SAT Critical Reading : Passage-Based Questions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Critical Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #371 : Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction, Volume 16: Anna Karenina (1877; 1917 ed., trans. Garnett)

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys’ house. The wife had discovered that the husband was carrying on an intrigue with a French girl, who had been a governess in their family, and she had announced to her husband that she could not go on living in the same house with him.

This position of affairs had now lasted three days, and not only the husband and wife themselves, but all the members of their family and household were painfully conscious of it. The wife did not leave her own room, the husband had not been at home for three days. The children ran wild all over the house; the English governess quarreled with the housekeeper, and wrote to a friend asking her to look out for a new situation for her; the man-cook had walked off the day before just at dinner-time; the kitchen maid and the coachman had given warning.

Three days after the quarrel, Prince Stepan Arkadyevitch Oblonsky—Stiva, as he was called in the fashionable world—woke up at his usual hour, that is, at eight o clock in the morning, not in his wife's bedroom, but on the leather-covered sofa in his study. He turned over his stout, well-cared-for person on the springy sofa, as though he would sink into a long sleep again; he vigorously embraced the pillow on the other side and buried his face in it; but all at once he jumped up, sat up on the sofa, and opened his eyes.

“Yes, yes, how was it now?” he thought, going over his dream. “Alabin was giving a dinner at Darmstadt; no, not Darmstadt, but something American. Yes, but then, Darmstadt was in America. Yes, Alabin was giving a dinner on glass tables, and the tables sang, II mio tesoro—not II mio tesoro, though, but something better, and there were some sort of little decanters on the table, and they were women too,” he remembered. 

Noticing a gleam of light peeping in beside one of the serge curtains, he cheerfully dropped his feet over the edge of the sofa, and felt about with them for his slippers, a present on his last birthday, worked for him by his wife on gold-colored morocco. And, as he had done every day for the last nine years, he stretched out his hand, without getting up, towards the place where his dressing-gown always hung in his bedroom. And thereupon he suddenly remembered that he was not sleeping in his wife’s room, but in his study, and why: the smile vanished from his face, he knitted his brows. 

Most unpleasant of all was the first minute when, on coming, happy and good-humored, from the theatre, with a huge pear in his hand for his wife, he had not found his wife in the drawing-room, to his surprise had not found her in the study either, and saw her at last in her bedroom with the unlucky letter that revealed everything in her hand. She, his Dolly, forever fussing and worrying over household details, and limited in her ideas, as he considered, was sitting perfectly still with the letter in her hand, looking at him with an expression of horror, despair, and indignation.

“What’s this? This?” she asked, pointing to the letter.

And at this recollection, Stepan Arkadyevitch, as is so often the case, was not so much annoyed at the fact itself as at the way in which he had met his wife’s words.

There happened to him at that instant what does happen to people when they are unexpectedly caught in something very disgraceful. He did not succeed in adapting his face to the position in which he was placed towards his wife by the discovery of his fault. Instead of being hurt, denying, defending himself, begging forgiveness, instead of remaining indifferent even—anything would have been better than what he did do—his face utterly involuntarily (reflex spinal action, reflected Stepan Arkadyevitch, who was fond of physiology)—utterly involuntarily assumed its habitual, good-humored, and therefore idiotic smile.

This idiotic smile he could not forgive himself. Catching sight of that smile, Dolly shuddered as though at physical pain, broke out with her characteristic heat into a flood of cruel words, and rushed out of the room. Since then she had refused to see her husband.

“It’s that idiotic simile that’s to blame for it all,” thought Stepan Arkadyevitch.

One thing the reader can infer from the underlined seventh paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

Stiva expected his wife to react differently to finding the incriminating letter

Stiva believes his wife to be smarter than he is

Stiva has had multiple intrigues before and never gotten caught

Stiva expected to find his wife in the drawing room or the study 

Stiva expected his wife to join him at the theatre

Correct answer:

Stiva expected to find his wife in the drawing room or the study 

Explanation:

We are given no indication in the paragraph that Stiva has had multiple intrigues before and not gotten caught, or that he expected his wife to read differently to finding the letter. We are given evidence that he thinks he is smarter than his wife, not the other way around, because he thinks that Dolly is “limited in her ideas.” We can tell that Stiva did not expect his wife to join him at the theatre, because we are told that when he got home, he looked for her “he had not found his wife in the drawing-room, to his surprise had not found her in the study either.” So, from this, we can tell that Stiva expected to find his wife in the drawing room or the study, which is the correct answer.

Example Question #371 : Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted From "Tony Kytes, The Arch-Deceiver" in Life's Little Ironies: A Set of Tales, with some colloquial sketches, entitled, A Few Crusted Characters by Thomas Hardy (1905 ed.)

I shall never forget Tony’s face. It was a little, round, firm, tight face, with a seam here and there left by the small-pox, but not enough to hurt his looks in a woman's eye, though he'd had it baddish when he was a boy. So very serious looking and unsmiling 'a was, that young man, that it really seemed as if he couldn't laugh at all without great pain to his conscience. He looked very hard at a small speck in your eye when talking to 'ee. And there was no more sign of a whisker or beard on Tony Kytes's face than on the palm of my hand. He used to sing "The Tailor's Breeches," with all its scandelous lyrics, in a religious manner, as if it were a hymn. He was quite the women's favorite.

But in course of time Tony got fixed down to one in particular, Milly Richards – a nice, light, small, tender little thing; and it was soon said that they were engaged to be married. One Saturday he had been to market to do business for his father, and was driving home the wagon in the afternoon. When he reached the foot of the hill, who should he see waiting for him at the top but Unity Sallet, a handsome girl, one of the young women he'd been very tender towards before he'd got engaged to Milly.

As soon as Tony came up to her she said, "My dear Tony, will you give me a lift home?"

"That I will, darling," said Tony. "You don't suppose I could refuse 'ee?"

She smiled a smile, and up she hopped, and on drove Tony.

"Tony," she says, in a sort of tender chide, "Why did ye desert me for that other one? In what is she better than I? I should have made 'ee a finer wife, and a more loving one, too. 'Tisn't girls that are so easily won at first that are the best. Think how long we've known each other—ever since we were children almost—now haven't we, Tony?"

"Yes, that we have," says Tony, struck with the truth o't.

"And you've never seen anything in me to complain of, have ye, Tony? Now tell the truth to me."

"I never have, upon my life," says Tony.

"And—can you say I'm not pretty, Tony? Now look at me.

He let his eyes light upon her for a long while. "I really can't," says he. "In fact, I never knowed you was so pretty before!"

It can reasonably be inferred from the passage that __________.

Possible Answers:

Tony never sang songs with unseemly lyrics.

Tony is faithful to Milly.

Unity is not jealous of Tony's change of affection.

Unity intended to meet and get a lift from Tony. 

Tony's father disapproves of Tony's antics.

Correct answer:

Unity intended to meet and get a lift from Tony. 

Explanation:

The narrator states that Unity was “waiting for [Tony],” and from her invasive questions, we can tell it was her intention to meet Tony to sway his opinion.

Example Question #91 : Drawing Inferences From Prose Fiction Passages

Adapted from Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) (1874)

And how should Dorothea not marry? A girl so handsome and with such prospects? Nothing could hinder it but her love of extremes, and her insistence on regulating life according to notions which might cause a wary man to hesitate before he made her an offer, or even might lead her at last to refuse all offers. A young lady of some birth and fortune, who knelt suddenly down on a brick floor by the side of a sick laborer and prayed fervidly as if she thought herself living in the time of the apostles, who had strange whims of fasting and of sitting up at night to read old theological books! Such a wife might awaken you some fine morning with a new scheme for the application of her income which would interfere with political economy and the keeping of saddle-horses; a man would naturally think twice before he risked himself in such fellowship. Women were expected to have weak opinions, but the great safeguard of society and of domestic life was that opinions were not acted on. Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.

The rural opinion about the new young ladies, even among the cottagers, was generally in favor of Celia, as being so amiable and innocent-looking, while Miss Brooke's large eyes seemed, like her religion, too unusual and striking. Poor Dorothea! Compared with her, the innocent-looking Celia was knowing and worldly-wise; so much subtler is a human mind than the outside tissues which make a sort of blazonry or clock-face for it.

Yet those who approached Dorothea, though prejudiced against her by this alarming hearsay, found that she had a charm unaccountably reconcilable with it. Most men thought her bewitching when she was on horseback. She loved the fresh air and the various aspects of the country, and when her eyes and cheeks glowed with mingled pleasure she looked very little like a devotee. Riding was an indulgence which she allowed herself in spite of conscientious qualms; she always looked forward to renouncing it.

She was open, ardent, and not in the least self-admiring; indeed, it was pretty to see how her imagination adorned her sister Celia with attractions altogether superior to her own, and if any gentleman appeared to come to the Grange from some other motive than that of seeing Mr. Brooke, she concluded that he must be in love with Celia. Sir James Chettam, for example, whom she constantly considered from Celia's point of view, inwardly debating whether it would be good for Celia to accept him. That he should be regarded as a suitor to herself would have seemed to her a ridiculous irrelevance. Dorothea, with all her eagerness to know the truths of life, retained very childlike ideas about marriage.

Based on what we are told in the passage, which of the following would be make the most sense if it occurred next in the story?

Possible Answers:

The community changes its opinions to value women’s opinions highly and act on them.

Celia becomes jealous of Dorothea since the community likes her better.

Dorothea is informed that Sir James Chettam has been courting her instead of Celia, and is dumbfounded.

Celia and Dorothea decide to run away from their community to London.

Dorothea renounces her previous religious tendencies.

Correct answer:

Dorothea is informed that Sir James Chettam has been courting her instead of Celia, and is dumbfounded.

Explanation:

The correct, most likely answer is that “Dorothea is informed that Sir James Chettam has been courting her instead of Celia, and is dumbfounded.” This event is foreshadowed in the passage’s last paragraph:

“. . . if any gentleman appeared to come to the Grange from some other motive than that of seeing Mr. Brooke, she concluded that he must be in love with Celia. Sir James Chettam, for example, whom she constantly considered from Celia's point of view, inwardly debating whether it would be good for Celia to accept him. That he should be regarded as a suitor to herself would have seemed to her a ridiculous irrelevance.”

As for the other answer choices, the community does not like Dorothea better than Celia; we are told this at the start of the second paragraph, which states, “The rural opinion about the new young ladies, even among the cottagers, was generally in favor of Celia, as being so amiable and innocent-looking, while Miss Brooke's large eyes seemed, like her religion, too unusual and striking.” This means that the answer “Celia becomes jealous of Dorothea since the community likes her better” is incorrect because it states an incorrect fact about the story. Nothing about the passage strongly suggests that Celia and Dorothea will run away from their community to London, even though their community is judgmental. Dorothea is unlikely to renounce her religious tendencies, given how they are used to characterize her in the first paragraph of the passage. The passage doesn’t suggest that it is likely that community will change its opinions to value women’s opinions highly.

Example Question #372 : Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) (1874)

And how should Dorothea not marry? A girl so handsome and with such prospects? Nothing could hinder it but her love of extremes, and her insistence on regulating life according to notions which might cause a wary man to hesitate before he made her an offer, or even might lead her at last to refuse all offers. A young lady of some birth and fortune, who knelt suddenly down on a brick floor by the side of a sick laborer and prayed fervidly as if she thought herself living in the time of the apostles, who had strange whims of fasting and of sitting up at night to read old theological books! Such a wife might awaken you some fine morning with a new scheme for the application of her income which would interfere with political economy and the keeping of saddle-horses; a man would naturally think twice before he risked himself in such fellowship. Women were expected to have weak opinions, but the great safeguard of society and of domestic life was that opinions were not acted on. Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.

The rural opinion about the new young ladies, even among the cottagers, was generally in favor of Celia, as being so amiable and innocent-looking, while Miss Brooke's large eyes seemed, like her religion, too unusual and striking. Poor Dorothea! Compared with her, the innocent-looking Celia was knowing and worldly-wise; so much subtler is a human mind than the outside tissues which make a sort of blazonry or clock-face for it.

Yet those who approached Dorothea, though prejudiced against her by this alarming hearsay, found that she had a charm unaccountably reconcilable with it. Most men thought her bewitching when she was on horseback. She loved the fresh air and the various aspects of the country, and when her eyes and cheeks glowed with mingled pleasure she looked very little like a devotee. Riding was an indulgence which she allowed herself in spite of conscientious qualms; she always looked forward to renouncing it.

She was open, ardent, and not in the least self-admiring; indeed, it was pretty to see how her imagination adorned her sister Celia with attractions altogether superior to her own, and if any gentleman appeared to come to the Grange from some other motive than that of seeing Mr. Brooke, she concluded that he must be in love with Celia. Sir James Chettam, for example, whom she constantly considered from Celia's point of view, inwardly debating whether it would be good for Celia to accept him. That he should be regarded as a suitor to herself would have seemed to her a ridiculous irrelevance. Dorothea, with all her eagerness to know the truths of life, retained very childlike ideas about marriage.

Which of the following can be inferred from the passage?

Possible Answers:

Dorothea and Celia do not live in a big city.

Sir James Chettam is courting neither Dorothea nor Celia.

Celia and Dorothea are not related.

Dorothea is a nun.

Dorothea is particularly interested in the keeping of saddle-horses.

Correct answer:

Dorothea and Celia do not live in a big city.

Explanation:

This question can be answered by considering the first sentence of the passage’s second paragraph: “The rural opinion about the new young ladies, even among the cottagers, was generally in favor of Celia, as being so amiable and innocent-looking, while Miss Brooke's large eyes seemed, like her religion, too unusual and striking.” Notice how the community judging Miss Brooke (a name that signifies Dorothea; you can figure this out by considering its context) and Celia is described as “rural” in “the rural opinion” and consisting in part of “cottagers” (“even among the cottagers”). This allows readers to infer that Dorothea and Celia do not live in a big city.

While Dorothea is portrayed as having unusual religious tendencies, no evidence is presented suggesting that she is specifically a nun. Celia and Dorothea are related; they are sisters, as we are told in the passage’s last paragraph when the narrator says, “indeed, it was pretty to see how [Dorothea’s] imagination adorned her sister Celia with attractions altogether superior to her own.” Sir James Chettam is introduced in the context of being a suitor, though Dorothea considers him to be courting Celia and not herself. Finally, Dorothea is not particularly interested in the keeping of saddle-horses; this point is introduced as a hypothetical in the first paragraph, not as describing her directly: notice the use of the general phrase “such a wife” and the word “might” when it states, “Such a wife might awaken you some fine morning with a new scheme for the application of her income which would interfere with . . . the keeping of saddle-horses.”

Example Question #2 : New Sat

Passage adapted from The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville (1857)

At sunrise on a first of April, there appeared suddenly a man in cream-colors at the water-side in the city of St. Louis.

His cheek was fair, his chin downy, his hair flaxen, his hat a white fur one, with a long fleecy nap. He had neither trunk, valise, carpet-bag, nor parcel. No porter followed him. He was unaccompanied by friends. From the shrugged shoulders, titters, whispers, wonderings of the crowd, it was plain that he was, in the extremest sense of the word, a stranger.

In the same moment with his advent, he stepped aboard the favorite steamer Fidèle, on the point of starting for New Orleans. Stared at, but unsaluted, with the air of one neither courting nor shunning regard, but evenly pursuing the path of duty, lead it through solitudes or cities, he held on his way along the lower deck until he chanced to come to a placard nigh the captain's office, offering a reward for the capture of a mysterious impostor, supposed to have recently arrived from the East; quite an original genius in his vocation, as would appear, though wherein his originality consisted was not clearly given; but what purported to be a careful description of his person followed.

As if it had been a theatre-bill, crowds were gathered about the announcement, and among them certain chevaliers, whose eyes, it was plain, were on the capitals, or, at least, earnestly seeking sight of them from behind intervening coats; but as for their fingers, they were enveloped in some myth; though, during a chance interval, one of these chevaliers somewhat showed his hand in purchasing from another chevalier, ex-officio a peddler of money-belts, one of his popular safe-guards, while another peddler, who was still another versatile chevalier, hawked, in the thick of the throng, the lives of Measan, the bandit of Ohio, Murrel, the pirate of the Mississippi, and the brothers Harpe, the Thugs of the Green River country, in Kentucky—creatures, with others of the sort, one and all exterminated at the time, and for the most part, like the hunted generations of wolves in the same regions, leaving comparatively few successors; which would seem cause for unalloyed gratulation, and is such to all except those who think that in new countries, where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.

Pausing at this spot, the stranger so far succeeded in threading his way, as at last to plant himself just beside the placard, when, producing a small slate and tracing some words upon if, he held it up before him on a level with the placard, so that they who read the one might read the other. The words were these:—

"Charity thinketh no evil.”

What is the author implying in his discussion of wolves and foxes at the end of the third paragraph?

Possible Answers:

If wolves are found in an area, con men are likely also to be found there.

Con men are like wolves, whereas citizens of the general public are like foxes.

Adjusting the balance of a natural ecosystem can have numerous unintended effects on the environment.

Wolves are typically only killed off well after humans have settled in an area.

Some believe that once the con men and criminals are removed from an area, others take their place.

Correct answer:

Some believe that once the con men and criminals are removed from an area, others take their place.

Explanation:

The wolves-and-foxes discussion is perhaps the most difficult part of the passage to understand, because the author steps out of telling the story for a moment to make an abstract comparison about events that have already happened. Specifically, the author writes:

“another peddler . . . hawked, in the thick of the throng, the lives of Measan, the bandit of Ohio, Murrel, the pirate of the Mississippi, and the brothers Harpe, the Thugs of the Green River country, in Kentucky—creatures, with others of the sort, one and all exterminated at the time, and for the most part, like the hunted generations of wolves in the same regions, leaving comparatively few successors; which would seem cause for unalloyed gratulation, and is such to all except those who think that in new countries, where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.”

The wolves are clearly compared to the criminals in that each were “exterminated” in certain areas, but some people think that “where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.” The foxes take the place of the wolves (comparatively, the criminals), so we can infer that the “foxes” must represent some type of criminal too. We can ignore the answer choice “Adjusting the balance of a natural ecosystem can have numerous unintended effects on the environment” as wolves and foxes are mentioned to be compared to criminals, not to discuss the environment. Foxes are not being compared to citizens of the general public since they take the place of the wolves after the wolves are killed off, so “Con men are like wolves, whereas citizens of the general public are like foxes” cannot be correct either. While wolves are compared to con men, “If wolves are found in an area, con men are likely also to be found there” makes an association that goes beyond the author’s comparison. “Wolves are typically only killed off well after humans have settled in an area” is contradicted by the author’s use of the adjective “new” in describing “those who think that in new countries, where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.” This suggests that the wolves are killed off relatively quickly after humans settle in an area. This leaves us with the correct answer, “Some believe that once the con men and criminals are removed from an area, others take their place.” This accurately captures the author’s comparison and infers the role of foxes as another type of criminal taking the place of the “wolves.”

Example Question #603 : Prose Fiction

Adapted from "The Sisters" in Dubliners by James Joyce (1914)

There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window, and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind, for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me, "I am not long for this world," and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word “paralysis.” It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word “gnomon” in the Euclid and the word “simony” in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:

"No, I wouldn't say he was exactly . . . but there was something queer . . . there was something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my opinion . . ."

He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and worms, but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery.

"I have my own theory about it," he said. "I think it was one of those . . . peculiar cases . . . But it's hard to say . . ."

He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory. My uncle saw me staring and said to me:

"Well, so your old friend is gone, you'll be sorry to hear."

"Who?" said I.

"Father Flynn."

"Is he dead?"

"Mr. Cotter here has just told us. He was passing by the house."

I knew that I was under observation, so I continued eating as if the news had not interested me. My uncle explained to old Cotter.

"The youngster and he were great friends. The old chap taught him a great deal, mind you; and they say he had a great wish for him."

"God have mercy on his soul," said my aunt piously.

Old Cotter looked at me for a while. I felt that his little beady black eyes were examining me, but I would not satisfy him by looking up from my plate. He returned to his pipe and finally spat rudely into the grate.

The narrator’s emotions about paralysis are most analogous to which of the following situations?

Possible Answers:

A lumberjack who is killed by a tree he was in the process of chopping down.

A person who is afraid of dogs and refuses to go to an animal shelter to help his friend find a dog.

A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff.

A person who plays the lottery every day but never wins.

A zebra caught and eaten by a lion.

Correct answer:

A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff.

Explanation:

Concerning paralysis, the narrator says at the end of the first paragraph, "Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word 'paralysis.' It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word 'gnomon' in the Euclid and the word 'simony' in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work." This last sentence is the most crucial in determining the correct answer to this question; we can tell that despite being afraid of paralysis, the narrator is drawn to it and wants "to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work." Only two of the potential answer choices involve fear: "A person who is afraid of dogs and refuses to go to an animal shelter to help his friend find a dog" and "A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff." The other answer choices can be eliminated. Of the two fear-related answer choices, the one about the person who is afraid of dogs involves that person avoiding the source of his fear, whereas the other answer choice involving the person who is afraid of heights involves that person being drawn to the source of his or her fear. The narrator both fears and wants to observe paralysis, so the best answer choice is the one that conveys this mixture of being afraid of and drawn to something: "A person who is afraid of heights but still wants to look over the edge of a cliff."

Example Question #381 : Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville (1857)

At sunrise on a first of April, there appeared suddenly a man in cream-colors at the water-side in the city of St. Louis.

His cheek was fair, his chin downy, his hair flaxen, his hat a white fur one, with a long fleecy nap. He had neither trunk, valise, carpet-bag, nor parcel. No porter followed him. He was unaccompanied by friends. From the shrugged shoulders, titters, whispers, wonderings of the crowd, it was plain that he was, in the extremest sense of the word, a stranger.

In the same moment with his advent, he stepped aboard the favorite steamer Fidèle, on the point of starting for New Orleans. Stared at, but unsaluted, with the air of one neither courting nor shunning regard, but evenly pursuing the path of duty, lead it through solitudes or cities, he held on his way along the lower deck until he chanced to come to a placard nigh the captain's office, offering a reward for the capture of a mysterious impostor, supposed to have recently arrived from the East; quite an original genius in his vocation, as would appear, though wherein his originality consisted was not clearly given; but what purported to be a careful description of his person followed.

As if it had been a theatre-bill, crowds were gathered about the announcement, and among them certain chevaliers, whose eyes, it was plain, were on the capitals, or, at least, earnestly seeking sight of them from behind intervening coats; but as for their fingers, they were enveloped in some myth; though, during a chance interval, one of these chevaliers somewhat showed his hand in purchasing from another chevalier, ex-officio a peddler of money-belts, one of his popular safe-guards, while another peddler, who was still another versatile chevalier, hawked, in the thick of the throng, the lives of Measan, the bandit of Ohio, Murrel, the pirate of the Mississippi, and the brothers Harpe, the Thugs of the Green River country, in Kentucky—creatures, with others of the sort, one and all exterminated at the time, and for the most part, like the hunted generations of wolves in the same regions, leaving comparatively few successors; which would seem cause for unalloyed gratulation, and is such to all except those who think that in new countries, where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.

Pausing at this spot, the stranger so far succeeded in threading his way, as at last to plant himself just beside the placard, when, producing a small slate and tracing some words upon if, he held it up before him on a level with the placard, so that they who read the one might read the other. The words were these:—

"Charity thinketh no evil.”

Which of the following is most comparable to the placard in front of the captain’s quarters described in paragraph two?

Possible Answers:

A name-card labeling the occupant of an office

An advertisement for a comedian’s upcoming shows

A wanted poster

An instruction manual

A lost-and-found ad

Correct answer:

A wanted poster

Explanation:

What do we know about the placard? It is most distinctly described in the second paragraph; the third paragraph concerns the crowd’s reaction to it. The second paragraph says:

“[The man in cream-colors] held on his way along the lower deck until he chanced to come to a placard nigh the captain's office, offering a reward for the capture of a mysterious impostor, supposed to have recently arrived from the East; quite an original genius in his vocation, as would appear, though wherein his originality consisted was not clearly given; but what purported to be a careful description of his person followed.”

So, we know that the placard is “offering a reward for the capture of a mysterious impostor”; this is enough information to help us realize that the placard is most comparable to “a wanted poster.”

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from A Room with a View by E. M. Forster (1908)

Mr. Beebe was right. Lucy never knew her desires so clearly as after music. She had not really appreciated the clergyman's wit, nor the suggestive twitterings of Miss Alan. Conversation was tedious; she wanted something big, and she believed that it would have come to her on the wind-swept platform of an electric tram. This she might not attempt. It was unladylike. Why? Why were most big things unladylike? Charlotte had once explained to her why. It was not that ladies were inferior to men; it was that they were different. Their mission was to inspire others to achievement rather than to achieve themselves. Indirectly, by means of tact and a spotless name, a lady could accomplish much. But if she rushed into the fray herself she would be first censured, then despised, and finally ignored. Poems had been written to illustrate this point.

There is much that is immortal in this medieval lady. The dragons have gone, and so have the knights, but still she lingers in our midst. She reigned in many an early Victorian castle, and was Queen of much early Victorian song. It is sweet to protect her in the intervals of business, sweet to pay her honor when she has cooked our dinner well. But alas! the creature grows degenerate. In her heart also there are springing up strange desires. She too is enamored of heavy winds, and vast panoramas, and green expanses of the sea. She has marked the kingdom of this world, how full it is of wealth, and beauty, and war—a radiant crust, built around the central fires, spinning towards the receding heavens. Men, declaring that she inspires them to it, move joyfully over the surface, having the most delightful meetings with other men, happy, not because they are masculine, but because they are alive. Before the show breaks up she would like to drop the august title of the Eternal Woman, and go there as her transitory self.

Lucy does not stand for the medieval lady, who was rather an ideal to which she was bidden to lift her eyes when feeling serious. Nor has she any system of revolt. Here and there a restriction annoyed her particularly, and she would transgress it, and perhaps be sorry that she had done so. This afternoon she was peculiarly restive. She would really like to do something of which her well-wishers disapproved. As she might not go on the electric tram, she went to Alinari's shop.

The narrator most likely would describe Charlotte’s explanation of the differences between men and women as __________.

Possible Answers:

conventional and restrictive

quixotic and ingenuous

frivolous and puerile

temperate and cosmopolitan

pious and benign

Correct answer:

conventional and restrictive

Explanation:

The second paragraph explains that Charlotte's ideal of women as passive muses has been popular for a long time—thus, it is conventional; however, since it conflicts with Lucy's desire for "big things," it is also restrictive.

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Can You Forgive Her? By Anthony Trollope (1864)

Who these were and the special nature of the relationship, I shall be called upon to explain hereafter, but at present it will suffice to say that Alice Macleod gave great offence to all her friends by her marriage. She did not, however, give them much time for the indulgence of their anger. Having given birth to a daughter within twelve months of her marriage, she died, leaving in abeyance that question as to whether the fault of her marriage should or should not be pardoned by her family.

When a man marries an heiress for her money, if that money be within her own control, as was the case with Miss Macleod's fortune, it is generally well for the speculating lover that the lady's friends should quarrel with him and with her. She is thereby driven to throw herself entirely into the gentleman's arms, and he thus becomes possessed of the wife and the money without the abominable nuisance of stringent settlements. But the Macleods, though they quarrelled with Alice, did not quarrel with her à l'outrance. They snubbed herself and her chosen husband, but they did not so far separate themselves from her and her affairs as to give up the charge of her possessions. Her four hundred a year was settled very closely on herself and on her children, without even a life interest having been given to Mr. Vavasor, and therefore when she died the mother's fortune became the property of the little baby. Under these circumstances, the big people did not refuse to interest themselves to some extent on behalf of the father. I do not suppose that any actual agreement or compact was made between Mr. Vavasor and the Macleods, but it came to be understood between them that if he made no demand upon them for his daughter's money, and allowed them to have charge of her education, they would do something for him. He was a practising barrister, though his practice had never amounted to much, and a practising barrister is always supposed to be capable of filling any situation which may come his way. Two years after his wife's death Mr. Vavasor was appointed assistant commissioner in some office that had to do with insolvents, and which was abolished three years after his appointment.

Who has more wealth in this story, Alice or Mr. Vavasor?

Possible Answers:

Mr. Vavasor's family

Alice

Mr. Vavasor 

They are equally poor.

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

Alice

Explanation:

The text indicates that Alice is an heiress. It is safe to assume that the term, "heiress," implies a greater degree of wealth.

Example Question #1382 : Sat Critical Reading

Adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as usual, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of the laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs.

In the center of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures. 

As he looked at the gracious and comely form he had so skilfully mirrored in his art, a smile of pleasure passed across his face, and seemed about to linger there. But he suddenly started up, and, closing his eyes, placed his fingers upon the lids, as though he sought to imprison within his brain some curious dream from which he feared he might awake.

"It is your best work, Basil, the best thing you have ever done," said Lord Henry, languidly. "You must certainly send it next year to the Grosvenor. The Academy is too large and too vulgar. The Grosvenor is the only place."

"I don't think I will send it anywhere," he answered, tossing his head back in that odd way that used to make his friends laugh at him at Oxford. "No: I won't send it anywhere."

Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows, and looked at him in amazement through the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy cigarette. "Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away. It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion." 

"I know you will laugh at me," he replied, "but I really can't exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it." 

Lord Henry stretched his long legs out on the divan and shook with laughter.

"Yes, I knew you would laugh; but it is quite true, all the same."

"Too much of yourself in it! Upon my word, Basil, I didn't know you were so vain; and I really can't see any resemblance between you, with your rugged strong face and your coal-black hair, and this young Adonis, who looks as if he was made of ivory and rose-leaves. Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you—well, of course you have an intellectual expression, and all that. But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself an exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the church. But then in the church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and consequently he always looks absolutely delightful. Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is a brainless, beautiful thing, who should be always here in winter when we have no flowers to look at, and always here in summer when we want something to chill our intelligence. Don't flatter yourself, Basil: you are not in the least like him.”

As it is inferred from the passage, what do Lord Henry and Basil think of Dorian Gray?

Possible Answers:

Lord Henry thinks that Dorian Gray is intelligent, but Basil thinks that Dorian Gray is unintelligent.

Both Lord Henry and Basil think that Dorian Gray is a beautiful and gracious man.

Lord Henry thinks that Dorian Gray is an Adonis, and Basil thinks that Dorian Gray is a Narcissus.

Lord Henry thinks that Dorian Gray is unintelligent, while Basil thinks that Dorian Gray was a fantastic pleasure to paint.

The answers "Both Lord Henry and Basil think that Dorian Gray is a beautiful and gracious man" and "Lord Henry thinks that Dorian Gray is unintelligent, while Basil thinks that Dorian Gray was a fantastic pleasure to paint" are both correct.

Correct answer:

The answers "Both Lord Henry and Basil think that Dorian Gray is a beautiful and gracious man" and "Lord Henry thinks that Dorian Gray is unintelligent, while Basil thinks that Dorian Gray was a fantastic pleasure to paint" are both correct.

Explanation:

The answer "Lord Henry thinks that Dorian Gray is an Adonis, and Basil thinks that Dorian Gray is a Narcissus" is incorrect because Lord Henry was the one to say that Dorian Gray was an Adonis and a Narcissus. The answer "Lord Henry thinks that Dorian Gray is intelligent, but Basil thinks that Dorian Gray is unintelligent" is incorrect because Lord Henry believes that Dorian Gray is unintelligent while Basil never states his beliefs in Dorian Gray's intelligence. Both of the answers "Both Lord Henry and Basil think that Dorian Gray is a beautiful and gracious man" and "Lord Henry thinks that Dorian Gray is unintelligent, while Basil thinks that Dorian Gray was a fantastic pleasure to paint" are correct making the answer "The answers 'Both Lord Henry and Basil think that Dorian Gray is a beautiful and gracious man' and 'Lord Henry thinks that Dorian Gray is unintelligent, while Basil thinks that Dorian Gray was a fantastic pleasure to paint' are both correct" the right answer.

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