New SAT Reading Practice Test 49: Walden

Home > SAT Test > SAT Reading Practice Tests

Test Information

Question 10 questions

Time 14 minutes

See All test questions

Take more free SAT Reading Practice Tests available from


The following passage is adapted from Henry David Thoreau's Walden, a mid-19th-century philosophical and personal reflection on the writer's experience living in nature and simplicity. This excerpt is from the chapter titled "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For."

It matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes
and labors of men. Morning is when I am awake
and there is a dawn in me. Moral reform is the
effort to throw off sleep. Why is it that men give so
05poor an account of their day if they have not been
slumbering? They are not such poor calculators. If
they had not been overcome with drowsiness, they
would have performed something. The millions are
awake enough for physical labor; but only one in
10a million is awake enough for effective intellectual
exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic
or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have
never yet met a man who was quite awake. How
could I have looked him in the face?
15We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves
awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite
expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us
in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encourag-
ing fact than the unquestionable ability of man to
20elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is some-
thing to be able to paint a particular picture, or to
carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beauti-
ful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the
very atmosphere and medium through which we
25look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality
of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is
tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of
the contemplation of his most elevated and critical
hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry
30information as we get, the oracles would distinctly
inform us how this might be done.
I went to the woods because I wished to live
deliberately, to front only the essential facts of
life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,
35and not, when I came to die, discover that I had
not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life,
living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resigna-
tion, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live
deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so
40sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that
was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close,
to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest
terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get
the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish
45its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to
know it by experience, and be able to give a true
account of it in my next excursion. For most men,
it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about
it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have
50somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end
of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."
Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable
tells us that we were long ago changed into men;
like pygmies we fight with cranes; it is error upon
55error, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has
for its occasion a superfluous and evitable wretch-
edness. Our life is frittered away by detail.
An honest man has hardly need to count more
than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add
60his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplic-
ity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or
three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead
of a million count half a dozen, and keep your
accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this
65chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds
and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one
items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if
he would not founder and go to the bottom and
not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he
70must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds.
Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if
it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred
dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.

1. The activities described in lines 20-25 ("It is something … morally we can do") explain how people can

  • A. develop a satisfying and morally upright career.
  • B. give an elevated and proper account of their day.
  • C. learn to reawaken and live by conscious endeavor.
  • D. awaken enough for effective intellectual exertion.

2. As used in lines 37-38, "resignation" most nearly means

  • A. compliance.
  • B. departure.
  • C. quitting.
  • D. revival.

3. The first paragraph of the passage most strongly suggests that which of the following is true of the author?

  • A. He believes that to affect the quality of the day is the highest form of art.
  • B. He feels that people perform poorly at work because they sleep too much.
  • C. He is determined to spend as many waking hours as possible working.
  • D. He believes that most people have yet to realize their fullest potential in life.

4. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 4-6 ("Why is … slumbering")
  • B. Lines 8-12 ("The millions … life")
  • C. Line 12 ("To be … alive")
  • D. Lines 12-13 ("I have … awake")

5. Based on details in the passage, what central idea does the author express about our society as a whole?

  • A. The few artists in our society do not receive the recognition they deserve.
  • B. Our society willingly focuses too much on drudgery and insignificant details.
  • C. Too many people hastily choose to dedicate their lives to religion.
  • D. People should move to the woods to find their own conscious endeavor.

6. What does the passage most strongly suggest about the author's views on religion?

  • A. He believes too few people critically examine their religious beliefs.
  • B. He thinks that his studies in the woods will prove that God is sublime.
  • C. He thinks that meanness and the sublime are the same in nature.
  • D. He believes that oracles give us clues about how to live a sublime life.

7. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 26-29 ("Every man … hour")
  • B. Lines 32-36 ("I went … not lived")
  • C. Lines 38-47 ("I wanted … excursion")
  • D. Line 47-51 ("For most … forever")

8. As used in line 40, "Spartan-like" most nearly means

  • A. indulgent.
  • B. rigid.
  • C. pioneering.
  • D. austere.

9. The author uses such words as "meanly" and "wretchedness" in lines 52-57 in order to imply that

  • A. people are cruel to one another.
  • B. society will destroy itself in time.
  • C. our existence is harsh and mundane.
  • D. negative tendencies ruin our intelligence.

10. Which of the following describes an approach to life that is similar to the one Thoreau promotes in this passage?

  • A. Taking courses and acquiring books on how to simplify your life
  • B. Hiring people to help you do your chores so you can live more simply
  • C. Cleaning out your closet so that you are left with only the most essential items of clothing
  • D. Traveling to a cabin without cell phone service to get away from life's complications for a weekend