Reading for Results - Online Practice
Recognizing Purpose and Tone

Copyright 2007 © Laraine Flemming.
The right to copy this material is granted exclusively to instructors and students using textbooks written by Laraine Flemming. General distribution and redistribution are strictly prohibited.

Directions: Hit the appropriate buttons to answer the questions about purpose and tone. Hit the Submit button when you have completed the exercise. You will receive a score and find explanations in boxes to the right of the choices.

1. Every two years, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) assembles an international panel of experts in archaeology, architecture, art history, and historic preservation. The panel’s job is to compile a list of the world’s "100 Most Endangered Sites." Included on the list are architectural and cultural sites endangered by a variety of man-made threats, such as uncontrolled tourism, urban development, global warming, and war. The WMF’s 2008 list includes sites like Peru’s Machu Picchu, the 15th century Inca mountaintop retreat currently jeopardized by thousands of visitors per day. Also included are historic areas such as the skyline of 18th century Saint Petersburg, Russia; parts of Shanghai built in the 1920s and 1930s; and the city of Old Damascus in Syria. These sites are under threat of demolition in order to make way for the construction of new and more modern buildings. In addition, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has threatened places like the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem, one of Christianity’s oldest churches. Other culturally significant sites are being damaged by climate change. For example, the Antarctic hut from which Captain Robert Scott led his unsuccessful attempt to reach the South Pole in 1911 has suffered excessive weathering damage due to heavier-than-usual snowfalls. Historic sections of New Orleans have also been placed on the WMF’s list because of damage and destruction left in the wake of 2005’s monster storm, Hurricane Katrina. (Sources of information: World Monuments Fund,; "Route 66, Iraqi Sites Among Most At Risk: Heritage Group," Agence France Presse, 2007,
The purpose of this reading is to
a. tell readers about some of the endangered sites identified by the World Monuments Fund.

b. persuade readers to support efforts to save endangered architectural and cultural sites.

The tone of this reading is
a. alarmed.

b. humorous.
c. objective.
d. puzzled.

An important clue to the tone and purpose of the reading is
a. the use of highly connotative language designed to play on the reader’s emotions.

b. the use of language that does not play on the reader’s emotions.
c. the author’s heavy use of figurative language.
d. the author’s tendency to address the audience directly.

2. In the United States, children are considered eligible for kindergarten when they have turned five years old by a certain date, known as the "birthday cutoff." In those states where the cutoff date occurs anywhere from weeks to months after the school year begins, four-year-olds may start school, sometimes long before they celebrate their fifth birthday. However, it would be better if all states required children to be five years old before starting school. Schools are now being held accountable for their performance, and school funding is often tied to students’ standardized test scores. Thus kindergartens all over the country have become more academically challenging; in fact, many kindergarten classes now cover the same curriculum taught a generation ago to first graders. This means that kindergarten students must quickly absorb reading and writing skills. Yet according to research, the older children are the ones who are generally better able to handle this kind of content. One study of 22,000 kindergartners conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics found that five-year-olds are more likely to have the reading, mathematical, motor, and social skills necessary for learning what is now typical kindergarten material. Furthermore, when University of California researcher Kelly Bedard studied the math and science test scores for almost 250,000 students in 19 countries, she found that the younger students perform 4 to 12 percentiles lower than their slightly older peers in the third and fourth grades. This suggests that the age disadvantage continues even after kindergarten ends. (Source of information: Elizabeth Weil, "When Should a Kid Start Kindergarten?" New York Times, June 3, 2007,
The purpose of this passage is to
a. convince readers that children should not begin kindergarten until they are five years old.

b. describe the pros and cons of letting four-year-olds begin kindergarten.

The tone of this passage is
a. objective

b. heated
c. puzzled
d. skeptical.

An important clue to the tone and purpose of the reading is
a. the colorful, emotionally charged language.

b. the emphasis on denotative language without any emotional impact.
c. the use of allusions that have negative associations.
d. the tendency to address the reader personally.

3. For over four decades, ecologists and environmentalists have revered Rachel Carson, author of the 1962 book Silent Spring, for alerting the world about the dangers of chemical pesticides. Arguing that pesticides such as DDT upset the balance of nature, kill wildlife, and cause cancer in humans, Carson instigated a widespread "chemophobia" that culminated in a ban on the use of DDT. Unfortunately, though, Carson’s impassioned plea for protecting nature and human health has left generations of readers with a skewed view of pesticides in general and of DDT in particular. As Dr. I.L. Baldwin, a professor of agricultural bacteriology, who originally reviewed Silent Spring in a 1962 issue of the journal Science, pointed out, Carson greatly exaggerated the risks of pesticide use. Based on questionable statistics and anecdotes, such as the doubtful tale of a woman who immediately developed cancer after spraying her basement with DDT, Carson pronounced DDT to be a dangerous human carcinogen. Carson was also irresponsible in her refusal to acknowledge the pesticides’ benefits, which far outweighed their potential for harm. As Dr. Baldwin pointed out at the time, pesticides have dramatically improved human health and welfare by getting rid of insects and parasites that destroy crops and transmit deadly diseases. Currently, for instance, mosquito-born malaria is a leading cause of death and illness worldwide because Carson’s devotees won’t allow DDT to be restored as a weapon in fighting the disease. Carson’s supporters simply refuse to recognize that their hero could make a mistake. While she certainly had a point about the overuse of pesticides, she went much too far in her condemnation of them and the planet is now suffering the consequences. (Source of information: John Tierney, "Fateful Voice of a Generation Still Drowns Out Real Science," New York Times, June 5, 2007,
The purpose of this passage is to
a. explain to readers why Rachel Carson believed that pesticides in general were dangerous and why DDT, in particular, should be banned.

b. persuade readers that Rachel Carson was not a reliable source of information about pesticides.

The tone of this passage is
a. amused.

b. objective.
c. puzzled.
d. critical

An important clue to the tone and purpose of the reading is
a. the author’s extensive use of figurative language.

b. the author’s use of the first person.
c. the author’s strong praise of an opposing point of view.
d. the use of language that is more denotative than connotative.

4. Hundreds of colleges now require their students to lease or buy a laptop computer. The theory is that the computers will help students do research and increase their chances for interactive learning. Yet in many classrooms, laptops have become more of an obstacle than an enhancement to learning, and professors need to think seriously about prohibiting their use during class time. Many students who bring their computers to class do not use them to take lecture notes or refer to web sites for more information about the professor’s lecture topic. Far from it. In the history classes I teach, many laptop users don’t even pretend to pay attention to my lecture or to participate in the discussion. They are more inclined to visit networking sites like MySpace; e-mail or instant message their friends, and even shop online. No wonder, then, that so many of them have ended up with low grades or are flunking out altogether. Many of these same kids no longer know how to produce an original thought on their own. Ask them a question and they search the Internet rather than think. For me, this was the last straw. Laptops, like cell phones, have no place in my classroom until someone can prove to me that they really are the great boon to education I have been promised.
The purpose of this reading is to
a. describe how lap top computers are actually used in the classroom.

b. persuade readers that laptops are more a hindrance than a help in the classroom.

The tone of this reading is
a. comical.

b. annoyed.
c. objective.
d. puzzled.

An important clue to the author’s tone and purpose in this reading is
a. the author’s use of figurative language to make a point.

b. the author’s use of allusions with negative associations.
c. the author’s emotionally charged language.
d. the author’s tendency to remain distant from the audience.

5. In 1997, Stephen Cowans was convicted of shooting and wounding a Boston police officer. Cowans’ thumbprint had been found inside a home where the shooter had hidden after committing the crime; therefore, argued the prosecutor, Cowans was guilty. Convinced by the testimony of two fingerprint experts, who testified that the print matched Cowans’, the jury came up with a guilty verdict. It turned out later, though, that the print was made by someone who actually lived in the house. Unfortunately, that discovery came a little too late for Cowans. By that time, he had been locked up in a prison cell for six years. As he case of Stephen Cowans illustrates, fingerprint evidence is not always completely reliable. Fingerprint examiners, for example, can and do make errors. Their training varies widely from state to state, and some "experts" are not even required to pass certification exams. Thus, in some cases, the so-called experts are incompetent. Then, too, among those examiners who do take a certification exam administered by the International Association of Identification, as many as half fail the test. Add to these concerns the fact that fingerprint analysts disagree among themselves about the number of similarities two sets of prints must share to be considered a match, and the pedestal upon which fingerprint evidence has sat for decades suddenly seems a little wobbly. No wonder defense attorneys have begun to challenge fingerprint analysis as adequate evidence for proof of guilt. (Source of information: Andy Newman, "Fingerprinting’s Reliability Draws Growing Court Challenges," New York Times, April 7, 2001,; Michael Specter, "Do Fingerprints Lie?" The New Yorker, May 27, 2002,
The purpose of this reading is to
a. describe the history of fingerprint evidence.

b. persuade readers that fingerprint evidence is sometimes unreliable.

The tone of this reading is
a. objective.

b. humorous.
c. outraged.
d. critical.

An important clue to the tone and purpose of the reading is
a. the use of emotionally charged language.

b. the use of language that suggests little or no emotion.
c. the author’s praise of an opposing point of view.
d. the author’s tendency to address the audience directly.

Last change made to this page: 07/20/07

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