LSAT Reading Comprehension Practice Questions

The Treaty of Waitangi is considered by many to be New Zealand’s founding document, but its legal status in modern New Zealand remains questionable. It has been cited in many contemporary claims against the state by the Maori, and the state has accepted the treaty-based claims in several major settlements with these native New Zealanders. Though this seems to secure the document’s legitimacy, considerable debate continues to surround the discrepancies said to exist between the English-language and Maori versions.

The English version of the treaty, which was used for many years as a blueprint for relations between the Maori and the British monarchy, states that the signatory chiefs gave up their sovereign rights to the Queen of England in exchange for the rights, privileges and protections of full British subjects. In addition, this version stipulated that the chiefs were required to sell their land to the Crown at a negotiated price if they wished to vacate it.

The Maori version of the treaty, however, continues to provoke debate among legal scholars and citizens. Many native New Zealanders claim that the Maori document has a different meaning from the English one and does not cede sovereignty to the British government. In addition, many argue that the Maori version does not give the Crown sole rights to native property, but rather gives it the right to bid higher than other private concerns when purchasing the land. Several words in the text, notably kawanatanga and rangatiratanga, were created specifically for the text, presumably to match text in the English version, and were not present in the Maori lexicon prior to the signing of the treaty. The suffix –tanga was an extant Maori suffix functioning in the same way that –ship or –dom does in English. So the two words could be said to mean governorship and chieftainship, respectively, but whether one title establishes the right to rule over the other is a matter of interpretation. The meaning of these two words are at the heart of the crisis surrounding the document, which continues to play an important role in deciding Maori claims to government-controlled assets, including forests, fisheries and mineral rights.

Conservative historians argue that the modern debate over the Maori version is moot because it does not take into account the spirit of the agreement, which was reached over 165 years ago. Maori was traditionally an oral language and historically had no written counterpart—indeed, a standard written version of Maori continues to be developed in the present day—and these historians suggest that the scrutiny placed upon the exact text of the Maori document is unwarranted. They contend that the two parties’ understanding of the oral agreement was more important, as it would be the part of the agreement that the Maori of the time accepted as binding. For them, the spirit of this understanding, which is reflected in the historical record of the time, is paramount.

1) Which one of the following most accurately expresses the main point of the passage?

  1. New Zealand’s courts have decided several recent claims based on the oral version of the Treaty of Waitangi, which is the part of the agreement that the Maori of the time accepted as binding.
  2. Native New Zealanders have achieved several major settlements regarding forests and fisheries
    due to the recent decipherment of words such as kawanatanga and rangatiratanga.
  3. Considering the problems surrounding its framing and subsequent misinterpretations, the Treaty
    of Waitangi has been given undue influence over the years.
  4. Despite recent agreements that bolster the Treaty of Waitangi’s legal legitimacy, significant
    debate exists over how to reconcile conflicting versions of the document.
  5. The Treaty of Waitangi merits reexamination in light of modern improvements to written Maori
    and recent changes to legal interpretations.

2) Which one of the following best describes how the last paragraph functions in the context of the passage?

  1. It introduces an alternative basis upon which to interpret the treaty.
  2. It explains the origins of the controversy from a historical perspective.
  3. It points out a flaw in an argument presented in an earlier paragraph.
  4. It suggests that efforts to better understand the treaty are unimportant.
  5. It summarizes the different viewpoints discussed earlier in the passage.

3) Based on the passage, the historians mentioned in the fourth paragraph would be most likely to agree with which one of the following statements?

  1. Laws must be interpreted according to the standards of the community in which they apply.
  2. The intent of the signers of a contract must be considered along with the language used in the
  3. Since the intentions of past lawmakers cannot be known, they cannot be considered by modern courts.
  4. Historical records concerning the functioning of a treaty are invalid when interpreting
    contemporary laws.
  5. A treaty is valid only if it is codified in a language with an established and standardized written form.

4) Each of the following is mentioned by the passage as a point as issue caused by differences between the two versions of the treaty EXCEPT:

  1. The surrender of sovereign rights by the signatory chiefs
  2. The Crown’s right to purchase land from Maori people
  3. The control of forests, fisheries and mineral rights
  4. The implications of the words kawanatanga and rangatiratanga
  5. The right of British citizens to own land in New Zealand

5) The passage suggests which of the following about the creation of the Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi?

  1. It was designed to deceive the signatory chiefs into giving up concessions of land and sovereignty.
  2. Any substantive discrepancies were a result of poor translation due to a misunderstanding of the English version of the treaty.
  3. Its drafters were obliged to create new terms using extant suffixes in an attempt to faithfully translate the English version.
  4. Since the oral contract and spirit of understanding between the British and Maori was paramount, little attention was paid to the details of the written version.
  5. The treaty was created primarily to govern Maori claims to British-controlled assets such as forests, fisheries and mineral rights.