Section 1 Practice Questions

‘Elated, Arrogant and Glib’: How to identify tone for GAMSAT Section 1 passages

Learn how to interpret the tone in a poem or a passage with these quick 3 steps!! Test your knowledge with practice questions. 📚📚

A poet or author’s tone is one of the most defining characteristics that sets passages aside from one another. It is the feeling or attitude displayed towards the subject of the text, and is often used to convey their main idea.

SUMMARY: In understanding the tone, we understand the author’s intent.

How to interpret the overall tone

Step 1a: Word Choice

Every word choice the writer or poet makes is important.

 E.g. ‘She always enjoyed staying at her mum’s place during the holidays but her yoga and spiritual hiatus was excessive for her age.’ The TONE here is condescending and judgemental.

E.g. ‘The night was dry and lifeless’. This TONE here is bored or melancholic.

Step 1b: Shifts in Tone

The tone of a poem or passage may change as it progresses.

E.g. The poem may start with a tranquil tone ‘the wrapping night air…meandering river’ but then become quite ominous later on with lines such as ‘terrors, fear, stealthy flight’. This shift creates change, and may suggest that something is amiss.

Step 1c: Summarise Tone

Use words to summarise the tone of the poem or passage: ironic, sardonic, angry, humorous, condescending.

How to describe Tone

Add this to your vocabulary list!

Table 1 Tone Definition
     Tone     Meaning
Absurdillogical; ridiculous; silly; implausible; foolish
Accusatorysuggesting someone has done something wrong, complaining
Acerbicsharp; forthright; biting; hurtful; abrasive; severe
Admiringapproving; think highly of; respectful; praising
Aggressivehostile; determined; forceful; argumentative
Aggrievedindignant; annoyed; offended; disgruntled
Ambivalenthaving mixed feelings; uncertain; in a dilemma; undecided
Amusedentertained; diverted; pleased
Angryincensed or enraged; threatening or menacing
Animatedfull of life or excitement; lively; spirited; impassioned; vibrant
Apatheticshowing little interest; lacking concern; indifferent; unemotional
Apologeticfull of regret; repentant; remorseful; acknowledging failure
Appreciativegrateful; thankful; showing pleasure; enthusiastic
Ardententhusiastic; passionate
Arrogantpompous; disdainful; overbearing; condescending; vain; scoffing
Assertiveself-confident; strong-willed; authoritative; insistent
Awestruckamazed, filled with wonder/awe; reverential
Belligerenthostile; aggressive; combatant
Benevolentsympathetic; tolerant; generous; caring; well meaning
Bitterangry; acrimonious; antagonistic; spiteful; nasty
Callouscruel disregard; unfeeling; uncaring; indifferent; ruthless
Candidtruthful, straightforward; honest; unreserved
Causticmaking biting, corrosive comments; critical
Cautionarygives warning; raises awareness; reminding
Celebratorypraising; pay tribute to; glorify; honour
Chattyinformal; lively; conversational; familiar
Colloquialfamiliar; everyday language; informal; colloquial; casual
Comichumorous; witty; entertaining; diverting
Compassionatesympathetic; empathetic; warm-hearted; tolerant; kind
Complexhaving many varying characteristics; complicated
Compliantagree or obey rules; acquiescent; flexible; submissive
Concernedworried; anxious; apprehensive
Conciliatoryintended to placate or pacify; appeasing
Condescendingstooping to the level of one’s inferiors; patronising
Confusedunable to think clearly; bewildered; vague
Contemptuousshowing contempt; scornful; insolent; mocking
Criticalfinding fault; disapproving; scathing; criticising
Cruelcausing pain and suffering; unkind; spiteful; severe
Curiouswanting to find out more; inquisitive; questioning
Cynicalscornful of motives/virtues of others; mocking; sneering
Defensivedefending a position; shielding; guarding; watchful
Defiantobstinate; argumentative; defiant; contentious
Demeaningdisrespectful; undignified
Depressingsad, melancholic; discouraging; pessimistic
Derisivesnide; sarcastic; mocking; dismissive; scornful
Detachedaloof; objective; unfeeling; distant
Dignifiedserious; respectful; formal; proper
Diplomatictactful; subtle; sensitive; thoughtful
Disapprovingdispleased; critical; condemnatory
Dishearteningdiscouraging; demoralising; undermining; depressing
Disparagingdismissive; critical; scornful
Directstraightforward; honest
Disappointeddiscouraged; unhappy because something has gone wrong
Dispassionateimpartial; indifferent; unsentimental; cold; unsympathetic
Distressingheart-breaking; sad; troubling
Docilecompliant; submissive; deferential; accommodating
Earnestshowing deep sincerity or feeling; serious
Egotisticalself-absorbed; selfish; conceited; boastful
Empatheticunderstanding; kind; sensitive
Encouragingoptimistic; supportive
Enthusiasticexcited; energetic
Evasiveambiguous; cryptic; unclear
Excitedemotionally aroused; stirred
Facetiousinappropriate; flippant
Farcicalludicrous; absurd; mocking; humorous and highly improbable
Flippantsuperficial; glib; shallow; thoughtless; frivolous
Forcefulpowerful; energetic; confident; assertive
Formalrespectful; stilted; factual; following accepted styles/rules
Frankhonest; direct; plain; matter-of-fact
Frustratedannoyed; discouraged
Gentlekind; considerate; mild; soft
Ghoulishdelighting in the revolting or the loathsome
Grimserious; gloomy; depressing; lacking humour;macabre
Gulliblenaïve; innocent; ignorant
Hardunfeeling; hard-hearted; unyielding
Humbledeferential; modest
Humorousamusing; entertaining; playful
Hypercriticalunreasonably critical; hair splitting; nitpicking
Impartialunbiased; neutral; objective
Impassionedfilled with emotion; ardent
Imploringpleading; begging
Impressionabletrusting; child-like
Inanesilly; foolish; stupid; nonsensical
Incredulousdisbelieving; unconvinced; questioning; suspicious
Indignantannoyed; angry; dissatisfied
Informativeinstructive; factual; educational
Inspirationalencouraging; reassuring
Intenseearnest; passionate; concentrated; deeply felt
Intimatefamiliar; informal; confidential; confessional
Ironicthe opposite of what is meant
Irreverentlacking respect for things that are generally taken seriously
Jadedbored; having had too much of the same thing; lack enthusiasm
Joyfulpositive; optimistic; cheerful; elated
Judgmentalcritical; finding fault; disparaging
Laudatorypraising; recommending
Light-Heartedcarefree; relaxed; chatty; humorous
Lovingaffectionate; showing intense, deep concern
Macabregruesome; horrifying; frightening
Maliciousdesiring to harm others or to see others suffer; ill-willed; spiteful
Mean-Spiritedinconsiderate; unsympathetic
Mockingscornful; ridiculing; making fun of someone
Mourninggrieving; lamenting; woeful
Naïveinnocent; unsophisticated; immature
Narcissisticself-admiring; selfish; boastful; self-pitying
Nastyunpleasant; unkind; disagreeable; abusive
Negativeunhappy, pessimistic
Nostalgicthinking about the past; wishing for something from the past
Objectivewithout prejudice; without discrimination; fair; based on fact
Obsequiousoverly obedient and/or submissive; fawning; grovelling
Optimistichopeful; cheerful
Outragedangered and resentful; furious; extremely angered
Outspokenfrank; candid; spoken without reserve
Patheticexpressing pity, sympathy, tenderness
Patronisingcondescending; scornful; pompous
Pensivereflective; introspective; philosophical; contemplative
Persuasiveconvincing; eloquent; influential; plausible
Pessimisticseeing the negative side of things
Philosophicaltheoretical; analytical; rational; logical
Playfulfull of fun and good spirits; humorous; jesting
Pragmaticrealistic; sensible
Pretentiousaffected; artificial; grandiose; rhetorical; flashy
Regretfulapologetic; remorseful
Resentfulaggrieved; offended; displeased; bitter
Resignedaccepting; unhappy
Restrainedcontrolled; quiet; unemotional
Reverentshowing deep respect and esteem
Righteousmorally right and just; guiltless; pious; god-fearing
Satiricalmaking fun to show a weakness; ridiculing; derisive
Sarcasticscornful; mocking; ridiculing
Scathingcritical; stinging; unsparing; harsh
Scornfulexpressing contempt or derision; scathing; dismissive
Sensationalisticprovocative; inaccurate; distasteful
Sentimentalthinking about feelings, especially when remembering the past
Sincerehonest; truthful; earnest
Scepticaldisbelieving; unconvinced; doubting
Solemnnot funny; in earnest; serious
Subjectiveprejudiced; biased
Submissivecompliant; passive; accommodating; obedient
Sulkingbad-tempered; grumpy; resentful; sullen
Sympatheticcompassionate; understanding of how someone feels
Thoughtfulreflective; serious; absorbed
Tolerantopen-minded; charitable; patient; sympathetic; lenient
Tragicdisastrous; calamitous
Unassumingmodest; self-effacing; restrained
Uneasyworried; uncomfortable; edgy; nervous
Urgentinsistent; saying something must be done soon
Vindictivevengeful; spiteful; bitter; unforgiving
Virtuouslawful; righteous; moral; upstanding
Whimsicalquaint; playful; mischievous; offbeat
Wittyclever; quick-witted; entertaining
Wonderawe-struck; admiring; fascinating
World-Wearybored; cynical; tired
Worriedanxious; stressed; fearful
Wretchedmiserable; despairing; sorrowful; distressed


Table 2 Tone Synonyms
ToneSynonyms (Look at the subtle differences between each word!)
Calm, logical, reasonedReasoned, measured, raional, considered, moderate, respectful, earnest, reassuring, laid-back, frank, sensible, serious, reflective
Excited, angry, passionateAggressive, antagonistic, mocking, disrespectful, emotional, fervent, ardent, vehement, assertive, emotive, pleading, outraged
Complaining or otherwise negativeEmbittered, resentful, appalled, pessimistic, despondent, anxious, disgusted, sarcastic, disparaging, bitter, biting, critical, frustrated, hostile, disillusioned, hostile, pessimistic
Positive or happyHopeful, enthusiastic, humorous, optimistic, confident, encouraging, supportive, admiring, approving,
NeutralImpartial, balanced, objective, detached, dispassionate, guarded
DisrespectfulDisbelieving, ridiculing, sarcastic, incredulous, sceptical
CasualColloquial, relaxed, friendly, approachable
KindCompassionate, empathetic, understanding, affable, collegial, amicable.
Over the topDramatic, hyperbolic
SadWistful, doleful, sorrowful, pessimistic, cheerless, woeful
FirmUncompromising, assertive, commanding, forceful
WarningCautionary, foreboding, advisory

Examples of Tone in Literature

Here, analyse the ways in which the author or poet uses sentence structure and specific word choices to shape the overall tone and mood of the piece. The author has written a specific way to make you feel a certain way.

Example 1

The poem as a whole relays a thoughtful moment that is tinged with sorrow. The narrator appears lost in contemplation. Thus, the tone of the poem is ​thoughtful​ and ​melancholic​.

Example 2

What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who ain’t a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about—however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way— either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other’s shoulder- blades, and be content.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

The tone here is harsh and blunt, befitting the setting on a whaling boat.

Practice Questions to Identify Tone

Q1. The moment the words were out of my mouth, I wished I could take them back. I didn’t mean to hurt Keith’s feelings. He is such a nice person, and he certainly doesn’t deserve to be treated so poorly. I guess the stress from my job has been more than I can handle. Instead of taking my problems out on him, I need to deal directly with the people who create the stress. If only I didn’t care so much what people thought of me at work, then this would not have happened.

What is the tone in this passage?
Try again, scornful means you are feeling contempt which is not the case here at all.
Good Job!
Try again!
Try again, there is no suggestion that the character wishes to make amends.

Q2. Alonzo winked at his mother’s shocked gaze and with a smile he said, “sausage and pepperoni pizza for breakfast makes perfect sense. Allow me to demonstrate. You have your tomato. Tomato is technically a fruit. You have your cheese. Cheese is a dairy product. You have your crust… necessary carbs for quick energy in the morning. And don’t forget the sausage and the pepperoni… my protein. If you think about it, it is just like bacon and eggs, toast, and orange juice.” Still smiling, he added, “really, it is… well, almost.” “Why are you looking at me that way?”

What is the tone in this passage?
The way he is listing nonsensical items and winked at his mother suggests that he is trying to be funny.
Try again, he is having fun conversing with his mother!
Try again, this means fluent but insincere and shallow which is not suggested by the text.
Try again, he winks at his mother so he is not trying to be difficult.

Q3. I went to Zebra’s Diner yesterday. The seating arrangement inside the restaurant was really poor as customers had to face the walls. I sat at the cleanest table I could find. Fifteen minutes after I sat down, a teenage boy with long, dirty hair finally arrived to take my order. After another 35 minutes, my food arrived, but it was cold and not as delicious as I had hoped. Visiting Zebra’s Diner was certainly an experience to remember, but one that I never hope to repeat.

What is the tone in this passage?
Try again. The author mentions that they hope this experience is never repeated which suggests that this being elated (happy) is not the main tone.
Try again, a bit too strong as it means to feel that someone is unworthy of respect.

Learn more

How to Analyse Poetry

How to Analyse Cartoons

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