GRE Verbal : Summarizing and Describing Passage Content in Multiple-Answer Questions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Reading Comprehension

Passage adapted from "A Question of Politeness," (1912) by Agnes Repplier.

A great deal has been said and written during the past few years on the subject of American manners, and the consensus of opinion is, on the whole, unfavourable. We have been told, more in sorrow than in anger, that we are not a polite people; and our critics have cast about them for causes which may be held responsible for such a universal and lamentable result. Mr. Thomas Nelson Page, for example, is by way of thinking that the fault lies in the sudden expansion of wealth, in the intrusion into the social world of people who fail to understand its requirements, and in the universal "spoiling" of American children. He contrasts the South of his childhood, that wonderful "South before the war," which looms vaguely, but very grandly, through a half-century's haze, with the New York of to-day, which, alas! has nothing to soften its outlines. A more censorious critic in the "Atlantic Monthly" has also stated explicitly that for true consideration and courtliness we must hark back to certain old gentlewomen of ante-bellum days. "None of us born since the Civil War approach them in respect to some fine, nameless quality that gives them charm and atmosphere." It would seem, then, that the war, with its great emotions and its sustained heroism, imbued us with national life at the expense of our national manners.

The primary purpose of this passage is to __________.

Possible Answers:

research the effect of financial growth on American values

explain Thomas Nelson Page's beliefs about the southern united states prior to the Civil War

debunk the belief that American manners were better prior to the Civil War

discuss American decorum, and to provide arguments that attempt to explain it

criticize American manners after the Civil War

Correct answer:

discuss American decorum, and to provide arguments that attempt to explain it


The author herself, while open to the criticisms of others toward American manners, does not attempt to criticize them in his passage. Furthermore, while the author mentions Page, she only devotes two lines to him in order to share his opinion, before moving on to another argument. The expansion of wealth is mentioned but not researched, and the author does not focus on disproving the critics she cites, rather sharing them as other voices that attempt to explain the state of American voices.

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