GRE Verbal : Understanding How Parts of a Text Relate in Single-Answer Questions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #3 : Determining Authorial Purpose In Argumentative Humanities Passages

Adapted from The Idea of a University by John Henry Newman (1852)

I have been insisting, in my two preceding Discourses, first, on the cultivation of the intellect, as an end which may reasonably be pursued for its own sake; and next, on the nature of that cultivation, or what that cultivation consists in. Truth of whatever kind is the proper object of the intellect; its cultivation then lies in fitting it to apprehend and contemplate truth. Now the intellect in its present state, with exceptions which need not here be specified, does not discern truth intuitively, or as a whole. We know, not by a direct and simple vision, not at a glance, but, as it were, by piecemeal and accumulation, by a mental process, by going round an object, by the comparison, the combination, the mutual correction, the continual adaptation, of many partial notions, by the employment, concentration, and joint action of many faculties and exercises of mind.

Such a union and concert of the intellectual powers, such an enlargement and development, such a comprehensiveness, is necessarily a matter of training. And again, such a training is a matter of rule. It is not mere application, however exemplary, which introduces the mind to truth, nor the reading many books, nor the getting up many subjects, nor the witnessing many experiments, nor the attending many lectures. All this is short of enough. A man may have done it all, yet be lingering in the vestibule of knowledge. He may not realize what his mouth utters; he may not see with his mental eye what confronts him; he may have no grasp of things as they are, or at least he may have no power at all of advancing one step forward of himself, in consequence of what he has already acquired, no power of discriminating between truth and falsehood, of sifting out the grains of truth from the mass, of arranging things according to their real value, and, if I may use the phrase, of building up ideas. Such a power is the result of a scientific formation of mind; it is an acquired faculty of judgment, of clear-sightedness, of sagacity, of wisdom, of philosophical reach of mind, and of intellectual self-possession and repose—qualities which do not come of mere acquirement. The bodily eye, the organ for apprehending material objects, is provided by nature; the eye of the mind, of which the object is truth, is the work of discipline and habit.

This process of training, by which the intellect, instead of being formed or sacrificed to some particular or accidental purpose, some specific trade or profession, or study or science, is disciplined for its own sake, for the perception of its own proper object, and for its own highest culture, is called Liberal Education; and though there is no one in whom it is carried as far as is conceivable, or whose intellect would be a pattern of what intellects should be made, yet there is scarcely any one but may gain an idea of what real training is, and at least look towards it, and make its true scope and result, not something else, his standard of excellence; and numbers there are who may submit themselves to it, and secure it to themselves in good measure. And to set forth the right standard, and to train according to it, and to help forward all students towards it according to their various capacities, this I conceive to be the business of a University.

What is Newman’s purpose in writing the long underlined section above?

Possible Answers:

To list important but inadequate forms of learning

None of the other answers

To provide a contrast with vocational training

To provide a critique of contemporary education

To list unfulfilling forms of knowledge

Correct answer:

To list important but inadequate forms of learning


Clearly, Newman wants to indicate that all of these types of "factual knowledge" are insufficient for the purposes of being truly educated. However, he does not—at least in our selection—critique them in themselves. They are aspects of being educated—they at least introduce us to knowledge. (They bring us to the "vestibule" of knowledge, though we do not enter into full human reasoning thereby.) Thus, while he is showing these to be inadequate, we cannot say that he is registering a complete critique of any particular thing. It is best to choose the answer that states that he is creating a list of inadequate forms of knowledge, though they do have some undeniable importance to him.

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