SAT Section 3 Critical Reading

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SAT Section 3 Critical Reading - Quiz

This section is filled with reading comprehension and sentence completion questions.


Questions and Answers
  • 1. 

    Our once thriving High School Nature Club is now ____ ; the programs have had to be canceled due to lack of support.

    • A.

      Defunct

    • B.

      Extant

    • C.

      Resurgent

    • D.

      Burgeoning

    • E.

      Renovated

    Correct Answer
    A. Defunct
    Explanation
    ‘Once’ followed by ‘now’ indicates that things have changed. Where once the club did well (it was thriving) it is now doing badly. Furthermore, the sentence tells us that the programs have been canceled and so we can choose defunct, which means no longer working.
    (extant = still in existence; resurgent = reviving; burgeoning = growing; renovated = redecorated)

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  • 2. 

    ____ by nature, Jones spoke very little even to his own family members.

    • A.

      Garrulous

    • B.

      Equivocal

    • C.

      Taciturn

    • D.

      Arrogant

    • E.

      Gregarious

    Correct Answer
    C. Taciturn
    Explanation
    He ‘spoke very little’ and so he uses few words.
    Therefore, taciturn is the best word.
    (garrulous = talkative; equivocal = ambiguous; gregarious = sociable)

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  • 3. 

      Questions 3 and 4 are based on the following passage.    Much of what goes by the name of pleasure is simply an effort     to destroy consciousness. If one started by asking, what is     man? what are his needs? how can he best express himself?     one would discover that merely having the power to avoid work 5   and live one’s life from birth to death in electric light and     to the tune of tinned music is not a reason for doing so. Man     needs warmth, society, leisure, comfort and security: he also     needs solitude, creative work and the sense of wonder. If he     recognized this he could use the products of science and 10  industrialism eclectically, applying always the same test:     does this make me more human or less human? He would then     learn that the highest happiness does not lie in relaxing,     resting, playing poker, drinking and making love simultaneously. Adapted from an essay by George Orwell  The author implies that the answers to the questions in sentence two would reveal that human beings _________________.

    • A.

      Are less human when they seek pleasure

    • B.

      Need to evaluate their purpose in life

    • C.

      Are being alienated from their true nature by technology

    • D.

      Have needs beyond physical comforts

    • E.

      Are always seeking the meaning of life

    Correct Answer
    D. Have needs beyond physical comforts
    Explanation
    The main point of the passage is to show that so-called pleasure is not enough to justify existence. By answering these questions we will apparently reveal that pleasure and physical comforts are only part of what a human being needs. (We also need “solitude, creative work and the sense of wonder”.) These ideas are best conveyed by answer D.

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  • 4. 

    The author would apparently agree that playing poker is ___________________.

    • A.

      Often an effort to avoid thinking

    • B.

      Something that gives true pleasure

    • C.

      An example of man’s need for society

    • D.

      Something that man must learn to avoid

    • E.

      Inhuman

    Correct Answer
    A. Often an effort to avoid thinking
    Explanation
    Poker is mentioned as part of the list of things that do not bring us the highest happiness. We need to relate this list to the first sentence to get the answer. Poker is apparently an example of “what goes by the name of pleasure” and which the author says is an “effort to destroy consciousness”. Answer A is best because it paraphrases this idea. (“Destroy consciousness” is changed to “avoid thinking”).

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  • 5. 

        Questions 5 and 6 are based on the following passage.     I have previously defined a sanctuary as a place where man     is passive and the rest of Nature active. But this general     definition is too absolute for any special case. The mere     fact that man has to protect a sanctuary does away with his 5   purely passive attitude. Then, he can be beneficially active     by destroying pests and parasites, like bot-flies or     mosquitoes, and by finding antidotes for diseases like the     epidemic which periodically kills off the rabbits and thus     starves many of the carnivora to death. But, except in cases 10  where experiment has proved his intervention to be     beneficial, the less he upsets the balance of Nature the     better, even when he tries to be an earthly Providence. Adapted from: Animal Sanctuaries in Labrador, W Wood (1911) The author implies that his first definition of a sanctuary is ____________.

    • A.

      Totally wrong

    • B.

      Somewhat idealistic

    • C.

      Unhelpful

    • D.

      Indefensible

    • E.

      Immutable

    Correct Answer
    B. Somewhat idealistic
    Explanation
    The author says in sentence two that his previous definition was “too absolute”. Yet he admits that the less man “upsets the balance of Nature” the better. Hence his definition is not entirely right (because it is too idealistic) but it is not entirely wrong either. It is now easy to eliminate answers A, C, D, and E because they are strongly negative.

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  • 6. 

    The author’s argument that destroying bot-flies and mosquitoes would be a beneficial action is most weakened by all of the following except ______________.

    • A.

      Parasites have an important role to play in the regulation of populations

    • B.

      The elimination of any species can have unpredictable effects on the balance of nature

    • C.

      The pests themselves are part of the food chain

    • D.

      These insects have been introduced to the area by human activities

    • E.

      Elimination of these insects would require the use of insecticides that kill a wide range of insects

    Correct Answer
    D. These insects have been introduced to the area by human activities
    Explanation
    In “except” questions find the true statements first. In this case find four statements that WEAKEN the idea that destroying pests is beneficial. That means finding statements that show that it is NOT a good idea to destroy the pests. Answers A, B, C, and E give reasons why destroying these insects might be a mistake. D, however, is the right answer because it suggests that eliminating these insects might not be wrong, since they are not even natural inhabitants of the area.

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  • 7. 

     Questions 7-18 are based on the following passage.  The extract is taken from Darwin's book The Voyage of the Beagle.In the book he describes his voyage around the world as a ship's naturalist. On this voyage he gathered evidence that was to lead him to put forward his Theory of Evolution.    That large animals require a luxuriant vegetation, has     been a general assumption which has passed from     one work to another; but I do not hesitate to say that     it is completely false, and that it has vitiated the 5   reasoning of geologists on some points of great     interest in the ancient history of the world. The     prejudice has probably been derived from India, and     the Indian islands, where troops of elephants, noble     forests, and impenetrable jungles, are associated 10  together in every one's mind. If, however, we refer to     any work of travels through the southern parts of     Africa, we shall find allusions in almost every page     either to the desert character of the country, or to the     numbers of large animals inhabiting it. The same 15  thing is rendered evident by the many engravings     which have been published of various parts of the     interior.     Dr. Andrew Smith, who has lately succeeded in     passing the Tropic of Capricorn, informs me that, 20  taking into consideration the whole of the southern     part of Africa, there can be no doubt of its being a     sterile country. On the southern coasts there are some     fine forests, but with these exceptions, the traveller     may pass for days together through open plains, 25  covered by a poor and scanty vegetation. Now, if we     look to the animals inhabiting these wide plains, we     shall find their numbers extraordinarily great, and     their bulk immense. We must enumerate the elephant,     three species of rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, the 30  giraffe, the bos caffer, two zebras, two gnus, and     several antelopes even larger than these latter     animals. It may be supposed that although the species     are numerous, the individuals of each kind are few.     By the kindness of Dr. Smith, I am enabled to show 35  that the case is very different. He informs me, that in     lat. 24', in one day's march with the bullock-wagons,     he saw, without wandering to any great distance on     either side, between one hundred and one hundred     and fifty rhinoceroses - the same day he saw several 40  herds of giraffes, amounting together to nearly a     hundred. At the distance of a little more than one     hour's march from their place of encampment on the     previous night, his party actually killed at one spot     eight hippopotamuses, and saw many more. In this 45  same river there were likewise crocodiles. Of course     it was a case quite extraordinary, to see so many great     animals crowded together, but it evidently proves that     they must exist in great numbers. Dr. Smith describes     the country passed through that day, as 'being thinly 50  covered with grass, and bushes about four feet high,     and still more thinly with mimosa-trees.'     Besides these large animals, every one the least     acquainted with the natural history of the Cape, has     read of the herds of antelopes, which can be 55  compared only with the flocks of migratory birds.     The numbers indeed of the lion, panther, and hyena,     and the multitude of birds of prey, plainly speak of     the abundance of the smaller quadrupeds: one     evening seven lions were counted at the same time 60  prowling round Dr. Smith's encampment. As this able     naturalist remarked to me, the carnage each day in     Southern Africa must indeed he terrific! I confess it is     truly surprising how such a number of animals can     find support in a country producing so little food. The 65  larger quadrupeds no doubt roam over wide tracts in     search of it; and their food chiefly consists of     underwood, which probably contains much nutriment     in a small bulk. Dr. Smith also informs me that the     vegetation has a rapid growth; no sooner is a part 70  consumed, than its place is supplied by a fresh stock.     There can be no doubt, however, that our ideas     respecting the apparent amount of food necessary for     the support of large quadrupeds are much     exaggerated. 75  The belief that where large quadrupeds exist, the     vegetation must necessarily be luxuriant, is the more     remarkable, because the converse is far from true. Mr.     Burchell observed to me that when entering Brazil,     nothing struck him more forcibly than the splendour of 80  the South American vegetation contrasted with that of     South Africa, together with the absence of all large     quadrupeds. In his Travels, he has suggested that the     comparison of the respective weights (if there were     sufficient data) of an equal number of the largest 85  herbivorous quadrupeds of each country would be     extremely curious. If we take on the one side, the     elephants hippopotamus, giraffe, bos caffer, elan,five     species of rhinoceros; and on the American side, two     tapirs, the guanaco, three deer, the vicuna, peccari, 90  capybara (after which we must choose from the     monkeys to complete the number), and then place     these two groups alongside each other it is not easy to     conceive ranks more disproportionate in size. After the     above facts, we are compelled to conclude, against 95  anterior probability, that among the mammalia there     exists no close relation between the bulk of the     species, and the quantity of the vegetation, in the     countries which they inhabit. Adapted from: Voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin (1890) The author is primarily concerned with __________.

    • A.

      Discussing the relationship between the size of mammals and the nature of vegetation in their habitats

    • B.

      Contrasting ecological conditions in India and Africa

    • C.

      Proving the large animals do not require much food

    • D.

      Describing the size of animals in various parts of the world

    • E.

      Explaining that the reasoning of some geologists is completely false

    Correct Answer
    A. Discussing the relationship between the size of mammals and the nature of vegetation in their habitats
    Explanation
    Both the first and the last sentence of the excerpt indicate that the author is concerned with the size of mammals and the amount of vegetation. Hence answer A. (Note that strong words like ‘prove’ and ‘completely’ are not usually answers to primary purpose questions. This fact can help you eliminate answer choices.)

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  • 8. 

    The word ‘vitiated’ (line 4) most nearly means ___________.

    • A.

      Infiltrated

    • B.

      Occupied

    • C.

      Impaired

    • D.

      Invigorated

    • E.

      Strengthened

    Correct Answer
    C. Impaired
    Explanation
    ‘Vitiated’ usually means ‘weakened’. Here the author argues that false ideas have ‘vitiated the reasoning of geologists’. False ideas would harm or ‘impair’ reasoning. Hence, answer C.

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  • 9. 

    According to the author, the ‘prejudice’ (line 7) has lead to ________________.

    • A.

      Errors in the reasoning of biologists

    • B.

      False ideas about animals in Africa

    • C.

      Incorrect assumptions on the part of geologists

    • D.

      Doubt in the mind of the author

    • E.

      Confusion in natural history

    Correct Answer
    C. Incorrect assumptions on the part of geologists
    Explanation
    The ‘prejudice’ talked about here is the same as the false reasoning in sentence 1. This prejudice/false reasoning has led to false ideas on the part of geologists. Answer C.

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  • 10. 

    The author uses information provided by Dr. Smith to ___________.            I supply information on quality and quantity of plant life in South Africa            II indicate the presence of large numbers of animals            III give evidence of numbers of carnivorous animals

    • A.

      I only

    • B.

      II only

    • C.

      III only

    • D.

      I and II only

    • E.

      I, II, and III

    Correct Answer
    E. I, II, and III
    Explanation
    Dr. Smith is mentioned extensively. His experience is quoted on all of the points mentioned in the question. Plant life in lines 49-51, large numbers of animals in lines 38 onwards, and number of carnivores in lines 56-60. Hence, answer E.

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  • 11. 

    The flocks of migratory birds (line 55) are mentioned to _____________.

    • A.

      Describe an aspect of the fauna of South Africa

    • B.

      Illustrate a possible source of food for large carnivores

    • C.

      Contrast with the habits of the antelope

    • D.

      Contrast with the habits of the antelope

    • E.

      Indicate the abundance of wildlife

    Correct Answer
    D. Contrast with the habits of the antelope
    Explanation
    Dr. Smith is mentioned extensively. His experience is quoted on all of the points mentioned in the question. Plant life in lines 49-51, large numbers of animals in lines 38 onwards, and number of carnivores in lines 56-60. Hence, answer E.

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  • 12. 

    The ‘carnage’ (line 61) refers to the ______________.

    • A.

      Number of animals killed by hunters

    • B.

      Number of prey animals killed by predators

    • C.

      Number of people killed by lions

    • D.

      Amount of food eaten by all species

    • E.

      Damage caused by large animals

    Correct Answer
    B. Number of prey animals killed by predators
    Explanation
    To be sure of the answer we need to read the sentence before the reference to carnage. The mention of predators such as the lion, panther and hyena, as well as the birds of prey, indicates that the author is thinking of all the animals that must be killed by these predators each day. Hence, answer B.

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  • 13. 

    To account for the ‘surprising’ (line 63) number of animals in a ‘country producing so little food’ (line 64), Darwin suggests all of the following as partial explanations except __________________.

    • A.

      Food which is a concentrated source of nutrients

    • B.

      Rapid regrowth of plant mat

    • C.

      Large area for animals to forage in

    • D.

      Mainly carnivorous animals

    • E.

      Food requirements have been overestimated

    Correct Answer
    D. Mainly carnivorous animals
    Explanation
    Remember that this is an ‘except’ question. Four choices will give things that the author does suggest as an explanation for the numbers, and one (the right answer) will not. That the food contains a concentrated source of nutrients is given by the phrase ‘much nutriment in small bulk’ (line 67). Rapid regrowth is covered by ‘has a rapid growth' (line 69). Large area by ‘roam over wide tracts’ (line 65). Overestimate of requirements is covered by ‘much exaggerated’ (line 74). This leaves D as the right answer.

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  • 14. 

    The author makes his point by reference to all of the following except _______________.

    • A.

      Travel books

    • B.

      Published illustrations

    • C.

      Private communications

    • D.

      Recorded observations

    • E.

      Historical documents

    Correct Answer
    E. Historical documents
    Explanation
    The author mentions travel books (line 11), illustrations (engravings, line 15), private communication (Dr. Smith informed the author personally, line 19), and he refers to recorded observations in various places (e.g. line 82). But there are no mentions of historical documents (only contemporary ones are mentioned). This makes E the correct answer.

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  • 15. 

    Darwin quotes Burchell’s observations in order to __________________.

    • A.

      Counter a popular misconception

    • B.

      Describe a region of great splendor

    • C.

      Prove a hypothesis

    • D.

      Illustrate a well-known phenomenon

    • E.

      Account for a curious situation

    Correct Answer
    A. Counter a popular misconception
    Explanation
    Darwin quotes Burchell to show how the latter was struck by the luxuriant vegetation and absence of large mammals in South America. He does this to contradict the belief that large animals are found where there is abundant vegetation (line 75). Since a misconception is a wrong belief, answer A is correct.

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  • 16. 

    Darwin apparently regards Dr. Smith as ____________________.

    • A.

      Reliable and imaginative

    • B.

      Intrepid and competent

    • C.

      Observant and excitable

    • D.

      Foolhardy and tiresome

    • E.

      Incontrovertible and peerless

    Correct Answer
    B. Intrepid and competent
    Explanation
    Darwin places heavy reliance on Dr. Smith’s observations. So we can eliminate D because of the negative words. Reliable in A is a good word, but imaginative is inappropriate for one who records facts. There is no evidence that he is excitable, which leaves us to consider B and E. The discussion of the expedition (lines 18 onwards ) supports the idea that Darwin thinks him intrepid (brave and adventurous), and B is the best choice. (The words in E are really too strong. Incontrovertible means cannot be contradicted, and peerless means without equal).

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  • 17. 

    Darwin’s parenthetical remark (line 83-84) indicates that ________________.

    • A.

      Burchell’s data are not reliable

    • B.

      Burchell’s ideas are not to be given much weight

    • C.

      Comparison of the weights of herbivores is largely speculative

    • D.

      Darwin’s views differ from Burchell’s

    • E.

      More figures are needed before any comparison can be attempted

    Correct Answer
    C. Comparison of the weights of herbivores is largely speculative
    Explanation
    The remarks indicate that there are not enough data, and so an actual comparison cannot be made. The comparison attempted here is, therefore, highly speculative. (Speculative means based on guesswork or supposition.) Answer C.

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  • 18. 

    Anterior probability (line 95) refers to _________________.

    • A.

      What might have been expected

    • B.

      Ideas of earlier explorers

    • C.

      Ideas of earlier explorers

    • D.

      Hypotheses of other scientists

    • E.

      Former information

    Correct Answer
    A. What might have been expected
    Explanation
    Anterior probability here suggests that the observations contradict what might have been expected, answer A.

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  • 19. 

    Questions 19-22 are based on the following passage. Paragraph one     That Priestley's contributions to the knowledge of chemical     fact were of the greatest importance is unquestionable; but     it must be admitted that he had no comprehension of the     deeper significance of his work; and, so far from 5   contributing anything to the theory of the facts which he     discovered, or assisting in their rational explanation,     his influence to the end of his life was warmly exerted in     favor of error. From first to last, he was a stiff adherent     of the phlogiston doctrine which was prevalent when his 10  studies commenced; and, by a curious irony of fate, the man     who by the discovery of what he called "dephlogisticated air"     furnished the essential datum for the true theory of     combustion, of respiration, and of the composition of water,     to the end of his days fought against the inevitable 15  corollaries from his own labors. Paragraph two     It is a trying ordeal for any man to be compared with Black     and Cavendish, and Priestley cannot be said to stand on     their level. Nevertheless his achievements are truly     wonderful if we consider the disadvantages under which he 20  labored. Without the careful scientific training of Black,     without the leisure and appliances secured by the wealth of     Cavendish, he scaled the walls of science; and trusting to     mother wit to supply the place of training, and to ingenuity     to create apparatus out of washing tubs, he discovered more 25  new gases (including oxygen, which he termed     “dephlogisticated air”) than all his predecessors put     together had done. Both passages adapted from: Science & Education, T H Huxley (1893)Which pairing best reflects the main emphasis of the two passages? The first focuses mainly on Priestley’s ________________.

    • A.

      Discoveries of chemical fact; the second on his ingenuity

    • B.

      Discovery of “dephlogisticated air”; the second on his discoveries of gases

    • C.

      Lack of theoretical understanding; the second on his lack of training

    • D.

      Importance to future science; the second on his status in relation to his contemporaries

    • E.

      Theoretical misconceptions; the second on his success in the face of disadvantage

    Correct Answer
    E. Theoretical misconceptions; the second on his success in the face of disadvantage
    Explanation
    The main point of paragraph one is that, though Priestley made important contributions to factual knowledge, “he had no comprehension of the deeper significance of his work”, and. in fact, spent his life defending wrong ideas. This suggests that the first part of answer C and E could be right. The main point of paragraph two is that, though Priestley was not as great as some other scientists, he managed to make important discoveries that were “truly wonderful if we consider the disadvantages under which he labored”. This idea is most accurately conveyed in answer E.

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  • 20. 

    It can be inferred that “dephlogisticated air” is I a misnomer, but relating to something important II a gaseous substance discovered by Priestley II something not fully understood by Preistley

    • A.

      I only

    • B.

      II only

    • C.

      I and III

    • D.

      II and III

    • E.

      I, II, and III

    Correct Answer
    E. I, II, and III
    Explanation
    The words “dephlogisticated air” are placed in inverted commas because the name used by Priestley is misleading; its true nature and important role in combustion etc. had to be elucidated by others. Hence we can say that the substance was important but the name was a misnomer. (A misnomer is a wrong name.) Paragraph two clearly tells us that it was one of the gases discovered by Priestley. It is obvious from paragraph one that Preistley’s ideas about his discovery were in error, and that he had no real idea of the theoretical implications of this work. Thus all three statements are correct.

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  • 21. 

    The metaphor “scaled the walls of science” conveys the idea that Priestley ______________.

    • A.

      Climbed to the pinnacle of science

    • B.

      Fought his way to the top

    • C.

      Escaped the confines of traditional ideas

    • D.

      Achieved success in a difficult endeavor

    • E.

      Clawed his way up against opposition

    Correct Answer
    D. Achieved success in a difficult endeavor
    Explanation
    We can eliminate answer A because “the pinnacle” implies the topmost point. Priestley made important discoveries but it is obvious that the author thinks there are other scientists who are more important, making “pinnacle” too strong. There is no suggestion of “fighting”, eliminating answer B. Similarly “opposition” is wrong in E. There is no mention that he escaped “traditional ideas”; in fact paragraph one suggests that he has hampered by his adherence to old ideas. This leaves us with the idea that scaling the walls of science means succeeding in doing something difficult.

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  • 22. 

    The attitude of both the passages to Priestley’s scientific work could be described as _______________.

    • A.

      Firm disapproval

    • B.

      Wholehearted praise

    • C.

      Qualified approval

    • D.

      Determined neutrality

    • E.

      Ambivalence

    Correct Answer
    C. Qualified approval
    Explanation
    Both passages say both positive and negative things about Priestley. So we can eliminate the entirely positive (B), and the entirely negative (A). The authors cannot be described as neutral because they take a position (eliminate D). Both are rather firm in their attitudes so ambivalence is inappropriate (eliminate E). By saying “qualified approval” we mean that the authors approve up to a point. The word “qualified” is a favorite with examiners because students often misunderstand; used in this way it actually means “modified, moderated, or limited”.

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  • 23. 

    Questions 23 and 24 are based on the following passage.     Could Washington, Madison, and the other framers of the     Federal Constitution revisit the earth in this year 1922,     it is likely that nothing would bewilder them more than     the recent Prohibition Amendment. Railways, steamships, 5   the telephone, automobiles, flying machines, submarines     – all these developments, unknown in their day, would     fill them with amazement and admiration. They would     marvel at the story of the rise and downfall of the     German Empire; at the growth and present greatness of 10  the Republic they themselves had founded. None of these     things, however, would seem to them to involve any     essential change in the beliefs and purposes of men as     they had known them. The Prohibition Amendment, on the     contrary, would evidence to their minds the breaking 15  down of a principle of government which they had deemed     axiomatic, the abandonment of a purpose which they had     supposed immutable. Adapted from: Our Changing Constitution, C W Pierson (1922) It can be inferred that the paragraph is intended as ______________________.

    • A.

      An introduction to a discussion of a constitutional amendment

    • B.

      A summary of social and political change since the writing of the Federal Constitution

    • C.

      An introduction to a history of the Constitution

    • D.

      A clarification of the author’s view of a controversy

    • E.

      A summation of a discussion on political history

    Correct Answer
    A. An introduction to a discussion of a constitutional amendment
    Explanation
    The passage tells us that the framers of the Constitution would not have been so surprised at the changes in technology and other areas as they would have been by the Prohibition Amendment. It goes on to indicate that there is some fundamental change in principle involved in this amendment, but does not elaborate. We can conclude that the author is about to go into details of this amendment and why it is apparently so different. This is why we can say the passage is an introduction to a discussion of the amendment.

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  • 24. 

    The author apparently believes that the “principle of government” mentioned in the last sentence is _______________.

    • A.

      Not implicit in the original Constitution

    • B.

      To be taken as true for all time

    • C.

      Apparently violated by the Prohibition Amendment

    • D.

      An essential change in the beliefs of the American people

    • E.

      Something that would bewilder Washington and Madison

    Correct Answer
    C. Apparently violated by the Prohibition Amendment
    Explanation
    The author refers to the breaking down of a principle that the founders would have thought “axiomatic”. Axiomatic means assumed to be true. It is the Prohibition Amendment that apparently breaks down or “violates” this principle, making C the correct answer. This principle would not have bewildered the founders; the amendment would (eliminating E). Similarly the amendment represents a change in belief (eliminating D). B is too strong because of the word “all”, and A can be ruled out because of “not”.

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