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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 7  
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Sample Essays


11 questions/ 15 minutes

During World War I, the issue of neutral rights on the seas plagued America’s foreign relations. One of the German justifications for its shoot-on-sight policy was the fragile U-boat’s vulnerability to armed vessels. To deal with this problem, in early 1916, Lansing proposed a modus vivendi: if the Allies agreed to disarm their merchant ships, the Germans would agree not to attack such vessels without warning and without protecting the safety of civilians. In effect, the submarine would act as a surface cruiser and observe the established rules of naval warfare.

Unwilling to surrender what they considered to be a right to arm surface vessels, the British rejected the proposal. Lansing quickly dropped the modus vivendi proposal. Unfortunately, he had opened a Pandora’s box.  In explaining it to the German government, Lansing had implied that the American government regarded Allied armed merchant vessels as warships. This had been the Germans' position all along, and they seized on the opening the Americans had created. The Germans informed the Americans that their U-boats would resume attacks on armed merchant vessels without prior warning.

 These events alarmed the pacifists. The Wilson administration, by dropping the modus vivendi, seemed to be saying that it accepted the British position that armed merchant vessels were not warships. If this were so, then by the administration’s interpretation, Americans would have the right to travel on such vessels. Since the Germans now intended to attack them on sight, Wilson was almost guaranteeing a collision with Germany. To avoid such a confrontation, Representative Jeff Lars and Senator Tom Gore introduced resolutions forbidding American travel on armed ships. Wilson interpreted this as a challenge to his leadership in foreign affairs and a surrender of American rights. “For my own part,” Wilson wrote the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “I cannot consent to any abridgment of the rights of American citizens in any respect. Once we accept a single abatement of rights, many other humiliations would certainly follow, and the whole fine fabric of international law might crumble in our hands.” Congress backed down and tabled the Gore-Lars resolutions. Wilson’s victory over Congress would later be viewed as a pivotal incident, since later attacks on U.S. shipping drew America into the war.

1. Which of the following is the main topic of the passage?

(A) the role of American diplomacy in enforcing international laws concerning sea travel
(B) how conflicts over control of the sea lanes helped lead to the outbreak of war
(C) the effects on international relations of internal political conflicts in the United States
(D) Wilson’s failure to accede in certain steps that could have prevented the United States’ involvement in war
(E) the disagreement between the Germans and the Allies over the arming of ships and how it helped draw the United States into war

2. What is the primary purpose of the passage?

(A) to defend Wilson’s ideals and non-compliance with Germany
(B) to describe the U.S.’s stance on naval warfare in WWI
(C) to argue that Wilson could have prevented war by giving in to Germany’s demands
(D) to compare the war strategies of the Germans and the Allies
(E) to trace a disagreement between Germany and the Allies and show how it drew the U.S. into war

3. Which of the following best describes the organization of the passage?

(A) A conflict is presented, followed by its final result and decisions based upon that result.
(B) A series of arguments is presented alongside the major players who created them.
(C) An event in history is described, followed by an examination of the decisions that led up to this event.
(D) A proposal is stated, followed by the reasons it should have been accepted.
(E) A conflict is explored, followed by a description of its major players, decisions, and eventual result.

4. The author implies that U.S. involvement in the war was caused:

(A) mainly by British political pressure on the United States.
(B) chiefly by Wilson’s unwillingness to compromise his ideals.
(C) primarily by German belligerence.
(D) by a breakdown in international communications.
(E) largely by unplanned and unintentional actions.

5. This passage most likely appeared in a:

(A) newspaper editorial.
(B) naval history chronicle.
(C) sociology article.
(D) United States government text.
(E) military instructional manual.

6. It can be inferred from the passage that Lansing’s dropping of the modus vivendi proposal seemed to represent:

(A) a perceived reversal of the U.S. position on the status of armed merchant ships.
(B) a rejection of the British position concerning the rights of merchant vessels.
(C) an attempt to subsume the controversy under the general provisions of international law.
(D) a tacit acceptance of the German shoot-on-sight policy.
(E) an assertion of the right of the Allies to use merchant ships for the transportation of arms.

7. According to the passage, the Gore-Lars resolutions were introduced in an attempt to:

(A) conciliate the British.
(B) avoid a confrontation with Germany.
(C) appease pro-pacifist sentiment.
(D) undercut the Allied bargaining position.
(E) assert the rights of U.S. citizens on the seas.

8. What does the author mean by “Lansing had opened a Pandora’s box”?

(A) The dismissal of Lansing’s proposal opened up an opportunity for the Germans to make more dangerous proposals.
(B) Germans perceived the American dismissal of Lansing’s proposal as an opening to attack armed vessels.
(C) Lansing was misled by the Germans; he was used to create a false promise.
(D) Lansing’s proposal gave the Americans an excuse to attack Germany in self-defense.
(E) WWI was a dangerous time, and the Germans forced Lansing to instigate the first of many conflicts.

9. According to the passage, the U-boat was:

(A) a formidable weapon against any type of surface warship.
(B) relatively vulnerable to attack by surface vessels.
(C) clearly subject to the same international laws that governed surface warships.
(D) generally unable to inflict serious damage on large surface vessels.
(E) considered by the Allies as subject to attack without warning.

10. It can be inferred from the passage that Wilson regarded which of the following as most important?

(A) avoidance of U.S. involvement in war
(B) upholding the rights granted by international law
(C) suppression of congressional opposition
(D) protection of the lives of U.S. citizens
(E) maintenance of good relations between the United States and Britain

11. For what reason does the author say that the dropping of the modus vivendi had alarmed the pacifists?

(A) to show that Wilson had few opponents
(B) to show that some disagreed with Wilson
(C) to show that peacemakers feared the Germans
(D) to show that not everyone was against Germany
(E) to show that America was in turmoil



Hard Essay 6

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