HSPT Reading : Passage Reasoning in Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HSPT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Passage Reasoning

While the Gutenberg press was perhaps one of the greatest inventions of all time, we should not let its importance blind us to other very important events in the history of linguistic development. Granted, the efficiency of printing allowed for the dissemination of much learning in Europe. Still, such printing was not unique to Europe, and even in the scope of world history, there are several events that are equally as miraculous regarding the transmission of knowledge.

For instance, most people overlook the amazing nature of the first time that human beings communicated with spoken language. Perhaps there were simple signs by which these early humans could indicate their needs to each other; however, when the first event of person-to-person speech occurred, it was far more marvelous than simple practical communication. Such speech was like a sharing in ideas. When true speech happened, persons were able to communicate knowledge to each other, freeing it from its isolation in one lonely person. By means of such speech, knowledge could be orally transmitted from generation to generation, thus preserving wisdom in a way that is completely impossible without speech.

Of course, such spoken tradition is very fragile, relying on memories and stories that are passed down from generation to generation. For this reason, the invention of writing is extremely important. In contrast to the spoken word, the written word can continue to exist and be useful so long as it can be read intelligently. Likewise, much more can be recorded than ever could be remembered by someone with the best of memories. Indeed, once these records are written, copies can be sent to anyone who is able to read the language in question. Just so, it can be translated into written copies to be read by others. For these (as well as many other reasons) the invention of writing was a very significant event in history, greatly expanding the possibilities for the exchange of knowledge.

Thus, the printing press is quite important, but it is part of a larger story. Like both spoken and written communication, it allows human beings to communicate knowledge not only to each other but also across multiple generations. Often, we think of the press merely in its ability to provide a great number of books in a short period of time; however, when considered as a chapter in this longer tale, it likewise appears as the means by which humanity is able to conquer time by allowing the knowledge of today to live for multiple generations.

How does the author’s main idea become developed in a new way in the last paragraph?

Possible Answers:

He shows that, in fact, the creation of the printing press was an insignificant event.

He shows that the printing press is, in fact, one of the greatest human inventions.

He shows that the printing press is merely the last stage in the development of human expression and that it will likely be replaced by new forms of technology.

He shows a new way to understand the nature of the achievements made possible by the printing press.

He shows that the printing press is an excellent supplement to oral speech, but it can never replace it.

Correct answer:

He shows a new way to understand the nature of the achievements made possible by the printing press.

Explanation:

First, note that in the first paragraph, the author states that "While the Gutenberg press was perhaps one of the greatest inventions of all time, we should not let its importance blind us to other very important events in the history of linguistic development." The next two paragraphs help to develop that idea, showing how speech and writing are equally amazing events in the history of human communication. The final paragraph closes, however, with a new assertion: "However, when considered as a chapter in this longer tale, it likewise appears as the means by which humanity is able to conquer time by allowing the knowledge of today to live for multiple generations." This develops the author's theme, giving more information about the very nature of the printing press.

Example Question #991 : Isee Upper Level (Grades 9 12) Reading Comprehension

"The Meaning of 'Liberal Arts Education'" by Matthew Minerd (2013)

Many people use the expression “liberal arts education” but do not know much at all about the original meaning of such an education. It is often thought that a “true liberal education” is one that gives the student knowledge that is not pursued for “utilitarian values”—that is, knowledge that is not merely “for the sake of getting a job.” Sometimes, the expression “liberal education” is used to describe an education that is not a mere repetition of old beliefs, but is open-minded and “liberal” in this way.

To understand the original meaning of the expression “liberal arts” it is necessary to consider each part of the expression as it was used in its ancient and medieval senses. The word “liberal” was used to describe these “arts” insofar as they were not the “servile arts,” that is, “arts” in the sense of “artisan work.” In this regard, “liberal arts” were not a matter of “getting a job.” The word “art” still had a meaning that was related to “artisanship.” However, these “arts” were “liberal” because they were the “arts of reasoning,” that is, “the arts of the mind.” They were meant to be tools that prepared someone for more in-depth studies. Thus, they were not envisioned as “knowledge for the sake of knowledge.” Instead, they were the initial tools that enabled the young student to reason properly.  This more ancient sense of the “liberal arts” is often missed or, at least, partially overlooked in contemporary discussions about them.

What is the purpose of the underlined sentence starting with “Sometimes, the expression . . .”?

Possible Answers:

To expand on the topic discussed in the sentence before

To provide a second example of what some people think is meant by the expression "liberal arts education"

To contrast the contemporary understanding of "liberal education" with the ancient understanding

To provide a contrast for the first example provided in this paragraph

To state the thesis of this selection

Correct answer:

To provide a second example of what some people think is meant by the expression "liberal arts education"

Explanation:

The first paragraph generally aims to state that many people do not know the original meaning of "liberal arts education." The second sentence provides a first example, stating what is "often" thought by people. The third sentence (the sentence in question) provides an example of what is "sometimes" thought about liberal arts education as well. This sentence does not object to anything coming before it. It merely states another example, implying that it is one of the cases to which the author had referred in the opening sentence.

Example Question #1 : Passage Reasoning In Humanities Passages

There are two great mistakes in modern times regarding the possibility of knowing whether or not God exists. On the one hand, there are a number of people who believe that any natural knowledge of God is impossible. Among the ranks of such people are included not only scientists and atheists. There are likewise very religious people who believe that God is not at all known without religion. On the other hand there are those who believe that God’s existence is easily proven. Each of these positions is inadequate, though they do note truths that should not be overlooked.

Those who defend the possibility of knowing God’s existence without religion could be said to be members of a tradition of “natural theology.” This type of thought has taken many forms over the centuries; however, itscentral claim is that human knowledge can consider things like motion, change, beings, beauty, or other natural realities in order to know God as the source of motion, being, beauty, and so forth. This tradition has had many defenders, and it should not be quickly dismissed as a mere “left over” from another era.

Nevertheless, many of its proponents act as though its conclusions are very obvious and easily reached. This, however, is not actually the case, for such natural theology admittedly deals with profound, difficult questions. Inasmuch as the opponents of natural theology reject such simplistic arguments, they offer an honest critique; however, it is also very important to note that this other extreme position ultimately means that religion is completely irrational. While this might perhaps be acceptable for a dedicated atheist, it is unlikely that a religious person would want to say that he has “no rational reason” to believe in God.

These two positions ultimately are too extreme in their claims. The best approach to finding the truth of the matter is in considering the strengths and weaknesses of each argument. It is important to understand how religion is more than complete irrationality, for it has had an undeniably positive influence on much of culture and history. Indeed, it is also necessary to consider how there have been honest philosophers who believed in God without being religious in any explicit manner. On the other hand, it is necessary to admit that belief does not come naturally to many people as often seems to be implied by those who strongly defend the possibility of natural theology.

Which is the weakest sentence in the reasoning of the last paragraph?

Possible Answers:

It is important to understand how religion is more than complete irrationality, for it has had an undeniably positive influence on much of culture and history.

Indeed, it is also necessary to consider how there have been honest philosophers who believed in God without being religious in any explicit manner.

The best approach to finding the truth of the matter is in considering the strengths and weaknesses of each argument.

On the other hand, it is necessary to admit that belief does not come naturally to many people as often seems to be implied by those who strongly defend the possibility of natural theology.

These two positions ultimately are too extreme in their claims.

Correct answer:

It is important to understand how religion is more than complete irrationality, for it has had an undeniably positive influence on much of culture and history.

Explanation:

While there have been other discussions about this question of "irrationality" did briefly arise in the third paragraph, that is clearly the weakest reasoning of the whole selection. The author clearly wants to focus on the question of knowledge of the existence of God. The question of the cultural influence of religion likely raises a number of additional (and even interesting) points; however, they would  distract from the overall argument, which is simply to show how simplistic it would be to think that is very easy or completely impossible to prove God's existence.

Example Question #2 : Passage Reasoning In Humanities Passages

There are two great mistakes in modern times regarding the possibility of knowing whether or not God exists. On the one hand, there are a number of people who believe that any natural knowledge of God is impossible. Among the ranks of such people are included not only scientists and atheists. There are likewise very religious people who believe that God is not at all known without religion. On the other hand there are those who believe that God’s existence is easily proven. Each of these positions is inadequate, though they do note truths that should not be overlooked.

Those who defend the possibility of knowing God’s existence without religion could be said to be members of a tradition of “natural theology.” This type of thought has taken many forms over the centuries; however, itscentral claim is that human knowledge can consider things like motion, change, beings, beauty, or other natural realities in order to know God as the source of motion, being, beauty, and so forth. This tradition has had many defenders, and it should not be quickly dismissed as a mere “left over” from another era.

Nevertheless, many of its proponents act as though its conclusions are very obvious and easily reached. This, however, is not actually the case, for such natural theology admittedly deals with profound, difficult questions. Inasmuch as the opponents of natural theology reject such simplistic arguments, they offer an honest critique; however, it is also very important to note that this other extreme position ultimately means that religion is completely irrational. While this might perhaps be acceptable for a dedicated atheist, it is unlikely that a religious person would want to say that he has “no rational reason” to believe in God.

These two positions ultimately are too extreme in their claims. The best approach to finding the truth of the matter is in considering the strengths and weaknesses of each argument. It is important to understand how religion is more than complete irrationality, for it has had an undeniably positive influence on much of culture and history. Indeed, it is also necessary to consider how there have been honest philosophers who believed in God without being religious in any explicit manner. On the other hand, it is necessary to admit that belief does not come naturally to many people as often seems to be implied by those who strongly defend the possibility of natural theology.

After which sentence should the third paragraph be split in order to allow the author to expand the argument where it is weakest?

Possible Answers:

Inasmuch as the opponents of natural theology reject such simplistic arguments, they offer an honest critique.

This, however, is not actually the case, for such natural theology admittedly deals with profound, difficult questions.

While this might perhaps be acceptable for a dedicated atheist, it is unlikely that a religious person would want to say that he has “no rational reason” to believe in God.

None of the others

However, it is also very important to note that this other extreme position ultimately means that religion is completely irrational.

Correct answer:

Inasmuch as the opponents of natural theology reject such simplistic arguments, they offer an honest critique.

Explanation:

The main idea of this paragraph is that the proponents (supporters / advocates) of natural theology act as though their solutions are very easily reached. When the author begins speaking about the implications of the opposite position, the paragraph begins to diverge from its original main idea. If the author wishes to maintain this portion, it would be best to split the paragraph here and to expand the two paragraphs that result from this splitting.

Example Question #3 : Passage Reasoning 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 the clause underlined in the first paragraph, "But for poetry, the idea is everything," most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

ideas reflect society and constitute poems

ideas build upon one another in the study of poetry

ideas are derived from poetry

ideas are to poetry what fact is to religion

ideas create the beauty in poetry

Correct answer:

ideas are to poetry what fact is to religion

Explanation:

To best understand this line, you need to consider it in the context in which appears—that is, you need to pay attention to the lines surrounding it. The fact that it starts with "But" and instantiates a comaprison is a clue that context is particularly important here. Consider the line alongside the lines that come immediately before and after it:

"'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 contrast Arnold is drawing here contrasts religion's association with "the fact" with poetry's association with "the idea"—for poetry, Arnold argues, "the idea is the fact," or in other words, ideas are held the same central place in poetry that fact holds in religion. Thus, the correct answer choice is "ideas are to poetry what fact is to religion." This is the only answer choice that correctly reflects the comparison that the author is drawing.

Example Question #61 : Main Idea, Details, Opinions, And Arguments In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters, then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash, 'till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said "Bother!" and "O blow!" and also "Hang spring cleaning!" and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gaveled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, "Up we go! Up we go!" 'till at last, pop! His snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

"This is fine!" he said to himself. "This is better than whitewashing!" The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long, the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow 'till he reached the hedge on the further side.

"Hold up!" said an elderly rabbit at the gap. "Sixpence for the privilege of passing by the private road!" He was bowled over in an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about. "Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!" he remarked jeeringly, and was gone before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply. Then they all started grumbling at each other. "How STUPID you are! Why didn't you tell him—" "Well, why didn't YOU say—" "You might have reminded him—" and so on, in the usual way; but, of course, it was then much too late, as is always the case.

What does the elderly rabbit want the mole to do?

Possible Answers:

Stop to chat

Stop and pay a toll

Teach him how to dig underground

Help him with spring cleaning his burrow

Tell him where he is going

Correct answer:

Stop and pay a toll

Explanation:

At the beginning of the third paragraph, the mole encounters the elderly rabbit: "'Hold up!' said an elderly rabbit at the gap. 'Sixpence for the privilege of passing by the private road!'" "Pence" is an old British monetary unit; it is the plural of "penny." So, we can paraphrase what the elderly rabbit says as "Stop! You need to pay six pennies to use the private road." From this, we can tell that the elderly rabbit wants the mole to stop and pay a toll.

Example Question #153 : Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters, then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash, 'till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said "Bother!" and "O blow!" and also "Hang spring cleaning!" and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gaveled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, "Up we go! Up we go!" 'till at last, pop! His snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

"This is fine!" he said to himself. "This is better than whitewashing!" The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long, the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow 'till he reached the hedge on the further side.

"Hold up!" said an elderly rabbit at the gap. "Sixpence for the privilege of passing by the private road!" He was bowled over in an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about. "Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!" he remarked jeeringly, and was gone before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply. Then they all started grumbling at each other. "How STUPID you are! Why didn't you tell him—" "Well, why didn't YOU say—" "You might have reminded him—" and so on, in the usual way; but, of course, it was then much too late, as is always the case.

Which of these is an assumption that the reader is expected to make when reading this passage?

Possible Answers:

Every road in the story is a toll road.

The rabbits normally speak in rhyme, but the elderly rabbit is not very good at rhyming, so he doesn't.

The mole and the rabbits can talk, but no other animal can.

Animals can make use of tools similar to the ones that humans use.

Moles normally sleep through spring.

Correct answer:

Animals can make use of tools similar to the ones that humans use.

Explanation:

The passage tells us that the mole uses "brooms," "dusters," "ladders and steps and chairs," and "a brush and a pail of whitewash" when spring cleaning his home. So, the story expects its readers to assume that animals can make use of tools similar to the ones that humans use. None of the other answers are supported by the passage.

Example Question #1 : Multiple Answer Questions

Passage adapted from John Dewey's "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy" (1915)

Intellectual advance occurs in two ways. At times increase of knowledge is organized about old conceptions, while these are expanded, elaborated and refined, but not seriously revised, much less abandoned. At other times, the increase of knowledge demands qualitative rather than quantitative change; alteration, not addition. Men's minds grow cold to their former intellectual concerns; ideas that were burning fade; interests that were urgent seem remote. Men face in another direction; their older perplexities are unreal; considerations passed over as negligible loom up. Former problems may not have been solved, but they no longer press for solutions.

Philosophy is no exception to the rule. But it is unusually conservative--not, necessarily, in proffering solutions, but in clinging to problems. It has been so allied with theology and theological morals as representatives of men's chief interests, that radical alteration has been shocking. Men's activities took a decidedly new turn, for example, in the seventeenth century, and it seems as if philosophy, under the lead of thinkers like Bacon and Descartes, was to execute an about-face. But, in spite of the ferment, it turned out that many of the older problems were but translated from Latin into the vernacular or into the new terminology furnished by science.

The association of philosophy with academic teaching has reinforced this intrinsic conservatism. Scholastic philosophy persisted in universities after men's thoughts outside of the walls of colleges had moved in other directions. In the last hundred years intellectual advances of science and politics have in like fashion been crystallized into material of instruction and now resist further change. I would not say that the spirit of teaching is hostile to that of liberal inquiry, but a philosophy which exists largely as something to be taught rather than wholly as something to be reflected upon is conducive to discussion of views held by others rather than to immediate response. Philosophy when taught inevitably magnifies the history of past thought, and leads professional philosophers to approach their subject-matter through its formulation in received systems. It tends, also, to emphasize points upon which men have divided into schools, for these lend themselves to retrospective definition and elaboration. Consequently, philosophical discussion is likely to be a dressing out of antithetical traditions, where criticism of one view is thought to afford proof of the truth of its opposite (as if formulation of views guaranteed logical exclusives). Direct preoccupation with contemporary difficulties is left to literature and politics.

Which of the following could be an additional explanation that Dewey could cogently claim for his main point?

A. Philosophy is conservative because the human mind asks the same basic questions in all periods of history.

B. Philosophy is conservative because new ideas are merely copies of older ones.

C. Philosophy is conservative because people are not always aware of the novelty of their current social and historical conditions.

Possible Answers:

C

A and B

A

A and C

B

Correct answer:

C

Explanation:

We certainly should not choose option B. Dewey clearly does not stand for this conception of human thought at the end of the second paragraph. In that place, he is saying that there was indeed a change of mind in the seventeenth century. It just happened that many ideas were merely translated from one way of speaking to another—without radically reordering the structure of ideas in line with the changes that did take place on some level. This is a contingent fact, not necessarily something being claimed about philsophy as a whole (or essentially).

Likewise, there is nothing in the passage that can make us believe that A is correct. Dewey is stressing that at certain times, things qualitatively change in the human outlook.

At the end of the first paragraph, it is obvious that Dewey thinks that there are time when people do experience major changes in perspective, having new concerns. If people do not notice this fact, they may well not realize that there are new philosophical questions to be asked. This would lead to a kind of conservatism like that discussed elsewhere in the selection.

Example Question #1 : Literature Passages

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well-dressed, too—well-dressed on a weekday. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

Why does Tom feel especially happy at the end of the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

It has finally stopped raining.

He has learned to whistle.

He saw his parents.

He rescued a bird.

He made a new friend.

Correct answer:

He has learned to whistle.

Explanation:

 In the middle of the first paragraph, we are told, "This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed." So, we know that Tom is practicing how to whistle. Near the end of the paragraph, we are told, "Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude." So, Tom feels especially happy at the end of the passage's first paragraph because he has learned to whistle.

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