Free online GRE Reading Comprehension Test 1
questions 1 to 3 below are based on this passage: In this excerpt from his editor's introduction to The Best American Essays 2007, David Foster Wallace explains the basic criterion upon which he selected the essays to include in the collection.
I tend, as a reader, to prize and admire clarity, precision, plainness, lucidity, and the sort of magical compression that enriches instead of vitiates. Someone's ability to write this way, especially in nonfiction, fills me with envy, and awe. That might help explain why a fair number of Best American Essay pieces tend to be short, terse, and informal in usage/syntax. Readers who enjoy noodling about genre might welcome the news that several of this year's Best Essays are arguably more like causeries or propos than like essays per se, although one could counterargue that these pieces tend, in their essential pithiness, to be closer to what's historically been meant by 'essay.'" Personally, I find taxonomic arguments like this dull and irrelevant. What does seem relevant is to assure you that none of the shorter essays in the collection were included merely because they were short. Limpidity, compactness, and an absence of verbal methane were simply part of what made these pieces valuable; and I think I tried, as the Decider, to use overall value as the prime triage- and filtering mechanism in selecting this year's top essays.
1. The author of the passage is primarily concerned with A) Cataloguing the formal qualities of writing that coincide with traditional essays. B) Educating readers about literary genres. C) Explaining what characteristics of writing interest him most. D) Defending the criteria by which he chose the essays that appear in the collection. E) Criticizing essays that do not conform to a prescribed format.
2. The passage supports all of the following EXCEPT: A) Conciseness and language use are only one aspect of what gives an essay worth. B) Essays that vary in length, style, and formality are inferior to those that follow strict rules. C) Taxonomy cannot always apply to writing in the same way it does to scientific concepts. D) The length of a piece cannot be considered in evaluating the merit of its ideas. E) Economy of language can give life to an essay rather than destroy it.
3. In context, the author refers to causeries (informal writing or conversation) and propos (exchange of spoken words) primarily in order to A) Demonstrate that all nonfiction essays are informal in their very nature. B) Argue that spoken language is superior to written language. C) Prove that essays, like conversation, are best when pithy and exact. D) Essays must differ considerably from speech in order to fit the nonfiction essay genre. E) Explain that an effective essay can have casual elements and need not always follow strict guidelines exactly.