PSAT Critical Reading : Analyzing Sequence, Organization, and Structure in Social Science / History Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Critical Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Sequence, Organization, And Structure In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from The Extermination of the American Bison by William T. Hornaday (1889)

We come now to a history which I would gladly leave unwritten. Its record is a disgrace to the American people in general, and the Territorial, State, and General Government in particular. It will cause succeeding generations to regard us as being possessed of the leading characteristics of the beast of prey—cruelty and greed. We will be likened to the blood-thirsty tiger of the Indian jungle, who slaughters a dozen bullocks at once when he knows he can eat only one.

The men who killed buffaloes for their tongues and those who shot them from the railway trains for sport were murderers. In no way does civilized man so quickly revert to his former state as when he is alone with the beasts of the field. Give him a gun and something which he may kill without getting himself in trouble, and, presto! He is instantly a killer again, finding exquisite delight in bloodshed, slaughter, and death, if not for gain, then solely for the joy and happiness of it. There is no kind of warfare against game animals too unfair, too disreputable, or too mean for white men to engage in if they can only do so with safety to their own precious carcasses. They will shoot buffalo and antelope from running railway trains, drive deer into water with hounds and cut their throats in cold blood, kill does with fawns a week old, kill fawns by the score for their spotted skins, slaughter deer, moose, and caribou in the snow at a pitiful disadvantage, just as the wolves do; exterminate the wild ducks on the whole Atlantic seaboard with punt guns for the metropolitan markets; kill off the Rocky Mountain goats for hides worth only 50 cents apiece, destroy wagon loads of trout with dynamite, and so on to the end of the chapter.

Perhaps the most gigantic task ever undertaken on this continent in the line of game-slaughter was the extermination of the bison in the great pasture region by the hide-hunters. Probably the brilliant rapidity and success with which that lofty undertaking was accomplished was a matter of surprise even to those who participated in it. The story of the slaughter is by no means a long one.

The period of systematic slaughter of the bison naturally begins with the first organized efforts in that direction, in a business-like, wholesale way. Although the species had been steadily driven westward for a hundred years by the advancing settlements, and had during all that time been hunted for the meat and robes it yielded, its extermination did not begin in earnest until 1820, or thereabouts. As before stated, various persons had previous to that time made buffalo killing a business in order to sell their skins, but such instances were very exceptional. By that time the bison was totally extinct in all the region lying east of the Mississippi River except a portion of Wisconsin, where it survived until about 1830. In 1820 the first organized buffalo hunting expedition on a grand scale was made from the Red River settlement, Manitoba, in which five hundred and forty carts proceeded to the range. Previous to that time the buffaloes were found near enough to the settlements around Fort Garry that every settler could hunt independently; but as the herds were driven farther and farther away, it required an organized effort and a long journey to reach them.

The American Fur Company established trading posts along the Missouri River, one at the mouth of the Teton River and another at the mouth of the Yellowstone. In 1826 a post was established at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, at the head of the Arkansas River, and in 1832 another was located in a corresponding situation at the head of the South Fork of the Platte, close to where Denver now stands. Both the latter were on what was then the western border of the buffalo range. Elsewhere throughout the buffalo country there were numerous other posts, always situated as near as possible to the best hunting ground, and at the same time where they would be most accessible to the hunters, both white and Native American.

The second paragraph establishes all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

Men slaughtered buffalo for specific portions of their bodies.

The practice of cutting the throats of deer and hounds is common. 

The transition between civilized man and vicious hunter is instantaneous.

Man will kill if he is given a weapon and an unprotected target.

One goat hide is worth less than a dollar.

Correct answer:

The practice of cutting the throats of deer and hounds is common. 

Explanation:

In the discussion of the methods used to kill different animals, and the reasons men kill them, the author tells us that “they will . . . drive deer into water with hounds and cut their throats in cold blood.” Here, “with” means using rather than alongside. So the hounds, along with the throat cutting, are the method, not the prey. It is important to infer the correct meaning of “with” here. 

Example Question #22 : Analyzing Sequence In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776)

The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labor. The effects of the division of labor, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures. It is commonly supposed to be carried furthest in some very trifling ones; not perhaps that it really is carried further in them than in others of more importance, but in those trifling manufactures that are destined to supply the small wants of but a small number of people, the whole number of workmen must necessarily be small; and those employed in every different branch of the work can often be collected into the same workhouse, and placed at once under the view of the spectator.

In those great manufactures, on the contrary, which are destined to supply the great wants of the great body of the people, every different branch of the work employs so great a number of workmen that it is impossible to collect them all into the same workhouse. We can seldom see more, at one time, than those employed in one single branch. Though in such manufactures, therefore, the work may really be divided into a much greater number of parts, than in those of a more trifling nature, the division is not near so obvious, and has accordingly been much less observed.

To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture, but one in which the division of labor has been very often taken notice of: the trade of a pin-maker. A workman not educated to this business (which the division of labor has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labor has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them.

Which of the following best describes the structure of the passage?

Possible Answers:

The first paragraph introduces the topic, the second paragraph describes and contrasts large and small industries, and the final paragraph provides an example of this contrast.

The first paragraph provides an example, the second paragraph describes how this example applies to large industries, and the third paragraph describes how this example applies to small industries.

The first paragraph introduces the topic and describes small industries, the second paragraph contrasts large industries with small industries, and the final paragraph provides an example.

The first paragraph introduces the topic in theoretical terms, the second paragraph provides a concrete example, and the third paragraph compares and contrasts small and large industries.

The first paragraph contrasts large and small industries, the second paragraph continues that comparison, and the third paragraph provides an example.

Correct answer:

The first paragraph introduces the topic and describes small industries, the second paragraph contrasts large industries with small industries, and the final paragraph provides an example.

Explanation:

Questions that ask you to characterize the sequence of paragraphs in a passage like this may seem overwhelming, so it might be helpful to pause for a moment and consider what each paragraph accomplishes in the passage before considering the available answer choices. In this passage, the first paragraph introduces the topic of the division of labor and talks about how it is visible in small-scale industry. Then, the second paragraph contrasts how the division of labor is visible in large-scale industry with how it is visible in small-scale industry; we can tell that the author is contrasting these points because he begins the second paragraph by saying, “In those great manufactures, on the contrary . . . “ In the third paragraph, the author provides a concrete example; we can tell that he does this by the way he begins the paragraph: “To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture . . .” Based on this analysis, we can now narrow down the available answer choices and identify the correct one, “The first paragraph introduces the topic and describes small industries; the second paragraph contrasts large industries with small industries; and the final paragraph provides an example.” Some of the other answer choices attempt to confuse you by stating that the consideration of and contrast between small-scale and large-scale industries only occurs in the first or second paragraph, but considering the passage carefully will allow you to see that such consideration and comparison takes place in both paragraphs.

Example Question #7 : Passage Organization And Order

Adapted from “Introductory Remarks” in The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud (trans. 1913)

In attempting to discuss the interpretation of dreams, I do not believe that I have overstepped the bounds of neuropathological interest. For, when investigated psychologically, the dream proves to be the first link in a chain of abnormal psychic structures whose other links—the hysterical phobia, the obsession, and the delusion—must interest the physician for practical reasons. The dream can lay no claim to a corresponding practical significance; however, its theoretical value is very great, and one who cannot explain the origin of the content of dreams will strive in vain to understand phobias, obsessive and delusional ideas, and likewise their therapeutic importance.

While this relationship makes our subject important, it is responsible also for the deficiencies in this work. The surfaces of fracture, which will be frequently discussed, correspond to many points of contact where the problem of dream formation informs more comprehensive problems of psychopathology which cannot be discussed here. These larger issues will be elaborated upon in the future.

Peculiarities in the material I have used to elucidate the interpretation of dreams have rendered this publication difficult. The work itself will demonstrate why all dreams related in scientific literature or collected by others had to remain useless for my purpose. In choosing my examples, I had to limit myself to considering my own dreams and those of my patients who were under psychoanalytic treatment. I was restrained from utilizing material derived from my patients' dreams by the fact that during their treatment, the dream processes were subjected to an undesirable complication—the intermixture of neurotic characters. On the other hand, in discussing my own dreams, I was obliged to expose more of the intimacies of my psychic life than I should like, more so than generally falls to the task of an author who is not a poet but an investigator of nature. This was painful, but unavoidable; I had to put up with the inevitable in order to demonstrate the truth of my psychological results at all. To be sure, I disguised some of my indiscretions through omissions and substitutions, though I feel that these detract from the value of the examples in which they appear. I can only express the hope that the reader of this work, putting himself in my difficult position, will show patience, and also that anyone inclined to take offense at any of the reported dreams will concede freedom of thought at least to the dream life.

The author discusses a topic that he plans to pursue in future work __________.

Possible Answers:

in the second paragraph of the passage

nowhere in the passage

in the first and last paragraphs of the passage

in the last sentence of the passage

in the first sentence of the passage

Correct answer:

in the second paragraph of the passage

Explanation:

In the second paragraph of the passage, the author says, “The surfaces of fracture, which will be frequently discussed, correspond to many points of contact where the problem of dream formation informs more comprehensive problems of psychopathology which cannot be discussed here. These larger issues will be elaborated upon in the future.” This the only point in the passage where the author refers to the topic of future work, so “in the second paragraph of the passage” is the correct answer.

Example Question #92 : Isee Upper Level (Grades 9 12) Reading Comprehension

Adapted from The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln (1863)

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The introduction presents __________.

Possible Answers:

speculation 

a historical context 

a scientific theory

an introductory aside

an acknowledgement of the counterargument

an acknowledgement of the counterargument

Correct answer:

a historical context 

Explanation:

The introduction puts the Civil War within the historical context of United States history. By referencing the birth of the nation the author is trying to link contemporary events with significant events in past in order that the audience might observe an unbroken chain of historical relation.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Sequence, Organization, And Structure In Social Science / History Passages

Adapted from “Queen of the Sea’s Awful Fate on Her First Trip Out” from The Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), April 28, 1912.

The giant Titanic of the White Star Line, the biggest ship afloat when she sailed from Southampton, England, on April 10, on her maiden voyage to the Port of New York, lies to-day a broken wreck, 2,760 fathoms beneath the ocean's surface, some 800 miles from shore off the great Newfoundland Banks. The ship that was unsinkable, in the minds of her makers and the men that ran her, has been sunk. The Queen of the Seas is less to-day than one of her lifeboats which bobs up and down on the broken surface of the Hudson River, safe between the piers of the White Star Line.

And in her sinking the Titanic exacted greater toll than humanity ever before had been made to pay for its efforts to conquer the sea. Of the 2,340 persons composing passengers and crew of the big liner, only 705 ever reached this port. More than two-thirds of those who embarked on the Titanic for her maiden Journey--1,635 persons exactly--went down with her when she snubbed her nose beneath the waves, hung, quivering an instant, half above and half below the surface, and then started her downward plunge to the bottom, nearly two miles below.

Since then the cable ships Mackay-Bennett and Minia have been at the scene of the wreck searching for bodies. Some have been identified by articles in the clothing and are now on their way to Halifax aboard the Mackay-Bennett. Altogether 205 had been picked up last Thursday. The steamship is due there this morning. Others were recommitted to the sea after it had been found that they were unrecognizable. The Minia will remain at the scene of the disaster for some days to come, and it will not be until there is a fair certainty that everybody recoverable has been found that the search will be abandoned.

It was collision with an iceberg which caused the destruction of the Titanic, and those who would moralize over the great ship's loss can see in such a meeting the hand of Fate, which required the greatest example of man's handiwork afloat on the sea to point its protest against his ambition. For it seems certain that nothing less than an iceberg could have withstood collision with the enormous Titanic. Than her no ship which sails the seas was better prepared to meet unexpected encounters with others. Even a war vessel, the heaviest Dreadnought, probably must have succumbed to the rushing impetus of the monster Titanic had they jostled each other in the narrow lanes of the ocean. It had to be something greater than any ship afloat to sink the Titanic, and that something was supplied in the tremendous berg, eight-ninths of whose bulk skulked beneath the waves while it presented a paltry lump of ice, some 120 feet in height to do combat with the steamship.

What is the purpose of the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To detail the rescue efforts undertaken after the event

To establish the details of the level of human suffering and loss of life associated with the even

To describe the experience of those involved in the disaster

To make an argument about the safety of sea travel

Correct answer:

To establish the details of the level of human suffering and loss of life associated with the even

Explanation:

The second paragraph establishes (through the listing of detailed statistics, and the emotionaly wrought prose) the level of human suffereing and death involved in the sinking of the Titanic. The third paragraph details the rescue efforts undertaken since the sinking. While the article does express some ambivalence about the advancements that led to the building, and sinking of the Titanic, the second paragraph is more focused on detailing the loss of life from this specific event.

Example Question #3 : Analyzing Sequence, Organization, And Structure In Social Science / History Passages

Passage adapted from Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's "The Passing of the Armies" (1915) 

The attack was impetuous; the musketry hot.  Major Glenn with his six companies in skirmishing order dashed through the stream and struck the enemy's breastworks front and flank.  In a moment everything started loose.  The entire brigade forded the stream and rolled forward, closing upon Glenn right and left, and the whole command swept onward like a wave, carrying all before it a mile or more up the road, to the buildings of the Lewis Farm.  The enemy now re-enforced made a decided stand, and the fight became sharp.  But our enveloping line pressed them so severely that they fell back after each struggle to the edge of a thick wood, where a large body had gathered behind a substantial breastwork of logs and earth.

A withering volley breaks our line into groups.  Courage and resolution are great, but some other sentiment mightier for the moment controls our men; a backward movement begins, but the men retire slowly, bearing their wounded with them, and even some of their dead.  The enemy, seeing this recoil, pour out of their shelter and make a dash upon our broken groups, but only to be dashed back in turn hand to hand in eddying whirls.  And seized by our desperate fellows, so many are dragged along as prisoners in the receding tide that it is not easy to tell which side is the winning one.  Much of the enemy's aim is unsteady, for the flame and murk of their thickening fire in the heavy moist air are blown back into their eyes by the freshening south wind.  But reinforcements are coming in, deepening and broadening their line beyond both our flanks.  Now roar and tumult of motion for a fierce pulse of time, then again a quivering halt.  At length one vigorous dash drives the assailants into the woods again with heavy loss.  We had cleared the field, and thought it best to be content with that for the present.  We reform our lines each side the buildings of the Lewis Farm, and take account of the situation. 

What does the enemy do immediately after the United States troops are broken into groups?

Possible Answers:

The enemy surrenders.

The enemy rushes from their shelter and attempts a counter-attack.

The enemy moves to a new location to regroup.

The enemy takes advantage of the US troops' disorganization to turn and flee to safety.

Correct answer:

The enemy rushes from their shelter and attempts a counter-attack.

Explanation:

At the beginning of the second paragraph, the US troops are broken from a single attacking line into groups by the enemy's concentrated musket fire. As the US troops slowly retreat, the Confederate troops (the enemy), "pour out of their shelter and make a dash upon our broken groups..."

Example Question #22 : Analyzing Sequence In Social Science Or History Passages

Adapted from The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776)

The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labor. The effects of the division of labor, in the general business of society, will be more easily understood by considering in what manner it operates in some particular manufactures. It is commonly supposed to be carried furthest in some very trifling ones; not perhaps that it really is carried further in them than in others of more importance, but in those trifling manufactures that are destined to supply the small wants of but a small number of people, the whole number of workmen must necessarily be small; and those employed in every different branch of the work can often be collected into the same workhouse, and placed at once under the view of the spectator.

In those great manufactures, on the contrary, which are destined to supply the great wants of the great body of the people, every different branch of the work employs so great a number of workmen that it is impossible to collect them all into the same workhouse. We can seldom see more, at one time, than those employed in one single branch. Though in such manufactures, therefore, the work may really be divided into a much greater number of parts, than in those of a more trifling nature, the division is not near so obvious, and has accordingly been much less observed.

To take an example, therefore, from a very trifling manufacture, but one in which the division of labor has been very often taken notice of: the trade of a pin-maker. A workman not educated to this business (which the division of labor has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labor has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business; to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them.

In every other art and manufacture, the effects of the division of labour are similar to what they are in this very trifling one; though, in many of them, the labour can neither be so much subdivided, nor reduced to so great a simplicity of operation. The division of labour, however, so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of the productive powers of labour. The separation of different trades and employments from one another, seems to have taken place, in consequence of this advantage.

Which of the following is the first step in making a pin, according to the author?

Possible Answers:

cutting the wire.

pointing the wire.

drawing out the wire.

grinding the top of the wire so that the pin-head will fit on it.

Correct answer:

drawing out the wire.

Explanation:

To correctly answer this question, you need to consider the third paragraph, specifically the part in which the author outlines the process of making a pin. The author begins discussing the specific tasks involved in pin-making by stating, “One man draws out the wire; another straights it; a third cuts it; a fourth points it; a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head.” While he continues after this, you can at this point tell that because the author begins by stating “One man draws out the wire” and because the sequence is related in a logical, step-by-step order, the correct answer is “drawing out the wire.”

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