The author of the passage attributes the influence of British

While the influence of British magazines in shaping public opinion predates the nineteenth century, it was during the 1800s that mass distribution became possible and an explosion in periodical readership occurred, vastly increasing magazines’ opinion-shaping powers. The role of magazines as arbiters of nineteenth-century taste is seen in their depictions of the London theater. The magazines accorded some legitimacy to East End working-class theaters that mirrored the format of the fashionable West End theaters serving middle- and upper-class audiences. However, the magazines also depicted music halls—which competed for patronage with all theaters—as places where crass entertainment corrupted spectators’ taste and morals. Finally, they suggested that popular demand for substandard fare created a market unfriendly to higher expressions of dramatic art.

The author of the passage attributes the influence of British periodicals in shaping public opinion in the nineteenth century in part to

  1. a growing public interest in reading opinion pieces
  2. an increase in the relative number of readers from the middle and upper classes
  3. changes in the way in which magazines were distributed
  4. magazines’ increased coverage of theater and popular entertainment
  5. changes in magazine format that attracted a wider readership

An important thing to keep in mind about the Reading Comprehension section of the GRE as we use PowerPrep online to study is that it is just that—reading comprehension. In other words, as difficult as it may seem, and it can be pretty tricky, the test makers will always give us all the information we need in the passage to answer the question. A question that asks about a specific detail of the passage, such as question 19 of the second Verbal section on practice test 1, is a perfect example of why our answers must come from the passage.

This question is phrased in such a way as to make us think that it might be asking about the author’s intent, but really it asks about a detail in the passage. Specifically, we want to know what give British periodicals the ability to influence public opinion in the nineteenth century. Hmm, this question has a lot of things that could be keywords, but discussing the influence of magazines is kind of the whole point of the article. Still, we might look for specific references to the 19th century, since this is a particualr timeframe that will be easy to skim for, or anywhere where “public opinion” is mentioned in the passage. Ahhh! Both are in the very first sentence, so let’s see if this sentence provides an answer.

“While the influence of British magazines in shaping public opinion predates the nineteenth century, it was during the 1800s that mass distribution became possible and an explosion in periodical readership occurred, vastly increasing magazines’ opinion-shaping powers. “

Aha! This sentence tells us that magazines influenced public opinion before the nineteenth century (or 1800s), but something changed during this time to cause “an explosion in periodical readership”: mass distribution became possible. We’re also told that this wider readership “vastly [increased] magazines’ opinion-shaping powers.” So, we want to look for an answer that reflects that wider readership as a result of mass distribution influenced the ability of periodicals to shape public opinion.

  • a growing public interest in reading opinion pieces

This answer does not match the information we found in the passage, nor does the passage ever reference “opinion pieces.” We can eliminate A.

  • an increase in the relative number of readers from the middle and upper classes

Hmm. This answer DOES mention an increase in readership, but the passage did NOT specify what classes new readers may have belonged to. This answer assumes that the readers came from certain classes, perhaps based on information later in the passage about middle- and upper-class theaters. However, we want to steer clear of information found elsewhere in the passage since sentence one directly answered our question. Since we do not know for sure, however, that magazines specifically gained more middle- and upper-class readers, we can eliminate B.

  • changes in the way in which magazines were distributed

Well, this answer doesn’t have EVERYTHING we noted spelled out for us, BUT the fact that “mass distribution” became possible does suggest that there were “changes in the way in which magazines were distributed.” We know that mass distribution led to wider readership, which in turn allowed magazines to have more influence. While this answer doesn’t connect all of that for us, we also can’t say that the answer is wrong. We’ll have to keep answer C.

  • magazines’ increased coverage of theater and popular entertainment

This answer doesn’t match our prediction but, instead, makes an assumption based on the latter part of the passage. However, the second sentence tells us that their coverage of theater was only one example of where we can see the influence of magazines. D is not supported by the passage, so we can eliminate it.

  • changes in magazine format that attracted a wider readership

Aha! This answer talks about “wider readership,” which we know was important in giving the magazines more power to shape public opinion. HOWEVER, it suggests that wider readership was the result of a format change, and nothing in our passage discusses changes to the format of a magazine. Instead, the first sentence attributes wider readership to “mass distribution,” which is reflected in answer C. E can be eliminated.

This question is a great example of why it is important to first predict what a good answer should reflect based on the passage, and then use process of elimination to get rid of answers that are wrong based on this prediction. There were plenty of answers that sounded better than C and seemed to give more clear information, but C is the only answer that reflects that “mass distribution” was the root of the change described in the passage. C is the correct answer.

 

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