Exam preparation materials

The Quotation Question

The quotation question is based on a short passage from a written document — for example, a letter, diary, article, book, party platform, speech, or court decision.

Example 1

In many instances, the source of the quotation is not given, and you’re expected to identify the author or the source from the context.

1. “... the United States is woefully unready, not only in fact but in purpose, to assert in the Caribbean and Central America a weight of influence proportional to the extent of its interest. We have not the navy, and what is worse, we are not willing to have the navy, that will weigh seriously in any disputes with those nations whose interests will conflict there with our own. We have not, and we are not anxious to provide, the defense of the seaboard which will leave the navy free for its work at sea.”

This passage was most likely written by

A. Alfred Thayer Mahan

B. Theodore Roosevelt

C. Andrew Carnegie

D. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge

E. President William McKinley

The correct answer is A. The focus of the quotation is on the need for the United States to develop a strong navy. You should know from your readings that Alfred Thayer Mahan, particularly in his The Influence of Seapower upon History, strongly advocated this position.

Example 2

2. “He has monopolized nearly all profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but scanty remuneration. He closes against her all the avenues of wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law she is not known. He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed to her. He allows her in Church, as well as State, but [in] a subordinate position, claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.”

This passage is most likely taken from

A. a statement by the National Organization for Women

B. Women’s Christian Temperance Union “Declaration of Principles”

C. Seneca Falls “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions”

D. the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade

E. the “Debates of the Constitutional Convention”

The correct answer is C. The passage clearly deals with women’s rights. Although the sentiments expressed might be echoed by the National Organization for Women, several points made in the passage don’t apply to contemporary American society — women do attend college and are on the faculties of law and medical schools as well as religious seminaries. The document is from early in the women’s movement, and you should know that the Seneca Falls “Declaration” (1848) was the first formal statement of women’s rights.

Example 3

A quotation question might also ask you to identify the point of view of the author. Again, the source of the passage is usually not identified, and you have to use the content to determine the correct answer.

3. “Your sentiments, that our affairs are drawing rapidly to a crisis, accord with my own. What the event will be, is also beyond the reach of my foresight. We have errors to correct. We have probably had too good an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation. Experience has taught us, that men will not adopt and carry into execution measures best calculated for their own good, without the intervention of a coercive power. I do not conceive that we can exist long as a nation without having lodged some where a power, which will pervade the whole Union in as energetic a manner as the authority of the State governments extends over the several States.”

Which of the following best describes the author of this passage?

A. Federalist

B. Jackson Democrat

C. Abolitionist

D. Anti-Federalist

E. States Rightist

The correct answer is A. The quotation is a letter from George Washington to John Jay, dated August 1, 1786. Here Washington states his concern with the weakness of the country under the Articles of Confederation and his belief that a stronger central government was necessary. This position would soon come to be identified with the Federalists in the debate over the ratification of the Constitution.

Example 4

Quotation questions may also test your reading comprehension and ability to draw inferences from historical sources.

4. The following is from Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives, an exposé of immigrant life in New York in the 1880s:

“Six months of the year the cloakmaker is idle, or nearly so. Now is his harvest. Seventy- five cents a cloak, all complete, is the price in his shop. The cloak is of cheap plush, and might sell for eight or nine dollars over the store counter. Seven dollars is the weekly wage of this man with wife and two children, and nine dollars and a half rent to pay per month. A boarder pays about a third of it. There was a time when he made ten dollars a week and thought himself rich.”

According to the passage, an immigrant family was able to make ends meet by

A. having the children go to work

B. doing piecework at home

C. taking in boarders to share the rent

D. selling cloaks directly to department stores

E. striking for higher wages

The correct answer is C. The approximately $3.00 a month the boarder paid in rent was the difference between the family making it or not. Boarders were often single men who were given a place to sleep and perhaps a small breakfast in return for helping with the rent and other expenses.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at admin@erenow.net. Thank you!