HSPT Reading : Drawing Conclusions in Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HSPT Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #4 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Phrases In Narrative Humanities Passages

Adapted from “A Definition of a Gentleman” by John Henry Newman (1852)

It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain. This description is both refined and, as far as it goes, accurate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; and he concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a personal nature: like an easy chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and animal heat without them. The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast;--all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make everyone at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favors while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets everything for the best.

What does the author of this passage mean when he says that a gentleman “has his eyes on all his company?”

Possible Answers:

A gentleman is concerned what others think of him.

A gentleman must always be mindful of the threat others pose to him.

A gentleman must consider the emotions of women before men.

A gentleman is considerate of others.

A gentleman knows how to use and abuse others.

Correct answer:

A gentleman is considerate of others.

Explanation:

The expression to “have his eyes on all his company” means that a gentleman is always considerate of the needs and desires of others. If you were unable to determine the meaning of this phrase it would be most prudent to guess the answer based on an understanding of the passage as a whole. Throughout the passage the author focuses on expressing how a “gentleman” must be mindful to the needs of others at all times. The four incorrect answer choices are either opposite in meaning to the author’s overall argument or scarcely mentioned in the passage.

Example Question #1 : Drawing Conclusions In Humanities Passages

Adapted from Chapter One of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)

You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly—Tom's Aunt Polly, she is—and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.

Now the way that the book winds up is this: Tom and me found the money that the robbers hid in the cave, and it made us rich. We got six thousand dollars apiece—all gold. It was an awful sight of money when it was piled up. Well, Judge Thatcher he took it and put it out at interest, and it fetched us a dollar a day apiece all the year round—more than a body could tell what to do with. The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back.

The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well, then, the old thing commenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them—that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.

In the third paragraph, what is the narrator doing?

Possible Answers:

Telling someone about a fascinating adventure

Complaining about his circumstances

Regretting his past actions

Arguing against a common superstition

Making plans for the future

Correct answer:

Complaining about his circumstances

Explanation:

In the third paragraph, we see the narrator being annoyed about his new clothes (“I couldn’t do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up”), about having to wait for the widow to say a blessing before suppertime (“When you got to the table you couldn’t go right to eating”), and about the food itself (“everything was cooked by itself”); therefore, the narrator is clearly complaining about his circumstances.

Example Question #2 : Drawing Conclusions In Humanities Passages

Adapted from Chapter One of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)

You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly—Tom's Aunt Polly, she is—and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.

Now the way that the book winds up is this: Tom and me found the money that the robbers hid in the cave, and it made us rich. We got six thousand dollars apiece—all gold. It was an awful sight of money when it was piled up. Well, Judge Thatcher he took it and put it out at interest, and it fetched us a dollar a day apiece all the year round—more than a body could tell what to do with. The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back.

The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well, then, the old thing commenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them—that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.

The language that Twain uses best imitates the speech of what kind of person?

Possible Answers:

An educated lawyer

A prim little girl

An uneducated country boy

An exasperated older man

An evil riverboat captain

Correct answer:

An uneducated country boy

Explanation:

The style of Twain’s writing here represents someone who is uneducated, and the passage is riddled with incorrect grammar. It becomes clear in the passage that his character, Huck Finn, is a boy being taken care of by an old widow, so the best choice is “an uneducated country boy.”

Example Question #3 : Drawing Conclusions In Humanities Passages

Adapted from Chapter One of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)

You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly—Tom's Aunt Polly, she is—and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.

Now the way that the book winds up is this: Tom and me found the money that the robbers hid in the cave, and it made us rich. We got six thousand dollars apiece—all gold. It was an awful sight of money when it was piled up. Well, Judge Thatcher he took it and put it out at interest, and it fetched us a dollar a day apiece all the year round—more than a body could tell what to do with. The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back.

The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well, then, the old thing commenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn't really anything the matter with them—that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.

What kind of woman is the widow?

Possible Answers:

Sloppy and lazy

Haughty and cruel

Realistic and pessimistic

Well-meaning but controlling

Well-educated and scholarly

Correct answer:

Well-meaning but controlling

Explanation:

When we read the passage closely, there’s nothing to indicate that the widow is scholarly, cruel, pessimistic, or lazy. What we do see is that she has strict rules regarding the way Huck Finn dresses and eats, but that she has his best intentions at heart: "she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb;" therefore, "well-meaning but controlling" is the best answer.

Example Question #4 : Drawing Conclusions In Humanities Passages

Adapted from Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster—tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?

What role does the sea play for Ishmael?

Possible Answers:

It’s an unrelenting opponent.

It’s a brutal enemy.

It’s something that many people find attractive but that he personally does not.

It’s an escape from his mundane daily life.

It’s distraction he doesn’t appreciate.

Correct answer:

It’s an escape from his mundane daily life.

Explanation:

Ishmael’s descriptions of the sea are generally positive in this passage, so it doesn’t make sense that he would see the sea as an opponent or an enemy. While the sea is certainly a distraction from him, it’s a welcome distraction, not an unappreciated one. And while Ishmael does argue that many other people also find the sea attractive (“Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries”), we can’t argue that Ishmael doesn’t feel the same way. What we do know is that he goes to sea whenever he is unhappy with his daily life: “Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can;” therefore, the best answer is that the sea serves as an escape for Ishmael.

Example Question #5 : Drawing Conclusions In Humanities Passages

Adapted from "The Study of Poetry" in Essays in Criticism: Second Series by Matthew Arnold (1888)

"The future of poetry is immense because in poetry, where it is worthy of its high destinies, humanity, as time goes on, will find an ever surer and surer stay. There is not a creed which is not shaken, not an accredited dogma which is not shown to be questionable, not a received tradition which does not threaten to dissolve. Our religion has materialized itself in the fact, in the supposed fact; it has attached its emotion to the fact, and now the fact is failing it. But for poetry the idea is everything; the rest is a world of illusion, of divine illusion. Poetry attaches its emotion to the idea; the idea is the fact. The strongest part of our religion today is its unconscious poetry."

Let me be permitted to quote these words of my own as uttering the thought which should, in my opinion, go with us and govern us in all our study of poetry. We should conceive of poetry worthily, and more highly than it has been the custom to conceive of it. We should conceive of it as capable of higher uses, and called to higher destinies, than those which in general men have assigned to it hitherto. More and more mankind will discover that we have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, to sustain us. Without poetry, our science will appear incomplete, and most of what now passes with us for religion and philosophy will be replaced by poetry. Science, I say, will appear incomplete without it. For finely and truly does Wordsworth call poetry “the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all science,” and what is a countenance without its expression? Again, Wordsworth finely and truly calls poetry “the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge”; our religion, parading evidences such as those on which the popular mind relies now; our philosophy, pluming itself on its reasonings about causation and finite and infinite being; what are they but the shadows and dreams and false shows of knowledge?

It can be inferred that Matthew Arnold views religion as __________.

Possible Answers:

being grounded in the natural world

having benefited from its association with poetry

overly reliant on evidence that the average person cannot understand

overly reliant on ideas as opposed to facts

something that has nothing whatsoever in common with poetry

Correct answer:

having benefited from its association with poetry

Explanation:

The author does not argue that religion is "overly reliant on ideas as opposed to facts." We can see evidence of this in a quotation from the first paragraph, "Our religion has materialized itself in the fact, in the supposed fact; it has attached its emotion to the fact, and now the fact is failing it." In addition, he does not think that religion is "overly reliant on evidence that the average person cannot understand," as near the end of the second paragraph, he describes religion as "parading evidences such as those on which the popular mind relies now." Nothing in the passage suggests that Arnold views religion as "being grounded in the natural world." Furthermore, the author does not view religion as "something that has nothing whatsoever in common with poetry." We can see this from the closing line of the first paragraph, "The strongest part of our religion today is its unconscious poetry." This leaves us with one remaining answer choice, the correct one: the author sees religion as "having benefited from its association with poetry." We can see this from the previously quoted line that concludes the first paragraph.

Example Question #6 : Drawing Conclusions In Humanities Passages

Adapted from Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster—tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?

Why does the author address the readers ("you") directly in this passage?

Possible Answers:

To intimidate them

To avoid offending the audience

To strengthen the speaker’s sneaky argumentation

To create a feeling of familiarity between the speaker and the audience

To deceive them into believing his lies

Correct answer:

To create a feeling of familiarity between the speaker and the audience

Explanation:

There is nothing in this passage to indicate that the speaker is lying, being sneaky, being offensive, or being intimidating. Indeed, the speaker is mainly describing “the insular city of the Manhattoes” and his own personal relationship with the sea. His tactic of casually referring to the readers can only be for the purpose of making him more familiar and friendly to the audience.

Example Question #71 : Humanities Passages

Adapted from The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon (1921)

During the first twenty years of his life, young Napoleon was a professional Corsican patriot—a Corsican Sinn Feiner, who hoped to deliver his beloved country from the yoke of the bitterly hated French enemy. But the French revolution had unexpectedly recognised the claims of the Corsicans and gradually Napoleon, who had received a good training at the military school of Brienne, drifted into the service of his adopted country. Although he never learned to spell French correctly or to speak it without a broad Italian accent, he became a Frenchman. In due time he came to stand as the highest expression of all French virtues. At present he is regarded as the symbol of the Gallic genius.

Napoleon was what is called a fast worker. His career does not cover more than twenty years. In that short span of time he fought more wars and gained more victories and marched more miles and conquered more square kilometers and killed more people and brought about more reforms and generally upset Europe to a greater extent than anybody (including Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan) had ever managed to do.

He was a little fellow and during the first years of his life his health was not very good. He never impressed anybody by his good looks and he remained to the end of his days very clumsy whenever he was obliged to appear at a social function. He did not enjoy a single advantage of breeding or birth or riches. For the greater part of his youth he was desperately poor and often he had to go without a meal or was obliged to make a few extra pennies in curious ways.

He gave little promise as a literary genius. When he competed for a prize offered by the Academy of Lyons, his essay was found to be next to the last and he was number 15 out of 16 candidates. But he overcame all these difficulties through his absolute and unshakable belief in his own destiny, and in his own glorious future. Ambition was the main-spring of his life. The thought of self, the worship of that capital letter "N" with which he signed all his letters, and which recurred forever in the ornaments of his hastily constructed palaces, the absolute will to make the name Napoleon the most important thing in the world next to the name of God, these desires carried Napoleon to a pinnacle of fame which no other man has ever reached.

Corsica is most probably __________.

Possible Answers:

an region of France

a place in which Italian is spoken

None of these answers can be reasonably inferred

an island off the coast of Britain

a small portion of French territory within Germany

Correct answer:

a place in which Italian is spoken

Explanation:

In the opening paragraph, the author makes it clear that Napoleon was from Corsica, and therefore, when he says “Although he never learned to spell French correctly or to speak it without a broad Italian accent, he became a Frenchman,” he is telling you that Napoleon spoke with an Italian accent and was from Corsica. Putting those two facts together should lead you to the correct answer that Corsica is most probably “a place in which Italian is spoken."

Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from Seven Discourses Delivered in the Royal Academy By the President by Joshua Reynolds (1778)

All the objects which are exhibited to our view by nature, upon close examination will be found to have their blemishes and defects. The most beautiful forms have something about them like weakness, minuteness, or imperfection. But it is not every eye that perceives these blemishes. It must be an eye long used to the contemplation and comparison of these forms—and which, by a long habit of observing what any set of objects of the same kind have in common, that alone can acquire the power of discerning what each wants in particular. This long laborious comparison should be the first study of the painter who aims at the greatest style. By this means, he acquires a just idea of beautiful forms; he corrects nature by herself, her imperfect state by her more perfect. His eye being enabled to distinguish the accidental deficiencies, excrescences, and deformities of things from their general figures, he makes out an abstract idea of their forms more perfect than any one original—and what may seem a paradox, he learns to design naturally by drawing his figures unlike to any one object. This idea of the perfect state of nature, which the artist calls the ideal beauty, is the great leading principle by which works of genius are conducted. By this, Phidias acquired his fame. He wrought upon a sober principle what has so much excited the enthusiasm of the world—and by this method you, who have courage to tread the same path, may acquire equal reputation.

The author believes that painters are __________.

Possible Answers:

born with natural gifts that cannot be improved

unable to replicate what is found in nature

always produce images that are superior to images from nature

able to improve their abilities with study

hopelessly out of touch with natural beauty

Correct answer:

able to improve their abilities with study

Explanation:

The author urges painters to have a "habit of observing" and to study natural images. The passage also demonstrates quite clearly that study will make painters better able to "perfect" natural forms and correct nature's "blemishes and defects."

Example Question #3 : Textual Relationships In Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from Seven Discourses Delivered in the Royal Academy By the President by Joshua Reynolds (1778)

All the objects which are exhibited to our view by nature, upon close examination will be found to have their blemishes and defects. The most beautiful forms have something about them like weakness, minuteness, or imperfection. But it is not every eye that perceives these blemishes. It must be an eye long used to the contemplation and comparison of these forms—and which, by a long habit of observing what any set of objects of the same kind have in common, that alone can acquire the power of discerning what each wants in particular. This long laborious comparison should be the first study of the painter who aims at the greatest style. By this means, he acquires a just idea of beautiful forms; he corrects nature by herself, her imperfect state by her more perfect. His eye being enabled to distinguish the accidental deficiencies, excrescences, and deformities of things from their general figures, he makes out an abstract idea of their forms more perfect than any one original—and what may seem a paradox, he learns to design naturally by drawing his figures unlike to any one object. This idea of the perfect state of nature, which the artist calls the ideal beauty, is the great leading principle by which works of genius are conducted. By this, Phidias acquired his fame. He wrought upon a sober principle what has so much excited the enthusiasm of the world—and by this method you, who have courage to tread the same path, may acquire equal reputation.

The author would agree with the statement that __________.

Possible Answers:

artists should only paint abstract forms

nature is horribly corrupted

all artists can perfect the forms of nature

artists can never understand the forms of nature

nature is always perfectly beautiful and harmonious

Correct answer:

all artists can perfect the forms of nature

Explanation:

The entire passage is advice to artists on how to perfect the flaws in nature, and how the best way to understand the flaws is to study them. Most of all, the author claims that artists can perfect the flaws of nature through their own work.

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