Common Core: 6th Grade English Language Arts : Reading to Understand Vocabulary in Context

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Example Question #31 : Craft And Structure

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) (1876)

Saturday morning was come, and all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it again; compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged.

He began to think of the fun he had planned for this day, and his sorrows multiplied. Soon the boys would come tripping along on all sorts of delicious expeditions, and they would make a world of fun of him for having to work—the very thought of it burnt him like fire. At this dark and hopeless moment an inspiration burst upon him! Nothing less than a great, magnificent inspiration.

He took up his brush and went tranquilly to work. Ben Rogers hove in sight presently—the very boy, of all boys, whose ridicule he had been dreading. Ben’s gait was the hop-skip-and-jump—proof enough that his heart was light and his anticipations high. He was eating an apple, and giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed by a deep-toned ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a steamboat. As he drew near, he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to star-board and rounded to ponderously and with laborious pomp and circumstance—for he was personating the Big Missouri, and considered himself to be drawing nine feet of water. He was boat and captain and engine-bells combined, so he had to imagine himself standing on his own hurricane-deck giving the orders and executing them:

“Stop her, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling!” The headway ran almost out, and he drew up slowly toward the sidewalk.

Tom went on whitewashing—paid no attention to the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said: “Hi-yiYou’re up a stump, ain’t you!”

No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the result, as before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom’s mouth watered for the apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said:

“Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?”

Tom wheeled suddenly and said:

“Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.”

“Say—I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work—wouldn’t you? Course you would!”

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

“What do you call work?”

“Why, ain’t that work?”

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”

“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”

The brush continued to move.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth—stepped back to note the effect—added a touch here and there—criticized the effect again—Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:

“No—no—I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence—right here on the street, you know—but if it was the back fence I wouldn’t mind and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”

“No—is that so? Oh come, now—lemme, just try. Only just a little—I’d let you, if you was me, Tom.”

“Ben, I’d like to; but Aunt Polly—well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn’t let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn’t let Sid. Now don’t you see how I’m fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it—”

“Oh, shucks, I’ll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say—I’ll give you the core of my apple.”

“Well, here—No, Ben, now don’t. I’m afeard—”

“I’ll give you all of it!”

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was tired, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with—and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar—but no dog—the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.

He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while—plenty of company—and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn’t run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.

When Tom replies to Ben, “All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer,” which of the following meanings does the word "suits" convey?

Possible Answers:

improves

is the boring job of

pleases

concerns

is appropriate for

Correct answer:

pleases

Explanation:

To figure out what Tom means by the verb "suits," let's look at the point in his conversation with Ben at which he uses the word, as well as a few of the surrounding lines to get a better idea of its effect(s).

(Tom) “What do you call work?”

(Ben) “Why, ain’t that work?”

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”

“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”

The brush continued to move.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

At first, Tom and Ben debate the definition of work. Tom dodges the question of whether whitewashing the fence is work, and instead says that "it suits Tom Sawyer." To this, Ben responds with suspicion, "you don't mean to let on that you like it?" From this exchange, we can tell that by the work "suiting" Tom Sawyer, Tom is conveying that he enjoys it. Thus, "suits" has to convey that Tom likes the work. This is made somewhat more complex by the sentence structure: we need a word that means the work makes Tom happy. This helps us arrive at the correct answer, "pleases." By "it suits Tom Sawyer," Tom means that the work of whitewashing the fence pleases him.

Example Question #81 : Reading

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) (1876)

Saturday morning was come, and all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it again; compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged.

He began to think of the fun he had planned for this day, and his sorrows multiplied. Soon the boys would come tripping along on all sorts of delicious expeditions, and they would make a world of fun of him for having to work—the very thought of it burnt him like fire. At this dark and hopeless moment an inspiration burst upon him! Nothing less than a great, magnificent inspiration.

He took up his brush and went tranquilly to work. Ben Rogers hove in sight presently—the very boy, of all boys, whose ridicule he had been dreading. Ben’s gait was the hop-skip-and-jump—proof enough that his heart was light and his anticipations high. He was eating an apple, and giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed by a deep-toned ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a steamboat. As he drew near, he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to star-board and rounded to ponderously and with laborious pomp and circumstance—for he was personating the Big Missouri, and considered himself to be drawing nine feet of water. He was boat and captain and engine-bells combined, so he had to imagine himself standing on his own hurricane-deck giving the orders and executing them:

“Stop her, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling!” The headway ran almost out, and he drew up slowly toward the sidewalk.

Tom went on whitewashing—paid no attention to the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said: “Hi-yiYou’re up a stump, ain’t you!”

No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the result, as before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom’s mouth watered for the apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said:

“Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?”

Tom wheeled suddenly and said:

“Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.”

“Say—I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work—wouldn’t you? Course you would!”

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

“What do you call work?”

“Why, ain’t that work?”

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”

“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”

The brush continued to move.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth—stepped back to note the effect—added a touch here and there—criticized the effect again—Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:

“No—no—I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence—right here on the street, you know—but if it was the back fence I wouldn’t mind and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”

“No—is that so? Oh come, now—lemme, just try. Only just a little—I’d let you, if you was me, Tom.”

“Ben, I’d like to; but Aunt Polly—well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn’t let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn’t let Sid. Now don’t you see how I’m fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it—”

“Oh, shucks, I’ll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say—I’ll give you the core of my apple.”

“Well, here—No, Ben, now don’t. I’m afeard—”

“I’ll give you all of it!”

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was tired, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with—and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar—but no dog—the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.

He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while—plenty of company—and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn’t run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.

When the narrator says that Tom is planning “the slaughter of more innocents,” he means that __________.

Possible Answers:

Tom is planning on physically hurting more people

Tom is planning to get other kids to do his work for him

Tom is planning on sneaking away while the other kids paint the fence

Tom is planning on going swimming

Tom is planning on getting the kids to his other chores

Correct answer:

Tom is planning to get other kids to do his work for him

Explanation:

The narrator is using figurative language in the phrase "the slaughter of more innocents." We can see that this is the case by considering the phrase at it appears in the context of the passage:

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash.

In this part of the passage, Tom has just convinced Ben to give him his apple for the privilege of whitewashing the fence. By "the late steamer Big Missouri," the narrator means Ben, since Ben was pretending to be the Big Missouri when he encountered Tom. By "the retired artist," the narrator means Tom. We're told that Tom is relaxing and "plann[ing] the slaughter of more innocents." We're then immediately told: "There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash." This series of sentences tells us that the narrator is indicating Tom's fooling other boys as "the slaughter of more innocents." The boys who come to make fun of Tom but stay to paint the fence are the "innocents," as we can tell from the author's connecting phrase, "There was no lack of material." The best answer is that when the narrator uses the phrase "the slaughter of more innocents," he means that "Tom is planning to get other kids to do his work for him."

Example Question #1 : Reading To Understand Vocabulary In Context

Adapted from “The Open Window” in Beasts and Super-Beasts by H. H. Munro (Saki) (1914)

"My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel," said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen. "In the meantime you must try and put up with me."

Framton Nuttel endeavored to say the correct something which should duly flatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.

"I know how it will be," his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat. "You will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice."

Framton wondered whether Mrs. Sappleton, the lady to whom he was presenting one of the letters of introduction, came into the "nice" division.

"Do you know many of the people round here?" asked the niece, when she judged that they had had sufficient silent communion.

"Hardly a soul," said Framton. "My sister was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some four years ago, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of the people here."

He made the last statement in a tone of distinct regret.

"Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?" pursued the self-possessed young lady.

"Only her name and address," admitted the caller. He was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in the married or widowed state. An undefinable something about the room seemed to suggest masculine habitation.

"Her great tragedy happened just three years ago," said the child. "That would be since your sister's time."

"Her tragedy?" asked Framton; somehow in this restful country spot tragedies seemed out of place.

"You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon," said the niece, indicating a large French window that opened on to a lawn.

"It is quite warm for the time of the year," said Framton, "but has that window got anything to do with the tragedy?"

"Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their day's shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor to their favorite snipe-shooting ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warning. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it." Here the child's voice lost its self-possessed note and became falteringly human. "Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back someday, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing 'Bertie, why do you bound?' as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves. Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window—"

She broke off with a little shudder. It was a relief to Framton when the aunt bustled into the room with a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.

"I hope Vera has been amusing you?" she said.

"She has been very interesting," said Framton.

"I hope you don't mind the open window," said Mrs. Sappleton briskly. "My husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way. They've been out for snipe in the marshes today, so they'll make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like you menfolk, isn't it?"

She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds, and the prospects for duck in the winter. To Framton it was all purely horrible. He made a desperate but only partially successful effort to turn the talk on to a less ghastly topic, he was conscious that his hostess was giving him only a fragment of her attention, and her eyes were constantly straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond. It was certainly an unfortunate coincidence that he should have paid his visit on this tragic anniversary.

"The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise," announced Framton, who labored under the tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are hungry for the least detail of one's ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure. "On the matter of diet they are not so much in agreement," he continued.

"No?" said Mrs. Sappleton, in a voice which only replaced a yawn at the last moment. Then she suddenly brightened into alert attention—but not to what Framton was saying.

"Here they are at last!" she cried. "Just in time for tea, and don't they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!"

Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension. The child was staring out through the open window with a dazed horror in her eyes. In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction.

In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window, they all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over his shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels. Noiselessly they neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: "I said, Bertie, why do you bound?"

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid imminent collision.

"Here we are, my dear," said the bearer of the white mackintosh, coming in through the window. "Fairly muddy, but most of it's dry. Who was that who bolted out as we came up?"

"A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel," said Mrs. Sappleton. "Could only talk about his illnesses, and dashed off without a word of goodbye or apology when you arrived. One would think he had seen a ghost."

"I expect it was the spaniel," said the niece calmly. "He told me he had a horror of dogs. He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enough to make anyone lose their nerve."

Romance at short notice was her speciality. 

Which of the following is closest in meaning to “romance” as it is used in the last line of the story?

Possible Answers:

Stories about love

The relating of true events in an interesting way

Stories about knights, castles, and royalty

Feelings of love

Vivid fiction

Correct answer:

Vivid fiction

Explanation:

The last line of the story brings it neatly to a close: "Romance at short notice was her specialty." The author is talking about the niece. What does he mean by "romance"? We can figure this out by considering the events that lead up to this last line. What happens at the end of the story? The niece tells a story about why Mr. Nuttel is afraid of dogs. Mr. Nuttel never said he was afraid of dogs, and the story is quite hard to believe. This story is the "romance" to which the author is referring in the last line. The niece's story about Mr. Nuttel has nothing to do with love, and it doesn't have anything to do with knights, castles, or royalty. "Feelings of love" is one meaning of "romance," but we need the word to mean something that can refer to the niece's story. Is the niece "relating true events in an interesting way"? Or is she providing "vivid fiction"? Since we've seen the niece tell Mr. Nuttel a ghost story and get him to believe it (and flee the house because of it), we can infer that the story about him being chased by dogs is another fictional story. This means that the author is using "romance" in the story's last line to mean "vivid fiction."

Example Question #4 : Reading To Understand Vocabulary In Context

"The Ruby-throated Hummingbird"

Geographical Range and Migration

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the sole representative of the hummingbird family in eastern North America. It is only a summer visitor in Canada and throughout the greater part of its range in the United States, excepting the southern portions of the Florida peninsula, where it winters to some extent. The majority of these birds migrate south, though, spending the winter in some of the Caribbean islands, while others pass through eastern Mexico into Central America. It usually arrives along our southern border in the latter part of March, rarely reaching the more northern States before the middle of May. It usually goes south again about the latter part of September, the males preceding the females, I believe, in both migrations. 

 

Appearance and Behavior

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have iridescent green feathers on their backs and white feathers on their bellies. The male birds have a patch of red feathers on their throats, from which the species derives its name. Both male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have relatively short tails and beaks and lack any crest of feathers on their heads.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds’ flight is extremely swift, and the rapid motions of its wings in passing back and forth from one cluster of flowers to another causes a humming or buzzing sound, from which the numerous members of this family derive their name of hummingbirds. Notwithstanding the very small size of most of our hummers, they are all extremely pugnacious, especially the males, and are constantly quarreling and chasing each other, as well as other birds, some of which are many times larger than themselves. Mr. Manly Hardy writes me that he once saw a male Ruby-throat chase a Robin out of his garden. They are rarely seen entirely at rest for any length of time, and, when not busy preening its feathers, they dart about from one place to another. Although such a small, tiny creature, it is full of energy, and never seems to tire.

They seem to be especially partial to anything red. Mr. Manly Hardy writes: "I was once camping on one of the many islands along the coast of Maine during a dense fog, which had held us prisoners for several days, as it was so thick that we could not find our way. We had been living on lobsters, and lots of their red shells lay near the fire in front of our tent, when suddenly a Hummer came out of the fog and darted down at the shells, moving from one to another, seemingly loath to leave them.”

 

What Do They Eat?

There appears to be considerable difference of opinion among various observers regarding the nature of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s food. Some contend that it consists principally of nectar sipped from flowers, as well as the sweet sap of certain trees. Others, myself included, believe that they subsist mainly on minute insects and small spiders, the latter forming quite an important article of food with them. Mr. Edwin H. Eames, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, mentions finding sixteen young spiders of uniform size in the throat of a young Hummingbird which was about two days old.

Mr. W. N. Clute, of Binghamton, New York, writes: "The swamp thistle, which blooms in August, seems to have great attractions for the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. I have seen more than a hundred birds about these plants in the course of an hour. Since it has been stated that the bee gets pollen but not honey from the thistle, it would appear that these birds visit these flowers for insects. There is scarcely a flower that contains so many minute insects as a thistle head. Examine one with a lens and it will be found to contain many insects that can hardly be seen with the unaided eye, and if the Ruby-throat eats insects at all, these are the ones it would take; and because the larger ones remained the observer might conclude that none were eaten.” I could quote considerable more testimony showing that the Hummingbirds live to a great extent on minute spiders and insects, but consider it unnecessary.

That our Hummingbirds live to some extent on the sap of certain trees is undoubtedly true, but that they could exist for any length of time on such food alone is very questionable. They are particularly fond of the sap of the sugar maple, and only slightly less so of that of a few other species of trees. They are also fond of the nectar secreted in many flowers. While stationed at the former cavalry depot at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1873-74, I occupied a set of quarters that were completely overrun with large trumpet vines. When these were in bloom, the place fairly swarmed with Ruby-throats. They were exceedingly inquisitive, and often poised themselves before an open window and looked in my rooms full of curiosity, their bright little eyes sparkling like black beads. I have caught several, while busily engaged sipping nectar in these large, showy flowers, by simply placing my hand over them, and while so imprisoned they never moved, and feigned death, but as soon as I opened my hand they were off like a flash. 

 

07627v

 

Passage adapted from "Ruby-throated Hummingbird" from Issue 3 of Life Histories of North American Birds, From the Parrots to the Grackles, with Special Reference to Their Breeding Habits and Eggs by Charles Bendire (1895)

Image adapted from Giltsch, Adolf, Lithographer, and Ernst Haeckel. Trochilidae. - Kolibris. [Leipzig und Wien: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1904] Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/2015648985>.

 

Based on the way the word is used in the section “Appearance and Behavior,” which of the following must be closest in meaning to the underlined word “pugnacious”?

Possible Answers:

Minuscule

Patient and calm

Very hungry

Angry and combative

Playful and lighthearted

Correct answer:

Angry and combative

Explanation:

Let's take a look at the spot in the passage where this word is used to get a better idea of what it means. We'll use the "context" in which the word is used to figure this out—that is, the information conveyed by the words and sentences around it.

Notwithstanding the very small size of most of our hummers, they are all extremely pugnacious, especially the males, and are constantly quarreling and chasing each other, as well as other birds, some of which are many times larger than themselves.

Let's figure out what this sentence means one phrase at a time. By "Notwithstanding," the author means despite. So, "notwithstanding the very small size of most of our hummers" means something like despite the fact that hummingbirds are small. The author then says that the birds, especially the male ones, are "pugnacious," and that they are "constantly quarreling and chasing each other" and other birds that are much larger than they are. "Chasing one another" could convey a sense of play, but "quarreling" does not, so "Playful and lighthearted" cannot be the correct answer. Neither "Patient and calm" nor "very hungry" would make much sense in the sentence. The author talks about how small hummingbirds are at the start of the sentence, but "pugnacious" does not appear in this part of the sentence, so "minuscule" is not the correct answer: it wouldn't make sense to claim that despite their small size, the hummingbirds are "minuscule"!

The correct answer is "angry and combative." This answer choice fits the description of the birds' behavior that follows.

Example Question #1 : Reading To Understand Vocabulary In Context

"The Ruby-throated Hummingbird"

Geographical Range and Migration

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the sole representative of the hummingbird family in eastern North America. It is only a summer visitor in Canada and throughout the greater part of its range in the United States, excepting the southern portions of the Florida peninsula, where it winters to some extent. The majority of these birds migrate south, though, spending the winter in some of the Caribbean islands, while others pass through eastern Mexico into Central America. It usually arrives along our southern border in the latter part of March, rarely reaching the more northern States before the middle of May. It usually goes south again about the latter part of September, the males preceding the females, I believe, in both migrations. 

 

Appearance and Behavior

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have iridescent green feathers on their backs and white feathers on their bellies. The male birds have a patch of red feathers on their throats, from which the species derives its name. Both male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have relatively short tails and beaks and lack any crest of feathers on their heads.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds’ flight is extremely swift, and the rapid motions of its wings in passing back and forth from one cluster of flowers to another causes a humming or buzzing sound, from which the numerous members of this family derive their name of hummingbirds. Notwithstanding the very small size of most of our hummers, they are all extremely pugnacious, especially the males, and are constantly quarreling and chasing each other, as well as other birds, some of which are many times larger than themselves. Mr. Manly Hardy writes me that he once saw a male Ruby-throat chase a Robin out of his garden. They are rarely seen entirely at rest for any length of time, and, when not busy preening its feathers, they dart about from one place to another. Although such a small, tiny creature, it is full of energy, and never seems to tire.

They seem to be especially partial to anything red. Mr. Manly Hardy writes: "I was once camping on one of the many islands along the coast of Maine during a dense fog, which had held us prisoners for several days, as it was so thick that we could not find our way. We had been living on lobsters, and lots of their red shells lay near the fire in front of our tent, when suddenly a Hummer came out of the fog and darted down at the shells, moving from one to another, seemingly loath to leave them.”

 

What Do They Eat?

There appears to be considerable difference of opinion among various observers regarding the nature of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s food. Some contend that it consists principally of nectar sipped from flowers, as well as the sweet sap of certain trees. Others, myself included, believe that they subsist mainly on minute insects and small spiders, the latter forming quite an important article of food with them. Mr. Edwin H. Eames, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, mentions finding sixteen young spiders of uniform size in the throat of a young Hummingbird which was about two days old.

Mr. W. N. Clute, of Binghamton, New York, writes: "The swamp thistle, which blooms in August, seems to have great attractions for the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. I have seen more than a hundred birds about these plants in the course of an hour. Since it has been stated that the bee gets pollen but not honey from the thistle, it would appear that these birds visit these flowers for insects. There is scarcely a flower that contains so many minute insects as a thistle head. Examine one with a lens and it will be found to contain many insects that can hardly be seen with the unaided eye, and if the Ruby-throat eats insects at all, these are the ones it would take; and because the larger ones remained the observer might conclude that none were eaten.” I could quote considerable more testimony showing that the Hummingbirds live to a great extent on minute spiders and insects, but consider it unnecessary.

That our Hummingbirds live to some extent on the sap of certain trees is undoubtedly true, but that they could exist for any length of time on such food alone is very questionable. They are particularly fond of the sap of the sugar maple, and only slightly less so of that of a few other species of trees. They are also fond of the nectar secreted in many flowers. While stationed at the former cavalry depot at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1873-74, I occupied a set of quarters that were completely overrun with large trumpet vines. When these were in bloom, the place fairly swarmed with Ruby-throats. They were exceedingly inquisitive, and often poised themselves before an open window and looked in my rooms full of curiosity, their bright little eyes sparkling like black beads. I have caught several, while busily engaged sipping nectar in these large, showy flowers, by simply placing my hand over them, and while so imprisoned they never moved, and feigned death, but as soon as I opened my hand they were off like a flash. 

 

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Passage adapted from "Ruby-throated Hummingbird" from Issue 3 of Life Histories of North American Birds, From the Parrots to the Grackles, with Special Reference to Their Breeding Habits and Eggs by Charles Bendire (1895)

Image adapted from Giltsch, Adolf, Lithographer, and Ernst Haeckel. Trochilidae. - Kolibris. [Leipzig und Wien: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1904] Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/2015648985>.

 

The title of the illustration is “Trochilidae.”—you can see it at the bottom of the image. This is a scientific Latin name. Based on the picture, what can you infer “Trochilidae” means?

Possible Answers:

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Birds and Animals

Hummingbirds

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Migratory birds

Correct answer:

Hummingbirds

Explanation:

Let's consider the picture for a moment before we answer this question. In it, we see a great many birds shown, and they all look very different from one another. They're all about the same size, and look similar in terms of body shape. While some have long tails, crests of feathers, or curved beaks, they all share a somewhat similar look. For example, there's not a hawk or seagull or robin shown amongst them. They look like they might be somewhat related despite their different details.

Now let's consider the answer choices. We can't infer anything about whether these birds migrate or not, so "Migratory birds" isn't correct. "The Ruby-throated Hummingbird" doesn't make sense, either, as this is one type of hummingbird with a specific look to it, not a name that applies to a group of similar birds. "Female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds" is incorrect for the same reason. On the other hand, "Birds and Animals" is too general a title—all the organisms in this picture are birds, so it wouldn't make sense to title it "birds and animals." In addition, these birds look like they have something in common. The correct answer is "Hummingbirds." The birds in the picture look similar to one another because they are all different species of the family of hummingbirds. 

Example Question #1 : Reading To Understand Vocabulary In Context

Adapted from “In Cowboy Land” in An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt (1913)

Though I had previously made a trip into the then Territory of Dakota, beyond the Red River, it was not until 1883 that I went to the Little Missouri, and there took hold of two cattle ranches, the Chimney Butte and the Elkhorn.

It was still the Wild West in those days, the Far West, the West of Owen Wister's stories and Frederic Remington's drawings. That land of the West has gone now, "gone, gone with lost Atlantis," gone to the isle of ghosts and of strange dead memories. It was a land of vast silent spaces, of lonely rivers, and of plains where the wild game stared at the passing horseman. It was a land of scattered ranches, of herds of long-horned cattle, and of reckless riders who unmoved looked in the eyes of life or of death. In that land we led a free and hardy life, with horse and with rifle. We knew toil and hardship and hunger and thirst; and we saw men die violent deaths as they worked among the horses and cattle, or fought in evil feuds with one another; but we felt the beat of hardy life in our veins, and ours was the glory of work and the joy of living.

I first reached the Little Missouri on a Northern Pacific train about three in the morning of a cool September day in 1883. Next day I walked over to the abandoned army post, and, after some hours among the gray log shacks, a ranchman who had driven into the station agreed to take me out to his ranch, the Chimney Butte ranch, where he was living with his brother and their partner.

The ranch was a log structure with a dirt roof, a corral for the horses near by, and a chicken-house jabbed against the rear of the ranch house. Inside there was only one room, with a table, three or four chairs, a cooking-stove, and three bunks. The owners were Sylvane and Joe Ferris and William J. Merrifield. There was a fourth man, George Meyer, who also worked for me later. That evening we all played old sledge round the table, and at one period the game was interrupted by a frightful squawking outside which told us that a bobcat had made a raid on the chicken-house.

After a buffalo hunt with my original friend, Joe Ferris, I entered into partnership with Merrifield and Sylvane Ferris, and we started a cow ranch, with the maltese cross brand—always known as "maltee cross," by the way, as the general impression along the Little Missouri was that "maltese" must be a plural. Twenty-nine years later my four friends of that night were delegates to the First Progressive National Convention at Chicago. They were among my most constant companions for the few years next succeeding the evening when the bobcat interrupted the game of old sledge. I lived and worked with them on the ranch, and with them and many others like them on the round-up.

I do not believe there ever was any life more attractive to a vigorous young fellow than life on a cattle ranch in those days. It was a fine, healthy life, too; it taught a man self-reliance, hardihood, and the value of instant decision—in short, the virtues that ought to come from life in the open country. I enjoyed the life to the full.

Based on the way the word is used in the passage, the reader can infer that “old sledge” refers to __________.

Possible Answers:

a type of hammer

a variety of bread that cowboys would eat on long journeys

a plant found only in the western U.S.

an informal get-together between friends

a card game

Correct answer:

a card game

Explanation:

To figure out what "old sledge" is, we'll need to see how the phrase is used in the passage and use the clues provided by the words and sentences around it to define it. In the fourth paragraph, Roosevelt writes:

That evening we all played old sledge round the table, and at one period the game was interrupted by a frightful squawking outside which told us that a bobcat had made a raid on the chicken-house.

Notice his choise of verb: he says that they all "played" old sledge. In addition, he says that they played old sledge, and then "at one period the game was interrupted." This use of "the game" has to refer to "old sledge," the thing being "played." This tells us that "old sledge" must be some sort of a game. The only answer choice that is some sort of game is "a card game," and this is the correct answer.

Example Question #1 : Reading To Understand Vocabulary In Context

In the following paragraph, what is the meaning of the underlined word based on the context?

One complaint is that the funds that YES distributes have disproportionately gone to young people from low-income families. Though no one has claimed that any of the recipients of YES funds have been undeserving, several families have brought lawsuits claiming that their requests for funding were rejected because of the families’ high levels of income.

Possible Answers:

Free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism

Of the same measure, quantity, amount, or number as another

To an extent that is too large in comparison with something else

Marked by injustice or deception

Correct answer:

To an extent that is too large in comparison with something else

Explanation:

The text states that the funds “have disproportionately gone to young people from low-income families” and that families with higher incomes were rejected and are suing. This context allows readers to understand that there are increased numbers of low-income families receiving the funds when compared to high-income families.

Example Question #2 : Reading To Understand Vocabulary In Context

In the following paragraph, what is the meaning of the underlined word based on the context?

Young Enterprise Services (YES) is a program created to encourage entrepreneurship in 14- to 18-year-olds who have already shown a clear ability for starting businesses. The program started in 2002, has provided loans, grants, and counseling—in the form of workshops and individual meetings with business owners—to over 7500 young people. The future of YES, however, is now at risk.

Possible Answers:

The promotion of academic pursuits above all else.

The act of fundraising for a charity or philanthropic cause.

The activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

The desire to connect with other humans on a deeper level.

Correct answer:

The activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

Explanation:

The context of the paragraph helps a reader understand what this challenging word means. “Businesses”, “loans, grants, and counseling”, and “business owners” are all context clues that relate to the understanding of what YES is promoting, entrepreneurship.

Example Question #1 : Reading To Understand Vocabulary In Context

When I was seven, my father brought home from a business trip a wooden boomerang painted with images of the Australian flag. All summer long I carried that gift with me I was fascinated by this piece of a continent completely on the other side of the world. Despite promises that if I threw it would immediately return, I had no intention of throwing it, only carrying and admiring it. What if it became stuck in a tree or carried away by a stiff wind? There would go my connection to the magical land of kangaroos, barrier reefs, and untold other pieces of wonder.

As I walk the shores of Bondi Beach or watch the tourists purchase kangaroo-themed apparel in my adopted hometown of Sydney, I often think back to that boomerang and the world to which it opened my eyes. As an airline pilot, I am fortunate to live out my childhood dream – inspired by that boomerang – of exploring faraway lands. Whenever I do, I bring home a trinket for my young daughter such that she might be similarly struck by wanderlust.

After reading the passage, based on the context what does the word wanderlust mean?

Possible Answers:

A strong desire to travel

An intense desire to be alone

An overwhelming wave of sadness

A feeling of anger and resentment

Correct answer:

A strong desire to travel

Explanation:

Based on the context around the word wanderlust and the general tone of the passage it can be determined that the word is travel related. “Exploring faraway lands” and hoping that his/her daughter “might be similarly struck by” the emotion means that this was a feeling that the author also had. The passage makes it clear that the author dreamed of travel and faraway places.

Example Question #84 : Reading

When I was seven, my father brought home from a business trip a wooden boomerang painted with images of the Australian flag. All summer long I carried that gift with me I was fascinated by this piece of a continent completely on the other side of the world. Despite promises that if I threw it would immediately return, I had no intention of throwing it, only carrying and admiring it. What if it became stuck in a tree or carried away by a stiff wind? There would go my connection to the magical land of kangaroos, barrier reefs, and untold other pieces of wonder.

As I walk the shores of Bondi Beach or watch the tourists purchase kangaroo-themed apparel in my adopted hometown of Sydney, I often think back to that boomerang and the world to which it opened my eyes. As an airline pilot, I am fortunate to live out my childhood dream – inspired by that boomerang – of exploring faraway lands. Whenever I do, I bring home a trinket for my young daughter such that she might be similarly struck by wanderlust.

Which term could be used to replace the word stiff in paragraph 1?

Possible Answers:

Strong

Inflexible

Westerly

Mild

Correct answer:

Strong

Explanation:

A “stiff” wind is a strong, harsh wind that could carry away the boomerang if it is thrown. A mild wind would be weaker, and the other choices are not supported by context.

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