Reading Comprehension Sample Test

Questions 1–6 are based on the following passage.

(1) The late 1980s found the landscape of popular music in America dominated by a distinctive style of rock and roll known as Glam Rock or Hair Metal—so called because of the over-styled hair, makeup, and wardrobe worn by the genre's ostentatious rockers. Bands like Poison, White Snake, and Mötley Crüe popularized glam rock with their power ballads and flashy style, but the product had worn thin by the early 1990s. The mainstream public, tired of an act they perceived as symbolic of the superficial 1980s, was ready for something with a bit of substance.

(2) In 1991, a Seattle-based band named Nirvana shocked the corporate music industry with the release of its debut single "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which quickly became a huge hit all over the world. Nirvana's distorted, guitar-laden sound and thought-provoking  lyrics were the antithesis of glam rock, and the youth of America were quick to pledge their allegiance to the brand new movement known as grunge.

(3) Grunge actually got its start in the Pacific Northwest during the mid 1980s, the offspring of the metal-guitar driven rock of the 1970s and the hardcore, punk music of the early 1980s. Nirvana had simply brought into the mainstream a sound and culture that got its start years before with bands like Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and Green River. Grunge rockers derived their fashion sense from the youth culture of the Pacific Northwest: a melding of punk rock style and outdoors clothing like flannels, heavy boots, worn-out jeans, and corduroys. At the height of the movement's popularity, when other Seattle bands like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains were  all the rage, the trappings of grunge were working their way to the height of American fashion. Like the music, teenagers were fast to embrace the grunge fashion because it represented defiance against corporate America and shallow pop culture.

(4) Many assume that grunge got its name from the unkempt appearance of its musicians and their dirty, often distorted guitar sounds. However, rock writers and critics have used the word "grunge" since the 1970s.While no one can say for sure who was the first to characterize a Seattle band as "grunge," the most popular theory is that it originated with the lead singer ofMudhoney,Mark Arm. In a practical joke against a local music magazine, he placed advertisements all over Seattle for a band that did not exist.He then wrote a letter to the magazine complaining about the quality of the fake band's music. The magazine published his critique, one part of which stated, "I hate Mr. Epp and the Calculations! Pure grunge!"

(5) The popularity of grunge music was ephemeral; by the mid- to late-1990s its influence upon American culture had all but disappeared, and most of its recognizable bands were nowhere to be seen on the charts. The heavy sound and themes of grunge were replaced on the radio waves by bands like NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys, and the bubblegum pop of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

(6) There are many reasons why the Seattle sound faded out of the mainstream as quickly as it rocketed to prominence, but the most glaring reason lies at the defiant, anti-establishment heart of the grunge movement itself. It is very hard to buck the trend when you are the one setting it, and many of the grunge bands were never comfortable with the celebrity that was thrust upon them. One of the most successful Seattle groups of the 1990s, Pearl Jam, filmed only one music video, and refused to play large venues. Ultimately, the simple fact that many grunge bands were so against mainstream rock stardom eventually took the movement back to where it started: underground. The American mainstream public, as quick as they were to hop onto the grunge bandwagon, were just as quick to hop off, and move onto something else.

1. The author's description of glam rockers in paragraph 1 indicates that they

a. cared more about the quality of their music than money.

b. were mainly style over substance.

c. were unassuming and humble.

d. were songwriters first, and performers second.


2. The word ostentatious in paragraph 1 most nearly means

a. stubborn.

b. youthful.

c. showy.

d. unadorned.


3. In paragraph 3 the phrase the trappings of grunge refers to

a. the distorted sound of grunge music.

b. what the grunge movement symbolized.

c. the unattractiveness of grunge fashion.

d. the clothing typical of the grunge movement.


4. Which of the following is not associated with the grunge movement?

a. Mr. Epp and the Calculations

b. Pearl Jam

c. Nirvana

d. White Snake


5. Which of the following words best describes the relationship between grunge music and its mainstream popularity?

a. solid

b. contrary

c. enduring

d. acquiescent


6. In paragraph 5, the world ephemeral most nearly means

a. enduring.

b. unbelievable.

c. a fluke.

d. fleeting.


Questions 7–13 are based on the following passage.

(1) Without a doubt, one of the most interesting mythological characters is the Greek god Prometheus. A complex character with an undying love for the human beings he created, Prometheus embodies a rich combination of often contradictory characteristics, including loyalty and defiance, trickery and trustworthiness. He shows resilience and resolve in his actions yet weakness in his fondness for humankind.

(2) To reward Prometheus (whose name means "forethought" ) and his brother Epimetheus ("afterthought") for helping him defeat the Titans, Zeus, the great ruler of Olympian gods, gave the brothers the task of creating mortals to populate the land around Mount Olympus. Prometheus asked Epimetheus to give the creatures their various characteristics, such as cunning, swiftness, and flight. By the time he got to man, however, there was nothing left to give. So Prometheus decided to make man in his image: he stood man upright like the gods and became the benefactor and protector of mankind.

(3) Though Prometheus was particularly fond of his creation, Zeus didn't care for mankind and didn't want men to have the divine gift of knowledge. But Prometheus took pity on mortal men and gave them knowledge of the arts and sciences, including the healing arts and agriculture.

(4) Always seeking the best for his creation, one day Prometheus conspired to trick Zeus to give the best meat of an ox to men instead of Zeus.He cut up the ox and hid the bones in layers of fat; then he hid the meat and innards inside the hide. When Prometheus presented the piles to Zeus, Zeus chose the pile that looked like fat and meat. He was enraged to find that it was nothing but bones.

(5) To punish Prometheus for his deceit and his fondness for humans, Zeus forbade men fire—a symbol of creative power, life force, and divine knowledge. But Prometheus would not let his children be denied this greatest of gifts. He took a hollow reed, stole fire from Mount Olympus, and gave it to men. With this divine power, creativity, ingenuity, and culture flourished in the land of mortals.

(6) Again, Zeus punished man for Prometheus's transgression, this time by sending the first woman, Pandora, to Earth. Pandora brought with her a "gift" from Zeus: a jar filled with evils of every kind. Prometheus knew Zeus to be vengeful and warned Epimetheus not to accept any gifts from Zeus, but Epimetheus was too taken with Pandora's beauty and allowed her to stay. Eventually Pandora opened the jar she'd been forbidden to open, releasing all manner of evils, including Treachery, Sorrow, Villainy, Misfortune, and Plague. At the bottom of the jar was Hope, but Pandora closed the lid before Hope could escape.

(7) Prometheus drew Zeus's greatest wrath when he refused to tell Zeus which of Zeus's sons would kill him and take over the throne. Believing he could torture Prometheus into revealing the secret, Zeus bound his flesh and ate his liver, which would regenerate each night. But Prometheus refused to reveal his knowledge of the future to Zeus and maintained his silence. Eventually, Prometheus was released by Heracles (also known as Hercules), the last mortal son of Zeus and the strongest of the mortals. Soon  afterwards, Prometheus received immortality from a dying centaur, to take his place forever among the great gods of Olympus.


7. The main idea of the first paragraph is that Prometheus

a. is disrespectful of authority.

b. is the mythological creator of humans.

c. has many admirable characteristics.

d. is a fascinating character because of his complexity.


8. The author's primary purpose in this passage is to

a. demonstrate the vengeful nature of Zeus.

b. show how much Prometheus cared for humans.

c. create in readers an interest in mythology.

d. relate the story of Prometheus.


9. Based on this passage, it can be inferred that Zeus disliked humans because

a. Prometheus spent too much time with them.

b. Prometheus cared for humans more than he did for Zeus.

c. humans could not be trusted.

d. humans did not respect Zeus.


10. Zeus becomes angry at Prometheus for all of the following EXCEPT

a. creating man.

b. giving man fire.

c. being excessively fond of humans.

d. refusing to reveal which of his sons would kill him.


11. Based on this passage, the relationship between Prometheus and humans can best be described as that of

a. parent and child.

b. close friends.

c. master and servants.

d. reluctant allies.


12. The word transgression as used in the first sentence of paragraph 6 means

a. villainy.

b. trespass.

c. irregularity.

d. disobedience.


13. The content and style of this passage suggests that the intended audience

a. are experts on Greek mythology.

b. are religious officials.

c. is a general lay audience.

d. is a scholarly review board.


Questions 14–19 are based on the following passage.

(1) A series of studies to determine whether victims of violence and neglect later become criminals or violent offenders themselves examined the lives of child victims identified in court cases dating from 1967 to 1971. The goal of the studies was to provide data that would enable early identification and careful handling of cases to avoid an early criminal justice path.

(2) The initial study, conducted in a midwestern county, was based on documented records of 1,575 court cases of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. At the time the cases came to court, all of the children were under age eleven, and the mean age was about six. To isolate the effects of abuse and neglect from those of other variables such as gender, race, and poverty, researchers created a control group whose members matched the sample group on the basis of age, gender, race, and family social class.

(3) During the study's initial phase in 1988, researchers examined the criminal records of sample and control group members and compiled histories for all nontraffic offenses at the local, state, and federal levels. In 1994 researchers examined the arrest records again and found that, in the late 1980s, 28% of the sample group had been arrested—11% for violent crime. Of the control group, 21% had been arrested—8% for violent crime. Researchers noted that the differences in arrest rates began to emerge early, at the  ages of 8 and 9. At this time, however, only 65% of the victims had passed through the peak years of violent offending (20–25). (4) By 1994 almost half of the sample group had been arrested for some type of nontraffic offense. Eighteen percent had been arrested for violent crime—an increase of 4% in the six years since arrest records were first checked. Rates of arrest were at least 25% higher among African-American victims. Both males and females reported having made suicide attempts.

(5) Another key finding was that the rates of arrest for children who were victims of neglect (defined as an excessive failure by caregivers to provide food, shelter, clothing, and medical attention) were almost as high as the rate for physically abused children.

(6) In 1994, nearly 100% of the sample were 26  or older. After recompiling criminal histories, larger differences between the sample and control groups were found. 49% of the sample group had been arrested, 18% for violent crime; whereas only 38% of the control group had been arrested, 14% for violent crime.

(7) Preliminary findings indicate a need for criminal justice and social service agencies to take a proactive, preventive stance to stop the cycle of violence.

14. Which of the following is the most accurate definition of the term control group (in the second paragraph)?

a. a group of subjects selected to make sure the results of an experiment are not caused by a factor other than the one being studied

b. a group of scientists selected to watch the experimenter to make sure there are no serious mistakes in method

c. a group of objective lay observers selected to make sure the experiment is not biased

d. a group of subjects who do not know the object of the experiment


15. How did the number of arrests of physically abused youth relate to that of neglected youth?

a. They were 25% lower.

b. They were slightly lower.

c. They were nearly the same.

d. They were 25% higher.


16. What was the percentage of violent crime arrests in the control group after the first phase of the study?

a. 4%

b. 8%

c. 11%

d. 21%


17. In the late 1980s, what did researchers discover about the two study groups?

a. The disparity of arrests materialized at young ages.

b. Less than half of the sample group was beyond the age of 25.

c. The average age of the participants was 11.

d. The control group committed more violent crime than the sample group.


18. One reason for the difference in violent crime rates between the 1988 and 1994 phases of the study was that

a. victims were closer to the age of peak violent activity in 1988.

b. most victims who were prone to violence had already committed crimes in 1988.

c. more victims evinced emotional problems by attempting suicide in 1994.

d. more victims had passed through the age of peak violent activity in 1994.


19. One objective of the studies was to

a. recommend greater participation by social service agencies.

b. analyze statistics for traffic violations.

c. generate information about an individual's potential crime pattern.

d. separate physical abuse from sexual abuse.


Questions 20–24 are based on the following passage.

(1) For perhaps the tenth time since the clock struck two, Sylvia crosses to the front-facing window of her apartment, pulls back the blue curtain and looks down at the street. People hurry along the sidewalk; however, although she watches for several long moments, she sees no one enter her building.

(2) She walks back to the center of the highceilinged living room, where she stands frowning and twisting a silver bracelet around and around on her wrist. She is an attractive young woman, although perhaps too thin and with a look that is faintly ascetic; her face is narrow and delicate, her fine, light-brown hair caught back by a tortoiseshell comb. She is restless now, because she is being kept waiting. It is nearly two-thirty—a woman named Lola Parrish was to come at two o'clock to look at the apartment.

(3) She considers leaving a note and going out. The woman is late, after all, and besides, Sylvia is certain that Lola Parrish will not  be a suitable person with whom to share the apartment. On the phone she had sounded too old, for one thing, her voice oddly flat and as deep as a man's. However, the moment for saying the apartment was no longer available slipped past, and Sylvia found herself agreeing to the two o'clock appointment. If she leaves now, as she has a perfect right to do, she can avoid the awkwardness of turning the woman away.

(4) Looking past the blue curtain, however, she sees the sky is not clear but veiled by a white haze, and the air is oppressively still. She knows that the haze and the stillness and heat are conditions that often precede a summer thunderstorm, one of the abrupt, swiftly descending electrical storms that have terrified her since she was a child. If a storm comes, she wants to be at home in her own place.

(5) She walks back to the center of the room,  aware now that the idea of sharing the apartment, never appealing, born of necessity, has actually begun to repel her. Still, she knows she will have to become accustomed to the notion, because her savings are nearly gone and the small trust fund left her by her father is exhausted. She has a job, but it does not pay well, and, although she has considered seeking another (perhaps something connected with music—in her childhood she had played the flute and people had said she was gifted), lately she has found herself dragged down by a strange inertia.

(6) Besides, although her job pays poorly, it suits her. She is a typist in a natural history museum, in an office on the top floor, near the aviary. The man for whom she works, one of the curators, is rarely in, so Sylvia has the office to herself. The aviary consists of  three enormous rooms, painted white, each with a high vaulted ceiling. The birds themselves, so beautifully mounted they seem alive, are displayed in elaborate dioramas. Behind glass, they perch in trees with leaves of sculpted metal, appearing to soar through painted forests, above painted rivers and marshes. Everything is rendered in exquisite detail. And in her office there is a skylight.  The location of the office, so near the open sky, suits her, too, because she is mildly claustrophobic.

20. Which of the following adjectives best describes Sylvia's mood as depicted in the story?

a. anxious

b. angry

c. meditative

d. serene


21. Based on the tone of the passage and the description of Sylvia at this moment, which of the following is the most likely reason Sylvia's job "suits her?"

a. Her office is tastefully decorated.

b. She is fond of her employer, the museum curator.

c. She is musical and enjoys the singing of birds.

d. She is able to work alone in a space that feels open.


22. When Sylvia looks out her window, the weather appears a. gloomy.

b. ominous.

c. springlike.

d. bracing.


23. Based on the story, which of the following would most likely describe Sylvia's behavior in relationship to other people?

a. distant

b. overbearing

c. dependent

d. malicious


24. Which of the following is most likely the author's purpose in describing in detail the museum where Sylvia works?

a. Everything in it, though beautiful and tasteful, seems frozen or removed from life and reflects some aspect of Sylvia's character.

b. The fact that it is light and airy and filled with beautiful dioramas reflects Sylvia's youth and her wish for something better.

c. Some part of the story, perhaps a love affair between Sylvia and her boss, will probably take place there.

d. The killing and mounting of the beautiful birds will probably play an important part in the story.


Questions 25–31 are based on the following passage.

(1) The poet in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Khan"wakes from a dream or vision and announces that if people knew what he had  seen they would shun him and cry out a warning:


Beware, Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair

Weave a circle round him thrice

And close your eyes in holy dread,

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.


Similarly, in his famous study of myth, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell writes about the archetypal hero who has ventured outside the boundaries of the village and, after many trials and adventures, has returned with the boon that will save or enlighten his fellows. Like Carl  Jung, Campbell believes that the story of the hero is part of the collective unconscious of all humankind. He likens the returning hero to the sacred or tabooed personage described by James Frazier in The Golden Bough. Such an individual must, in many instances of  myth, be insulated from the rest of society, "not merely for his own sake but for the sake of others; for since the virtue of holiness is, so to say, a powerful explosive which the smallest touch can detonate, it is necessary in the interest of the general safety to keep it within narrow bounds."

(2) Like Coleridge's poet, the returning hero of myth has been to a place of wonder and holiness. And, Campbell maintains, the hero,  "to complete his adventure, must survive the impact of the world."He or she must return to the daylight world of ordinary human  society, where he is apt to be regarded ________ as the object both of wonder and dread. As Coleridge's poem illustrates, the same fate can also befall the poet who has journeyed into the realm of imagination.

(3) There is ________ between the archetypal hero who has journeyed into the wilderness and the poet who has journeyed into the realm of imagination. Both places are dangerous and full of wonders, and both, at their deepest levels, are taken inward. They are journeys that take place into the kingdom of the mind. "The poets and philosophers before me discovered the unconscious," Sigmund Freud has said. It is into the unconscious that the poet and the hero ofmyth both venture. That world, writes Campbell, the "human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected  Aladdin caves. There not only jewels but dangerous jinn abide. . . ."


25. Which of the following words would fit best into the blank in paragraph 2?

a. suspiciously

b. reluctantly

c. unfairly

d. ambivalently


26. Based on the passage, which of the following would best describe the hero's journey?

a. wonderful

b. terrifying

c. awesome

d. whimsical


27. The title of Campbell's book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, is meant to convey

a. the many villagers whose lives are changed by the story the hero has to tell.

b. the fact that the hero journeys into many different imaginary countries.

c. the universality of the myth of the hero who journeys into the wilderness.

d. the many languages into which the myth of the hero has been translated.


28. Based on the passage, which of the following best describes the story that will likely be told by Campbell's returning hero and Frazier's sacred or tabooed personage?

a. a radically mind-altering story

b. a story that will terrify people to no good end

c. a warning of catastrophe to come

d. a story based on a dangerous lie


29. Which of the following is the most accurate definition of boon as the word is used in the first paragraph?

a. gift

b. blessing

c. charm

d. prize


30. The phrase that would most accurately fit into the blank in the first sentence of the third paragraph is

a. much similarity.

b. a wide gulf.

c. long-standing conflict.

d. an abiding devotion.



Reading Comprehension Sample Test

1. b. The author describes in paragraph 1 how glam rock musicians were characterized by their flashy hair and makeup, and refers to their music as a product, as if it was something packaged to be sold. The choice that best describes a musician who puts outward appearance before the quality of his or her music is choice b, style over substance.

2. c. Ostentatious is an adjective that is used to describe someone or something that is conspicuously vain, or showy. There are numerous context clues to help you answer this question: it is stated in paragraph 1 that the glam rockers had a flashy style, and their music was symbolic of the superficial 1980s.

3. d. Trappings usually refer to outward decoration of dress. If you did not know the definition of trappings, the prior sentence supplies the answer: Grunge rockers derived their fashion sense from the youth culture of the Pacific Northwest; a melding of punk rocker style and outdoors clothing . . . The author makes no judgment of the attractiveness of grunge fashion (choice c).

4. d. The author states in paragraph 1 that White Snake was a glam rock band and therefore not associated with the Seattle grunge scene. Don't be distracted by choice a;Mr. Epp and the Calculations may not have been a real band, but the name will nonetheless be forever associated with grunge music.

5. b. The relationship between grunge music and its mainstream popularity is best described as contrary. The most obvious example of this is found in the second sentence of paragraph 6, when in describing the relationship, the author states it is very hard to buck the trend when you are the one setting it.

6. d. Ephemeral is used to describe something that lasts only a short time, something that is fleeting. The context clue that best helps you to answer this question is found in the first two lines of paragraph 6, where the author states that grunge faded out of the mainstream as quickly as it rocketed to prominence.

7. d. In the second sentence the author states that Prometheus is a complex character, and in this and the following sentence, the  author lists several specific examples of the rich combination of often-contradictory characteristics of Prometheus.

8. d. The  passage relates the key episodes in the life of Prometheus. This is the only idea broad enough and relevant enough to be the main idea of the passage.

9. b. Prometheus's actions show that he cared for humans more than he cared for Zeus. He gave man knowledge of the arts and sciences although Zeus wanted men to be kept in ignorance (paragraph 3); he tricked Zeus to give mankind the best meat from an ox (paragraph 4); and he stole fire from Mt. Olympus to give mortals the fire that Zeus had denied them (paragraph 5).

10. a. Zeus had given Prometheus and his brother the task of creating humans as a reward for their help in defeating the Titans.

11. a. Prometheus helped create mortals and then became their benefactor and protector (second paragraph). He is thus most like a parent to humans.

12. d. The transgression refers back to the previous paragraph, which describes how Prometheus disobeyed Zeus and stole fire from  Mount Olympus to give it to man.

13. c. The style is neither formal nor informal but an easy-going in between to make the material easily understood and interesting to a lay audience. In addition, the passage does not take for granted that the reader knows basic information about mythology. For example, second paragraph states that Zeus was the great ruler of Olympian gods.

14. a. The definition is implied in the beginning of the sentence: The control group was created for this experiment in order to isolate the effects of abuse and neglect from those of other variables such as gender, race, and poverty.

15. c. The fifth paragraph notes that rates of arrest were almost as high, meaning that they were nearly the same. The arrest rate  for physically abused victims was slightly higher than that for neglected children, which rules out choice b. 16. b. As stated in the third paragraph, of the 21% of the control group arrested, 8% of arrests were for violent crimes.

17. a. The third paragraph states, researchers noted that the differences in arrest rates began to emerge early. . . .

18. d. The third paragraph notes that only 65% of the sample group had passed through the years of peak violent activity in 1988, while almost all had done so by 1994. This is one reason the arrest rate for violent crime was higher in 1994 than in 1988.

19. c. The last sentence of the first paragraph notes the goal of the studies.

20. a. In the second paragraph, Sylvia is described as restless, and in the fourth paragraph she is fearful of the impending storm; therefore her mood is most likely anxious.

21. d. choices a and b may be true but are not reflected in the story. choice c is wrong because the birds that surround Sylvia at work are dead and mounted and therefore aren't singing. In the final sentence, Sylvia is described as mildly claustrophobic, so the  best answer is d, which states that she works in a space that feels open.

22. b. In paragraph four, Sylvia does not want to go outside because an electrical storm is coming, and she has always been  terrified of storms. choice a is wrong because the adjective gloomy doesn't connote the threat of a frightening electrical storm. Since Sylvia is afraid of the weather, cheery adjectives such as springlike or bracing (choices c and d) cannot be said to describe it.

23. a. Sylvia's job suits her partly because her boss is  usually gone and she's alone at work; she is mildly fearful of meeting the new person, Lola Parrish, and even thinks of leaving before their appointment. These details point to a distant kind of person, the  opposite of someone who might be overbearing or malicious (choices b and d). She seems to want to be alone and so is unlikely to be dependent on others (choice c).

24. a. Sylvia does seem distant and her life somewhat cold, so choice a is the most logical choice. The details in the story do not connote lightness or airiness (choice b). There is no hint in the story that Sylvia feels anything about her boss, nor is there anything in this scene to remind us of the actual killing of the birds in the museum (choices c and d).

25. d. To be ambivalent is to hold mutually conflicting thoughts or feelings about a person, object, or idea. As the remainder of the sentence states, the returning hero is the object both of wonder and dread.

26. c. The word awe implies mingled reverence, dread, and wonder, so the adjective awesome is the best of all the choices to describe a place that is dangerous and full of wonders (second sentence of the third paragraph).

27. c. The first sentence of the passage describes Campbell's hero as archetypal. An archetype is a personage or pattern that occurs in literature and human thought often enough to be considered universal. Also, in the second sentence, the author of the passage mentions the collective unconscious of all humankind. The faces in the title belong to the hero, not to villagers, countries, languages, or adventures (choices a, b, and d).

28. a. The passage states that the hero's tale will enlighten his fellows, but that it will also be dangerous. Such a story would surely be radically mind-altering.

29. b. The definition of the word boon is blessing. What the hero brings back may be a kind of gift, charm, or prize (choices a, c, and d), but those words do not necessarily connote blessing or enlightenment.

30. a. The paragraph describes only the similarity between the hero's journey and the poet's.