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Applying to new contexts | Quick guide

What scenario matches the principle in the passage?

This type of question asks you to apply a principle or idea presented in the passage to a new context presented in the choices. These questions assess how well you understand a concept by testing your ability to bring it to bear on a situation that didn’t come up in the passage.
Sometimes these questions ask about conditional scenarios—you have to assess, for example, what WOULD occur if a recommended plan in the passage were put into action.
Other times, you have to pick out illustrations or examples of a concept presented in the passage.


  • “The passage most strongly suggests that which one of the following would occur if pandas were to become extinct?”
  • “Each of the following conforms to the kinds of results that the author would expect from the course of action proposed in the passage EXCEPT...”
  • “Which one of the following would the author be most likely to characterize as an example of schadenfreude?”
  • “According to the description in the passage, each of the following illustrates the concept of millennial angst EXCEPT...”


  • Rephrase the plan, thesis, or concept: Before you try to pick out a choice that exemplifies a concept from the passage, make sure you understand the concept itself. Get control of these questions by putting the relevant concept, principle or plan from the passage into your own words before considering the choices. If possible, simplify it.
  • Look for matches: Go through the choices one-by-one. For each one, ask yourself—does this choice match the concept, plan, or thesis that I’m looking for? If you took the time to say the idea in your own words first, it’s time to trust yourself!

Common wrong choices

  • Matching worlds, wrong ideas It is common to see incorrect choices that are drawn from a realm that is similar to that of the passage, but that don’t match the specific idea as it is presented in the passage. For example, a question about a passage about copyright infringement in music publishing might feature wrong choices drawn from the worlds of music or publishing.
  • Opposites Be careful—choices that are clearly opposite from what you’re looking for can be strangely appealing!
  • Sounds good, just wrong Many choices are written in very impressive prose, but they just don’t represent a correct application of the principle discussed in the passage.
Note: For the “EXCEPT” examples above, wrong choices WILL be accurate applications of concepts from the passage. Be careful on these! We recommend underlining or circling the EXCEPT so you don’t accidentally ignore or forget about it!

Comparative Reading variant

Applying to new context questions on comparative reading sets often ask you to apply the perspectives of one or both authors to an example:
  • “It can be inferred that both authors would be most likely to regard which one of the following as exemplifying Baldwin's narrative technique?”
This kind of question presumes common ground between the authors, so it does some of the heavy lifting for you! In the example above, you already know that the authors must at least generally agree about the characteristics of Baldwin’s narrative technique. Your task is to identify what that shared agreement consists of, and then apply it just like you would for a single-passage question of this type.

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