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2018-2019 SHSAT ELA EXAM B

The Local Library (Q.5-9)

(1) According to a 2015 survey, more than two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, which means that obtaining information or communicating with people is easier than ever before. (2) With the swipe of a finger or the tap of an icon, people have instant access to articles, blogs, news, and social networking websites. (3) Even with all these immediate sources, one of the best resources also happens to be one of the oldest. (4) The public library is a great place for people to get information.

(5) The public library serves a truly critical role in promoting community. (6) This now allows people in different places to communicate almost instantaneously. (7) And yet many people complain of feeling more isolated and alone than ever before. (8) The library stands in a unique position to help community members meet this universal need for human connection and companionship.

(9) Furthermore, libraries offer free assistance, training programs, and Internet access to all people. (10) A student who does not have a computer at home can research and type a paper for school. (11)  Similarly, an unemployed adult without access to the Internet can make use of library resources to find job opportunities. (12)  The free items that are found at the library can help people get a lot done.

(13) Public libraries also offer a variety of resources to community members. (14) One important resource is the local librarian, who does far more than check out books and collect fines. (15) Other library resources include free or low-cost tutoring and training programs. (16) Additionally, lectures, book groups, and town meetings promote critical thinking and community engagement. (17) A typical librarian holds a master’s degree and can help library patrons navigate through the flood of information available in print or on the Internet.

(18) The hallmark of a public library is that its materials and services are accessible to all. (19) The library connects people to a network of information and resources and is an important part of a community.

Passage 1 (Q.10-15)

  1. On June 30, 1908, an enormous fireball shot across the sky and exploded high above the remote Tunguska River Valley in the Siberian region of Russia. Twenty miles away, huts were flattened and people were flung into the air. Villagers 40 miles away felt the heat and heard explosions, and tremors were recorded at a German seismic station more than 3,000 miles away.
  1. What caused the intense light and the horrendous destruction of the Tunguska Fireball, as it came to be called? Scientists and laypeople have debated the question for over 100 years. Not until 1927 did a scientific expedition, led by Russian scientist Leonid Kulik, reach the remote site. Kulik discovered a vast region of scorched and downed trees, their trunks pointing away from the center of the blast. Convinced that a meteorite was responsible, Kulik searched for evidence—a crater, a buried meteorite, even fragments of the exploded mass. He never found it.
  1. Other scientists, amateur astronomers, and the public suggested alternative theories of what had happened. Some thought it was an earthquake. Perhaps, others said, a black hole—a theoretical object in space where gravity is so strong that even light cannot get out—had collided with Earth or an alien spaceship carrying nuclear material had crashed.
  1. For many years Russian scientists believed that the Tunguska Fireball was a comet—a cluster of dust and frozen gases—that had exploded a few hundred feet above the ground. They pointed to the lack of meteoric evidence and the June 30 date, a time of year when Earth was passing through cometary debris. Other scientists disagreed, arguing that a comet would have burned quickly in Earth’s atmosphere and could not have created such a blast.
  1. Many Western scientists believed that a meteorite was responsible, despite the lack of evidence. The pattern of fallen trees suggested that they were knocked down by a blast about 4 miles above the ground with an energy of 15 megatons of TNT, consistent with a meteoric blast. Yet repeated searches of the surrounding forest and wetlands revealed no evidence of a meteorite.
  1. During the 1990s an Italian physicist named Menotti Galli became interested. Galli had previously investigated whether particles from outer space can add carbon atoms to the cellulose in trees. Perhaps the trees at the Tunguska site hid evidence of such extraterrestrial material. Galli and his colleagues traveled to the site by helicopter to gather core samples from spruce trees that had lived through the blast. They analyzed the particles trapped in the trees’ resin, and the results were remarkable. Based on studying the trees’ rings during the time period when the Tunguska Fireball occurred, the researchers found that the resin contained high levels of high-proton elements, such as copper, gold, and nickel. In fact, it contained ten times more such particles than resin dating from either before or after that time period. Some previously discovered meteorites had also contained elevated levels of these elements, suggesting that the particles had an extra-earthly origin. But then where is the crater? Is it nearby Lake Cheka, as some claim? Or was the meteorite reduced to dust in the atmosphere? Can scientists rule out a comet carrying those elements? The mystery remains unsolved.

Passage 2 (Q.16-24)

  1. With a lurch the train came to a dead stop and Margaret Earle, hastily gathering up her belongings, hurried down the aisle and got out into the night.
  1. It occurred to her, as she swung her heavy suit-case down the rather long step to the ground, and then carefully swung herself after it, that it was strange that neither conductor, brakeman, nor porter had come to help her off the train, when all three had taken the trouble to tell her that hers was the next station; but she could hear voices up ahead. Perhaps something was the matter with the engine that detained them and they had forgotten her for the moment.
  1. The ground was rough where she stood, and there seemed no sign of a platform. Did they not have platforms in this wild Western land, or was the train so long that her car had stopped before reaching it?
  1. She strained her eyes into the darkness, and tried to make out things from the two or three specks of light that danced about like fireflies in the distance. She could dimly see moving figures away up near the engine, and each one evidently carried a lantern. The train was tremendously long. A sudden feeling of isolation took possession of her. Perhaps she ought not to have got out until some one came to help her. Perhaps the train had not pulled into the station yet and she ought to get back on it and wait. Yet if the train started before she found the conductor she might be carried on somewhere and he justly blame her for a fool.
  1. There did not seem to be any building on that side of the track. It was probably on the other, but she was standing too near the cars to see over. She tried to move back to look, but the ground sloped and she slipped and fell in the cinders,1 bruising her knee and cutting her wrist.
  1. In sudden panic she arose. She would get back into the train, no matter what the consequences. They had no right to put her out here, away off from the station, at night, in a strange country. If the train started before she could find the conductor she would tell him that he must back it up again and let her off. He certainly could not expect her to get out like this.
  1. She lifted the heavy suit-case up the high step that was even farther from the ground than it had been when she came down, because her fall had loosened some of the earth and caused it to slide away from the track. Then, reaching to the rail of the step, she tried to pull herself up, but as she did so the engine gave a long snort and the whole train, as if it were in league against her, lurched forward crazily, shaking off her hold. She slipped to her knees again, the suit-case, toppled from the lower step, descending upon her, and together they slid and rolled down the short bank, while the train . . . ran giddily off into the night.
  1. The horror of being deserted helped the girl to rise in spite of bruises and shock. She lifted imploring hands to the unresponsive cars as they hurried by her—one, two, three, with bright windows, each showing a passenger, comfortable and safe inside, unconscious of her need.
  1. A moment of useless screaming, running, trying to attract some one’s attention, a sickening sense of terror and failure, and the last car slatted itself past with a mocking clatter, as if it enjoyed her discomfort.
  1. Margaret stood dazed, reaching out helpless hands, then dropped them at her sides and gazed after the fast-retreating train, the light on its last car swinging tauntingly, blinking now and then with a leer in its eye, rapidly vanishing from her sight into the depth of the night.
  1. She gasped and looked about her for the station that but a short moment before had been so real to her mind; and, lo! on this side and on that there was none!
  1. The night was wide like a great floor shut in by a low, vast dome of curving blue set with the largest, most wonderful stars she had ever seen. Heavy shadows of purple-green, smoke-like, hovered over earth darker and more intense than the unfathomable blue of the night sky. It seemed like the secret nesting-place of mysteries wherein no human foot might dare intrude. It was incredible that such could be but common sage-brush, sand, and greasewood wrapped about with the beauty of the lonely night.
  1. No building broke the inky outlines of the plain, nor friendly light streamed out to cheer her heart. Not even a tree was in sight, except on the far horizon, where a heavy line of deeper darkness might mean a forest. Nothing, absolutely nothing, in the blue, deep, starry dome above and the bluer darkness of the earth below save one sharp shaft ahead like a black mast throwing out a dark arm across the track.
  1. As soon as she sighted it she picked up her baggage and made her painful way toward it, for her knees and wrist were bruised and her baggage was heavy.
  1. A soft drip, drip greeted her as she drew nearer; something plashing down among the cinders by the track. Then she saw the tall column with its arm outstretched, and looming darker among the sage-brush the outlines of a water-tank. It was so she recognized the engine’s drinking-tank, and knew that she had mistaken a pause to water the engine for a regular stop at a station.

1cinders: track bed made from the residue of burnt coal

Passage 3 (Q.25-31)

  1. The real secret of the beauty and terror of the Falls is not their height or width, but the feeling of colossal power and of unintelligible disaster caused by the plunge of that vast body of water. If that were taken away, there would be little visible change, but the heart would be gone.
  1. The American Falls do not inspire this feeling in the same way as the Canadian. It is because they are less in volume, and because the water does not fall so much into one place. By comparison their beauty is almost delicate and fragile. They are extraordinarily level, one long curtain of lacework and woven foam. Seen from opposite, when the sun is on them, they are blindingly white, and the clouds of spray show dark against them. With both Falls the colour of the water is the ever-altering wonder. Greens and blues, purples and whites, melt into one another, fade, and come again, and change with the changing sun. Sometimes they are as richly diaphanous1 as a precious stone, and glow from within with a deep, inexplicable light. Sometimes the white intricacies of dropping foam become opaque and creamy. And always there are the rainbows. If you come suddenly upon the Falls from above, a great double rainbow, very vivid, spanning the extent of spray from top to bottom, is the first thing you see. If you wander along the cliff opposite, a bow springs into being in the American Falls, accompanies you courteously on your walk, dwindles and dies as the mist ends, and awakens again as you reach the Canadian tumult. And the bold traveller who attempts the trip under the American Falls sees, when he dare open his eyes to anything, tiny baby rainbows, some four or five yards in span, leaping from rock to rock among the foam, and gambolling beside him, barely out of hand’s reach, as he goes. One I saw in that place was a complete circle, such as I have never seen before, and so near that I could put my foot on it. It is a terrifying journey, beneath and behind the Falls. The senses are battered and bewildered by the thunder of the water and the assault of wind and spray; or rather, the sound is not of falling water, but merely of falling; a noise of unspecified ruin. So, if you are close behind the endless clamour, the sight cannot recognise liquid in the masses that hurl past. You are dimly and pitifully aware that sheets of light and darkness are falling in great curves in front of you. Dull omnipresent foam washes the face. Farther away, in the roar and hissing, clouds of spray seem literally to slide down some invisible plane of air.
  1. Beyond the foot of the Falls the river is like a slipping floor of marble, green with veins of dirty white, made by the scum that was foam. It slides very quietly and slowly down for a mile or two, sullenly exhausted. Then it turns to a dull sage green, and hurries more swiftly, smooth and ominous. As the walls of the ravine close in, trouble stirs, and the waters boil and eddy. These are the lower rapids, a sight more terrifying than the Falls, because less intelligible. Close in its bands of rock the river surges tumultuously forward, writhing and leaping as if inspired by a demon. It is pressed by the straits into a visibly convex form. Great planes of water slide past. Sometimes it is thrown up into a pinnacle of foam higher than a house, or leaps with incredible speed from the crest of one vast wave to another, along the shining curve between, like the spring of a wild beast. Its motion continually suggests muscular action. The power manifest in these rapids moves one with a different sense of awe and terror from that of the Falls. Here the inhuman life and strength are spontaneous, active, almost resolute. . . . A place of fear.
  1. One is drawn back, strangely, to a contemplation of the Falls, at every hour, and especially by night, when the cloud of spray becomes an immense visible ghost, straining and wavering high above the river, white and pathetic and translucent. The Victorian lies very close below the surface in every man. There one can sit and let great cloudy thoughts of destiny and the passage of empires drift through the mind; for such dreams are at home by Niagara. I could not get out of my mind the thought of a friend, who said that the rainbows over the Falls were like the arts and beauty and goodness, with regard to the stream of life—caused by it, thrown upon its spray, but unable to stay or direct or affect it, and ceasing when it ceased. In all comparisons that rise in the heart, the river, with its multitudinous waves and its single current, likens itself to a life, whether of an individual or of a community. A man’s life is of many flashing moments, and yet one stream; a nation’s flows through all its citizens, and yet is more than they. In such places, one is aware, with an almost insupportable and yet comforting certitude, that both men and nations are hurried onwards to their ruin or ending as inevitably as this dark flood. Some go down to it unreluctant, and meet it, like the river, not without nobility. And as incessant, as inevitable, and as unavailing as the spray that hangs over the Falls, is the white cloud of human crying. . . . With some such thoughts does the platitudinous2 heart win from the confusion and thunder of a Niagara peace that the quietest plains or most stable hills can never give.

1diaphanous: sheer, translucent
2platitudinous: clichéd, common

Passage 4 (Q.32-37)

  1. Archaeology as a distinct branch of science is only about two centuries old. The first archaeological activities focused largely on the search for clues about earlier human societies. In the nineteenth century, most archaeologists were amateurs trained in ancient languages and history. Many were art historians whose interest lay in the artwork and monuments of ancient civilizations. For the most part, their excavations were aimed at uncovering and removing priceless artwork and other valuable artifacts for museum display. Collectively, these early archaeologists are now considered traditional archaeologists.
  1. Today, however, there is a different approach to archaeology, one that tries to reconstruct the everyday life of people in ancient times by applying the scientific methods of a range of specialized fields. Modern archaeologists take full advantage of available technology. Laptop computers enable digging teams to record their finds at each level of an excavation. With sketchpad computer software, archaeologists can draw their finds in the field. Three-dimensional computer modeling enables researchers to create floor plans and elevations for the structures they uncover. Archaeologists can also use remote sensing technologies such as radar and lidar, which is similar to radar but it uses laser light instead of radio waves. These technologies enable scientists to detect traces of early settlements that are not visible to the human eye.
  1. The excavations at Kourion, a Roman port city on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, serve as an example of the modern approach. Portions of Kourion had been unexpectedly buried by a massive earthquake in the fourth century A.D. Traditional archaeologists were interested primarily in the remains of Kourion’s theater, temple, and classical monuments. They also collected precious objects, such as jewelry, found in nearby tombs. Modern archaeologists, however, have focused their studies and excavations on the settlement itself. This preserved seaport has proved to be a gold mine of important information about everyday life sixteen centuries ago.
  1. During one excavation of a house at Kourion, for example, forensic anthropologists were able to reconstruct the skeleton of a young girl, whom they called Camelia. On the basis of her teeth, they determined her age to be about thirteen, although measurement of her skeleton showed that she was only the size of a modern eleven-year-old. The study of the teeth also confirmed her sex and pointed to her excellent health; Camelia had no cavities. Even after centuries, the forensic scientists could study the physical evidence in ways similar to those used in criminal investigations to determine the circumstances of Camelia’s death.
  1. Other specialists on this excavation included a zooarchaeologist, who identified animal remains, including the skeleton of a mule found near Camelia. Another specialist, a paleobotanist, studied the contents of a bake oven at the site and identified four domesticated grains among the charred crumbs—evidence of a kind of ancient multigrain bread.
  1. Although the archaeologists at this site unearthed a few beautiful items, the excavation did not uncover any priceless artwork for museums. Nonetheless, the archaeological processes used in Kourion have given us a valuable insight into everyday life in a Roman city.

Passage 5 (Q.38-47)

Snowy Mountains

by John Gould Fletcher


Higher and still more high,

Palaces made for cloud,

Above the dingy city-roofs

Blue-white like angels with broad wings,

  1. Pillars of the sky at rest

The mountains from the great plateau



But the world heeds them not;

They have been here now for too long a time.

  1. The world makes war on them,

Tunnels their granite cliffs,

Splits down their shining sides,

Plasters their cliffs with soap-advertisements,

Destroys the lonely fragments of their peace.


  1. Vaster and still more vast,

Peak after peak, pile after pile,

Wilderness still untamed,

To which the future is as was the past,

Barrier spread by Gods,

  1. Sunning their shining foreheads,

Barrier broken down by those who do not need

The joy of time-resisting storm-worn stone,

The mountains swing along

The south horizon of the sky;

  1. Welcoming with wide floors of blue-green ice

The mists that dance and drive before the sun.

Passage 6 (Q.48-57)

Click image to enlarge.

Samuel Morse, an American inventor, is credited with creating the electronic telegraph, a communication device that allows users to send messages using a system of short and long pulses that represent letters, numbers, and punctuation. In 1844 the United States Congress passed the Telegraph Bill, which provided Morse with the funds to build an electric telegraph system.

Invention of the Telegraph

Earlier Signal Systems

  1. Long before Samuel F. B. Morse electrically transmitted his famous message “What hath God wrought?” from Washington to Baltimore on May 24, 1844, there were signaling systems that enabled people to communicate over distances. Most were visual or “semaphore” systems using flags or lights. In the eighteenth century, such systems used an observer who would decipher a signal from a high tower on a distant hill and then send it on to the next station. The young American republic wanted just such a system along its entire Atlantic coast and offered a prize of $30,000 for a workable proposal. The framers of this legislation1 had no way of knowing that when they used the word “telegraph” to refer to this visual semaphore system, they would be offered an entirely new and revolutionary means of communication—electricity.

The Growth of an Idea

  1. The idea of using electricity to communicate over distance is said to have occurred to Morse during a conversation aboard ship when he was returning from Europe in 1832. Michael Faraday’s recently invented electromagnet was much discussed by the ship’s passengers, and when Morse came to understand how it worked, he speculated that it might be possible to send a coded message over a wire. While a student at Yale College years before, he had written his parents a letter about how interesting he found the lectures on electricity. Despite what he had learned at Yale, Morse found when he began to develop his idea that he had little real understanding of the nature of electricity, and after sporadic attempts to work with batteries, magnets, and wires, he finally turned for help to a colleague at the University of the City of New York, Leonard D. Gale.
  1. Gale was a professor of chemistry and familiar with the electrical work of Princeton’s Joseph Henry, a true pioneer in the new field. Well before Morse had his shipboard idea about a telegraph, Henry rang a bell at a distance by opening and closing an electric circuit. In 1831, he had published an article, of which Morse was unaware, that contained details suggesting the idea of an electric telegraph. Gale’s help and his knowledge of this article proved crucial to Morse’s telegraph system because Gale not only pointed out flaws in the system but showed Morse how he could regularly boost the strength of a signal and overcome the distance problems he had encountered by using a relay system Henry had invented. Henry’s experiments, Gale’s assistance, and, soon after, hiring the young technician Alfred Vail were keys to Morse’s success.

Obstacles and Opportunities

  1. By December 1837, Morse had enough confidence in his new system to apply for the federal government’s appropriation, and during the next year he conducted demonstrations of his telegraph both in New York and Washington.
  1. However, when the economic disaster known as the Panic of 1837 took hold of the nation and caused a long depression, Morse was forced to wait for better times. It was during this period that Morse visited Europe again and tried not only to secure patent protection overseas but to examine competing telegraph systems in England. . . .
  1. By 1843, the country was beginning to recover economically, and Morse again asked Congress for the $30,000 that would allow him to build a telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore, forty miles away. The House of Representatives eventually passed the bill containing the Morse appropriation, and the Senate approved it in the final hours of that Congress’s last session. With President Tyler’s signature, Morse received the cash he needed and began to carry out plans for an underground telegraph line.

Realizing a Great Invention

  1. Morse had hired the ingenious construction engineer Ezra Cornell to lay the pipe carrying the wire, and although Cornell did his job superbly, one of Morse’s partners, Congressman F. O. J. Smith, had purchased wire with defective insulation. Too much time had been wasted laying bad wire, and with the project on a rigid deadline, something had to be done quickly. Cornell suggested that the fastest and cheapest way of connecting Washington and Baltimore was to string wires overhead on trees and poles. The desperate Morse gave the go-ahead, and the line was completed in time for the dramatic and spectacularly successful link between the Supreme Court chamber of the Capitol building and the railroad station in Baltimore.
  1. Soon, as overhead wires connected cities up and down the Atlantic coast, the dots-and-dashes method2 that recorded messages on a long moving strip of paper was replaced by the operator’s ability to interpret the code in real time. . . . Telegraph lines soon extended westward, and within Morse’s own lifetime they connected the continents of Europe and America.

1legislation: Telegraph Bill
2dots-and-dashes method: the short and long pulses of Morse code that are sent and received by telegraph operators

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