GMAT Verbal : Analyzing Meaning, Purpose, and Effect of Specified Text in Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Phrase Choice And Effect

Adapted from “The Celebration of Intellect” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

I cannot consent to wander from the duties of this day into the fracas of politics. The brute noise of cannon has, I know, a most poetic echo in these days when it is an instrument of freedom and the primal sentiments of humanity. Yet it is but representative and a far-off means and servant; but here in the college we are in the presence of the constituency and the principle itself. Here is, or should be, the majesty of reason and the creative cause, and it were a compounding of all gradation and reverence to suffer the flash of swords and the boyish strife of passion and the feebleness of military strength to intrude on this sanctity and omnipotence of Intellectual Law.

Against the heroism of soldiers I set the heroism of scholars, which consists in ignoring the other. You shall not put up in your Academy the statue of Caesar or Pompey, of Nelson or Wellington, of Washington or Napoleon, of Garibaldi, but of Archimedes, of Milton, of Newton. . . .

For either science and literature is a hypocrisy, or it is not. If it be, then resign your charter to the Legislature, turn your college into barracks and warehouses, and divert the funds of your founders into the stock of a rope-walk or a candle-factory, a tan-yard or some other undoubted conveniency for the surrounding population. But if the intellectual interest be, as I hold, no hypocrisy, but the only reality, then it behooves us to enthrone it, obey it, and give it possession of us and ours; to give, among other possessions, the college into its hand casting down every idol, every pretender, every hoary lie, every dignified blunder that has crept into its administration.

What is the effect of the underlined sentence, “For either science and literature is a hypocrisy, or it is not"?

Possible Answers:

To clearly enunciate the details of the fundamental cultural options presented to the modern world

To shock the reader and listener with a stark contrast of the options that will be given in the following sentences

To proclaim the thesis of his talk

To render a stern judgment on the listeners and readers for their opinions

To begin overcoming the bias of scientists against literature

Correct answer:

To shock the reader and listener with a stark contrast of the options that will be given in the following sentences

Explanation:

The remainder of this paragraph has a certain "shock value" as Emerson discusses the details of what must happen if the culture comes to make its decisions regarding its value structure. This opening sentence presents the reader with a stark contrast between these options, making clear what is at stake.

Example Question #58 : Ap English Language

Adapted from “The Celebration of Intellect” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

I cannot consent to wander from the duties of this day into the fracas of politics. The brute noise of cannon has, I know, a most poetic echo in these days when it is an instrument of freedom and the primal sentiments of humanity. Yet it is but representative and a far-off means and servant; but here in the college we are in the presence of the constituency and the principle itself. Here is, or should be, the majesty of reason and the creative cause, and it were a compounding of all gradation and reverence to suffer the flash of swords and the boyish strife of passion and the feebleness of military strength to intrude on this sanctity and omnipotence of Intellectual Law.

Against the heroism of soldiers I set the heroism of scholars, which consists in ignoring the other. You shall not put up in your Academy the statue of Caesar or Pompey, of Nelson or Wellington, of Washington or Napoleon, of Garibaldi, but of Archimedes, of Milton, of Newton. . . .

For either science and literature is a hypocrisy, or it is not. If it be, then resign your charter to the Legislature, turn your college into barracks and warehouses, and divert the funds of your founders into the stock of a rope-walk or a candle-factory, a tan-yard or some other undoubted conveniency for the surrounding population. But if the intellectual interest be, as I hold, no hypocrisy, but the only reality, then it behooves us to enthrone it, obey it, and give it possession of us and ours; to give, among other possessions, the college into its hand casting down every idol, every pretender, every hoary lie, every dignified blunder that has crept into its administration.

What is the purpose of the statues mentioned in the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

To overcome a bias of many who are ignorant of important figures like Newton and Archimedes

To provide icons for the people that should be praised in the American intellectual awareness

To stress the importance of remembering the past

None of the other answer choices is correct.

To underscore the fact that most great artists are forgotten by history

Correct answer:

To provide icons for the people that should be praised in the American intellectual awareness

Explanation:

The point of this paragraph is to present the personages Emerson believes deserve the praise of culture and intellectual society. The statues are meant to represent the people he believes should be held in esteem by the people in academia whom he is addressing. He is exhorting them against exalting military figures and exhorting them to exalt other people like Newton, Archimedes, and Milton.

Example Question #2 : Meaning In Context

Adapted from “The Celebration of Intellect” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

I cannot consent to wander from the duties of this day into the fracas of politics. The brute noise of cannon has, I know, a most poetic echo in these days when it is an instrument of freedom and the primal sentiments of humanity. Yet it is but representative and a far-off means and servant; but here in the college we are in the presence of the constituency and the principle itself. Here is, or should be, the majesty of reason and the creative cause, and it were a compounding of all gradation and reverence to suffer the flash of swords and the boyish strife of passion and the feebleness of military strength to intrude on this sanctity and omnipotence of Intellectual Law.

Against the heroism of soldiers I set the heroism of scholars, which consists in ignoring the other. You shall not put up in your Academy the statue of Caesar or Pompey, of Nelson or Wellington, of Washington or Napoleon, of Garibaldi, but of Archimedes, of Milton, of Newton. . . .

For either science and literature is a hypocrisy, or it is not. If it be, then resign your charter to the Legislature, turn your college into barracks and warehouses, and divert the funds of your founders into the stock of a rope-walk or a candle-factory, a tan-yard or some other undoubted conveniency for the surrounding population. But if the intellectual interest be, as I hold, no hypocrisy, but the only reality, then it behooves us to enthrone it, obey it, and give it possession of us and ours; to give, among other possessions, the college into its hand casting down every idol, every pretender, every hoary lie, every dignified blunder that has crept into its administration.

What is meant by the underlined selection, “and a far-off means and servant”?

Possible Answers:

The goals of military are subordinate to those of culture.

Military valor is best undertaken by those of a servile mindset.

Slavery is the root of war, particularly in American culture in Emerson's day.

Learning is merely a means to an end.

None of the other answer choices is correct.

Correct answer:

The goals of military are subordinate to those of culture.

Explanation:

The whole context for interpreting this passage is: "Yet it [the cannon] is but representative and a far-off means and servant." This is referring to militarism in general, which is merely a distant ("far-off") means for higher goods (and a "servant," not the master of culture). It represents something subordinate (i.e. secondary) in rank and/or importance.

Example Question #1 : Phrase Choice And Effect

Adapted from “The Celebration of Intellect” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

I cannot consent to wander from the duties of this day into the fracas of politics. The brute noise of cannon has, I know, a most poetic echo in these days when it is an instrument of freedom and the primal sentiments of humanity. Yet it is but representative and a far-off means and servant; but here in the college we are in the presence of the constituency and the principle itself. Here is, or should be, the majesty of reason and the creative cause, and it were a compounding of all gradation and reverence to suffer the flash of swords and the boyish strife of passion and the feebleness of military strength to intrude on this sanctity and omnipotence of Intellectual Law.

Against the heroism of soldiers I set the heroism of scholars, which consists in ignoring the other. You shall not put up in your Academy the statue of Caesar or Pompey, of Nelson or Wellington, of Washington or Napoleon, of Garibaldi, but of Archimedes, of Milton, of Newton. . . .

For either science and literature is a hypocrisy, or it is not. If it be, then resign your charter to the Legislature, turn your college into barracks and warehouses, and divert the funds of your founders into the stock of a rope-walk or a candle-factory, a tan-yard or some other undoubted conveniency for the surrounding population. But if the intellectual interest be, as I hold, no hypocrisy, but the only reality, then it behooves us to enthrone it, obey it, and give it possession of us and ours; to give, among other possessions, the college into its hand casting down every idol, every pretender, every hoary lie, every dignified blunder that has crept into its administration.

What is the effect of the expression “dignified blunder” that is underlined in the passage?

Possible Answers:

To destroy the idols created by irreligious people

To question all authority and condemn it

To make a raucous joke

To subtly mock a kind of hidebound conservatism

To foreshadow the coming riots that would engulf the university

Correct answer:

To subtly mock a kind of hidebound conservatism

Explanation:

The expression itself is subtle in its placement, so Emerson clearly is not making an "over the top" sort of joke. Instead, he is "poking fun" at the administration of the university for the mistakes that it has likely made, though it gives them the appearance of being proper and "dignified." There is an irony in such "dignified blunders." Blunders are far from dignified things! To give such things the appearance of dignity could indicate a kind of conservatism that does not wish to change things.

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