Historians frequently employ probate inventories—lists of possessions compiled after a person’s death—to estimate standard of living. Because these inventories were taken by amateur assessors according to unwritten rules, they are sometimes unreliable. One way to check their accuracy is to compare them to archaeological records. A study of records from the state of Delaware in the eighteenth century found that while very few inventories listed earthenware, every excavation contained earthenware. Earthenware may have gone unlisted simply because it was inexpensive. But if it was so commonplace, why was it listed more often for wealthy households? Perhaps the more earthenware people had, the more likely appraisers were to note it. A few bowls could easily be absorbed into another category, but a roomful of earthenware could not.
Select the sentence that provides support for an answer to a question in the passage.
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. Select-in-passage questions, like number 16 on the first Verbal section of practice test 1, may look different than other questions, but they abide by the same rule.
Select-in-passage questions are unique to the GRE, but that shouldn’t scare us. In fact, a good thing about them is that we can approach each one the same way: we need to read the question carefully in order to find out what criteria our sentence needs to meet. Then, we need to search the passage for a sentence that fits that criteria—ok, admittedly this is sometimes more easily said than done, but we should keep in mind that our question may even give us extra clues as to where to look.
This particular question asks us for the sentence that provides support for an answer to a question in the passage—NOT what sentence answers a question. Ok, well, we might want to do a quick skim of the passage to look for any questions first, keeping in mind that implicit questions may not end in a questionmark. Here, however, we DO have an explicit question (one that is a direct question ending with a questionmark). We should focus our attention there to see if there’s an answer to this question in the passage AND if there’s a separate sentence that provides support for that answer (although, these sentences could be one and the same as well—that would be just like the GRE to have such a mean trick).
A natural place to look for an answer to a question is in the sentence(s) following the question. Here the question asks why earthenware would have been listed more frequently on the probate inventories of wealthy households if it was commonplace. Does the next sentence provide an answer? It sure does; the next sentence suggests that the reason for this apparent inconsistency might be that appraisers were more likely to note greater amounts of earthenware. So click this sentence right? NO! Remember our question asked what sentence provided support for an answer and this sentence merely provided an answer. HOWEVER, we have one more sentence in this paragraph. This last sentence also refers to quantities of earthenware, suggesting that small quantities might be put in another category, but a room of earthenware would probably be listed separately. AHA! This sentence elaborates on the ideas in the previous sentence, thereby providing support! And the previous sentence DID answer a question. So the last sentence of the paragraph is the one that fits our criteria. The last sentence of the paragraph is the one that we should select.
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