skip to Main Content

SHSAT ELA Exam #4:

  • 20 Edit-Revise questions (2 passages)/6 Reading Passages (6+ questions each)
  • 90-minute time limit
  • Refer to the reading passages on the tabs below.
  • No automatic extra time effort.

This course provides complete walkthroughs for every exam answer. Traditional answer explanations rarely help students who do not get the correct answer. Our walkthroughs focus on the wrong answers in detail, why they are wrong, what tricks the test designers played on untrained test takers, and how to identify similar attributes on test day.

The Napkin Ring Problem

(1) Are you ready for your brain to hurt a little bit? (2) If you take a sphere and remove the core from it, you’re left with a shape called a napkin ring – because it looks like a napkin ring. (3) Suppose you first remove the core from a sphere the size of a basketball. (4) Next, suppose you core the Earth itself (assuming it is a perfect sphere) to get a napkin ring of the same height. (5) Which napkin ring would have the higher volume? (6) Most students would immediately reply, “The napkin ring from the Earth of course!” (7) The diameter of the Earth is 12,472 km. (8) Surprisingly, they would not be correct. (9) The two napkins rings of vastly different diameters will have equal volumes.

(10) The mathematics behind the napkin ring problem depends on the Pythagorean Theorem and Cavalieri’s Principle – and a little bit of calculus. (11) To better understand Cavalieri’s Principle, imagine a vertical stack of five quarters and shift the stack to the right until the shape looks slanted. (12) Despite the skew, the stack still has the same height, and every cross section is the same circular quarter. (13) Most importantly, the new shape with the same height and the same area for any cross-section has the same volume – there are still exactly five quarters in the shape. (14) When computing the cross-sectional area of any napkin ring, subtract the outer and inner circle areas, and the radius term drops out in the process. (15) With the aid of calculus, integrate the cross-sectional area over the height, and the resulting volume still contains no radius term. (16) The napkin ring with height 2h has a volume equal to \frac{4}{3}πh3. (17) The result seems counterintuitive; the volume of the napkin ring does not increase when the radius grows larger. (18) Whether carved from the entire Earth or merely a basketball size sphere, any napkin ring of equal height contains precisely the same amount of stuff.


(1) One agency recently demoted America from a full democracy to a flawed democracy. (2) Politifact confirms that the approval rating of Congress stands at a miserable 14% average, yet members of Congress continue to get re-elected at a rate of 95% or higher. (3) How is that possible? (4) European monarchies, according to the Economist, have a higher percentage of turnover than the royals of Capitol Hill.


(5) A 2014 study by Princeton professors of the influence various actors have on public policy found that average citizens have little to no independent influence, whereas economic elites and business interest groups have a substantial impact on the policymaking in American politics. (6) While numerous studies have been performed to assess one group or one political theory versus another, the Princeton study was the first to use multivariate analysis to test the different actors together and evaluate the independent impact of each. (7) This approach was made possible by a unique data set gathered over many years of 1,779 national surveys about proposed policy changes between 1981 and 2002. (8) As a result, the questions were deemed important enough to poll, but the universe was broad and not restricted to any narrow Washington policy agenda. (9) The Princeton study does corroborate findings of studies in support of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy which suggest citizens significantly influence policymaking, but it also offers explanatory evidence that undermines the theory. (10) According to the study, when one holds constant net interest-group alignments and the preferences of affluent Americans, it makes very little difference what the general public thinks. (11) Not only do regular citizens lack substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.

Passage 1

After radical politics drove David Alfaro

Siqueiros from his native country in 1932, the

famous Mexican muralist was commissioned

to paint an 80-foot broad fresco on the newly

  1. formed Olvera Street in the idyllic Old

Mexico neighborhood of downtown Los

Angeles. Promoters envisioned colorful birds

and lush rainforests in the new painting,

“América Tropical,” to celebrate Tropical

  1. American culture. Siqueiros painted the

mural’s first two sections, depicting a tropical

rainforest and a Maya pyramid, in the daylight.

However, to avoid scrutiny, Siqueiros painted

the final section of the mural, the centerpiece,

  1. at night.


When Siqueiros unveiled the mural, the

reason for his secrecy became clear. The

central image of the work was a horrific figure

of a Mexican native crucified on a double

  1. cross as an American eagle perched above

him. Siqueiros’ symbolic indictment of

imperialism clashed with the idyllic Old

Mexico portrayed on the street below.

Displeased, the people who commissioned the

  1. painting painted over a part of the mural

almost immediately, and the entire fresco was

whitewashed by 1938.


Exposure to decades of sun and rain caused

the white paint covering the outdoor mural to

  1. fade by 1971 revealing the bright colors

underneath. At the same time, artists raising

awareness of Mexican American cultural

identity began to rediscover various works of

the Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera, José

  1. Clemente Orozco, and David Siqueiros.

“América Tropical” celebrated Mexican

American heritage while at the same time

making a political statement. Inspired by

Siqueiros’ whitewashed emblem of social

  1. justice, a new generation of artists embraced

“Mexican Muralism.”



The resulting Chicano mural movement

gained steam throughout California and the

Southwest United States in the 1970s.

  1. Hundreds of huge, brilliant new murals

depicting Mexican American culture and

history appeared during this period, some

commissioned in cultural locations but most

painted in abandoned lots, on empty

  1. buildings, or on highways. Several of these

murals remain, although poorly maintained.



Fortunately, a new group of artists has

worked assiduously to resurrect and restore

many of these murals. Leading the way, eighty

  1. years to the day after its original unveiling,

Siqueiros’ “América Tropical” was restored

and once again revealed to the public.

Advocates anticipate that Siqueiros’ mural will

serve both as an inspiration and a lesson. In

  1. the words of the master who created this

important cultural and artistic legacy, “We

could not lie by painting a false Tropical

America; we had to paint the true, authentic

Tropical America.”

Passage 2

Anglo Americans and Hispanic Texan leaders like José

Antonio Navarro were drawing up a new constitution

of Texas on March 2, 1836, just days before the fall of

the Alamo. Americans and Tejanos alike declared their

  1. independence from Mexico and established the new

Republic of Texas. In many ways, the Texas

Declaration of Independence was similar to the United

States Declaration of Independence, written over 50

years earlier. Like the original grievances against Great

  1. Britain, The Texas Declaration claimed that the

government of Santa Anna had breached the liberties

guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution. Citizens

quickly elected Sam Houston the first president in

September 1836, and Mirabeau Lamar, who had built a

  1. fort at Velasco and had fought valiantly at the Battle of

San Jacinto, served as vice president. Houston sent a

delegation to Washington, D.C., asking the United

States to annex Texas.



U.S. President Andrew Jackson, refused, however,

  1. because the inclusion of a new slave state would

unsettle the balance of free and slave states in

Congress. For the time being, Texas would remain an

independent nation. Despite fast population growth,

the new republic faced political and financial

  1. The Mexican government refused to honor

Santa Anna’s recognition of independence, and

fighting continued between Texas and Mexico. Also,

Texas had substantial debts and little money to repay

them. Nevertheless, many Texans hoped to join the

30.  United States.

Southerners favored the annexation of Texas, but

Northerners objected that Texas would add another

slave state to the Union. President Martin Van Buren,

like Jackson, did not want to intensify the slavery issue

  1. or risk war with Mexico. Instead, he put the question

of annexing Texas on the back burner. John Tyler,

who became the nation’s president in 1841, was the

first vice president to become president as a result of

the demise of a chief executive. He succeeded William

  1. Henry Harrison, who died in April, just one month

after taking office. Tyler supported adding Texas to

the Union and persuaded Texas to reapply for

annexation. However, the Senate was divided over

slavery and failed to ratify the annexation treaty.



  1. Circumstances changed in 1844 with the onset of the

presidential campaign. A sense of Manifest Destiny

was emerging throughout the country. The North

wanted the United States gain control of the Oregon

country from Britain, and the South favored

  1. annexation of Texas. The Democratic candidate,

James K. Polk, campaigned for both actions.

However, Whig candidate, Henry Clay, initially

rejected the idea of adding Texas to the Union. When

Clay eventually adopted annexation, he lost votes in

  1. the North and possibly the election as well. The

momentum gained in Congress in favor of annexation

after Polk’s election. A resolution to annex Texas soon

came to a vote and passed. On December 29, 1845,

Texas officially became a state of the United States.

Passage 3

Despite the fact that spoked wheels and pneumatic

tires were invented before the 20th century, bicycle

design hasn’t visibly changed a great deal. However,

look closer, and you may see a hundred years of

  1. development has taken the humble bicycle from

boneshaker to a speed machine. A modern bicycle is

still constructed of a double diamond shaped frame,

two wheels with air-inflated tires, and a chain-based

drivetrain; the mechanism through which the whole

  1. system runs. Though we’ve stuck to the basics, man

and his machine have increased in speed from the 14.5

km per hour reportedly achieved by Karl von Drais in

1817 to a mind-blowing 55 km per hour in a Tour de

France time trial nearly two centuries later.



  1. Speed improvements on a bicycle boil down to two

fundamental factors: you either increase the power

that propels the rider forward or you decrease the

resistive forces that hold the rider back. Physiology

and biomechanics typically determine the rider’s ability

  1. to generate power. The resistive forces that slow a

cyclist are mainly air resistance, total mass and any

frictional losses, such as the drive train or the friction

of the wheels rolling against the ground. If each athlete

has an equal likelihood of winning, then the challenge

  1. for engineers and scientists is to develop technology

the cyclist can use to obtain a competitive advantage.



Tests demonstrate that once a cyclist traveling

outdoors accelerates beyond speeds of 25 miles per

hour, approximately 90% of the force pushing against

  1. them is air resistance. Moreover, the relationship

between speed and air resistance is not linear. For

example, a 50% increase in speed from 20 miles per

hour to 30 miles per hour will require twice the power

out from the cyclist. Consequently, reducing air

  1. resistance has become the leading priority in

professional cycling technology in recent times. To

better understand air resistance, wind tunnels are now

used by both professional and amateur athletes to



analyze the aerodynamic drag, but wind tunnels are

  1. neither cheap nor readily available. Thankfully,

alternatives for those without an Olympic-sized

budget are emerging.  It is now possible to use

computational fluid dynamic software which can be, in

essence, a virtual wind tunnel.



  1. Racing bicycles, in particular, have been subject to an

enormous amount of aerodynamic refinement over

the previous decade. Braking systems have been

positioned to be protected from the main airflow, and

gear cables snake inside of the frame. Wheel designs

  1. have not only reduced aerodynamic drag, but they are

now being optimized to provide benefits such as

increased rider stability from crosswinds. Even the

mechanical properties of the racing bicycle have

evolved. Like computational fluid dynamic software,

  1. finite element analysis has fundamentally changed the

process of bike design by simulating the stresses and

strains that bike components will face when in use.

These developments have resulted in performance

optimization and development of composite frames

  1. with a mass as little as 800 grams but still stiff enough

to sprint to a stage victory and comfortable enough to

ride for five hours or more, day after day. All these

changes raise the question, “What is next?”

Passage 4

The reason why Alzheimer’s disease develops in some

patients, while others have healthy brains throughout

their lifetime, has remained a mystery until now. New

research has identified a molecule that protects brain

  1. cells from the stress of aging, which may stave off

neurodegenerative diseases. People who experience

early cognitive deterioration appear to have reduced

levels of a stress-protecting protein in their brains

compared with healthy, mentally alert people. This

  1. result indicates the new potential for diagnosis and

prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and various forms

of dementia.


Neuroscientists desperately need to learn more about

the impact of stress on the human brain. Stress and

  1. toxins impact cells in every brain over time, but some

brains appear to be more resistant to the effects.

Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia,

develops alongside characteristic sticky clumps of a

substance called amyloid-beta. These plaques are

  1. notable in the brain during an autopsy, yet, puzzlingly,

research reveals that nearly one-half of people who

demonstrate the brain pathology of Alzheimer’s, never

experienced symptoms of cognitive decline during

their lifetime. As a result, researchers say, there must

  1. be another factor at play to protect people’s brains

from succumbing to the toxins.

The protein repressor element 1-silencing

transcription factor (REST) inhibits genes involved in

cellular demise and is resistant to cellular stresses.

  1. REST, customarily produced during brain

development, remains active in aging brains. However,

people with cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s

disease lack adequate amounts of the protein.

Scientists measured the postmortem amount of REST

  1. protein in the brains of individuals who had previously

taken tests of cognitive ability and found that people

with higher cognitive function had significantly higher

levels of the protein in their prefrontal cortex, the

outer frontal part of the brain involved in planning,

  1. personality, and other cognition. This result suggests

that plaques and other clinical signs of Alzheimer’s

may not be sufficient to cause dementia.

The REST proteins are like the police officers of the

brain, protecting it from aging stresses by turning

  1. specific genes on or off. “There exists a lot of crime in

the brain, but society doesn’t fall apart until the police

station is blown up,” one researcher explained. To

explore the role of REST in living animals, scientists

studied mice that lacked the REST gene and found

  1. that these mice were at higher risk of aging stress. The

mice lost a significant number of neurons in the

forebrain cortex, one of the primary brain areas

affected by dementia. When the scientists restored the

REST gene to the mice, it protected the animals from

  1. developing cognitive decline. Researchers also

discovered that the protein isn’t in short supply for

Alzheimer’s patients. The brain produces REST

proteins, but cellular machinery called

autophagosomes overwhelm the REST proteins and

  1. diminish their role. Therefore, it may be possible to

prevent the degradation of these proteins, bringing

scientists closer to preventing Alzheimer’s disease and


Passage 5

Neutral-colored, well-camouflaged fish don’t

often attract the naked eye, but many live

secret lives cloaked in flamboyantly bright

colors visible only to other fish, new research

  1. Lots of marine animals including

certain fish, jellies, and plankton emit colors

through a chemical process called

bioluminescence that can be seen by the

human eye. Some marine animals also

  1. produce vivid colors that are not detected by

the human eye, through a mechanism called

biofluorescence, in which proteins absorb

light at one particular wavelength and then re-

emit it at a lower-energy frequency. With

  1. special filters, humans can see this

fluorescence appear as bright red, green or

orange light. Biofluorescence commonly

appears among many jellies, corals, and other

marine organisms, but fish display the trait

  1. less frequently.


Scientists at the American Museum of Natural

History in New York City endeavored to

determine the extent of biofluorescence in the

fish world by studying hundreds of species in

  1. the Bahamas, the Solomon Islands and in U.S.

aquarium collections. Surprisingly, the

researchers learned that more than 180

species, nearly 20 percent of the study group,

displayed the phenomenon. To study the fish,

  1. the scientists traveled to their experiment

locations at night to avoid surrounding light

and triggered biofluorescence using high-

energy blue light. With the aid of special filters

and specially retrofitted cameras, researchers

35.  recorded the glow. The research team

encountered a wide variety of colors, patterns,

and intensity of phenomena among closely

related fish that are indiscernible from one

another in the regular white light. The

  1. scientists also found the most efficiently

camouflaged fish (those with the dullest

coloration in white light) radiated the

brightest, most colorful glow.

The researchers discovered that many, though

  1. not all of the groups of fish analyzed,

incorporate filters in their eyes that

theoretically should permit them to see the

bright colors invisible to the human eye. This

finding suggests the fish utilize the coloration

  1. as a means to communicate or possibly

camouflage themselves from predators:

Scorpionfish, for instance, fluoresce a vivid

orange color similar to the fluorescence

emanating from the corals on which it resides.

  1. Coincidentally, many predators, such as shark

species, do not have the equivalent ability in

their eyes to filter the wavelengths and detect

the glow of potential prey. Consequently, the

scientists believe the phenomena of

  1. biofluorescence might provide glowing

marine life with a private wavelength on

which they can communicate with other

marine animals of the same species. Certain

fluorescent cephalopods (a group of marine

  1. animals that includes squid, cuttlefish, and

octopus) exhibit evidence for this hypothesis.

More study is required to determine the

function of the colors and the extent to which

fish can see them.

Passage 6

At the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848,

women had called for the right to vote. After

the Civil War, Congress passed the Fifteenth

Amendment, giving voting rights to

  1. freedmen, but not to women. Some leading

abolitionists became suffragists, men and

women who fought for woman suffrage or

women’s right to vote. Like other reformers,

the suffragists formed organizations to

  1. promote their cause. Elizabeth Cady Stanton

and Susan B. Anthony founded the National

Woman Suffrage Association, which called for

a constitutional amendment allowing women

to vote in national elections. A second

  1. organization, the American Woman Suffrage

Association, focused on winning woman

suffrage in state elections. In 1890 the two

groups merged to form the National

American Woman Suffrage Association. Led

  1. by Anna Howard Shaw, a minister and doctor,

and Carrie Chapman Catt, a newspaper editor

and educator, this organization grew to more

than two million members by 1917. Groups

formed to protest the idea of giving women

  1. the vote. Both men and women supported

these groups on the belief that woman

suffrage would disturb society’s “natural”

balance and result in divorce and neglected


  1. The suffragists won their early victories in the

West. Wyoming led the nation in giving

women the right to vote in 1890. Between

1910 and 1913, five other states adopted

woman suffrage. By 1919 women could vote

  1. in at least some elections in most of the 48

states. In the meantime, suffragists continued

their struggle to win the vote everywhere.

Alice Paul, a Quaker who founded the

National Woman’s Party in 1916, was a

  1. forceful leader of the suffragist movement.

She sought greater economic and legal

equality as well as suffrage for women. During

a visit to Great Britain, Paul saw suffragists

use protest marches and hunger strikes to call

  1. attention to their cause. When she returned to

the United States, she too used these methods

in the fight for suffrage. In 1917, Alice Paul

met with President Woodrow Wilson but

failed to win his support for woman suffrage.

  1. Paul responded by leading women protesters

in front of the White House. Day after day

they marched carrying banners demanding

votes for women. When Paul and other

demonstrators were arrested for blocking the

  1. sidewalk, they started a much-publicized

hunger strike. Alva Belmont, one of the

protestors, proudly declared that all the

women had done was to stand there “quietly,

peacefully, lawfully, and gloriously.”

  1. By 1917 the national tide was turning in favor

of woman suffrage. New York and, a year

later, South Dakota and Oklahoma granted

equal suffrage. Meanwhile, Congress began

debating the issue, and President Wilson

  1. agreed to support an amendment to the

Constitution. Finally, in 1919 the Senate voted

in favor of the Nineteenth Amendment,

which allowed for women’s suffrage. The

amendment was ratified in 1920, in time for

  1. women to vote in that year’s presidential

election. For the first time, American women

were able to participate in the election of their

national leaders.

Back To Top
×Close search