Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts : Read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.10

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Read And Comprehend Literature, Including Stories, Dramas, And Poems: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.11 12.10

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.

Mrs. Beaufort schedules her party _______________.

Possible Answers:

to begin before the opera performance

to begin almost immediately after the close of the opera performance

the evening after the opera performance

to precede the opera performance, acting as an unofficial fundraiser for the Opera society

Correct answer:

to begin almost immediately after the close of the opera performance


This question interrogates your literal understanding of the sequence of events described in the text. The second paragraph establishes definitively that "[Mrs. Beaufort] always gave her ball on an Opera night," so we can immediately limit ourselves to the three answer choices that assert the performance as being scheduled on the same evenings as the Opera. In the final paragraph, when Mrs. Beaufort "[rises] at the end of the third act ... and disappeared" begins the half hour long countdown to the party. Most operas have three acts, so the end of the third act is the end of the performance, half an hour after that can safely be characterized as "almost immediately after the close of the opera performance."

Example Question #2 : Read And Comprehend Literature, Including Stories, Dramas, And Poems: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Rl.11 12.10

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 . . .

What do we NOT know about the speaker's immediate physical setting?

Possible Answers:

It is daytime

It is after the beginning of the Industrial Revolution

He is in New York

It is spring

Correct answer:

It is spring


Let's begin at the beginning and evaluate the task with which we are being presented in this question. We are being asked to select the ONLY of the provided answer choices that is not definitely true. Therefore, we should be able to find evidence to directly support the three other options, which are not the correct answer to the question, but ARE true statements about "the speaker's immediate physical setting." Negative questions like this can sometimes be a bit confusing (as you've just seen from the length of that explanation!), so it's important to take a moment to definitely establish in your mind what the question is asking of you before you launch back into a close reading of the poem.

So, what's true? The first one is pretty obvious, but brings up an important note when you're analyzing texts: the title of the text is a valid and useful bit of text of which to make note! The poem is called "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," the text gives us no reason to doubt this assertion of setting, nor to assume that it is metaphorical, so it's very safe to assume that the speaker is in New York. See, all we've done is read the title and we've already eliminated a quarter of the possible answers!

Let's skip (clicking our heels with glee as we go) straight along to the opening lines of the poem, where we see immediately that the "sun [is] half an hour high." Boom! We've eliminated another option, since it is guaranteed to be daytime if the sun is "high" at all.

We're now in the enviable position of having two options to choose between and the rest of the poem in which to find our evidence. Now, the poem certainly has a spring-poetry vibe to it. The narrator is gleefully talking about the sun and the beauty of nature, common features of springtime poetic tropes in poetry. Looking through the poem, however, we don't see any direct references to spring, and we even see references to other times of year ("the reflection of the summer sky in the water," the "twelve month [i.e December] gull"). This is starting to seem like our correct option, but let's make absolutely sure by checking in with our other option, that the poem is set "after the beginning of the industrial revolution." Well, the poem certainly has the feel of a post-industrial world, we see crowds in an urban center (and American urban center, no less), and we're on a seemingly large ferry, including, and this is key, "a rail." Metal railings on a large urban ferry is a pretty definite indication that this poem takes place after the beginning of the production of industrial steel products. Note that the date of the poem does NOT help us with this option, as the date of a poems publication has no definite bearing on the time in which that writing is set (George Orwell's 1984, for instance, was published in 1949).

So, having confirmed, and thereby eliminated all other options, we can safely say that our answer is that the poem is NOT definitely set in the spring.

All Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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