ISEE Lower Level Reading : Making Inferences and Predictions in Science Passages

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Example Question #1 : Making Inferences And Predictions 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 this passage, which of the following might be true about the early history of modern physics?

Possible Answers:

It was often combined with many topics studied in philosophy

None of these

It was uninteresting to most people

It had a very practical component

It was underdeveloped and primitive

Correct answer:

It was often combined with many topics studied in philosophy

Explanation:

The basic point of this selection is that sciences tend to be somewhat "hazy" in their early years. They do not have defined boundaries and tend to deal with many topics. It is actually true that early modern physics tended to deal with many topics of "natural philosophy."  Only with time did it define its own topics clearly.  We are still waiting for this in computer science (or at least the passage implies this).

Example Question #12 : Drawing Inferences From Natural 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.

What might we infer about computer science studies from the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

The computer science courses are all mathematical in nature, making computer science majors appear to be mathematics majors. 

None of the other answers

They are often followed by a good deal of mathematics to explain the topics covered in general computer science courses.

They often require many mathematics courses to prepare for the "real" work of computer science.

You often take no computing courses until late into your studies of computer science.

Correct answer:

They often require many mathematics courses to prepare for the "real" work of computer science.

Explanation:

The sentence states that someone is only truly a programmer after all the necessary math is taken by the computer science student. This does not necessarily mean that the student takes no computing courses. It only means that a computer science student is truly a programmer after the math courses are mastered.

Example Question #1 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from 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)

The examples of protective resemblance so far quoted are mostly permanent adaptations to one particular sort of surrounding. There are, however, numerous animals which possess the power of adjusting their color more or less rapidly so as to harmonize with a changing environment.

Some of the best known of these cases are found among those mammals and birds that inhabit countries more or less covered with snow during a part of the year. A good instance is afforded by the Irish or variable hare, which is chiefly found in Ireland and Scotland. In summer, this looks very much like an ordinary hare, though rather grayer in tint and smaller in size, but in winter it becomes white with the exception of the black tips to the ears. Investigations that have been made on the closely allied American hare seem to show that the phenomenon is due to the growth of new hairs of white hue. 

The common stoat is subject to similar color change in the northern parts of its range. In summer it is of a bright reddish brown color with the exception of the under parts, which are yellowish white, and the end of the tail, which is black. But in winter, the entire coat, save only the tip of the tail, becomes white, and in that condition the animal is known as an ermine. A similar example is afforded by the weasel. The seasonal change in the vegetarian Irish hare is purely of protective character, but in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, it is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.

What can we infer preceded this paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Descriptions of animals that hunt other animals efficiently by camouflaging themselves

Descriptions of animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a changing environment

Descriptions of changing environments

Descriptions of animals that have not adapted to their environments

Descriptions of animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a stable environment

Correct answer:

Descriptions of animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a stable environment

Explanation:

In order to infer what likely “preceded,” or came before, this passage, we should take at what the passage is talking about right when it starts. The passage’s first sentence says, “The examples of protective resemblance so far quoted are mostly permanent adaptations to one particular sort of surrounding.” The “so far quoted” means so far said or provided and tells us that the writer has been talking about “examples of protective resemblance.” This means that the writer most likely discussed “animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a stable environment” in the part of the book that comes right before the passage.

Example Question #2 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from 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)

The examples of protective resemblance so far quoted are mostly permanent adaptations to one particular sort of surrounding. There are, however, numerous animals which possess the power of adjusting their color more or less rapidly so as to harmonize with a changing environment.

Some of the best known of these cases are found among those mammals and birds that inhabit countries more or less covered with snow during a part of the year. A good instance is afforded by the Irish or variable hare, which is chiefly found in Ireland and Scotland. In summer, this looks very much like an ordinary hare, though rather grayer in tint and smaller in size, but in winter it becomes white with the exception of the black tips to the ears. Investigations that have been made on the closely allied American hare seem to show that the phenomenon is due to the growth of new hairs of white hue. 

The common stoat is subject to similar color change in the northern parts of its range. In summer it is of a bright reddish brown color with the exception of the under parts, which are yellowish white, and the end of the tail, which is black. But in winter, the entire coat, save only the tip of the tail, becomes white, and in that condition the animal is known as an ermine. A similar example is afforded by the weasel. The seasonal change in the vegetarian Irish hare is purely of protective character, but in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, it is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.

Based on the passage, what can we infer about the weasel?

Possible Answers:

Like the stoat, it also lives in burrows.

Like the Irish hare, has been the subject of investigations.

Like the stoat, it also changes its coat color.

Like the Irish hare, it has grey fur in the summer.

Like the stoat, it has claws.

Correct answer:

Like the stoat, it also changes its coat color.

Explanation:

The weasel is mentioned in two places in the passage, both in the passage’s last paragraph, both reproduced here:

“But in winter, the entire coat [of the stoat], save only the tip of the tail, becomes white, and in that condition the animal is known as an ermine. A similar example is afforded by the
weasel. The seasonal change in the vegetarian Irish hare is purely of protective character, but in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, it is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.”

What does the passage tell us about the weasel? Well, we can infer that it is in some way like the stoat, because the passage says “A similar example is afforded by the weasel” right after describing how the stoat’s fur changes color. We are also told that it is carnivorous, but this is not an inference we have to make, and it doesn’t relate to any of the answer choices. The best answer choice is “Like the stoat, it also changes its coat color.” This captures the specific similarity between the stoat and weasel being discussed when the author writes, “A similar example is afforded by the weasel.”

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences And Predictions In Science Passages

Adapted from Cassell’s Natural History by Francis Martin Duncan (1913)

The penguins are a group of birds inhabiting the southern ocean, for the most part passing their lives in the icy waters of the Antarctic seas. Like the ratitae, penguins have lost the power of flight, but the wings are modified into swimming organs and the birds lead an aquatic existence and are scarcely seen on land except in the breeding season. They are curious-looking creatures that appear to have no legs, as the limbs are encased in the skin of the body and the large flat feet are set so far back that the birds waddle along on land in an upright position in a very ridiculous manner, carrying their long narrow flippers held out as if they were arms. When swimming, penguins use their wings as paddles while the feet are used for steering.

Penguins are usually gregarious—in the sea, they swim together in schools, and on land, assemble in great numbers in their rookeries. They are very methodical in their ways, and on leaving the water, the birds always follow well-defined tracks leading to the rookeries, marching with much solemnity one behind the other in soldierly order. 

The largest species of penguins are the king penguin and the emperor penguin, the former being found in Kerguelen Land, the Falklands, and other southern islands, and the latter in Victoria Land and on the pack ice of the Antarctic seas. As they are unaccustomed from the isolation of their haunts to being hunted and persecuted by man, emperor penguins are remarkably fearless, and Antarctic explorers invading their territory have found themselves objects of curiosity rather than fear to the strange birds who followed them about as if they were much astonished at their appearance. 

The emperor penguin lays but a single egg and breeds during the intense cold and darkness of the Antarctic winter. To prevent contact with the frozen snow, the bird places its egg upon its flat webbed feet and crouches down upon it so that it is well covered with the feathers. In spite of this precaution, many eggs do not hatch and the mortality amongst the young chicks is very great.

We can infer from the passage that penguins probably eat __________ because the passage tells us that __________.

Possible Answers:

fish . . . penguins live most of their lives in the water

seals . . . penguins are carnivorous and hunt in groups

polar bears . . . penguins are unafraid of explorers

kelp and other sea plants . . . penguins are slow in the water

microscopic sea creatures . . . the emperor penguin only lays one egg at a time

Correct answer:

fish . . . penguins live most of their lives in the water

Explanation:

We can narrow down our answer choices by considering which of the options for the second blank the passage actually tells us. This allows us to eliminate the answer choices containing “penguins are carnivorous and hunt in groups” and “penguins are slow in the water.” Deciding between the remaining three answer choices, it doesn’t make sense that penguins would eat “polar bears” because they “are unafraid of explorers”—the second part of the answer may suggest that penguins are bold, and from this we might infer that penguins might try to fight and eat a polar bear, but it’s unlikely that would end well; the reverse is true. It is also doesn’t make sense that penguins would eat “microscopic sea creatures” because “the emperor penguin only lays one egg at a time”—these ideas are unrelated. This leaves us with the correct answer, the idea that penguins probably eat “fish” because “penguins live most of their lives in the water.” This makes sense; if penguins spend most of their lives in the water, they probably eat something that is found in the water, and fish are found in the water.

Example Question #11 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from "America the Old World" by L. Agassiz in Wonders of Earth, Sea, and Sky (1902, ed. Edward Singleton Holden)

There is, perhaps, no part of the world where the early geological periods can be studied with so much ease and precision as in the United States. Along their northern borders, between Canada and the United States, there runs the low line of hills known as the Laurentian Hills. Insignificant in height, nowhere rising more than fifteen hundred or two thousand feet above the level of the sea, these are nevertheless some of the first mountains that broke the uniform level of the earth's surface and lifted themselves above the waters. Their low stature, as compared with that of other more lofty mountain ranges, is in accordance with an invariable rule, by which the relative age of mountains may be estimated. The oldest mountains are the lowest, while the younger and more recent ones tower above their elders, and are usually more torn and dislocated also. So it is known the Alps, Rockies, and Himalayas are considerably younger than the Appalachian mountains.

Which of these can be most reasonably inferred about the author based on the passage?

Possible Answers:

He is an American citizen.

He is not a well-regarded scientist.

He has studied mountain ranges all around the world.

He has traveled in the Himalayas.

He works, or has worked, in the United States.

Correct answer:

He works, or has worked, in the United States.

Explanation:

From this passage we can reasonably infer that the author has worked in the United States. This is because he says “There is, perhaps, no part of the world, certainly none familiar to science, where the early geological periods can be studied with so much ease and precision as in the United States.” It might be reasonable from this statement to also conclude that the author “is an American citizen” or “has studied mountain ranges around the world.” But, each of these answer requires more inference than the correct answer. Just because he has worked in the United States does not necessarily mean he is an American citizen, and just because he considers mountain ranges in the United States to be the easiest to study does not necessarily mean he is familiar with mountain ranges around the world—he might simply not be as familiar with other mountain ranges. 

Example Question #4 : Making Inferences And Predictions In Science Passages

Adapted from "Birds’ Nests" by John Burroughs in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

The rarest of all nests is that of the eagle, because the eagle is the rarest of all birds. Indeed, so seldom is the eagle seen, that its presence always seems accidental. It appears as if merely pausing on the way, while bound for some distant unknown region. One September, while a youth, I saw the ring-tailed eagle, an immense bird, the sight of which filled me with awe. It lingered about the hills for two days. Some young cattle, a two year-old colt, and half a dozen sheep were at pasture on a high ridge that led up to the mountain, and in plain view of the house. On the second day, this dusky monarch was seen flying about above them. Presently he began to hover over them, after the manner of a hawk watching for mice. He then with extended legs let himself slowly down upon them, actually grappling the backs of the young cattle, and frightening the creatures so that they rushed about the field in great consternation; and finally, as he grew bolder and more frequent in his descents, the whole herd broke over the fence, and came tearing down to the house “like mad.” It did not seem to be an assault with intent to kill, but was, perhaps, a stratagem resorted to in order to separate the herd and expose the lambs, which hugged the cattle very closely. When he occasionally alighted upon the oaks that stood near, the branch could be seen to sway and bend beneath him. Finally, as a rifleman started out in pursuit of him, he launched into the air, set his wings, and sailed away southward. A few years afterward, in January, another eagle passed through the same locality, alighting in a field near some dead animal, but tarried briefly.

What can you most reasonably infer about the author?

Possible Answers:

He is a natural woodsman.

He has never written professionally before.

He has a distinct fear of riflemen.

He is an avid bird watcher.

He is not religious.

Correct answer:

He is an avid bird watcher.

Explanation:

You can reasonably infer that the author is “an avid bird watcher.” This is because he seems familiar with the specific type of eagles that he has observed, and also because he is out and about wandering around frequently enough to observe and carefully track two eagles. He also seems to know, from experience, that eagles are the rarest of all birds. There is nothing to suggest he is “not religious,” or is writing for the first time. Its possible he is “a natural woodsman,” but requires a great deal more inference than the correct answer. The idea that he has a “fear of riflemen” is not supported by the text.

Example Question #2 : Making Predictions Based On Narrative 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

Frogs

Wolves

Birds

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 #2 : Making Inferences And Predictions In Science Passages

Adapted from "Birds’ Nests" by John Burroughs in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

The woodpeckers all build in about the same manner, excavating the trunk or branch of a decayed tree, and depositing the eggs on the fine fragments of wood at the bottom of the cavity. Though the nest is not especially an artistic work, requiring strength rather than skill, yet the eggs and the young of few other birds are so completely housed from the elements, or protected from their natural enemies—the jays, crows, hawks, and owls. A tree with a natural cavity is never selected, but one which has been dead just long enough to have become soft and brittle throughout. The bird goes in horizontally for a few inches, making a hole perfectly round and smooth and adapted to his size, then turns downward, gradually enlarging the hole, as he proceeds, to the depth of ten, fifteen, twenty inches, according to the softness of the tree and the urgency of the mother bird to deposit her eggs. While excavating, male and female work alternately. After one has been engaged fifteen or twenty minutes, drilling and carrying out chips, it ascends to an upper limb, utters a loud call or two, when its mate soon appears, and, alighting near it on the branch, the pair chatter and caress a moment; then the fresh one enters the cavity and the other flies away.

What can you infer about male and female woodpeckers from this passage?

Possible Answers:

They have a close and intimate bond.

They work quickly and hastily.

They are incapable of showing emotion.

They do not always work together very well.

They mate for life.

Correct answer:

They have a close and intimate bond.

Explanation:

In the concluding lines of this passage, the author talks about how “while excavating, male and female work alternately.” He also says, “the pair chatter and caress a moment; then the fresh one enters the cavity and the other flies away.” The key word for answering this question is “caress.” It means touch and stroke with affection. From the sum of this information, you can reasonably infer that woodpeckers “have a close and intimate bond.”

Example Question #3 : Making Inferences And Predictions In Science Passages

Adapted from "Life Growth - Frogs" by Margaret Warner Morley in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

Our common frogs, like many of the fishes, do not trouble themselves about the fate of their eggs after they are carefully laid in a safe place. They trust Mother Nature to see the little tadpoles safely through the perils of childhood, to help them avoid being eaten or starving, and cut, not their teeth, but their arms and legs.

In Venezuela, however, there dwells a frog with well developed maternal instinct. The mothers have pockets on their backs, not for their own convenience, but as cradles for their babies. The fathers put the fertilized eggs into the pockets of the mothers, and there they remain, well guarded, until the young are able to care for themselves.

What can you most reliably predict based on the information in this passage?

Possible Answers:

Venezuela is absolutely full of frogs.

Frogs are in the midst of a significant evolutionary development.

Few birds in Venezuela eat frogs.

Fishes carefully guard their young until they are old enough to survive alone.

Venezuelan frogs are far more likely to survive infancy than their counterparts elsewhere.

Correct answer:

Venezuelan frogs are far more likely to survive infancy than their counterparts elsewhere.

Explanation:

Many of these answer choices may be true, but only one can be reliably predicted based on this passage. That is that “Venezuelan frogs are far more likely to survive infancy than their counterparts elsewhere.” You can make this prediction because you are told that elsewhere infant frogs are left to take care of themselves, but in Venezuela the mother’s take care of the frogs during infancy. If the Venezuelan frogs are cared for and raised it is reasonably to assume they would be far more likely to survive than other frogs.

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