4th Quarter ELA Benchmark test
Read the following passages and answer the questions that follow.
How Could a Cow?
Imagine a cow starting the worst fire in Chicago’s history! As legend has it, Mrs.
O’Leary was milking her cows early the morning of October 8, 1871. All of a sudden,
one of her cows kicked over a kerosene lantern. Hay on the barn floor burst into flame.
To her amazement, Mrs. O’Leary found the whole barn ablaze.
The fire leaped to one nearby building, then another, and still another. Soon one-third of
Chicago was illuminated by hot, smoldering flames. Flames engulfed street after street.
Actually, many conditions contributed to the Chicago fire. There was strong wind that
day. The streets were narrow, making it easy for the fire to leap across them. Buildings
made of wood ignited like gasoline-soaked match sticks. Many of the sidewalks and
roads were wooden. Dry weather conditions contributed to the intensity of the blaze. In
the months before the fire, there had been very little rain, so trees and grass were dry. All
of the wooden buildings, sidewalks, and roads burned easily.
Chicago firemen rushed to fire after fire. Though they tried hard to put out the fires, they
couldn’t. Hundreds and hundreds of people tried to help, but their efforts were in vain.
The flames marched on scorching everything in their path. Panic struck the city. People
didn’t know what to do or where to go. People and animals crowded the streets running
for their lives.
After two days of the terrible fire, it burned itself out. The sad event took its toll on
Chicago. Consumed by the fire were thirteen-thousand homes, along with banks, hotels,
shops and stores. A total of four square-miles (one-third of Chicago) was turned into
ashes. One-hundred-thousand people were left homeless. The terrible blaze killed 250
Could a cow instigate such a colossal tragedy? The people of Chicago heard the rumors
about Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. Some people believed the rumors, but soon common sense
prevailed. Maybe the cow did start the chain reaction, but level-headed citizens knew
there were many reasons that Chicago burned. When the streets were rebuilt, city
planners made sure that they were wide. People rebuilt homes and stores from materials
that would burn less easily. The cow may have started the fire, but the farsighted people
of Chicago wanted to make certain their city would never have another fire of that
1. In this passage, the word illuminated means – (7-3.1)
a. well traveled
b. very bright colors
c. lit up
2. In this passage, the word instigate means - (7-3.1)
3. One could describe the city of Chicago in 1871 as - (7-2.2)
a. very spacious
b. mostly made out of wood
c. there were great parks and wide streets
d. full of horse-drawn carriages and brick roads
4. What is the implied main idea of the last paragraph? (7-1.6)
a. Anything could have started the Chicago fire.
b. The people of Chicago realized that future fires could be prevented.
c. Chicago will never have another great fire.
d. The people of Chicago blamed Mrs. O’Leary’s cow for the disaster.
5. Based on restructuring and rebuilding efforts after the Chicago fire, what safety
precautions might cities take today to prevent fires of this magnitude? (7-1.6)
a. treat the wood and widen sidewalks
b. use fire-resistant materials and add adequate space between structures
c. make sure no structures have wood
d. make sure no farms are near cities
6. As a result of the fire the people of Chicago probably decided - (7-2.2)
a. to build sidewalks and roads from less flammable materials
b. to outlaw cows in the city
c. to evict Mrs. O’Leary from the city
d. to reform the fire department
7. When the streets were rebuilt, planners made them wide because - (7-2.2)
a. they felt more people would be living in Chicago
b. the car companies were selling more cars
c. they wanted to ensure that fire couldn’t jump across the streets
d. they had some common sense
8. What are some words or phrases the author used to transfer blame from the cow to the
other factors that caused such a widespread fire? (7-2.3)
a. the story was a legend
b. there was not a lantern found in the barn
c. there was strong wind and dry weather conditions
d. the houses were too close together and not there were not enough fire fighters
9. This passage is mostly about (7-2.1)
a. how cities around the nation are trying to prevent fires
b. the carelessness of cows can cause fires
c. the hecticness of firefighters rushing from one fire to the next
d. what the people of Chicago learned as a result of an unfortunate event
10. What words or phrases does the author use to show bias against the individuals that
believe the “cow” theory making the believers seem irrational or ignorant? (7-2.3)
a. strong wind and narrow streets
b. common sense prevailed and level-headed citizens…
c. terrible blaze and people left homeless
d. legend and to her amazement
A Small Thing
1. Jenna burst out the door of the vacation cabin, letting the screen door slam behind
her. She followed the dirt trail to a grassy field, running all the way across the
field until she reached the pier. Walking to the end of the pier, Jenna caught her
breath and gazed at the water. Her face still burned with anger.
2. Jenna and her cousin, Mack, had been playing a game of cards. She should have
known better- Mack would win. For years, he had won every game or contest
with Jenna. It’s not that he gloated over winning or tried to make Jenna feel bad;
it was just that Jenna had had enough of losing.
3. She became aware of the air on her cheeks and of the gentle lapping of water
against the lakeshore. She heard the faint whisper of the breeze through the grass.
When she focused her eyes, she could see the tall shapes of the pine trees across
the lake, standing like silent guards.
4. Looking up, Jenna studied the sky. The clouds were scattered over a blue cloak,
and the sun shone on the still water. Jenna felt a sense of smallness that did not
diminish her. She also felt her anger slipping away.
5. After a few minutes, Jenna dove deep into the water and began swimming toward
a platform in the middle of the lake. Between the platform and the shore, she
rolled over and floated on her back. Suspended between earth and space, she was
a cloud drifting in the sky. In fact, in the face of the immense sky and the
peaceful lake, she was beginning to feel that the world was a wonderful place and
that losing a game of cards was the most unimportant event imaginable.
6. As she reached the platform, Jenna became aware of a chorus of croaking
bullfrogs and chirping crickets. She clung to the ladder on one side of the
platform, letting the concert sink into her ears for a few minutes. Then she used
her feet to launch herself away from the platform and paddled slowly back toward
the shore, composing an apology as she swam.
11. How would the story change if it were told from Mack’s point of view? (7-1.2)
a. Mack would have chased after Jenna and forced her to share why she was angry.
b. We would not know what happened to Jenna when she left the cabin.
c. Mack would have shared his strategy for always winning.
d. The reader would have information about what happened to Mack and Jenna.
12. Jenna’s change of mood is foreshadowed by the- (7-1.5)
a. slamming of the screen door
b. cool air on her hot face
c. chorus of bullfrogs and crickets
d. tall shapes of the pine trees
13. One theme of this story is that- (7-1.6)
a. Winning isn’t everything.
b. Losers shouldn’t complain.
c. Winners have a right to brag.
d. Vacations are a time to relax.
14. When Jenna returns to the cabin, she will probably- (7-1.1)
a. read a book
b. go to bed
c. apologize to Mack
d. watch a movie
15. “Pine trees across the lake, standing like silent guards…” What is the best
interpretation of this simile? (7-1.3)
a. The pine trees were tall and straight
b. The pine trees were protecting the lake
c. The pine trees were going to attack the lake
d. The pine trees are about to fall across the lake
16. What evidence from the text helps the reader identify Jenna as a dynamic character?
a. Jenna went swimming in the lake and observed a cloud drifting in the sky.
b. Jenna remained frustrated that she lost at the game of cards and felt a sense of
smallness hat diminished her.
c. Through experience, Jenna dreaded playing cards taught her a lot about life
d. After feeling frustration over losing, Jenna calms and realizes how unimportant a
card game is in the grand scheme of life
17. Which of the following oxymorons best describes how a student might feel upon
having to leave their friends and move to a new school?
a. “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” (from Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2)
b. “So foul and fair a day I have not seen!” (from Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 3)
c. “Do that good mischief which may make this island thine own forever…” (from
The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1)
The sea is a hungry dog.
He rolls on the beach all day
With his chasing teeth and shaggy jaws,
He likes to chew on the most ghastly things
And spit them out over different land
Taking the rubbish with him.
18. To what is the sea being compared? (7-1.3)
a. an angry animal
b. something ghastly
c. a pile of rubbish
d. a playful dog
19. Which of the following words best describes the tone of this poem? (7-1.5)
Ooka and the Stolen Smell
You have probably read a story about stolen money or jewelry, but have you ever read of
a stolen smell? Read the following passage to learn how a student stole a smell and how
he was punished for this crime.
Now it so happened in the days of old Yedo, as Tokyo was once called, that the
storytellers told marvelous tales of the wit and wisdom of His Honorable Honor, Ooka
This famous judge never refused to hear a complaint, even if it seemed strange or
unreasonable. People sometimes came to his court with the most unusual cases, but Ooka
always agreed to listen. And the strangest case of all was the famous Case of the Stolen
It all began when a poor student rented a room over a tempura shop – a shop
where fried food could be bought. The student was a most likeable young man, but the
shopkeeper was a miser who suspected everyone of trying to get the better of him. One
day he heard the student walking with one of his friends.
“It is sad to be so poor that one can only afford to eat plain rice,” the friend
“Oh,” said the student, “I have found a very satisfactory answer to the problem. I
eat my rice each day while the shopkeeper downstairs fries his fish. The smell comes up,
and my humble rice seems to have much more flavor. It is really the smell, you know,
that makes things taste so good.”
The shopkeeper was furious. To think that someone was enjoying the smell of his
fish for nothing! “Thief!” he shouted. “I demand that you pay me for the smells you
“A smell is a smell,” the young man replied. “Anyone can smell what he wants
to. I will pay you nothing!”
Scarlet with rage, the shopkeeper rushed to Ooka’s court and charged the student
with theft. Of course, everyone laughed at him, for how could anyone steal a smell?
Ooka would surely send the man about is business. But to everyone’s astonishment, the
judge agreed to hear the case.
“Everyone is entitled to his hour in court,” he explained. “If this man feels
strongly enough about his smells to make a complaint, it is only right that I, as city
magistrate, should hear the case.” He frowned at the amused spectators.
Gravely, Ooka sat on the dais and heard the evidence. Then he delivered the
“The student is obviously guilty,” he said severely. “Taking another person’s
property is theft, and I cannot see that a smell is different from any other property.”
The shopkeeper was delighted, but the student was horrified. He was very poor,
and he owed the shopkeeper for three months’ smelling. He would surely be thrown into
“How much money have you?” Ooka asked him.
“Only five mon, Honorable Honor,” the boy replied. “I need to pay my rent, or I
will be thrown into the street.”
“Let me see the money,” said the judge.
The judge listened to the pleasant clink of the money and said to the shopkeeper,
“You have now been paid. If you have any other complaints in the future, please bring
them to the court. It is our wish that all injustices be punished and all virtue rewarded.”
“But, most honorable Honor,” the shopkeeper protested, “I did not get the money!
The thief dropped it from one hand to the other. See! I have nothing.” He held up his
empty hands to show the judge.
Ooka stared at him gravely. “It is the court’s judgement that the punishment
should fit the crime. I have decided that the price of the smell of food shall be the sound
of money. Justice has prevailed as usual in my court.”
20. The book that this story appeared in would probably not contain a story about which
of the following? ( 7-1.8)
a. a teacher trying to help a student learn something
b. a carpenter figuring out a bug construction problem
c. a conflict between a fox and a rabbit over food
d. a doctor finding an unlikely cure for a mysterious ailment.
21. How does the author make this story interesting? (7-1.5)
a. the author writes about a different place and time
b. the author writes about a poor student
c. the author uses the element of irony at the end
d. the author uses foreign words to describe everyday events
22. What theme or universal truth runs through the story “Ooka and the Stolen Smell” (7-
23. Throughout this story the storekeeper remains bitter and miserly. The storekeeper is
an example of which type of character? (7-1.4)
24. Why were people astonished and amused when Ooka decided to hear the
shopkeeper’s complaint? (7-1.1)
a. They knew the student was too poor to pay
b. They thought the idea of stolen smells was silly
c. They didn’t like the shopkeeper.
d. They knew that Ooka always avoided small cases
25. The very stingy shopkeeper demonstrates that he is a miser by doing what? (7-3.1)
a. cooking only fish every day
b. refusing to pay the magistrate
c. trying to charge the student for smelling his fish
d. getting angry at the magistrate’s verdict
26. How would you classify this passage? (7-1.8)
d. tall tale
27. Ooka’s verdict could best be described as which of the following? (7-1.1)
28. After Ooka explained his verdict, how did the shopkeeper probably feel? (7-1.5)
29. What is the mood at the end of the story? (7-1.5)
30. Imagine that an artist lives across the street from a concert hall, and that the owner of
the concert hall takes the artist to Ooka’s court for the hearing and stealing music from
inside. What would Ooka’s verdict probably be? (7-1.1)
a. The artist must pay the ticket price for every concert he heard
b. The artist must paint a portrait for the lobby of the concert hall
c. The artist must go to jail on nights when music is played in the concert hall
d. The artist must display paintings in his window so they can be seen from the
31. According to Ooka’s thinking, could the student have taken the shopkeeper to court
for allowing his smells to “trespass” in the student’s room? (7-1.1)
a. No, because smells are not owned by anyone.
b. No, because no crime has been committed
c. Yes, because every case deserves to be heard
d. Yes, because the student should be able to get even