HSPT Reading : Passage Reasoning in Contemporary Life Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HSPT Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

← Previous 1

Example Question #1 : Passage Reasoning In Contemporary Life Passages

It seems that every driving law is merely a convention and custom, not really a matter of moral conscience. Indeed, a number of people believe this to be the case and thus encourage others to ignore speed limits; however, this idea can be shown to be wrong both on principle as well as with regard to the well-being of the drivers who follow such laws. On principle, the common good is served by having laws that regulate unknown factors related to things like driving.

Which of the following sentences would best conclude this paragraph?

Possible Answers:

If you doubt that such conventions are helpful to the community, you are likely rather wicked and self-centered.

Thus, it should be obvious to anyone that such laws are not mere customs but are very important matters indeed.

Indeed, even conventions are binding in other cases. For example, the price of a pear at the market is not an absolute matter, but purchasers rarely dispute it merely on the grounds that it is conventional.

For the driver himself or herself, it is likewise good to follow such laws, for disobedience of them is very likely to lead to injuries and, perhaps, even death.

Communities all have rules, for such rules are part of the glue that holds together the community.

Correct answer:

For the driver himself or herself, it is likewise good to follow such laws, for disobedience of them is very likely to lead to injuries and, perhaps, even death.

Explanation:

The key sentence in this paragraph is: "However, this idea can be shown to be wrong both on principle as well as with regard to the well-being of the drivers who follow such laws." The question does not provide the second example, namely an example provided on the basis of the well-being of drivers. The correct answer is the one that provides this latter example.

Example Question #2 : Passage Reasoning In Contemporary Life Passages

Often, the current events of a nation or civilization can influence the contents of a period of writing. For example, at the turn of the twentieth century, the general psychological atmosphere led to forms of dark existentialist writing in some French authors. During the Middle Ages, the importance of holy men and women led to the writing of many miracle stories. It should not surprise us to find such a link between culture and writing today as well. 

Which of the following best concludes the paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Of course, our self-awareness is much greater than that of earlier eras, so authors are trying to overcome such subconscious drives.

All such limitation is generally surprising, for words seem to free the human mind from any links to history whatsover.

Hopefully, however, literature can be liberated from these limited topics and be enabled to discuss the perennial concerns of mankind.

For example, many stories are now being written in which artificial intelligence plays a central role, often posing questions that have arisen from the development of computers and the internet.

Today, writers ignore many topics such as those pertaining to farm life or trade on the high seas—topics that did figure prominently in past eras.

Correct answer:

For example, many stories are now being written in which artificial intelligence plays a central role, often posing questions that have arisen from the development of computers and the internet.

Explanation:

Since this paragraph has provided several examples of the types of links to be found between a culture and its literature, the best assumption is that it will close by providing an example that follows on, "It should not surprise us to find such a link between culture and writing today as well." The best answer is the one that gives a positive example, not the one that tells what topics are being ignored today.

Example Question #3 : Passage Reasoning In Contemporary Life Passages

Cyprian, the brilliant cathedral organist, decided that it was time to add several extra-low-pitched pipe sets to the organ. After discussing the matter with the bishop and the finance council, he began the arduous process of fundraising, which he greatly disliked. Not having many options, he decided to call on a number of the regular patrons from the city symphony's donor list. To his frustration, these donors, who had given much money to support the symphony's performances and physical needs, found little justification for the update.

The organ already had a set of sixty-four-foot pipes, which were so low in pitch that they could be felt more than heard. The idea of purchasing several ranks of pipes that were double this length seemed ludicrous not only from the perspective of size but likewise from the perspective of considering potential damage that could be caused by the rumbling that they would produce. The donors could not justify this kind of large fundraising effort only to purchase something that would likely damage the cathedral and add little to no value to the experience of organ concerts offered at the cathedral. After such a disappointing response, Cyprian was not certain that he would be able to expend the additional efforts necessary to convince any other potential donors of the importance of purchasing the new pipes.

In addition to the potential damage that might be caused by the new pipes, what was the other reason that the donors did not agree with the proposed purchase?

Possible Answers:

There could be medical side effects caused by the low rumbling of the large pipes.

The pipes would be so loud that they would blast out the windows of the church.

The sound from the pipes would be nearly impossible to hear because it would be so low in pitch.

There were concerns that those attending concerts at the church would lose their hearing because of the large pipes.

The donors saw no reason to add pipes that were rarely used in any repertoire of music.

Correct answer:

The sound from the pipes would be nearly impossible to hear because it would be so low in pitch.

Explanation:

The key sentence is, "The organ already had a set of sixty-four-foot pipes, which were so low in pitch that they could be felt more than heard." Even if you do not know anything about the harmonics of a wind instrument or an organ, you can infer from this that the sixty-four-foot pipes were already so low in pitch that they could barely be heard. Later in the paragraph, it is stated that the longer pipes being proposed would "add little to no value to the experience of organ concerts offered at the cathedral." Since this is mentioned along with the possible physical damage, the inference can be made that the pipes will probably be almost impossible to hear. This is the best option among those provided.

Example Question #3 : Passage Reasoning In Contemporary Life Passages

"The Aging of Public Transportation Systems" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

As cities develop, their public transportation systems often show signs of aging that are mixed with aspects that are quite up-to-date.  An example of such a situation can be found in the transportation system in Washington DC. This system is made up of a mixture of buses and trains that connect people to locations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. While the system has been well maintained and updated over the years, it still shows evidence that certain sections are older than others.

This is particularly noticeable when one considers the multiple lines that connect in Washington DC itself. Within the city, there are five different sets of tracks that run in various directions and to sundry places. A number of the newer lines are in excellent condition and rarely break down; however, the case of the red line is somewhat different. This oldest line of the metro train system often has issues because of its age, experiencing a number of track and signal issues even at rush hour when the overall system is its most efficient. Admittedly, the transportation authority is working to update this line and make it less problematic. Still, until this work is completed, it is obvious to all who are familiar with the metro train system that the red line is the oldest and most out of date.

Why is it obvious to all who are familiar with the metro train system that the red line is the oldest and most out of date?

Possible Answers:

Its tracks are visibly rusting and showing wear after many years of use.

Its signals look much older than the others, indicating the age of the line.

It is the slowest metro line in the city.

It is the most prone to break down because of its aging parts.

It travels from Maryland to DC and back out to another section of Maryland, which is very strange.

Correct answer:

It is the most prone to break down because of its aging parts.

Explanation:

Do not infer anything more than you can from the paragraph itself. Some of the wrong answers come up with details that are not at all justified. We are not told anything about rust on the tracks or the appearance of the signals. All that we know from the paragraph is that the red line is the most prone to break down due to its aging parts. This is what allows those familiar with the system to know that is the oldest and most out of date.

Example Question #4 : Passage Reasoning In Contemporary Life Passages

"Addictions" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

Addictions come in many forms, often quite hidden from those who should be aware of them. It is helpful to be aware of how hidden these obsessive behaviors can be. Often, they appear to be harmless, but this appearance is deceptive.  Perhaps several examples can assist in increasing the reader’s awareness of these potentially problematic habits. 

A very simple example of such an apparently innocuous addiction is the addiction that many people have to a beverage like coffee. While not as destructive as an addiction to alcohol, an extreme need for caffeine often covers a need for more sleep or an overzealous desire to be completely energetic at every waking moment. Also, a great deal of caffeine can potentially do damage to one’s heart due to the stress caused by its stimulating effects. 

Another example of a seemingly harmless addiction can be found in the case of people who are addicted to work. It is very tempting to praise such obsessive behavior, as it provides many benefits for others and even for the one doing the work. The advancement of a career certainly seems beneficial and often allows for great personal and financial fulfillment. Nevertheless, constant work often hides some sadness, insecurity, or fear that should be confronted by the person who slaves away without cessation. Likewise, over time, such continuous work often can be greatly destructive of important personal relationships.

Of course, many more examples could be brought forth, for one can obsess over almost anything. Still, even these two simple examples should make clear to the reader that it is possible for there to be apparently harmless—indeed, seemingly helpful—life practices that in reality can pose a potential harm to one’s physical or mental well-being.

What is the purpose of the second and third paragraphs?

Possible Answers:

To provide specific examples of addictions that appear to be harmless at first glance

To explain the meaning of the notion of "harmless addictions"

To provide examples of several addictions that ultimately are not harmful

To explain how deceptive addictions hide their harmfulness

To provide examples of several extremely harmful addictions

Correct answer:

To provide specific examples of addictions that appear to be harmless at first glance

Explanation:

The beginnings of these paragraphs' sentences express their purpose very well:

(1) "A very simple example of such an apparently innocuous addiction . . ."

(2) "Another example of a seemingly harmless addiction . . ."

The key words are "apparently innocuous" and "seemingly harmless."  These show that the addictions being enumerated appear harmless (though they actually are). This was also implied in the opening paragraph.

Example Question #33 : Contemporary Life Passages

"American Students and Foreign Languages" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

American students often find it difficult to understand the need for learning a foreign language. In part, this lack of understanding seems to occur because of the insulated nature of American geography. Unlike Europe, America is a massive country, comprised of states that all speak the same language. When an American travels from state to state, he or she is not confronted with a completely different language group as is the case when, for example, a Frenchman travels from his native land to the neighboring country of Italy or to England. Although America does have Canada to its north and Mexico to its south, it still does not have the great internal variety of languages as one finds in the small European continent. Therefore, students often do not experience the practical importance of knowing other languages.

Of course, America has always been called the “melting pot,” for many peoples have arrived on its shores, bringing their own distinctive cultures and languages with them. Still, this very expression—“melting pot”—shows that these immigrant cultures do not forever retain their own particular manners and languages. With time, these varied cultures become part of the American culture as a whole. While they do influence and change the culture, they likewise become assimilated into it. Their spoken language often becomes English. Even if they retain their mother tongue, they generally speak it privately. This is done as a matter of personal heritage, not as part of the day-to-day life in the culture. 

Additionally, America’s global dominance likewise allows Americans to avoid learning other languages. Since America has such influence over the rest of the world, it is generally in the interests of other peoples to learn English in order to be part of the economic, political, and military world in which America operates. Therefore, even at international meetings that are filled with people from many nationalities and language groups, English-speakers are at an advantage because they can talk with the many individuals who speak English. The work and learning of other peoples thus allows the Americans to convince themselves that there is no need to learn another language. 

Lastly, American education has come to emphasize mathematics and science to such a great degree that things such as language can often seem unimportant. The main goals of education are said to be the training of students for the technology workforce. If this is presented as the main goal of school, few children will understand why any of the non-scientific subjects are included in the curriculum. If a subject does not help in learning math and science, it will appear to be irrelevant. In particular, foreign languages do not seem to add to the teaching of math and science, which can be done very easily and effectively in English alone. 

Of course, many other reasons could be considered, and a more detailed discussion would undertake such a lengthy investigation. Still, the factors discussed above do provide some sense as to why American students find it difficult to understand the importance of learning a foreign language.

In the second paragraph, what is the intent of the sentence beginning, “Still, the very expression . . .”?

Possible Answers:

To defend the word "melting pot" against those who disagree with its continued usage

To critique the simplistic expression "melting pot," which is limited in its usage because of its physical imagery

To show the centrality of the idea of a "melting pot" to understanding the whole of American culture and immigration

To show the centrality of the idea of a "melting pot" to understanding the whole of American culture and immigration

To draw attention to the fact that the expression "melting pot" implies that cultures "melt together" into American culture and ultimately give up their languages, at least in public use

To present another view on the word "melting pot," which is almost always ignored in academic discussions concerning the problems surrounding the use of language in America

To defend the word "melting pot" against those who disagree with its continued usage

To present another view on the word "melting pot," which is almost always ignored in academic discussions concerning the problems surrounding the use of language in America

Correct answer:

To draw attention to the fact that the expression "melting pot" implies that cultures "melt together" into American culture and ultimately give up their languages, at least in public use

Explanation:

The opening of this sentence indicates that the expression "melting pot" "shows," that is, indicates "that these immigrant cultures do not forever retain their own particular manners and languages." In the first sentence of this paragraph, the expression "melting pot" was used to express the many cultures that come together in America. This first sentence emphasizes the fact that "many things are melted together," so to speak. The second sentence (with which we are concerned) shows that the idea of "melting" implies that the individual things "come together into one." In particular, this paragraph is concerned with the "melting together" of people who have immigrated to America into a single language group.

Example Question #5 : Passage Reasoning In Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from a letter by T. Thatcher published in The Publishers Circular on September 27th, 1902

A PLEA FOR A LONG WALK

Sir—In these days of increasing rapid artificial locomotion, may I be permitted to say a word in favor of a very worthy and valuable old friend of mine, Mr. Long-Walk?

I am afraid that this good gentleman is in danger of getting neglected, if not forgotten. We live in days of water trips and land trips, excursions by sea, road, and rail—bicycles and tricycles, tram cars and motor cars, hansom cabs and ugly cabs; but in my humble opinion good honest walking exercise for health beats all other kinds of locomotion into a cocked hat. In rapid traveling all the finer nerves, senses, and vessels are "rush" and unduly excited, but in walking every particle of the human frame, and even the moral faculties, are evenly and naturally brought into exercise. It is the best discipline and physical mental tonic in the world. Limbs, body, muscles, lungs, chest, heart, digestion, breathing, are healthily brought into normal operation, while. especially in the long distance walk, the exercise of patience, perseverance, industry, energy, perception, and reflection—and, indeed, all the senses and moral faculties—are elevated and cultivated healthfully and naturally. Many never know the beauty of it because they never go far enough: exercise and hard work should never be relinquished at any age or by either sex. Heart disease, faintness, and sudden death, and even crime, are far more due to the absence of wholesome normal exercise and taste than to anything else, to enervating luxuries rather than to hill climbing.

I usually give myself a holiday on a birthday, and as I lately reached my 63rd I determined to give myself a day with my old friend Mr. Long-Walk, and decided to tramp to the city of Wells and back for my birthday holiday—a distance of about forty-two miles. Fortune favors the brave, and, thanks to a mosquito that pitched on my nose and was just commencing operations, I woke very early in the morning. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good. Mosquitoes are early birds, but I stole a march on them. But to my journey.

I started at about 5 A.M., and proceeding via Dundry and Chow Stoke, reached Wells soon after 10 A.M. After attending the cathedral, I pursued my walk homeward by a different route, via Chewton Mendip, Farrington, Temple Cloud, Clutton, and Pensford.

To make a walk successful, mind and body should be free of burden. I never carry a stick on a long walk, but prefer to be perfectly free, giving Nature’s balancing poles—the pendulum arms—complete swing and absolute liberty. Walking exercises, together with a well-educated palate, are the greatest physicians in the world: no disease can withstand them. I returned from my forty-two miles tramp with birthday honors and reward. I had no headache on the following morning, but was up early in good form, fresh and ready for work. Forty-two miles may be too strong a dose for many, but I cannot too strongly recommend for a day’s companionship the society of my old and well-tried friend, Mr. Long-Walk.

Faithfully yours,

T. Thatcher

44 College Green, Bristol.

What evidence does the author give to support his claim that long walks are good for personal well-being?

Possible Answers:

Health statistics

He provides no evidence in favor of his argument.

A personal anecdote

Several friends' concurring opinions

Scientific research

Correct answer:

A personal anecdote

Explanation:

The description of the author's birthday walk serves as a personal anecdote. The fact that a long walk had a positive effect in his own life supports his claim that long walks will have a positive effect in anyone's life.

Example Question #35 : Understanding And Evaluating Opinions And Arguments In Argumentative Humanities Passages

Adapted from a letter by T. Thatcher published in The Publishers Circular on September 27th, 1902

A PLEA FOR A LONG WALK

Sir—In these days of increasing rapid artificial locomotion, may I be permitted to say a word in favor of a very worthy and valuable old friend of mine, Mr. Long-Walk?

I am afraid that this good gentleman is in danger of getting neglected, if not forgotten. We live in days of water trips and land trips, excursions by sea, road, and rail—bicycles and tricycles, tram cars and motor cars, hansom cabs and ugly cabs; but in my humble opinion good honest walking exercise for health beats all other kinds of locomotion into a cocked hat. In rapid traveling all the finer nerves, senses, and vessels are "rush" and unduly excited, but in walking every particle of the human frame, and even the moral faculties, are evenly and naturally brought into exercise. It is the best discipline and physical mental tonic in the world. Limbs, body, muscles, lungs, chest, heart, digestion, breathing, are healthily brought into normal operation, while. especially in the long distance walk, the exercise of patience, perseverance, industry, energy, perception, and reflection—and, indeed, all the senses and moral faculties—are elevated and cultivated healthfully and naturally. Many never know the beauty of it because they never go far enough: exercise and hard work should never be relinquished at any age or by either sex. Heart disease, faintness, and sudden death, and even crime, are far more due to the absence of wholesome normal exercise and taste than to anything else, to enervating luxuries rather than to hill climbing.

I usually give myself a holiday on a birthday, and as I lately reached my 63rd I determined to give myself a day with my old friend Mr. Long-Walk, and decided to tramp to the city of Wells and back for my birthday holiday—a distance of about forty-two miles. Fortune favors the brave, and, thanks to a mosquito that pitched on my nose and was just commencing operations, I woke very early in the morning. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good. Mosquitoes are early birds, but I stole a march on them. But to my journey.

I started at about 5 A.M., and proceeding via Dundry and Chow Stoke, reached Wells soon after 10 A.M. After attending the cathedral, I pursued my walk homeward by a different route, via Chewton Mendip, Farrington, Temple Cloud, Clutton, and Pensford.

To make a walk successful, mind and body should be free of burden. I never carry a stick on a long walk, but prefer to be perfectly free, giving Nature’s balancing poles—the pendulum arms—complete swing and absolute liberty. Walking exercises, together with a well-educated palate, are the greatest physicians in the world: no disease can withstand them. I returned from my forty-two miles tramp with birthday honors and reward. I had no headache on the following morning, but was up early in good form, fresh and ready for work. Forty-two miles may be too strong a dose for many, but I cannot too strongly recommend for a day’s companionship the society of my old and well-tried friend, Mr. Long-Walk.

Faithfully yours,

T. Thatcher

44 College Green, Bristol.

Which of the author’s claims support his argument that “even crime” is due to a lack of good, long walks?

Possible Answers:

Limbs, body, muscles, and lungs are brought into normal operation by exercise.

Excursions by sea, road, and rail have higher crime rates.

Patience, perseverance, and industry are elevated by long distance walks.

Rapid traveling excites the nerves.

Long walks are enjoyable.

Correct answer:

Patience, perseverance, and industry are elevated by long distance walks.

Explanation:

Patience, perseverance, and industry are positive moral characteristics that can reasonably be put in contrast to a criminal bent. Neither the physical benefits of walking nor the nervous excitement of traveling fast are not relevant for this claim, and the author does not comment on specific crime rates of various modes of transportation. Similarly, while the author clearly enjoys long walks, the fact that he finds them enjoyable has nothing to do with his claim that "even crime" is due to a lack of long walks.

Example Question #2 : Style Choices In Humanities Passages

Adapted from a letter by T. Thatcher published in The Publishers Circular on September 27th, 1902

A PLEA FOR A LONG WALK

Sir—In these days of increasing rapid artificial locomotion, may I be permitted to say a word in favor of a very worthy and valuable old friend of mine, Mr. Long-Walk?

I am afraid that this good gentleman is in danger of getting neglected, if not forgotten. We live in days of water trips and land trips, excursions by sea, road, and rail—bicycles and tricycles, tram cars and motor cars, hansom cabs and ugly cabs; but in my humble opinion good honest walking exercise for health beats all other kinds of locomotion into a cocked hat. In rapid traveling all the finer nerves, senses, and vessels are "rush" and unduly excited, but in walking every particle of the human frame, and even the moral faculties, are evenly and naturally brought into exercise. It is the best discipline and physical mental tonic in the world. Limbs, body, muscles, lungs, chest, heart, digestion, breathing, are healthily brought into normal operation, while. especially in the long distance walk, the exercise of patience, perseverance, industry, energy, perception, and reflection—and, indeed, all the senses and moral faculties—are elevated and cultivated healthfully and naturally. Many never know the beauty of it because they never go far enough: exercise and hard work should never be relinquished at any age or by either sex. Heart disease, faintness, and sudden death, and even crime, are far more due to the absence of wholesome normal exercise and taste than to anything else, to enervating luxuries rather than to hill climbing.

I usually give myself a holiday on a birthday, and as I lately reached my 63rd I determined to give myself a day with my old friend Mr. Long-Walk, and decided to tramp to the city of Wells and back for my birthday holiday—a distance of about forty-two miles. Fortune favors the brave, and, thanks to a mosquito that pitched on my nose and was just commencing operations, I woke very early in the morning. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good. Mosquitoes are early birds, but I stole a march on them. But to my journey.

I started at about 5 A.M., and proceeding via Dundry and Chow Stoke, reached Wells soon after 10 A.M. After attending the cathedral, I pursued my walk homeward by a different route, via Chewton Mendip, Farrington, Temple Cloud, Clutton, and Pensford.

To make a walk successful, mind and body should be free of burden. I never carry a stick on a long walk, but prefer to be perfectly free, giving Nature’s balancing poles—the pendulum arms—complete swing and absolute liberty. Walking exercises, together with a well-educated palate, are the greatest physicians in the world: no disease can withstand them. I returned from my forty-two miles tramp with birthday honors and reward. I had no headache on the following morning, but was up early in good form, fresh and ready for work. Forty-two miles may be too strong a dose for many, but I cannot too strongly recommend for a day’s companionship the society of my old and well-tried friend, Mr. Long-Walk.

Faithfully yours,

T. Thatcher

44 College Green, Bristol.

The structure and style of this letter is best described as __________.

Possible Answers:

narrative

analytical

informational

persuasive

skeptical

Correct answer:

persuasive

Explanation:

The author is trying to persuade the reader to take a long walk by explaining the benefits of doing so. While he uses narrative to accomplish this, it is not the whole of the letter. It has too much of a personal bias to be purely informational, and there is very little analysis of the evidence he provides.

Example Question #48 : Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Writing of Essays" in Certain Personal Matters by H.G. Wells (1901)

The art of the essayist is so simple, so entirely free from canons of criticism, and withal so delightful, that one must needs wonder why all men are not essayists. Perhaps people do not know how easy it is. Or perhaps beginners are misled. Rightly taught it may be learnt in a brief ten minutes or so, what art there is in it. And all the rest is as easy as wandering among woodlands on a bright morning in the spring.

Then sit you down if you would join us, taking paper, pens, and ink; and mark this, your pen is a matter of vital moment. For every pen writes its own sort of essay, and pencils also after their kind. The ink perhaps may have its influence too, and the paper; but paramount is the pen. This, indeed, is the fundamental secret of essay-writing. Wed any man to his proper pen, and the delights of composition and the birth of an essay are assured. Only many of us wander through the earth and never meet with her—futile and lonely men.

And, of all pens, your quill for essays that are literature. There is a subtle informality, a delightful easiness, perhaps even a faint immorality essentially literary, about the quill. The quill is rich in suggestion and quotation. There are quills that would quote you Montaigne and Horace in the hands of a trades-union delegate. And those quirky, idle noises this pen makes are delightful, and would break your easy fluency with wit. All the classical essayists wrote with a quill, and Addison used the most expensive kind the Government purchased. And the beginning of the inferior essay was the dawn of the cheap steel pen.

Wells suggests that the choice of writing instrument is important because __________.

Possible Answers:

pens are better than pencils when it comes to writing

each writing instrument writes its own kind of essay

a good essay cannot be written with a typewriter

one cannot write without a writing instrument

Correct answer:

each writing instrument writes its own kind of essay

Explanation:

Wells suggests that an essayist will write a different essay depending on the pen or pencil he uses, no doubt due to the difference in result that each instrument creates on the page and their ease of use. (Pencils do not have to be dipped in ink wells, whereas some pens would.)

← Previous 1
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: