Common Core: 12th Grade English Language Arts : Reading: Informational Text

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Example Question #1 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from the First Inaugural Address of Thomas Jefferson (March 4th, 1801)

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety.

But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

From the content of his argument, it is reasonable to assume that Jefferson is a _______________.

Possible Answers:

A former military general

A former elected member of the United States Congress

A religious leader

There is not sufficient evidence in the passage to support any of these inferences

Correct answer:

There is not sufficient evidence in the passage to support any of these inferences

Explanation:

This question interrogates your ability to recognize the sufficiency of evidence for a given inference. We start with the question text handing us the specific inference we are to investigate, namely that the text gives us direct evidence that Jefferson is a former general or US Senator, or a religious leader. There is absolutely no indication or mention of the military in the speech. Although conflicts are mentioned Jefferson's role, and indeed the military particulars of these conflicts are not mentioned, so we can rule out this answer fairly quickly. Now, we run into the key distinction this, and any inference question, will ask of you: the distinction between what is reasonable or even logical to assume about the situation and what is a logical inference to draw from the text. Now, from the title and knowledge of the basics of American history, you will know that Jefferson has just been elected President of the United States, and while you might not directly remember that Jefferson was a congressman (he was), it is certainly reasonable to assume that the President elect was previously elected to Congressman, but this is NOT indicated directly by the text. Take a look! You will not find any reference to Jefferson's personal past roles in government, only his vision for how these offices will interact with the people going forward. 

None of these inferences can be supported by textual evidence.

Example Question #2 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from “Geographical Evolution” by Archibald Geikie (1879)

In the quaint preface to his Navigations and Voyages of the English Nation, Hakluyt calls geography and chronology "the sunne and moone, the right eye and the left of all history." The position thus claimed for geography three hundred years ago by the great English chronicler was not accorded by his successors, and has hardly been admitted even now. The functions of the geographer and the traveller, popularly assumed to be identical, have been supposed to consist in descriptions of foreign countries, their climate, productions, and inhabitants, bristling on the one hand with dry statistics, and relieved on the other by as copious an introduction as may be of stirring adventure and personal anecdote. There has indeed been much to justify this popular assumption. It was not until the key-note of its future progress was struck by Karl Ritter, within the present century, that geography advanced beyond the domain of travellers' tales and desultory observation into that of orderly, methodical, scientific progress. This branch of inquiry, however, is now no longer the pursuit of mere numerical statistics, nor the chronicle of marvelous and often questionable adventures by flood and fell. It seeks to present a luminous picture of the earth's surface, its various forms of configuration, its continents, islands, and oceans, its mountains, valleys, and plains, its rivers and lakes, its climates, plants, and animals. It thus endeavours to produce a picture which shall not be one of mere topographical detail. It ever looks for a connection between scattered facts, tries to ascertain the relations which subsist between the different parts of the globe, their reactions on each other and the function of each in the general economy of the whole. Modern geography studies the distribution of vegetable and animal life over the earth's surface, with the action and reaction between it and the surrounding inorganic world. It traces how man, alike unconsciously and knowingly, has changed the face of nature, and how, on the other hand, the conditions of his geographical environment have moulded his own progress.

With these broad aims geography comes frankly for assistance to many different branches of science. It does not, however, claim in any measure to occupy their domain. It brings to the consideration of their problems a central human interest in which these sciences are sometimes apt to be deficient; for it demands first of all to know how the problems to be solved bear upon the position and history of man and of this marvelously-ordered world wherein he finds himself undisputed lord. Geography freely borrows from meteorology, physics, chemistry, geology, zoology, and botany; but the debt is not all on one side. Save for the impetus derived from geographical research, many of these sciences would not be in their present advanced condition. They gain in vast augmentation of facts, and may cheerfully lend their aid in correlating these for geographical requirements.

In no respect does modern geography stand out more prominently than in the increased precision and fullness of its work. It has fitted out exploratory expeditions, and in so doing has been careful to see them provided with the instruments and apparatus necessary to enable them to contribute accurate and definite results. It has guided and fostered research, and has been eager to show a generous appreciation of the labours of those by whom our knowledge of the earth has been extended. Human courage and endurance are not less enthusiastically applauded than they once were; but they must be united to no common powers of observation before they will now raise a traveller to the highest rank. When we read a volume of recent travel, while warmly appreciating the spirit of adventure, fertility of resource, presence of mind, and other moral qualities of its author, we instinctively ask ourselves, as we close its pages, what is the sum of its additions to our knowledge of the earth? From the geographical point of view - and it is to this point alone that these remarks apply - we must rank an explorer according to his success in widening our knowledge and enlarging our views regarding the aspects of nature.

The demands of modern geography are thus becoming every year more exacting. It requires more training in its explorers abroad, more knowledge on the part of its readers at home. The days are drawing to a close when one can gain undying geographical renown by struggling against man and beast, fever and hunger and drought, across some savage and previously unknown region, even though little can be shown as the outcome of the journey. All honour to the pioneers by whom this first exploratory work has been so nobly done! They will be succeeded by a race that will find its laurels more difficult to win - a race from which more will be expected, and which will need to make up in the variety, amount, and value of its detail, what it lacks in the freshness of first glimpses into new lands.

The bolded and underlined sentence implies that _________________.

Possible Answers:

that the true functions of the geographer and the traveller are, in fact, different

that geographers do not require formal training

that geographers should not, in fact, visit the places they study

that geographers and travelers fulfill the same functions

Correct answer:

that the true functions of the geographer and the traveller are, in fact, different

Explanation:

This question tests your ability to recognize specific textual evidence of implicit meaning. None of the answers provided reflect direct statements made in the text, so we need to read the sentence and surrounding context to determine what implications we can tie directly back to evidence. 

The key phrase here is "assumed to be identical." If we are "assuming" two things to be identical we are "recognizing" or "understanding" it to be the case, as we would if that were, in fact, the case. Assumptions are specifically not necessarily true, so by including this assumption in a parenthetical aside, the author is trying to give the reader the implication that he does not share the "popular" assumption. 

This question also highlights for us the necessity of reading past the immediate context! If you simply read the next sentence "there has been much to justify this popular assumption," you might immediately, and injudiciously, select the wrong answer. Had you waited but one more sentence you would have encountered the key phrase "it was not until..." Aha! We find out that, thanks to Karl Ritter, geography has "advanced beyond the domain of travelers' tales."

Example Question #3 : Reading: Informational Text

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.

The key tension present in the text is between ________________.

Possible Answers:

the perspectives of the speaker and the the residents of the mountains

modernity and pastoralism

rich and poor people

old age and youth

Correct answer:

the perspectives of the speaker and the the residents of the mountains

Explanation:

Here, you are being asked to identify two major themes in the passage, and to understand the way in which they interact over the course of the text, namely, that they form an overriding contrast or tension.

While the speaker spends the vast majority of the passage talking about the ways in which the "forest had been destroyed" and replaced with "artificial grace to make up for the loss Nature's beauty," the title of the piece provides a useful hint that the focus here is on human senses and thinking, and the "blindnesses" inherent to these processes. The speaker conveys his strong convictions about what has been done to the natural landscape he sees in order to convey his opinion on the matter fully, for the express purpose of contrasting his perspective with that of the locals. The answer here is to be found in the conclusion, which does not focus on what has literally been done to "the clearing," but rather on the difference between these two primary perspectives, what to the speaker "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."

Example Question #4 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from “Geographical Evolution” by Archibald Geikie (1879)

In the quaint preface to his Navigations and Voyages of the English Nation, Hakluyt calls geography and chronology "the sunne and moone, the right eye and the left of all history." The position thus claimed for geography three hundred years ago by the great English chronicler was not accorded by his successors, and has hardly been admitted even now. The functions of the geographer and the traveller, popularly assumed to be identical, have been supposed to consist in descriptions of foreign countries, their climate, productions, and inhabitants, bristling on the one hand with dry statistics, and relieved on the other by as copious an introduction as may be of stirring adventure and personal anecdote. There has indeed been much to justify this popular assumption. It was not until the key-note of its future progress was struck by Karl Ritter, within the present century, that geography advanced beyond the domain of travellers' tales and desultory observation into that of orderly, methodical, scientific progress. This branch of inquiry, however, is now no longer the pursuit of mere numerical statistics, nor the chronicle of marvelous and often questionable adventures by flood and fell. It seeks to present a luminous picture of the earth's surface, its various forms of configuration, its continents, islands, and oceans, its mountains, valleys, and plains, its rivers and lakes, its climates, plants, and animals. It thus endeavours to produce a picture which shall not be one of mere topographical detail. It ever looks for a connection between scattered facts, tries to ascertain the relations which subsist between the different parts of the globe, their reactions on each other and the function of each in the general economy of the whole. Modern geography studies the distribution of vegetable and animal life over the earth's surface, with the action and reaction between it and the surrounding inorganic world. It traces how man, alike unconsciously and knowingly, has changed the face of nature, and how, on the other hand, the conditions of his geographical environment have moulded his own progress.

With these broad aims geography comes frankly for assistance to many different branches of science. It does not, however, claim in any measure to occupy their domain. It brings to the consideration of their problems a central human interest in which these sciences are sometimes apt to be deficient; for it demands first of all to know how the problems to be solved bear upon the position and history of man and of this marvelously-ordered world wherein he finds himself undisputed lord. Geography freely borrows from meteorology, physics, chemistry, geology, zoology, and botany; but the debt is not all on one side. Save for the impetus derived from geographical research, many of these sciences would not be in their present advanced condition. They gain in vast augmentation of facts, and may cheerfully lend their aid in correlating these for geographical requirements.

In no respect does modern geography stand out more prominently than in the increased precision and fullness of its work. It has fitted out exploratory expeditions, and in so doing has been careful to see them provided with the instruments and apparatus necessary to enable them to contribute accurate and definite results. It has guided and fostered research, and has been eager to show a generous appreciation of the labours of those by whom our knowledge of the earth has been extended. Human courage and endurance are not less enthusiastically applauded than they once were; but they must be united to no common powers of observation before they will now raise a traveller to the highest rank. When we read a volume of recent travel, while warmly appreciating the spirit of adventure, fertility of resource, presence of mind, and other moral qualities of its author, we instinctively ask ourselves, as we close its pages, what is the sum of its additions to our knowledge of the earth? From the geographical point of view - and it is to this point alone that these remarks apply - we must rank an explorer according to his success in widening our knowledge and enlarging our views regarding the aspects of nature.

The demands of modern geography are thus becoming every year more exacting. It requires more training in its explorers abroad, more knowledge on the part of its readers at home. The days are drawing to a close when one can gain undying geographical renown by struggling against man and beast, fever and hunger and drought, across some savage and previously unknown region, even though little can be shown as the outcome of the journey. All honour to the pioneers by whom this first exploratory work has been so nobly done! They will be succeeded by a race that will find its laurels more difficult to win - a race from which more will be expected, and which will need to make up in the variety, amount, and value of its detail, what it lacks in the freshness of first glimpses into new lands.

The primary contrast made in this text is the one between _______________ and _________________.

Possible Answers:

topographical mapping practices . . . scientific measurement of geographical features

geography . . . travel journalism

old ways of doing geography . . . modern geography

geography . . . other hard sciences, like chemistry

Correct answer:

old ways of doing geography . . . modern geography

Explanation:

The key term in the question text here was "primary." There are numerous contrasts made throughout the text, but this question is asking you to isolate the main contrast. A good, if not infallible, indicator of contrast's overall importance in a text is the amount of writing devoted to it. Right away, we can see that "topographical mapping," while briefly discussed is hardly a primary theme, nor part of a particularly important contrast. "Geography and travel journalism" is a tempting choice, since this contrast is important, especially to the argument made in the first paragraph. But is it the most important? In assessing the primary contrast at play in a text, it is often helpful to look for broader themes, by being so literal in its reference to a contrast this answer choice limits itself, and makes it less likely to reflect the primary contrast.

Fundamentally, this text is about the old and the new ways of doing geography. The entire purpose of opening with a discussion of the old ways of doing geography is to introduce an overriding contrast with the new ways outlined later. This fundamental thematic contrast thus serves a vital rhetorical function, and forms the primary contrast at play in the text.

Example Question #5 : Reading: Informational Text

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.

How is "inheritance" characterized in the bolded and underlined passage

Possible Answers:

An important intellectual principle that needs to be incorporated into the fundamental structure of the British political system.  

A fundamental, irresistible principle of the British political system that has been passively carried through by legislators

A fundamental principle of the British political system that has been adopted by choice

A longstanding, regressive aspect of a political system in desperate need of change

Correct answer:

A fundamental principle of the British political system that has been adopted by choice

Explanation:

This question asks you to analyze and provide summary analysis of a particular section of the text as it relates to a major theme of the work.

In the excerpt, "inheritance" is characterized as a fundamental principle of the British political system, incorporated actively and by "choice."

The author asserts that this choice has already been made and had huge influence, not that it "needs" to begin to be incorporated. The author characterizes this system in a positive way; he does figure it as a regressive system in need of change.

The author specifically figures the incorporation of this system as "a choice," not as an irresistible force (he wouldn't need to argue for an irresistible force; it would be irresistible!).

Example Question #6 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from the First Inaugural Address of Thomas Jefferson (March 4th, 1801)

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety.

But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

What is the relationship between the first and second paragraphs?

Possible Answers:

None of these

The first paragraph introduces the speaker as a figure of authority; the second paragraph provides historical context

The first paragraph sets up a conflict to which the second paragraph proposes a solution

The first paragraph sets up a conflict of which the second paragraph provides a detailed description

Correct answer:

The first paragraph sets up a conflict to which the second paragraph proposes a solution

Explanation:

This question interrogates your literal understanding of the content of the text, while also querying your ability to understand the ways in which different parts of the text relate to one another in terms of sequence. First, let's establish the subject and purpose of the opening paragraph. Right away, you should get the sense that the option that suggests that the function of this paragraph is to "introduce the speaker as a figure of authority" is inaccurate or, at least, not the strongest interpretation. The focus of this passage is on the "contest of opinion through which we have passed" as a nation. By including himself in the group of his listeners with "we" the author is seeking to do the opposite of introducing himself as of authority over his audience. He is seeking common ground with his listeners, not seeking to establish his individual ability or authority to rule over them.

The key phrase to solve this question can be found at the very opening of the second paragraph, where Jefferson's use of the the imperative ("Let us") acts as a clear signal that he is proposing action, and the method by which he and his audience can resolve the various "contest[s] of opinion" that have led to the division of society he is describing. The "solution" he proposes is found in the very actions he exhorts of his listeners.

Example Question #7 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from “Geographical Evolution” by Archibald Geikie (1879)

In the quaint preface to his Navigations and Voyages of the English Nation, Hakluyt calls geography and chronology "the sunne and moone, the right eye and the left of all history." The position thus claimed for geography three hundred years ago by the great English chronicler was not accorded by his successors, and has hardly been admitted even now. The functions of the geographer and the traveller, popularly assumed to be identical, have been supposed to consist in descriptions of foreign countries, their climate, productions, and inhabitants, bristling on the one hand with dry statistics, and relieved on the other by as copious an introduction as may be of stirring adventure and personal anecdote. There has indeed been much to justify this popular assumption. It was not until the key-note of its future progress was struck by Karl Ritter, within the present century, that geography advanced beyond the domain of travellers' tales and desultory observation into that of orderly, methodical, scientific progress. This branch of inquiry, however, is now no longer the pursuit of mere numerical statistics, nor the chronicle of marvelous and often questionable adventures by flood and fell. It seeks to present a luminous picture of the earth's surface, its various forms of configuration, its continents, islands, and oceans, its mountains, valleys, and plains, its rivers and lakes, its climates, plants, and animals. It thus endeavours to produce a picture which shall not be one of mere topographical detail. It ever looks for a connection between scattered facts, tries to ascertain the relations which subsist between the different parts of the globe, their reactions on each other and the function of each in the general economy of the whole. Modern geography studies the distribution of vegetable and animal life over the earth's surface, with the action and reaction between it and the surrounding inorganic world. It traces how man, alike unconsciously and knowingly, has changed the face of nature, and how, on the other hand, the conditions of his geographical environment have moulded his own progress.

With these broad aims geography comes frankly for assistance to many different branches of science. It does not, however, claim in any measure to occupy their domain. It brings to the consideration of their problems a central human interest in which these sciences are sometimes apt to be deficient; for it demands first of all to know how the problems to be solved bear upon the position and history of man and of this marvelously-ordered world wherein he finds himself undisputed lord. Geography freely borrows from meteorology, physics, chemistry, geology, zoology, and botany; but the debt is not all on one side. Save for the impetus derived from geographical research, many of these sciences would not be in their present advanced condition. They gain in vast augmentation of facts, and may cheerfully lend their aid in correlating these for geographical requirements.

In no respect does modern geography stand out more prominently than in the increased precision and fullness of its work. It has fitted out exploratory expeditions, and in so doing has been careful to see them provided with the instruments and apparatus necessary to enable them to contribute accurate and definite results. It has guided and fostered research, and has been eager to show a generous appreciation of the labours of those by whom our knowledge of the earth has been extended. Human courage and endurance are not less enthusiastically applauded than they once were; but they must be united to no common powers of observation before they will now raise a traveller to the highest rank. When we read a volume of recent travel, while warmly appreciating the spirit of adventure, fertility of resource, presence of mind, and other moral qualities of its author, we instinctively ask ourselves, as we close its pages, what is the sum of its additions to our knowledge of the earth? From the geographical point of view - and it is to this point alone that these remarks apply - we must rank an explorer according to his success in widening our knowledge and enlarging our views regarding the aspects of nature.

The demands of modern geography are thus becoming every year more exacting. It requires more training in its explorers abroad, more knowledge on the part of its readers at home. The days are drawing to a close when one can gain undying geographical renown by struggling against man and beast, fever and hunger and drought, across some savage and previously unknown region, even though little can be shown as the outcome of the journey. All honour to the pioneers by whom this first exploratory work has been so nobly done! They will be succeeded by a race that will find its laurels more difficult to win - a race from which more will be expected, and which will need to make up in the variety, amount, and value of its detail, what it lacks in the freshness of first glimpses into new lands.

What is the relationship between geography and other sciences outlined in the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Geography and other sciences have a mutually beneficial relationship, to which both contribute in equal but different ways

Geography borrows extensively from the other sciences, while contributing little in return

Geography and the other sciences, while sometimes coinciding in subject matter, are separate and unrelated fields

Geography and other sciences have a directly adversarial relationship, as both demand the same limited resources

Correct answer:

Geography and other sciences have a mutually beneficial relationship, to which both contribute in equal but different ways

Explanation:

Here, you are being asked to correctly identify the relationship between two ideas in a specific paragraph of the text. Note that for this question, you are restricted to the content of the second paragraph.

The first answer that we can safely and easily eliminate is the one that claims a "direct and adversarial relationship" between the fields. The second sentence of the paragraph specifically tells us that geography "does not, however, claim to occupy [the sciences'] domain."

Now, the answer that claim that, although they overlap in subject matter, the fields are unrelated is also dismissible, since we've just read an entire paragraph talking about the ways in which they are, in fact, related.

So, having eliminated these options, we are left to decide if the relationship is characterized as mutually beneficial or one-sided in favor of the geographers. The first sentence of the paragraph asserts geography's debt to "many different branches of science," but later the argument is made that geography "brings to the consideration of their problems a central human interest in which these sciences are sometimes apt to be deficient, thereby filling a gap and bringing their own contribution to science. The relationship, then, is characterized as mutually beneficial.

Example Question #1 : Reading: Informational Text

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.

Which of the given options most accurately reflects the meaning of "ulcer" as it is being used in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Blemish

Burnt area

Hole

Cancer

Correct answer:

Blemish

Explanation:

You might have heard of an "ulcer" as something that a harried lawyer or businessman on television complains about while swigging milk in an old movie. A stomach ulcer is, indeed, a common and dangerous ailment. In medical terms and "ulcer" refers to any open sore on the skin or internal organs of a person or animal.

Here, the usage is obviously to some extent figurative, since the ulcer is a shack in the forest. Knowing the medical connotation, you can tell that the connotation will be negative and probably related to the literal meaning: the shack is acting as a wound, or "blemish" on the otherwise healthy skin (or stomach lining) of the forest.

Example Question #2 : Figurative, Connotative, And Technical Meaning Of Words And Phrases: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.11 12.4

Adapted from “Geographical Evolution” by Archibald Geikie (1879)

In the quaint preface to his Navigations and Voyages of the English Nation, Hakluyt calls geography and chronology "the sunne and moone, the right eye and the left of all history." The position thus claimed for geography three hundred years ago by the great English chronicler was not accorded by his successors, and has hardly been admitted even now. The functions of the geographer and the traveller, popularly assumed to be identical, have been supposed to consist in descriptions of foreign countries, their climate, productions, and inhabitants, bristling on the one hand with dry statistics, and relieved on the other by as copious an introduction as may be of stirring adventure and personal anecdote. There has indeed been much to justify this popular assumption. It was not until the key-note of its future progress was struck by Karl Ritter, within the present century, that geography advanced beyond the domain of travellers' tales and desultory observation into that of orderly, methodical, scientific progress. This branch of inquiry, however, is now no longer the pursuit of mere numerical statistics, nor the chronicle of marvelous and often questionable adventures by flood and fell. It seeks to present a luminous picture of the earth's surface, its various forms of configuration, its continents, islands, and oceans, its mountains, valleys, and plains, its rivers and lakes, its climates, plants, and animals. It thus endeavours to produce a picture which shall not be one of mere topographical detail. It ever looks for a connection between scattered facts, tries to ascertain the relations which subsist between the different parts of the globe, their reactions on each other and the function of each in the general economy of the whole. Modern geography studies the distribution of vegetable and animal life over the earth's surface, with the action and reaction between it and the surrounding inorganic world. It traces how man, alike unconsciously and knowingly, has changed the face of nature, and how, on the other hand, the conditions of his geographical environment have moulded his own progress.

With these broad aims geography comes frankly for assistance to many different branches of science. It does not, however, claim in any measure to occupy their domain. It brings to the consideration of their problems a central human interest in which these sciences are sometimes apt to be deficient; for it demands first of all to know how the problems to be solved bear upon the position and history of man and of this marvelously-ordered world wherein he finds himself undisputed lord. Geography freely borrows from meteorology, physics, chemistry, geology, zoology, and botany; but the debt is not all on one side. Save for the impetus derived from geographical research, many of these sciences would not be in their present advanced condition. They gain in vast augmentation of facts, and may cheerfully lend their aid in correlating these for geographical requirements.

In no respect does modern geography stand out more prominently than in the increased precision and fullness of its work. It has fitted out exploratory expeditions, and in so doing has been careful to see them provided with the instruments and apparatus necessary to enable them to contribute accurate and definite results. It has guided and fostered research, and has been eager to show a generous appreciation of the labours of those by whom our knowledge of the earth has been extended. Human courage and endurance are not less enthusiastically applauded than they once were; but they must be united to no common powers of observation before they will now raise a traveller to the highest rank. When we read a volume of recent travel, while warmly appreciating the spirit of adventure, fertility of resource, presence of mind, and other moral qualities of its author, we instinctively ask ourselves, as we close its pages, what is the sum of its additions to our knowledge of the earth? From the geographical point of view - and it is to this point alone that these remarks apply - we must rank an explorer according to his success in widening our knowledge and enlarging our views regarding the aspects of nature.

The demands of modern geography are thus becoming every year more exacting. It requires more training in its explorers abroad, more knowledge on the part of its readers at home. The days are drawing to a close when one can gain undying geographical renown by struggling against man and beast, fever and hunger and drought, across some savage and previously unknown region, even though little can be shown as the outcome of the journey. All honour to the pioneers by whom this first exploratory work has been so nobly done! They will be succeeded by a race that will find its laurels more difficult to win - a race from which more will be expected, and which will need to make up in the variety, amount, and value of its detail, what it lacks in the freshness of first glimpses into new lands.

What is the meaning of the underlined and bolded phrase "topographic details"?

Possible Answers:

The details of the land-surface of a specific region, excluding bodies of water

The scientifically measurable details of a location

The surface details of a location or object

The details of the relationships between geographical features

Correct answer:

The surface details of a location or object

Explanation:

This question interrogates your understanding of a technical term, used in context. You may have heard of "topographic maps," which is the topic here. Topographic maps show the surface details of a landscape, those features that are visible to the naked eye. Topographic maps do not make any claims about the nature or composition of any of these objects, they merely display what is visible and on the surface. Topographic maps include not just land-based objects, but bodies of water as well.

There is also, however, a context clue that could have pointed you to the correct answer. The sentence tells us that modern geography attempts to "produce a picture which shall not be one of mere topographic detail." The use of mere here indicates that the author finds this sort of detail in some way insufficient, namely in that topographic detail does not attempt to understand the "relations which subsist between the different parts of the globe," in other words, it does not investigate beyond the surface, for deeper details.

Example Question #1 : Structure Of The Exposition Or Argument: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.11 12.5

Adapted from the First Inaugural Address of Thomas Jefferson (March 4th, 1801)

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety.

But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

The author's exposition in the first paragraph ___________.

Possible Answers:

assumes legal knowledge on the part of the audience

assumes that the reader has prior knowledge of the specifics of the conflicts he references

is intended to explain the situation to a listener unfamiliar with the situation being described

None of these: there is no exposition in the first paragraph

Correct answer:

assumes that the reader has prior knowledge of the specifics of the conflicts he references

Explanation:

Since this question is restricted to the exposition found in the first paragraph, we can restrict our attention solely to that paragraph. All exposition that comes after this paragraph is not only not useful for answering this specific question, but may be actively misleading.

The easiest way to examine the detail and extent of exposition is by pretending that you are a reader with absolutely no knowledge of the situation or context of the piece. You don't know who Thomas Jefferson is, you don't know when the speech is happening, and you don't know the historical context in which he was elected. So, having wiped that knowledge from our minds, what do we know from this section of the passage alone? We understand immediately that there has been a "contest of opinions" or dispute, and that the center of this dispute had something to do with the personal freedoms of citizens to "speak and write what they think," and that further, a set of "rules of [a] Constitution" have been set down in response. This knowledge is limited, however, and the exposition does not include the exact particulars of the dispute, which means that knowledge of these particulars is being "assumed" on the part of the audience.

The best way to test the level of assumptions in any exposition is to pretend that you have no knowledge whatsoever!

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