SAT Critical Reading : Summarizing and Describing Humanities Passage Content

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Critical Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store varsity tutors amazon store varsity tutors ibooks store

Example Questions

2 Next →

Example Question #2 : Passage Reasoning In Contemporary Life Passages

Adapted from a letter by T. Thatcher published in The Publishers Circular on September 27th, 1902

A PLEA FOR A LONG WALK

Sir—In these days of increasing rapid artificial locomotion, may I be permitted to say a word in favor of a very worthy and valuable old friend of mine, Mr. Long-Walk?

I am afraid that this good gentleman is in danger of getting neglected, if not forgotten. We live in days of water trips and land trips, excursions by sea, road, and rail—bicycles and tricycles, tram cars and motor cars, hansom cabs and ugly cabs; but in my humble opinion good honest walking exercise for health beats all other kinds of locomotion into a cocked hat. In rapid traveling all the finer nerves, senses, and vessels are "rush" and unduly excited, but in walking every particle of the human frame, and even the moral faculties, are evenly and naturally brought into exercise. It is the best discipline and physical mental tonic in the world. Limbs, body, muscles, lungs, chest, heart, digestion, breathing, are healthily brought into normal operation, while. especially in the long distance walk, the exercise of patience, perseverance, industry, energy, perception, and reflection—and, indeed, all the senses and moral faculties—are elevated and cultivated healthfully and naturally. Many never know the beauty of it because they never go far enough: exercise and hard work should never be relinquished at any age or by either sex. Heart disease, faintness, and sudden death, and even crime, are far more due to the absence of wholesome normal exercise and taste than to anything else, to enervating luxuries rather than to hill climbing.

I usually give myself a holiday on a birthday, and as I lately reached my 63rd I determined to give myself a day with my old friend Mr. Long-Walk, and decided to tramp to the city of Wells and back for my birthday holiday—a distance of about forty-two miles. Fortune favors the brave, and, thanks to a mosquito that pitched on my nose and was just commencing operations, I woke very early in the morning. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good. Mosquitoes are early birds, but I stole a march on them. But to my journey.

I started at about 5 A.M., and proceeding via Dundry and Chow Stoke, reached Wells soon after 10 A.M. After attending the cathedral, I pursued my walk homeward by a different route, via Chewton Mendip, Farrington, Temple Cloud, Clutton, and Pensford.

To make a walk successful, mind and body should be free of burden. I never carry a stick on a long walk, but prefer to be perfectly free, giving Nature’s balancing poles—the pendulum arms—complete swing and absolute liberty. Walking exercises, together with a well-educated palate, are the greatest physicians in the world: no disease can withstand them. I returned from my forty-two miles tramp with birthday honors and reward. I had no headache on the following morning, but was up early in good form, fresh and ready for work. Forty-two miles may be too strong a dose for many, but I cannot too strongly recommend for a day’s companionship the society of my old and well-tried friend, Mr. Long-Walk.

Faithfully yours,

T. Thatcher

44 College Green, Bristol.

What evidence does the author give to support his claim that long walks are good for personal well-being?

Possible Answers:

He provides no evidence in favor of his argument.

A personal anecdote

Several friends' concurring opinions

Health statistics

Scientific research

Correct answer:

A personal anecdote

Explanation:

The description of the author's birthday walk serves as a personal anecdote. The fact that a long walk had a positive effect in his own life supports his claim that long walks will have a positive effect in anyone's life.

Example Question #101 : Passage Meaning And Construction

Adapted from Walden by Henry Thoreau (1854)

Still we live meanly, like ants; it is error upon error, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has for its occasion a superfluous and evitable wretchedness. Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.

Our life is like a German Confederacy, made up of petty states, with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell you how it is bounded at any moment. The nation itself, with all its so-called internal improvements, which, by the way are all external and superficial, is just such an unwieldy and overgrown establishment, cluttered with furniture and tripped up by its own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, by want of calculation and a worthy aim, as the million households in the land; and the only cure for it, as for them, is in a rigid economy, a stern and more than Spartan simplicity of life and elevation of purpose. It lives too fast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not, but whether we should live like baboons or like men is a little uncertain. If we do not get out sleepers, and forge rails, and devote days and nights to the work, but go to tinkering upon our lives to improve them, who will build railroads? And if railroads are not built, how shall we get to heaven in season? But if we stay at home and mind our business, who will want railroads? We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us. Did you ever think what those sleepers are that underlie the railroad? Each one is a man, an Irishman, or a Yankee man. The rails are laid on them, and they are covered with sand, and the cars run smoothly over them. They are sound sleepers, I assure you.

In this passage, the author is most concerned with which theme?

Possible Answers:

Communication

Immorality

Excess

The development of infrastructure

Boundary disputes

Correct answer:

Excess

Explanation:

Thoreau makes no mention of boundary disputes within the nation, and while he calls the economy “rigid,” it is not his primary worry, but instead a recommendation for people to take stock of their households and pursuits more carefully. Likewise, he discusses the development of infrastructure when he discusses railroads at the end of the second paragraph, but this is not his primary focus. Instead, Thoreau is concerned with all the aspects of contemporary American culture that are opposed to a “Spartan simplicity of life,” which can be considered together as “excess.”

Example Question #31 : Determining Context Dependent Meanings Of Phrases And Clauses In Humanities Passages

Adapted from "The Philosophy of Composition" by Edgar Allan Poe (1846)

Nothing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its dénouement before any thing be attempted with the pen. It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention.

There is a radical error, I think, in the usual mode of constructing a story. Either history affords a thesis—or one is suggested by an incident of the day—or, at best, the author sets himself to work in the combination of striking events to form merely the basis of his narrative—designing, generally, to fill in with description, dialogue, or autorial comment, whatever crevices of fact, or action, may, from page to page, render themselves apparent.

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an effect. Keeping originality always in view—for he is false to himself who ventures to dispense with so obvious and so easily attainable a source of interest—I say to myself, in the first place, “Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select?” Having chosen a novel, first, and secondly a vivid effect, I consider whether it can best be wrought by incident or tone—whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse, or by peculiarity both of incident and tone—afterward looking about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best aid me in the construction of the effect.

In the first line, Poe is basically saying __________.

Possible Answers:

no plot worth the name is planned out by the writer

the plot of a book should be planned out to the end before the writer begins writing it

attempting to write anything leads a writer to completely plan out a story before beginning it in earnest

a book's ending must be figured out before the book's beginning

Correct answer:

the plot of a book should be planned out to the end before the writer begins writing it

Explanation:

In the passage's first line, Poe states that a plot must be completely laid out until the very end of a story before the writer begins writing that story.

Example Question #271 : Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from Giuseppe Mazzini's The Duties of Man (1860) 

Your first Duties— first, at least, in importance— are, as I have told you, to Humanity. You are men before you are citizens or fathers. If you do not embrace the whole human family in your love, if you do not confess your faith in its unity— consequent on the unity of God— and in the brotherhood of the Peoples who are appointed to reduce that unity to fact— if wherever one of your fellowmen groans, wherever the dignity of human nature is violated by falsehood or tyranny, you are not prompt, being able, to succor that wretched one, or do not feel yourself called, being able, to fight for the purpose of relieving the deceived or oppressed— you disobey your law of life, or do not comprehend the religion which will bless the future.

But what can each of you, with his isolated powers, do for the moral improvement, for the progress of Humanity? You can, from time to time, give sterile expression to your belief; you may, on some rare occasion, perform an act of charity to a brother not belonging to your own land, no more. Now, charity is not the watchword of the future faith. The watchword of the future faith is association, fraternal cooperation towards a common aim, and this is as much superior to charity as the work of many uniting to raise with one accord a building for the habitation of all together would be superior to that which you would accomplish by raising a separate hut each for himself, and only helping one another by exchanging stones and bricks and mortar. But divided as you are in language tendencies, habits, and capacities, you cannot attempt this common work. The individual is too weak, and Humanity too vast… But God gave you this means when he gave you a Country, when, like a wise overseer of labour, who distributes the different parts of the work according to the capacity of the workmen, he divided Humanity into distinct groups upon the face of our globe, and thus planted the seeds of nations. Bad governments have disfigured the design of God, which you may see clearly marked out, as far, at least, as regards Europe, by the courses of the great river, by the lines of the lofty mountains, and by other geographical conditions; they have disfigured it by conquest, by greed, by jealously of the just sovereignty of others; disfigured it so much that to-day there is perhaps no nation except England and France whose confines correspond to this design.

They did not, and they do not, recognize any country except their own families and dynasties, the egoism of caste. But the divine design will infallibly be fulfilled. Natural divisions, the innate spontaneous tendencies of the people will replace the arbitrary divisions sanctioned by bad governments. The map of Europe will be remade. The Countries of the People will rise, defined by the voice of the free, upon the ruins of the Countries of Kings and privileged castes. Between these Countries there will be harmony and brotherhood. And then the work of Humanity for the general amelioration, for the discovery and application of the real law of life, carried on in association and distributed according to local capacities, will be accomplished by peaceful and progressive development; then each of you, strong in the affections and in the aid of many millions of men speaking the same language, endowed with the same tendencies, and educated by the same historic tradition, may hope by your personal effort to benefit the whole of Humanity. 

The author explicitly states that God did which of the following?

Possible Answers:

God intended for governments to disfigure natural geographical boundaries.

God made no distinctions in order for Humanity to live harmoniously.

God divided Humanity into distinct groups which would become nations.

God allowed Humanity to decide for itself whether to live harmoniously.

Correct answer:

God divided Humanity into distinct groups which would become nations.

Explanation:

The only answer choice that the author explicitly states regarding the role of "God" is "God divided Humanity into distinct groups which would become nations."  The evidence for this is in the second paragraph: "But God gave you this means when he gave you a Country, when, like a wise overseer of labour, who distributes the different parts of the work according to the capacity of the workmen, he divided Humanity into distinct groups upon the face of our globe, and thus planted the seeds of nations." The author does not, however, believe that God intended for governments to disfigure geographical boundaries (" Bad governments have disfigured the design of God, which you may see clearly marked out, as far, at least, as regards Europe, by the courses of the great river, by the lines of the lofty mountains, and by other geographical conditions; they have disfigured it by conquest, by greed, by jealously of the just sovereignty of others; disfigured it so much that to-day there is perhaps no nation except England and France whose confines correspond to this design."). The author makes no indication of whether God intended for Humanity to live harmoniously, and the fact that he created geographical divisions and "divided Humanity" indicates that "God made no distinction" is an incorrect answer choice.

Example Question #11 : Summarizing And Describing Humanities Passage Content

Passage adapted from Edmund Morel's King Leopold’s Rule in Africa (1904)

Everywhere [in the Congo] we see the same policy [of forced labor] at work, with the same results. What are the chief symptoms of the effects of that policy upon native life?

Outwardly the most striking effect is depopulation: slaughter, mutilation, emigration, sickness, largely aggravated by cruel and systematic oppression; poverty, and even positive starvation, induced by unlimited taxation in food-stuffs and live stocks; a hopeless despair, and mental depression engendered by ears of grinding tyranny; neglect of children by the general maltreatment of women, one of the most odious and disgraceful features of the system— these are some of the many recorded cases of depopulation which, in certain districts, has assumed gigantic proportions…

What a sum total of human wretchedness does not lie behind that bald word “depopulation”! To my mind, the horror of this curse which has come upon the Congo peoples reaches its maximum of intensity when we force ourselves to consider its everyday concomitants; the crushing weight of perpetual, remorseless oppression; the gradual elimination of everything in the daily life of the natives which makes that life worth living. Under a prevailing system, every village is a penal settlement. Armed soldiers are quartered in every hamlet; the men pass nearly their whole lives in satisfying the ceaseless demands of the “Administration,” or its affiliates the Trusts…

The cumulative effects of depopulation and infantile mortality by dragging women away from their homes for forced labour requisitions— seizing them as “hostages,” and “tying them up,” whether virgins, wives, mothers, or those about to become mothers, in order to bring pressure to bear upon brothers, husbands, and fathers for the adequate supply of rubber or food taxes; flinging them into “prison,” together with their children, often to die of starvation and neglect…

What has come over the civilized people of the globe that they can allow their government to remain inactive and apathetic in the face of incidents which recall in aggravated form the worst horrors of the over-sea slave trade, which surpass the exploits of Arab slave catchers? What could be worse than scenes such as these, which can be culled by the dozen…

The Congo Government boasts that, in stopping the intertribal warfare, it has stopped the selling of tribal prisoners of war into domestic slavery. The condition of the domestic slave under the African system is blissful beyond words, if you compare his lot with that of the degraded serf under the Leopoldian system…

Enough has been said to show that under this system of “moral and material regeneration,” constituting a monstrous invasion of primitive rights which has no parallel in the whole world, the family life and social ties of the people are utterly destroyed…

Why are these people allowed to suffer thus cruelly? What crime have they collectively committed in past ages that they should undergo to-day so terrible an expiation? Are they “groaning and dying” under this murderous system as a great object-lesson to Europe?... Belgium, technically unconcerned, is morally responsible, and Belgium will suffer…  If the Congo Basin were capable of being colonized by the Caucasian race, the policy we condemn and reprobate would still be a crime against humanity, an outrage upon civilization. But the Congo territories can never be a white man’s country; the “Congo State” is naught but a collection of individuals— with one supreme above the all— working for their own selfish ends, caring nothing for posterity, callous of the present, indifferent of the future, as of the past, animated by no fanaticism other than the fanaticism of dividends— and so upon the wickedness of this thing is grafted the fatuous stupidity and inhumanity of the Powers in allowing the extermination of the Congo races to go on unchecked, barely, if at all, reproved. 

The author argues that which of the following is a motive for the forced labor policies employed in the Congo?

Possible Answers:

The repayment of debts owed by citizens 

Retribution for crimes committed by those forced into labor

Restitution for previous offenses against the government 

The acquisition of rubber for export and industrial use

Correct answer:

The acquisition of rubber for export and industrial use

Explanation:

The author notes in the fourth paragraph that the horrors experienced by the Congolese people occurred "in order to bring pressure to bear upon brothers, husbands, and fathers for the adequate supply of rubber or food taxes; flinging them into “prison,” together with their children, often to die of starvation and neglect…" So, the correct answer is that the motive for forced labor policies was the acquisition of rubber. The author makes no mention that those working are doing so in order to repay debts, and the author explicitly notes in the final paragraph that those working have committed no crime. The final incorrect answer choice, restitution, refers to correcting a wrong by returning property or compensating for injury/loss, and there is no indication that those forced into labor had committed offenses against the government. 

2 Next →
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors