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Answer Explanations for: PSAT Wednesday 2010 (Form W)

Section 1: Critical Reading

Sentence Completions

1)      C) The second part of the sentence must be a description of somebody who is “indefatigable,” or tireless.  C is the correct answer because somebody who can thrive on so little “sleep” would be described as tireless.

2)      C) For the first blank, you need an adjective that describes people who “promote the well-being of others,” and for the second blank you need an adverb that describes the act of “promot[ing] the well-being of others.”  C and E both work for the first blank, but C is the only answer choice that works for the second blank.

3)      A) Here, the first blank must describe people who favor the initiative, so A and B both work for the first blank.  The second blank must describe people who are against the initiative, so A is the only answer choice that works for the second blank.

4)      A) For the first blank, you need something that means “acknowledgment” or “recognition,” so A and E both work for the first blank.  For the second blank, you need a synonym of “innovative,” so A and B both work for the second blank.  Because A is the only answer choice that works for both blanks, it is the correct answer.

5)      C) The word “excellent” provides evidence that the words in the blanks must be positive.  In fact, both blanks require words that roughly mean “excellent.”  A, C, and E all work for the first blank, while C and D both work for the second blank.  Because it works for both blanks, C is the correct answer.

6)      D) The word “undermining” provides the crucial hint that the word in the blank must be the opposite of “superficial.”  Because “superficial” means shallow or lacking depth, you need a word that means deep.   Therefore, D is the only answer choice that works.

7)      D) Here, one blank must mean the opposite of “security,” while the other blank must mean “excitement.”  D is the only answer choice that works, as the word for the first blank means a feeling of danger and the second blank means happiness or excitement.  Another way of addressing this problem is based on the fact that you need opposites for the blanks, as is indicated by the word “conflicting.”  D is the only answer choice that offers two opposites.

8)      B) Here you need a word to describe somebody who does not over-react to negative things – somebody who remains calm when other people panic.  B is the correct answer because it is a synonym of calm.

 

Passage Based Reading

9)      D) These terms are continuing with the imagery of “redecorating” (line 2) which is used as a metaphor for scientists changing our conception of the universe, since all three terms are terms that would be used in a discussion of redecorating a house.  A is incorrect because the metaphor does not express any contempt for scientists continuing to refine our understanding of the universe.  B is incorrect because the metaphor simplifies the issue by putting it into plain terms.  C is incorrect because the passage is not a critique at all.  E is incorrect because these terms do not help to explain any details.

10)  E) The last sentence of the passage implies that scientists currently studying the universe will come up with a new model that is very different than the models we have previously known.  The preceding sentence (lines 8-12) indicates that these scientists have found a problem in the current model of the universe; hence, they will need to develop a new model that accounts for this problem with the old model.  C is tempting because these cosmologists will damage previous models, but the author never indicates that such damage is unnecessary; indeed, it is probably needed in order to account for problems in previous models.  A, B, and D are never mentioned in the passage.

11)  A) These quotes are described as “immediate accolades” (line 5) he received for his writing.  Because they were “accolades,” they represent praise given to his writing by others.  The word “immediate” indicates that this praise was given to him at the time of his writing, so it would have been given by his “contemporaries.”

12)  D) In this quotation, his keen intellect is described using the simile of “an ax cutting into a tree” (line 11).  D is the correct answer because it is an accurate description of something that is powerful like an ax.  A is incorrect because this metaphor is not meant to compare Chesnutt to anybody else.  B is incorrect because it is contrary to the simile of an ax.  C is incorrect because the passage does not deal specifically with Chesnutt’s influence on others.  E is incorrect because although lines 11-12 mention the North Carolina backcountry, this description is used in a simile to describe the power of his writing, not to indicate that this wilderness was the setting of his writing.

13)  A) The author of Passage 2 would strongly disagree with this quote from Passage 1, claiming in lines 49-52 that recent findings disprove the notion that the mind is not a physical thing like the body.  The author of Passage 2 argues that the mind is composed of physical matter much like other parts of the body.  This view of the author of Passage 2 is summarized in the first paragraph of Passage 2 (lines 47-54) and again in the last sentence of the second paragraph of Passage 2 (lines 75-76). The other answer choices are incorrect because they all indicate that the author of Passage 2 would agree with the quote from Passage 1.

14)   E) Tone is defined as the author’s attitude towards his subject.  It is often useful to think of tone on a sliding scale from 0 to 10, with 0 completely negative, 10 completely positive, and 5 neutral.  Granted, it is an oversimplification to reduce tone to a numeric value, and doing so will often not get you down to one answer, but it can help you eliminate some incorrect answers that might otherwise be tempting.  In this case, the comment has a neutral to slightly positive tone, perhaps a 5-7, as it is defending Descartes’ inconsistency regarding the relationship between the mind and the body as something that is perfectly “human” (line 30) and “understandable” (line 31).  Because the tone is a 5-7 on the scale from 0-10, you can eliminate A as too negative and D as too positive.  The correct answer is E because this sentence implies understanding and compassion.

15)  D) Lines 33-35 in Passage 1 describe the reverence people have for the human mind, something most people consider special and unique.  Passage 2 describes how scientific advances have shown that our brains are “just a bunch of molecules” (line 78), which shows how similar we are to other creatures on the planet, as described in lines 81-85.  Therefore, the author of Passage 2 would consider the statement from lines 33-35 of Passage 1 an exaggeration of our uniqueness from other creatures, so D is the correct answer.  A could be tempting, but it is incorrect because Passage 2 never indicates that people challenge scientific discoveries.  E is also tempting, but the author of Passage 2 would argue that this quote describes why humans are hesitant to identify with other creatures, not with other people.

16)  E) The repetitive structure used in these lines shows the parallels between these awe-inspiring abilities of the human mind, abilities that seem unique to the human mind and therefore “special” (line 35).  A is incorrect because these skills are not described as something gained slowly over time.  B is incorrect because, in the context of the paragraph, a discussion of the capabilities of the mind serves to point out its uniqueness rather than to distinguish the mind from the body.  C is incorrect because the passage doesn’t describe people’s fascination with the human mind and belief that it is something special in a negative manner; lines 35-43 indicate that the human mind is indeed special.  D is incorrect because only some of the abilities of the human mind described in lines 35-43 involve emotions.

17)  A) The quote from line 49 of Passage 2 expresses the view that our minds are a separate thing from the genetic material that controls our bodies.  This view is consistent with the view that the mind and body are two separate entities, described as “dualism” in line 15 of Passage 1.  Because line 15 refers to “dualism” as “this idea,” you know that the idea has been described in greater depth in the preceding paragraph.  Because the first paragraph outlines the view that the mind and the body are separate entities, you know that “dualism” refers to this conception of the mind and body as separate.

18)  C) On vocabulary in context questions, examine the context of the word as it is used in the passage and come up with your own idea of what it means before looking at any of the answer choices.  It is important to do so even if you think you know what the word means, because these questions often feature uncommon secondary definitions of words.  Having your own idea of what the word means before looking at the answer choices will help prevent you from being tempted by words that sound good but are ultimately incorrect.  Here, “special” means unique in its abilities.  C is the correct answer, as it indicates that the mind is outstanding in its abilities and that the mind is the exception to the rule, and therefore unlike other things, which fits how the word is used in both passages.

19)  E) In the context, “growing up” refers to humanity growing beyond its historical tendency to “[overestimate] its own centrality in the universe” (line 63).  The remainder of the paragraph then gives examples of our “growing up” in this sense as a result of scientific discoveries and insights that have shown us that we are not as “special” as we once believed.  Hence, this use of “growing up,” corresponds with answer choice E.

20)  B) This question is directly related to question 19.  All the examples in lines 64-67 represent scientific discoveries and insights that have shown us that we are not as “special” as we once believed, thereby undermining humanity’s historical tendency to “[overestimate] its own centrality in the universe” (line 63).  C could be tempting, but it is incorrect because not all these scientists were of the 20th century.

21)  D) The answer choices for this question use vague terms to refer to specific things.  Before choosing an answer, you should know specifically what each vague term refers to.  Here, D is correct because the potentially unpleasant thought is that are brains are made of molecules just like everything else in nature, as described in lines 77-78.  This concept is unpleasant because it makes humans seem less unique and “special,” as described in lines 77-79.

22)  C) On vocabulary in context questions, examine the context of the word as it is used in the passage and come up with your own idea of what it means before looking at any of the answer choices.  It is important to do so even if you think you know what the word means, because these questions often feature uncommon secondary definitions of words.  Having your own idea of what the word means before looking at the answer choices will help prevent you from being tempted by words that sound good but are ultimately incorrect.  Here, “take” means interpretation or view, so C is the correct answer.

23)  B) The last sentence of Passage 1 cautions people that the notion that our minds are “special” does not mean that Descartes’ view that minds and bodies are separate is necessarily correct.  Therefore, answer choice B is the only option that works for Passage 1.  The last sentence of Passage 2 describes with excitement how modern discoveries show how similar we are to all other creatures on a biological level.  Because of the excited, positive tone of this statement, answer choice B is the only option that works for Passage 2 as well.

24)  A) Both passages admit that there is a something tempting about the idea of the mind and body as distinct entities, since this idea is compatible with our instinct that our minds are “special.”  The appeal of this view is described in lines 32-34 of Passage 1 and in lines 48-49 of Passage 2.  However, both passages admit that despite its appeal, this view presents serious problems because it goes against modern science, as indicated by Passage 1 in line 32 and by Passage 2 in lines 49-54.  B is a tempting answer choice, as both passages agree that this view is not practical.  However, neither passage would consider the view new, as they both agree that it has been the prevailing theory for centuries.  D is incorrect for similar reasons, since the view has been around for centuries.  E is incorrect because this view is not insulting to anybody.  C is incorrect because neither passage considers this view sensible or logical, since it goes against modern scientific findings.