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 #21 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from "Ramblings in Cheapside" by Samuel Butler (1890)

Walking the other day in Cheapside I saw some turtles in Mr. Sweeting’s window, and was tempted to stay and look at them. As I did so I was struck not more by the defenses with which they were hedged about, than by the fatuousness of trying to hedge that in at all which, if hedged thoroughly, must die of its own defensefulness. The holes for the head and feet through which the turtle leaks out, as it were, on to the exterior world, and through which it again absorbs the exterior world into itself—"catching on” through them to things that are thus both turtle and not turtle at one and the same time—these holes stultify the armor, and show it to have been designed by a creature with more of faithfulness to a fixed idea, and hence one-sidedness, than of that quick sense of relative importance and their changes, which is the main factor of good living.

The turtle obviously had no sense of proportion; it differed so widely from myself that I could not comprehend it; and as this word occurred to me, it occurred also that until my body comprehended its body in a physical material sense, neither would my mind be able to comprehend its mind with any thoroughness. For unity of mind can only be consummated by unity of body; everything, therefore, must be in some respects both knave and fool to all that which has not eaten it, or by which it has not been eaten. As long as the turtle was in the window and I in the street outside, there was no chance of our comprehending one another.

The author's primary purpose in discussing a turtle in a shop window is to __________.

Possible Answers:

mock a turtle's existence as an odd creature

convince the reader to buy a turtle as a pet

mock shopkeepers in Cheapside

demonstrate the superiority of humanity

demonstrate the inability of a human to truly understand another creature

Correct answer:

demonstrate the inability of a human to truly understand another creature

Explanation:

The final sentence of the passage reads, "As long as the turtle was in the window and I in the street outside, there was no chance of our comprehending one another." This summation neatly follows the tone and argument of rest of the passage. The discussion of the turtle's shell, its interactions with the world, and the turtle looking at the author through the window all reinforce the idea that a turtle and a human cannot comprehend each other.

Example Question #22 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from "Ramblings in Cheapside" by Samuel Butler (1890)

Walking the other day in Cheapside I saw some turtles in Mr. Sweeting’s window, and was tempted to stay and look at them. As I did so I was struck not more by the defenses with which they were hedged about, than by the fatuousness of trying to hedge that in at all which, if hedged thoroughly, must die of its own defensefulness. The holes for the head and feet through which the turtle leaks out, as it were, on to the exterior world, and through which it again absorbs the exterior world into itself—"catching on” through them to things that are thus both turtle and not turtle at one and the same time—these holes stultify the armor, and show it to have been designed by a creature with more of faithfulness to a fixed idea, and hence one-sidedness, than of that quick sense of relative importance and their changes, which is the main factor of good living.

The turtle obviously had no sense of proportion; it differed so widely from myself that I could not comprehend it; and as this word occurred to me, it occurred also that until my body comprehended its body in a physical material sense, neither would my mind be able to comprehend its mind with any thoroughness. For unity of mind can only be consummated by unity of body; everything, therefore, must be in some respects both knave and fool to all that which has not eaten it, or by which it has not been eaten. As long as the turtle was in the window and I in the street outside, there was no chance of our comprehending one another.

The author's main argument in the passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

that a shop window is a useless diversion

that a shop window can hold any number of unusual creatures

that humans should treat other animals better

that humans are superior to all other animals on Earth

that a human and a turtle are so different that they cannot understand each other

Correct answer:

that a human and a turtle are so different that they cannot understand each other

Explanation:

The author primarily focuses on the turtle in the shop window, and in particular the turtle's incomprehensibility. The final phrase, "there was no chance of our comprehending one another," puts the author and the turtle on a similar level, while also showing that they do not understand each other.

Example Question #23 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from The God-Idea of the Ancients: or, Sex in Religion, by Elizabeth Burt Gamble (1897)

Regarding the introduction of Christianity into Ireland it is claimed by certain writers that the Irish did not receive the “new religion” from Greek missionaries; but when at the close of the cycle, a new solar deity, an avatar of Vishnu or Krishna was announced, and when missionaries from the East proclaimed the glad tidings of a risen Savior, the Irish people gladly accepted their teachings, not, however, as a new system, but as the fulfillment to them of the prophecy of the most ancient seers of the East, and as part and parcel of the religion of their forefathers. Therefore when the devotees of the Roman faith, probably about the close of the fifth century of the Christian era, attempted to “convert” Ireland, they found a religion differing from their own only in the fact that it was not subject to Rome, and was free from the many corruptions and superstitions which through the extreme ignorance and misapprehension of its Western adherents had been engrafted upon it.

The author's main argument is best summarized as __________.

Possible Answers:

the Irish only adopted Christianity through Roman influence

the Irish adopted Christianity in their own manner from a variety of sources

the Irish never adopted Christianity despite repeated missionary efforts

the Irish have never had a unique form of Christianity

the Irish never listened to Greek missionaries, Eastern prophets, or Western adherents

Correct answer:

the Irish adopted Christianity in their own manner from a variety of sources

Explanation:

The author notes that Irish Christianity differed from Roman faith "in the fact that it was not subject to Rome." This indicates the author believes the Irish found Christianity, but with little assistance from Rome.

Example Question #53 : Critical Comprehension

"A Short History of Recent Zoos" by Will Floyd

Throughout the twentieth century, zoos underwent large-scale transformations. Before World War I, zoos were small parts of larger municipal parks, and featured sparse cages with little room for their inhabitants. This model held sway until mid-century, with many zoos struggling to remain open during the Great Depression and World War II. The successful zoos survived through making themselves cheap family entertainment. In the 1960s, zoos began to change in drastic ways. With the growing strength of environmental and animal rights movements, the public clamored for more naturalistic and spacious environments in which the animals could live.

The most emblematic of these transformations was the development of the Los Angeles Zoo. In 1966, the cramped and antiquated zoo used grants from the city government to move to a brand-new facility. Although the zoo moved just two miles away, the new location was exponentially bigger, and it featured fresh landscapes that resembled the animals’ natural habitats, instead of dilapidated cages. As the Los Angeles Zoo developed, it was able to work on preservation and conservation efforts for endangered species. New educational programs also became key elements of the Zoo’s mission. Now the old Zoo’s cages stand as ruins and reminders of what past generations saw when they visited years ago.

The main idea of the passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

that zoos are largely the same as they were a hundred years ago

that zoos changed a great deal throughout the twentieth century

that zoos are unimportant aspects of urban living

the Great Depression and World War II changed zoos a great deal

that the Los Angeles Zoo made other zoos less enjoyable

Correct answer:

that zoos changed a great deal throughout the twentieth century

Explanation:

The opening sentence of the passage notes zoos' "large scale transformations," while the final sentence notes "reminders" of what zoos were like "years ago." In between, the author repeatedly focuses on how and why zoos changed in the twentieth century.

Example Question #24 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

"Unseen Characters" by Will Floyd

Many plays, films, and television shows use the storytelling device of the unseen character. As the name implies, this trope involves a character the audience never directly encounters, but instead only hears about through the words of other characters. A common assumption is that a character that never speaks or is visible to the viewers of a play or film would only be a minor element, left to be the butt of jokes or as a simple way to add depth to a major character. In fact, unseen characters are frequently quite important, and further the plot because of their absence. The most notable instance of such a character is Godot in Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. The two main characters in the play, Vladimir and Estragon, sit patiently by a tree, expecting Godot to come by at any moment. Three other characters, Lucky, Pozzo, and a boy, all speak to Vladimir and Estragon, with Godot never alighting on the stage. Nonetheless, Godot’s machinations in making the men wait—along with his supposed intentions—drive the play’s narrative. Godot, never seen or heard from directly, becomes the largest force in the created world of the play. This use of an unseen character creates an added mystery and increases the tension between the two main characters. Beckett uses the unseen character not as a gimmick or cheap ploy, but instead as the central focus of his play.

The main idea of the passage is that __________.

Possible Answers:

Waiting for Godot is one of the greatest plays in theater history

unseen characters are an interesting literary device that can improve a work of literature

unseen characters can never be used effectively in any context

unseen characters are usually only successful as the butt of jokes

Waiting for Godot is a simplistic play with little dramatic value

Correct answer:

unseen characters are an interesting literary device that can improve a work of literature

Explanation:

The passage focuses on unseen characters. The explanation of Waiting for Godot is used as an illustration of the overall point about unseen characters, so the answers related to Waiting for Godot can be ruled out. The author also makes clear that unseen characters are able to be used quite well as central characters that enhance the plot and are effective tools for authors.

Example Question #25 : Summarizing And Describing Passage Content In Single Answer Questions

"Fact and Representation" by Will Floyd

Professional wrestling is frequently criticized because of its unreality. For the wrestlers, promoters, and fans who love professional wrestling, the very fact that professional wrestling is “fake” is central to their love of wrestling. This love finds its home in the concept of “kayfabe.” Kayfabe is the fabricated world of wrestling, covering every element of its storytelling, from its outlandish characters to its bitter feuds, even to the specific politics about which wrestler will become champion.

Throughout the twentieth century, kayfabe was a closely guarded secret held only by those who were in the know about a wrestling company. Wrestlers could not appear out of character at any moment they were in public, for fear this revelation would give away the secrets of the wrestling promotion. A "good guy" wrestler could never even socialize with a "bad guy" wrestler, for fear that fans would see enemies together. While still quite fake, this strict adherence to the created world issued an air of believability for wrestling’s biggest fans. In recent years, wrestling’s curtain of believability has been torn apart, as the internet has allowed many personal details about wrestlers to come to light. Nonetheless, many wrestling fans still only refer to their heroes by their created names, understanding them through their invented personalities.

The main idea of the passage is that __________.

Possible Answers:

professional wrestling is too fake to be of any serious interest to people

a central and beloved component of professional wrestling is its created reality, known as "kayfabe"

wrestling has had to become more and more authentic in recent years to remain popular

the tearing of wrestling's curtain of believability has made it become unpopular

the biggest issue with "kayfabe" is its difficulty in being kept up by wrestlers

Correct answer:

a central and beloved component of professional wrestling is its created reality, known as "kayfabe"

Explanation:

The topic of discussion throughout the passage is the role of "kayfabe," or the created world of professional wrestling. The author highlights many different dimensions, and its history. The author does this to show how central kayfabe is to professional wrestling for its fans and participants.

Example Question #1 : Understanding The Content Of Humanities Passages

Adapted from “The Influence of the Conception of Evolution on Modern Philosophy” by H. Höffding (1909) in Evolution in Modern Thought (1917 ed.)

When The Origin of Species appeared fifty years ago, Romantic speculation, Schelling's and Hegel's philosophy, still reigned on the continent, while in England, Positivism, the philosophy of Comte and Stuart Mill, represented the most important trend of thought. German speculation had much to say on evolution; it even pretended to be a philosophy of evolution. But then the word "evolution" was to be taken in an ideal, not in a real, sense. To speculative thought, the forms and types of nature formed a system of ideas, within which any form could lead us by continuous transitions to any other. It was a classificatory system which was regarded as a divine world of thought or images, within which metamorphoses could go on—a condition comparable with that in the mind of the poet when one image follows another with imperceptible changes.

Goethe's ideas of evolution, as expressed in his Metamorphosen der Pflanzen und der Thiere, belong to this category; it is, therefore, incorrect to call him a forerunner of Darwin. Schelling and Hegel held the same idea; Hegel expressly rejected the conception of a real evolution in time as coarse and materialistic. "Nature," he says, "is to be considered as a system of stages, the one necessarily arising from the other, and being the nearest truth of that from which it proceeds; but not in such a way that the one is naturally generated by the other; on the contrary [their connection lies] in the inner idea which is the ground of nature. The metamorphosis can be ascribed only to the notion as such, because it alone is evolution.... It has been a clumsy idea in the older as well as in the newer philosophy of nature, to regard the transformation and the transition from one natural form and sphere to a higher as an outward and actual production."

Which of the following best describes the author’s presentation of Hegel’s thought about evolution?

Possible Answers:

It is not comprised of progressive stages, each being the natural cause of the next.

It is a murky matter without much real reasoning at all.

None of the other answers

It is a natural process, at least of sorts.

It is purely a matter for our casual reflection.

Correct answer:

It is not comprised of progressive stages, each being the natural cause of the next.

Explanation:

Among philosophers, Hegel is perhaps one of the hardest to read. Stay very close to this text and use context clues from within the passage. Clearly, Hegel is not being presented as an exponent of scientific evolution in the fashion of Darwin. The key portion of the passage is, "A system of stages, the one necessarily arising from the other, and being the nearest truth of that from which it proceeds; but not in such a way that the one is naturally generated by the other." Each stage is the "nearest truth" for the one following it. However, it is not the natural cause of it. Yes, Hegel is strange—and far more cryptic than this small selection. However, we have enough details to get our answer!

Example Question #1 : Understanding Style, Argument, And Organization In Humanities Passages

Adapted from “The Influence of the Conception of Evolution on Modern Philosophy” by H. Höffding (1909) in Evolution in Modern Thought (1917 ed.)

When The Origin of Species appeared fifty years ago, Romantic speculation, Schelling's and Hegel's philosophy, still reigned on the continent, while in England, Positivism, the philosophy of Comte and Stuart Mill, represented the most important trend of thought. German speculation had much to say on evolution; it even pretended to be a philosophy of evolution. But then the word "evolution" was to be taken in an ideal, not in a real, sense. To speculative thought, the forms and types of nature formed a system of ideas, within which any form could lead us by continuous transitions to any other. It was a classificatory system which was regarded as a divine world of thought or images, within which metamorphoses could go on—a condition comparable with that in the mind of the poet when one image follows another with imperceptible changes.

Goethe's ideas of evolution, as expressed in his Metamorphosen der Pflanzen und der Thiere, belong to this category; it is, therefore, incorrect to call him a forerunner of Darwin. Schelling and Hegel held the same idea; Hegel expressly rejected the conception of a real evolution in time as coarse and materialistic. "Nature," he says, "is to be considered as a system of stages, the one necessarily arising from the other, and being the nearest truth of that from which it proceeds; but not in such a way that the one is naturally generated by the other; on the contrary [their connection lies] in the inner idea which is the ground of nature. The metamorphosis can be ascribed only to the notion as such, because it alone is evolution.... It has been a clumsy idea in the older as well as in the newer philosophy of nature, to regard the transformation and the transition from one natural form and sphere to a higher as an outward and actual production."

Which of the following is likely true about “Romantic speculation”?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

It represented a reaction against the scientific details of evolutionary thought.

It really was not scientific in nature.

It was emotional and had mostly to do with themes taken from love ballads.

It was surprisingly correct about scientific details.

Correct answer:

It really was not scientific in nature.

Explanation:

This answer is quite clear if you pay attention to two sentences: (1) "It even pretended to be a philosophy of evolution"; (2) "But then the word 'evolution' was to be taken in an ideal, not in a real, sense." The idea is that this "Romantic" philosophy was more of a revelry than a real undertaking of science.

Example Question #201 : Gre Verbal Reasoning

Idioms and Rhyming Slang by Will Floyd

While dialects and slang exist in most corners of the world, a few peculiar language habits stand out as developing entirely new ways of speaking. Most famously, the rhyming Cockney slang of East London that developed in the late nineteenth century has created many different idioms. The process of creating rhyming slang appears quite simple. A common word gets replaced by a phrase whose terminal syllable rhymes with the word. Thus, “wife” would become “trouble and strife,” except rhyming slang quite frequently will not stop there. Remarkably, the rhyming component of the phrase will be dropped altogether, so that wife is actually just “trouble.” Other notable examples is “stairs” becoming “apples,” from “apples and pears,” and “bottle” becoming “aris,” shortened from “Aristotle.”

Obviously, this can lead to quite a bit of confusion to a person unfamiliar with rhyming slang, or someone who does not know the full rhymes. This problem is exacerbated by the fluidity of rhyming slang. Celebrities and politicians can often lend their names to new forms, and “Britney Spears” has become a term for “beers” in recent years. This confusion may actually be an intentional development of rhyming slang. Theories abound about the origin of rhyming slang, with the one constant being a form of deception by the people using the slang, with the language of shady shopkeepers or the doubletalk of thieves as the most commonly cited examples. No matter the origin, rhyming Cockney slang is a true innovation on the English language.

The main idea of the passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

rhyming Cockney slang is a particularly innovative dialectic

rhyming slang was created by a single individual to get around the police

Cockney people cannot be trusted by anyone in business dealings

dialects are slight revisions to a language that are usually easy to pick up by native speakers

rhyming slang can be confusing to outsiders

Correct answer:

rhyming Cockney slang is a particularly innovative dialectic

Explanation:

The author details rhyming Cockney slang in great detail, showing its development and variations. The overall idea of the passage is that Cockney slang has turned into a robust dialect with its own power as a language. The correct answer needs to reflect this positive view of rhyming Cockney slang.

Example Question #202 : Gre Verbal Reasoning

Adapted from Seven Discourses Delivered in the Royal Academy By the President by Joshua Reynolds (1778)

All the objects which are exhibited to our view by nature, upon close examination will be found to have their blemishes and defects. The most beautiful forms have something about them like weakness, minuteness, or imperfection. But it is not every eye that perceives these blemishes. It must be an eye long used to the contemplation and comparison of these forms—and which, by a long habit of observing what any set of objects of the same kind have in common, that alone can acquire the power of discerning what each wants in particular. This long laborious comparison should be the first study of the painter who aims at the greatest style. By this means, he acquires a just idea of beautiful forms; he corrects nature by herself, her imperfect state by her more perfect. His eye being enabled to distinguish the accidental deficiencies, excrescences, and deformities of things from their general figures, he makes out an abstract idea of their forms more perfect than any one original—and what may seem a paradox, he learns to design naturally by drawing his figures unlike to any one object. This idea of the perfect state of nature, which the artist calls the ideal beauty, is the great leading principle by which works of genius are conducted. By this, Phidias acquired his fame. He wrought upon a sober principle what has so much excited the enthusiasm of the world—and by this method you, who have courage to tread the same path, may acquire equal reputation.

The main argument of the passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

a painter can perfect the blemishes of nature in his own work through careful study

a painter is born with a natural ability to draw images in nature

a painter can learn nothing through study

a painter can never do better than images in nature

a painter must always draw the imperfections of nature

Correct answer:

a painter can perfect the blemishes of nature in his own work through careful study

Explanation:

The passage contains two major themes: the imperfections of nature and the careful study a painter must undertake. These combine into the argument that a painter can perfect the blemishes in nature.

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