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Passage:

I conceive the education of our youth in this country to be peculiarly necessary in Pennsylvania, while our citizens are composed of the natives of so many different kingdoms in Europe. Our schools of learning, by producing one general, and uniform system of education, will render the mass of the people more homogeneous, and thereby fit them more easily for uniform and peaceable government.

While this is not the whole of passage 2, the question in this case:

The central idea in passage 2 is that the education in the US should:

is based on its last paragraph only. My problem is arising due to ambiguities in option 1 and 2 - which are:

  1. rectify inequalities among the states
  2. unify the citizens in a common bond

It should be pretty obvious that when we remove inequalities among the different states, they become unified by a common bond, and vice-versa. In fact, the machine marks 1 as correct and 2 as wrong! The explanantion given for 1 being correct is that a "unified system of learning will create a more unified populace" - doesn't it strongly correspond to what option 2 is trying to say?


My question - given how closely related 1 and 2 are - is

Shouldn't both of them be the correct answers? If not, then which one is correct and why?


question image for reference - courtesy KhanAcademy

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  • This is about a single state in the United States, the great state of Pennsylvania. :) Given this brief context, there is no basis for assuming that the author is talking about a nationwide educational program. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 15 '17 at 17:12
  • The core idea is "render the mass of people [from disparate origins] more homogeneous and thereby fit them more easily for uniform and peaceable government." – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 15 '17 at 17:19
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo once people are more homogenous, don't they share a common bond? – Gaurang Tandon Sep 16 '17 at 0:54
  • Non necessarily. But possibly. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 16 '17 at 11:29
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No, making the states more equal does not necessarily unite them in a common bond ... but that's actually irrelevant to the question. This is a fairly difficult question of reading comprehension which asks you to rephrase what the writer says in the given passage, and nothing else. These sorts of questions are common in college entrance exams like the SAT, and various graduate and professional school entrance exams.

Assuming that they are properly written, be aware that there is only one correct answer to these questions. Other answers may seem reasonable, but you are to pick the answer that best addresses the given question.

Here is a related and somewhat more difficult example:

During the construction of the Quebec Bridge in 1907, the bridge’s designer, Theodore Cooper, received word that the suspended span being built out from the bridge’s cantilever was deflecting downward by a fraction of an inch (2.54 centimeters). Before he could telegraph to freeze the project, the whole cantilever arm broke off and plunged, along with seven dozen workers, into the St. Lawrence River. It was the worst bridge construction disaster in history. As a direct result of the inquiry that followed, the engineering “rules of thumb” by which thousands of bridges had been built around the world went down with the Quebec Bridge. Twentieth-century bridge engineers would thereafter depend on far more rigorous applications of mathematical analysis.

Which one of the following statements can be properly inferred from the passage?

  1. Bridges built before about 1907 were built without thorough mathematical analysis and, therefore, were unsafe for the public to use.
  2. Cooper’s absence from the Quebec Bridge construction site resulted in the breaking off of the cantilever.
  3. Nineteenth-century bridge engineers relied on their rules of thumb because analytical methods were inadequate to solve their design problems.
  4. Only a more rigorous application of mathematical analysis to the design of the Quebec Bridge could have prevented its collapse.
  5. Prior to 1907 the mathematical analysis incorporated in engineering rules of thumb was insufficient to completely assure the safety of bridges under construction.

The emphasis on "properly inferred" is mine. All of the answer choices are reasonable, but only one is best supported by the information in the passage. In order to answer this question, you have to learn to judge based only on what you read, and not what you assume is true, or know to be true from other sources.

Here is the answer (mouse over to view). Don't peek until you've had a chance to think it through and make a guess:

The correct answer here is #5. The other answer choices introduce additional assumptions or draw unsupported conclusions. Only #5 is completely supported by what is in the passage: the previous mathematics used were not rigorous enough to ensure safety for all bridge construction projects

  • Thanks for your answer! Yes, that's what the prepscholar tell as well, that other answers may seem reasonable but only one is true. Anyway, sir, "it's actually irrelevant to the question." I don't get it? That actually was my question. If both of them are not correct answers, then which one is correct and why? – Gaurang Tandon Sep 16 '17 at 0:53
  • Or, do you intend to say that "rendering the mass of people homogenous" is more closely related to "rectifying inequalities" than "unifying in a common bond"? – Gaurang Tandon Sep 16 '17 at 0:55
  • @GaurangTandon it does no good to pick out one sentence from the passage and argue about its meaning. You have to look at the overall intent of the writer, and find the key elements of the paragraph that best reflect that intent. In this case the author's main intent is not to "render the mass of people more homogeneous" but to "produce one general, and uniform system of education". You then have to pick which answer choice best exemplifies this intent. – Andrew Sep 16 '17 at 7:43
  • @GaurangTandon although, to be honest, answer choice #1 isn't very good either. The author never says different states' educational systems are unequal. He only says that there is a range of different educational systems in Pennsylvania, some "better" than others (reading the rest of the passage, Benjamin Rush has some strong ideas about what makes a good educational system). The example question in my answer is a better example of a well-written (but difficult) reading comprehension question. – Andrew Sep 16 '17 at 7:47
  • Yes you're right. I'll leave this question open for a week in case anyone else wants to mention their observation. – Gaurang Tandon Sep 16 '17 at 10:48

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