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Identifying the Tone of the Passage Tone questions ask you

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Identifying the Tone of the Passage Tone questions ask you  [#permalink]

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New post 09 Jun 2013, 11:44
Identifying the Tone of the Passage

Tone questions ask you to identify the writer’s attitude or perspective. Is the writer’s feeling toward the subject positive, negative, or neutral? Does the writer give his own opinion, or does he objectively present the opinions of others?
Before you read the answer-choices, decide whether the writer’s tone is positive, negative, or neutral. It is best to do this without referring to the passage. However, if you did not get a feel for the writer’s attitude on the first reading, check the adjectives that he chooses. Adjectives and, to a lesser extent, adverbs express our feelings toward subjects. For instance, if we agree with a person who holds strong feelings about a subject, we may describe his opinions as impassioned. On the other hand, if we disagree with him, we may describe his opinions as excitable, which has the same meaning as “impassioned” but carries a negative connection.

Description Questions

Description questions, as with main idea questions, refer to a point made by the author. However, description questions refer to a minor point or to incidental information, not to the author’s main point. Again, these questions take various forms:

According to the passage . . .
In line 37, the author mentions . . . for the purpose of . . .
The passage suggests that which one of the following would . . .
All of the following are true about X EXCEPT
Based on information in the passage, which of the following would be indicative of the pragmatism of MESBIC staff members?
I. A reluctance to invest in minority businesses that show marginal expectations of return on the investments
II. A desire to invest in minority businesses that produce goods and services likely to be of use to the sponsoring company
III. A belief that the minority business sector is best served by investing primarily in newly established businesses
(A) I only
(B) III only
(C) I and II only
(D) II and III only
(E) I, II and III

The answer to a description question must refer directly to a statement in the passage, not to something implied by it. However, the correct answer will paraphrase a statement in the passage, not give an exact quote. In fact, exact quotes (“Same language” traps) are often used to bait wrong answers.

Caution: When answering a description question, you must find the point in the passage from which the question is drawn. Don’t rely on memory—too many obfuscating tactics are used with these questions.

Not only must the correct answer refer directly to a statement in the passage, it must refer to the relevant statement. The correct answer will be surrounded by wrong choices which refer directly to the passage but don’t address the question. These choices can be tempting because they tend to be quite close to the actual answer.

Once you spot the sentence to which the question refers, you still must read a few sentences before and after it, to put the question in context. If a question refers to line 20, the information needed to answer it can occur anywhere from line 15 to 25. Even if you have spotted the answer in line 20, you should still read a couple more lines to make certain you have the proper perspective.

Inference Type Questions

Inference questions are the most common. They require you to go beyond what is stated in the passage, asking you to draw an inference from the passage, to make a conclusion based on the passage, or to identify one of the author’s tacit assumptions.

You may be asked to draw a conclusion based on the ideas or facts presented:
It can be inferred from the passage that . . .
The passage implies that . . .
Since inference questions require you to go beyond the passage, the correct answer must say more than what is said in the passage. Beware of same language traps with these questions: the correct answer will often both paraphrase and extend a statement in the passage, but it will not directly quote it.

“Same Language” traps: For extension questions, any answer-choice that explicitly refers to or repeats a statement in the passage will probably be wrong.

The correct answer to an extension question will not require a quantum leap in thought, but it will add significantly to the ideas presented in the passage.

Organization Questions

Organization type questions look like the following:

Which of the following is the most accurate description of the organization of the passage?
How does the second paragraph function in relation to the first paragraph?
Which of the following most accurately describes the organization of the second paragraph?
In the first paragraph, the author uses which of the following techniques?

To answer such questions, you need to locate the main point of each paragraph and see how it is developed (e.g. through the presentation of reasons, advantages, examples, etc). You should, in the case of multi-paragraph passages find out how the topic raised and discussed in one paragraph is treated in the following paragraph(s). For example, maybe a theory is explained in one paragraph and then refuted through further discussion in another paragraph. All this come up to is that when answering such items you should focus on the main point(s) and the way they are presented and developed in the passage. Consider the following example.

Purpose Type Questions

Through some questions test writer attempt to find out if test takers can identify the means by which the writer of the passage is supporting his/her main point. For example, in a paragraph in which an example is mentioned, the author may refer to it and ask you to determine what purpose it serves; or in paragraph in which the author brings in a familiar device to help clarify the function of a new device the passage is seeking to explain, the author may ask you to find out why the familiar device is mentioned. In a word, techniques use to develop the main point (e.g. exemplification, cause and effect, comparison and contrast, etc) can form the basis of some questions.

Consider the following passage and the question after it:

Although great natural barriers hindered east-west development in Canada, this circumstance was mitigated by the mighty river and lake systems that provided avenues for the fur trader, missionary, soldier, and settler. Canada's rivers and lakes allowed and, indeed, invited venturesome pioneers to explore the interior of the continent and in spite of natural barriers, to tap its great wealth. The rivers and lakes were essential to the great fur empire; people in canoes brought furs from the farthest extremity of the Canadian Shield to Montreal for exportation to Europe. The first settlements spread along the rivers, since only the rivers provided transportation and communication. Militarily, rivers and lakes were of prime importance; whoever controlled the St. Lawrence and its entrance also controlled Canada.

The author uses refers to St. Lawrence mainly to
(A) prove the role of water supplies in economic development
(B) illustrate the role of rivers and lakes in military control
(C) depict the important of rivers for those who first immigrated to Canada
(D) state that waterways should not be misused by the military
(E) explain why agriculture gained more significance than industry in

Correct answer: B. The passage clearly refers to rivers and lakes in the passage to illustrate the role it played in the military control of Canada.

Or consider the following:

Why do homing pigeons fly home? They are not unique in this inherent skill: it is found in most migratory birds, in bees, ants, toads, and even turtles, which have been known to travel hundreds of miles to return to their homes. But in the animal world, the homing pigeon alone can be trusted with its freedom and trained to carry out the missions that people demand.

Why does the author mention bees, ants, toads, and turtles in the
last paragraph?
(A) To describe some unusual kinds of pets
(B) To measure distances traveled by various animals
(C) To compare their home-finding abilities with those of homing pigeons
(D) To interest the reader in learning about other animals
(E) To prove that animals all have the same origin

Correct answer: C. The passage mentions bees, ants, toads, and even turtles to show their similarity to the subject of the passage, that is, pigeons, which, according to the passage, can easily find their way home even when they are far away from home.


To answer main idea type question, sometimes the first sentences gives a hit as to what the main idea is and sometimes you need to read the whole passage quickly to be ably to choose the right option.

As was already mentioned, to answer main idea type questions, you sometimes need to read the whole passage first before you go for the right option in that the main idea or purpose is not always clearly stated in the first few sentences, however, keep in mind that you do not need to focus on details while reading; you should read fast to get the gist.

PS: This post is compiled from different articles from distinct sources. I have just put them all at one place for quick reference. Please press 'KUDOS' if this post helps you!
Joined: 03 Jun 2013
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New post 10 Jun 2013, 09:40
Really helpful. It would be great if you re-organize and use highlights so that it is easily understandable.
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New post 21 Sep 2018, 22:50
Hello from the GMAT Club VerbalBot!

Thanks to another GMAT Club member, I have just discovered this valuable topic, yet it had no discussion for over a year. I am now bumping it up - doing my job. I think you may find it valuable (esp those replies with Kudos).

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Re: Identifying the Tone of the Passage Tone questions ask you &nbs [#permalink] 21 Sep 2018, 22:50
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