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Reading Practice: Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride Part 1 — Answer

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.

The best way to get a high score on the TOEFL isn’t by cramming, but rather by making thoughtful and steady progress towards your goals. With this in mind, we’ll be going through a series of reading questions centered around one particular passage. Today, we’re looking at Paul Revere.

These posts will contain a reading passage and sample problem; I’ll provide answers and explanations in the next post. Today, let’s take a look at the answer to sample vocabulary question #1. If you haven’t had a chance to look over the question yet, it’s repeated below; if you don’t want any spoilers, take a look at the original post here.


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



a. uprising


Why this answer?

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.


Why not the other answers?

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.


How can I use this practice in my test-day strategy?

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 “anger” makes sense in the context of colonists turning against colonizers, “rebellion” is an action, while anger is a feeling—so this can’t be the definition in this case.


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