SAT Critical Reading : Making Inferences About the Author or Paired Passage Content

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Critical Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store varsity tutors amazon store varsity tutors ibooks store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Extrapolating From The Text In Paired Passages

Passage One

Adapted from The Every-day Life of Abraham Lincoln by Francis Fisher Browne (1913)

It is stated that Lincoln "had an almost morbid dislike to an escort, or guard, and daily exposed himself to the deadly aim of an assassin." To the remonstrances of friends, who feared his constant exposure to danger, he had but one answer: "If they kill me, the next man will be just as bad for them; and in a country like this, where our habits are simple, and must be, assassination is always possible, and will come if they are determined upon it." A cavalry guard was once placed at the gates of the White House for a while, and Lincoln said that he "worried until he got rid of it." He once remarked to Colonel Halpine: "It would never do for a President to have guards with drawn sabers at his door, as if he fancied he were, or were trying to be, or were assuming to be, an emperor." While the President's family were at their summer-house, near Washington, he rode into town of a morning, or out at night, attended by a mounted escort; but if he returned to town for a while after dark, he rode in unguarded, and often alone, in his open carriage. On more than one occasion, the same writer tells us, he "has gone through the streets of Washington at a late hour of the night with the President, without escort, or even the company of a servant, walking all the way, going and returning. Considering the many open and secret threats to take his life, it is not surprising that Lincoln had many thoughts about his coming to a sudden and violent end.

 

Passage Two

Adapted from Volume Two of Abraham Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik (1896)

Bancroft's eulogy on Lincoln never pleased the latter's lifelong friends—those who knew him so thoroughly and well. February 16, 1866, David Davis, who had heard it, wrote me: "You will see Mr. Bancroft's oration before this reaches you. It is able, but Mr. Lincoln is in the background. His analysis of Mr. Lincoln's character is superficial. It did not please me. How did it satisfy you?" On the 22nd he again wrote: "Mr. Bancroft totally misconceived Mr. Lincoln's character in applying 'unsteadiness' and confusion to it. Mr. Lincoln grew more steady and resolute, and his ideas were never confused. If there were any changes in him after he got here they were for the better. I thought him always master of his subject. He was a much more self-possessed man than I thought. He thought for himself, which is a rare quality nowadays. How could Bancroft know anything about Lincoln except as he judged of him as the public do? He never saw him, and is himself as cold as an icicle. I should never have selected an old Democratic politician, and that one from Massachusetts, to deliver an eulogy on Lincoln."

Both passages use quoted material in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

humiliate rival authors

prove their social superiority to the reader

criticize the people they are quoting

illuminate the authors’ arguments with examples

silence critics who cast doubts on the authors’ credibility

Correct answer:

illuminate the authors’ arguments with examples

Explanation:

In both passages, the quotations serve as examples that illustrate the authors’ various points and flesh out their arguments.

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences About The Author Or Paired Passage Content

Passage One

Adapted from The Every-day Life of Abraham Lincoln by Francis Fisher Browne (1913)

It is stated that Lincoln "had an almost morbid dislike to an escort, or guard, and daily exposed himself to the deadly aim of an assassin." To the remonstrances of friends, who feared his constant exposure to danger, he had but one answer: "If they kill me, the next man will be just as bad for them; and in a country like this, where our habits are simple, and must be, assassination is always possible, and will come if they are determined upon it." A cavalry guard was once placed at the gates of the White House for a while, and Lincoln said that he "worried until he got rid of it." He once remarked to Colonel Halpine: "It would never do for a President to have guards with drawn sabers at his door, as if he fancied he were, or were trying to be, or were assuming to be, an emperor." While the President's family were at their summer-house, near Washington, he rode into town of a morning, or out at night, attended by a mounted escort; but if he returned to town for a while after dark, he rode in unguarded, and often alone, in his open carriage. On more than one occasion, the same writer tells us, he "has gone through the streets of Washington at a late hour of the night with the President, without escort, or even the company of a servant, walking all the way, going and returning. Considering the many open and secret threats to take his life, it is not surprising that Lincoln had many thoughts about his coming to a sudden and violent end.

 

Passage Two

Adapted from Volume Two of Abraham Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik (1896)

Bancroft's eulogy on Lincoln never pleased the latter's lifelong friends—those who knew him so thoroughly and well. February 16, 1866, David Davis, who had heard it, wrote me: "You will see Mr. Bancroft's oration before this reaches you. It is able, but Mr. Lincoln is in the background. His analysis of Mr. Lincoln's character is superficial. It did not please me. How did it satisfy you?" On the 22nd he again wrote: "Mr. Bancroft totally misconceived Mr. Lincoln's character in applying 'unsteadiness' and confusion to it. Mr. Lincoln grew more steady and resolute, and his ideas were never confused. If there were any changes in him after he got here they were for the better. I thought him always master of his subject. He was a much more self-possessed man than I thought. He thought for himself, which is a rare quality nowadays. How could Bancroft know anything about Lincoln except as he judged of him as the public do? He never saw him, and is himself as cold as an icicle. I should never have selected an old Democratic politician, and that one from Massachusetts, to deliver an eulogy on Lincoln."

The authors of Passage One and Two would both most likely agree with which of the following statements about Lincoln?

Possible Answers:

Lincoln was beloved by many people, but he had a damning private life.

Lincoln did not often deviate from his ways.

Lincoln’s personal weaknesses were what made him a patient and thoughtful leader.

Lincoln’s behavior was often irrational and irresponsible.

Lincoln often behaved foolishly.

Correct answer:

Lincoln did not often deviate from his ways.

Explanation:

The author of Passage One portrays Lincoln as someone who stays true to his personal convictions despite everyone who tries to convince him to hire bodyguards. The author of Passage Two portrays Lincoln as someone who “grew more steady and resolute, and his ideas were never confused.” In both cases, the authors are emphasizing Lincoln’s stability and equanimity. They would agree that he was a president who did not often deviate from his ways.

 

Example Question #2 : Making Inferences About The Author Or Paired Passage Content

Passage One

Adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)

The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddlebags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, making him think of those painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

In the center of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.

 

Passage Two

Adapted from Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens (1836)

How much is conveyed in those two short words—"The parish!" And with how many tales of distress and misery, of broken fortune and ruined hopes, too often of unrelieved wretchedness and successful knavery, are they associated! A poor man, with small earnings, and a large family, just manages to live on from hand to mouth, and to procure food from day to day; he has barely sufficient to satisfy the present cravings of nature, and can take no heed of the future. His taxes are in arrear, quarter-day passes by, another quarter-day arrives: he can procure no more quarter for himself, and is summoned by—the parish. His goods are distrained, his children are crying with cold and hunger, and the very bed on which his sick wife is lying, is dragged from beneath her. What can he do? To whom is he to apply for relief? To private charity? To benevolent individuals? Certainly not—there is his parish. There are the parish vestry, the parish infirmary, the parish surgeon, the parish officers, the parish beadle—gentle, kind-hearted men. The woman dies—she is buried by the parish. The children have no protector—they are taken care of by the parish. The man first neglects, and afterwards cannot obtain, work—he is relieved by the parish; and when distress and drunkenness have done their work upon him, he is maintained, a harmless babbling idiot, in the parish asylum.

Which of the following aspects of the setting described in Passage Two would a character in Passage One value most? (Some of the aspects of the setting of Passage Two are hypothetical.)

Possible Answers:

The parish beadle’s knowledge of the Christian Bible

The poor man’s diligent efforts to feed his family

The parish church’s stained glass windows

The "successful knavery"

The charitable works intended to help the poor

Correct answer:

The parish church’s stained glass windows

Explanation:

The characters described in Passage One are aesthetes, people who appreciate great physical beauty. Stained glass windows are the only item on the list that would appeal to an aesthete’s artistic sensibilities.

Example Question #3 : Making Inferences About The Author Or Paired Passage Content

Passage One

Adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)

The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddlebags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, making him think of those painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

In the center of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.

 

Passage Two

Adapted from Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens (1836)

How much is conveyed in those two short words—"The parish!" And with how many tales of distress and misery, of broken fortune and ruined hopes, too often of unrelieved wretchedness and successful knavery, are they associated! A poor man, with small earnings, and a large family, just manages to live on from hand to mouth, and to procure food from day to day; he has barely sufficient to satisfy the present cravings of nature, and can take no heed of the future. His taxes are in arrear, quarter-day passes by, another quarter-day arrives: he can procure no more quarter for himself, and is summoned by—the parish. His goods are distrained, his children are crying with cold and hunger, and the very bed on which his sick wife is lying, is dragged from beneath her. What can he do? To whom is he to apply for relief? To private charity? To benevolent individuals? Certainly not—there is his parish. There are the parish vestry, the parish infirmary, the parish surgeon, the parish officers, the parish beadle—gentle, kind-hearted men. The woman dies—she is buried by the parish. The children have no protector—they are taken care of by the parish. The man first neglects, and afterwards cannot obtain, work—he is relieved by the parish; and when distress and drunkenness have done their work upon him, he is maintained, a harmless babbling idiot, in the parish asylum.

Based on the content of their writing, the authors of Passages One and Two would most likely agree that __________.

Possible Answers:

religion plays an essential role in society

beauty can be found in unlikely places

equality of the sexes is essential for a functioning society

art must supersede religion in the public sphere

there is an unequal distribution of wealth in society

Correct answer:

there is an unequal distribution of wealth in society

Explanation:

Because Passage One is concerned with the great wealth of English aristocracy (with the realities of inner-city London a “distant,” “dim roar”) and because Passage Two is concerned with the poverty that is both created and addressed by the parish church institution, the authors would most likely agree that there is a great disparity of wealth in their society.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

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