HiSET: Language Arts - Reading : Inference and Interpretation

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HiSET: Language Arts - Reading

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Example Question #1 : Inference And Interpretation

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that.

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks,—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived from "idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going à la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainte-Terrer," a Saunterer,—a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels.

It is true, we are but faint-hearted crusaders, even the walkers, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearth-side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return,—prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again,—if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.

To come down to my own experience, my companion and I, for I sometimes have a companion, take pleasure in fancying ourselves knights of a new, or rather an old, order,—not Equestrians or Chevaliers, not Ritters or riders, but Walkers, a still more ancient and honorable class, I trust. The chivalric and heroic spirit which once belonged to the Rider seems now to reside in, or perchance to have subsided into, the Walker,—not the Knight, but Walker Errant. He is a sort of fourth estate, outside of Church and State and People.

We have felt that we almost alone hereabouts practiced this noble art; though, to tell the truth, at least, if their own assertions are to be received, most of my townsmen would fain walk sometimes, as I do, but they cannot. No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence, which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers. Ambulator nascitur, non fit. Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and have described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods; but I know very well that they have confined themselves to the highway ever since, whatever pretensions they may make to belong to this select class. No doubt they were elevated for a moment as by the reminiscence of a previous state of existence, when even they were foresters and outlaws.

Based on the arguments the author makes in this passage, which of the following statements is he most likely to agree with? 

Possible Answers:

If you can't beat them, join them

You take the high road and I'll take the low road

It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all

None of these

Correct answer:

None of these

Explanation:

None of these topics is addressed in the passage--it is not possible to make an inference based on the context. 

Passage adapted from "Walking," Henry David Thoreau (1862) 

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences

“Society” is an ambiguous term; it may mean much or nothing. Every human being—unless dwelling alone in a cave—is a member of society of one sort or another, and therefore it is well to define what is to be understood by the term “Best Society” and why its authority is recognized. Best Society abroad is always the oldest aristocracy; composed not so much of persons of title, which may be new, as of those families and communities which have for the longest period of time known highest cultivation. Our own Best Society is represented by social groups which have had, since this is America, widest rather than longest association with old world cultivation. Cultivation is always the basic attribute of Best Society, much as we hear in this country of an “Aristocracy of wealth.”

To the general public a long purse is synonymous with high position—a theory dear to the heart of the “yellow” press and eagerly fostered in the preposterous social functions of screen drama. It is true that Best Society is comparatively rich; it is true that the hostess of great wealth, who constantly and lavishly entertains, will shine, at least to the readers of the press, more brilliantly than her less affluent sister. Yet the latter, through her quality of birth, her poise, her inimitable distinction, is often the jewel of deeper water in the social crown of her time.

The most advertised commodity is not always intrinsically the best, but is sometimes merely the product of a company with plenty of money to spend on advertising. In the same way, money brings certain people before the public—sometimes they are persons of “quality,” quite as often the so-called “society leaders” featured in the public press do not belong to good society at all, in spite of their many published photographs and the energies of their press-agents. Or possibly they do belong to “smart” society; but if too much advertised, instead of being the “queens” they seem, they might more accurately be classified as the court jesters of today.

New York, more than any city in the world, unless it be Paris, loves to be amused, thrilled and surprised all at the same time; and will accept with outstretched hand any one who can perform this astounding feat. Do not underestimate the ability that can achieve it: a scintillating wit, an arresting originality, a talent for entertaining that amounts to genius, and gold poured literally like rain, are the least requirements.

Puritan America on the other hand demanding, as a ticket of admission to her Best Society, the qualifications of birth, manners and cultivation, clasps her hands tight across her slim trim waist and announces severely that New York’s “Best” is, in her opinion, very “bad” indeed. But this is because Puritan America, as well as the general public, mistakes the jester for the queen.

As a matter of fact, Best Society is not at all like a court with an especial queen or king, nor is it confined to any one place or group, but might better be described as an unlimited brotherhood which spreads over the entire surface of the globe, the members of which are invariably people of cultivation and worldly knowledge, who have not only perfect manners but a perfect manner. Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life. A gentleman, for instance, will never be ostentatious or overbearing any more than he will ever be servile, because these attributes never animate the impulses of a well-bred person. A man whose manners suggest the grotesque is invariably a person of imitation rather than of real position.

Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners. Certainly what one is, is of far greater importance than what one appears to be. A knowledge of etiquette is of course essential to one’s decent behavior, just as clothing is essential to one’s decent appearance; and precisely as one wears the latter without being self-conscious of having on shoes and perhaps gloves, one who has good manners is equally unself-conscious in the observance of etiquette, the precepts of which must be so thoroughly absorbed as to make their observance a matter of instinct rather than of conscious obedience.

Thus Best Society is not a fellowship of the wealthy, nor does it seek to exclude those who are not of exalted birth; but it is an association of gentle-folk, of which good form in speech, charm of manner, knowledge of the social amenities, and instinctive consideration for the feelings of others, are the credentials by which society the world over recognizes its chosen members.

(1922) 

Based on the context of the passage, which of the following facts could be inferred about America?

Possible Answers:

America is a newer country

America was settled by Puritans who arrived from England on the Mayflower

America is a monarchy

New York was the original capital of America

America has many caves

Correct answer:

America is a newer country

Explanation:

The answer is in the first paragraph: "Best Society abroad is always the oldest aristocracy; composed not so much of persons of title, which may be new, as of those families and communities which have for the longest period of time known highest cultivation. Our own Best Society is represented by social groups which have had, since this is America, widest rather than longest association with old world cultivation." 

Abroad, Post says, the longevity of a society group's aristocratic connections determines "Best Society." In America, she explains, it's different: good society is based on "widest rather than longest" connections. The key turn of phrase, here is "since this is America." From this passage, a reader understands that long-established connections with "old world cultivation" would not be possible. While Post does not say outright that America is a relatively new country, it's a reasonable inference. 

While it might be true that Mayflower Puritans had a hand in settling America, those details are not possible to infer from the passage itself. 

Passage adapted from Etiquette by Emily Post (1922)

 

Example Question #13 : Hi Set: High School Equivalency: Reading

Adapted from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (1845)

      I lived in Master Hugh’s family about seven years. During this time, I succeeded in learning to read and write. In accomplishing this, I was compelled to resort to various stratagems. I had no regular teacher. My mistress, who had kindly commenced to instruct me, had, in compliance with the advice and direction of her husband, not only ceased to instruct, but had set her face against my being instructed by any one else. It is due, however, to my mistress to say of her, that she did not adopt this course of treatment immediately. She at first lacked the depravity indispensable to shutting me up in mental darkness. It was at least necessary for her to have some training in the exercise of irresponsible power, to make her equal to the task of treating me as though I were a brute. 

      My mistress was, as I have said, a kind and tender-hearted woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when I first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another. In entering upon the duties of a slaveholder, she did not seem to perceive that I sustained to her the relation of a mere chattel, and that for her to treat me as a human being was not only wrong, but dangerously so. 

Based on these lines, what inference can we make about Frederick Douglass learning to read and write?

"During this time, I succeeded in learning to read and write. In accomplishing this, I was compelled to resort to various stratagems."

Possible Answers:

He mostly learned to read and write from his mistress

He had to devise schemes to learn to read in spite of challenges

His education in reading and writing was relatively straightforward

He was unable to learn to read and write

Correct answer:

He had to devise schemes to learn to read in spite of challenges

Explanation:

The correct answer is that he had to devise schemes to learn to read in spite of challenges. Douglass obviously learned to read and write, since he is the author of this autobiographical passage. He did not learn to read and write mostly from his mistress--the passage states that she began teaching him and then stopped. The idea that his learning was relatively straightforward goes against the statement that Douglass had to "resort to various stratagems," meaning that he had to use various methods, and stratagems implies that they were schemes. 

Example Question #12 : Hi Set: High School Equivalency: Reading

Savages we call them, because their Manners differ from ours, which we think the Perfection of Civility. They think the same of theirs.

Perhaps if we could examine the Manners of different Nations with Impartiality, we should find no People so rude as to be without Rules of Politeness, nor any so polite as not to have some Remains of Rudeness.

The Indian Men when young are Hunters and Warriors; when old, Counsellors; for all their Government is by Counsel of the Sages; there is no Force there are no Prisons, no Officers to compel Obedience, or inflict Punishment.—Hence they generally study Oratory; the best Speaker having the most Influence. The Indian Women till the Ground, dress the Food, nurse and bring up the Children, & preserve & hand down to Posterity the Memory of public Transactions. These Employments of Men and Women are accounted natural & honorable, Having few artificial Wants, they have abundance of Leisure for Improvement by Conversation. Our laborious Manner of Life compar’d with theirs, they esteem slavish & base; and the Learning on which we value ourselves, they regard as frivolous & useless.

Adapted from Benjamin Franklin's "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America" (1784)

What is Benjamin Franklin's attitude towards the "savages"? 

Possible Answers:

He feels that they have superior schooling due to experienced orators

He feels that their society is much more violent and lawless

He feels that they have poor manners and lack civility

He feels that they are practical and respects their moderation

Correct answer:

He feels that they are practical and respects their moderation

Explanation:

The best answer is he feels that they are practical and respects their moderation. The lines that support this answer include "Having few artificial wants, they have abundance of leisure for improvement by conversation." This shows that he thinks they lack superficial desires and make room for good conversation. He also spends a large part of the passage describing the practical tasks of men and women "the "women till the ground, dress the food, nurse and bring up the children..." etc. Although they do not have prisons, he does not believe that this makes them lawless or more violent; indeed, he probably believes the opposite. Franklin does not suggest that the savages have better education, and he does not believe that their manners are inferior, only different.

Example Question #1 : Inference And Interpretation

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher.

6Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

7In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labour out of the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him from his work, and every different want call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune would be death, for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

Adapted from Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776)

What is the meaning of the phrase: "were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver"?

Possible Answers:

If people always acted according to their consciences, government would not be necessary to safeguard the rights of citizens

One of the many costs of government is the loss of conscience among the citizens

Religion should be the true lawmaker

People do not need laws to tell them how to act; they have their consciences, which guide them infallibly

It is clear that obeying one's conscience is a moral imperative

Correct answer:

If people always acted according to their consciences, government would not be necessary to safeguard the rights of citizens

Explanation:

The author is saying that if people obeyed their sense of what is right and wrong all the time, no government would be necessary. He goes on to state that since people do not always behave according to conscience, government is necessary. As stated in the first paragraph, it is people's "wickedness" (i.e. their tendencies not to act according to conscience) that make a government a necessity. 

Example Question #21 : Hi Set: High School Equivalency: Reading

“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.

Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”

Passage adapted from Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1851)

Melville specifically mentions sharks as beautiful, “remorseless tribes.” What does this mean?

Possible Answers:

Sharks are hidden and dangerous

The force of sharks can be seen as dainty

Sharks are cannibals

Dangerous forces can exist naturally

Sharks are the most dangerous creatures in the sea

Correct answer:

Dangerous forces can exist naturally

Explanation:

Sharks, like danger, can exist without reference to anything else. Sharks are by nature predatory creatures and they prey on other creatures naturally. Sharks should be avoided. Danger warns people of what should be avoided.

Example Question #1 : Drawing Conclusions

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."

Passage adapted from Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1851)

What does being at sea offer the speaker?

Possible Answers:

Avoidance of funerals and coffins

Respite from being among other people

New adventures

Moral principles

Freedom

Correct answer:

Respite from being among other people

Explanation:

Ahab, the speaker, is describing a feeling of profound uneasiness that prompts anti-social behavior and intensifies unless he manages to hold himself in check. Matters of the everyday social world irritate him and when he is at sea his time is taken up with matters of weather and the sailing vessel. Sea-based subjects are comfortable to him, and while at sea he doesn’t have to hold himself in check to avoid poor behavior.

Example Question #1 : Inference And Interpretation

"As the days went by, the evolution of like into love was accelerated.  White Fang [the wolf] himself began to grow aware of it, though in his consciousness he knew not what love was.  It manifested itself to him as a void in his being—a hungry, aching, yearning void that clamoured to be filled.  It was a pain and an unrest; and it received easement only by the touch of the new god’s presence.  At such times love was joy to him, a wild, keen-thrilling satisfaction.  But when away from his god, the pain and the unrest returned; the void in him sprang up and pressed against him with its emptiness, and the hunger gnawed and gnawed unceasingly. "

Adapted from White Fang by Jack London (1906)

Does White Fang know he's fallen in love?

Possible Answers:

Love is less than being hungry to him

Although he can develop love for a person, he can’t identify those feelings as love

Love doesn't concern him

He can’t experience love

Feelings confuse him

Correct answer:

Although he can develop love for a person, he can’t identify those feelings as love

Explanation:

As his liking for a person develops into love, the wolf begins to base his life around this person. When the person is near, the wolf is satisfied. When the person is away, the wolf is in pain and he looks forward to having the person near again. Although the wolf is in fact is experiencing love and is aware of that, his consciousness does not identify the emotion as love.

Example Question #21 : Informational Texts

Adapted from Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (1845)

      I lived in Master Hugh’s family about seven years. During this time, I succeeded in learning to read and write. In accomplishing this, I was compelled to resort to various stratagems. I had no regular teacher. My mistress, who had kindly commenced to instruct me, had, in compliance with the advice and direction of her husband, not only ceased to instruct, but had set her face against my being instructed by any one else. It is due, however, to my mistress to say of her, that she did not adopt this course of treatment immediately. She at first lacked the depravity indispensable to shutting me up in mental darkness. It was at least necessary for her to have some training in the exercise of irresponsible power, to make her equal to the task of treating me as though I were a brute. 

      My mistress was, as I have said, a kind and tender-hearted woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when I first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another. In entering upon the duties of a slaveholder, she did not seem to perceive that I sustained to her the relation of a mere chattel, and that for her to treat me as a human being was not only wrong, but dangerously so. 

What inference can be made about the narrator?

Possible Answers:

His first language was not English. 

He was being held as a slave, and had been denied an education in his youth

He had a learning disability which made learning to read difficult. 

He was adopted from an orphanage and never received an education. 

Correct answer:

He was being held as a slave, and had been denied an education in his youth

Explanation:

The correct answer is that Frederick Douglass was a slave. There are several clues that will lead the reader to this conclusion: first, he says he lives with Master Hughes. The passage mentions that the mistress is taking on the duties of a slaveholder. Douglass also refers to himself as chattel, which means a person held in slavery. There are no clues in the passage that indicate that Douglass was adopted or that he did not speak English as his first language. There is nothing to indicate that learning to read was a challenge for him due to a disability.

Example Question #1 : Inference And Interpretation

“Society” is an ambiguous term; it may mean much or nothing. Every human being—unless dwelling alone in a cave—is a member of society of one sort or another, and therefore it is well to define what is to be understood by the term “Best Society” and why its authority is recognized. Best Society abroad is always the oldest aristocracy; composed not so much of persons of title, which may be new, as of those families and communities which have for the longest period of time known highest cultivation. Our own Best Society is represented by social groups which have had, since this is America, widest rather than longest association with old world cultivation. Cultivation is always the basic attribute of Best Society, much as we hear in this country of an “Aristocracy of wealth.”

 To the general public a long purse is synonymous with high position—a theory dear to the heart of the “yellow” press and eagerly fostered in the preposterous social functions of screen drama. It is true that Best Society is comparatively rich; it is true that the hostess of great wealth, who constantly and lavishly entertains, will shine, at least to the readers of the press, more brilliantly than her less affluent sister. Yet the latter, through her quality of birth, her poise, her inimitable distinction, is often the jewel of deeper water in the social crown of her time.

The most advertised commodity is not always intrinsically the best, but is sometimes merely the product of a company with plenty of money to spend on advertising. In the same way, money brings certain people before the public—sometimes they are persons of “quality,” quite as often the so-called “society leaders” featured in the public press do not belong to good society at all, in spite of their many published photographs and the energies of their press-agents. Or possibly they do belong to “smart” society; but if too much advertised, instead of being the “queens” they seem, they might more accurately be classified as the court jesters of today.

New York, more than any city in the world, unless it be Paris, loves to be amused, thrilled and surprised all at the same time; and will accept with outstretched hand any one who can perform this astounding feat. Do not underestimate the ability that can achieve it: a scintillating wit, an arresting originality, a talent for entertaining that amounts to genius, and gold poured literally like rain, are the least requirements.

Puritan America on the other hand demanding, as a ticket of admission to her Best Society, the qualifications of birth, manners and cultivation, clasps her hands tight across her slim trim waist and announces severely that New York’s “Best” is, in her opinion, very “bad” indeed. But this is because Puritan America, as well as the general public, mistakes the jester for the queen.

As a matter of fact, Best Society is not at all like a court with an especial queen or king, nor is it confined to any one place or group, but might better be described as an unlimited brotherhood which spreads over the entire surface of the globe, the members of which are invariably people of cultivation and worldly knowledge, who have not only perfect manners but a perfect manner. Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life. A gentleman, for instance, will never be ostentatious or overbearing any more than he will ever be servile, because these attributes never animate the impulses of a well-bred person. A man whose manners suggest the grotesque is invariably a person of imitation rather than of real position.

Etiquette must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners. Certainly what one is, is of far greater importance than what one appears to be. A knowledge of etiquette is of course essential to one’s decent behavior, just as clothing is essential to one’s decent appearance; and precisely as one wears the latter without being self-conscious of having on shoes and perhaps gloves, one who has good manners is equally unself-conscious in the observance of etiquette, the precepts of which must be so thoroughly absorbed as to make their observance a matter of instinct rather than of conscious obedience.

Thus Best Society is not a fellowship of the wealthy, nor does it seek to exclude those who are not of exalted birth; but it is an association of gentle-folk, of which good form in speech, charm of manner, knowledge of the social amenities, and instinctive consideration for the feelings of others, are the credentials by which society the world over recognizes its chosen members.

(1922) 

Who or what does the author compare to "the most advertised commodity"? 

Possible Answers:

None of these 

Advertising mavens who know how to generate publicity 

The queens of Best Society 

Wealthy people who are frequently in the public eye 

Wealthy people who live up to Best Society 

Correct answer:

Wealthy people who are frequently in the public eye 

Explanation:

Post starts by setting up the image of a commodity that, despite being "not always intrinsically the best," is made visible by a company with "plenty of money to spend on advertising."

She goes on to say: "In the same way, money brings certain people before the public." While some of these people may live up to the name "Best Society," in this passage Post is emphasizing the ways in which they may not. Like the too-advertised product, wealth may make someone seem like they represent society merely because they are highly visible. 

Passage adapted from Etiquette by Emily Post (1922)

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