but might better be described as an unlimited brotherhood which spreads over the entire surface of the globe, the members of which are invariably people of cultivation and worldly knowledge, who have not only perfect manners but a perfect manner. Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life. A gentleman, for instance, will never be ostentatious or overbearing any more than he will ever be servile, because these attributes never animate the impulses of a well-bred person. A man whose manners suggest the grotesque is invariably a person of imitation rather than of real position.

Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners. Certainly what one is, is of far greater importance than what one appears to be. A knowledge of etiquette is of course essential to one’s decent behavior, just as clothing is essential to one’s decent appearance; and precisely as one wears the latter without being self-conscious of having on shoes and perhaps gloves, one who has good manners is equally unself-conscious in the observance of etiquette, the precepts of which must be so thoroughly absorbed as to make their observance a matter of instinct rather than of conscious obedience.

Thus Best Society is not a fellowship of the wealthy, nor does it seek to exclude those who are not of exalted birth; but it is an association of gentle-folk, of which good form in speech, charm of manner, knowledge of the social amenities, and instinctive consideration for the feelings of others, are the credentials by which society the world over recognizes its chosen members.


Which of the following most accurately describes the tone of the passage? 

Possible Answers:

Breezy and perfunctory 

Perpendicular and inept 

All of these 

Confident and persuasive

Luxurious and inexact 

Correct answer:

Confident and persuasive


From the tone of the passage, the author's expertise are clear. She makes bold, clear statements about the way things are and does not hesitate to use definitive terms like "always" and "invariably" In addition to the fact that she puts forth several direct arguments and claims about the importance of etiquette, a persuasive tone is also on display when the author directly addresses the reader with imperative verbs, such as "do not underestimate." 

Another way to get this answer is by process of elimination: none of the other terms are suitable. 

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