A Guide to the GRE/Main Points

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Make sure to completely understand the scope and extent of the author's main points in the passage.

The GRE will have “trap answers” which try to “suggest things” to you. Often they will mention things that were in the passage, but not in the manner mentioned.

In the real world, passages typically set out their topics at the beginning. On the GRE, however, the real subject of the passage is often confusing to find, as evidenced here:

          The armadillo is the only extant
        member of order Cingulata surviving to
        date, and exists throughout the Americas
        in the form of various subspecies.  Little 
5       known is the fact that an ancient cousin
        to the armadillo, the glyptodon, also
        inhabited the armadillo's current range
        until very recently, dying out at the end
        of the most recent ice age.  Like its 
10      modern relative, glyptodon was a
        placental mammal with a thick armored
        shell, and was probably capable of
        tucking into a ball or something similar
        to protect itself.  However, unlike 
15      armadillos, which are typically about the
        size of a small dog, glyptodons grew to
        sizes of perhaps five meters in length,
        making them one of the largest land
        animals known to coexist with humans.
20        There has thus been widespread 
        speculation as to whether the indigenous
        peoples of the Americas hunted the
        glyptodon, much of which has been met
        with skepticism given the creature's size 
25      and presumable power.  However,
        ancient humans are known to have
        hunted other highly dangerous creatures
        such as the woolly mammoth, which were
        arguably even more dangerous with 
30      their great tusks, as well as the fact that
        mammoths were social creatures
        tending to roam in packs and protect one
        another.

Practice

1. The author discusses the armadillo in lines 1-4 primarily in order to
(A) explain why the armadillos survived the last ice age while glyptodons did not
(B) cite an example of another animal which was hunted by early humans
(C) elaborate on characteristics unique to placental mammals
(D) give an example of the nearest modern relative of a creature it is about to discuss
(E) point to another instance of a social animal which roams in packs

2. Which one of the following best describes the author's attitude toward the notion that ancient humans might have hunted the glyptodon?
(A) skepticism given the creature's size and great power
(B) receptiveness given the fact that ancient humans hunted the even more powerful and social woolly mammoth
(C) dismissal on the grounds that the wooly mammoth would've been superior as a food supply
(D) uncertainty due to lack of evidence that the glyptodon roamed in packs
(E) acceptance based on the current documented evidence


Answers to Practice Questions 

1. (D)

This passage is about the glyptodon, which is a giant armadillo-like creature, which died out in prehistoric times. The first paragraph describes the glyptodon, while the second discusses the theory that ancient humans may have eaten them. The discussion of armadillos serves to introduce the glyptodon by describing the nearest modern relative of the creature, as occurs in answer (D).

The other answers are typical reading passage trap answers. Choice (A) is incorrect because, while the ice ages are mentioned as well as the glyptodon's extinction at the end of them, this is not the topic the author seeks to explore in the passage. The author is merely mentioning that there was such a creature as the glyptodon and that early humans may have hunted them. Similarly, choice (B) is incorrect because, while the author is talking about hunting, the author never talks about humans hunting armadillos. Rather, in the second paragraph, the author is contemplating whether humans ever hunted the glyptodon.

Answer (C) is incorrect; although “placental mammals” are mentioned, the author never explains what this term means or what else is included in this category. Finally, (E) is incorrect - while the author discusses “social animals”, the author discusses this in the context of woolly mammoths and not the armadillo.


2. (B)

The author thinks it is plausible that ancient humans hunted the glyptodon, the main reason for believing this being that humans hunted powerful and dangerous creatures like the woolly mammoth.

Choice (A) is a trap answer - while the author mentions “skepticism”, this is not the author's skepticism, but rather, that of other individuals. Answer (C) is similarly incorrect because, while glyptodons are compared to woolly mammoths, this is not to illustrate differences in their availability as a food supply, but rather to say that if humans hunted one, they probably hunted the other. (D) is incorrect because there is no lack of evidence - the author doesn't discuss sufficiency of the evidence. Finally, (E) is wrong because it is too strong - the author doesn't “accept” the hunting of glyptodons but rather feels it is merely plausible.