HSPT Reading : Drawing Conclusions in Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HSPT Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Drawing Conclusions In Science Passages

Adapted from The Principles of Breeding by S. L. Goodale (1861)

The Jersey cow, formerly known as the Alderney, is almost exclusively employed for dairy purposes, and may not be expected to give satisfaction for other uses. Their milk is richer than that of any other cows, and the butter made from it possesses a superior flavor and a deep rich color, and consequently commands an extraordinary price in all markets where good butter is appreciated.

Jersey cattle are of Norman origin, and are noted for their milking properties. The cows are generally very docile and gentle, but the males when past two or three years of age often become vicious and unmanageable. It is said that the cows fatten readily when dry.

There is no branch of cattle husbandry which promises better returns than the breeding and rearing of milch cows. In the vicinity of large towns and cities are many cows which having been culled from many miles around, on account of dairy properties, are considerably above the average, but taking the cows of the country together they do not compare favorably with the oxen. Farmers generally take more pride in their oxen, and strive to have as good or better than any of their neighbors, while if a cow will give milk enough to rear a large steer calf and a little besides, it is often deemed satisfactory.

The author would likely characterize the “pride” of the farmer as __________.

Possible Answers:

wise

abhorrent

ridiculous

beneficial

misplaced

Correct answer:

misplaced

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “Farmers generally take more pride in their oxen, and strive to have as good or better than any of their neighbors, while if a cow will give milk enough to rear a large steer calf and a little besides, that is often good enough for the farmer.” He is talking about how farmers take more pride in their oxen then they do in their dairy cows. From the context of the rest of the essay, where the author is arguing for an increased attention being paid to the selective breeding of dairy cows, it is easy to infer that the author would view the pride in oxen as “misplaced." He would encourage farmers to pay greater attention to their dairy cows and less attention to their oxen. The answer choices “ridiculous” and “abhorrent” (offensive and disgraceful) are too strong for the author’s word choices here, and “wise” and “beneficial” (helpful) have the opposite meaning to the correct answer.

Example Question #92 : Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from “Birds in Retreat” in “Animal Defences—Active Defence” in Volume Four of The Natural History of Animals: The Animal Life of the World in Its Various Aspects and Relations by James Richard Ainsworth Davis (1903)

Among the large running birds are forms, like the African ostrich, in which the absence of powers of flight is largely compensated by the specialization of the legs for the purpose of rapid movement on the ground. For straightforward retreat in open country nothing could be more effective; but another kind of adaptation is required in birds like rails, which are deficient in powers of flight, and yet are able to run through thickly-growing vegetation with such rapidity as to commonly elude their enemies. This is rendered possible by the shape of their bodies, which are relatively narrow and flattened from side to side, so as to easily slip between the stems of grasses, rushes, and similar plants. Anyone who has pursued our native land-rail or corn-crake with intent to capture will have noted how extremely difficult it is even to get within sight of a bird of this sort. 

Certain birds, unfortunately for themselves, have lost the power of flight without correspondingly increased powers of running, and have paid the penalty of extinction. Such an arrangement, as might be anticipated, was the result of evolution in islands devoid of any predatory ground-animals, and a classic example of it is afforded by the dodo and its allies, birds related to the pigeons. The dodo itself was a large and clumsy-looking species that at one time abounded in the island of Mauritius, which, like oceanic islands generally, possessed no native mammals, while its indigenous reptiles were only represented by lizards. The ubiquitous sailor, however, and the animals (especially swine) which he introduced, brought about the extinction of this helpless bird in less than a century after its first discovery in 1598. Its memory is now only kept green by a few contemporary drawings and descriptions, certain museum remains, and the proverb "as extinct as a dodo.” A similar fate must overtake any organism suddenly exposed to new and unfavorable conditions, if devoid of sufficient plasticity to rapidly accommodate itself to the altered environment.

The kiwi is a bird that lives in New Zealand. New Zealand has no native ground-dwelling predatory animals. The stoat, a ground-dwelling carnivorous mammal, was introduced to New Zealand. Based on the passage, what can you predict happened?

Possible Answers:

the kiwi population drastically decreased

the kiwis quickly learned to defend themselves against stoats

the stoats could not support themselves in the new environment and died off

the kiwi population rose

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

the kiwi population drastically decreased

Explanation:

The situation presented in this question lines up precisely with the dodo’s story in the passage. The kiwi, like the dodo, would thus be unable to defend itself from introduced predators, since like on Mauritius, New Zealand has no native ground-dwelling predators. We can therefore predict that in this situation, the kiwi population would decrease drastically, if not go extinct, so “the kiwi population drastically decreased” is the correct answer. (In fact, the kiwi and stoat situation actually happened in New Zealand. While the kiwi remains a living species, New Zealand has had to work very hard to protect it from stoats.)

Example Question #2 : Drawing Conclusions In Science Passages

Adapted from “Birds in Retreat” in “Animal Defences—Active Defence” in Volume Four of The Natural History of Animals: The Animal Life of the World in Its Various Aspects and Relations by James Richard Ainsworth Davis (1903)

Among the large running birds are forms, like the African ostrich, in which the absence of powers of flight is largely compensated by the specialization of the legs for the purpose of rapid movement on the ground. For straightforward retreat in open country nothing could be more effective; but another kind of adaptation is required in birds like rails, which are deficient in powers of flight, and yet are able to run through thickly-growing vegetation with such rapidity as to commonly elude their enemies. This is rendered possible by the shape of their bodies, which are relatively narrow and flattened from side to side, so as to easily slip between the stems of grasses, rushes, and similar plants. Anyone who has pursued our native land-rail or corn-crake with intent to capture will have noted how extremely difficult it is even to get within sight of a bird of this sort. 

Certain birds, unfortunately for themselves, have lost the power of flight without correspondingly increased powers of running, and have paid the penalty of extinction. Such an arrangement, as might be anticipated, was the result of evolution in islands devoid of any predatory ground-animals, and a classic example of it is afforded by the dodo and its allies, birds related to the pigeons. The dodo itself was a large and clumsy-looking species that at one time abounded in the island of Mauritius, which, like oceanic islands generally, possessed no native mammals, while its indigenous reptiles were only represented by lizards. The ubiquitous sailor, however, and the animals (especially swine) which he introduced, brought about the extinction of this helpless bird in less than a century after its first discovery in 1598. Its memory is now only kept green by a few contemporary drawings and descriptions, certain museum remains, and the proverb "as extinct as a dodo.” A similar fate must overtake any organism suddenly exposed to new and unfavorable conditions, if devoid of sufficient plasticity to rapidly accommodate itself to the altered environment.

According to the passage, which of the following dates could have been the year in which the dodo went extinct?

Possible Answers:

1711

1699

1832

1654

1700

Correct answer:

1654

Explanation:

The only date discussed in the passage appears in the second paragraph, when the author refers to “the extinction of this helpless bird in less than a century after its first discovery in 1598.” As this is referring to the extinction of the dodo, it means that the dodo had to have gone extinct some time before 1698. The only answer choice that is a date before 1698 is 1654, so “1654” is the correct answer.

Example Question #3 : Drawing Conclusions In Science Passages

Adapted from "The Treatment of Rattlesnake Bite by Permanganate of Potassium, Based on Nine Successful Cases" by Amos W. Barber, M.D. in Scientific American Supplement No. 841, Vol. XXXIII (February 13th 1892)

Poisoned wounds, inflicted by the fangs of the rattlesnake, are happily rarer each year, since, as the country is becoming more populated, the crotalus is rapidly being exterminated. Yet, considering the disregard that characterizes the cowboy in his treatment of this reptile, it is astonishing that this class of injury is not more common.

It is the invariable custom among the cattlemen to dismount and destroy these snakes whenever they are seen. This is readily accomplished, since a slight blow will break the back. This blow is, however, generally delivered by means of the quirt, a whip not over two and a half feet long, and hence a weapon which brings the one who wields it in unpleasant proximity to the fangs of the reptile. A still more dangerous practice, and one which I have frequently seen, is a method of playing with the rattlesnake for the humor of the cowboy at the expense of a "tenderfoot." It is well known that unless a snake is coiled or in other specific positions, it cannot strike. On this theory, a mounted cowboy first puts a rattler to flight, then seizes it by the tail, and, swinging it so rapidly around his head that it is impossible for it to strike, sets off in pursuit of whoever has exhibited the most terror at the sight of the reptile. When within fair distance, he hurls the snake at the unfortunate victim, in the full assurance that even should it hit him it cannot bury its fangs in his flesh, since it cannot coil until it reaches the ground. This is a jest of which I have frequently been the victim, nor have I yet learned to appreciate it with unalloyed mirth.

The first case of rattlesnake wound to which I was called occurred in 1885. A cowboy was bitten on the foot, the fang penetrating through the boot. I saw him about twenty-four hours after he was struck. There was enormous swelling, extending up to the knee. There was no special discoloration about the wound; in fact, the swelling disguised this to such an extent that it was impossible to determine exactly where the fangs had entered. The patient was suffering great pain. His mind was clear, but he was oppressed with a dreadful anxiety.

Considering the passage in light of the title of the article from which it was taken, what can you infer happened to the cowboy that the author treated?

Possible Answers:

The author treated him with permanganate of potassium and he made a full recovery.

He lost his leg due to the author's use of permanganate of potassium.

He perished from the wound before the author could attempt to treat him.

He perished from the snakebite he received because the doctor tried a new treatment on him that did not work.

He perished from the snakebite he received because he was not brought to the author quickly enough.

Correct answer:

The author treated him with permanganate of potassium and he made a full recovery.

Explanation:

The title of the article from which the passage is taken is crucial to correctly answering this question: "The Treatment of Rattlesnake Bite by Permanganate of Potassium, Based on Nine Successful Cases." The fact that the author is writing an article about how to treat rattlesnake bites with permanganate of potassium suggests this is the treatment he tried on the cowboy he is describing in the third paragraph. Furthermore, we can infer that because the article is "Based on Nine Successful Cases," the cowboy described in the third paragraph must have made a full recovery. (This is indeed what the author describes in the full article.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Tone, Style, And Figurative Language In Science Passages

"The Multiple Sides of Computer Science" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

It often takes some time for a new discipline to become recognized as an independent science. An excellent example of this is computer science. In many ways, this science still is a hodgepodge of several different sciences, each one having its own distinct character. For example, some computer scientists are almost indistinguishable from mathematicians. Many of the most difficult topics in pattern recognition and data communications require intensive mathematics in order to provide software solutions. Years of training in the appropriate disciplines are necessary before the computer scientist can even begin to work as a programmer in such areas. In contrast to those computer scientists who work with complex mathematics, many computer scientists work on areas of hardware development that are similar to disciplines like electrical engineering and physics.

However, computer science has its own particular problems regarding the unity of its subject matter. There are many practical applications for computing work; therefore, many computer scientists focus on learning a large set of skills in programming languages, development environments, and even information technology. All of these disciplines have a certain practical coloration that is quite distinct from the theoretical concepts used in other parts of the field. Nevertheless, these practical topics add to the broad range of topics covered by most academic programs that claim to focus on “computer science.” It can only be hoped that these disciplines will increase in orderliness in the coming decades.

Based on the passage, which of the following is likely the least related to computer science as a theoretical discipline?

Possible Answers:

Physics

Information technology

Electrical Engineering

Mathematics

Programming languages

Correct answer:

Information technology

Explanation:

This question comes down to a matter of tone. The author uses the word "even" before listing information technology among the topics studied by computer science students. Often, this word is used before something surprising. For example, "He was not rude to me alone. He even said horrible things to my elderly grandmother." This means that it is very surprising that someone would be so rude. Here, the idea is that it is surprising that information technology is among these subjects. This might sound strange, but it is the author's opinion as expressed in this passage.

Example Question #4 : Drawing Conclusions In Science Passages

Adapted from "Some Strange Nurseries" by Grant Allen in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

Many different types of animals employ one of two strategies in raising their young. Certain animals, called “r-strategists,” turn out thousands of eggs with reckless profusion, but they let them look after themselves, or be devoured by enemies, as chance will have it. Other animals, called “K-strategists,” take greater pain in the rearing and upbringing of the young. Large broods indicate an “r” life strategy; small broods imply a “K” life strategy and more care in the nurture and education of the offspring. R-strategists produce eggs wholesale, on the off chance that some two or three among them may perhaps survive an infant mortality of ninety-nine per cent, so as to replace their parents. K-strategists produce half a dozen young, or less, but bring a large proportion of these on an average up to years of discretion.

Which of these animals can you infer the author would categorize as an r-strategist?

Possible Answers:

Cats

Birds

Frogs

Wolves

Pigs

Correct answer:

Frogs

Explanation:

This question requires you to understand the main idea, that animals that produce more offspring are r-strategists and that those that produce a small number of offspring are called K-strategists. It also requires that you be able to take that idea and make a prediction about it. Finally, it requires you to have a basic understanding of a few types of animals. You know that any animal that has few young that it spends time caring for is deemed a "K-strategist" by the author, so that should rule out cats, birds, pigs, and wolves for you pretty quickly. Of these animals, only “frogs” let their little tadpoles fend for themselves and die by the hundreds. They would thus be considered r-strategists.

Example Question #3 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Science Passages

"The Multiple Sides of Computer Science" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

It often takes some time for a new discipline to become recognized as an independent science. An excellent example of this is computer science. In many ways, this science still is a hodgepodge of several different sciences, each one having its own distinct character. For example, some computer scientists are almost indistinguishable from mathematicians. Many of the most difficult topics in pattern recognition and data communications require intensive mathematics in order to provide software solutions. Years of training in the appropriate disciplines are necessary before the computer scientist can even begin to work as a programmer in such areas. In contrast to those computer scientists who work with complex mathematics, many computer scientists work on areas of hardware development that are similar to disciplines like electrical engineering and physics.

However, computer science has its own particular problems regarding the unity of its subject matter. There are many practical applications for computing work; therefore, many computer scientists focus on learning a large set of skills in programming languages, development environments, and even information technology. All of these disciplines have a certain practical coloration that is quite distinct from the theoretical concepts used in other parts of the field. Nevertheless, these practical topics add to the broad range of topics covered by most academic programs that claim to focus on “computer science.” It can only be hoped that these disciplines will increase in orderliness in the coming decades.

Which of the following topics would not be a good example to add to the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Applications of computing to civic planning

Studies in the types of physics involved in memory chip design

Studies of the social ramifications of programming

Courses in manufacturing and connecting internet cables

Topics related to building new computers from parts

Correct answer:

Studies in the types of physics involved in memory chip design

Explanation:

The second paragraph focuses on the practical topics that often are taught in computer science programs. (These are contrasted to the more "theoretical" or "scientific" topics noted in the first paragraph.) The only really "scientific" topic listed here is the one about the physics involved in designing memory chips. Since this focuses on the physics, it is not so much about how to make these things as it is about the reasons why they work. This is more of a speculative matter than a practical or technical one.

Example Question #5 : Drawing Conclusions In Science Passages

Adapted from A Catechism of Familiar Things: Their History and the Events Which Led to Their Discovery by the Benziger Brothers (1881)

Potatoes grew wild in Peru, a country of South America, from where they were transplanted to other parts of the American continent, and afterwards to Europe. The honor of introducing this useful vegetable into England is divided between Sir Francis Drake, in 1580, and Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1586, some crediting it to the former, and others to the latter. It is certain they were obtained from Virginia in the time of Raleigh; they were grown only in the gardens of the nobility, and were considered a great delicacy. They now constitute a crucial article of food in most of the countries of Europe and America; in Ireland, they have long furnished nearly four-fifths of the entire food of the people.

What might we determine about the significance of the potato in Irish history?

Possible Answers:

It led to widespread famine and disease.

It was used as currency in the era before standardized money.

It was encouraged by the British so that they could monopolize the more expensive produce.

It increased relations between the Irish and the New World.

It fed a large percentage of the population for a long time.

Correct answer:

It fed a large percentage of the population for a long time.

Explanation:

Many of these answer choices are in fact true, but only one is supported by the information included in this passage. The correct answer is that the potato “fed a large percentage of the population for a long time.” This is shown by the author when he says, “in Ireland, they have long furnished nearly four-fifths of the entire food of the people.” “Furnished,” in this context, means provided for.

Example Question #141 : Passage Based Questions

"Interpreting the Copernican Revolution" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

The expressions of one discipline can often alter the way that other subjects understand themselves. Among such cases are numbered the investigations of Nicolaus Copernicus. Copernicus is best known for his views concerning heliocentrism, a view which eventually obliterated many aspects of the ancient/medieval worldview, at least from the standpoint of physical science. It had always been the natural view of mankind that the earth stood at the center of the universe, a fixed point in reference to the rest of the visible bodies. The sun, stars, and planets all rotated around the earth.

With time, this viewpoint became one of the major reference points for modern life. It provided a provocative image that was used—and often abused—by many people for various purposes. For those who wished to weaken the control of religion on mankind, it was said that the heliocentric outlook proved man’s insignificance. In contrast with earlier geocentrism, heliocentrism was said to show that man is not the center of the universe. He is merely one small being in the midst of a large cosmos. However, others wished to use the “Copernican Revolution” in a very different manner. These thinkers wanted to show that there was another “recentering” that had to happen. Once upon a time, we talked about the world. Now, however, it was necessary to talk of man as the central reference point. Just as the solar system was “centered” on the sun, so too should the sciences be centered on the human person.

However, both of these approaches are fraught with problems. Those who wished to undermine the religious mindset rather misunderstood the former outlook on the solar system. The earlier geocentric mindset did not believe that the earth was the most important body in the heavens. Instead, many ancient and medieval thinkers believed that the highest “sphere” above the earth was the most important being in the physical universe. Likewise, the so-called “Copernican Revolution” in physics was different from the one applied to the human person. Copernicus’ revolution showed that the human point of view was not the center, whereas the later forms of “Copernican revolution” wished to show just the opposite.

Of course, there are many complexities in the history of such important changes in scientific outlook. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to see the wide-reaching effects of such discoveries, even when they have numerous, ambiguous effects.

How are two uses of the image of heliocentrism contrasted in this passage?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

One calls for detached peace while the other is likely to breed wars.

One implies the insignificance of the human person while the other implies humanity's greatness.

One is primarily scientific while the other is religious at its core.

One calls for scientific detachment while the other calls for engagement in the world of culture.

Correct answer:

One implies the insignificance of the human person while the other implies humanity's greatness.

Explanation:

The general contrast is between "man, the speck on a rock" and "man, the center of all things." The idea for one view is that the human person is insignificant in comparison to the rest of the universe, which dwarfs his little life on Earth. The other view makes the human person so significant that the study of human life is central.

Example Question #201 : Natural Sciences

"Interpreting the Copernican Revolution" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

The expressions of one discipline can often alter the way that other subjects understand themselves. Among such cases are numbered the investigations of Nicolaus Copernicus. Copernicus is best known for his views concerning heliocentrism, a view which eventually obliterated many aspects of the ancient/medieval worldview, at least from the standpoint of physical science. It had always been the natural view of mankind that the earth stood at the center of the universe, a fixed point in reference to the rest of the visible bodies. The sun, stars, and planets all rotated around the earth.

With time, this viewpoint became one of the major reference points for modern life. It provided a provocative image that was used—and often abused—by many people for various purposes. For those who wished to weaken the control of religion on mankind, it was said that the heliocentric outlook proved man’s insignificance. In contrast with earlier geocentrism, heliocentrism was said to show that man is not the center of the universe. He is merely one small being in the midst of a large cosmos. However, others wished to use the “Copernican Revolution” in a very different manner. These thinkers wanted to show that there was another “recentering” that had to happen. Once upon a time, we talked about the world. Now, however, it was necessary to talk of man as the central reference point. Just as the solar system was “centered” on the sun, so too should the sciences be centered on the human person.

However, both of these approaches are fraught with problems. Those who wished to undermine the religious mindset rather misunderstood the former outlook on the solar system. The earlier geocentric mindset did not believe that the earth was the most important body in the heavens. Instead, many ancient and medieval thinkers believed that the highest “sphere” above the earth was the most important being in the physical universe. Likewise, the so-called “Copernican Revolution” in physics was different from the one applied to the human person. Copernicus’ revolution showed that the human point of view was not the center, whereas the later forms of “Copernican revolution” wished to show just the opposite.

Of course, there are many complexities in the history of such important changes in scientific outlook. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to see the wide-reaching effects of such discoveries, even when they have numerous, ambiguous effects.

Which of the following would likely be most interesting to those who believe the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

The chemical basis for human emotions

Evolution of primates into man

Human culture

Human anatomy

Correct answer:

Human culture

Explanation:

The group noted in the underlined sentence has an interest in the human person precisely taken as a human person. That is, they are interested in the unique characteristics of human life. All of the incorrect answers consider something that is not necessarily unique to human life (though they do involve human beings). The other subjects are more like applications of chemistry and biology to the human person. However, human culture is unique to the human person. Therefore, it would most likely interest these people quite a bit.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: