Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts : Language

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts

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Example Question #1 : Complex Or Contested Usage: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.11 12.1.B

Adapted from “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings” (1900) by William James

Some years ago, while journeying in the mountains of North Carolina, I passed by a large number of 'coves,' as they call them there, or heads of small valleys between the hills, which had been newly cleared and planted. The impression on my mind was one of unmitigated squalor. The settler had in every case cut down the more manageable trees, and left their charred stumps standing. The larger trees he had girdled and killed, in order that their foliage should not cast a shade. He had then built a log cabin, plastering its chinks with clay, and had set up a tall zigzag rail fence around the scene of his havoc, to keep the pigs and cattle out. Finally, he had irregularly planted the intervals between the stumps and trees with Indian corn, which grew among the chips; and there he dwelt with his wife and babes--an axe, a gun, a few utensils, and some pigs and chickens feeding in the woods, being the sum total of his possessions.

The forest had been destroyed; and what had 'improved' it out of existence was hideous, a sort of ulcer, without a single element of artificial grace to make up for the loss of Nature's beauty. Ugly, indeed, seemed the life of the squatter, scudding, as the sailors say, under bare poles, beginning again away back where our first ancestors started, and by hardly a single item the better off for all the achievements of the intervening generations.

“Talk about going back to nature!” I said to myself, oppressed by the dreariness, as I drove by. Talk of a country life for one's old age and for one's children! Never thus, with nothing but the bare ground and one's bare hands to fight the battle! Never, without the best spoils of culture woven in! The beauties and commodities gained by the centuries are sacred. They are our heritage and birthright. No modern person ought to be willing to live a day in such a state of rudimentariness and denudation.

Then I said to the mountaineer who was driving me, "What sort of people are they who have to make these new clearings?" "All of us," he replied. "Why, we ain't happy here, unless we are getting one of these coves under cultivation." I instantly felt that I had been losing the whole inward significance of the situation. Because to me the clearings spoke of naught but denudation, I thought that to those whose sturdy arms and obedient axes had made them they could tell no other story. But, when they looked on the hideous stumps, what they thought of was personal victory. The chips, the girdled trees, and the vile split rails spoke of honest sweat, persistent toil and final reward. The cabin was a warrant of safety for self and wife and babes. In short, the clearing, which to me was a mere ugly picture on the retina, was to them a symbol redolent with moral memories and sang a very pæan of duty, struggle, and success.

I had been as blind to the peculiar ideality of their conditions as they certainly would also have been to the ideality of mine, had they had a peep at my strange indoor academic ways of life at Cambridge.

As used in the passage, the bolded and underlined word "warrant" most nearly means _________________.

Possible Answers:

authorization

assurance

necessity

legal document

Correct answer:

assurance

Explanation:

This question interrogates your understanding of a word with multiple conflicting definitions. The most common definition of "warrant" that you may have heard is in connection to the legal system. "Warrants" are legal documents, usually taken out against individual citizens by the government or police, enforcing the government's ability, in specific situations and with cause, to search or imprison specific persons. Another definition, queried in the given answer choices, refers to something, usually an action, being made necessary given particular circumstances. Used in a sentence, "Kevin's actions warranted serious discipline." In this instance "warrant" functions as a verb rather than a noun. Here, however, this definition does not make contextual or grammatical sense. Applying the final answer choices to the sentence, we see that "authorization" makes less sense than "assurance," contextually. Grammatically, either would be possible, but clearly an "assurance" of safety is the preferable option.

Example Question #1 : Vary Syntax For Effect; Apply Understanding Of Syntax To Texts: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.11 12.3.A

Adapted from Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" in Leaves of Grass (1855)

1

Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.

2

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme, myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on the walk in the street and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others. 

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide. 

3

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams . . .

What syntactical structure is most notable the bolded and underlined stanza of the poem?

Possible Answers:

Parallelism

Subject-predicate sentences

Simple sentences

Compound-complex sentence structure

Correct answer:

Parallelism

Explanation:

Before moving onto the text, let's take a close look at the language of the question. You are not simply being asked to identify the kind of syntactical structure used in the specified section of the text, but "what syntactical structure is most notable." This is a major clue!

This question also provides us with the useful lesson that even poetry is written in sentences, and includes syntactical features. Just because there are line-breaks doesn't mean there aren't also sentences! You must be ready to answer questions interrogating the sentence structure used in poetry and drama, as well as prose.

Simple sentences (also known as subject-verb-object sentences) are rarely notable, and when they are will be notable only in contrast to a generally more florid style. And in any case, the sentence in question is extremely complex, and even features a semi colon. Similarly subject-predicate sentences are extremely common, and rarely notable, although this section of text does, technically, fit this structure, it is far too long and complex for this to be the most notable feature. 

Now, we get to the difficult distinction, the sentence does, in fact, both include parallelism and a compound-complex structure (don't forget that semicolon!), so you must decide which is more notable in the highlighted passage. The compound-complex structure is common throughout the poem, and indeed typical of the era in which the poem was written; just count the commas in this poem and you will see that the author favors this kind of structure. Beginning four consecutive lines with the same subject and verb, and thus creating a parallel structure is a more notable feature of this passage, both because it is less common both in this particular poem and in writing in general. The repetition of "others will" in a parallel structure is both obvious and obviously important. A question like this, which asks you to choose between two possibly correct answers, will almost always tend toward the option that is more distinct and unique, and more easily recognizable.

Example Question #2 : Understanding Material In Varied Contexts To Make Effective Style Choices: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.11 12.3

Adapted from “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings” (1900) by William James

Some years ago, while journeying in the mountains of North Carolina, I passed by a large number of 'coves,' as they call them there, or heads of small valleys between the hills, which had been newly cleared and planted. The impression on my mind was one of unmitigated squalor. The settler had in every case cut down the more manageable trees, and left their charred stumps standing. The larger trees he had girdled and killed, in order that their foliage should not cast a shade. He had then built a log cabin, plastering its chinks with clay, and had set up a tall zigzag rail fence around the scene of his havoc, to keep the pigs and cattle out. Finally, he had irregularly planted the intervals between the stumps and trees with Indian corn, which grew among the chips; and there he dwelt with his wife and babes--an axe, a gun, a few utensils, and some pigs and chickens feeding in the woods, being the sum total of his possessions.

The forest had been destroyed; and what had 'improved' it out of existence was hideous, a sort of ulcer, without a single element of artificial grace to make up for the loss of Nature's beauty. Ugly, indeed, seemed the life of the squatter, scudding, as the sailors say, under bare poles, beginning again away back where our first ancestors started, and by hardly a single item the better off for all the achievements of the intervening generations.

“Talk about going back to nature!” I said to myself, oppressed by the dreariness, as I drove by. Talk of a country life for one's old age and for one's children! Never thus, with nothing but the bare ground and one's bare hands to fight the battle! Never, without the best spoils of culture woven in! The beauties and commodities gained by the centuries are sacred. They are our heritage and birthright. No modern person ought to be willing to live a day in such a state of rudimentariness and denudation.

Then I said to the mountaineer who was driving me, "What sort of people are they who have to make these new clearings?" "All of us," he replied. "Why, we ain't happy here, unless we are getting one of these coves under cultivation." I instantly felt that I had been losing the whole inward significance of the situation. Because to me the clearings spoke of naught but denudation, I thought that to those whose sturdy arms and obedient axes had made them they could tell no other story. But, when they looked on the hideous stumps, what they thought of was personal victory. The chips, the girdled trees, and the vile split rails spoke of honest sweat, persistent toil and final reward. The cabin was a warrant of safety for self and wife and babes. In short, the clearing, which to me was a mere ugly picture on the retina, was to them a symbol redolent with moral memories and sang a very pæan of duty, struggle, and success.

I had been as blind to the peculiar ideality of their conditions as they certainly would also have been to the ideality of mine, had they had a peep at my strange indoor academic ways of life at Cambridge.

In what way do the two highlighted sentences diverge in style from the rest of the text?

Possible Answers:

None of these; these sentences are not a notable departure from the passages clipped, minimalist style

They are long, syntactically complex sentences, while most of the passage is written in a clipped, minimalist style

They feature evocative imagery while the rest of the text tends towards abstraction and a formal style

They are simple sentences making direct statements, while most of the passage is written in a complex style, featuring multi-clause sentences with complex syntax

Correct answer:

They are simple sentences making direct statements, while most of the passage is written in a complex style, featuring multi-clause sentences with complex syntax

Explanation:

This question asks you to make a general appraisal of the prose style of the passage and apply that judgment to an isolated exception or break from that style.

So, let's first establish the general style of the text, and then we'll work from there. Right away, in the first sentence, we see a long, meandering sentence with 5 commas. The final sentence has 6 commas and a semicolon, indicating an extremely syntactically complex sentence with many, many clauses. This style persists throughout most of the passage. The speaker begins stances with a statements, then clarifies or justifies those statements in numerous independent or dependent clauses tied to the same sentence. This indicates a generally elevated academic style, or at least one that is geared toward syntactic complexity. Note, also the absence of slang (outside of the direct speech of the resident), which is a good indicator of a more formal style. The author is, in general, trying to convey complex descriptions and thoughts, in trying to match his style with the psychologically complex and multi-faceted content he is addressing (namely the depth of difference possible for people from different backgrounds looking at the exact same thing). The thesis is that humans see through their own experiences, and are blinded to the outside perspective of those who are not familiar with the emotional content with which they imbue their surrounding, just as the visitor are blind to the labor and emotional content that went into what they are just now seeing. So, a complex syntactical approach is used to match this nuanced and not immediately obvious content. 

From this general analysis of the prose style we can immediately eliminate the two options that characterize the style of most of the passage as "clipped and minimalist." So, this leaves us with two options. Either the evocative imagery of these two sentences is in contrast to this formal style or the simple sentences contrast with the general textual complexity. Not only does the later sound correct (based on our earlier assessment of the style), but these "sacred" "beauties" and "heritage and birthright" are all abstractions. There is nary a sensory image to be found in these two sentences, so we can safely eliminate this option, leaving us with only the correct answer.

Example Question #1 : Language

Passage adapted from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Spring" (1921).

To what purpose, April, do you return again?

Beauty is not enough.

You can no longer quiet me with the redness 

Of leaves opening stickily.

I know what I know.  5

The sun is hot on my neck as I observe

The spikes of the crocus.

The smell of the earth is good.

It is apparent that there is no death.

But what does that signify?  10

Not only under the ground are the brains of men

Eaten by maggots.

Life in itself

Is nothing,

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.  15

It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, 

April

Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

The syntax of the poem creates a(n) _______________ tone.

Possible Answers:

quizzical and reflective

ironic and sarcastic

clipped and harsh

pastoral and sentimental

Correct answer:

clipped and harsh

Explanation:

This question interrogates your ability to accurately assess the syntax of a passage and to make a determination of the stylistic effect of the author's syntactical choices.

The first vital step to take here is to read the poem and make your own independent analysis of the general syntactical style of the poem. Remember, poems, although they have line breaks, also have syntactical structure; they are punctuated and follow grammatical rules, just look at all the question marks and periods! Actually, let's look at those periods; there seem to be a lot of them, pretty close together. Note how many lines of the poem are self contained sentences of less than seven words. The syntax of this poem is notably simple, resorting to short, some would say, "clipped" sentences.

Next, let's check the answers, to make sure they line up with the one that is actually created by the poem overall. It is hardly "ironic," as the author makes a number of flat, direct statements that give no indication of not being meant sincerely. The poem is actively anti-pastoral (which is more of a genre than a tone anyway), so we can eliminate this answer as well.

Now, the question boils down to distinguishing not only what the tone is, but what tone is specifically created by the syntax. There are indeed numerous question marks, so for just a second you might conclude that the syntax is leading us to a "quizzical" tone, but ultimately both questions asked in the poem are rhetorical, rather than genuinely questing for knowledge. So, we can safely say that the short, simple, blunt sentences create a "clipped and harsh" tone.

Example Question #41 : Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts

Passage adapted from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Spring" (1921).

To what purpose, April, do you return again?

Beauty is not enough.

You can no longer quiet me with the redness 

Of leaves opening stickily.

I know what I know.  5

The sun is hot on my neck as I observe

The spikes of the crocus.

The smell of the earth is good.

It is apparent that there is no death.

But what does that signify?  10

Not only under the ground are the brains of men

Eaten by maggots.

Life in itself

Is nothing,

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.  15

It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, 

April

Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

The bolded and underlined word "you" in line 3 refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

The reader

The calendar month of April

A person named April

The speaker's ex-lover, a woman named April

Correct answer:

The calendar month of April

Explanation:

Here, you must ascertain the referent of a specific pronoun. Now, you may be used to seeing "you" used in poetry as a form of direct address, but that is not the case here. For this question, it was vital that you considered the entire context of the poem, and did not become fixated on the specified use of the term. In the first line of the poem the syntax directly establishes "April" as the subject being addressed with "you." The relation of April to you, in this case, was direct and required by the logic and grammar of the sentence in which it first appears. Once established, this object of address will remain consistent throughout the poem, including two line later

Now, we must figure out who or what "April" is being addressed. April could be a name, a month, or even the name of an organization. One can safely infer that the April that is being addressed is the month of April and not a person because of the title of the poem, "Spring," and the description that follows of April returning each year.

Example Question #1 : Determining Word Pronunciation, Meaning, Or Standard Usage: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.11 12.4.C

Adapted from Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)

In the famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two houses utter not a syllable of “a right to frame a government for themselves.” You will see that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties that had been long possessed and had been lately endangered. They state “in the first place” to do “as their ancestors in like cases have usually done for vindicating their ancient rights and liberties, to declare;”—and then they pray the king and queen, “that it may be declared and enacted, that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and declared are the true ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom.”

You will observe that from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means, our constitution preserves a unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection, or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement, grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional policy working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of providence, are handed down to us and from us in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. In this choice of inheritance, we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchers, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual, native dignity. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to preserve a rational freedom than the course that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.

The underlined and bolded word "conformity" is closest in meaning to _____________.

Possible Answers:

resistance

adherence

resignation

passive obedience

Correct answer:

adherence

Explanation:

This question asks you to determine the meaning of a given word. This is a question in which the required context is strictly grammatical. We can see that "to" follows "conformity," this allows us to restrict our determination of meaning to abstract nouns that fit this formation.

"Conformity" is a word within the baseline vocabulary expect of a graduating high school student, so you should straightforwardly know that "adherence" is the best choice here because it connotes an active, intentional "conformity" to nature. The adherence implied is not "passive" or the result of a "resigned" relationship to nature; this would also have negative connotations toward "nature" in context, which is not the author's intention. "Resistance" is a direct antonym to "conformity."

Knowing the overall context here could have allowed you to make a relatively educated guess, given the author's overall treatment of the "unerring and powerful instincts" discussed throughout the passage, but the best path to solving this was a familiarity with the desired vocabulary.

Example Question #1 : Verify Preliminary Determination Of Word Or Phrase Meaning: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.11 12.4.D

Adapted from Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (1920)

 It invariably happened in the same way.

Mrs. Julius Beaufort, on the night of her annual ball, never failed to appear at the Opera; indeed, she always gave her ball on an Opera night in order to emphasise her complete superiority to household cares, and her possession of a staff of servants competent to organise every detail of the entertainment in her absence.

The Beauforts' house was one of the few in New York that possessed a ball–room (it antedated even Mrs. Manson Mingott's and the Headly Chiverses'); and at a time when it was beginning to be thought "provincial" to put a "crash" over the drawing–room floor and move the furniture upstairs, the possession of a ball–room that was used for no other purpose, and left for three–hundred–and–sixty–four days of the year to shuttered darkness, with its gilt chairs stacked in a corner and its chandelier in a bag; this undoubted superiority was felt to compensate for whatever was regrettable in the Beaufort past.

Mrs. Archer, who was fond of coining her social philosophy into axioms, had once said: "We all have our pet common people—" and though the phrase was a daring one, its truth was secretly admitted in many an exclusive bosom. But the Beauforts were not exactly common; some people said they were even worse. Mrs. Beaufort belonged indeed to one of America's most honoured families; she had been the lovely Regina Dallas (of the South Carolina branch), a penniless beauty introduced to New York society by her cousin, the imprudent Medora Manson, who was always doing the wrong thing from the right motive. When one was related to the Mansons and the Rushworths one had a "droit de cite" (as Mr. Sillerton Jackson, who had frequented the Tuileries, called it) in New York society; but did one not forfeit it in marrying Julius Beaufort?

The question was: who was Beaufort? He passed for an Englishman, was agreeable, handsome, ill–tempered, hospitable and witty. He had come to America with letters of recommendation from old Mrs. Manson Mingott's English son–in–law, the banker, and had speedily made himself an important position in the world of affairs; but his habits were dissipated, his tongue was bitter, his antecedents were mysterious; and when Medora Manson announced her cousin's engagement to him it was felt to be one more act of folly in poor Medora's long record of imprudences.

But folly is as often justified of her children as wisdom, and two years after young Mrs. Beaufort's marriage it was admitted that she had the most distinguished house in New York. No one knew exactly how the miracle was accomplished. She was indolent, passive, the caustic even called her dull; but dressed like an idol, hung with pearls, growing younger and blonder and more beautiful each year, she throned in Mr. Beaufort's heavy brown–stone palace, and drew all the world there without lifting her jewelled little finger. The knowing people said it was Beaufort himself who trained the servants, taught the chef new dishes, told the gardeners what hot–house flowers to grow for the dinner–table and the drawing–rooms, selected the guests, brewed the after–dinner punch and dictated the little notes his wife wrote to her friends. If he did, these domestic activities were privately performed, and he presented to the world the appearance of a careless and hospitable millionaire strolling into his own drawing–room with the detachment of an invited guest, and saying: "My wife's gloxinias are a marvel, aren't they? I believe she gets them out from Kew."

Mr. Beaufort's secret, people were agreed, was the way he carried things off. It was all very well to whisper that he had been "helped" to leave England by the international banking–house in which he had been employed; he carried off that rumour as easily as the rest—though New York's business conscience was no less sensitive than its moral standard—he carried everything before him, and all New York into his drawing–rooms, and for over twenty years now people had said they were "going to the Beauforts'" with the same tone of security as if they had said they were going to Mrs. Manson Mingott's, and with the added satisfaction of knowing they would get hot canvas–back ducks and vintage wines, instead of tepid Veuve Clicquot without a year and warmed–up croquettes from Philadelphia.

Mrs. Beaufort, then, had as usual appeared in her box just before the Jewel Song; and when, again as usual, she rose at the end of the third act, drew her opera cloak about her lovely shoulders, and disappeared, New York knew that meant that half an hour later the ball would begin.

In the context of the sentence, the bolded and underlined word "caustic" functions as a ____________.

Possible Answers:

verb

adjective

None of these

noun

Correct answer:

noun

Explanation:

There is a very clear and seductive path to answering this question incorrectly. If you simply recognized the word "caustic" and knew its customary application and definition (as an adjective meaning sarcastic), you would may simply selected "adjective" as your answer and gone on your merry way. But that way would not, in fact, have been so merry! "Caustic" can also be a noun, referring to a corrosive chemical agent or, as is the case here, a generally caustic person. Even if you did not know any of these myriad definitions of the specific word in question, you still should have been able to solve this question by reading the sentence in its entirety and recognizing the grammatical function that the word is serving in the sentence. "The caustic" here "called [Mrs. Beaufort] dull," as the grammatical agent of action, we know that this word cannot be functioning as a verb or adjective, and, in fact, must be acting as a noun.

Following either a strictly grammatical or strictly contextual path would have led you to the correct answer to this question.

Example Question #1 : Meaning Of Unknown And Multiple Meaning Words And Phrases: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.11 12.4

Adapted from Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790)

In the famous statute called the Declaration of Right, the two houses utter not a syllable of “a right to frame a government for themselves.” You will see that their whole care was to secure the religion, laws, and liberties that had been long possessed and had been lately endangered. They state “in the first place” to do “as their ancestors in like cases have usually done for vindicating their ancient rights and liberties, to declare;”—and then they pray the king and queen, “that it may be declared and enacted, that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and declared are the true ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom.”

You will observe that from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Right, it has been the uniform policy of our constitution to claim and assert our liberties as an entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers and to be transmitted to our posterity; as an estate specially belonging to the people of this kingdom, without any reference whatever to any other more general or prior right. By this means, our constitution preserves a unity in so great a diversity of its parts. We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties from a long line of ancestors.

This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection, or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Besides, the people of England well know, that the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement. It leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires. Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement, grasped as in a kind of mortmain forever. By a constitutional policy working after the pattern of nature, we receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges in the same manner in which we enjoy and transmit our property and our lives. The institutions of policy, the goods of fortune, the gifts of providence, are handed down to us and from us in the same course and order. Our political system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body composed of transitory parts; wherein the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged, or young, but, in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through the varied tenor of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain, we are never wholly obsolete. By adhering in this manner and on those principles to our forefathers, we are guided not by the superstition of antiquarians, but by the spirit of philosophic analogy. In this choice of inheritance, we have given to our frame of polity the image of a relation in blood; binding up the constitution of our country with our dearest domestic ties; adopting our fundamental laws into the bosom of our family affections; keeping inseparable, and cherishing with the warmth of all their combined and mutually reflected charities, our state, our hearths, our sepulchers, and our altars.

Through the same plan of a conformity to nature in our artificial institutions and by calling in the aid of her unerring and powerful instincts to fortify the fallible and feeble contrivances of our reason, we have derived several other, and those no small benefits, from considering our liberties in the light of an inheritance. Always acting as if in the presence of canonized forefathers, the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and excess, is tempered with an awful gravity. This idea of a liberal descent inspires us with a sense of habitual, native dignity. By this means our liberty becomes a noble freedom. It carries an imposing and majestic aspect. It has a pedigree and illustrating ancestors. It has its bearings and its ensigns armorial. It has its gallery of portraits; its monumental inscriptions; its records, evidences, and titles. All your sophisters cannot produce anything better adapted to preserve a rational freedom than the course that we have pursued, who have chosen our nature rather than our speculations, our breasts rather than our inventions, for the great conservatories and magazines of our rights and privileges.

Which of the given choices is closest in meaning to the bolded and underlined word "derived"?

Possible Answers:

Understood from

Collected

Understood from

Forfeited

Correct answer:

Understood from

Explanation:

This question asks you to find a word, examine the context surrounding it, and conform your definition to the best of the given choices.

In this context, the word "derived" most closely means passed on. In context: "an entailed inheritance passed on to us from our forefathers." The use of "to" in the sentence makes "passed on" the best choice grammatically as well as contextually.

"Understood from" and "collected" can, in some contexts, be used roughly as a synonym to "derived," but none makes as much sense grammatically nor in relation to the content of the passage as "passed on" does in this context.

"Forfeited" is an antonym of "derived."

Example Question #3 : Verify Preliminary Determination Of Word Or Phrase Meaning: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.11 12.4.D

Adapted from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (1817)

It is now expedient to give some description of Mrs. Allen, that the reader may be able to judge in what manner her actions will hereafter tend to promote the general distress of the work, and how she will, probably, contribute to reduce poor Catherine to all the desperate wretchedness of which a last volume is capable — whether by her imprudence, vulgarity, or jealousy — whether by intercepting her letters, ruining her character, or turning her out of doors.

Mrs. Allen was one of that numerous class of females, whose society can raise no other emotion than surprise at there being any men in the world who could like them well enough to marry them. She had neither beauty, genius, accomplishment, nor manner. The air of a gentlewoman, a great deal of quiet, inactive good temper, and a trifling turn of mind were all that could account for her being the choice of a sensible, intelligent man like Mr. Allen. In one respect she was admirably fitted to introduce a young lady into public, being as fond of going everywhere and seeing everything herself as any young lady could be. Dress was her passion. She had a most harmless delight in being fine; and our heroine’s entree into life could not take place till after three or four days had been spent in learning what was mostly worn, and her chaperone was provided with a dress of the newest fashion. Catherine too made some purchases herself, and when all these matters were arranged, the important evening came which was to usher her into the Upper Rooms. Her hair was cut and dressed by the best hand, her clothes put on with care, and both Mrs. Allen and her maid declared she looked quite as she should do. With such encouragement, Catherine hoped at least to pass uncensured through the crowd. As for admiration, it was always very welcome when it came, but she did not depend on it.

Mrs. Allen was so long in dressing that they did not enter the ballroom till late. The season was full, the room crowded, and the two ladies squeezed in as well as they could. As for Mr. Allen, he repaired directly to the card–room, and left them to enjoy a mob by themselves. With more care for the safety of her new gown than for the comfort of her protegee, Mrs. Allen made her way through the throng of men by the door, as swiftly as the necessary caution would allow; Catherine, however, kept close at her side, and linked her arm too firmly within her friend’s to be torn asunder by any common effort of a struggling assembly. But to her utter amazement she found that to proceed along the room was by no means the way to disengage themselves from the crowd; it seemed rather to increase as they went on, whereas she had imagined that when once fairly within the door, they should easily find seats and be able to watch the dances with perfect convenience. But this was far from being the case, and though by unwearied diligence they gained even the top of the room, their situation was just the same; they saw nothing of the dancers but the high feathers of some of the ladies. Still they moved on — something better was yet in view; and by a continued exertion of strength and ingenuity they found themselves at last in the passage behind the highest bench. Here there was something less of crowd than below; and hence Miss Morland had a comprehensive view of all the company beneath her, and of all the dangers of her late passage through them. It was a splendid sight, and she began, for the first time that evening, to feel herself at a ball: she longed to dance, but she had not an acquaintance in the room. Mrs. Allen did all that she could do in such a case by saying very placidly, every now and then, “I wish you could dance, my dear — I wish you could get a partner.” For some time her young friend felt obliged to her for these wishes; but they were repeated so often, and proved so totally ineffectual, that Catherine grew tired at last, and would thank her no more.

As used in the context of the second paragraph, "society" most nearly means _________________.

Possible Answers:

culture

company

advice

community

Correct answer:

company

Explanation:

You may be most familiar with the word "society" as referring to a general collection of people living in an ordered fashion together in other words a large "community." Another popular use for the word applies more generally to "culture." And, indeed, grammatically we're looking for an abstract noun. Neither of these definitions make any sense, however, as the "society" in question belongs to Mrs. Allen.

Let's imagine a blank in place of "society" and decide what word we think makes sense to fill that blank. The most logical choice here is "company," which works perfectly when grammatically and logically fits perfectly into the sentence, and a word for which "society" is an archaic synonym!

Example Question #1 : Interpret And Analyze Figures Of Speech In Context: Ccss.Ela Literacy.L.11 12.5.A

Adapted from Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" in Leaves of Grass (1855)

1

Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.

2

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join’d scheme, myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings, on the walk in the street and the passage over the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others. 

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide. 

3

It avails not, time nor place—distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh’d by the gladness of the river and the bright flow, I was refresh’d,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the thick-stemm’d pipes of steamboats, I look’d.

I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the air floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams . . .

Which of the following is personified in section three of the poem?

Possible Answers:

The river

Steamboats

Sea gulls

The summer sky

Correct answer:

The river

Explanation:

This question tests not only your knowledge of a specific kind of figurative language, but also your ability to recognize that figure of speech in the context in which it appears.

The first leg of this race is simply knowing, or being able to surmise, the meaning of "personification." When something is "personified" that (non-human) object, animal, or idea is ascribed human traits or qualities. So let's look at our options: all of them are non-human objects, and thus all could, in theory, be personified. The key to this question, if you want to do it as quickly as possible, is to scan the words and phrases surrounding the highlighted terms for language relating to human actions, feelings, or thoughts.

The key term here is "gladness," which is ascribed to "the river." "Gladness is a particularly obvious personifying element since it is feeling. Rivers, even ones as storied as the one discussed here, do not feel glad, nor do they have any feelings at all. So, "gladness" personifies "the river."

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