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

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

"Science Fiction and Society" by Will Floyd

Science fiction and fantasy novels are often seen as pure escapism; however, many authors use the fantastic or futuristic aspects of their work to comment on contemporary problems. Normally this is done by including things that seem quite familiar to a reader, but giving them small twists rooted in the author’s fabricated world. Subjects like racism are often hard for certain writers to analyze without causing an uproar among certain readers. By subverting the prejudice to being directed against a space alien, a completely unfamiliar being, a science fiction author can reinterpret why humans possess hatred for other groups. This can take the form of prejudice against things that people in reality are not normally prejudiced against. These analyses show the erratic and arbitrary nature of racism.

Fantasy books can offer a similar level of surprise for readers who think they know what the usual course of events would be in the regular world. By making the fantasy the focus of what's occurring in the narrative, love stories, war stories, and simple tales of overcoming obstacles can become pleasantly mystifying. Fantasy authors can create interesting takes on basic morality by simply injecting a small amount of magic into an old tale. Black-and-white approaches to good and evil seem much less trite and hackneyed when set in a fantastical, magical world. The ability for an audience to get lost in a magical world changes the expectations of the reader. Often, the threat of destruction in a beloved fantasy world will seem a darker occurrence than the threat to the world in which they live. This attachment to a created world allows science fiction and fantasy authors to discuss serious issues in a different manner to authors in other genres.

The author's argument is best summarized as __________.

Possible Answers:

science fiction and fantasy are two genres that have nothing in common

science fiction and fantasy are the best genres for pure literary escapism and ignore the issues of the real world

social commentary has no place in any kind of fiction or literary genre

science fiction and fantasy provide a unique ability to comment on society because of their fantastical elements

only hard-boiled realistic fiction is able to make any political or social commentary

Correct answer:

science fiction and fantasy provide a unique ability to comment on society because of their fantastical elements

Explanation:

The author states in just his second sentence that authors of science fiction and fantasy use their genres "to comment on contemporary problems." The last sentence notes that fantasy elements allow "science fiction and fantasy authors to discuss serious issues." This passage's wide focus on science fiction and fantasy's ability to discuss issues and problems is the best indicator of the author's main argument.

Example Question #11 : Meaning And Structure In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from The Frontier in American History, by Frederick Jackson Turner

But the larger part of what has been distinctive and valuable in America's contribution to the history of the human spirit has been due to this nation's peculiar experience in extending its type of frontier into new regions—and in creating peaceful societies with new ideals in the successive vast and differing geographic provinces which together make up the United States. Directly or indirectly these experiences shaped the life of both the Eastern and Western States, and even reacted upon the Old World, influencing the direction of its thought and progress. This experience has been fundamental in the economic, political, and social characteristics of the American people and in their conceptions of their destiny.

Writing at the close of 1796, the French minister to the United States, M. Adet, reported to his government that Jefferson could not be relied on to be devoted to French interests, and he added that "Jefferson, I say, is American, and by that name, he cannot be sincerely our friend. An American is the born enemy of all European peoples." Obviously erroneous as are these words, there was an element of truth in them. If we would understand this element of truth, we must study the transforming influence of the American wilderness, remote from Europe, and by its resources and its free opportunities affording the conditions under which a new people, with new social and political types and ideals, could arise to play its own part in the world, and to influence Europe.

The main idea of the passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

that French ministers should never be trusted

that Thomas Jefferson was the quintessential American

that the American experience is different because of its frontier and wilderness

that there is little difference between Europe and America

that the wilderness is an overhyped element of American life

Correct answer:

that the American experience is different because of its frontier and wilderness

Explanation:

The opening sentence refers to "this nation's peculiar experience" with the frontier, and the first paragraph notes how the frontier "experience has been fundamental" to America's characteristics. The second paragraph furthers this idea by noting "the transforming influence of the American wilderness."

Example Question #12 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

Science-fiction and Society by Will Floyd

Science-fiction and fantasy novels are often seen as pure escapism; however, many authors use the fantasy or futuristic aspects of their work to comment on contemporary problems. Normally this is done by having things that seem quite familiar to a reader, but giving them small twists rooted in the author’s fabricated world. Subjects like racism are often hard for certain writers to analyze without causing an uproar among certain readers. By subverting the prejudice to being directed against a space alien, a completely unfamiliar being, a science fiction author can reinterpret why humans possess hatred for other groups. This can take the form of prejudice against things that people in reality are not normally prejudiced against. These analyses show the erratic and arbitrary nature of racism.

Fantasy books can offer a similar level of surprise for readers who think they know what the usual course of events would be in the regular world. By making the fantasy the focus of what's occurring in the narrative, love stories, war stories, and simple tales of overcoming obstacles can become pleasantly mystifying. Fantasy authors can create interesting takes on basic morality by simply injecting a small amount of magic into an old tale. Black-and-white approaches to good and evil seem much less trite and hackneyed when set in a fantastical, magical world. The ability for an audience to get lost in a magical world changes the expectations of the reader. Often, the threat of destruction in a beloved fantasy world will seem a darker occurrence than the threat to the world in which they live. This attachment to a created world allows science fiction and fantasy authors to discuss serious issues in a different manner to authors in other genres.

The main idea of the passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

science fiction and fantasy are both genres with extremely small fanbases.

science fiction and fantasy offer nothing to society beyond mere escapism.

science fiction and fanstasy readers are not smart enough to read other genres.

the world of science fiction and fantasy novels are too fabricated.

science fiction and fantasy allow more room for their authors to criticize societal problems.

Correct answer:

science fiction and fantasy allow more room for their authors to criticize societal problems.

Explanation:

The author actually is quite approving of science fiction and fantasy's ability to discuss generally taboo issues. The main idea will therefore have quite a positive connotation, and the ability to "criticize social problems" is key to his view of both genres.

Example Question #13 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

Political Representation by Will Floyd

Pundits often decry the gridlock in Washington, DC. Partisanship frequently makes legislators oppose bills they had supported in the past. Political grandstanding regularly takes the place of reasoned compromise or deal making. Many political scientists are trying to find ways to resolve these issues with Constitutional boundaries. One of the more popular suggestions is a different voting system called proportional representation. Proportional representation operates under the theory that each vote will help place a candidate in the legislature, rather than the current winner take all method of elections in the United States. Under proportional representation, candidates do not run for a specific seat in a particular district, but instead are part of a ranked list of candidates for each political party; therefore, if a political party receives thirty percent of the votes, thirty percent of the seats will be held by this party. Critics of proportional representation claim the system gives too much power to fringe candidates and political parties, whose only goal would be to destroy the political system. This cynical view of proportional representation stems from the example of countries currently using proportional representation. As it is, political scientists that do argue for proportional representation are trying to find a way around the current problems that exist in the United States’ political system, and feel a third party might create new pressures on the two party system currently causing such problems. The advocates of proportional representation do not argue that proportional representation is a perfect system, but also argue that we are not in a perfect system and need something to change.

The main idea of the passage is

Possible Answers:

proportional representation is an interesting voting method that would still not solve any of Washington, DC's problems

proportional representation is an approach to fixing the problems of the political system advocated by certain political scientists

proportional representation would fix every flaw in the American political system, and has no issues that would arise from it

proportional representation is a strange voting method few serious political scientists have even considered as a serious option

incumbent legislators are adamantly opposed to proportional representation and would never allow such a system to be imposed

Correct answer:

proportional representation is an approach to fixing the problems of the political system advocated by certain political scientists

Explanation:

The author primarily discusses proportional representation not just as an interesting system of voting, but in the way it would effect the political problems in America. Additionally, the author is very careful to put distance between the opinions of the political scientists advocating proportional representation and the opinions given in the passage itself.

Example Question #12 : Meaning And Structure In Single Answer Questions

A Short History of the Electric Guitar, by Will Floyd

Any modern musical performance is almost impossible to countenance without the presence of an electric guitar. Most of the time it is a solid-body electric guitar, and while they seem ubiquitous and obvious now, that was not always the case. First invented in the early 1930s, the first electric guitar simply amplified existing guitars. No one thought of it as a new instrument, but merely a way to put a microphone inside of the guitar. Through the use of electronic pickups that went straight to an amplifier, the sound of the guitar could be broadcast over loud jazz bands with drums and horns. At the time, most everyone believed an electric guitar still had to look like an acoustic guitar, and all models featured a hollow body acoustic shape that would resonate with the sound of the guitar strings. In all actuality, the only necessity for an electric guitar is an electric pickup to capture their small vibrations. An electric guitar does not, and never did, need a space to resonate the sound of the strings. Instead, it could be a simple block, with the fret-board, strings, and a pick up attached to a piece of lumber. This method is exactly what the famous guitar player and maker Les Paul did with his “Log,” but Les Paul's “Log” revealed some of the biases against a solid-body guitar. While the guitar was just one solid piece of wood, Paul would attach two wings to it that made the guitar look like a hollow body.

Despite Les Paul’s innovations, few manufacturers made a marketable solid-body guitar. Rickenbacker and Bigsby were both companies that made limited productions of solid-body electric guitars. Leo Fender was the first luthier to make a popular, mass-market electric solid-body guitar. Leo Fender started his career by working on radios and other small electronic devices, but developed an interest in building guitars. Immediately after World War II, big bands were considered antiquated, and small honky-tonk and boogie-woogie combos wanted cheaper, sturdier, and better intonated guitars, that they could play faster and louder. Leo Fender obliged with his Esquire guitar. Looking completely unlike any guitar made before, and being extremely thin, with no resonating panels, Fender’s guitar was revolutionary. While Fender continued to tweak it through the years, one thing remains the same: the general shape of the guitar. Renamed first the Broadcaster, then the more famous Telecaster, the silhouette of Fender’s Esquire is still a popular choice among musicians today.

The main idea of the passage is that __________.

Possible Answers:

electric solid body guitars are not as well made as hollow body guitars, despite being more popular

Leo Fender and Les Paul were bitter enemies who did not appreciate each other's developments to the electric guitar

the electric solid body guitar was an invention that needed many refinements and advancements to be popular

electric solid body guitars are barely used by modern musicians, thanks to the many changes made to it by Leo Fender

Les Paul was the true creator of the electric solid body guitar, and never got the credit he deserved

Correct answer:

the electric solid body guitar was an invention that needed many refinements and advancements to be popular

Explanation:

The author writes about many different developments made to guitars throughout history.  Despite the many topics, the author begins the passage with a commentary about the electric guitar's popularity, and ends by commenting on the popular commercial success of Leo Fender's models. This indicates the author's main idea is that the electric solid body guitar's popularity is the driving force of describing all of the innovations placed into the guitar.

Example Question #15 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

Baseball, Then and Now, by Will Floyd

The twenty-first-century baseball fan would hardly recognize the nineteenth-century version of the national pastime. The massive stadiums, pristine uniforms, and even most articles of equipment integral to the modern game were all unfamiliar to players in the late-nineteenth-century.

The current number of balls and strikes that each batter is allowed was not settled until the 1890s. Fielding gloves were not utilized until the 1880s. Players could even call for a high or low pitch as recently as 1900. The biggest misconception about nineteenth-century baseball from a modern point-of-view is assuming all pitching was done the way it is now. In fact, until 1893 pitchers operated out of a box a mere 45 feet away. The short distance was no problem, as the original rules for pitching required an underhand motion. As athletes have done for centuries, pitchers of the nineteenth century figured out ways to throw harder and circumvent the rules. Eventually, pitchers were taking a running start from 45 feet away and throwing overhand. Baseball players and administrators quickly realized that such pitching was a safety hazard at 45 feet, and it creates a tedious game in which no one could score. Baseball pushed the pitcher back to sixty feet and six inches, introduced the pitcher’s mound, and the slab the pitcher must be rooted to, pushing baseball closer to its modern form. These changes in baseball’s early years made the game the treasured sport it is today.

The main idea of the passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

nineteenth-century baseball's differences with the modern game are largely superficial

that baseball has hardly changed since it was first organized as a sport

nineteenth-century pitchers would do quite well in the modern game

a shorter mound distance was used in the nineteenth century

that the modern baseball fan would hardly recognize the nineteenth-century version of the game

Correct answer:

that the modern baseball fan would hardly recognize the nineteenth-century version of the game

Explanation:

The author describes a host of differences between nineteenth-century baseball and the modern game. The author does this to indicate how a modern fan would scarcely recognize the nineteenth-century version of baseball, which is the main idea of the passage.

Example Question #2 : Understanding The Content Of Humanities Passages

"Poetry and Philosophy" by Justin Bailey

As the logical positivism rose to ascendancy, poetic language was increasingly seen as merely emotive. Wittgenstein’s influential Tractatus argued that only language corresponding to observable states of affairs in the world was meaningful, thus ruling out the value of imaginative language in saying anything about the world. Poetry’s contribution was rather that it showed what could not be said, a layer of reality which Wittgenstein called the “mystical.” Despite Wittgenstein’s interest in the mystical value of poetry, his successors abandoned the mystical as a meaningful category, exiling poetry in a sort of no man’s land where its only power to move came through the empathy of shared feeling.

Yet some thinkers, like Martin Heidegger, reacted strongly to the pretensions of an instrumental theory of knowledge to make sense of the world. Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur all gave central value to poetry in their philosophical method; signifying a growing sense among continental thinkers that poetic knowing was an important key to recovering some vital way of talking about and experiencing the world that had been lost.

The author is primarily concerned with __________.

Possible Answers:

enumerating the reasons why Wittgenstein and his successors were misguided in their philosophical approach

exploring the contribution of philosophy to discussions of poetic method and appreciation

arguing that given the current trajectory of philosophy, poetry will soon no longer be studied in mainstream society

explaining various theories of why poetic language has the power to move the human spirit

describing the mainstream marginalization of poetry among philosophers of a certain period before noting significant exceptions

Correct answer:

describing the mainstream marginalization of poetry among philosophers of a certain period before noting significant exceptions

Explanation:

The first paragraph states the main argument, which can be gleaned from the first and last sentence of the paragraph. The second paragraph introduces a contrast with the word "yet" and then proceeds to enumerate three examples of philosophers who made poetry a part of their philosophical method. 

Example Question #11 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

"Developments in Understanding Ancient Greek Art" by Will Floyd

Most people imagine stark white temples and plain marble statues as the ideal of ancient Greek art. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the ancient Greeks lavished their statues, sculptures, and buildings with bright colors. The common misconception of plainly adorned Hellenic art can be blamed on the ancient Greeks’ biggest proponents in history. Enlightenment-era classicists eagerly visited ancient ruins in the eighteenth century and saw artifacts that had been weathered to plain white stone through decades of neglect. By the time nineteenth-century archaeologists found proof that the Parthenon and images of the Gods were meant to be in vivid hues, eminent scholars in Europe refused to countenance that pure white marble was not antiquity’s aesthetic paradigm. Widespread acknowledgement of the ancient Greeks’ adoration of bright colors only came in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as scientific tests proved ancient statuary and buildings had once been covered in polychrome paint.

The main idea of the passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

the Greeks had no knowledge of how to sculpt marble

Greek art was uninspiring to most people in history

that contrary to popular belief, Greek art was brightly painted

the Greeks' ideal in art was plain white marble

that popular assumptions about ancient Greeks are largely true

Correct answer:

that contrary to popular belief, Greek art was brightly painted

Explanation:

The passage discusses one main aspect of ancient Greek art: the fact they painted their sculptures and architecture in bright colors. All other points revolve around the debates and discussions about the ancient Greeks' use of color in art.

Example Question #12 : Meaning And Structure In Single Answer Questions

"The Chemistry of Cooking" by Will Floyd

Molecular gastronomy is a new take on cooking that has spread like wildfire through the culinary world in the last few decades. At its core, molecular gastronomy seeks to redefine and reimagine how food is cooked in restaurant kitchens, using technology, chemistry, and physics to transform pedestrian dishes into surprising forms and textures. These techniques create mystifying dining experiences, while using intimately familiar flavors. Chefs who use molecular gastronomy do not wish merely to be chemists or engineers, but are chefs above all else. To create a special dining experience, the chef begins first and foremost with the dish they wish to serve. Tools like an anti-griddle, a flat top that instantly freezes anything that touches it, or maltodextrin, an additive that can turn liquids into powder, are not there simply to play with the food. A molecular gastronomist will first think of the dish they want to serve, like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Next, they will find a way to get the same flavors and textures in a unique way. The chicken might not be fried, but go through a process that will give it a crispy skin and juicy meat while never broaching hot oil. The mashed potatoes could become a light sauce, and then be put on an anti-griddle to give a new look, texture, and temperature. While the diner will have something that might look like a dessert or a soup, in actuality what they are having is a homestyle dish that they remember from childhood. This sense of familiarity is the ultimate goal of any chef utilizing molecular gastronomy.

The main idea of the passage is that __________.

Possible Answers:

molecular gastronomy is a culinary style only appreciated by the particular chefs who use it and no others

molecular gastronomy does not care at all about the flavor of food, but just the techniques that can transform food.

molecular gastronomy is a collection of culinary techniques that makes food unrecognizable to diners

molecular gastronomy is making young chefs never learn any classic techniques

molecular gastronomy is a culinary technique that seeks to transform dining experiences with technology and science

Correct answer:

molecular gastronomy is a culinary technique that seeks to transform dining experiences with technology and science

Explanation:

The author states outright that molecular gastronomy "has spread like wildfire," and that it "seeks to redefine and reimagine how food is cooked." This means it is both popular and rooted fundamentally around changing culinary experiences with science and technology. Key also is the notion that molecular gastronomy wishes to use familiar flavors and concepts at its root.

Example Question #191 : Gre Verbal Reasoning

"Technology of the Future" by Will Floyd

Technological revolutions rarely come in expected forms. Predictions of the future are usually found to be humorous in retrospect, as the theories put forward usually involve too much of the present. Typically, an author who imagines the future sees some small developments in the technology already in use, without countenancing a possible sudden change in how gadgets are made. Science fiction from before the personal computer’s rise tended to show computers as large machines only run by specialists. Before the development of tablets, small reading devices belonging to each person were hardly imagined. None of these now-strange conjectures on the future should be ridiculed. Even those researchers and scientists who are trying to create new breakthroughs in technology often have no idea of what their work will produce. The personal computer was initially divided into office models and home models, which were supposed to have different graphics, power, and performance specifics. In reality, people desired the office model in their home. Such adoptions happen all the time in the world of technology, with such disparate examples as the personal computer and the Model T automobile both changing future technology by becoming the most popular forms in the marketplace. Looking to product trends in the marketplace may allow us to predict future technological developments with more accuracy.

The main idea of the passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

that predictions of technological developments are usually quite difficult to get right

technology develops in entirely predictable ways that are usually easy to pin down

people should never try to predict technological revolutions because they will always be wrong

personal computers are highly popular

technological developments are usually so slight as to not make a large difference

Correct answer:

that predictions of technological developments are usually quite difficult to get right

Explanation:

The passage does begin by discussing how most predictions of technological advancements are quite bad. The overall theme of the passage, however, is that the way technology develops is often variable, and makes predicting such innovations quite difficult.

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