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    Reading Comprehension
  I: Introduction  
  II: The Challenge  
  III: The Five Steps  
  IV: Question Types  
  V: Tips  
  VI: Sample Essays  
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VI. Reading Comprehension Sample Questions- Hard Essay 3  
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Sample Essays


  9 questions/ 13 minutes

The distinction that modern artists and art critics make between the arts, on the one hand, and crafts, on the other, was foreign to classical antiquity. Both arts and crafts were regarded by the ancient Greeks as "productions according to rule" and both were classified as techne, which can be translated as "organized knowledge and procedure applied for the purpose of producing a specific preconceived result." This concept runs directly counter to the deeply ingrained insight of modern aesthetic thought is that art cannot be reduced to rule, cannot be produced in accordance with pre-established concepts or rules, and cannot be evaluated using a set of rules reducible to a formula. The Greek concept, with its attendant notion that the appropriate criterion for judging excellence in both the arts and the crafts was the "perfection" of their production, predominated until the middle of the eighteenth century, when the French aesthetician Charles Batteux heralded the idea that what distinguishes the arts from the crafts and the sciences is the arts' production of beauty. This idea lasted until the beginning of the present century when some critics argued that "beauty" was a highly ambiguous term, far too broad and indefinite for the purpose of defining or evaluating art, while, on the other hand, many artists expressly repudiated "beauty" because of its too-narrow associations with an outmoded view that art was beautiful and therefore should not be evaluated or analyzed, but should merely be appreciated. Since 1900, a large number of definitions of art have emerged, each of them covering a sector of accepted creative and critical practice but none of them, apparently, are applicable to the whole of what is accepted as art by the art world.

Not only do contemporary definitions of art fail to agree on any common approach to art or on common areas of concern, but individually many of them do not even serve to differentiate those works that are conventionally adopted as art by many artists and critics from those that are not. For example, the "mimetic" theory holds that art reproduces reality, but although amateurs' photographs reproduce reality, most artists and art critics do not consider them art. Much of what is recognized as art conforms to the definition of art as the creation of forms, but an engineer and the illustrator of a geometry textbook also construct forms. The inadequacy of these definitions suggests a strong element of irrationality, for it suggests that the way in which artists and art critics talk and think about works of art does not correspond with the way in which they actually distinguish those things that they recognize as works of art from the things that they do not so recognize.

1. The author is primarily concerned in the first paragraph with discussing:

(A) problems of producing art.
(B) methods of defining art.
(C) criticisms of Greek art.
(D) similarities between arts and crafts.
(E) differences among various conceptions of art.

2. According to the passage, one characteristic that many contemporary definitions of art have in common is that they are:

(A) easy to understand because of their simplicity.
(B) precise in their description of different types of artwork.
(C) similar to ancient conceptions of art except for minor differences in terminology.
(D) applicable to art of former centuries, as well as to contemporary art.
(E) inconsistent with judgments made by many artists and art critics as to which creations are and which are not works of art.

3. According to the passage, which of the following objections to using "beauty" as the criterion for defining and appraising art emerged in the twentieth century?

I. The word "beauty" can have many different meanings.
II. "Beauty" is associated with an obsolete conception of art as something merely to be appreciated.
III. The ancient Greeks did not use "beauty" as their criterion for judging the value of works of art.
(A)  I only
(B)  III only
(C)  I and II only
(D)  II and III only
(E) I, II, and III

4. According to the passage, in contrast to the ancient Greek concept of art, modern aesthetic thought holds that:

(A) artists can have no preconceptions about their work if it is to be good.
(B) the creation of art cannot be governed by stringent rules.
(C) "perfection" is too vague a concept to use as a criterion for judging art.
(D) procedures used to judge art should be similar to procedures used to create art.
(E) arts and crafts are similar because they are both created using the same techniques.

5. The author refers to amateurs' photograph in order to:

(A) illustrate a critical convention accepted by the art world.
(B) show the weakness of the mimetic theory of art.
(C) describe a way in which art reproduces reality.
(D) explain an objection to classifying photographs as works of art.
(E) underscore the need for a conception of art that does not include photography.

6. The passage is most relevant to which of the following areas of study?

(A)  the history of aesthetics
(B)  the history of literature
(C)  the sociology of art
(D)  the psychology of art
(E)  the sociology of aesthetics

7. All of the following appear in the passage EXCEPT:

(A)  a generalization.
(B)  a comparison.
(C)  a definition.
(D)  an anecdote.
(E)  an example.

8. The passage suggests that, compared to the conceptions of art of earlier eras, twentieth century conceptions are more:

(A)  ambiguous and amateurish.
(B)  skeptical and irrational.
(C) diverse and fragmented.
(D) conventional and didactic.
(E) realistic and relevant.

9. In his treatment of contemporary definitions of art, the author expresses:

(A) praise for their virtues.
(B) concern about their defects.
(C) approval of their strengths.
(D) indifference to people who take them seriously.
(E) ridicule for people who ignore them.


Hard Essay 2

Hard Essay 4