PSAT Critical Reading : Analyzing Argumentative Claims, Bias, and Support in Social Science / History Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Critical Reading

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Example Question #11 : Analyzing Argumentative Claims, Bias, And Support In Social Science / History Passages

While the Gutenberg press was perhaps one of the greatest inventions of all time, we should not let its importance blind us to other very important events in the history of linguistic development. Granted, the efficiency of printing allowed for the dissemination of much learning in Europe. Still, such printing was not unique to Europe, and even in the scope of world history, there are several events that are equally as miraculous regarding the transmission of knowledge.

For instance, most people overlook the amazing nature of the first time that human beings communicated with spoken language. Perhaps there were simple signs by which these early humans could indicate their needs to each other; however, when the first event of person-to-person speech occurred, it was far more marvelous than simple practical communication. Such speech was like a sharing in ideas. When true speech happened, persons were able to communicate knowledge to each other, freeing it from its isolation in one lonely person. By means of such speech, knowledge could be orally transmitted from generation to generation, thus preserving wisdom in a way that is completely impossible without speech.

Of course, such spoken tradition is very fragile, relying on memories and stories that are passed down from generation to generation. For this reason, the invention of writing is extremely important. In contrast to the spoken word, the written word can continue to exist and be useful so long as it can be read intelligently. Likewise, much more can be recorded than ever could be remembered by someone with the best of memories. Indeed, once these records are written, copies can be sent to anyone who is able to read the language in question. Just so, it can be translated into written copies to be read by others. For these (as well as many other reasons) the invention of writing was a very significant event in history, greatly expanding the possibilities for the exchange of knowledge.

Thus, the printing press is quite important, but it is part of a larger story. Like both spoken and written communication, it allows human beings to communicate knowledge not only to each other but also across multiple generations. Often, we think of the press merely in its ability to provide a great number of books in a short period of time; however, when considered as a chapter in this longer tale, it likewise appears as the means by which humanity is able to conquer time by allowing the knowledge of today to live for multiple generations.

How does the author’s main idea become developed in a new way in the last paragraph?

Possible Answers:

He shows that the printing press is an excellent supplement to oral speech, but it can never replace it.

He shows that the printing press is, in fact, one of the greatest human inventions.

He shows that, in fact, the creation of the printing press was an insignificant event.

He shows a new way to understand the nature of the achievements made possible by the printing press.

He shows that the printing press is merely the last stage in the development of human expression and that it will likely be replaced by new forms of technology.

Correct answer:

He shows a new way to understand the nature of the achievements made possible by the printing press.

Explanation:

First, note that in the first paragraph, the author states that "While the Gutenberg press was perhaps one of the greatest inventions of all time, we should not let its importance blind us to other very important events in the history of linguistic development." The next two paragraphs help to develop that idea, showing how speech and writing are equally amazing events in the history of human communication. The final paragraph closes, however, with a new assertion: "However, when considered as a chapter in this longer tale, it likewise appears as the means by which humanity is able to conquer time by allowing the knowledge of today to live for multiple generations." This develops the author's theme, giving more information about the very nature of the printing press.

Example Question #323 : Psat Critical Reading

Adapted from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)

In the middle rank of life, to continue the comparison, men, in their youth, are prepared for professions, and marriage is not considered as the grand feature in their lives; whilst women, on the contrary, have no other scheme to sharpen their faculties. It is not business, extensive plans, or any of the excursive flights of ambition, that engross their attention; no, their thoughts are not employed in rearing such noble structures. To rise in the world, and have the liberty of running from pleasure to pleasure, they must marry advantageously, and to this object their time is sacrificed, and their persons often legally prostituted. A man when he enters any profession has his eye steadily fixed on some future advantage (and the mind gains great strength by having all its efforts directed to one point) and, full of his business, pleasure is considered as mere relaxation; whilst women seek for pleasure as the main purpose of existence. In fact, from the education, which they receive from society, the love of pleasure may be said to govern them all; but does this prove that there is a sex in souls? It would be just as rational to declare that the courtiers in France, when a destructive system of despotism had formed their character, were not men, because liberty, virtue, and humanity, were sacrificed to pleasure and vanity.—Fatal passions, which have ever domineered over the whole race!

The same love of pleasure, fostered by the whole tendency of their education, gives a trifling turn to the conduct of women in most circumstances: for instance, they are ever anxious about secondary things; and on the watch for adventures, instead of being occupied by duties.

A man, when he undertakes a journey, has, in general, the end in view; a woman thinks more of the incidental occurrences, the strange things that may possibly occur on the road; the impression that she may make on her fellow travelers; and, above all, she is anxiously intent on the care of the finery that she carries with her, which is more than ever a part of herself, when going to figure on a new scene; when, to use an apt French turn of expression, she is going to produce a sensation.—Can dignity of mind exist with such trivial cares? This observation should not be confined to the fair sex; however, at present, I only mean to apply it to them.

The third paragraph establishes all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

Men work towards set goals.

Men do not consider marriage to be a big part of their lives.

The author's intention is to apply a certain image to women to support their argument.

Women fashion themselves so as to make an impression.

The author's portrait of women is also applicable to some men.

Correct answer:

Men do not consider marriage to be a big part of their lives.

Explanation:

The correct answer is partially established in the first paragraph, not in the third. The sentence is also incorrect in that it says “men” rather than “young men.” All of the other sentences are established in the third paragraph.

Example Question #324 : Psat Critical Reading

Adapted from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)

In the middle rank of life, to continue the comparison, men, in their youth, are prepared for professions, and marriage is not considered as the grand feature in their lives; whilst women, on the contrary, have no other scheme to sharpen their faculties. It is not business, extensive plans, or any of the excursive flights of ambition, that engross their attention; no, their thoughts are not employed in rearing such noble structures. To rise in the world, and have the liberty of running from pleasure to pleasure, they must marry advantageously, and to this object their time is sacrificed, and their persons often legally prostituted. A man when he enters any profession has his eye steadily fixed on some future advantage (and the mind gains great strength by having all its efforts directed to one point) and, full of his business, pleasure is considered as mere relaxation; whilst women seek for pleasure as the main purpose of existence. In fact, from the education, which they receive from society, the love of pleasure may be said to govern them all; but does this prove that there is a sex in souls? It would be just as rational to declare that the courtiers in France, when a destructive system of despotism had formed their character, were not men, because liberty, virtue, and humanity, were sacrificed to pleasure and vanity.—Fatal passions, which have ever domineered over the whole race!

The same love of pleasure, fostered by the whole tendency of their education, gives a trifling turn to the conduct of women in most circumstances: for instance, they are ever anxious about secondary things; and on the watch for adventures, instead of being occupied by duties.

A man, when he undertakes a journey, has, in general, the end in view; a woman thinks more of the incidental occurrences, the strange things that may possibly occur on the road; the impression that she may make on her fellow travelers; and, above all, she is anxiously intent on the care of the finery that she carries with her, which is more than ever a part of herself, when going to figure on a new scene; when, to use an apt French turn of expression, she is going to produce a sensation.—Can dignity of mind exist with such trivial cares? This observation should not be confined to the fair sex; however, at present, I only mean to apply it to them.

One of the main points made in the last paragraph is that __________.

Possible Answers:

men mostly regard a journey as moving towards an endpoint

women have no understanding of how a journey should be undertaken

only women think about trivial things when undertaking a journey

one of the things women are preoccupied with, when undertaking a journey, is the welfare of other passengers

men are superior to women when you compare their mental processes

Correct answer:

men mostly regard a journey as moving towards an endpoint

Explanation:

Whilst the answer might seem obvious, some of the incorrect answers could easily be assumed to be true. The paragraph does not state that women do not understand how a journey should be undertaken, but it could easily, and incorrectly, be inferred. The key here is to consider small words such as “generally”, “only”, and “mostly”:  “A man . . . has, in general” is closer to the correct statement than the answer that begins with “Only women,” which is negated by the comments at the end of the paragraph.

Example Question #325 : Psat Critical Reading

Adapted from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)

In the middle rank of life, to continue the comparison, men, in their youth, are prepared for professions, and marriage is not considered as the grand feature in their lives; whilst women, on the contrary, have no other scheme to sharpen their faculties. It is not business, extensive plans, or any of the excursive flights of ambition, that engross their attention; no, their thoughts are not employed in rearing such noble structures. To rise in the world, and have the liberty of running from pleasure to pleasure, they must marry advantageously, and to this object their time is sacrificed, and their persons often legally prostituted. A man when he enters any profession has his eye steadily fixed on some future advantage (and the mind gains great strength by having all its efforts directed to one point) and, full of his business, pleasure is considered as mere relaxation; whilst women seek for pleasure as the main purpose of existence. In fact, from the education, which they receive from society, the love of pleasure may be said to govern them all; but does this prove that there is a sex in souls? It would be just as rational to declare that the courtiers in France, when a destructive system of despotism had formed their character, were not men, because liberty, virtue, and humanity, were sacrificed to pleasure and vanity.—Fatal passions, which have ever domineered over the whole race!

The same love of pleasure, fostered by the whole tendency of their education, gives a trifling turn to the conduct of women in most circumstances: for instance, they are ever anxious about secondary things; and on the watch for adventures, instead of being occupied by duties.

A man, when he undertakes a journey, has, in general, the end in view; a woman thinks more of the incidental occurrences, the strange things that may possibly occur on the road; the impression that she may make on her fellow travelers; and, above all, she is anxiously intent on the care of the finery that she carries with her, which is more than ever a part of herself, when going to figure on a new scene; when, to use an apt French turn of expression, she is going to produce a sensation.—Can dignity of mind exist with such trivial cares? This observation should not be confined to the fair sex; however, at present, I only mean to apply it to them.

Which of the following most fully lists pursuits considered by the author to be “noble structures"?

Possible Answers:

Work, entrepreneurship, and theological virtue

Prostitution, business, and delights

Rationality, frugality, and chastity

The gathering of possessions, marriage, and undertakings which achieve both of these

Vocations, future designs, and aspirations

Correct answer:

Vocations, future designs, and aspirations

Explanation:

Quite simply, the “noble aspirations” mentioned are: “business, extensive plans, or any of the excursive flights of ambition.” These can most easily be translated to “Vocations, future designs, and aspirations.” Suggested aspirations which negate the other answers are: “prostitution,” “delights," “chastity,” “frugality,” “possessions,” “marriage,” and “theological virtue.”

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