GED Language Arts (RLA) : Evidence and Argument

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GED Language Arts (RLA)

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Main Idea

"Newton's Mistakes" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

Isaac Newton has often been thought of as the greatest thinker in human history. His insight into the role that gravity plays in existence and physics completely changed our collective understanding of the universe and our place in it. He was understood in his own time as a genius. One famous quote by Alexander Pope (himself quite an intelligent man) demonstrates the deep affection felt for Newton: “Nature, and nature’s mysteries, lay bathed in night, God said 'Let there be Newton,’ and all was light.”

Yet, when the famous economist John Kenneth Galbraith purchased Newton’s journals and diaries at auction, he found to his astonishment, and partial dismay, that more than half of Newton’s work was dedicated to the practice of alchemy—the pursuit of turning ordinary materials into precious metals. Our current understanding of science tells us that this is impossible and that Newton was wasting a significant proportion of his time.

Another famous story about Newton tells of his attempts to figure out the effect of direct exposure to sunlight on the human eye. To carry out this experiment he decided to stare at the sun for as long as humanly possible to see what would happen. The effect, as you might have guessed, was that he very nearly went permanently blind and was indeed completely unable to see for two days.

One might determine from these stories that Newton was not the genius we consider him to be—that he was, in fact, a fool; however, it should tell us something about the nature of genius. It is not merely deep intelligence, but the willingness to try new things and the rejection of the fear of failure. Newton was not a genius in spite of his mistakes, but because of them.

The main argument of this essay is __________.

Possible Answers:

That Newton’s contributions to science make him the greatest mind in human history

That genius is born, not made

That the pursuit of alchemy ultimately led to the intellectual ruin of Isaac Newton

That in spite of his many breathtaking achievements, Newton should be best remembered for his foolishness

That Newton was a genius because of his willingness to make mistakes, not in spite of this

Correct answer:

That Newton was a genius because of his willingness to make mistakes, not in spite of this

Explanation:

Throughout this essay, the author is primarily contrasting Newton’s scientific contributions and esteemed reputation with examples of his whimsy and foolishness in order to lead the reader to his main argument and conclusion. This is, “But, really it should tell us something about the nature of genius. It is not merely deep intelligence, but the willingness to try new things and the rejection of the fear of failure. Newton was not a genius in spite of his mistakes, but because of them.” So, the correct answer is “That Newton was a genius because of his willingness to make mistakes, not in spite of this.”

Example Question #1 : Identifying Main Idea

 
Adapted from "On the Sonnet" by John Keats (1848)
 
If by dull rhymes our English must be chain'd,
   And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
Fetter'd, in spite of pained loveliness;
Let us find out, if we must be constrain'd,
   Sandals more interwoven and complete
To fit the naked foot of poesy;
Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
Of every chord, and see what may be gain'd
   By ear industrious, and attention meet:
Misers of sound and syllable, no less
   Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
   Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;
So, if we may not let the Muse be free,
   She will be bound with garlands of her own.

Which of the following is most central to the speaker's argument?

Possible Answers:

The use of complex references in poetry

The sonnet form

The translation of poetic works

The story of King Midas

The process by which sandals are made

Correct answer:

The sonnet form

Explanation:

"The sonnet form" is most central to the speaker's argument. The poem is urging poets to consider the inherent properties of language in order to make the poetic forms that they use best suit the language of the poems they compose. The sonnet form, an example of one of these strict poetic forms, is mentioned in the second line of the poem: "If by dull rhymes our English must be chain'd, / And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet / Fetter'd." The poem never discusses the translation of poetic works or the use of complex references in poetry, and while sandals are mentioned ("Let us find out, if we must be constrain'd, / Sandals more interwoven and complete / To fit the naked foot of poesy,") they are mentioned as part of a figurative construction; the speaker is not literally wanting to make a pair of sandals; the "sandals" are here comparable to forms that better suit language. Similarly, while the story of King Midas is alluded to later in the poem ("Misers of sound and syllable, no less / Than Midas of his coinage"), it functions as part of a comparison and is not as central to the speaker's argument as is the sonnet form.

Example Question #1 : Evidence And Argument

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

(1910)

What is the main idea in this text?

Possible Answers:

People should not criticize those who try and fail unless they have strived for greatness themselves

People should only attempt to do what they know they are capable of doing

Everyone who has ever succeeded has first experienced defeat

People who have achieved great success are more likely to criticize those who have failed

Correct answer:

People should not criticize those who try and fail unless they have strived for greatness themselves

Explanation:

Roosevelt points out the essential difference between those who try, even if they should fail. He identifies those only criticize as "cold and timid souls who neither know victory, nor defeat."

Passage adapted from Citizenship in a Republic, a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt on April 23, 1910.

Example Question #1 : Main Idea

The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings. The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, her forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear--is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself.

To throw obstacles in the way of a complete education is like putting out the eyes; to deny the rights of property is like cutting off the hands. To refuse political equality is to rob the ostracized of all self-respect, of credit in the market place, of recompense in the world of work, of a voice in choosing those who make and administer the law, a choice in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their punishment. Shakespeare's play of Titus and Andronicus contains a terrible satire on woman's position in the nineteenth century--"Rude men seized the king's daughter, cut out her tongue, cut off her hands, and then bade her go call for water and wash her hands." What a picture of woman's position! Robbed of her natural rights, handicapped by law and custom at every turn, yet compelled to fight her own battles, and in the emergencies of life to fall back on herself for protection.

(1892)

What is the main idea of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Denying women the right to same education available to men is denying them the opportunity to become truly self-sufficient

Men who do not support the idea of equal educational opportunities for women risk being attacked by women who are angry about their treatement

Women are not being given the right to an equal education because men don't believe they are intelligent enough to benefit from it

If women are given the right to an equal education, they will quickly become the dominant gender on the planet

Correct answer:

Denying women the right to same education available to men is denying them the opportunity to become truly self-sufficient

Explanation:

Stanton's thesis states that the need for education stems from "the isolation of the human soul and the necessity of self-dependence." In the second paragraph, she states that denying women educational opportunities is "like putting out the eyes", or not allowing women access to the tools they need to become truly self-sufficient.

Passage adapted from The Solitude of Self by Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1892)

Example Question #1 : Main Idea

Adapted from "Review of Wyandotté, or The Hutted Knoll" by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)

The most obvious and most unaccountable faults of The Hutted Knoll are those which appertain to the style—to the mere grammatical construction; for, in other and more important particulars of style, Mr. Cooper, of late days, has made a very manifest improvement. His sentences, however, are arranged with an awkwardness so remarkable as to be matter of absolute astonishment, when we consider the education of the author and his long and continual practice with the pen. In minute descriptions of localities, any verbal inaccuracy or confusion becomes a source of vexation and misunderstanding, detracting very much from the pleasure of perusal; and in these inaccuracies Wyandotté abounds. Although, for instance, we carefully read and reread that portion of the narrative that details the situation of the Knoll, and the construction of the buildings and walls about it, we were forced to proceed with the story without any exact or definite impressions upon the subject. Similar difficulties, from similar causes, occur passim throughout the book. For example, at page 41, vol. I:

“The man gazed at the house with a fierce intentness that sometimes glared, in a manner that had got to be, in its ordinary aspects, dull.”  This it is utterly impossible to comprehend. We presume, however, the intention is to say that although the man’s ordinary manner (of gazing) had “got to be” dull, he occasionally gazed with an intentness that glared, and that he did so in the instance in question. The “got to be” is atrocious, the whole sentence no less so.

Here, at page 9, vol. I, is something excessively vague: “Of the latter character is the face of most of that region that lies in the angle formed by the junction of the Mohawk with the Hudson,” etc. etc. The Mohawk, joining the Hudson, forms two angles, of course—an acute and an obtuse one; and, without farther explanation, it is difficult to say which is intended.

At page 55, vol. I., we read: “The captain, owing to his English education, had avoided straight lines, and formal paths, giving to the little spot the improvement on nature which is a consequence of embellishing her works without destroying them. On each side of this lawn was an orchard, thrifty and young, and that were already beginning to show signs of putting forth their blossoms.”  Here we are tautologically informed that improvement is a consequence of embellishment, and supererogatorily told that the rule holds good only where the embellishment is not accompanied by destruction. Upon the “each orchard were" it is needless to comment.

Poe says that the biggest problem with Cooper's description of the Knoll is __________.

Possible Answers:

the description of the Knoll is too complex

after many re-readings, the reader still can't get a mental picture of it

the reader has too clear a picture of what the Knoll looks like

Cooper spends too much time in the novel describing it

Correct answer:

after many re-readings, the reader still can't get a mental picture of it

Explanation:

Poe suggests that even after multiple readings, it's hard for the reader to get a sense of what the Knoll really looks like.

Example Question #141 : Ged Language Arts (Rla)

Read the passage and answer the question below.

Dear Congressman Phillips,

I urge you to reconsider your closure of the shipyard. I'm a medical practitioner in the area, so I meet many of the men and women employed by the facility. Many of these people are living paycheck to paycheck, unable to afford regular medical care; any gap in their employment could be devastating. If you must see it economically, consider the tremendous cost to the taxpayers when these people must rely on public programs for assistance. I ask you to please keep this shipyard open.

Very truly yours, . . .

 

How would you summarize this passage?

Possible Answers:

The author wants the senator to visit the shipyard to see how efficiently it is running.

The author wants shipyard workers to go on strike.

The author argues that shipyard workers shouldn't use public assistance programs because it's hard on the economy. 

The author argues that shipyard workers don't make enough money.

The author argues that closing the shipyard would result in mass unemployment that would burden public programs because these workers cannot afford to lose work. 

Correct answer:

The author argues that closing the shipyard would result in mass unemployment that would burden public programs because these workers cannot afford to lose work. 

Explanation:

The summary should state that the author is asserting a point, or arguing for something, in this case for keeping a shipyard open because it's a massive source of jobs for the area.

Example Question #1 : Main Idea

The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings. The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, her forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear--is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself.

To throw obstacles in the way of a complete education is like putting out the eyes; to deny the rights of property is like cutting off the hands. To refuse political equality is to rob the ostracized of all self-respect, of credit in the market place, of recompense in the world of work, of a voice in choosing those who make and administer the law, a choice in the jury before whom they are tried, and in the judge who decides their punishment. Shakespeare's play of Titus and Andronicus contains a terrible satire on woman's position in the nineteenth century--"Rude men seized the king's daughter, cut out her tongue, cut off her hands, and then bade her go call for water and wash her hands." What a picture of woman's position! Robbed of her natural rights, handicapped by law and custom at every turn, yet compelled to fight her own battles, and in the emergencies of life to fall back on herself for protection.

(1892)

What is the inherent cause-and-effect argument presented in this passage?

Possible Answers:

Denying women their basic human rights forces them to go to extreme measures to obtain them

Allowing women their basic human rights would result in tremendous upheaval in most societies

Denying women their basic human rights leaves them unable to achieve their full potential as human beings

Allowing women their basic human rights will have no discernable affect on most societies

Correct answer:

Denying women their basic human rights leaves them unable to achieve their full potential as human beings

Explanation:

Stanton clearly states that women are forced to achieve the same level of self-dependence as men, but are handicapped by a lack of access to basic rights. They are thus at an extreme disadvantage in achieving a sense of self-fulfillment.

Passage adapted from The Solitude of Self by Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1892)

Example Question #41 : Argumentative Humanities Passages

"Newton's Mistakes" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

Isaac Newton has often been thought of as the greatest thinker in human history. His insight into the role that gravity plays in existence and physics completely changed our collective understanding of the universe and our place in it. He was understood in his own time as a genius. One famous quote by Alexander Pope (himself quite an intelligent man) demonstrates the deep affection felt for Newton: “Nature, and nature’s mysteries, lay bathed in night, God said 'Let there be Newton,’ and all was light.”

Yet, when the famous economist John Kenneth Galbraith purchased Newton’s journals and diaries at auction, he found to his astonishment, and partial dismay, that more than half of Newton’s work was dedicated to the practice of alchemy—the pursuit of turning ordinary materials into precious metals. Our current understanding of science tells us that this is impossible and that Newton was wasting a significant proportion of his time.

Another famous story about Newton tells of his attempts to figure out the effect of direct exposure to sunlight on the human eye. To carry out this experiment he decided to stare at the sun for as long as humanly possible to see what would happen. The effect, as you might have guessed, was that he very nearly went permanently blind and was indeed completely unable to see for two days.

One might determine from these stories that Newton was not the genius we consider him to be—that he was, in fact, a fool; however, it should tell us something about the nature of genius. It is not merely deep intelligence, but the willingness to try new things and the rejection of the fear of failure. Newton was not a genius in spite of his mistakes, but because of them.

What is the author trying to highlight about Isaac Newton by employing Alexander Pope’s saying in the underlined quote in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

The reverence that Newton is held in by historical scientific scholars

The impact of Newton’s theories about gravity on the field of architecture

The inherent foolishness in Isaac Newton’s genius

The illuminating impact of Newton’s revelations

The high esteem in which Newton was held by his contemporaries

Correct answer:

The high esteem in which Newton was held by his contemporaries

Explanation:

It is clear that Alexander Pope himself is highlighting the “illuminating impact of Newton’s revelations” from his use of the word “light.” But, this question is asking you why the author employs Alexander Pope’s quotation, which is a much different question. To understand why the author employs this quotation, you have to go consider what the author says directly before sharing the quotation. He says, “He was understood in his own time as a genius; one famous quote by Alexander Pope (himself quite an intelligent man) demonstrates the deep affection felt for Newton . . . “ This suggests that the author employs Alexander Pope’s famous quotation to demonstrate “the high esteem in which Newton was held by his contemporaries.”

Example Question #1 : Argument Relationships

Adapted from “A Defense of Slang” in The Romance of the Commonplace by Gelett Burgess (1902)

Could Shakespeare come to Chicago and listen curiously to "the man in the street," he would find himself more at home than in London. In the mouths of messenger boys and clerks he would find the English language used with all the freedom of unexpected metaphor and the plastic, suggestive diction that was the privilege of the Elizabethan dramatists; he would say, no doubt, that he had found a nation of poets. There was hardly any such thing as slang in his day, for no graphic trope was too virile or uncommon for acceptance, if its meaning were patent. His own heroes often spoke what corresponds to the slang of today.

The word, indeed, needs precise definition, before we condemn all unconventional talk with vigor. Slang has been called "poetry in the rough," and it is not all coarse or vulgar. There is a prosaic as well as a poetic license. The man in the street calls a charming girl, for instance, a "daisy." Surely this is not inelegant, and such a reference will be understood a century from now. Slang, to prove adjuvant to our speech, which is growing more and more rigid and conventional, should be terse; it should make for force and clarity, without any sacrifice of beauty.

In the passage's second line, why does the author contend that Shakespeare would be more at home in Chicago than in London?

Possible Answers:

He would be able to escape the vulgarity of English slang.

He would discover a whole new form of expression, unfamiliar to Elizabethan England.

In the “messenger boys and clerks” he would find characters reminiscent of the heroes of his plays.

The author does not contend that Shakespeare would be more at home in Chicago than in London.

He would find the English language used in a more poetic, elastic, and familiar manner.

Correct answer:

He would find the English language used in a more poetic, elastic, and familiar manner.

Explanation:

In order to answer this question, it is necessary to consider what you know about the passage as a whole. The author makes no obvious statement as to why Shakespeare would feel more at home in Chicago than in London, but the way in which he discusses slang usage in Chicago in comparison to the London that existed hundreds of years ago provides a clue that the author believes contemporary London to be lacking in colorful language. The author states that Shakespeare would be enamored with Chicago because of the poetic usage of slang, and because the slang that was being used would be familiar to Shakespeare as it resembles the language found often in his plays.

Example Question #1 : Argument Relationships

1 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

2 There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. 3 In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled forever. …

4 France, less favored on the whole as to matters spiritual than her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothness downhill, making paper money and spending it. 5 Under the guidance of her Christian pastors, she entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive, because he had not kneeled down in the rain to do honor to a dirty procession of monks which passed within his view, at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards. 6 It is likely enough that, rooted in the woods of France and Norway, there were growing trees, when that sufferer was put to death, already marked by the Woodman, Fate, to come down and be sawn into boards, to make a certain movable framework with a sack and a knife in it, terrible in history.

What is the purpose of Sentence 2 in the passage?

Possible Answers:

To clearly establish which country has superior monarchs

To mock the superficiality of France’s and England’s electorates

To foreshadow future conflict between the rulers of France and England

To subtly insult the English rulers

To establish that the situation is France is nearly identical to the situation in England

Correct answer:

To establish that the situation is France is nearly identical to the situation in England

Explanation:

By using virtually identical descriptions to depict the rulers of England and France (“There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France”), the author is making a point about these rulers’ interchangeability. Reading closely the rest of the passage, we can apply this interchangeability more broadly to the political climates in France and England.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859).

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