MCAT Verbal : Comprehension

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

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

It is a good many years since I was in Switzerland last. In that remote time there was only one ladder railway in the country. That state of things is all changed. There isn't a mountain in Switzerland now that hasn't a ladder railroad or two up its back like suspenders; indeed, some mountains are latticed with them, and two years hence all will be. In that day the peasant of the high altitudes will have to carry a lantern when he goes visiting in the night to keep from stumbling over railroads that have been built since his last round. And also in that day, if there shall remain a high-altitude peasant whose potato-patch hasn't a railroad through it, it will make him as conspicuous as William Tell.

However, there are only two best ways to travel through Switzerland. The first best is afoot. The second best is by open two-horse carriage. One can come from Lucerne to Interlaken over the Brunig by ladder railroad in an hour or so now, but you can glide smoothly in a carriage in ten, and have two hours for luncheon at noon—for luncheon, not for rest. There is no fatigue connected with the trip. One arrives fresh in spirit and in person in the evening—no fret in his heart, no grime on his face, no grit in his hair, not a cinder in his eye. This is the right condition of mind and body, the right and due preparation for the solemn event which closed the day—stepping with metaphorically uncovered head into the presence of the most impressive mountain mass that the globe can show—the Jungfrau. The stranger's first feeling, when suddenly confronted by that towering and awful apparition wrapped in its shroud of snow, is breath-taking astonishment. It is as if heaven's gates had swung open and exposed the throne.

It is peaceful here and pleasant at Interlaken. Nothing going on—at least nothing but brilliant life-giving sunshine. This is a good atmosphere to be in, morally as well as physically. After trying the political atmosphere of the neighboring monarchies, it is healing and refreshing to breathe in air that has known no taint of slavery for six hundred years, and to come among a people whose political history is great and fine, and worthy to be taught in all schools and studied by all races and peoples. For the struggle here throughout the centuries has not been in the interest of any private family, or any church, but in the interest of the whole body of the nation, and for shelter and protection of all forms of belief. This fact is colossal. If one would realize how colossal it is, and of what dignity and majesty, let him contrast it with the purposes and objects of the Crusades, the siege of York, the War of the Roses, and other historic comedies of that sort and size.

Last week I was beating around the Lake of Four Cantons, and I saw Rutli and Altorf. Rutli is a remote little patch of a meadow, but I do not know how any piece of ground could be holier or better worth crossing oceans and continents to see, since it was there that the great trinity of Switzerland joined hands six centuries ago and swore the oath which set their enslaved and insulted country forever free; and Altorf is also honorable ground and worshipful, since it was there that William, surnamed Tell (which interpreted means "The foolish talker"—that is to say, the too-daring talker), refused to bow to Gessler's hat. Of late years the prying student of history has been delighting himself beyond measure over a wonderful find which he has made—to wit, that Tell did not shoot the apple from his son's head. To hear the students jubilate, one would suppose that the question of whether Tell shot the apple or didn't was an important matter, whereas it ranks in importance exactly with the question of whether Washington chopped down the cherry-tree or didn't. The deeds of Washington, the patriot, are the essential thing; the cherry-tree incident is of no consequence. Tell was more and better than a mere marksman, more and better than a mere cool head; he was a type; he stands for Swiss patriotism; in his person was represented a whole people; his spirit was their spirit—the spirit which would bow to none but God, the spirit which said this in words and confirmed it with deeds. There have always been Tells in Switzerland—people who would not bow. There was a sufficiency of them at Rutli; there were plenty of them at Murten; plenty at Grandson; there are plenty today.

Why does the author believe the War of the Roses and the Crusades were “historical comedies”?

Possible Answers:

Because they caused great suffering to a wide variety of people

Because they were fought without good cause or consideration

Because they were fought in the interest of a small group of people

Because they were barbaric and inhumane

Because they are easily parodied

Correct answer:

Because they were fought in the interest of a small group of people

Explanation:

Because the author uses the word “comedies,” it might seem reasonable to answer that he means that the War of the Roses and the Crusades are easily parodied or make for comical reading. However, this is actually quite far from his meaning. He much more closely means that they were “ridiculous.” He compares these conflicts to the conflicts fought in Switzerland, with the former being fought in the interest of a small group of people and the latter being fought in the interest of preserving freedom for the whole of the population. This can be seen most clearly when the author says, “For the struggle here throughout the centuries has not been in the interest of any private family, or any church, but in the interest of the whole body of the nation, and for shelter and protection of all forms of belief.”

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 #12 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from “Edgar Allen Poe” in The Courier by Willa Cather (October 12, 1895)

The Shakespeare society of New York, which is really about the only useful literary organization in this country, is making vigorous efforts to redress an old wrong and atone for a long neglect. Sunday, Sept. 22, it held a meeting at the Poe cottage on Kingsbridge road near Fordham, for the purpose of starting an organized movement to buy back the cottage, restore it to its original condition, and preserve it as a memorial of Poe. So it has come at last. After helping build monuments to Shelley, Keats, and Carlyle, we have at last remembered this man, the greatest of our poets and the most unhappy. I am glad that this movement is in the hands of American actors, for it was among them that Poe found his best friends and warmest admirers. In some way he always seemed to belong to the strolling Thespians who were his mother’s people.

Among all the thousands of life’s little ironies that make history so diverting, there is none more paradoxical than that Edgar Poe should have been an American. Look at his face. Had we ever another like it? He must have been a strange figure in his youth, among those genial, courtly Virginians, this handsome, pale fellow, violent in his enthusiasm, ardent in his worship, but spiritually cold in his affections. Now playing heavily for the mere excitement of play; now worshipping at the shrine of a woman old enough to be his mother, merely because her voice was beautiful; now swimming six miles up the James river against a heavy current in the glaring sun of a June midday. He must have seemed to them an unreal figure, a sort of stage man who was wandering about the streets with his mask and buskins on, a theatrical figure who had escaped by some strange mischance into the prosaic daylight. His speech and actions were unconsciously and sincerely dramatic, always as though done for effect. He had that nervous, egotistic, self-centered nature common to stage children who seem to have been dazzled by the footlights and maddened by the applause before they are born. It was in his blood. With the exception of two women who loved him, lived for him, died for him, he went through life friendless, misunderstood, with that dense, complete, hopeless misunderstanding which, as Amiel said, is the secret of that sad smile upon the lips of the great. Men tried to befriend him, but in some way or other he hurt and disappointed them. He tried to mingle and share with other men, but he was always shut from them by that shadow, light as gossamer but unyielding as adamant, by which, from the beginning of the world, art has shielded and guarded and protected her own, that God-concealing mist in which the heroes of old were hidden, immersed in that gloom and solitude which, if we could but know it here, is but the shadow of God’s hand as it falls upon his elect.

We lament our dearth of great prose. With the exception of Henry James and Hawthorne, Poe is our only master of pure prose. We lament our dearth of poets. With the exception of Lowell, Poe is our only great poet. Poe found short story writing a bungling makeshift. He left it a perfect art. He wrote the first perfect short stories in the English language. He first gave the short story purpose, method, and artistic form. In a careless reading one cannot realize the wonderful literary art, the cunning devices, the masterly effects that those entrancing tales conceal. They are simple and direct enough to delight us when we are children, subtle and artistic enough to be our marvel when we are old. To this day they are the wonder and admiration of the French, who are the acknowledged masters of craft and form. How in his wandering, laborious life, bound to the hack work of the press and crushed by an ever-growing burden of want and debt, did he ever come upon all this deep and mystical lore, this knowledge of all history, of all languages, of all art, this penetration into the hidden things of the East? As Steadman says, “The self-training of genius is always a marvel.” The past is spread before us all and most of us spend our lives in learning those things which we do not need to know, but genius reaches out instinctively and takes only the vital detail, by some sort of spiritual gravitation goes directly to the right thing.

According to the author, what is the great wonder of Poe’s life?

Possible Answers:

He understood his fellow man despite being completely ostracized from his community.

He was able to become a master of his craft in spite of deeply challenging circumstances.

He only loved two women and they were both twice his age.

He was able to flourish as an artist despite experiencing severe depression.

He is so beloved in Europe and almost universally ignored in his home country.

Correct answer:

He was able to become a master of his craft in spite of deeply challenging circumstances.

Explanation:

The author describe the great wonder of Poe’s life in the following excerpt from the concluding paragraph: “How in his wandering, laborious life, bound to the hack work of the press and crushed by an ever-growing burden of want and debt, did he ever come upon all this deep and mystical lore, this knowledge of all history, of all languages, of all art, this penetration into the hidden things of the East? As Steadman says, 'The self training of genius is always a marvel.'” So, we can see that the author is marveling that Poe was able to become so well versed in his craft in spite of the crushing burdens he faced. This is closest to the answer choice that reads “That he was able to become a master of his craft in spite of deeply challenging circumstances.” The answer choice “That he was able to flourish as an artist despite experiencing severe depression” is very close to the correct answer, but the author focuses more on the challenging circumstances facing Poe than he does on Poe’s severe depression. The other answer choices are all things that made Poe unusual according to the author, but they do not represent the author’s opinion on what was the great wonder of Poe’s life.

Example Question #13 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from “The Memorable Assassination” in What is Man? And Other Essays by Mark Twain (1906)

One of the commonest forms of madness is the desire to be noticed, the pleasure derived from being noticed. Perhaps it is not merely common, but universal. In its mildest form it doubtless is universal. Every child is pleased at being noticed; many intolerable children put in their whole time in distressing and idiotic effort to attract the attention of visitors; boys are always "showing off"; apparently all men and women are glad and grateful when they find that they have done a thing which has lifted them for a moment out of obscurity and caused wondering talk. This common madness can develop, by nurture, into a hunger for notoriety in one, for fame in another. It is this madness for being noticed and talked about which has invented kingship and the thousand other dignities, and tricked them out with pretty and showy fineries; it has made kings pick one another's pockets, scramble for one another's crowns and estates, slaughter one another's subjects; it has raised up prize-fighters, and poets, and village mayors, and little and big politicians, and big and little charity-founders, and bicycle champions, and banditti chiefs, and frontier desperadoes, and Napoleons. Anything to get notoriety; anything to set the village, or the township, or the city, or the state, or the nation, or the planet shouting, "Look—there he goes—that is the man!" And in five minutes' time, at no cost of brain, or labor, or genius this mangy Italian tramp has beaten them all, transcended them all, outstripped them all, for in time their names will perish, but by the friendly help of the insane newspapers and courts and kings and historians, his is safe to live and thunder in the world all down the ages as long as human speech shall endure! Oh, if it were not so tragic, how ludicrous it would be!

She was so blameless, the Empress; and so beautiful, in mind and heart, in person and spirit; and whether with a crown upon her head or without it and nameless, a grace to the human race, and almost a justification of its creation; would be, indeed, but that the animal that struck her down reestablishes the doubt.

In her character was every quality that in woman invites and engages respect, esteem, affection, and homage. Her tastes, her instincts, and her aspirations were all high and fine and all her life her heart and brain were busy with activities of a noble sort. She had had bitter griefs, but they did not sour her spirit, and she had had the highest honors in the world's gift, but she went her simple way unspoiled. She knew all ranks, and won them all, and made them her friends. An English fisherman's wife said, "When a body was in trouble she didn't send her help; she brought it herself." Crowns have adorned others, but she adorned her crowns.

It was a swift celebrity the assassin achieved. And it is marked by some curious contrasts. At noon last Saturday there was no one in the world who would have considered acquaintanceship with him a thing worth claiming or mentioning; no one would have been vain of such an acquaintanceship. The humblest honest boot-black would not have valued the fact that he had met him or seen him at some time or other; he was sunk in abysmal obscurity, he was away beneath the notice of the bottom grades of officialdom. Three hours later he was the one subject of conversation in the world, the gilded generals and admirals and governors were discussing him, all the kings and queens and emperors had put aside their other interests to talk about him. And wherever there was a man, at the summit of the world or the bottom of it, who by chance had at some time or other come across that creature, he remembered it with a secret satisfaction, and mentioned it—for it was a distinction, now! It brings human dignity pretty low, and for a moment the thing is not quite realizable—but it is perfectly true. If there is a king who can remember, now, that he once saw that creature in a time past, he has let that fact out, in a more or less studiously casual and indifferent way, some dozens of times during the past week. For a king is merely human; the inside of him is exactly like the inside of any other person, and it is human to find satisfaction in being in a kind of personal way connected with amazing events. We are all privately vain of such a thing. We are all alike; a king is a king by accident. The reason the rest of us are not kings is merely due to another accident. We are all made out of the same clay, and it is a sufficiently poor quality.

The author’s attitude towards the assassin could best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

condescending and dismissive

disgusted and unsympathetic

vengeful and wrathful

apathetic and whimsical

supportive and merciful

Correct answer:

disgusted and unsympathetic

Explanation:

The author’s attitude towards the assassin is mostly “disgusted and unsympathetic.” The disgust can be seen in the words the author chooses to describe the assassin: “tramp” and “that creature.” It can also be inferred from the author’s lofty respect for the Empress and his sadness at her death. The lack of sympathy can also be understood from the complete lack of an attempt made by the author to understand the motives or reasons behind the assassination. He seems to imply that the assassin acted in order to gain fame and notoriety, and not for any particular cause. It is possible to say that the author’s attitude might be “vengeful and wrathful,” but these words seem too strong for the limited focus that the author gives the assassin. It is much more reasonable to suggest he is “unsympathetic.”

Example Question #14 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from “Disraeli” in Political and Literary Essays 1908-1913 by Evelyn Baring Cromer (1913)

Whatever views one may adopt of Disraeli's character and career, it is impossible not to be fascinated in watching the moral and intellectual development of this very remarkable man, whose conduct throughout life, far from being wayward and erratic, as has at times been somewhat superficially supposed, was in reality in the highest degree methodical, being directed with unflagging persistence to one end, the gratification of his own ambition—an ambition, it should always be remembered, which, although it was honorable, inasmuch as it was directed to no ignoble ends, was wholly personal. If ever there was a man to whom Milton's well-known lines could fitly be applied it was Disraeli. He scorned delights. He lived laborious days. In his youth he eschewed pleasures which generally attract others whose ambition only soars to a lower plane. In the most intimate relations of life he subordinated all private inclinations to the main object he had in view. He avowedly married, in the first instance, for money, although at a later stage his wife was able to afford herself the consolation, and to pay him the graceful compliment of obliterating the sordid reproach by declaring that "if he had the chance again he would marry her for love"—a statement confirmed by his passionate, although somewhat histrionic love-letters. The desire of fame, which may easily degenerate into a mere craving for notoriety, was unquestionably the spur which in his case raised his "clear spirit." So early as 1833, on being asked upon what principles he was going to stand at a forthcoming election, he replied, "On my head." He cared, in fact, little for principles of any kind, provided the goal of his ambition could be reached. Throughout his career his main object was to rule his countrymen, and that object he attained by the adoption of methods which, whether they be regarded as tortuous or straightforward, morally justifiable or worthy of condemnation, were of a surety eminently successful.

From earliest youth to green old age his confidence in his own powers was never shaken. He persistently acted up to the sentiment—slightly paraphrased from Terence—which he had characteristically adopted as his family motto, Forti nihil difficile; neither could there be any question as to the genuine nature either of his strength or his courage, although hostile critics might seek to confound the latter quality with sheer impudence. He abhorred the commonplace, and it is notably this abhorrence which gives a vivid, although somewhat meretricious sparkle to his personality. For although truth is generally dull, and although probably most of the reforms and changes which have really benefited mankind partake largely of the commonplace, the attraction of unconventionality and sensationalism cannot be denied. Disraeli made English politics interesting, just as Ismail Pasha gave at one time a spurious interest to the politics of Egypt. No one could tell what would be the next step taken by the juggler in Cairo or by that meteoric statesman in London whom John Bright once called "the great wizard of Buckinghamshire." When Disraeli disappeared from the stage, the atmosphere may have become clearer, and possibly more healthy for the body politic in the aggregate, but the level of interest fell, whilst the barometer of dulness rose.

If the saying generally attributed to Buffon that "the style is the man" is correct, an examination of Disraeli's style ought to give a true insight into his character. There can be no question of the readiness of his wit or of his superabundant power of sarcasm. Besides the classic instances which have almost passed into proverbs, others, less well known, are recorded in these pages. The statement that "from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to an Under Secretary of State is a descent from the sublime to the ridiculous" is very witty. The well-known description of Lord Derby as "the Rupert of debate" is both witty and felicitous, whilst the sarcasm in the context, which is less well known, is both witty and biting. The noble lord, Disraeli said, was like Prince Rupert, because "his charge was resistless, but when he returned from the pursuit he always found his camp in the possession of the enemy." Much has at times been said and written of the solecisms for which Disraeli was famous. They came naturally to him. At the same time there can be little doubt that his practice of indulging in carefully prepared solecisms, which became more daring as he advanced in power, was part of a deliberate and perfectly legitimate plan, conceived with the object of arresting the attention and stimulating the interest of his audience.

With which of these statements would the author most likely disagree?

Possible Answers:

British politicians have a long history of pragmatism.

Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. 

A politician should do whatever they can to achieve success.

A politician without principles is morally reprehensible.

The author would agree with all these statements. 

Correct answer:

A politician without principles is morally reprehensible.

Explanation:

The author of this passage would most likely disagree that “a politician without principles is morally reprehensible.” This could be inferred from an understanding of the whole passage, as the author describes Disraeli as a man devoid of principles and seems to revere and respect him, or by a close reading of excerpts such as this one: “He cared, in fact, little for principles of any kind, provided the goal of his ambition could be reached. Throughout his career his main object was to rule his countrymen, and that object he attained by the adoption of methods which, whether they be regarded as tortuous or straightforward, morally justifiable or worthy of condemnation, were of a surety eminently successful.” Here, the author says that a politician without principles could either be morally justifiable or worthy of condemnation according to whoever is doing the judging; however, the author does not make any judgments of that kind himself. The other statements are either things the author would probably agree with, like “A politician should do whatever they can to achieve success," or else they are statements that cannot be supported by the text, and therefore we do not know if the author would agree or disagree with them, such as “British politicians have a long history of pragmatism" and “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.”

Example Question #15 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from “Disraeli” in Political and Literary Essays 1908-1913 by Evelyn Baring Cromer (1913)

Whatever views one may adopt of Disraeli's character and career, it is impossible not to be fascinated in watching the moral and intellectual development of this very remarkable man, whose conduct throughout life, far from being wayward and erratic, as has at times been somewhat superficially supposed, was in reality in the highest degree methodical, being directed with unflagging persistence to one end, the gratification of his own ambition—an ambition, it should always be remembered, which, although it was honorable, inasmuch as it was directed to no ignoble ends, was wholly personal. If ever there was a man to whom Milton's well-known lines could fitly be applied it was Disraeli. He scorned delights. He lived laborious days. In his youth he eschewed pleasures which generally attract others whose ambition only soars to a lower plane. In the most intimate relations of life he subordinated all private inclinations to the main object he had in view. He avowedly married, in the first instance, for money, although at a later stage his wife was able to afford herself the consolation, and to pay him the graceful compliment of obliterating the sordid reproach by declaring that "if he had the chance again he would marry her for love"—a statement confirmed by his passionate, although somewhat histrionic love-letters. The desire of fame, which may easily degenerate into a mere craving for notoriety, was unquestionably the spur which in his case raised his "clear spirit." So early as 1833, on being asked upon what principles he was going to stand at a forthcoming election, he replied, "On my head." He cared, in fact, little for principles of any kind, provided the goal of his ambition could be reached. Throughout his career his main object was to rule his countrymen, and that object he attained by the adoption of methods which, whether they be regarded as tortuous or straightforward, morally justifiable or worthy of condemnation, were of a surety eminently successful.

From earliest youth to green old age his confidence in his own powers was never shaken. He persistently acted up to the sentiment—slightly paraphrased from Terence—which he had characteristically adopted as his family motto, Forti nihil difficile; neither could there be any question as to the genuine nature either of his strength or his courage, although hostile critics might seek to confound the latter quality with sheer impudence. He abhorred the commonplace, and it is notably this abhorrence which gives a vivid, although somewhat meretricious sparkle to his personality. For although truth is generally dull, and although probably most of the reforms and changes which have really benefited mankind partake largely of the commonplace, the attraction of unconventionality and sensationalism cannot be denied. Disraeli made English politics interesting, just as Ismail Pasha gave at one time a spurious interest to the politics of Egypt. No one could tell what would be the next step taken by the juggler in Cairo or by that meteoric statesman in London whom John Bright once called "the great wizard of Buckinghamshire." When Disraeli disappeared from the stage, the atmosphere may have become clearer, and possibly more healthy for the body politic in the aggregate, but the level of interest fell, whilst the barometer of dulness rose.

If the saying generally attributed to Buffon that "the style is the man" is correct, an examination of Disraeli's style ought to give a true insight into his character. There can be no question of the readiness of his wit or of his superabundant power of sarcasm. Besides the classic instances which have almost passed into proverbs, others, less well known, are recorded in these pages. The statement that "from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to an Under Secretary of State is a descent from the sublime to the ridiculous" is very witty. The well-known description of Lord Derby as "the Rupert of debate" is both witty and felicitous, whilst the sarcasm in the context, which is less well known, is both witty and biting. The noble lord, Disraeli said, was like Prince Rupert, because "his charge was resistless, but when he returned from the pursuit he always found his camp in the possession of the enemy." Much has at times been said and written of the solecisms for which Disraeli was famous. They came naturally to him. At the same time there can be little doubt that his practice of indulging in carefully prepared solecisms, which became more daring as he advanced in power, was part of a deliberate and perfectly legitimate plan, conceived with the object of arresting the attention and stimulating the interest of his audience.

The author’s attitude towards Disraeli is primarily one of __________.

Possible Answers:

sympathy

benevolence

reverence

condescension

acceptance

Correct answer:

reverence

Explanation:

Throughout this passage the author shows a great deal of respect and admiration for Disraeli. This can be seen in excerpts such as “part of a deliberate and perfectly legitimate plan"; “There can be no question of the readiness of his wit“; and "this very remarkable man." This means that the author’s attitude could best be described as one of “reverence.” It is true that he is “sympathetic” and “accepting” of Disraeli, but these are not his primary attitudes. His sympathy and acceptance seems to derive from his deep respect for the man, rather than the other way around. He is certainly not “condescending,” and it is going too far to say his attitude was primarily one of “benevolence.”

Example Question #16 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from “Disraeli” in Political and Literary Essays 1908-1913 by Evelyn Baring Cromer (1913)

Whatever views one may adopt of Disraeli's character and career, it is impossible not to be fascinated in watching the moral and intellectual development of this very remarkable man, whose conduct throughout life, far from being wayward and erratic, as has at times been somewhat superficially supposed, was in reality in the highest degree methodical, being directed with unflagging persistence to one end, the gratification of his own ambition—an ambition, it should always be remembered, which, although it was honorable, inasmuch as it was directed to no ignoble ends, was wholly personal. If ever there was a man to whom Milton's well-known lines could fitly be applied it was Disraeli. He scorned delights. He lived laborious days. In his youth he eschewed pleasures which generally attract others whose ambition only soars to a lower plane. In the most intimate relations of life he subordinated all private inclinations to the main object he had in view. He avowedly married, in the first instance, for money, although at a later stage his wife was able to afford herself the consolation, and to pay him the graceful compliment of obliterating the sordid reproach by declaring that "if he had the chance again he would marry her for love"—a statement confirmed by his passionate, although somewhat histrionic love-letters. The desire of fame, which may easily degenerate into a mere craving for notoriety, was unquestionably the spur which in his case raised his "clear spirit." So early as 1833, on being asked upon what principles he was going to stand at a forthcoming election, he replied, "On my head." He cared, in fact, little for principles of any kind, provided the goal of his ambition could be reached. Throughout his career his main object was to rule his countrymen, and that object he attained by the adoption of methods which, whether they be regarded as tortuous or straightforward, morally justifiable or worthy of condemnation, were of a surety eminently successful.

From earliest youth to green old age his confidence in his own powers was never shaken. He persistently acted up to the sentiment—slightly paraphrased from Terence—which he had characteristically adopted as his family motto, Forti nihil difficile; neither could there be any question as to the genuine nature either of his strength or his courage, although hostile critics might seek to confound the latter quality with sheer impudence. He abhorred the commonplace, and it is notably this abhorrence which gives a vivid, although somewhat meretricious sparkle to his personality. For although truth is generally dull, and although probably most of the reforms and changes which have really benefited mankind partake largely of the commonplace, the attraction of unconventionality and sensationalism cannot be denied. Disraeli made English politics interesting, just as Ismail Pasha gave at one time a spurious interest to the politics of Egypt. No one could tell what would be the next step taken by the juggler in Cairo or by that meteoric statesman in London whom John Bright once called "the great wizard of Buckinghamshire." When Disraeli disappeared from the stage, the atmosphere may have become clearer, and possibly more healthy for the body politic in the aggregate, but the level of interest fell, whilst the barometer of dulness rose.

If the saying generally attributed to Buffon that "the style is the man" is correct, an examination of Disraeli's style ought to give a true insight into his character. There can be no question of the readiness of his wit or of his superabundant power of sarcasm. Besides the classic instances which have almost passed into proverbs, others, less well known, are recorded in these pages. The statement that "from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to an Under Secretary of State is a descent from the sublime to the ridiculous" is very witty. The well-known description of Lord Derby as "the Rupert of debate" is both witty and felicitous, whilst the sarcasm in the context, which is less well known, is both witty and biting. The noble lord, Disraeli said, was like Prince Rupert, because "his charge was resistless, but when he returned from the pursuit he always found his camp in the possession of the enemy." Much has at times been said and written of the solecisms for which Disraeli was famous. They came naturally to him. At the same time there can be little doubt that his practice of indulging in carefully prepared solecisms, which became more daring as he advanced in power, was part of a deliberate and perfectly legitimate plan, conceived with the object of arresting the attention and stimulating the interest of his audience.

According to the passage, Disraeli’’s primary effect on the political atmosphere in Britain was to __________.

Possible Answers:

make it more interesting

remove all humor from it

make it more accommodating

remove all honor from it

make it less interesting

Correct answer:

make it more interesting

Explanation:

The author says that “When Disraeli disappeared from the stage, the atmosphere may have become clearer, and possibly more healthy for the body politic in the aggregate, but the level of interest fell, whilst the barometer of dulness rose.” This implies that when he was a regular feature in British politics, he helped to “make [British politics] more interesting."

Example Question #21 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from "Harold Frederic" in The Pittsburgh Leader by Willa Cather (June 10, 1899)

It is very fitting that Mr. Frederic’s last book should be in praise of action, the thing that makes the world go round; of force, however misspent, which is the sum of life as distinguished from the inertia of death. In the forty-odd years of his life he wrote almost as many pages as Balzac, most of it mere newspaper copy, it is true, read and forgotten, but all of it vigorous and with the stamp of a strong man upon it. And he played just as hard as he worked—alas, it was the play that killed him! The young artist who illustrated the story gave to the pictures of “Joel Thorpe” very much the look of Harold Frederic himself, and they might almost stand for his portraits. I fancy the young man did not select his model carelessly. In this big, burly adventurer who took fortune and women by storm, who bluffed the world by his prowess and fought his way to the front with battle-ax blows, there is a great deal of Harold Frederic, the soldier of fortune, the Utica milk boy who fought his way from the petty slavery of a provincial newspaper to the foremost ranks of the journalists of the world and on into literature, into literature worth the writing. The man won his place in England much as his hero won his, by defiance, by strong shoulder blows, by his self-sufficiency and inexhaustible strength, and when he finished his book he did not know that his end would be so much less glorious than his hero’s, that it would be his portion not to fall manfully in the thick of the combat and the press of battle, but to die poisoned in the tent of Chryseis. For who could foresee a tragedy so needless, so blind, so brutal in its lack of dignity, or know that such strength could perish through such insidious weakness, that so great a man could be stung to death by a mania born in little minds?

In point of execution and literary excellence, both The Market Place and Gloria Mundi are vastly inferior to The Damnation of Theron Ware or that exquisite London idyl, March Hares. The first two hundred pages of Theron Ware are as good as anything in American fiction, much better than most of it. They are not so much the work of a literary artist as of a vigorous thinker, a man of strong opinions and an intimate and comprehensive knowledge of men. The whole work, despite its irregularities and indifference to form, is full of brain stuff, the kind of active, healthful, masterful  intellect that some men put into politics, some into science and a few, a very few, into literature. Both Gloria Mundi and The Market Place bear unmistakable evidences of the slack rein and the hasty hand. Both of them contain considerable padding, the stamp of the space writer. They are imperfectly developed, and are not packed with ideas like his earlier novels. Their excellence is in flashes; it is not the searching, evenly distributed light which permeates his more careful work. There were, as we know too well, good reasons why Mr. Frederic should work hastily. He needed a large income and he worked heroically, writing many thousands of words a day to obtain it. From the experience of the ages we have learned to expect to find, coupled with great strength, a proportionate weakness, and usually it devours the greater part, as the seven lean kine devoured the seven fat in Pharaoh’s vision. Achilles was a god in all his nobler parts, but his feet were of the earth and to the earth they held him down, and he died stung by an arrow in the heel.

Why does the author believe it is appropriate that Mr. Frederic's last book was written in praise of action?

Possible Answers:

Because Mr. Frederic was an athletic and energetic man

Because Mr. Frederic was well-travelled and refused to remain in one place for too long

Because Mr. Frederic was an industrious and prolific writer and worker

Because Mr. Frederic was an aggressive and belligerent man with a quick temper

Because Mr. Frederic was a strong and determined man

Correct answer:

Because Mr. Frederic was an industrious and prolific writer and worker

Explanation:

It is clear from context that when the author says "action," she means hard-working and dedicatedly engaged in a particular activity. This is generally the secondary meaning of "active." That this is the meaning can be clearly seen from the context in which the word is used at the beginning of the essay: "It is very fitting that Mr. Frederic’s last book should be in praise of action, the thing that makes the world go round; of force, however misspent, which is the sum of life as distinguished from the inertia of death." The author goes on to talk about, numerous times, how she believes Mr. Frederic was "industrious" and a "prolific writer." This can be seen in excerpts like, "In the forty-odd years of his life he wrote almost as many pages as Balzac . . . but all of it vigorous," and  "There were, as we know too well, good reasons why Mr. Frederic should work hastily. He needed a large income and he worked heroically, writing many thousands of words a day to obtain it."

Example Question #22 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from "Harold Frederic" in The Pittsburgh Leader by Willa Cather (June 10, 1899)

It is very fitting that Mr. Frederic’s last book should be in praise of action, the thing that makes the world go round; of force, however misspent, which is the sum of life as distinguished from the inertia of death. In the forty-odd years of his life he wrote almost as many pages as Balzac, most of it mere newspaper copy, it is true, read and forgotten, but all of it vigorous and with the stamp of a strong man upon it. And he played just as hard as he worked—alas, it was the play that killed him! The young artist who illustrated the story gave to the pictures of “Joel Thorpe” very much the look of Harold Frederic himself, and they might almost stand for his portraits. I fancy the young man did not select his model carelessly. In this big, burly adventurer who took fortune and women by storm, who bluffed the world by his prowess and fought his way to the front with battle-ax blows, there is a great deal of Harold Frederic, the soldier of fortune, the Utica milk boy who fought his way from the petty slavery of a provincial newspaper to the foremost ranks of the journalists of the world and on into literature, into literature worth the writing. The man won his place in England much as his hero won his, by defiance, by strong shoulder blows, by his self-sufficiency and inexhaustible strength, and when he finished his book he did not know that his end would be so much less glorious than his hero’s, that it would be his portion not to fall manfully in the thick of the combat and the press of battle, but to die poisoned in the tent of Chryseis. For who could foresee a tragedy so needless, so blind, so brutal in its lack of dignity, or know that such strength could perish through such insidious weakness, that so great a man could be stung to death by a mania born in little minds?

In point of execution and literary excellence, both The Market Place and Gloria Mundi are vastly inferior to The Damnation of Theron Ware or that exquisite London idyl, March Hares. The first two hundred pages of Theron Ware are as good as anything in American fiction, much better than most of it. They are not so much the work of a literary artist as of a vigorous thinker, a man of strong opinions and an intimate and comprehensive knowledge of men. The whole work, despite its irregularities and indifference to form, is full of brain stuff, the kind of active, healthful, masterful  intellect that some men put into politics, some into science and a few, a very few, into literature. Both Gloria Mundi and The Market Place bear unmistakable evidences of the slack rein and the hasty hand. Both of them contain considerable padding, the stamp of the space writer. They are imperfectly developed, and are not packed with ideas like his earlier novels. Their excellence is in flashes; it is not the searching, evenly distributed light which permeates his more careful work. There were, as we know too well, good reasons why Mr. Frederic should work hastily. He needed a large income and he worked heroically, writing many thousands of words a day to obtain it. From the experience of the ages we have learned to expect to find, coupled with great strength, a proportionate weakness, and usually it devours the greater part, as the seven lean kine devoured the seven fat in Pharaoh’s vision. Achilles was a god in all his nobler parts, but his feet were of the earth and to the earth they held him down, and he died stung by an arrow in the heel.

In the first paragraph, the author primarily characterizes Frederic by his __________.

Possible Answers:

tragic demise

strength and defiance

humble beginnings

whimsy and madness

meteoric rise

Correct answer:

strength and defiance

Explanation:

In the first paragraph, the author repeatedly characterizes Frederic by his “strength and defiance.” This can be seen in many excerpts, such as when the author describes Frederic's writing as “all of it vigorous and with the stamp of a strong man upon it." Frederic is also characterized by his "strength and defiance" when the author compares him to the character Joel Thorpe, writing, “In this big, burly adventurer who took fortune by storm, who bluffed the world by his prowess and fought his way to the front with battle-ax blows, there is a great deal of Harold Frederic." The author continues this comparison in further description of Frederic, saying, “The man won his place in England much as his hero won his, by defiance, by strong shoulder blows, by his self-sufficiency and inexhaustible strength." 

Although the author does mention Frederic’s “tragic demise” towards the end of the first paragraph, this is not her “primary” characterization of Frederic in the first paragraph. Likewise, Frederic's “humble beginnings” are discussed, as are his “meteoric rise,” but neither of these are as central to the author’s characterization of Frederic as his “strength and defiance.”

Example Question #21 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from "Harold Frederic" in The Pittsburgh Leader by Willa Cather (June 10, 1899)

It is very fitting that Mr. Frederic’s last book should be in praise of action, the thing that makes the world go round; of force, however misspent, which is the sum of life as distinguished from the inertia of death. In the forty-odd years of his life he wrote almost as many pages as Balzac, most of it mere newspaper copy, it is true, read and forgotten, but all of it vigorous and with the stamp of a strong man upon it. And he played just as hard as he worked—alas, it was the play that killed him! The young artist who illustrated the story gave to the pictures of “Joel Thorpe” very much the look of Harold Frederic himself, and they might almost stand for his portraits. I fancy the young man did not select his model carelessly. In this big, burly adventurer who took fortune and women by storm, who bluffed the world by his prowess and fought his way to the front with battle-ax blows, there is a great deal of Harold Frederic, the soldier of fortune, the Utica milk boy who fought his way from the petty slavery of a provincial newspaper to the foremost ranks of the journalists of the world and on into literature, into literature worth the writing. The man won his place in England much as his hero won his, by defiance, by strong shoulder blows, by his self-sufficiency and inexhaustible strength, and when he finished his book he did not know that his end would be so much less glorious than his hero’s, that it would be his portion not to fall manfully in the thick of the combat and the press of battle, but to die poisoned in the tent of Chryseis. For who could foresee a tragedy so needless, so blind, so brutal in its lack of dignity, or know that such strength could perish through such insidious weakness, that so great a man could be stung to death by a mania born in little minds?

In point of execution and literary excellence, both The Market Place and Gloria Mundi are vastly inferior to The Damnation of Theron Ware or that exquisite London idyl, March Hares. The first two hundred pages of Theron Ware are as good as anything in American fiction, much better than most of it. They are not so much the work of a literary artist as of a vigorous thinker, a man of strong opinions and an intimate and comprehensive knowledge of men. The whole work, despite its irregularities and indifference to form, is full of brain stuff, the kind of active, healthful, masterful  intellect that some men put into politics, some into science and a few, a very few, into literature. Both Gloria Mundi and The Market Place bear unmistakable evidences of the slack rein and the hasty hand. Both of them contain considerable padding, the stamp of the space writer. They are imperfectly developed, and are not packed with ideas like his earlier novels. Their excellence is in flashes; it is not the searching, evenly distributed light which permeates his more careful work. There were, as we know too well, good reasons why Mr. Frederic should work hastily. He needed a large income and he worked heroically, writing many thousands of words a day to obtain it. From the experience of the ages we have learned to expect to find, coupled with great strength, a proportionate weakness, and usually it devours the greater part, as the seven lean kine devoured the seven fat in Pharaoh’s vision. Achilles was a god in all his nobler parts, but his feet were of the earth and to the earth they held him down, and he died stung by an arrow in the heel.

The author’s attitude towards the decline of Frederic’s work is primarily __________.

Possible Answers:

critical but not stern

understanding but disappointed

nonchalant and apathetic

harsh and severe

accommodating and sympathetic

Correct answer:

understanding but disappointed

Explanation:

From the author’s high praise of Frederic’s early work, it is reasonable to infer that the author would have a “disappointed” attitude towards any apparent decline; however, there is one excerpt in particular that makes it much easier to ascertain the author’s attitude: “There were, as we know too well, good reasons why Mr. Frederic should work hastily. He needed a large income and he worked heroically, writing many thousands of words a day to obtain it.” The author says there are “good reasons,” which suggests she is being “understanding.” It is possible to say that the author is “accommodating and sympathetic,” but this does not do quite as neat of a job of expressing the author’s attitude throughout the text as “understanding but disappointed."

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