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TOEFL Reading Exercise: Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride

Here’s a reading exercise to help you prepare for your TOEFL. Read the passage, and then answer the 5 questions that follow. No peeking at the answers below!

 

Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride

While many schoolchildren have learned about Paul Revere from the famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, fewer remember the historical details about Revere’s midnight ride that Longfellow did not include. Sent by Revolutionary Joseph Warren after British army activity suggested that the troops were beginning to move, Revere rode to alert the Massachusetts Provincial Congress to move military supplies away from town.

Little over a week later, the British commanders in the colonies (as the United States was then known) received orders to “disarm” the rebels, literally meaning to take their arms away, and to imprison their leaders. British General Gage was told to conduct this mission with the utmost secrecy, so as not to inspire further rebellion among the colonists. However, Warren found out about this mission and told Revere, as well as another colonist named William Dawes, that the British troops would sail from Boston for Cambridge, and eventually Lexington and Concord. The two men were sent to warn leaders in Lexington, as well as militias in the area.

Meanwhile, Revere had previously asked the sexton of a church to signal by lantern to let Charlestown residents know about the movement of the British troops. One lantern in the steeple window would indicate that the army was coming by land, while two lanterns would signify that it was coming by water. Secretly rowing across the Charles River, Revere rode to Lexington and warning almost every house he passed. Many patriots began to join him on horseback; by the end of the night, as many as 40 men may have been riding throughout the county. However, unlike the apocryphal legend, Revere never did should “The British are coming!” To do so would have made him conspicuous to the British troops, as well as to the colonists.

The system that Revere and his fellow patriots used is known as “alarm and muster,” which the group had developed after an ineffectual colonial response to an alarm in September of 1774. By using this system, the Americans were able to deploy local militia quickly in the event of an emergency. In fact, this system had been used in early colonial battles in the “Indian wars,” but had fallen out of use during the French and Indian War.

Unluckily, Revere, Dawes, and another revolutionary were stopped by a British army control. The other two men were able to escape, but Revere was captured and held for questioning by the British. He informed them that the army was coming in from Boston, and also let it be known that a large number of patriots were gathered in Lexington. A British major led Revere towards Lexington, but approximately half a mile from the town, a gunshot rang out. As they approached, the town bell began to ring, which the captives told the British major was the militia’s call to arms. Taking heed of this, the British soldier decided to let his captives free and to head back to his base to warn his commander. The battle on Lexington Green had begun. Meanwhile, Revere made his way to the house of a nearby friend, where both John Hancock and John Adams were lodged. During the battle, Revere aided Hancock’s family as they escaped from the town.

Paul Revere would remain politically active for the rest of his life. He was passionate about the Federalist cause, and particularly concerned about the economy and power of the United States. Even after his 1811 retirement, Revere still contributed to petitions and political discussions. His actions were long remembered; even 40 years after his death, Longfellow’s poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” infamously beginning “Listen, my children, and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere” commemorated his heroic actions. Though the poem is less than historically accurate, Longfellow constructed it this way deliberately, in order to make the subject even more poetic and dramatic, ensuring that the patriot would live on in the memory of the nation.

 

1. The word “rebellion” in paragraph 2 is closest in meaning to

a. uprising
b. battles
c. anger
d. fighting

 

2. According to paragraphs 3 and 4, the system of “alarm and muster” involved

a. two leaders in Lexington, Massachusetts
b. signaling messengers to spread word of enemy activity
c. a water-based system of communication
d. messages passed by the French and Native Americans.

 

3. The word “conspicuous” in paragraph 3 is closest in meaning to

a. content
b. adversarial
c. obvious
d. important

 

4. The author’s description of Longfellow’s poem most nearly indicates that the poet

a. did not know the details of Revere’s ride.
b. had not realized the importance of Revere’s actions.
c. was interested in mythologizing Revere.
d. did not believe historical accuracy was important.

 

5. The word “lodged” in paragraph 5 is closest in meaning to

a. housed
b. hiding
c. meeting
d. fighting

Answers

1. a
2. b
3. c
4. c
5. a

 

Explanations

1. a. uprising

To select the correct answer for TOEFL vocabulary questions, make sure that you study the context around the sentence. Here, looking over paragraph 2, we can pull out the sentence containing our term: “British General Gage was told to conduct this mission with the utmost secrecy, so as not to inspire further rebellion among the colonists.”

It can be helpful to come up with your own definition of the right term, even if it’s not perfect, before going over the answer choices. Here, you might guess something along the lines of “dissent” or even “trouble.” Basically, the General was hiding his mission so that the colonists wouldn’t make any more trouble.

Then, scan the answer choices to see which one makes the most sense in this context. Here, “uprising” is the closest we have to a synonym, so (a) is correct.

You can double-check your answer by plugging it back into the sentence and seeing if the sentence still makes sense. “British General Gage was told to conduct this mission with the utmost secrecy, so as not to inspire further uprisings among the colonists.” Makes sense!

Now, let’s try that with the other answer choices. We haven’t actually heard about a battle yet, so it wouldn’t make sense for the General to try to prevent “further,” or more, battles. The same applies to “fighting.” While we might assume that the colonists were angry, we don’t actually know this from the passage—all the passage tells us is that Revere had already made a rebellious ride.

 

2. b. signaling messengers to spread word of enemy activity

To select the correct answer for TOEFL detail questions, make sure that you pull out the relevant information from the surrounding text. Here, we’re directed to paragraphs 3 and 4, and we want to find information about “alarm and muster.” There are several places in the text that refer to this system: In paragraph 4, we have: “The system that Revere and his fellow patriots used is known as “alarm and muster”; “By using this system, the Americans were able to deploy local militia quickly in the event of an emergency.”

Now, we need to find where the system the Americans used is described. This is back in paragraph 3: “One lantern in the steeple window would indicate that the army was coming by land, while two lanterns would signify that it was coming by water. Secretly rowing across the Charles River, Revere rode to Lexington and warning almost every house he passed. Many patriots began to join him on horseback; by the end of the night, as many as 40 men may have been riding throughout the county.”

It can be helpful to come up with your own answer, even if it’s not perfect, before going over the answer choices. Here, you might guess something along the lines of “a system of letting people know what was happening by spreading the word.”

Then, scan the answer choices to see which one makes the most sense in this context. Here, “signaling messengers to spread word of enemy activity ” is the closest we have to a synonym, so (b) is correct.

If you examine the other answer choices, some of them don’t come from the paragraphs that the passage is referencing: the “two leaders” (b) appear in paragraph 2, not 3 or 4.

Revere may have crossed the river in a boat before the ride, but he and other patriots rode horses to spread the word after the alarm (the lanterns) had been “sounded”; this was not a water-based activity. Finally, although paragraph 4 tells us that this system had been used in the French-Indian War, this does not mean that it necessarily had to involve messages passed by the French or Native Americans.

Detail questions are some of the most common questions on the TOEFL. You’ll come across between one and four per passage. You want to watch out for details that come from parts of the passage other than the part the question stem references, anything that doesn’t directly relate to the question stem, and—especially—answers that contain words or phrases from the passage but mean totally different things (think of the French-Indian War example above!)

 

3. c. obvious

To select the correct answer for TOEFL vocabulary questions, make sure that you study the context around the sentence. Here, looking over paragraph 3, we can pull out the sentence containing our term, as well as part of the previous sentence: “…Revere never did shout ‘The British are coming!’ To do so would have made him conspicuous to the British troops, as well as to the colonists.” We know we have to pull out part of the previous sentence because our sentence begins with “To do so,” clearly referring to something previously mentioned.

It can be helpful to come up with your own definition of the right term, even if it’s not perfect, before going over the answer choices. Here, you might guess something along the lines of “point him out” or even “show him.” Of course, these terms don’t work grammatically in the sentence, but they give us the gist of the correct answer we’ll be searching for.

Then, scan the answer choices to see which one makes the most sense in this context. Here, “obvious” is the closest we have to a synonym, so (c) is correct.

You can double-check your answer by plugging it back into the sentence and seeing if the sentence still makes sense. “…Revere never did shout ‘The British are coming!’ To do so would have made him obvious to the British troops, as well as to the colonists.” Makes sense!

Now, let’s try that with the other answer choices. It doesn’t make sense for somebody to be “content to” someone or something else, let alone a rebel being content with the ruling British. “Adversarial,” or opposed, could work here—but it is not the meaning of “conspicuous.” Revere was already important to the British troops, as a rebel; this, as well, is not a meaning of the word “conspicuous.”

Vocabulary questions are some of the most common questions on the TOEFL. You’ll come across about three per passage, but there can be as many as five. You want to watch out for words that make sense in the context of the passage, but aren’t definitions of the word being tested. Returning to our example here, while “adversarial” makes sense in the context of colonists opposing colonizers, it’s not Revere’s shouting that would have MADE him adversarial—he already was!

 

4. c. was interested in mythologizing Revere.

To select the correct answer for TOEFL detail questions, make sure that you pull out the relevant information from the surrounding text. Here, we’re directed to information about Longfellow. Even though we’re not given a paragraph number, we can skim the passage to discover that this information will be in the first or last paragraphs. The first paragraph isn’t too informative—it just tells us that he wrote a poem about Revere—but the last paragraph is more helpful:

“Though the poem is less than historically accurate, Longfellow constructed it this way deliberately, in order to make the subject even more poetic and dramatic, ensuring that the patriot would live on in the memory of the nation.”

From this, make a prediction about what was important to Longfellow in representing Revere. He wanted to make Revere seem more “poetic and dramatic.” Summarize this in your own words: he wanted to make Revere seem more heroic, or legendary.

Then, scan the answer choices to see which one makes the most sense in this context. Here, “was interested in mythologizing Revere.” is the closest we have to a match, so (c) is correct.The other answer choices here aren’t supported by any keywords from the passage. The passage doesn’t mention anything about Longfellow’s ignorance of Revere’s actions (a) or their importance (b). In terms of historical accuracy, he seemed to think it was LESS important than making Revere into a legend—but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t believe it was important at all.

Detail questions are some of the most common questions on the TOEFL. You’ll come across between one and four per passage. You want to watch out for details that come from parts of the passage other than the part the question stem references, anything that doesn’t directly relate to the question stem, and—especially—answers that contain words or phrases from the passage but mean totally different things (think of the “historical accuracy” example above!)

 

5. a. housed

 To select the correct answer for TOEFL vocabulary questions, make sure that you study the context around the sentence. Here, looking over paragraph 5, we can pull out the sentence containing our term: “Meanwhile, Revere made his way to the house of a nearby friend, where both John Hancock and John Adams were lodged.”

It can be helpful to come up with your own definition of the right term, even if it’s not perfect, before going over the answer choices. Here, you might guess something along the lines of “staying.”

Then, scan the answer choices to see which one makes the most sense in this context. Here, “housed” is the closest we have to a synonym, so (a) is correct.

You can double-check your answer by plugging it back into the sentence and seeing if the sentence still makes sense. “Meanwhile, Revere made his way to the house of a nearby friend, where both John Hancock and John Adams were housed.” Makes sense!

Now, let’s try that with the other answer choices. You’ll find that they all work grammatically—however, none of them are synonyms for “lodged.” In addition, you’ll see that there aren’t any indications in the text that Hancock and Adams were hiding, meeting, or fighting, just that they were there. We have to go with the most basic answer choice on this one!

Vocabulary questions are some of the most common questions on the TOEFL. You’ll come across about three per passage, but there can be as many as five. You want to watch out for words that make sense in the context of the passage, but aren’t definitions of the word being tested. Returning to our example here, while “hiding” makes sense in the context of war, we don’t actually have any clues or keywords to indicate that the two men were deliberately hiding, rather than just staying, at this friend’s house.

 

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2 Responses to TOEFL Reading Exercise: Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride

  1. Olamide January 25, 2017 at 5:33 am #

    I’m confused with the last question, even though ‘housed’ look correct, but since the last information showed that ” Revere aided Hancock’s family as they escaped from the town. ”Espaced” shows that they weren’t safe, definitely they were hiding not housed. please i need clearification

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 25, 2017 at 12:01 pm #

      Hi Olamide,

      Meanwhile, Revere made his way to the house of a nearby friend, where both John Hancock and John Adams were lodged. During the battle, Revere aided Hancock’s family as they escaped from the town.

      So, Revere went to a house, and in that house, Hancock and Adams were lodged. In other words, these two men were inside the house. They were being housed there, or staying in the house. Yes, they were hiding, but to be housed, or lodged, just means to be staying somewhere. The escape takes place later — it doesn’t refer to the fact that Hancock and Adams were staying in the house.


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