It’s time to take a look at the typical kinds of questions you will see in an LSAT humanities reading comp passage. This is the third article in a series of articles about LSAT Humanities Passage Questions.
The series includes:
- Humanities Passages in LSAT Reading Comprehension
- LSAT Reading Comp Outlines for Humanities
- LSAT Humanities Passage Questions
LSAT Humanities Passage Question 1: Macro Question
We start with a typical macro style question, a primary purpose question.
1. The author’s main purpose in the passage is to
(A) question the validity of free market ethics.
(B) argue that there is little difference between society’s morals and the ethics binding a particular profession.
(C) demonstrate that professional ethics compete with societal ethics in the creation of a system of values.
(D) argue that medical ethics are both simpler and superior to business ethics.
(E) describe various ethical systems that shape our moral and cultural attitudes.
Considering the tone of the passage, the author is taking a stand, making a point, so it is somewhat argumentative more than descriptive. For that reason we can immediately rule out the passive answer choice (E). Answer (E) tries to tempt you with language from the passage, but the passage’s purpose is more specific than a simple description.
Answer (C) has just the right scope — the conflict and influence of professional ethics.
Answer (A) distorts the author’s purpose. Free market ethics are an example of professional ethics, but the author is not judging them on way or the other. The author uses them as an example but does not imply anything is wrong with them.
Answer (B) is in scope, but is actually the opposite of what the author is trying to say.
Answer (D) is incorrect because it focuses on a single detail of medical ethics which is too narrow to be the primary purpose. Further, there is no direct comparison made between medical ethics and “business” ethics.
LSAT Humanities Passage Question 2: ALL/EXCEPT Detail Question
The second question is an ALL/EXCEPT detail question.
2. According to the passage, most people would consider all of the following to be moral standards regardless of their profession, EXCEPT:
(A) Keeping secret a person’s private matters.
(B) Telling the truth.
(C) Using one’s expertise for good.
(D) Insisting on obedience to hierarchical structures.
(E) Refusing to inflict intentional harm on another.
The second paragraph deals with examples that vary in degree more than in substance, so this is where we would find examples of what “most people would consider,” to be “moral standards.” Because this is an ALL/EXCEPT question, you’re job is to find four right answer and cross them off. Whatever you’re left with will be the right answer.
The right answer is (D), which is a value a soldier holds that is in conflict with a researcher’s values (example of Durkheim from the third paragraph). Since those values are in conflict, it is doubtful the author intends you to understand either of them as a standard moral value.
The wrong answers are right from the second paragraph. Answers (A), (C) and (E) are values that the author says we all hold but that doctors hold to a greater degree. Answer (B) is from the example of the college professor.
LSAT Humanities Passage Question 3: Detail Question
The third question is another detail question:
3. According to the author, trade had a beneficial influence in
(A) promoting tolerance and understanding.
(B) encouraging generosity.
(C) synthesizing religious morals.
(D) fostering the role of the middle class in a benevolent society.
(E) shaping our attitudes and moral values.
We know the examples of the influence of free trade come from the “pursuit of profit,” paragraph. The right answer is (A), which is right out of line (31).
Answer (B) is a contradiction of line (34).
Answer (C) is a distortion. Religious values are discussed generically as “..the teachings of the dominant world religious…” but that is not to imply there is a synthesis or combination of their morals into a single system.
(D) has the cart before the horse. Writers wanted to promote the role of the middle class so they wrote about free trade, not the other way around.
(E) picks out a detail from the last paragraph, but the author doesn’t specifically say that the influence of economic ideas on our values is a “benefit.”
LSAT Humanities Passage Question 4: Inference Question
The fourth question is an inference question:
4. The author implies which of the following?
(A) The values of generosity and sharing are not as important as tolerance and understanding.
(B) Societies have always had a degree of interdependence, with or without trade.
(C) Many cultures lacked justice and equality before the introduction of trade.
(D) The duties of a soldier are more important to a society than the duties of a researcher.
(E) Trade has influenced the teachings of the world’s religions.
As an open ended question stem, we’re not immediately sure where we’ll find the right inference. Scanning the answer choices, it look like we’ll find them in the third paragraph which deals primarily with the ethics of trade.
Answer (B) is correct. If you consider line (33), “Trade made different societies aware of their interdependence,” the author implies with the word “aware” that societies were already interdependent, but discovered that fact through trade.
Answer (A) goes too far. The author states that generosity and sharing are not necessarily promoted by trade, but that does not imply they are better or worse than other values.
Answer (C) is a distortion of line (34). Trade helped to advance the values of justice and equality, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist prior to trade.
Answer (D) is a distortion of a detail. The values of a soldier and a researcher are in conflict, but the author doesn’t pick sides.
Answer (E) is so distorted, it should only tempt the most casual reader. Again, there is a conflict between the values of trade and the world’s religions but no other relationship is implied.
LSAT Humanities Passage Question 5: How and Why Question
The fifth question is a how and why question dealing with how the passage is structured and why the author used certain details.
5. The author refers to Durkheim in the second paragraph primarily to
(A) contrast medical ethics with research ethics.
(B) argue that unspoken professional ethics have a higher moral authority than wider cultural mores.
(C) demand that society have a greater sense of obedience to hierarchical structures.
(D) demonstrate that no two professions share the same unspoken rules.
(E) show how two professions can have conflicting ethical standards.
We know where to find the Durkheim detail. Durkheim is the soldier and researcher example. The right answer is (E). Durkheim’s soldier and researcher have differing views about the role of authority.
Answer (A) is wrong. Durkheim presents a contrast, but the contrast is between a soldier and a researcher, not a researcher and a doctor.
Answer (B) tries to tempt you with a detail close to Durkheim, but not from Durkheim, so it must be wrong.
Answer (C) is wrong in the first word, “demand.” Durkheim is an example of the author’s general line of reasoning, but “demand” goes too far in tone.
(D) goes too far. Durkheim shows that two professions can be in conflict, but to say no two professions share the same unspoken rules goes beyond the scope of one single example.
LSAT Humanities Passage Question 6: Sneaky Macro Question
The sixth and final question is a sneaky way to ask a macro question. This question is a great one to answer after dealing with the other questions when you have a better familiarity with the author’s line of reasoning.
6. The author views the role of economic and political factors as
(A) more important in the formation of ethical systems than the role of traditional cultural ethics.
(B) a factor in the development of medical ethics.
(C) influential in the development of social values and occasionally in conflict with traditional ethical values.
(D) in conflict with each other.
(E) a set of ethics that is often perceived as moral misbehavior by society in general.
As with all macro questions, even sneaky ones, you’re basically looking for a restatement of the main idea. You find this in (C). This is almost a restatement of the last sentence in the passage.
Answer (A) is a distortion. These influences work in concert, sometimes in conflict, but the author doesn’t say which is more influential.
Answer (B) is too narrow to be the answer to a macro question. The scope of the passage is greater than just medical ethics.
Answer (D) is wrong since the author spends no time contrasting economic and political values.
Answer (E) is wrong because it distorts a narrow detail of the final paragraph. We know that some professions “seek to justify what may be perceived as moral misbehavior,” but this is too narrow to be the answer or to be connected in general to the role of economic and political values.
LSAT Humanities Passage Questions Summary Tips
- Continue to use the TestSherpa method in all types of passages.
- Take the time to make an outline.
- Look for passages with topics you might be familiar with.
- Don’t be thrown by references to people, places, ideas and writings you’ve never heard of.
Now return to our LSAT page to read another lesson series.