Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts : Literal, figurative, and connotative word and phrase meanings; word and phrase choices: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.4

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

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All Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts Resources

2 Diagnostic Tests 36 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept

Example Questions

Example Question #5 : Reading: Literature

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


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.


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. 


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 . . .


The narrator’s tone in the bolded and underlined section is best described as which of the following?

Possible Answers:





Correct answer:



A great tool in assessing tone is to look for distinctive, or notable, stylistic features in the part of the text the question is asking you to examine. Questions will not ask you to analyze the tone of a section if there are not specific and notable elements of the text that they expect you to notice to push you in the right direction. So, what is notable about the section of the text highlighted? There is a repetition ("face to face," in lines 1 and 2), the use of the second person "you" and direct address, and, most strikingly, three exclamation points in the space of four sentences.

This last textual feature is particularly worthy of attention. Exclamation points are what's known as subjective punctuation; they fulfill the same exact grammatical function as a period and are restricted in their use in the same ways (they must follow an independent clause, and they are used to end a sentence). The choice to use an exclamation point, then, is entirely at the discretion of the author. The only reason to choose an exclamation point over a period is to emphasize feeling or excitement, and as such they are much more rarely seen than are periods. To see three exclamation points in four sentences (and for the test question to highlight those four exact sentences) tells us that the author is making a prolonged and deliberate to emphasize the extra feeling behind these words.

So, what then is the tone that the author is seeking to convey with this stylistic choice? Let's return to that repetition: "face to face." The speaker here is emphasizing the direct connection between him/herself and a specific other, and places this direct connection in the context of resplendent landscape of "close of the west [and the] sun there half an hour high." Even without the context of the rest of the passage (which you should definitely and only makes the answer choice easier and more clear), we can confidently answer that the tone is "jubilant."

Example Question #1 : Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts

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.

The bolded and underlined phrase "so long in dressing" most nearly means that _______________.

Possible Answers:

it took Mrs. Allen a long time to get dressed

Mrs. Allen was very stylishly dressed

Mrs. Allen was wearing a long dress

Mrs. Allen was very shabbily dressed

Correct answer:

it took Mrs. Allen a long time to get dressed


Even if this phrasing is a bit outdated and unfamiliar to you, this question is answerable by simply examining the surrounding context of the sentence. We are told that Mrs. Allen's being "so long in dressing" caused her and Catherine to arrive "late" at the ball. So clearly, none of the answers suggesting that being "so long in dress" has to do with the physical or aesthetic nature of the dress are correct. A "long," "very stylish," or "very shabby" dress would, in and of itself, delay the arrival of two people to a party. 

In modern syntax, we would almost always say, "It took Mrs. Allen so long to get dressed that..." but examining the context of a sentence and thinking about the logic of the situation described should be enough to help you understand sentences written using odd, archaic, or simply unconventional syntax. Using context clues to figure out the meaning of unconventionally written passages is a key skill for the versatile and fluid reader!

All Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts Resources

2 Diagnostic Tests 36 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept
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