PSAT Critical Reading : Style Choices in Social Science / History Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Critical Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Tone, Style, And Figurative Language In History Passages

Adapted from “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” by Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Lucretia Mott; and others (1848)

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.

For what purpose does the author employ the language of the first few lines of the United States Constitution?

Possible Answers:

To establish an argument that will be later refuted

To deny the relevance of an established authority

To frame a new idea within the context of familiar language

To distract from the main point

To chastise a group or an individual

Correct answer:

To frame a new idea within the context of familiar language


You may have noticed that the author slightly manipulates the language of the Constitution. The Constitution states that “all men are created equal” and the author alters this to say “that all men and women are created equal.” The purpose of doing this is to contextualize a new idea within the framework of existing, and familiar, language. The author clearly feels that this will make her argument more evocative and relevant.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Passage Logic, Genre, And Organization In History Passages

Adapted from Women’s Political Future by Frances E. W. Harper (1893)

The world has need of all the spiritual aid that woman can give for the social advancement and moral development of the human race. The tendency of the present age, with its restlessness, religious upheavals, failures, blunders, and crimes, is toward broader freedom, an increase of knowledge, the emancipation of thought, and recognition of the brotherhood of man; in this movement woman, as the companion of man, must be an equal. So close is the bond between man and woman that you cannot raise one without lifting the other. The world cannot move without woman's sharing in the movement, and to help give a right impetus to that movement is woman's highest privilege.

If the fifteenth century discovered America to the Old World, the nineteenth is discovering woman to herself. Not the opportunity of discovering new worlds, but that of filling this old world with fairer and higher aims than the greed of gold and the lust of power, is hers. Through weary, wasting years men have destroyed, dashed in pieces, and overthrown, but today we stand on the threshold of woman's era, and woman's work is grandly constructive. In her hand are possibilities whose use or abuse must tell upon the political life of the nation, and send their influence for good or evil across the track of unborn ages.

In context, the reference to the discovery of America is meant to underline what aspect of women’s life in the nineteenth century?

Possible Answers:

The removal of obstacles to sexual equality

The ability of women to vote

The growing opportunities for self-realization

The closeness of men and women

The education of women in private schools

Correct answer:

The growing opportunities for self-realization


The author makes reference to the discovery of America in the fifteenth century in comparison to women’s discovery of their own identity in the nineteenth century. The author states that “the nineteenth is discovering woman to herself” and that “today we stand on the threshold of woman's era.”

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