MCAT Verbal : Identifying relevant supporting information

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #78 : Comprehension

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 industrious and prolific writer and worker

Because Mr. Frederic was a strong and determined man

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

Because Mr. Frederic was an athletic and energetic man

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

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 #79 : Comprehension

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

whimsy and madness

humble beginnings

meteoric rise

strength and defiance

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 #80 : Comprehension

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:

nonchalant and apathetic

accommodating and sympathetic

understanding but disappointed

harsh and severe

critical but not stern

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."

Example Question #21 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from “Of the Pathetic Fallacy” by John Ruskin in English Critical Essays: Nineteenth Century (1916, ed. Edward Jones)

English affectation has of late much multiplied among us the use of two of the most objectionable words that were ever coined by the troublesomeness of metaphysicians—namely, “objective” and “subjective.” No words can be more exquisitely, and in all points, useless; and I merely speak of them that I may, at once and for ever, get them out of my way, and out of my reader’s. But to get that done, they must be explained.

The word “blue,” say certain philosophers, means the sensation of color that the human eye receives in looking at the open sky, or at a bell gentian. Now, say they further, as this sensation can only be felt when the eye is turned to the object, and as, therefore, no such sensation is produced by the object when nobody looks at it, therefore the thing, when it is not looked at, is not blue; and thus (say they) there are many qualities of things which depend as much on something else as on themselves. To be sweet, a thing must have a taster; it is only sweet while it is being tasted, and if the tongue had not the capacity of taste, then the sugar would not have the quality of sweetness.

And then they agree that the qualities of things which thus depend upon our perception of them, and upon our human nature as affected by them, shall be called “subjective”; and the qualities of things which they always have, irrespective of any other nature, as roundness or squareness, shall be called “objective.”

From these ingenious views the step is very easy to a further opinion, that it does not much matter what things are in themselves, but only what they are to us, and that the only real truth of them is their appearance to, or effect upon, us. From which position, with a hearty desire for mystification, and much egotism, selfishness, shallowness, and impertinence, a philosopher may easily go so far as to believe, and say, that everything in the world depends upon his or her seeing or thinking of it, and that nothing, therefore, exists, but what he or she sees or thinks of.

Now, to get rid of all these ambiguities and troublesome words at once, be it observed that the word “blue” does not mean the sensation caused by a gentian on the human eye, but it means the power of producing that sensation; and this power is always there, in the thing, whether we are there to experience it or not, and would remain there though there were not left a man on the face of the earth. Precisely in the same way, gunpowder has a power of exploding. It will not explode if you put no match to it. But it has always the power of so exploding, and is therefore called an explosive compound, which it very positively and assuredly is, whatever philosophy may say to the contrary.

In like manner, a gentian does not produce the sensation of blueness if you don’t look at it. But it has always the power of doing so, its particles being everlastingly so arranged by its Maker. And, therefore, the gentian and the sky are always verily blue, whatever philosophy may say to the contrary, and if you do not see them blue when you look at them, it is not their fault but yours.

Hence I would say to these philosophers: If, instead of using the sonorous phrase, “It is objectively so,” you will use the plain old phrase “It is so,” and if instead of the sonorous phrase “It is subjectively so,” you will say, in plain old English, “It does so” or “It seems so to me,” you will, on the whole, be more intelligible to your fellow-creatures; and besides, if you find that a thing which generally “does so” to other people (as a gentian looks blue to most people), does not so to you, on any particular occasion, you will not fall into the impertinence of saying that the thing is not so, or did not so, but you will say simply (what you will be all the better for speedily finding out) that something is the matter with you. If you find that you cannot explode the gunpowder, you will not declare that all gunpowder is subjective, and all explosion imaginary, but you will simply suspect and declare yourself to be an ill-made match. Which, on the whole, though there may be a distant chance of a mistake about it, is, nevertheless, the wisest conclusion you can come to until further experiment.

Which of the following is the primary function of the third paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To correct an overgeneralization made in the second paragraph

To refute claims made by the opposition

To dismiss the argument of the opposition

To provide succinct definitions for established terms

To further expand upon points made in the first two paragraphs

Correct answer:

To provide succinct definitions for established terms

Explanation:

The third paragraph is relatively short and serves the limited function of providing “succinct definitions for the established terms” of “subjective” and “objective.” This is clear from the fact that each of the sentences is concluded with “shall be called 'subjective'” or “shall be called 'objective.'”

Example Question #22 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from “Of the Pathetic Fallacy” by John Ruskin in English Critical Essays: Nineteenth Century (1916, ed. Edward Jones)

English affectation has of late much multiplied among us the use of two of the most objectionable words that were ever coined by the troublesomeness of metaphysicians—namely, “objective” and “subjective.” No words can be more exquisitely, and in all points, useless; and I merely speak of them that I may, at once and for ever, get them out of my way, and out of my reader’s. But to get that done, they must be explained.

The word “blue,” say certain philosophers, means the sensation of color that the human eye receives in looking at the open sky, or at a bell gentian. Now, say they further, as this sensation can only be felt when the eye is turned to the object, and as, therefore, no such sensation is produced by the object when nobody looks at it, therefore the thing, when it is not looked at, is not blue; and thus (say they) there are many qualities of things which depend as much on something else as on themselves. To be sweet, a thing must have a taster; it is only sweet while it is being tasted, and if the tongue had not the capacity of taste, then the sugar would not have the quality of sweetness.

And then they agree that the qualities of things which thus depend upon our perception of them, and upon our human nature as affected by them, shall be called “subjective”; and the qualities of things which they always have, irrespective of any other nature, as roundness or squareness, shall be called “objective.”

From these ingenious views the step is very easy to a further opinion, that it does not much matter what things are in themselves, but only what they are to us, and that the only real truth of them is their appearance to, or effect upon, us. From which position, with a hearty desire for mystification, and much egotism, selfishness, shallowness, and impertinence, a philosopher may easily go so far as to believe, and say, that everything in the world depends upon his or her seeing or thinking of it, and that nothing, therefore, exists, but what he or she sees or thinks of.

Now, to get rid of all these ambiguities and troublesome words at once, be it observed that the word “blue” does not mean the sensation caused by a gentian on the human eye, but it means the power of producing that sensation; and this power is always there, in the thing, whether we are there to experience it or not, and would remain there though there were not left a man on the face of the earth. Precisely in the same way, gunpowder has a power of exploding. It will not explode if you put no match to it. But it has always the power of so exploding, and is therefore called an explosive compound, which it very positively and assuredly is, whatever philosophy may say to the contrary.

In like manner, a gentian does not produce the sensation of blueness if you don’t look at it. But it has always the power of doing so, its particles being everlastingly so arranged by its Maker. And, therefore, the gentian and the sky are always verily blue, whatever philosophy may say to the contrary, and if you do not see them blue when you look at them, it is not their fault but yours.

Hence I would say to these philosophers: If, instead of using the sonorous phrase, “It is objectively so,” you will use the plain old phrase “It is so,” and if instead of the sonorous phrase “It is subjectively so,” you will say, in plain old English, “It does so” or “It seems so to me,” you will, on the whole, be more intelligible to your fellow-creatures; and besides, if you find that a thing which generally “does so” to other people (as a gentian looks blue to most people), does not so to you, on any particular occasion, you will not fall into the impertinence of saying that the thing is not so, or did not so, but you will say simply (what you will be all the better for speedily finding out) that something is the matter with you. If you find that you cannot explode the gunpowder, you will not declare that all gunpowder is subjective, and all explosion imaginary, but you will simply suspect and declare yourself to be an ill-made match. Which, on the whole, though there may be a distant chance of a mistake about it, is, nevertheless, the wisest conclusion you can come to until further experiment.

In the second paragraph, the author primarily __________.

Possible Answers:

demonstrates his ignorance of the opinions of his opposition

provides a counter-argument to the argument he makes in the first paragraph

defines the terms he introduces in the first paragraph

offers an analogy to help explain his point

explains the notion against which he is arguing

Correct answer:

explains the notion against which he is arguing

Explanation:

In the second paragraph, the author is primarily "explain[ing] the notion against which he is arguing.” In order to make his argument later in the passage, he clearly feels that he has to explain the existing opinion to his audience. It is clear that this is what he is doing because throughout the paragraph, the statements he is making are punctuated by language like “as they say” or “say they further.” He does provide examples of what he is talking about in references to the sky and to flowers, but it would be incorrect to say he “offers an analogy to help explain his point.”

Example Question #23 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from Real Soldiers of Fortune by Richard Harding Davis (1906)

In the strict sense of the phrase, a soldier of fortune is a man who for pay or for the love of adventure fights under the flag of any country. In the bigger sense, he is the kind of man who in any walk of life makes his own fortune, who, when he sees it coming, leaps to meet it, and turns it to his advantage. Then there is Winston Spencer Churchill. Today there are few young men—and he is a very young man—who have met more varying fortunes, and none who has more frequently bent them to his own advancement. To him it has been indifferent whether, at the moment, the fortune seemed good or evil; in the end always it was good.

As a boy officer, when other subalterns were playing polo and at the Gaiety Theatre attending night school, he ran away to Cuba and fought with the Spaniards. For such a breach of military discipline, any other officer would have been court-martialed. Even his friends feared that by his foolishness his career in the army was at an end. Instead, his escapade was made a question in the House of Commons, and the fact brought him such publicity that The Daily Graphic paid him handsomely to write on the Cuban Revolution, and the Spanish Government rewarded him with the Order of Military Merit.

At the very outbreak of the Boer War, he was taken prisoner. It seemed a climax of misfortune. With his brother officers, he had hoped in that campaign to acquit himself with credit, and that he should lie inactive in Pretoria appeared a terrible calamity. To the others who, through many heart-breaking months, suffered imprisonment, it continued to be a calamity. But within six weeks of his capture, Churchill escaped, and, after many adventures, rejoined his own army to find that the calamity had made him a hero.

When after the battle of Omdurman, in his book The River War, he attacked Lord Kitchener, those who did not like him, and they were many, said: "That's the end of Winston in the army. He'll never get another chance to criticize K. of K." But only two years later the chance came, when, no longer a subaltern, but as a member of the House of Commons, he patronized Kitchener by defending him from the attacks of others.

Later, when his assaults upon the leaders of his own party closed to him, even in his own constituency, the Conservative debating clubs, again his ill-wishers said, "This is the end. He has ridiculed those who sit in high places. He has offended his cousin and patron, the Duke of Marlborough. Without political friends, without the influence and money of the Marlborough family, he is a political nonentity." That was eighteen months ago. Today, at the age of thirty-two, he is one of the leaders of the Government party, Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and with the Liberals the most popular young man in public life.

Only last Christmas, at a banquet, Sir Edward Grey, the new Foreign Secretary, said of him: "Mr. Winston Churchill has achieved distinction in at least five different careers—as a soldier, a war correspondent, a lecturer, an author, and last, but not least, as a politician. I have understated it even now, for he has achieved two careers as a politician—one on each side of the House. His first career on the Government side was a really distinguished career. I trust the second will be even more distinguished—and more prolonged. The remarkable thing is that he has done all this when, unless appearances very much belie him, he has not reached the age of sixty-four, which is the minimum age at which the politician ceases to be young."

In this passage, Winston Churchill is primarily characterized by his __________.

Possible Answers:

intelligence and strength

fortune and determination

whimsy and chaotic nature

audacity and daring

luck and conceit

Correct answer:

audacity and daring

Explanation:

In this passage, Churchill is primarily characterized by how bold and daring he is. This can be seen throughout: in Churchill’s attacks on Lord Kitchener; in his experiences in Cuba and South Africa; and in his rise to prominence as a politician and a war hero. All of the anecdotes about Churchill have one thing in common: they reflect the idea that Churchill was bold, brave, and willing to take risks.

Example Question #24 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from The Everyday Life of Abraham Lincoln by Francis Fischer Browne (1913)

In 1838, Lincoln was for a third time a candidate for the State Legislature. Mr. Wilson, one of his colleagues from Sangamon County, states that a question of the division of the county was one of the local issues. "Mr. Lincoln and myself," says Mr. Wilson, "among others residing in the portion of the county that sought to be organized into a new county, opposed the division, and it became necessary that I should make a special canvass through the northwest part of the county, then known as Sand Ridge. I made the canvass. Mr. Lincoln accompanied me, being personally acquainted with everyone we called at nearly every house. At that time it was the universal custom to keep some whiskey in the house for private use and to treat friends. The subject was always mentioned as a matter of politeness, but with the usual remark to Mr. Lincoln, ‘We know you never drink, but maybe your friend would like to take a little.' I never saw Mr. Lincoln drink. He often told me he never drank, and had no desire for drink, nor for the companionship of drinking men."

The result of this canvass was that Lincoln was elected to the Legislature for the session of 1838-39. The next year he was elected for the session of 1840-41. This ended his legislative service, which comprised eight consecutive years, from 1834 to 1841. In these later sessions, he was as active and prominent in the House as he had been in the earlier times when a member from New Salem.

Lincoln's faculty for getting the better of an adversary by an apt illustration or anecdote was seldom better shown than by an incident which occurred during his last term in the Legislature. Hon. James C. Conkling has given the following graphic description of the scene: "A gentleman who had formerly been Attorney General of the State was also a member. Presuming upon his age, experience, and former official position, he thought it incumbent upon himself to oppose Lincoln, who was then one of the acknowledged leaders of his party. He at length attracted the attention of Lincoln, who replied to his remarks, telling one of his humorous anecdotes and making a personal application to his opponent that placed the latter in such a ridiculous attitude that it convulsed the whole House. All business was suspended. In vain the Speaker rapped with his gavel. Members of all parties, without distinction, were compelled to laugh. They not only laughed, they screamed and yelled; they thumped upon the floor with their canes; they clapped their hands and threw up their hats; they shouted and twisted themselves into all sorts of contortions, until their sides ached and the tears rolled down their cheeks. One paroxysm passed away, but was speedily succeeded by another, and again they laughed and screamed and yelled. Another lull occurred, and still another paroxysm, until they seemed to be perfectly exhausted. The ambition of Lincoln's opponent was abundantly gratified, and for the remainder of the session he lapsed into profound obscurity."

In June, 1842, ex-President Van Buren was journeying through Illinois with a company of friends. When near Springfield they were delayed by bad roads, and were compelled to spend the night at Rochester, some miles out. The accommodations at this place were very poor, and a few of the ex-President's Springfield friends proposed to go out to meet him and try to aid in entertaining him. Knowing Lincoln's ability as a talker and storyteller, they begged him to go with them and aid in making their guest at the country inn pass the evening as pleasantly as possible. Lincoln, with his usual good nature, went with them, and entertained the party for hours with graphic descriptions of Western life, anecdotes, and witty stories. Judge Peck, who was of the party and a warm friend of the ex-President, says that Lincoln was at his best. There was a constant succession of brilliant anecdotes and funny stories, accompanied by loud laughter in which Van Buren took his full share. "He also," says the Judge, "gave us incidents and anecdotes of Elisha Williams, and other leading members of the New York bar, going back to the days of Hamilton and Burr. Altogether there was a right merry time. Mr. Van Buren said the only drawback upon his enjoyment was that his sides were sore from laughing at Lincoln's stories for a week thereafter."

With which of these statements about Lincoln would the author of this passage most likely disagree?

Possible Answers:

Lincoln was self-indulgent.

Lincoln could tell humorous stories.

Lincoln was well-liked by his contemporaries.

Lincoln was well-known throughout his electorate.

Lincoln was abstemious.

Correct answer:

Lincoln was self-indulgent.

Explanation:

It is clear from the personal accounts provided by the author that Lincoln was well-known and well-liked. In the passage, Lincoln seems to get on well with everyone that he meets, and in the first paragraph, the author talks about how Lincoln and Mr. Wilson stopped at almost every house in the community during Lincoln’s state legislature campaign because Lincoln knew everyone. It is also clear from Lincoln’s refusal to drink alcohol that he was at least partially abstemious by nature. Finally, it is also clear from the account’s of Lincoln’s storytelling in the third and final paragraphs that Lincoln was a humorous storyteller. The only statement that is untrue is that Lincoln was self-indulgent. In this passage, Lincoln is characterized as almost the opposite of a self-indulgent person: he does not drink, and he works very hard.

Example Question #81 : Mcat Verbal Reasoning

Adapted from Real Soldiers of Fortune by Richard Harding Davis (1906)

In the strict sense of the phrase, a soldier of fortune is a man who for pay or for the love of adventure fights under the flag of any country. In the bigger sense, he is the kind of man who in any walk of life makes his own fortune, who, when he sees it coming, leaps to meet it, and turns it to his advantage. Then there is Winston Spencer Churchill. Today there are few young men—and he is a very young man—who have met more varying fortunes, and none who has more frequently bent them to his own advancement. To him it has been indifferent whether, at the moment, the fortune seemed good or evil; in the end always it was good.

As a boy officer, when other subalterns were playing polo and at the Gaiety Theatre attending night school, he ran away to Cuba and fought with the Spaniards. For such a breach of military discipline, any other officer would have been court-martialed. Even his friends feared that by his foolishness his career in the army was at an end. Instead, his escapade was made a question in the House of Commons, and the fact brought him such publicity that The Daily Graphic paid him handsomely to write on the Cuban Revolution, and the Spanish Government rewarded him with the Order of Military Merit.

At the very outbreak of the Boer War, he was taken prisoner. It seemed a climax of misfortune. With his brother officers, he had hoped in that campaign to acquit himself with credit, and that he should lie inactive in Pretoria appeared a terrible calamity. To the others who, through many heart-breaking months, suffered imprisonment, it continued to be a calamity. But within six weeks of his capture, Churchill escaped, and, after many adventures, rejoined his own army to find that the calamity had made him a hero.

When after the battle of Omdurman, in his book The River War, he attacked Lord Kitchener, those who did not like him, and they were many, said: "That's the end of Winston in the army. He'll never get another chance to criticize K. of K." But only two years later the chance came, when, no longer a subaltern, but as a member of the House of Commons, he patronized Kitchener by defending him from the attacks of others.

Later, when his assaults upon the leaders of his own party closed to him, even in his own constituency, the Conservative debating clubs, again his ill-wishers said, "This is the end. He has ridiculed those who sit in high places. He has offended his cousin and patron, the Duke of Marlborough. Without political friends, without the influence and money of the Marlborough family, he is a political nonentity." That was eighteen months ago. Today, at the age of thirty-two, he is one of the leaders of the Government party, Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and with the Liberals the most popular young man in public life.

Only last Christmas, at a banquet, Sir Edward Grey, the new Foreign Secretary, said of him: "Mr. Winston Churchill has achieved distinction in at least five different careers—as a soldier, a war correspondent, a lecturer, an author, and last, but not least, as a politician. I have understated it even now, for he has achieved two careers as a politician—one on each side of the House. His first career on the Government side was a really distinguished career. I trust the second will be even more distinguished—and more prolonged. The remarkable thing is that he has done all this when, unless appearances very much belie him, he has not reached the age of sixty-four, which is the minimum age at which the politician ceases to be young."

The story of Churchill’s experience in the Boer War highlights __________.

Possible Answers:

The bravery and strength that Churchill possessed

The severe and harsh censure of the army

The capacity that Churchill had to surprise his contemporaries

The experience of the average British soldier during the conflict

The ability that Churchill had for turning poor fortune into good fortune

Correct answer:

The ability that Churchill had for turning poor fortune into good fortune

Explanation:

The primary argument of this passage is that Churchill was always able to turn poor fortune into good fortune. The story of Churchill’s experiences in the Boer War describes how he was taken prisoner, but rather than suffering and losing momentum, he escaped and was made a war-hero. The story of Churchill’s experiences in the Boer War can therefore be seen as the author trying to highlight the unique trait of Churchill's in being able to turn poor fortune into good fortune.

Example Question #26 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from Frederick Douglass by Charles Chestnutt (1899)

Confronted with the probability of losing his usefulness as the "awful example," Douglass took the bold step of publishing in the spring of 1845 the narrative of his experience as a slave. The pamphlet was widely read. It was written in a style of graphic simplicity, and was such an exposé of slavery as exasperated its jealous supporters and beneficiaries. Douglass soon had excellent reasons to fear that he would be recaptured by force or guile and returned to slavery or a worse fate; hence, he sought liberty beyond the sea.

In 1845, Douglass set sail for England on board the Cambria of the Cunard Line. Due to his race, Douglass was compelled to ride in the steerage; nevertheless, he became quite the lion of the vessel, made the steerage fashionable, was given the freedom of the ship, and was invited to lecture on slavery. This he did to the satisfaction of all the passengers except a few young men from New Orleans and Georgia, who made his strictures on the South a personal matter and threatened to throw him overboard. Their zeal was diminished by an order of the captain to put them in irons. They sulked in their cabins, however, and rushed into print when they reached Liverpool, thus giving Douglass the very introduction he needed to the British public, which was promptly informed, by himself and others, of the true facts in regard to the steamer speech and the speaker.

The two years Douglass spent in Great Britain upon this visit were active and fruitful ones, and did much to bring him to that full measure of development scarcely possible for him in slave-ridden America. For while the English government had fostered slavery prior to the Revolution and had only a few years before Douglass's visit abolished it in its own colonies, this wretched system had never fastened its clutches upon the home islands. Slaves had been brought to England, it is true, and carried away; but, when the right to remove them was questioned in court, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, with an abundance of argument and precedent to support a position similar to that of Justice Taney in the Dred Scott case, had taken the contrary view, and declared that the air of England was free, and the slave who breathed it but once ceased thereby to be a slave. History and humanity have delivered their verdict on these two decisions, and time is not likely to disturb it.

Douglass remained in England two years. Not only did this visit give him a great opportunity to influence British public opinion against slavery, but the material benefits to himself were inestimable. He had left the United States a slave before the law, denied every civil right and every social privilege, literally a man without a country, and forced to cross the Atlantic among the cattle in the steerage of the steamboat. He met in Europe, as he said in a farewell speech, men quite as white as he had ever seen in the United States, and had seen in their faces no scorn of his complexion. He had travelled over the four kingdoms, and had encountered no sign of disrespect. He had been lionized in London, had spoken every night of his last month there, and had declined as many more invitations. Everywhere he had denounced slavery, everywhere hospitable doors had opened wide to receive him, everywhere he had made friends for himself and his cause. A slave and an outcast at home, he had been made to feel himself a gentleman, had been the companion of great men and good women. Urged to remain in this land of freedom, and offered aid to establish himself in life there, his heart bled for his less fortunate brethren in captivity, and with the God-speed of his English friends ringing in his ears, he went back to America—to scorn, to obloquy, to ostracism, but after all to the work to which he had been ordained, and which he was so well qualified to perform.

The author views Lord Chief Justice Mansfield as a(n) __________ figure.

Possible Answers:

heroic

insignificant

absent

traditional

devilish

Correct answer:

heroic

Explanation:

The author discusses Lord Chief Justice Mansfield in the context of comparing the rulings of the courts of the United States and the courts of Britain. In America, Chief Justice Taney had been given the opportunity to rule slavery illegal and immoral once and for all and had chosen to go the opposite direction. From the overall context of the author’s writing, we can determine that he would disagree with this decision vehemently; however, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield had ruled that no man could be a slave in England. The author notes that Mansfield had all the evidence of precedent against him and would have been following social norms by not making slavery illegal in England, but instead went the other way. This the author clearly views as a heroic decision, which can particularly be seen by his comment that “History and humanity have delivered their verdict on these two decisions, and time is not likely to disturb it.”

Example Question #27 : Identifying Relevant Supporting Information

Adapted from Frederick Douglass by Charles Chestnutt (1899)

Confronted with the probability of losing his usefulness as the "awful example," Douglass took the bold step of publishing in the spring of 1845 the narrative of his experience as a slave. The pamphlet was widely read. It was written in a style of graphic simplicity, and was such an exposé of slavery as exasperated its jealous supporters and beneficiaries. Douglass soon had excellent reasons to fear that he would be recaptured by force or guile and returned to slavery or a worse fate; hence, he sought liberty beyond the sea.

In 1845, Douglass set sail for England on board the Cambria of the Cunard Line. Due to his race, Douglass was compelled to ride in the steerage; nevertheless, he became quite the lion of the vessel, made the steerage fashionable, was given the freedom of the ship, and was invited to lecture on slavery. This he did to the satisfaction of all the passengers except a few young men from New Orleans and Georgia, who made his strictures on the South a personal matter and threatened to throw him overboard. Their zeal was diminished by an order of the captain to put them in irons. They sulked in their cabins, however, and rushed into print when they reached Liverpool, thus giving Douglass the very introduction he needed to the British public, which was promptly informed, by himself and others, of the true facts in regard to the steamer speech and the speaker.

The two years Douglass spent in Great Britain upon this visit were active and fruitful ones, and did much to bring him to that full measure of development scarcely possible for him in slave-ridden America. For while the English government had fostered slavery prior to the Revolution and had only a few years before Douglass's visit abolished it in its own colonies, this wretched system had never fastened its clutches upon the home islands. Slaves had been brought to England, it is true, and carried away; but, when the right to remove them was questioned in court, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, with an abundance of argument and precedent to support a position similar to that of Justice Taney in the Dred Scott case, had taken the contrary view, and declared that the air of England was free, and the slave who breathed it but once ceased thereby to be a slave. History and humanity have delivered their verdict on these two decisions, and time is not likely to disturb it.

Douglass remained in England two years. Not only did this visit give him a great opportunity to influence British public opinion against slavery, but the material benefits to himself were inestimable. He had left the United States a slave before the law, denied every civil right and every social privilege, literally a man without a country, and forced to cross the Atlantic among the cattle in the steerage of the steamboat. He met in Europe, as he said in a farewell speech, men quite as white as he had ever seen in the United States, and had seen in their faces no scorn of his complexion. He had travelled over the four kingdoms, and had encountered no sign of disrespect. He had been lionized in London, had spoken every night of his last month there, and had declined as many more invitations. Everywhere he had denounced slavery, everywhere hospitable doors had opened wide to receive him, everywhere he had made friends for himself and his cause. A slave and an outcast at home, he had been made to feel himself a gentleman, had been the companion of great men and good women. Urged to remain in this land of freedom, and offered aid to establish himself in life there, his heart bled for his less fortunate brethren in captivity, and with the God-speed of his English friends ringing in his ears, he went back to America—to scorn, to obloquy, to ostracism, but after all to the work to which he had been ordained, and which he was so well qualified to perform.

Why does Douglass head to England in the first place?

Possible Answers:

Because he wants to make his fortune in a sympathetic land

Because he is asked to go to England by the American government to curry support for the abolitionist cause

Because he is invited to England to speak about the abolitionist cause

Because he has a great love and respect for English culture

Because he is concerned that he will be captured and returned to slavery

Correct answer:

Because he is concerned that he will be captured and returned to slavery

Explanation:

When discussing why Douglass decides to head to England, the author talks about how Douglass is fearful that he will be captured and returned to slavery. The author says, “Douglass soon had excellent reasons to fear that he would be recaptured by force or guile and returned to slavery or a worse fate;  hence, he sought liberty beyond the sea.”

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