New SAT Reading : Author's Intent

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for New SAT Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Author's Intent

This passage is adapted from Adam K. Fetterman and Kai Sassenberg, “The Reputational Consequences of Failed Replications and Wrongness Admission among Scientists", first published in December 2015 by PLOS ONE.

We like to think of science as a purely rational. However, scientists are human and often identify with their work. Therefore, it should not be controversial to suggest that emotions are involved in replication discussions. Adding to this inherently emotionally volatile situation, the recent increase in the use of social media and blogs by scientists has allowed for instantaneous, unfiltered, and at times emotion-based commentary on research. Certainly social media has the potential to lead to many positive outcomes in science–among others, to create a more open science. To some, however, it seems as if this ease of communication is also leading to the public tar and feathering of scientists. Whether these assertions are true is up for debate, but we assume they are a part of many scientists’ subjective reality. Indeed, when failed replications are discussed in the same paragraphs as questionable research practices, or even fraud, it is hard to separate the science from the scientist. Questionable research practices and fraud are not about the science; they are about the scientist. We believe that these considerations are at least part of the reason that we find the overestimation effect that we do, here.

Even so, the current data suggests that while many are worried about how a failed replication would affect their reputation, it is probably not as bad as they think. Of course, the current data cannot provide evidence that there are no negative effects; just that the negative impact is overestimated. That said, everyone wants to be seen as competent and honest, but failed replications are a part of science. In fact, they are how science moves forward!

While we imply that these effects may be exacerbated by social media, the data cannot directly speak to this. However, anyone of a number of cognitive biases may add support to this assumption and explain our findings. For example, it may be that a type of availability bias or pluralistic ignorance of which the more vocal and critical voices are leading individuals to judge current opinions as more negative than reality. As a result, it is easy to conflate discussions about direct replications with “witch- hunts” and overestimate the impact on one’s own reputation. Whatever the source may be, it is worth looking at the potential negative impact of social media in scientific conversations.

If the desire is to move science forward, scientists need to be able to acknowledge when they are wrong. Theories come and go, and scientists learn from their mistakes (if they can even be called “mistakes”). This is the point of science. However, holding on to faulty ideas flies in the face of the scientific method. Even so, it often seems as if scientists have a hard time admitting wrongness. This seems doubly true when someone else fails to replicate a scientist’s findings. Even so, it often seems as if scientists have a hard time admitting wrongness. This seems doubly true when someone else fails to replicate a scientist’s findings. In some cases, this may be the proper response. Just as often, though, it is not. In most cases, admitting wrongness will have relatively fewer ill effects on one’s reputation than not admitting and it may be better for reputation. It could also be that wrongness admission repairs damage to reputation.

It may seem strange that others consider it less likely that questionable research practices, for example, were used when a scientist admits that they were wrong. However, it does make sense from the standpoint that wrongness admission seems to indicate honesty. Therefore, if one is honest in one domain, they are likely honest in other domains. Moreover, the refusal to admit might indicate to others that the original scientist is trying to cover something up. The lack of significance of most of the interactions in our study suggests that it even seems as if scientists might already realize this. Therefore, we can generally suggest that scientists admit they are wrong, but only when the evidence suggests they should.

The chart below maps how scientists view others' work (left) and how they suspect others will view their own work (right) if the researcher (the scientist or another, depending on the focus) admitted to engaging in questionable research practices.

Screen shot 2020 08 26 at 9.34.54 am

Adapted from Fetterman & Sassenberg, "The Reputational Consequences of Failed Replications and Wrongness Admission among Scientists." December 9, 2015, PLOS One.

The last paragraph serves mainly to

Possible Answers:
offer an explanation for a surprising finding and put forth a course of action.

explain the place of this research within the discussion of the greater scientific method.

concede an exception to the rule discussed elsewhere in the passage.

suggest avenues for future research.

Correct answer:
offer an explanation for a surprising finding and put forth a course of action.
Explanation:

Whenever a question asks about the purpose of a statement or paragraph within a passage as a whole, remember that your job is first to find the main idea of the paragraph and then to match that against your answer choices to see which matches something that the paragraph serves to do. The paragraph in question tries to reconcile the fact that admitting wrongdoing actually leads others to believe that researchers are more honest rather than less honest. The authors then state that scientists should generally admit that they are wrong. This matches "offer an explanation for a surprising finding and put forth a course of action". It explains a surprising finding and then offers a course of action for scientists.

Among the other answers, "suggest avenues for future research" can be eliminated because no future research is suggested. "Concede an exception to the rule discussed elsewhere in the passage" can be eliminated because it discusses a general rule rather than an exception. "Explain the place of this research within the discussion of the greater scientific method" can be eliminated because there is no research about the scientific method.

Example Question #1 : Author's Intent

This passage is adapted from Jane Austen, Mansfield Park. Originally published 1814. Fanny has recently moved to live with her relatives at Mansfield Park.

The little girl performed her long journey in safety; and at Northampton was met by Mrs. Norris, who thus regaled in the credit of being foremost to welcome her, and in the importance of leading her  in to the others, and recommending her to their kindness.

Fanny Price was at this time just ten years old, and though there might not be much in her first appearance to captivate, there was, at least, nothing to disgust her relations. She was small of her age, with no glow of complexion, nor any other striking beauty; exceedingly timid and shy, and shrinking from notice; but her air, though awkward, was not vulgar, her voice was sweet, and when she spoke  her countenance was pretty. Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram received her very kindly; and Sir Thomas, seeing how much she needed encouragement, tried to be all that was conciliating: but he had to work against a most untoward gravity of deportment; and Lady Bertram, without taking half so much trouble, or speaking one word where he spoke ten, by the mere aid of a good-humored smile, became immediately the less awful character of the two. 

The young people were all at home, and sustained their share in the introduction very well, with much good humor, and no embarrassment, at least on the part of the sons, who, at seventeen and sixteen, and tall of their age, had all the grandeur of men in the eyes of their little cousin. The two girls were more at a loss from being younger and in greater awe of their father, who addressed them on the occasion with rather an injudicious particularity. But they were too much used to company and praise to have anything like natural shyness; and their confidence increasing from their cousin's total want of it, they were soon able to take a full survey of her face and her frock in easy indifference. 

They were a remarkably fine family, the sons very well-looking, the daughters decidedly handsome, and all of them well-grown and forward of their age, which produced as striking a difference between the cousins in person, as education had given to their address; and no one would have supposed the girls so nearly of an age as they really were. There were in fact but two years between the youngest and Fanny. Julia Bertram was only twelve, and Maria but a year older.

The little visitor meanwhile was as unhappy as possible. Afraid of everybody, ashamed of herself, and longing for the home she had left, she knew not how to look up, and could scarcely speak to be heard, or without crying. Mrs. Norris had been talking to her the whole way from Northampton of Fanny’s wonderful good fortune, and the extraordinary degree of gratitude and good behavior which it ought to produce, and her consciousness of misery was therefore increased by the idea of its being a wicked thing for her not to be happy.

The fatigue, too, of so long a journey, became soon no trifling evil. In vain were the well-meant condescensions of Sir Thomas, and all the officious prognostications of Mrs. Norris that she would be a good girl; in vain did Lady Bertram smile and make her sit on the sofa with herself and pug, and  vain was even the sight of a gooseberry tart towards giving her comfort; she could scarcely swallow two mouthfuls before tears interrupted her, and sleep seeming to be her likeliest friend, she was taken to finish her sorrows in bed.

“This is not a very promising beginning,” said Mrs. Norris, when Fanny had left the room. “After all that I said to her as we came along, I thought she would have behaved better; I told her how much might depend upon her acquitting herself well at first. I wish there may not be a little sulkiness of temper—her poor mother had a good deal; but we must make allowances for such a child—and I do not know that her being sorry to leave her home is really against her, for, with all its faults, it was her home, and she cannot as yet understand how much she has changed for the better; but then there is moderation in all things.”

It required a longer time, however, than Mrs. Norris was inclined to allow to reconcile Fanny to the novelty of Mansfield Park, and the separation from everybody she had been used to. Her feelings were very acute and too little understood to be properly attended to. Nobody meant to be unkind, but nobody put themselves out of their way to secure her comfort.

Fanny, whether near or from her cousins, whether in the schoolroom, the drawing-room, or the shrubbery, was equally forlorn, finding something to fear in every person and place. She was disheartened by Lady Bertram's silence, awed by Sir Thomas's grave looks, and quite overcome by Mrs. Norris's admonitions. Her elder cousins mortified her by reflections on her size, and abashed her by noticing her shyness: Miss Lee wondered at her ignorance, and the maid-servants sneered at her clothes; and when to these sorrows was added the idea of the brothers and sisters among whom she had always been important as playfellow, instructress, and nurse, the despondence that sunk her little heart was severe.

In the context of the passage, Mrs. Norris's statement in the highlighted lines serves to

Possible Answers:

contradict a claim made earlier in the passage.

provide context for a statement made in the next paragraph. 

 express sympathy for Fanny’s discomfort.

express the family’s disappointment that Fanny is too much like her mother.

Correct answer:
provide context for a statement made in the next paragraph. 
Explanation:

Whenever you are asked what a line or set of lines "serves to do" within the context of the passage, that's a sure sign that you're looking at a function question. For any function question, first consider what the portion of the passage is saying and then look at in context - how does it fit in with the passage as a whole? The quotation in question ("After all ... in all things.") is Mrs. Norris saying that she expected Fanny to adapt to her new home more quickly, but that she can understand why Fanny might not feel comfortable yet since she was taken from her home. Mrs. Norris also mentions Fanny's mother in this quotation as a way of suggesting (and then dismissing) that Fanny might be prone to "sulkiness." The next paragraph goes on to say that it took even longer for Fanny to get used to Mansfield Park - a statement that needs the context given by Mrs. Norris's statement in the previous paragraph. "Provide context for a statement made in the next paragraph" is correct.

Among the another answers, "express the family’s disappointment that Fanny is too much like her mother" is something that is mentioned in the text, but is not the reason that the quotation is included. "Express sympathy for Fanny’s discomfort" is also in the text - Mrs. Norris does express some sympathy - but the sympathy given is counteracted by the last phrase in the quotation, "there is moderation in all things," which implies that Mrs. Norris still doesn't understand Fanny's discomfort. "Contradict a claim made earlier in the passage" is just false - there is no previous statement to contradict.

Example Question #3 : Function Of A Paragraph

This passage is adapted from Jane Austen, Mansfield Park. Originally published 1814. Fanny has recently moved to live with her relatives at Mansfield Park.

The little girl performed her long journey in safety; and at Northampton was met by Mrs. Norris, who thus regaled in the credit of being foremost to welcome her, and in the importance of leading her  in to the others, and recommending her to their kindness.

Fanny Price was at this time just ten years old, and though there might not be much in her first appearance to captivate, there was, at least, nothing to disgust her relations. She was small of her age, with no glow of complexion, nor any other striking beauty; exceedingly timid and shy, and shrinking from notice; but her air, though awkward, was not vulgar, her voice was sweet, and when she spoke  her countenance was pretty. Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram received her very kindly; and Sir Thomas, seeing how much she needed encouragement, tried to be all that was conciliating: but he had to work against a most untoward gravity of deportment; and Lady Bertram, without taking half so much trouble, or speaking one word where he spoke ten, by the mere aid of a good-humored smile, became immediately the less awful character of the two. 

The young people were all at home, and sustained their share in the introduction very well, with much good humor, and no embarrassment, at least on the part of the sons, who, at seventeen and sixteen, and tall of their age, had all the grandeur of men in the eyes of their little cousin. The two girls were more at a loss from being younger and in greater awe of their father, who addressed them on the occasion with rather an injudicious particularity. But they were too much used to company and praise to have anything like natural shyness; and their confidence increasing from their cousin's total want of it, they were soon able to take a full survey of her face and her frock in easy indifference. 

They were a remarkably fine family, the sons very well-looking, the daughters decidedly handsome, and all of them well-grown and forward of their age, which produced as striking a difference between the cousins in person, as education had given to their address; and no one would have supposed the girls so nearly of an age as they really were. There were in fact but two years between the youngest and Fanny. Julia Bertram was only twelve, and Maria but a year older.

The little visitor meanwhile was as unhappy as possible. Afraid of everybody, ashamed of herself, and longing for the home she had left, she knew not how to look up, and could scarcely speak to be heard, or without crying. Mrs. Norris had been talking to her the whole way from Northampton of Fanny’s wonderful good fortune, and the extraordinary degree of gratitude and good behavior which it ought to produce, and her consciousness of misery was therefore increased by the idea of its being a wicked thing for her not to be happy.

The fatigue, too, of so long a journey, became soon no trifling evil. In vain were the well-meant condescensions of Sir Thomas, and all the officious prognostications of Mrs. Norris that she would be a good girl; in vain did Lady Bertram smile and make her sit on the sofa with herself and pug, and  vain was even the sight of a gooseberry tart towards giving her comfort; she could scarcely swallow two mouthfuls before tears interrupted her, and sleep seeming to be her likeliest friend, she was taken to finish her sorrows in bed.

“This is not a very promising beginning,” said Mrs. Norris, when Fanny had left the room. “After all that I said to her as we came along, I thought she would have behaved better; I told her how much might depend upon her acquitting herself well at first. I wish there may not be a little sulkiness of temper—her poor mother had a good deal; but we must make allowances for such a child—and I do not know that her being sorry to leave her home is really against her, for, with all its faults, it was her home, and she cannot as yet understand how much she has changed for the better; but then there is moderation in all things.”

It required a longer time, however, than Mrs. Norris was inclined to allow to reconcile Fanny to the novelty of Mansfield Park, and the separation from everybody she had been used to. Her feelings were very acute and too little understood to be properly attended to. Nobody meant to be unkind, but nobody put themselves out of their way to secure her comfort.

Fanny, whether near or from her cousins, whether in the schoolroom, the drawing-room, or the shrubbery, was equally forlorn, finding something to fear in every person and place. She was disheartened by Lady Bertram's silence, awed by Sir Thomas's grave looks, and quite overcome by Mrs. Norris's admonitions. Her elder cousins mortified her by reflections on her size, and abashed her by noticing her shyness: Miss Lee wondered at her ignorance, and the maid-servants sneered at her clothes; and when to these sorrows was added the idea of the brothers and sisters among whom she had always been important as playfellow, instructress, and nurse, the despondence that sunk her little heart was severe.

The main purpose of the highlighted paragraph is to

Possible Answers:

argue that Fanny doesn't understand her own feelings.

show Mrs. Norris's lack of empathy with Fanny's situation.

highlight Mrs. Norris's disappointment with Fanny.

contrast Fanny's feelings with the behavior of the rest of the family.

Correct answer:

contrast Fanny's feelings with the behavior of the rest of the family.

Explanation:

Whenever the SAT asks you to determine the main purpose of a line, sentence, or paragraph within a passage, your job is to first consider the paragraph itself and what it's saying and then to consider the surrounding information and then determine how the section in question fits into that context. The eighth paragraph explains that Fanny took a while to settle in a Mansfield Park. It goes on to explain that this was partially because - even though no one was unkind to her - no one helped her get comfortable with her surroundings. The paragraph before talks about Mrs. Norris's opinions on Fanny's first weeks, and the paragraph after continues to talk about Fanny's discomfort as part of the Mansfield Park household. Because the big shift in this part of the passage is between talking about Mrs. Norris's disappointment and Fanny's own feelings, the best answer is "contrast Fanny's feelings with the behavior of the rest of the family."

"Highlight Mrs. Norris's disappointment with Fanny" can be eliminated because while the previous paragraph does discuss Mrs. Norris's disappointment, this paragraph does not and instead discusses Fanny's feelings. Similar to that, "show Mrs. Norris's lack of empathy with Fanny's situation" can be eliminated because the focus of the paragraph is on Fanny, not Mrs. Norris. "Argue that Fanny doesn't understand her own feelings" is too literal: while the narrator does say that Fanny's feelings were "too little understood," establishing that Fanny doesn't understand her own feelings isn't the point of the paragraph.

Example Question #1 : Function Of A Paragraph

The following passage is adapted from a speech delivered by Susan B. Anthony in 1873. The speech was delivered after Anthony was tried and fined $100 for voting in the 1872 presidential election.

Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last Presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any State to deny.

The preamble of the Federal Constitution says: “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people— women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government—the ballot.

For any State to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people is a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity. To them this government had no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the right govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured, but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters of every household—which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord and rebellion into every home of the nation. 

Webster, Worcester and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office. The one question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no State has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women are citizenswomen in the constitutions and laws of the several States is today null and void, precisely as is every one against African Americans.

The second paragraph serves which of the following roles in the passage:

Possible Answers:

It is used to show how the Constitution has been properly interpreted.

It is used to counter an opinion presented in the previous paragraph.

It is used to highlight the lack of women’s rights in the Constitution.

It is used to support Anthony’s position on the rights of women to vote.

Correct answer:

It is used to support Anthony’s position on the rights of women to vote.

Explanation:

In the second paragraph of the passage, Anthony directly quotes the preamble of the constitution. She does so to point out the hypocrisy of current voting laws, as they seem to directly conflict with the language in the constitution. So, paragraph two aligns with the paragraph before (her introduction to the claim that she has done nothing wrong) - it does not contrast it, and it highlights the rights that ought to be guaranteed by the constitution, not the lack thereof. Anthony uses the direct citation to show that the constitution is *not* being properly interpreted, and is ultimately “used to support Anthony’s position on the rights of women to vote,” our correct answer.

Example Question #2 : Function Of A Paragraph

The following is an excerpt from Agnes Grey, an autobiographical novel by Anne Bronte that follows the life of a governess working in wealthy British households in the 19th century.

To avoid trouble and confusion, I have taken my pupils one by one, and discussed their various qualities; but this can give no adequate idea of being worried by the whole three together; when, as was often the case, all were determined to ‘be naughty, and to tease Miss Grey, and put her in a passion.’ 

Sometimes, on such occasions, the thought has suddenly occurred to me—’If they could see me now!’ meaning, of course, my friends at home; and the idea of how they would pity me has made me pity myself—so greatly that I have had the utmost difficulty to restrain my tears: but I have restrained them, till my little tormentors were gone to dessert, or cleared off to bed (my only prospects of deliverance), and then, in all the bliss of solitude, I have given myself up to the luxury of an unrestricted burst of weeping. But this was a weakness I did not often indulge: my employments were too numerous, my leisure moments too precious, to admit of much time being given to fruitless lamentations.

I particularly remember one wild, snowy afternoon, soon after my return in January: the children had all come up from dinner, loudly declaring that they meant ‘to be naughty;’ and they had well kept their resolution, though I had talked myself hoarse, and wearied every muscle in my throat, in the vain attempt to reason them out of it. I had got Tom pinned up in a corner, whence, I told him, he should not escape till he had done his appointed task. Meantime, Fanny had possessed herself of my workbag, and was rifling its contents—and spitting into it besides. I told her to let it alone, but to no purpose, of course. ‘Burn it, Fanny!’ cried Tom: and this command she hastened to obey. I sprang to snatch it from the fire, and Tom darted to the door. ‘Mary Ann, throw her desk out of the window!’ cried he: and my precious desk, containing my letters and papers, my small amount of cash, and all my valuables, was about to be precipitated from the three-story window. I flew to rescue it. Meanwhile, Tom had left the room, and was rushing down the stairs, followed by Fanny. Having secured my desk, I ran to catch them, and Mary Ann came scampering after. All three escaped me, and ran out of the house into the garden, where they plunged about in the snow, shouting and screaming in exultant glee.

What must I do? If I followed them, I should probably be unable to capture one, and only drive them farther away; if I did not, how was I to get them in? And what would their parents think of me, if they saw or heard the children rioting, hatless, bonnetless, gloveless, and bootless, in the deep soft snow?

Which of the following best describes the role of the 3rd paragraph in relation to the passage as a whole?

Possible Answers:

It provides a summary of the previous paragraphs.

It provides an unexpected example of qualities identified earlier.

It marks an important shift in the direction of the passage.

It gives a more specific example of qualities identified in the previous paragraphs.

Correct answer:

It gives a more specific example of qualities identified in the previous paragraphs.

Explanation:

In paragraph three of the passage, the author moves from general discussion of miss Grey’s frustrations to a vivid, specific example of her troubles. This example is not by any means unexpected based on her earlier descriptions, nor does it represent a summary or a shift. So, by process of elimination, our correct answer is “It gives a more specific example of qualities identified in the previous paragraphs.”

Example Question #1 : Function Of A Paragraph

This passage is adapted from “Flagship Species and Their Role in the Conservation Movement” (2020)

Until recently, two schools of thought have dominated the field of establishing “flagship” endangered species for marketing and awareness campaigns. These flagship species make up the subset of endangered species conservation experts utilize to elicit public support - both financial and legal - for fauna conservation as a whole. 

The first concerns how recognizable the general public, the audience of most large-scale funding campaigns, finds a particular species, commonly termed its “public awareness.” This school of thought was built on the foundation that if an individual recognizes a species from prior knowledge, cultural context, or previous conservational and educational encounters (in a zoo environment or classroom setting, for instance) that individual would be more likely to note and respond to the severity of its endangered status. However, recently emerging flagship species such as the pangolin have challenged the singularity of this factor. 

Alongside public awareness, conservation experts have long considered a factor they refer to as a “keystone species” designation in the flagstone selection process. Keystone species are those species that play an especially vital role in their respective habitats or ecosystems. While this metric is invaluable to the environmentalists in charge of designating funds received, recent data has expressed the more minor role a keystone species designation seems to play in the motivations of the public. 

Recent scholarship has questioned both the singularity and the extent to which the above classifications impact the decision making of the general public. Though more complicated to measure, a third designation, known as a species’ “charisma,” is now the yardstick by which most flagship species are formally classified. Addressing the charisma of a species involves establishing and collecting data concerning its ecological (interactions with humans/the environments of humans),  aesthetic (appealing to human emotions through physical appearance and immediately related behaviors), and corporeal (affection and socialization with humans over the short- and long-terms) characteristics. This process has been understandably criticized by some for its costs and failure to incorporate the severity of an endangered species’ status into designation, but its impact on the public has been irrefutable. While keystone and public awareness designations are still often applied in the field because of their practicality and comparative simplicity, charisma is now commonly accepted as the most accurate metric with which to judge a species’ flagship potential.

In the context of the passage, paragraph one primarily serves the purpose of 

Possible Answers:

refuting a common believe concerning endangered species

introducing readers to the concept of a “flagship” species

defining the term “charisma” as it applies to flagship species

detailing all the factors that contribute to a well-chosen flagship species

Correct answer:

introducing readers to the concept of a “flagship” species

Explanation:

In the context of the passage, paragraph one serves primarily as an introduction. The paragraph introduces us to the concept of a flagship species, and foreshadows the rest of the passage by suggesting that there are both existing and emerging processes used to identify potential flagship species. While many of our wrong answers are included in the passage, only “introducing readers to the concept of a “flagship” species” addresses the purpose of the first paragraph.

Example Question #4 : Function Of A Paragraph

The following is an excerpt from Night and Day, a novel by Virginia Woolf that was first published in 1919. The novel tells the story of two main female characters in London in the early 20th century.

It was a Sunday evening in October, and in common with many other young ladies of her class, Katharine Hilbery was pouring out tea. Perhaps a fifth part of her mind was thus occupied, and the remaining parts leapt over the little barrier of day which interposed between Monday morning and this rather subdued moment, and played with the things one does voluntarily and normally in the daylight. But although she was silent, she was evidently mistress of a situation which was familiar enough to her, and inclined to let it take its way for the six hundredth time, perhaps, without bringing into play any of her unoccupied faculties. A single glance was enough to show that Mrs. Hilbery was so rich in the gifts which make tea-parties of elderly distinguished people successful, that she scarcely needed any help from her daughter, provided that the tiresome business of teacups and bread and butter was discharged for her. 

Considering that the little party had been seated round the tea-table for less than twenty minutes, the animation observable on their faces, and the amount of sound they were producing collectively, were very creditable to the hostess. It suddenly came into Katharine’s mind that if some one opened the door at this moment he would think that they were enjoying themselves; he would think, “What an extremely nice house to come into!” and instinctively she laughed, and said something to increase the noise, for the credit of the house presumably, since she herself had not been feeling exhilarated. At the very same moment, rather to her amusement, the door was flung open, and a young man entered the room. Katharine, as she shook hands with him, asked him, in her own mind, “Now, do you think we’re enjoying ourselves enormously?”... “Mr. Denham, mother,” she said aloud, for she saw that her mother had forgotten his name. 

That fact was perceptible to Mr. Denham also, and increased the awkwardness which inevitably attends the entrance of a stranger into a room full of people much at their ease, and all launched upon sentences. At the same time, it seemed to Mr. Denham as if a thousand softly padded doors had closed between him and the street outside. A fine mist, the etherealized essence of the fog, hung visibly in the wide and rather empty space of the drawing-room, all silver where the candles were grouped on the tea-table, and ruddy again in the firelight. With the omnibuses and cabs still running in his head, and his body still tingling with his quick walk along the streets and in and out of traffic and foot-passengers, this drawing-room seemed very remote and still; and the faces of the elderly people were mellowed, at some distance from each other, and had a bloom on them owing to the fact that the air in the drawing-room was thickened by blue grains of mist. Mr. Denham had come in as Mr. Fortescue, the eminent novelist, reached the middle of a very long sentence. He kept this suspended while the newcomer sat down, and Mrs. Hilbery deftly joined the severed parts with several remarks. 

Katharine stirred her tea, and seemed to speculate, so Denham thought, upon the duty of filling somebody else’s cup, but she was really wondering how she was going to keep this strange young man in harmony with the rest. She observed that he was compressing his teacup, so that there was danger lest the thin china might cave inwards. She could see that he was nervous; one would expect a bony young man with his face slightly reddened by the wind, and his hair not altogether smooth, to be nervous in such a party. Further, he probably disliked this kind of thing, and had come out of curiosity, or because her father had invited him–anyhow, he would not be easily combined with the rest.

The detailed descriptions in the 3rd paragraph serve which of the following roles?

Possible Answers:

They provide an insight to Mr. Denham’s perspective on the situation.

They foreshadow how difficult it will be for him to assimilate with the group.

They highlight the awkwardness of Mr. Denham’s entrance to the party.

They provide further evidence for Katharine’s view of the gathering.

Correct answer:

They provide an insight to Mr. Denham’s perspective on the situation.

Explanation:

The third paragraph of the passage includes Mr. Denham’s perspective on the events described in the passage. So, “they provide an insight to Mr. Denham’s perspective on the situation” is an appropriate description of the function of paragraph three. The descriptions within the paragraph do not, however, aim to highlight awkwardness, foreshadow difficulty, or further evidence Katharine’s point of view.

Example Question #5 : Function Of A Paragraph

The following is an excerpt from “What is a Monopoly? The Structure and Tell-Tale Signs of Market Control” (2018)

A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity (this contrasts with a monopsony which relates to a single entity's control of a market to purchase a good or service, and with an oligopoly which consists of a few entities dominating an industry). Monopolies are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition to produce the good or service and a lack of viable substitute goods. The verb "monopolize" refers to the process by which a company gains the ability to raise prices or exclude competitors. In economics, a monopoly is a single seller. In law, a monopoly is a business entity that has significant market power, that is, the power to charge high prices. Although monopolies may be big businesses, size is not a characteristic of a monopoly. A small business may still have the power to raise prices in a small industry.

A monopoly is distinguished from a monopsony, in which there is only one buyer of a product or service; a monopoly may also have monopsony control of a sector of a market. Likewise, a monopoly should be distinguished from a cartel (a form of oligopoly), in which several providers act together to coordinate services, prices or sale of goods. Monopolies, monopsonies and oligopolies are all situations such that one or a few of the entities have market power and therefore interact with their customers (monopoly), suppliers (monopsony) and the other companies (oligopoly) in ways that leave market interactions distorted.

Monopolies can be established by a government, form naturally, or form by integration. In many jurisdictions, competition laws restrict monopolies. Holding a dominant position or a monopoly of a market is often not illegal in itself. However certain categories of behavior can be considered abusive and therefore incur legal sanctions when a business is dominant. A government-granted monopoly or legal monopoly, by contrast, is sanctioned by the state, often to provide an incentive to invest in a risky venture or enrich a domestic interest group. Patents, copyright, and trademarks are sometimes used as examples of government granted monopolies. The government may also reserve the venture for itself, thus forming a government monopoly.

The function of the first paragraph in relation to the passage as a whole is to

Possible Answers:

introduce readers to the concept of a monopoly and describe its components

warn against the use of monopolies to control an industry

suggest that monopolies harness an undue amount of power and should be avoided

suggest that size is the most important factor when distinguishing a monopoly

Correct answer:

introduce readers to the concept of a monopoly and describe its components

Explanation:

In this passage, the first paragraph provides readers with an introduction to the concept of a monopoly and the components that create such a structure. So, “introduce readers to the concept of a monopoly and describe its components” is an appropriate description of the paragraph’s function. We can contextualize this function if we pay close enough attention to the source, listed above the passage in italics. “Suggest” and “warn” are problematic terms in themselves, as the passage’s intent is to inform rather than to persuade.

Example Question #6 : Function Of A Paragraph

This passage is adapted from “Railroads: the Development and the Impact of One of America’s First Modern Systems of Transportation.” (2019)

Transportation developments have greatly influenced the pace and course of business growth in America. The early turnpike and the canal systems each broadened the market area by lowering costs and speeding distribution. But the influence of railroads dwarfed all of these previous developments. Railroads pioneered many aspects of business administration and enhanced some land values enormously. They also had an important impact on the growth of certain cities. Atlanta, for example, was transformed from a spot in the wilderness to a thriving metropolis as a result of the construction of the Western and Atlantic Railroad.

Railroads also provided a large outlet for savings.Their capital requirements were so great that they provided the first big opening for the investment banker – who by the end of the 19th century was in control of many railroads. Railroads, too, because of the stress of competition, both in construction and operation, were the first big firms to experiment with new forms of business organization such as pools and consolidation. It followed – because railroads were so vital to the nation and because their performance was tied in with the business cycle – that the highways which came later were the first form of business to have their operations regulated in large degree by the government.

Finally, railroads were responsible for a great many jobs, at one time more than 2,000,000 workers. Railroads were easily the nation’s largest employers during the post-Civil War, pre-World War I period. In addition they were responsible, indirectly, for tens of thousand of other jobs in the coal, iron, steel, and engineering industries – in such big enterprises, for example, as the Pullman Palace Car Company and the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. \ The Pullman Company, in 1909, was the eighth largest firm in the nation in terms of assets, and practically all of its output went to American railroads. Railroads, actually, were to the period 1850-1915 what the auto industry is to today in terms of being the pacesetter or bellwether of the economy. The biggest difference is that no one railroad ever dominated the rail industry as Ford and GM once dominated the auto industry.

The third paragraph of the passage primarily functions to

Possible Answers:

cite the most important advantage of railroads

show the impact of railroads on the job market during their development

contrast the claims made in the preceding paragraphs

broaden the scope of the example presented in the previous paragraph

Correct answer:

show the impact of railroads on the job market during their development

Explanation:

In this passage, the third paragraph begins be explaining that “railroads were responsible for a great many jobs, at one time more than 2,000,000 workers,” and goes on to express the impact on not only the jobs available directly in the railroad industry, but also those positively impacted by the economy built around railroads. So, “show the impact of railroads on the job market during their development” perfectly describes this function. The paragraph does not aim to contrast what came before, claim that job creation was the most important advantage (look out for that extreme language!) or broaden the scope.

Example Question #2 : Author's Intent

The passage is adapted from Carter G, Leffer L (2015) “Social Grooming in Bats: Are Vampire Bats Exceptional?” © 2015 Carter, Leffer

Long-term cooperative relationships are most evident in primates, but evidence for similar social relationships has been accumulating for several other social vertebrate groups including cetaceans, bats, elephants, hyenas and ravens. The functional importance of these complex social relationships across different species may have led to similar cognitive or behavioral mechanisms for manipulating social bonds. A prime example of such a mechanism is social grooming—the cleaning of the body by a partner. Experimental and observational studies show that primate social grooming can be ‘exchanged’ for multiple social benefits, including reciprocal grooming, social tolerance, access to food, and agonistic support. Individuals can spend up to 20% of their time grooming others, and the behavior provides proximate physiological rewards for both givers and receivers. Although most of what is known about social grooming comes from studies of primates, evidence for a role of social grooming in maintaining social ties is emerging from several other mammals (marsupials, deer, cows, horses, voles, mice, meerkats, coati, lions) and group-living birds.

In bats, adult social grooming is female-biased in species with female philopatry and has been most studied in the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus). Kerth et al. compared social grooming rates of vampire bats with the temperate and insectivorous Bechstein’s bat (Myotis bechsteinii). These two species both have long lifespans and demonstrate fission-fusion social dynamics, where individuals maintain long-term social associations while moving between several roost trees.  In both species, social grooming rates among individuals were not predicted by self-grooming or numbers of parasites. Bechstein’s bats spent more time grooming themselves (38% of their time in roosts) compared with vampires (23% of their roosting time), but wild vampire bats spent about 5% of their roosting time grooming others, which is 2–4 times higher than Bechstein’s bats.

Patterns of social grooming among categories of individuals also differed between the two species. In the Bechstein’s bat, adult female social grooming was not detectably symmetrical, and was predicted by kinship, occurring mostly between adult mothers and daughters, sometimes between sisters, and only rarely between non-kin. In vampires, female social grooming was highly symmetrical and relatively common among non-kin, where it correlated with co-roosting association and food sharing.

It is not entirely clear if vampire bat social grooming is typical or exceptional when compared to other bats or non-primate mammals. One hypothesis is that social grooming in vampire bats is exceptional in quantity and quality, because it is related to their uniquely cooperative food sharing behavior. Like many primates, reciprocal patterns of vampire bat food sharing and social grooming extend beyond mother-offspring bonds, suggesting they may provide both direct and indirect fitness benefits. Among bats, the common vampire has an extraordinarily large brain and neocortex for its body size. In primates, increased neocortex size has been linked to higher metrics of social complexity, such as social grooming network size and strategic deception.

Alternatively, the apparent distinctiveness of vampire bat social grooming might stem from purely ecological factors. Social grooming may be more obvious in vampire bats due to higher levels of ectoparasite infestation. Bat fly density has been linked to species-level grooming rates and the two vampire species that were observed ranked 5th and 6th place out of 53 neotropical bats for average number of parasitic streblid flies per bat.  A sampling bias could also over-emphasize social grooming in vampire bats, because there is much effort focused on studying vampire bat social behavior and a lack of data on social grooming in other bats.

Comparing social grooming data across studies can be difficult due to study differences in ectoparasite density, temperature, sampling method, visibility, and level of human disturbance.  Still, there are important conclusions that can be made regarding social grooming among vampire bats from the studies that have been conducted.  With even better studies in the future – for instance, ones that compare groups of adult bats that have fixed levels of social association (stable group composition) and no insect ectoparasites – we will get a clearer picture of social grooming among vampire bats and its significance.

If the first paragraph of the passage were removed, the passage would lose

Possible Answers:

a conclusive explanation for the unique interactions of vampire bats

a reliable definition of the term “social grooming” and its context in cooperative relationships

the author’s stated opinion on the importance of social grooming and cooperative relationships

the results of a study conducted to determine the differences between various types of bats

Correct answer:

a reliable definition of the term “social grooming” and its context in cooperative relationships

Explanation:

In this passage, the initial paragraph serves to introduce the topic of social grooming and its context within cooperative relationships. So, if the paragraph were removed, the passage would lose these components. Thus, our correct answer is “a reliable definition of the term “social grooming” and its context in cooperative relationships.” While studies are mentioned elsewhere in the passage, they are not addressed in the first paragraph. The passage, and in particular the first paragraph, also do not claim to have a conclusive explanation for the unique interactions of vampire bats. In fact, the passage is far more explanatory in nature than persuasive/opinionated.

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