MCAT Verbal : Comprehension

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #14 : Using Evidence To Support The Thesis

Adapted from “Robespierre” in Critical Miscellanies by John Morley (1904)

M. D'Héricault does not belong to the school of writers who treat the course of history as a great high road, following a firmly traced line, and set with plain and ineffaceable landmarks. The French Revolution has nearly always been handled in this way, alike by those who think it fruitful in blessings, and by their adversaries, who pronounce it a curse inflicted by the wrath of Heaven. Historians have looked at the Revolution as a plain landsman looks at the sea. To the landsman the ocean seems one huge immeasurable flood, obeying a simple law of ebb and flow, and offering to the navigator a single uniform force. Yet in truth we know that the oceanic movement is the product of many forces; the seeming uniformity covers the energy of a hundred currents and counter-currents; the sea-floor is not even nor the same, but is subject to untold conditions of elevation and subsidence; the sea is not one mass, but many masses moving along definite lines of their own. It is the same with the great tides of history. Wise men shrink from summing them up in single propositions. That the French Revolution led to an immense augmentation of happiness, both for the French and for mankind, can only be denied by the Pope. That it secured its beneficent results untempered by any mixture of evil, can only be maintained by men as mad as Doctor Pangloss. The Greek poetess Corinna said to the youthful Pindar, when he had interwoven all the gods and goddesses in the Theban mythology into a single hymn, that we should sow with the hand and not with the sack. Corinna's monition to the singer is proper to the interpreter of historical truth: he should cull with the hand, and not sweep in with the scythe. It is doubtless mere pedantry to abstain from the widest conception of the sum of a great movement. A clear, definite, and stable idea of the meaning in the history of human progress of such vast groups of events as the Reformation or the Revolution, is indispensable for anyone to whom history is a serious study of society. It is just as important, however, not to forget that they were really groups of events, and not in either case a single uniform movement. A sensible man learns, in everyday life, to abstain from praising and blaming character by wholesale; he becomes content to say of this trait that it is good, and of that act that it was bad.

M. D'Héricault's volume naturally suggests such reflections as these. Of all the men of the Revolution, Robespierre has suffered most from the audacious idolatry of some writers, and the splenetic impatience of others. M. Louis Blanc and M. Ernest Hamel talk of him as an angel or a prophet, and the Ninth Thermidor is a red day indeed in their martyrology. Michelet and M. D'Héricault treat him as a mixture of Cagliostro and Caligula, both a charlatan and a miscreant. We are reminded of the commencement of an address of the French Senate to the first Bonaparte: 'Sire,' they began, 'the desire for perfection is one of the worst maladies that can afflict the human mind.' This bold aphorism touches one of the roots of the judgments we pass both upon men and events. It is because people so irrationally think fit to insist upon perfection, that Robespierre's admirers would fain deny that he ever had a fault, and the tacit adoption of the same impracticable standard makes it easier for Robespierre's wholesale detractors to deny that he had a single virtue or performed a single service. The point of view is essentially unfit for history. It is folly for the historian, as it is for the statesman, to strain after the imaginative unity of the dramatic creator. Social progress is an affair of many small pieces and slow accretions, and the interest of historic study lies in tracing, amid the immense turmoil of events and through the confusion of voices, the devious course of the sacred torch, as it shifts from bearer to bearer. And it is not the bearers who are most interesting, but the torch.

According to the author, what characteristic(s) defines a “sensible man”?

Possible Answers:

Passivity and deference

Self-confidence and aggression

Circumspect judgment

A dry wit

Devotion to academia

Correct answer:

Circumspect judgment

Explanation:

The author notes that “A sensible man learns, in everyday life, to abstain from praising and blaming character by wholesale; he becomes content to say of this trait that it is good, and of that act that it was bad.” So, a sensible man is someone who is able to consider both the parts and the sum of the parts; he is able to admire the whole of a man, whilst considering how the parts either contribute or detract. It might best be rephrased as “circumspect judgment,” not rushing to conclusions, being cautious and considerate of both sides of a story or argument.

Example Question #15 : Using Evidence To Support The Thesis

Adapted from “Robespierre” in Critical Miscellanies by John Morley (1904)

Marie Antoinette's high mien in adversity, and the contrast between the dazzling splendor of her first years and the scenes of outrage and bloody death that made the climax of her fate, could not but strike the imaginations of men. Such contrasts are the very stuff of which Tragedy, the gorgeous muse with scepter'd pall, loves to weave her most imposing raiment. But history must be just; and the character of the Queen had far more concern in the disaster of the first five years of the Revolution than had the character of Robespierre. Every new document that comes to light heaps up proof that if blind and obstinate choice of personal gratification before the common weal be enough to constitute a state criminal, then the Queen of France was one of the worst state criminals that ever afflicted a nation. The popular hatred of Marie Antoinette sprang from a sound instinct. We shall never know how much or how little truth there was in those frightful charges against her, that may still be read in a thousand pamphlets. These imputed depravities far surpass anything that John Knox ever said against Mary Stuart, or that Juvenal has recorded against Messalina; and, perhaps, for the only parallel we must look to the hideous stories of the Byzantine secretary against Theodora, the too famous empress of Justinian and the persecutor of Belisarius. We have to remember that all the revolutionary portraits are distorted by furious passion, and that Marie Antoinette may no more deserve to be compared to Mary Stuart than Robespierre deserves to be compared to Ezzelino or to Alva. It is at least certain that, from the unlucky hour when the Austrian archduchess crossed the French frontier, a childish bride of fourteen, down to the hour when the Queen of France made the attempt to recross it in resentful flight one and twenty years afterwards, Marie Antoinette was ignorant, unteachable, blind to events and deaf to good counsels, a bitter grief to her heroic mother, the evil genius of her husband, the despair of her truest advisers, and an exceedingly bad friend to the people of France. When Burke had that immortal vision of her at Versailles—"just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in, glittering like the morning star, full of life and splendor and joy"—we know from the correspondence between Maria Theresa and her minister at Versailles, that what Burke really saw was no divinity, but a flighty and troublesome schoolgirl, an accomplice in all the ignoble intrigues, and a sharer of all the small busy passions that convulse the insects of a court. She broke out in incredible dissipations; in indiscreet visits to the masked balls at the opera, in midnight parades and mystifications on the terrace at Versailles, in insensate gambling. “The court of France is turned into a gaming-hell,” said the Emperor Joseph, the Queen's own brother: “if they do not amend, the revolution will be cruel.”

These vices or follies were less mischievous than her intervention in affairs of state. Here to levity she added both dissimulation and vindictiveness. It was the Queen's influence that procured the dismissal of the two virtuous ministers by whose aid the King was striving to arrest the decay of the government of his kingdom. Malesherbes was distasteful to her for no better reason than that she wanted his post for some favorite's favorite. Against Turgot she conspired with tenacious animosity because he had suppressed a sinecure which she designed for a court parasite, and because he would not support her caprice on behalf of a worthless creature of her faction. These two admirable men were disgraced on the same day. The Queen wrote to her mother that she had not meddled in the affair. This was a falsehood, for she had even sought to have Turgot thrown into the Bastille. “I am as one dashed to the ground,” cried the great Voltaire, now nearing his end. “Never can we console ourselves for having seen the golden age dawn and vanish. My eyes see only death in front of me, now that Turgot is gone. The rest of my days must be all bitterness.” What hope could there be that the personage who had thus put out the light of hope for France in 1776 would welcome that greater flame that was kindled in the land in 1789?

How does the underlined statement support the author’s thesis?

Possible Answers:

It demonstrates how Marie Antoinette was detested by many of her contemporaries.

It outlines the love that Marie Antoinette felt for the common people and the lengths that she was willing to go to to protect them.

It explains why Marie Antoinette could never truly fit in as an Austrian woman in France.

It highlights the intimate relationship between the French King and Marie Antoinette.

It shows how Marie Antoinette negatively affected the French government.

Correct answer:

It shows how Marie Antoinette negatively affected the French government.

Explanation:

To answer this question, you first have to understand what the author’s thesis is. The primary argument of this text is that Marie Antoinette did a great deal to cause the outbreak of revolution in France, and that she was deserving of the consequences. The underlined statement gives evidence to the author’s thesis by implicating Marie Antoinette in decisions that had adverse effects on the state of France. According to the author, dismissing these two “virtuous” ministers, the Queen demonstrated her “dissimulation and vindictiveness.”

Example Question #16 : Using Evidence To Support The Thesis

Adapted from “Federalist No.8” by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

It is sometimes asked, with an air of seeming triumph, what inducements could the States have, if disunited, to make war upon each other? It would be a full answer to this question to say—precisely the same inducements which have, at different times, deluged in blood all the nations in the world. But, unfortunately for us, the question admits of a more particular answer. There are causes of differences within our immediate contemplation, of the tendency of which, even under the restraints of a federal constitution, we have had sufficient experience to enable us to form a judgment of what might be expected if those restraints were removed.

Territorial disputes have at all times been found one of the most fertile sources of hostility among nations. The greatest proportion of wars that have desolated the earth have sprung from this origin. This cause would exist among us in full force. We have a vast tract of unsettled territory within the boundaries of the United States. There still are discordant and undecided claims between several of these boundaries, and the dissolution of the Union would lay a foundation for similar claims between them all. At present, a large part of the vacant Western territory is, by cession at least, if not by any anterior right, the common property of the Union. If that were at an end, the States which made the cession, on a principle of federal compromise, would be apt when the motive of the grant had ceased, to reclaim the lands as a reversion. The other States would no doubt insist on a proportion, by right of representation. Their argument would be, that a grant, once made, could not be revoked; and that the justice of participating in territory acquired or secured by the joint efforts of the Confederacy, remained undiminished. If, contrary to probability, it should be admitted by all the States, that each had a right to a share of this common stock, there would still be a difficulty to be surmounted, as to a proper rule of apportionment. Different principles would be set up by different States for this purpose; and as they would affect the opposite interests of the parties, they might not easily be susceptible of a pacific adjustment.

In the wide field of Western territory, therefore, we perceive an ample theatre for hostile pretensions, without any umpire or common judge to interpose between the contending parties. To reason from the past to the future, we shall have good ground to apprehend, that the sword would sometimes be appealed to as the arbiter of their differences. The circumstances of the dispute between Connecticut and Pennsylvania, respecting the land at Wyoming, admonish us not to be sanguine in expecting an easy accommodation of such differences. The articles of confederation obliged the parties to submit the matter to the decision of a federal court. The submission was made, and the court decided in favor of Pennsylvania. But Connecticut gave strong indications of dissatisfaction with that determination; nor did she appear to be entirely resigned to it, till, by negotiation and management, something like an equivalent was found for the loss she supposed herself to have sustained. Nothing here said is intended to convey the slightest censure on the conduct of that State. She no doubt sincerely believed herself to have been injured by the decision; and States, like individuals, acquiesce with great reluctance in determinations to their disadvantage.

Those who had an opportunity of seeing the inside of the transactions which attended the progress of the controversy between this State and the district of Vermont, can vouch the opposition we experienced and can attest the danger to which the peace of the Confederacy might have been exposed, had this State attempted to assert its rights by force. These being small States, saw with an unfriendly eye the perspective of our growing greatness. In a review of these transactions we may trace some of the causes which would be likely to embroil the States with each other, if it should be their unpropitious destiny to become disunited.

The author uses __________ as evidence to support his thesis.

Possible Answers:

the role of the British king in American territorial arrangements

allegorical narratives and pertinent metaphors

the dispute between Connecticut and Pennsylvania

personal experience of the American Revolution

references to South American history

Correct answer:

the dispute between Connecticut and Pennsylvania

Explanation:

The dispute between Connecticut and Pennsylvania is probably the strongest single piece of evidence that the author employs to support his thesis. He notes that the circumstances of this dispute "admonish us not to be sanguine in expecting an easy accommodation of such differences." The dispute between Connecticut and Pennsylvania is used as the primary piece of evidence to prove (what the author wants us to accept as) an historical trend.

Example Question #17 : Using Evidence To Support The Thesis

Adapted from What is Man? And Other Essays (1906) by Mark Twain.

King Henry is dead; Stephen, that bold and outrageous person, comes flying over from Normandy to steal the throne from Henry's daughter. He accomplished his crime, and Henry of Huntington, a priest of high degree, mourns over it in his Chronicle. The Archbishop of Canterbury consecrated Stephen: "wherefore the Lord visited the Archbishop with the same judgment which he had inflicted upon him who struck Jeremiah the great priest: he died within a year." Stephen's was the greater offense, but Stephen could wait; not so the Archbishop, apparently.

The kingdom was a prey to intestine wars; slaughter, fire, and rapine spread ruin throughout the land; cries of distress, horror, and woe rose in every quarter.

That was the result of Stephen's crime. These unspeakable conditions continued during nineteen years. Then Stephen died as comfortably as any man ever did, and was honorably buried. It makes one pity the poor Archbishop, and wish that he, too, could have been let off as leniently. How did Henry of Huntington know that the Archbishop was sent to his grave by judgment of God for consecrating Stephen? He does not explain. Neither does he explain why Stephen was awarded a pleasanter death than he was entitled to, while the aged King Henry, his predecessor, who had ruled England thirty-five years to the people's strongly worded satisfaction, was condemned to close his life in circumstances most distinctly unpleasant, inconvenient, and disagreeable. His was probably the most uninspiring funeral that is set down in history. There is not a detail about it that is attractive. It seems to have been just the funeral for Stephen, and even at this far-distant day it is matter of just regret that by an indiscretion the wrong man got it.

Whenever God punishes a man, Henry of Huntington knows why it was done, and tells us; and his pen is eloquent with admiration; but when a man has earned punishment, and escapes, he does not explain. He is evidently puzzled, but he does not say anything. I think it is often apparent that he is pained by these discrepancies, but loyally tries his best not to show it. When he cannot praise, he delivers himself of a silence so marked that a suspicious person could mistake it for suppressed criticism. However, he has plenty of opportunities to feel contented with the way things go—his book is full of them.

In the month of August, Providence displayed its justice in a remarkable manner; for two of the nobles who had converted monasteries into fortifications, expelling the monks, their sin being the same, met with a similar punishment. Robert Marmion was one, Godfrey de Mandeville the other. Robert Marmion, issuing forth against the enemy, was slain under the walls of the monastery, being the only one who fell, though he was surrounded by his troops. Dying excommunicated, he became subject to death everlasting. In like manner Earl Godfrey was singled out among his followers, and shot with an arrow by a common foot-soldier. He made light of the wound, but he died of it in a few days, under excommunication. See here the like judgment of God, memorable through all ages!

This exaltation jars upon me; not because of the death of the men, for they deserved that, but because it is death eternal, in white-hot fire and flame. It makes my flesh crawl. I have not known more than three men, or perhaps four, in my whole lifetime, whom I would rejoice to see writhing in those fires for even a year, let alone forever. I believe I would relent before the year was up, and get them out if I could. I think that in the long run, if a man's wife and babies, who had not harmed me, should come crying and pleading, I couldn't stand it; I know I should forgive him and let him go, even if he had violated a monastery. Henry of Huntington has been watching Godfrey and Marmion for nearly seven hundred and fifty years, now, but I couldn't do it.

All through his book Henry exhibits his familiarity with the intentions of God, and with the reasons for his intentions. Sometimes—very often, in fact—the act follows the intention after such a wide interval of time that one wonders how Henry could fit one act out of a hundred to one intention out of a hundred and get the thing right every time when there was such abundant choice among acts and intentions. Sometimes a man offends the Deity with a crime, and is punished for it thirty years later; meantime he has committed a million other crimes: no matter, Henry can pick out the one that brought the worms.

The first paragraph is primarily intended to introduce to us __________.

Possible Answers:

the assumptions that Henry Huntington makes about eternal damnation

the manner in which King Henry died

the standard experience of Early Middle Ages Britain

the inconsistencies in Henry Huntington’s conclusions

the manner in which King Stephen conquered his kingdom

Correct answer:

the inconsistencies in Henry Huntington’s conclusions

Explanation:

In the first paragraph the author begins by describing how King Henry died and King Stephen came over and conquered his Kingdom. Neither of these are the focus of the paragraph, however. The author goes on to introduce us to Henry Huntington, the chronicler, and tell us about the manner in which Huntington condemns both Stephen and the Archbishop who consecrated him. Finally, the author makes his statement that reveals the primary intention of the first paragraph; he says: “Stephen's was the greater offense, but Stephen could wait; not so the Archbishop, apparently.” This is a theme that the author will repeat throughout the text—that Huntington believes he understands God’s will, but that there are several inconsistencies in Huntington’s conclusions. You could perhaps argue that “the assumptions that Henry Huntington makes about eternal damnation” is the primary focus, but the key difference are the words “inconsistency” and “assumption.” The author is more focused on making his audience aware of the “inconsistencies” in Huntington’s work.

Example Question #18 : Using Evidence To Support The Thesis

Adapted from Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey (1918)

Let us consider the popular conception of Florence Nightingale. The saintly, self-sacrificing woman, the delicate maiden of high degree who threw aside the pleasures of a life of ease to succor the afflicted; the Lady with the Lamp, gliding through the horrors of the hospital at Scutari, and consecrating with the radiance of her goodness the dying soldier's couch. The vision is familiar to all—but the truth was different. The Miss Nightingale of fact was not as facile as fancy painted her. It happens that in the real Miss Nightingale there was more that was interesting than in the legendary one; there was also less that was agreeable.

Her family was extremely well-to-do, and connected by marriage with a spreading circle of other well-to-do families. Brought up among such advantages, it was only natural to suppose that Florence would show a proper appreciation of them by doing her duty—in other words, by marrying. It was inconceivable that Florence should dream of anything else; yet dream she did.

As the years passed, a restlessness began to grow upon her. She was unhappy, and at last she knew it. Mrs. Nightingale, too, began to notice that there was something wrong. It was very odd—what could be the matter with dear Flo? Mr. Nightingale suggested that a husband might be advisable; but the curious thing was that she seemed to take no interest in husbands. She would think of nothing but how to satisfy that singular craving of hers to be doing something.

Florence announced an extreme desire to go to Salisbury Hospital for several months as a nurse; and she confessed to some visionary plan of eventually setting up in a house of her own in a neighboring village, and there founding “something like a Protestant Sisterhood, without vows, for women of educated feelings.” The difficulties in her path were great. For not only was it an almost unimaginable thing in those days for a woman of means to make her own way in the world and to live in independence, but the particular profession for which Florence was clearly marked out both by her instincts and her capacities was at that time a peculiarly disreputable one. A “nurse” meant then a coarse old woman, always ignorant, usually dirty, often brutal, in bunched-up sordid garments.

Yet the want, absurd and impracticable as it was, not only remained fixed immovably in her heart, but grew in intensity day by day. Her wretchedness deepened into a morbid melancholy. A weaker spirit would have been overwhelmed by the load of such distresses—would have yielded or snapped. But this extraordinary young woman held firm, and fought her way to victory. In secret she devoured the reports of medical commissions, the pamphlets of sanitary authorities, the histories of hospitals and homes. She spent the intervals of the London season in ragged schools and workhouses.

But one other trial awaited her. It appeared in the shape of a desirable young man. Hitherto, her lovers had been nothing to her but an added burden and a mockery; but now—for a moment—she wavered. She knew in her heart that it could not be. “To be nailed to a continuation and exaggeration of my present life … to put it out of my power ever to be able to seize the chance of forming for myself a true and rich life”—that would be a suicide. She made her choice, and refused what was at least a certain happiness for a visionary good which might never come to her at all. And so she returned to her old life of waiting and bitterness.

“The thoughts and feelings that I have now,” she wrote, “I can remember since I was six years old. A profession, a trade, a necessary occupation, something to fill and employ all my faculties, I have always felt essential to me, I have always longed for. The first thought I can remember, and the last, was nursing work. My God! What is to become of me?”

A desirable young man? Dust and ashes! What was there desirable in such a thing as that? “In my thirty-first year. I see nothing desirable but death.”

Three more years passed, and then at last the pressure of time told; her family seemed to realize that she was old enough and strong enough to have her way; and she became the superintendent of a charitable nursing home in Harley Street. She had gained her independence, though it was in a meagre sphere enough; and her mother was still not quite resigned: surely Florence might at least spend the summer in the country. At times, indeed, among her intimates, Mrs. Nightingale almost wept. “We are ducks,” she said with tears in her eyes, “who have hatched a wild swan.” But the poor lady was wrong; it was not a swan that they had hatched—it was an eagle.

The underlined Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale provide evidence that __________.

Possible Answers:

supports the author’s argument that Florence struggled with internal personal demons and external obstacles

supports the author’s belief that Florence was the most significant woman of her generation

undermines the author’s claims that Florence had to achieve everything for herself and was not helped by any family members

refutes claims made by others that Florence was consistently understood and supported by her family

outlines the author’s ideas about how a young woman ought to live her life

Correct answer:

supports the author’s argument that Florence struggled with internal personal demons and external obstacles

Explanation:

The underlined Mr. and Mrs. Nightingale are Florence’s parents, and it is clear from context that they wanted a different life for her than the one she chose. Her parents observed that Florence was battling internal demons and tried to help her, but instead created more barriers that Florence had to overcome. This all links back to the author’s overall thesis that Florence was much more tormented than is popularly understood.

Example Question #21 : Using Evidence To Support The Thesis

Passage adapted from "Babies" by G. K. Chesterton (1903)

The two facts which attract almost every normal person to children are, first, that they are very serious, and secondly, that they are in consequence very happy.

The most unfathomable schools and sages have never attained to the gravity which dwells in the eyes of a baby of three months old. It is the gravity of astonishment at the universe, and astonishment at the universe is not mysticism, but a transcendent common sense. The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put again upon its trial. As we walk the streets and see below us those delightful bulbous heads, three times too big for the body, which mark these human mushrooms, we ought always to remember that within every one of these heads there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each of those orbs there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea.

If we could see the stars as a child sees them, we should need no other apocalypse… We may scale the heavens and find new stars innumerable, but there is still the new star we have not found – the one on which we were born. But the influence of children goes further than its first trifling effort of remaking heaven and earth. It forces us actually to remodel our conduct in accordance with this revolutionary theory of the marvelousness of all things. We do actually treat talking in children as marvelous, walking in children as marvelous, common intelligence in children as marvelous… and that attitude towards children is right. It is our attitude towards grown up people that is wrong.

Our attitude towards children consists in a condescending indulgence, overlying an unfathomable respect; we reverence, love, fear and forgive them. We bow to grown people, take off our hats to them, refrain from contradicting them flatly, but we do not appreciate them properly. If we treated all grown-up persons with precisely that dark affection and dazed respect with which we treat the limitations of an infant, accepting their blunders, delighted at all their faltering attempts, marveling at their small accomplishments, we should be in a far more wise and tolerant temper.

The essential rectitude of our view of children lies in the fact that we feel them and their ways to be supernatural while, for some mysterious reason, we do not feel ourselves or our own ways to be supernatural. The very smallness of children makes it possible to regard them as marvels; we seem to be dealing with a new race, only to be seen through a microscope. I doubt if anyone of any tenderness or imagination can see the hand of a child and not be a little frightened of it. It is awful to think of the essential human energy moving so tiny a thing; it is like imagining that human nature could live in the wing of a butterfly or the leaf of a tree. When we look upon lives so human and yet so small, we feel the same kind of obligation to these creatures that God might feel.

But it is the humorous look of children that is perhaps the most endearing of all the bonds that hold the cosmos together. They give us the most perfect hint of the humor that awaits us in the kingdom of heaven.

Which of the following pieces of evidence, if assumed to be true, would be most beneficial to the author’s argument in the fourth paragraph?

Possible Answers:

A study showing that parents with young children are kinder to their peers at work than those with no contact with young children

A report on the independent nature of baby sea turtles, which are able to raise themselves with no parental guidance

A survey reporting that most people believe a child is most cute between the ages of 12 months to 18 months

An interview of a pediatrician explaining the results of an infant intelligence study

Correct answer:

A study showing that parents with young children are kinder to their peers at work than those with no contact with young children

Explanation:

The author claims that if we were to treat grownups with the same affection and understanding that we afford to infants, we would be “in a far more wise and tolerant temper.” This would be demonstrated in the situation of the parents that were more kind to their co-workers. The pediatrician interview could be helpful, but since we do not know if the results were positive or negative, we cannot know that it would be helpful. The cuteness of the baby is not part of the main argument of the essay. While sea turtle behavior may give us ideas for how to examine human interaction, it cannot be a basis for a conclusion about human nature.

Example Question #51 : Comprehension

Once upon a time (and that was only 33 years ago) there were five little boys who played circus in their back yards with a strip of rag carpet for a tent and a paper whale. They charged pins and then pennies.

Then they gave a real show in the barn, and then in the hall. And now they own elephants and camels and giraffes and hippopotamuses, and about forty eleven circuses.

When the bands blare and the horses “rare” and the big green and gold and silver wagons come past, and the clowns cut up such funny didoes, the chances are that you are seeing the men that the Ringling Brothers employ to amuse the boys and girls; yes, and the men and women of America during the summer.

For the circus business of America is the Ringling business.

They own the Ringling Brothers’ show, and Barnum’s, which was later Barnum and Bailey’s, the Forepaugh-Sells shows and what is left of the Hagenback’s and more of the dog and pony shows, and the remnants of Buffalo Bill’s and Pawnee Bill’s Wild West, and Ranch 101, and, oh, lots and lots of other shows.

And they are the boys who started in the barn loft at Baraboo, Wisconsin. They are the “Circus Trust” of America!

The chances are that the government never will complain because the Ringling boys (for they always will be boys, no matter how old they get) are a “trust.” They own lots and lots of circuses, but many of them they bought when they did not need or want them, out of sentiment when some of the competitors of the days when they rode in wagons were in hard luck.

Some they bought so that they might preserve the names of the famous old “shows.” Some they bought so that they might direct the routes, and send some circuses to some city or town their “big shows” could not reach. Some they wanted because from them they could get new acts and new performers for the “big shows,” and some they own because when the public has ceased to thrill over some famous “actor” in the big shows they can send him to the smaller ones where he may perform before those who never have felt the thrills.

There is too much sentiment in the circus business for it to be a destroyer or a menace. The Ringlings have bought shows, carried them, supplied them with acts and given the old owner full charge to buy them back and run them.

Just how many men and women, and horses and dogs these boys own now even they do not know exactly. Some idea of the vast expanse of creating and maintaining a great circus may be gained from the fact that the Ringling shows’ menagerie alone is valued and insured at more than $1,000,000; the forty performing elephants are worth $250,000. The robe worn by one elephant alone cost $12,000. The length of the Ringlings’ main tent is 580 feet, the largest ever erected; the menagerie contains 108 cages, and the parade is three miles long. The 4,500 costumes worn in the Solomon and the Queen of Sheba spectacle itself were produced at the cost of more than $1,000,000.

Double these latter figures—for the Barnum shows are about the same size, add one-third for the smaller shows controlled and you will have some idea of the magnitude of the “show” business.

 

Adapted from "Ringling Kids' Back Yard Show Grows into Mammoth Octopus." Fullerton, Hugh S. The day book. [Chicago, IL] 13 June 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Which of the following is not used as evidence of the Ringling brothers' success?

Possible Answers:

The names of prominent circuses they have bought

The number of performers in their main show

The number of cages to house their animals

The number of costumes in a particular performance

Correct answer:

The number of performers in their main show

Explanation:

The article references the number of cages in the Ringling menagerie and the number of costumes in the "Solomon and the Queen of Sheba" performance in the tenth paragraph. The fifth paragraph references several prominent circuses that have been bought by the Ringling brothers.

While the tenth paragraph implies that there are a great many people employed by the Ringling brothers' circus, the exact number of performers is not listed.

Example Question #52 : Comprehension

Once upon a time (and that was only 33 years ago) there were five little boys who played circus in their back yards with a strip of rag carpet for a tent and a paper whale. They charged pins and then pennies.

Then they gave a real show in the barn, and then in the hall. And now they own elephants and camels and giraffes and hippopotamuses, and about forty eleven circuses.

When the bands blare and the horses “rare” and the big green and gold and silver wagons come past, and the clowns cut up such funny didoes, the chances are that you are seeing the men that the Ringling Brothers employ to amuse the boys and girls; yes, and the men and women of America during the summer.

For the circus business of America is the Ringling business.

They own the Ringling Brothers’ show, and Barnum’s, which was later Barnum and Bailey’s, the Forepaugh-Sells shows and what is left of the Hagenback’s and more of the dog and pony shows, and the remnants of Buffalo Bill’s and Pawnee Bill’s Wild West, and Ranch 101, and, oh, lots and lots of other shows.

And they are the boys who started in the barn loft at Baraboo, Wisconsin. They are the “Circus Trust” of America!

The chances are that the government never will complain because the Ringling boys (for they always will be boys, no matter how old they get) are a “trust.” They own lots and lots of circuses, but many of them they bought when they did not need or want them, out of sentiment when some of the competitors of the days when they rode in wagons were in hard luck.

Some they bought so that they might preserve the names of the famous old “shows.” Some they bought so that they might direct the routes, and send some circuses to some city or town their “big shows” could not reach. Some they wanted because from them they could get new acts and new performers for the “big shows,” and some they own because when the public has ceased to thrill over some famous “actor” in the big shows they can send him to the smaller ones where he may perform before those who never have felt the thrills.

There is too much sentiment in the circus business for it to be a destroyer or a menace. The Ringlings have bought shows, carried them, supplied them with acts and given the old owner full charge to buy them back and run them.

Just how many men and women, and horses and dogs these boys own now even they do not know exactly. Some idea of the vast expanse of creating and maintaining a great circus may be gained from the fact that the Ringling shows’ menagerie alone is valued and insured at more than $1,000,000; the forty performing elephants are worth $250,000. The robe worn by one elephant alone cost $12,000. The length of the Ringlings’ main tent is 580 feet, the largest ever erected; the menagerie contains 108 cages, and the parade is three miles long. The 4,500 costumes worn in the Solomon and the Queen of Sheba spectacle itself were produced at the cost of more than $1,000,000.

Double these latter figures—for the Barnum shows are about the same size, add one-third for the smaller shows controlled and you will have some idea of the magnitude of the “show” business.

 

Adapted from "Ringling Kids' Back Yard Show Grows into Mammoth Octopus." Fullerton, Hugh S. The day book. [Chicago, IL] 13 June 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Why does the author believe the government will not challenge the practices of the Ringling brothers?

Possible Answers:

The brothers are sentimental about their industry

The brothers have not yet acquired enough influence to be a threat

The brothers have built a monopoly on the circus industry

The brothers are "boys" and do not pose any threat

Correct answer:

The brothers have built a monopoly on the circus industry

Explanation:

The author makes several notes about the Ringling brothers' acquisition of other circuses and their sentimental investment in the circus industry. He also consistently references them as "boys." Of the answer choices, all but one (the brothers' lack of influence) reference statements that the author made in the passage.

The key to this question is identifying the relevant line that references the government's involvement, found in the seventh paragraph: "the government never will complain because the Ringling boys . . . are a 'trust.'" The author suggests that the brothers have become the "'Circus Trust' of America," buying so many other shows and becoming so influential in the industry that they have essentially built a monopoly. For this reason, the author believes that the government will not challenge the brothers.

Example Question #53 : Comprehension

Adapted from Hall, J. N. "Clayhill Parkhill, Anatomist and Surgeon" in Annals of Surgery (May 1902; 35(5): 674-678)

The surgery of America in those days was still in the masterly grasp of those great surgeons who, in the bloodiest war of modern times, had advanced their profession to an enviable position. In practically every city of the land, the leading surgeon was a man who, after Antietam, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor, had amputated, perhaps, scores of limbs in a single day. The young man thirsting for a place in surgery, stood no chance in the race with men whose operative work in a single day had exceeded all that he might hope to do in ten years.

As a result, the surgery of the country in 1885 was in the hands of men already getting past middle age, and not easily adaptable to new things; as fine a class of surgeons, nevertheless, as ever honored the profession of any country.

Meanwhile the times had changed. Under the stimulus of the work of Lister, antiseptic surgery had been born. The older men watched the younger ones as they fearlessly invaded field after field upon which they had never dared to tread, and they hesitated in their work. The knowledge of bacteriology had been their undoing. A few of these men, conspicuously Keen, of Philadelphia, and Conner, of Cincinnati, adapted themselves to the new order of things; the great majority of them were crowded out by the younger men.

And had these excellent men, thus crowded out of their field of activity, done nothing for surgery? Let us look briefly at their work. After one of the great battles, perhaps 100 amputations were performed. Experience had taught them that in the serious wounds of the extremities, without amputation, 75 percent died; with immediate amputation, 75 percent lived. In other words, amputation avoided fifty deaths in each 100 cases, chiefly from septicemia, pyxemia, erysipelas, secondary hemorrhage, and hospital gangrene. But the new surgery made unnecessary most of these amputations, practically annihilated all these causes of death, and yet saved most of the limbs. Competition under these circumstances was out of the question.

The older men then stepped aside so far as operative surgery went; but the magnificent knowledge of non-operative surgery which these men had attained, executive ability of the first order, and the power of handling large bodies of men, left them still invaluable to the profession and the world. As an illustration of this point, note that as the great railroads pushed westward, almost every one had as chief surgeon one of these able men. Mercer of the Union Pacific, Livingston of the Burlington, and Bancroft of the Denver and Rio Grande, may serve as examples. During the transition period of which I speak, although the young men carried on their operative work independently, they continually sought the counsel of these older men in broad surgical questions, in their fractures and dislocations, and in many other non-operative parts of the field of surgery for which an incomparable experience had so magnificently fitted them.

According to the passage, the reason(s) for the younger surgeons taking over the field from the older generation is or are:

I.   Their superior knowledge and training

II.  Their use of the latest research and techniques

III. Their extensive experience in non-operative aspects of surgery

Possible Answers:

I and II

I, II, and III

II only

I and III

Correct answer:

II only

Explanation:

"II only" is the correct answer, as only statement II is correct.

Statement II states that younger surgeons used the latest techniques and research, which is supported in paragraphs 3 and 4 as reasons for them being able to outperform and outcompete their predecessors. With sterile techniques, they were able to approach cases perform operations never before possible. They also achieved superior results while using limb-sparing surgeries.

Incorrect choices:

Statement I suggests that their knowledge and training is superior to the older generation which is not supported in the passage. It is possible that their knowledge and training in new techniques and bacteriology is superior, however the passage also suggests that they still seek aid from the older generation of surgeons who amassed a great wealth of knowledge from the Civil War.

Statement III describes an advantage of the older surgeons, not the younger surgeons. This is discussed in paragraph 5 as a reason for older surgeons still being crucial to the field of surgery.

Example Question #54 : Comprehension

Adapted from Hall, J. N. "Clayhill Parkhill, Anatomist and Surgeon" in Annals of Surgery (May 1902; 35(5): 674-678)

The surgery of America in those days was still in the masterly grasp of those great surgeons who, in the bloodiest war of modern times, had advanced their profession to an enviable position. In practically every city of the land, the leading surgeon was a man who, after Antietam, Gettysburg, and Cold Harbor, had amputated, perhaps, scores of limbs in a single day. The young man thirsting for a place in surgery, stood no chance in the race with men whose operative work in a single day had exceeded all that he might hope to do in ten years.

As a result, the surgery of the country in 1885 was in the hands of men already getting past middle age, and not easily adaptable to new things; as fine a class of surgeons, nevertheless, as ever honored the profession of any country.

Meanwhile the times had changed. Under the stimulus of the work of Lister, antiseptic surgery had been born. The older men watched the younger ones as they fearlessly invaded field after field upon which they had never dared to tread, and they hesitated in their work. The knowledge of bacteriology had been their undoing. A few of these men, conspicuously Keen, of Philadelphia, and Conner, of Cincinnati, adapted themselves to the new order of things; the great majority of them were crowded out by the younger men.

And had these excellent men, thus crowded out of their field of activity, done nothing for surgery? Let us look briefly at their work. After one of the great battles, perhaps 100 amputations were performed. Experience had taught them that in the serious wounds of the extremities, without amputation, 75 percent died; with immediate amputation, 75 percent lived. In other words, amputation avoided fifty deaths in each 100 cases, chiefly from septicemia, pyxemia, erysipelas, secondary hemorrhage, and hospital gangrene. But the new surgery made unnecessary most of these amputations, practically annihilated all these causes of death, and yet saved most of the limbs. Competition under these circumstances was out of the question.

The older men then stepped aside so far as operative surgery went; but the magnificent knowledge of non-operative surgery which these men had attained, executive ability of the first order, and the power of handling large bodies of men, left them still invaluable to the profession and the world. As an illustration of this point, note that as the great railroads pushed westward, almost every one had as chief surgeon one of these able men. Mercer of the Union Pacific, Livingston of the Burlington, and Bancroft of the Denver and Rio Grande, may serve as examples. During the transition period of which I speak, although the young men carried on their operative work independently, they continually sought the counsel of these older men in broad surgical questions, in their fractures and dislocations, and in many other non-operative parts of the field of surgery for which an incomparable experience had so magnificently fitted them.

All of the following are cited as reasons for the success of the older generation of surgeons EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

decision-making capacity

the use of limb-salvaging surgery

the number of operations performed

knowledge and experience

Correct answer:

the use of limb-salvaging surgery

Explanation:

All of the answer choices are mentioned by the author in support of the older generation except "the use of limb-salvaging surgery."

The older generation was well-versed in amputations, but it was the younger surgeons who performed limb-sparing operations that made amputations outdated and unnecessary.

Incorrect choices:

The older surgeons were described as having invaluable knowledge and experience for which younger surgeons would turn to for counsel. They were also said to have had performed so many operations that it would take a new surgeon a decade to accomplish what they did in a day during the Civil War. The author says that the older generation of surgeons was still very much needed for their decision-making and their administrative abilities in dealing with large volumes of patients.

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