HSPT Reading : Making Inferences in Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HSPT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #12 : Making Inferences In Narrative Science Passages

"Cacti" by Ami Dave (2013)

Cacti are plants suited to the desert, and we must always keep this factor in mind when growing ornamental cacti in our gardens, for it helps us provide cacti with conditions that allow them to survive and thrive. For example, a cactus should never be watered over its body, as it will start to rot. This is because it is covered with a waxy coating which prevents water loss through evaporation. When one waters the cactus over its body, the waxy coating is washed away and the plant begins to rot. The amount of water that one must supply to the cactus is very much dependent upon the season and upon the climate of the place. During the summer season one should water cacti every four days, whereas in the rainy season, once every fifteen days is quite enough.

Cacti need a minimum of two and a half hours of sunlight per day; however, they should not be kept in the sun all day because they may wrinkle when exposed to too much bright sunlight. Unlike other plants, cacti produce carbon dioxide during the day and oxygen during the night, so they are ideal plants to be kept in bedrooms to freshen up the air at night.

If a cactus is to thrive and prosper, the size of the pot in which it is grown needs to be monitored carefully. The pot should always be a little smaller than the plant itself because it is only when the plant has to struggle to survive that it will thrive. If the pot is too spacious and the plant does not need to struggle, chances are that the cactus will die. Similarly, if a cactus shows no signs of growth, stop watering it. Watering should be resumed only when the plant begins to grow again.

The substrata of a cactus pot is ideally composed of pieces of broken bricks at the bottom, followed by a layer of charcoal above the bricks, and then coarse sand and pebbles above the charcoal. Leaf mould is the best manure.

Grafting cacti is very simple. A very small piece of the cactus plant should be stuck with tape to the plant that needs grafting. The smaller the piece, the easier it is to graft. To reproduce cacti, one has to simply cut off a piece of the cactus, allow it to dry for a few days, and then place it over the cacti substrate. It will automatically develop roots.

It is very easy to differentiate between cacti and other plants that look like cacti. All cacti have fine hair at the base of each thorn. The so-called “thorns” are in fact highly modified leaves which prevent loss of water through transpiration. If one ever gets pricked by cacti thorns, one should take tape, place it over the area where the thorns have penetrated the skin, and then peel it off. All of the thorns will get stuck to the tape and will be removed.

Which of the following can be inferred from the information provided in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Pot size is not an important factor in cactus growth.

It is difficult to distinguish cacti from other plants.

Cacti follow a respiration cycle that is different than that of other plants.

Cacti are found in every desert known to man.

People have been growing cacti in their homes for hundreds of years.

Correct answer:

Cacti follow a respiration cycle that is different than that of other plants.

Explanation:

The second paragraph states that, unlike other plants, cacti produce CO2 during the day and O2 during the night, making them good plants to freshen the air when one is sleeping. Thus, it can be inferred that cacti have a unique respiration cycle, compared to other plants. The other answer choices are not inferences that can be made from the passage. The passage states that pot size is indeed a factor is growth, and the last paragraph mentions how it is easy to tell cacti apart from other plants. While the passage does mention that the cactus is a desert plant, nowhere does it say that cacti are found in EVERY desert. Similarly, the passage provides no information about for how long people have been growing cacti in their homes.

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences 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 the following is suggested by the passage's wording?

Possible Answers:

It would benefit the environment to ensure the survival of the entire brood of r-strategists. 

Most animals abandon their young to fend for themselves.

Biology is only the author's hobby, not the field in which he works.

Many r-strategists reproduce by laying eggs.

K-strategist animals are in short supply.

Correct answer:

Many r-strategists reproduce by laying eggs.

Explanation:

Twice in the passage, when the author discusses r-strategists, he refers to them laying eggs. This first happens in the second sentence ("Certain animals, called 'r-strategists,' turn out thousands of eggs with reckless profusion"), and later in the fifth sentence ("R-strategists produce eggs wholesale"). Based on the author's wording, we can correctly assume that many r-strategists reproduce by laying eggs. None of the other answer choices are supported by the passage: nothing suggests that the author pursues biology as a hobby instead of a career; the fact that relative numbers of r-strategists and K-strategists are not discussed in the passage makes it impossible to assert that "most animals abandon their young to fend for themselves" or that "K-strategist animals are in short supply"; and nothing about environmental effects is discussed or suggested either, so "it would benefit the environment to ensure the survival of the entire brood of r-strategists" cannot be the correct answer either.

Example Question #31 : Drawing Inferences From Natural 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.

Which of the following can we infer based on the passage?

Possible Answers:

If sailors had visited Mauritius sooner, dodos might still be alive today.

The land-rail and corn-crake are not well adapted to running through tall grass.

If predatory ground-animals had lived on Mauritius, the dodo would have probably evolved to fly or run.

Lizards were a predator of dodos.

Ostriches would likely be as effective at running away from predators in tall grass as in open country.

Correct answer:

If predatory ground-animals had lived on Mauritius, the dodo would have probably evolved to fly or run.

Explanation:

This may seem like a tricky question, but let’s consider each of the answer choices individually:

“If sailors had visited Mauritius sooner, dodos might still be alive today.”: The passage doesn’t support this assertion at all. Since the arrival of sailors on New Zealand is identified as the cause of the dodo’s extinction, it doesn’t make sense that the dodo would have survived if the sailors would have arrived earlier; it would probably have gone extinct sooner, based on the passage’s logic.

 “Ostriches would likely be as effective at running away from predators in tall grass as in open country.”: The passage specific disproves this when it says of ostriches and their running abilities, “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 suggests that ostriches are better adapted to surviving in open country than in areas covered by tall grass.

“The land-rail and corn-crake are not well adapted to running through tall grass.”: The passage disproves this answer choice when it describes the ability of rails to run through tall grass: “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.” After this sentence, the author mentions land-rails and corn-crakes’ abilities to evade hunters, so we can assume that these birds are well adapted to running through tall grass.

“Lizards were a predator of dodos.”: This can’t be true, because the passage tells us that “The dodo . . . 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.” Given that when animals that preyed on the dodo were introduced to Mauritius, the dodo went extinct, we can assume that since the lizards and dodos coexisted before this point, the lizards did not prey on the dodos. If this were true, the dodos would likely have learned to run or fly away, which they did not.

This brings us to the remaining answer choice, the correct one: “If predatory ground-animals had lived on Mauritius, the dodo would have probably evolved to fly or run.” The author attributes the dodo’s extinction to the fact that it did not have to adapt and defend itself from any predators before humans introduced new species on Mauritius. From this, we can infer that if those species had been present, the dodo would have learned to fly, or, like the ostrich and the rail, would have learned to run to defend itself.

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences In Science Passages

Adapted from The Evolutionist at Large by Grant Allen (1881)

I am engaged in watching a brigade of ants out on foraging duty, and intent on securing for the nest three whole segments of a deceased earthworm. They look for all the world like those busy companies one sees in the Egyptian wall paintings, dragging home a huge granite colossus by sheer force of bone and sinew. Every muscle in their tiny bodies is strained to the utmost as they pry themselves laboriously against the great boulders that strew the path, and that are known to our Brobdingnagian intelligence as grains of sand. Besides the workers themselves, a whole battalion of stragglers runs to and fro upon the broad line that leads to the headquarters of the community. The province of these stragglers, who seem so busy doing nothing, probably consists in keeping communications open, and encouraging the sturdy pullers by occasional relays of fresh workmen. I often wish that I could for a while get inside those tiny brains, and see, or rather smell, the world as ants do. For there can be little doubt that to these brave little carnivores here the universe is chiefly known as a collective bundle of odors, simultaneous or consecutive. As our world is mainly a world of visible objects, theirs, I believe, is mainly a world of olfactible things.

In the head of every one of these little creatures is something that we may fairly call a brain. Of course most insects have no real brains; the nerve-substance in their heads is a mere collection of ill-arranged ganglia, directly connected with their organs of sense. Whatever man may be, an earwig at least is a conscious, or rather a semi-conscious, automaton. He has just a few knots of nerve cells in his little pate, each of which leads straight from his dim eye or his vague ear or his indefinite organs of taste; and his muscles obey the promptings of external sensations without possibility of hesitation or consideration, as mechanically as the valve of a steam engine obeys the governor balls. The poor soul's intellect is wholly deficient, and the senses alone make up all that there is of him, subjectively considered. But it is not so with the highest insects. They have something that truly answers to the real brain of men, apes, and dogs, to the cerebral hemispheres and the cerebellum that are superadded in us mammals upon the simple sense-centers of lower creatures. Besides the eye, with its optic nerve and optic perceptive organs—besides the ear, with its similar mechanism—we mammalian lords of creation have a higher and more genuine brain, that collects and compares the information given to the senses, and sends down the appropriate messages to the muscles accordingly. Now, bees and flies and ants have got much the same sort of arrangement, on a smaller scale, within their tiny heads. On top of the little knots that do duty as nerve centers for their eyes and mouths, stand two stalked bits of nervous matter, whose duty is analogous to that of our own brains. And that is why these three sorts of insects think and reason so much more intellectually than beetles or butterflies, and why the larger part of them have organized their domestic arrangements on such an excellent cooperative plan.

We know well enough what forms the main material of thought with bees and flies, and that is visible objects. For you must think about something if you think at all; and you can hardly imagine a contemplative blow-fly setting itself down to reflect, like a Hindu devotee, on the syllable Om, or on the oneness of existence. Abstract ideas are not likely to play a large part in apian consciousness. A bee has a very perfect eye, and with this eye it can see not only form, but also color, as Sir John Lubbock's experiments have shown us. The information that it gets through its eye, coupled with other ideas derived from touch, smell, and taste, no doubt makes up the main thinkable and knowable universe as it reveals itself to the apian intelligence. To ourselves and to bees alike the world is, on the whole, a colored picture, with the notions of distance and solidity thrown in by touch and muscular effort; but sight undoubtedly plays the first part in forming our total conception of things generally.

It can reasonably be inferred from the passage that __________.

Possible Answers:

the author believes that ants have the ability to consider their actions

beetles and butterflies have the same types of brains as ants

religious influences can be ascribed to insects

the author is more fond of bees and flies than ants

bees and flies are visually stimulated

Correct answer:

bees and flies are visually stimulated

Explanation:

The author suggests that bees and flies are visually stimulated in the third paragraph when he states that “We know well enough what forms the main material of thought with bees and flies, and that is visible objects.” In the second paragraph, the author suggests that beetles and butterflies do not have the same types of brains as ants. That the author likes bees and flies more than ants, the idea of ascribing religious influences to insects, and the idea that insects consider their actions are not mentioned or are stated as being false by the text.

Example Question #5 : Making Inferences In Humanities Passages

Adapted from “The Influence of the Conception of Evolution on Modern Philosophy” by H. Höffding (1909) in Evolution in Modern Thought (1917 ed.)

When The Origin of Species appeared fifty years ago, Romantic speculation, Schelling's and Hegel's philosophy, still reigned on the continent, while in England, Positivism, the philosophy of Comte and Stuart Mill, represented the most important trend of thought. German speculation had much to say on evolution; it even pretended to be a philosophy of evolution. But then the word "evolution" was to be taken in an ideal, not in a real, sense. To speculative thought, the forms and types of nature formed a system of ideas, within which any form could lead us by continuous transitions to any other. It was a classificatory system which was regarded as a divine world of thought or images, within which metamorphoses could go on—a condition comparable with that in the mind of the poet when one image follows another with imperceptible changes.

Goethe's ideas of evolution, as expressed in his Metamorphosen der Pflanzen und der Thiere, belong to this category; it is, therefore, incorrect to call him a forerunner of Darwin. Schelling and Hegel held the same idea; Hegel expressly rejected the conception of a real evolution in time as coarse and materialistic. "Nature," he says, "is to be considered as a system of stages, the one necessarily arising from the other, and being the nearest truth of that from which it proceeds; but not in such a way that the one is naturally generated by the other; on the contrary [their connection lies] in the inner idea which is the ground of nature. The metamorphosis can be ascribed only to the notion as such, because it alone is evolution.... It has been a clumsy idea in the older as well as in the newer philosophy of nature, to regard the transformation and the transition from one natural form and sphere to a higher as an outward and actual production."

Based on the passage, which of the following can be inferred about Schelling’s thought?

Possible Answers:

Its idealistic vigor was an excellent example of reaction against modernity.

Its similarities to scientific evolutionary theories are striking.

None of the other answers

It does not anticipate scientific evolutionary theories.

It was based directly on the thought of Goethe and Hegel.

Correct answer:

It does not anticipate scientific evolutionary theories.

Explanation:

Without getting into the details of Schelling, we do know that "Schelling . . . held the same idea" as Goethe in the latter's Metamorphosen der Pflanzen und der ThiereThis does not mean that it is directly indebted to it. It merely catalogues his thought as yet another example of a Romantic philosopher whose thought is not the same in character as that of Darwin.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Argumentative Claims, Bias, And Support In Humanities Passages

Adapted from “The Influence of the Conception of Evolution on Modern Philosophy” by H. Höffding (1909) in Evolution in Modern Thought (1917 ed.)

When The Origin of Species appeared fifty years ago, Romantic speculation, Schelling's and Hegel's philosophy, still reigned on the continent, while in England, Positivism, the philosophy of Comte and Stuart Mill, represented the most important trend of thought. German speculation had much to say on evolution; it even pretended to be a philosophy of evolution. But then the word "evolution" was to be taken in an ideal, not in a real, sense. To speculative thought, the forms and types of nature formed a system of ideas, within which any form could lead us by continuous transitions to any other. It was a classificatory system which was regarded as a divine world of thought or images, within which metamorphoses could go on—a condition comparable with that in the mind of the poet when one image follows another with imperceptible changes.

Goethe's ideas of evolution, as expressed in his Metamorphosen der Pflanzen und der Thiere, belong to this category; it is, therefore, incorrect to call him a forerunner of Darwin. Schelling and Hegel held the same idea; Hegel expressly rejected the conception of a real evolution in time as coarse and materialistic. "Nature," he says, "is to be considered as a system of stages, the one necessarily arising from the other, and being the nearest truth of that from which it proceeds; but not in such a way that the one is naturally generated by the other; on the contrary [their connection lies] in the inner idea which is the ground of nature. The metamorphosis can be ascribed only to the notion as such, because it alone is evolution.... It has been a clumsy idea in the older as well as in the newer philosophy of nature, to regard the transformation and the transition from one natural form and sphere to a higher as an outward and actual production."

Which of the following is likely true about “Romantic speculation”?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

It was emotional and had mostly to do with themes taken from love ballads.

It represented a reaction against the scientific details of evolutionary thought.

It was surprisingly correct about scientific details.

It really was not scientific in nature.

Correct answer:

It really was not scientific in nature.

Explanation:

This answer is quite clear if you pay attention to two sentences: (1) "It even pretended to be a philosophy of evolution"; (2) "But then the word 'evolution' was to be taken in an ideal, not in a real, sense." The idea is that this "Romantic" philosophy was more of a revelry than a real undertaking of science.

Example Question #131 : Inferential Comprehension

Adapted from On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)

How will the struggle for existence, discussed too briefly in the last chapter, act in regard to variation? Can the principle of selection, which we have seen is so potent in the hands of man, apply in nature? I think we shall see that it can act most effectually. Let it be borne in mind in what an endless number of strange peculiarities our domestic productions, and, in a lesser degree, those under nature, vary; and how strong the hereditary tendency is. Under domestication, it may be truly said that the whole organization becomes in some degree plastic. Let it be borne in mind how infinitely complex and close-fitting are the mutual relations of all organic beings to each other and to their physical conditions of life. Can it, then, be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of generations? If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favorable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection, and would be left a fluctuating element, as perhaps we see in the species called polymorphic.

We shall best understand the probable course of natural selection by taking the case of a country undergoing some physical change, for instance, of climate. The proportional numbers of its inhabitants would almost immediately undergo a change, and some species might become extinct. We may conclude, from what we have seen of the intimate and complex manner in which the inhabitants of each country are bound together, that any change in the numerical proportions of some of the inhabitants, independently of the change of climate itself, would most seriously affect many of the others. If the country were open on its borders, new forms would certainly immigrate, and this also would seriously disturb the relations of some of the former inhabitants. Let it be remembered how powerful the influence of a single introduced tree or mammal has been shown to be. But in the case of an island, or of a country partly surrounded by barriers, into which new and better adapted forms could not freely enter, we should then have places in the economy of nature which would assuredly be better filled up, if some of the original inhabitants were in some manner modified; for, had the area been open to immigration, these same places would have been seized on by intruders. In such case, every slight modification, which in the course of ages chanced to arise, and which in any way favoured the individuals of any of the species, by better adapting them to their altered conditions, would tend to be preserved; and natural selection would thus have free scope for the work of improvement.

From this passage we can infer that Darwin __________.

Possible Answers:

no longer believed in a higher power

none of these answers

a combination of these answers

was amoral

was confused about higher powers in general

Correct answer:

none of these answers

Explanation:

The passage in no way suggests that Darwin did not believe in a higher power or was amoral. This passage only provides descriptions of what he did believe and discover in his studies.

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