ISEE Upper Level Reading : Comparing and Contrasting in Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ISEE Upper Level Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

← Previous 1

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting In Natural Science Passages

Adapted from An Introduction to Astronomy by Forest Ray Moulton (1916 ed.)

The ancient Greeks, at a period four or five hundred years preceding the common era, definitely undertook to find from systematic observation how celestial phenomena follow one another. They determined very accurately the number of days in the year, the period of the moon's revolution, and the paths of the sun and the moon among the stars; they correctly explained the cause of eclipses and learned how to predict them with a considerable degree of accuracy; they undertook to measure the distances to the heavenly bodies, and to work out a complete system that would represent their motions. The idea was current among the Greek philosophers that the earth was spherical, that it turned on its axis, and, among some of them, that it revolved around the sun. They had true science in the modern acceptance of the term, but it was largely confined to the relations among celestial phenomena.

The conception that the heavens are orderly, which they definitely formulated and acted on with remarkable success, has been extended, especially in the last two centuries, so as to include the whole universe. The extension was first made to the inanimate world and then to the more complicated phenomena associated with living beings. Every increase in carefully recorded experience has confirmed and strengthened the belief that nature is perfectly orderly, until now every one who has had an opportunity of becoming familiar with any science is firmly convinced of the truth of this principle, which is the basis of all science.

Which best describes the contrast between modern and ancient science?

Possible Answers:

While ancient science investigated visible bodies, contemporary science is concerned with many realities that would have been invisible in past ages.

The two have very little in common at all.

While ancient science focused mainly on the heavens, contemporary science is much more biological.

While modern science has many branches, ancient science had a more limited number of subjects that it studied.

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

While modern science has many branches, ancient science had a more limited number of subjects that it studied.

Explanation:

This selection does not do much to contrast the two sciences, as it is focusing on the character of Greek science in general, particularly its concern with celestial bodies and their motions. However, at the end of the first paragraph, there is a helpful sentence: "They had true science in the modern acceptance of the term, but it was largely confined to the relations among celestial phenomena." This implies that they had only one "real" branch of science, namely that which was "confined to the relations among celestial phenomena." The implication is that in contrast with this single science, modernity has a number of different sciences.

Example Question #1 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

"Abstraction in the Sciences" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

Thinking “abstractly” is not a term that means quite the same thing in all of the sciences. Although we rarely think about this, it plays a key role in almost all of our day-to-day thought. Consider a zoologist working in a lab with many animals. When she is studying any individual tiger, she is not completely worried about the particular tiger—at least not primarily. Instead, she is trying to figure out certain characteristics of tigers in general. By meticulous testing, the zoologist carefully works out the physiology of tigers and considers what are absolutely necessary elements of their physical makeup. Even when she places a tiger in different habitats, her sight is aimed at the general condition of tigers and their needs in general.

However, things become even stranger when you start to consider how we think about mathematical objects. Consider the case of geometric figures. A triangle appears to be rather simple for most of us to think about. You can draw a triangle on a piece of paper, each side having a certain thickness and length. However when you think about this in geometry class, the triangle’s edges have no real thickness. Neither a point nor a line has a thickness for the mathematician. Such a thickness only exists on our paper, which represents the point or line. Consider also a line drawn on a piece of graph paper. Technically, there are an infinite number of points in the line. Indeed, even between 4.5 and 4.6, there are an infinite number of numbers—for example 4.55 is between them, then 4.555 between 4.55 and 4.6, and 4.5555 between 4.555 and 4.6, et cetera. In all of these cases, the mathematical reality takes on a very peculiar character when you consider it in the abstract. However, the concrete triangle remains very tangible and ordinary. Likewise, 4.6 and 4.5 inches still have 0.1 inches between them. Nevertheless, in the abstract, mathematical realities are quite strange, even stranger then the idea of “a tiger in general.”

What are the two things being contrasted in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

Living tigers and ancient tigers

Captive tigers and wild tigers

Individual tigers and the general properties of tigers

Captive tigers in general and scientifically tested captive tigers

Correct answer:

Individual tigers and the general properties of tigers

Explanation:

The first paragraph is focusing on the strange way that a scientist can consider "tigers in general." She is not so much concerned with any particular tiger as much as she is with the general "makeup" of tigers. These two ways of looking at the matter are the most directly contrasted point in this paragraph.

Example Question #1 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from “Humming-Birds: As Illustrating the Luxuriance of Tropical Nature” in Tropical Nature, and Other Essays by Alfred Russel Wallace (1878)

The food of hummingbirds has been a matter of much controversy. All the early writers down to Buffon believed that they lived solely on the nectar of flowers, but since that time, every close observer of their habits maintains that they feed largely, and in some cases wholly, on insects. Azara observed them on the La Plata in winter taking insects out of the webs of spiders at a time and place where there were no flowers. Bullock, in Mexico, declares that he saw them catch small butterflies, and that he found many kinds of insects in their stomachs. Waterton made a similar statement. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of specimens have since been dissected by collecting naturalists, and in almost every instance their stomachs have been found full of insects, sometimes, but not generally, mixed with a proportion of honey. Many of them in fact may be seen catching gnats and other small insects just like fly-catchers, sitting on a dead twig over water, darting off for a time in the air, and then returning to the twig. Others come out just at dusk, and remain on the wing, now stationary, now darting about with the greatest rapidity, imitating in a limited space the evolutions of the goatsuckers, and evidently for the same end and purpose. Mr. Gosse also remarks, ” All the hummingbirds have more or less the habit, when in flight, of pausing in the air and throwing the body and tail into rapid and odd contortions. This is most observable in the Polytmus, from the effect that such motions have on the long feathers of the tail. That the object of these quick turns is the capture of insects, I am sure, having watched one thus engaged pretty close to me.”

How does the quotation from Mr. Gosse relate to the evidence provided by other scientists earlier in the passage?

Possible Answers:

It suggests that the earlier evidence applies not only to hummingbirds but to another type of bird as well.

It supports the same conclusions that the previous evidence supports.

It contradicts the previous evidence and supports a different hypothesis.

It suggests that some of the previous evidence may be true, but some may be false.

It has nothing to do with the previous evidence.

Correct answer:

It supports the same conclusions that the previous evidence supports.

Explanation:

Let’s consider what Mr. Gosse is saying. The passage says, “Mr. Gosse also remarks, ‘All the hummingbirds have more or less the habit, when in flight, of pausing in the air and throwing the body and tail into rapid and odd contortions. This is most observable in the Polytmus, from the effect that such motions have on the long feathers of the tail. That the object of these quick turns is the capture of insects, I am sure, having watched one thus engaged pretty close to me.’”  Paraphrasing that, Mr. Gosse is saying that he has seen hummingbirds contort themselves in the air and he’s pretty sure they’re doing this in order to catch insects. The evidence provided by scientists earlier in the passage supports the idea that hummingbirds eat insects, just like Mr. Gosse’s does. We can’t say that Gosse’s evidence contradicts the earlier evidence, suggests that some of it may be false, or has nothing to do with the previous evidence. It also doesn’t suggest that the previous evidence can be applied to birds other than hummingbirds, because Mr. Gosse says that he is only discussing hummingbirds and we are to infer that the Polytmus is a hummingbird. So, the correct answer is that “it supports the same conclusions that the previous evidence supports.”

Example Question #113 : Reading Comprehension

Adapted from “Humming-Birds: As Illustrating the Luxuriance of Tropical Nature” in Tropical Nature, and Other Essays by Alfred Russel Wallace (1878)

The food of hummingbirds has been a matter of much controversy. All the early writers down to Buffon believed that they lived solely on the nectar of flowers, but since that time, every close observer of their habits maintains that they feed largely, and in some cases wholly, on insects. Azara observed them on the La Plata in winter taking insects out of the webs of spiders at a time and place where there were no flowers. Bullock, in Mexico, declares that he saw them catch small butterflies, and that he found many kinds of insects in their stomachs. Waterton made a similar statement. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of specimens have since been dissected by collecting naturalists, and in almost every instance their stomachs have been found full of insects, sometimes, but not generally, mixed with a proportion of honey. Many of them in fact may be seen catching gnats and other small insects just like fly-catchers, sitting on a dead twig over water, darting off for a time in the air, and then returning to the twig. Others come out just at dusk, and remain on the wing, now stationary, now darting about with the greatest rapidity, imitating in a limited space the evolutions of the goatsuckers, and evidently for the same end and purpose. Mr. Gosse also remarks, ” All the hummingbirds have more or less the habit, when in flight, of pausing in the air and throwing the body and tail into rapid and odd contortions. This is most observable in the Polytmus, from the effect that such motions have on the long feathers of the tail. That the object of these quick turns is the capture of insects, I am sure, having watched one thus engaged pretty close to me.”

Which of the following does the author contrast in this passage?

Possible Answers:

The results of feeding a hummingbird insects and the results of feeding a hummingbird flower nectar

Hummingbirds with long tails and hummingbirds with short tails

The author’s opinion about what hummingbirds eat and Mr. Gosse’s opinion about what hummingbirds eat

Hummingbirds that eat flower nectar and hummingbirds that eat insects

The beliefs of historical scientists and the beliefs of scientists of the author’s time

Correct answer:

The beliefs of historical scientists and the beliefs of scientists of the author’s time

Explanation:

Nowhere in the passage is the feeding of hummingbirds by humans mentioned, so “The results of feeding a hummingbird insects and the results of feeding a hummingbird flower nectar” cannot be correct. While a hummingbird with a long tail, the Polytmus, is mentioned, it is not contrasted with any short-tailed hummingbirds. The author appears to agree with Mr. Gosse’s opinion about what hummingbirds eat, so “The author’s opinion about what hummingbirds eat and Mr. Gosse’s opinion about what hummingbirds eat” cannot be correct either. This leaves us with “Hummingbirds that eat flower nectar and hummingbirds that eat insects” and “the beliefs of historical scientists and the beliefs of scientists of the author’s time.” While the passage is concerned with what hummingbirds eat, it doesn’t suggest that some types of hummingbirds eat only nectar and others eat only insects. Hummingbirds are considered as an entire group; they’re never divided into “hummingbirds that eat insects” and “hummingbirds that eat flower nectar.” This leaves us with one answer choice, the correct one: “The beliefs of historical scientists and the beliefs of scientists of the author’s time.” These beliefs are contrasted in the paragraph’s second sentence: “All the early writers down to Buffon believed that they lived solely on the nectar of flowers, but since that time, every close observer of their habits maintains that they feed largely, and in some cases wholly, on insects.”

Example Question #1 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from “Introduced Species That Have Become Pests” in Our Vanishing Wild Life, Its Extermination and Protection by William Temple Hornaday (1913)

The man who successfully transplants or "introduces" into a new habitat any persistent species of living thing assumes a very grave responsibility. Every introduced species is doubtful gravel until panned out. The enormous losses that have been inflicted upon the world through the perpetuation of follies with wild vertebrates and insects would, if added together, be enough to purchase a principality. The most aggravating feature of these follies in transplantation is that never yet have they been made severely punishable. We are just as careless and easygoing on this point as we were about the government of the Yellowstone Park in the days when Howell and other poachers destroyed our first national bison herd, and when caught red-handed—as Howell was, skinning seven Park bison cows—could not be punished for it, because there was no penalty prescribed by any law. Today, there is a way in which any revengeful person could inflict enormous damage on the entire South, at no cost to himself, involve those states in enormous losses and the expenditure of vast sums of money, yet go absolutely unpunished!

The gypsy moth is a case in point. This winged calamity was imported at Maiden, Massachusetts, near Boston, by a French entomologist, Mr. Leopold Trouvelot, in 1868 or 69. History records the fact that the man of science did not purposely set free the pest. He was endeavoring with live specimens to find a moth that would produce a cocoon of commercial value to America, and a sudden gust of wind blew out of his study, through an open window, his living and breeding specimens of the gypsy moth. The moth itself is not bad to look at, but its larvae is a great, overgrown brute with an appetite like a hog. Immediately Mr. Trouvelot sought to recover his specimens, and when he failed to find them all, like a man of real honor, he notified the State authorities of the accident. Every effort was made to recover all the specimens, but enough escaped to produce progeny that soon became a scourge to the trees of Massachusetts. The method of the big, nasty-looking mottled-brown caterpillar was very simple. It devoured the entire foliage of every tree that grew in its sphere of influence.

The gypsy moth spread with alarming rapidity and persistence. In course of time, the state authorities of Massachusetts were forced to begin a relentless war upon it, by poisonous sprays and by fire. It was awful! Up to this date (1912) the New England states and the United States Government service have expended in fighting this pest about $7,680,000!

The spread of this pest has been retarded, but the gypsy moth never will be wholly stamped out. Today it exists in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and it is due to reach New York at an early date. It is steadily spreading in three directions from Boston, its original point of departure, and when it strikes the State of New York, we, too, will begin to pay dearly for the Trouvelot experiment.

Howell’s story is different from that of Mr. Trouvelot’s in that __________.

Possible Answers:

Howell could be punished by law, while Trouvelot could not

Howell acted alone while Trouvelot worked with a group

Howell acted purposely while Trouvelot introduced the moths by accident

Howell sought to capture insects while Trouvelot sought to release them

Howell worked for a zoo while Trouvelot was a scientist

Correct answer:

Howell acted purposely while Trouvelot introduced the moths by accident

Explanation:

According to the passage, what did Howell do? He was caught skinning bison in Yellowstone National Park and there was no way to punish him, a point about which the author is frustrated. What did Mr. Trouvelot do? He accidentally released gypsy moths into the United States, where they’ve caused a lot of trouble since. Nothing in the passage says that Mr. Trouvelot worked in a group, so we can eliminate the answer “Howell acted alone while Mr. Trouvelot worked with a group.” Similarly, while the passage says that Mr. Trouvelot was a scientist (an entomologist), nothing says that Howell worked for a zoo, so “Howell worked for a zoo while Trouvelot was a scientist” can’t be correct. The author brings up Howell’s story as an example of someone who couldn’t be punished by law for what the author considers an egregiously bad act, so “Howell could be punished by law, while Mr. Trouvelot could not” can’t be correct either. Howell’s story has nothing to do with insects and Mr. Trouvelot released his gypsy moths on accident, so “Howell sought to capture insects while Trouvelot sought to release them” cannot be the correct answer. This leaves us with one answer choice, the correct one: “Howell acted purposely while Trouvelot introduced the moths by accident.”

Example Question #43 : Science Passages

Adapted from “Feathers of Sea Birds and Wild Fowl for Bedding” from The Utility of Birds by Edward Forbush (ed. 1922)

In the colder countries of the world, the feathers and down of waterfowl have been in great demand for centuries as filling for beds and pillows. Such feathers are perfect non-conductors of heat, and beds, pillows, or coverlets filled with them represent the acme of comfort and durability. The early settlers of New England saved for such purposes the feathers and down from the thousands of wild-fowl which they killed, but as the population increased in numbers, the quantity thus furnished was insufficient, and the people sought a larger supply in the vast colonies of ducks and geese along the Labrador coast. 

The manner in which the feathers and down were obtained, unlike the method practiced in Iceland, did not tend to conserve and protect the source of supply. In Iceland, the people have continued to receive for many years a considerable income by collecting eider down, but there they do not “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Ducks line their nests with down plucked from their own breasts and that of the eider is particularly valuable for bedding. In Iceland, these birds are so carefully protected that they have become as tame and unsuspicious as domestic fowls In North America. Where they are constantly hunted they often conceal their nests in the midst of weeds or bushes, but in Iceland, they make their nests and deposit their eggs in holes dug for them in the sod. A supply of the ducks is maintained so that the people derive from them an annual income.

In North America, quite a different policy was pursued. The demand for feathers became so great in the New England colonies about the middle of the eighteenth century that vessels were fitted out there for the coast of Labrador for the express purpose of securing the feathers and down of wild fowl. Eider down having become valuable and these ducks being in the habit of congregating by thousands on barren islands of the Labrador coast, the birds became the victims of the ships’ crews. As the ducks molt all their primary feathers at once in July or August and are then quite incapable of flight and the young birds are unable to fly until well grown, the hunters were able to surround the helpless birds, drive them together, and kill them with clubs. Otis says that millions of wildfowl were thus destroyed and that in a few years their haunts were so broken up by this wholesale slaughter and their numbers were so diminished that feather voyages became unprofitable and were given up. 

This practice, followed by the almost continual egging, clubbing, shooting, etc. by Labrador fishermen, may have been a chief factor in the extinction of the Labrador duck, that species of supposed restricted breeding range. No doubt had the eider duck been restricted in its breeding range to the islands of Labrador, it also would have been exterminated long ago.

Which of the following does the passage directly compare?

Possible Answers:

The nesting habits of hunted and protected ducks

Ducks that nest on the Labrador coast and ducks that nest in Iceland

The use of eider down in bedding in North America and in Iceland

The relative warmth of feathers and down as insulating materials

The price of down in Iceland and North America

Correct answer:

The nesting habits of hunted and protected ducks

Explanation:

Of the given answer choices, the passage only compares “the nesting habits of hunted and protected ducks.” It does this when the author says, “In Iceland, these birds are so carefully protected that they have become as tame and unsuspicious as domestic fowls In North America. Where they are constantly hunted they often conceal their nests in the midst of weeds or bushes, but in Iceland, they make their nests and deposit their eggs in holes dug for them in the sod.” The price of down is never mentioned in the passage, and while feathers and down are both mentioned, they are not compared. Similarly, the use of eider down in bedding is mentioned, but its use in North America and in Iceland isn’t compared. Finally, while ducks that nest on the Labrador coast and ducks that nest in Iceland are each described, they are not directly compared.

Example Question #2 : Comparing And Contrasting In Science Passages

"Comparing Technologies: A Difficult Endeavor" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

Comparisons of technology are often difficult to make, not only because of the rapid pace of improvements but also because of the many new applications that are available as time progresses. If we were to consider the contemporary graphing calculator and the calculation capacities of computing machines from fifty years ago, there would be astounding improvements between these two devices. However, the improvements are not reduced merely to speed improvements. A graphing calculator also has numerous output capacities that far exceed those available much older computers, none of which had the ability to represent their output in any manner even closely resembling that of contemporary devices. Merely consider the display capacities of such a device. These enable users to input many new kinds of information, enabling design engineers to design new hardware functions to match the new means of collecting user input.

The situation is even more obvious when one considers the numerous functions performed by a modern “smartphone.” These devices are equipped with a panoply of features.  With all of these new functions come many new types of computational capabilities as well. In order to process images quickly, specialized hardware must be designed and software written for it in order to ensure that there are few issues with the phone’s operation. Indeed, the whole “real time” nature of telecommunications has exerted numerous pressures on the designers of computing devices. Layers of complexity, at all levels of production and development, are required to ensure that the phone can function in a synchronous manner. Gone are the days of asynchronous processing, when the computer user entered data into a mainframe, only to wait for a period of time before the processing results were provided. Today, even the smallest of digital devices must provide seamless service for users. The effects of this requirement are almost beyond number.

Which of the following best describes the contrast between newer and older calculating devices?

Possible Answers:

Newer calculators are blazingly faster than older calculating machines.

They differ both in capabilities as well as overall speed.

Older calculating machines broke down far more frequently than do modern calculators.

Previous calculators had no output capacities whatsoever.

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

They differ both in capabilities as well as overall speed.

Explanation:

In the selection, there are two key sentences: "However, the improvements are not reduced merely to speed improvements. A graphing calculator also has numerous output capacities that far exceed those available much older computers." The passage marks two points regarding the difference between the older and newer devices. They differ both with regard to speed and their ability to output data. The answer that speaks of having differing "capabilities" captures the distinction in output well enough for our answer. The other answers either bring in data not listed in our passage or are too narrow in scope.

Example Question #3 : Textual Relationships 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.

One of the main differences between an ostrich and a rail, according to the passage, is __________.

Possible Answers:

ostriches are smaller than rails

ostriches use their running abilities to catch prey, whereas rails use their running abilities to avoid predators

ostriches are living things whereas rails are inanimate objects

ostriches run over open terrain, and rails run through thick grass 

ostriches live in grassy areas whereas rails live in the desert

Correct answer:

ostriches run over open terrain, and rails run through thick grass 

Explanation:

Ostriches and rails are discussed in the first paragraph. The author says that “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.” The passage then goes on to detail how rails have thin bodies that allow them to dart through the grass. This means that the correct answer is “ostriches run over open terrain whereas rails run through thick grass.” 

The passage is describing the rail, a type of bird, and not using the word “rail” to describe part of a train track or a barrier on an elevated area, so “ostriches are living things whereas rails are inanimate objects” cannot be correct. Ostriches are never said to be smaller than rails or predators, so neither “ostriches are smaller than rails” nor “ostriches use their running abilities to catch prey, whereas rails use their running abilities to avoid predators” can be correct. Finally, rails are said to live in areas containing and have adapted to “thickly-growing vegetation” and ostriches are said to have developed a different adaptation suited to “open country,” so “ostriches live in grassy areas whereas rails live in the desert” cannot be correct either.

Example Question #5 : Understanding Style, Argument, And Organization In 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.

How does the second paragraph relate to the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

The first paragraph discusses predators of flightless birds, the second describes prey of flightless birds.

The first paragraph describes a type of flightless birds that has gone extinct; the second describes species of flightless birds that are still living.

The first paragraph provides a personal anecdote while the second paragraph provides historical information.

The first paragraph describes birds people eat; the second describes birds people do not eat.

The first paragraph describes flightless birds that learned to defend themselves from predators by fleeing them; the second paragraph describes a flightless bird that did not adapt in this way.

Correct answer:

The first paragraph describes flightless birds that learned to defend themselves from predators by fleeing them; the second paragraph describes a flightless bird that did not adapt in this way.

Explanation:

Examining the two paragraphs, one can find that the first one talks about ostriches and rails, two types of flightless birds that adapted in specific ways to be good at fleeing predators. The second paragraph tells the story of the dodo, a flightless bird that did not have time to develop such adaptations. From here, we can pick out the correct answer: “The first paragraph describes flightless birds that learned to defend themselves from predators by fleeing them; the second paragraph describes a flightless bird that did not adapt in this way.”

As for the other answer choices, nothing in the passage discusses people eating birds, so we can ignore the answer choice “The first paragraph describes birds people eat; the second describes birds people do not eat.” The answer choice “The first paragraph describes a type of flightless birds that has gone extinct; the second describes species of flightless birds that are still living” would be correct if it flipped around the paragraphs to which it refers, but as it is written, it is incorrect. The passage doesn’t say anything about the predators of flightless birds in the first paragraph or the prey of flightless birds in either paragraph, so “The first paragraph discusses predators of flightless birds, the second describes prey of flightless birds” cannot be correct, and since the first paragraph does not provide a personal anecdote, “The first paragraph provides a personal anecdote while the second paragraph provides historical information” cannot be correct either.

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting In Science Passages

Adapted from “Comets” by Camille Flammarion in Wonders of Earth, Sea, and Sky (1902, ed. Edward Singleton Holden)

The history of a comet would be an instructive episode of the great history of the heavens. In it could be brought together the description of the progressive movement of human thought, as well as the astronomical theory of these extraordinary bodies. Let us take, for example, one of the most memorable and best-known comets, and give an outline of its successive passages near the Earth. Like the planetary worlds, comets belong to the solar system, and are subject to the rule of the Star King. It is the universal law of gravitation which guides their path; solar attraction governs them, as it governs the movement of the planets and the small satellites. The chief point of difference between them and the planets is that their orbits are very elongated, and instead of being nearly circular, they take the elliptical form. In consequence of the nature of these orbits, the same comet may approach very near the sun, and afterwards travel from it to immense distances.

Thus, the period of the Comet of 1680 has been estimated at three thousand years. It approaches the sun, so as to be nearer to it than our moon is to us, whilst it recedes to a distance 853 times greater than the distance of the Earth from the sun. On the 17th of December, 1680, it was at its perihelion—that is, at its greatest proximity to the sun; it is now continuing its path beyond the Neptunian orbit. Its velocity varies according to its distance from the solar body. At its perihelion it travels thousands of leagues per minute; at its aphelion it does not pass over more than a few yards.  

Its proximity to the Sun in its passage near that body caused Newton to think that it received a heat twenty-eight thousand times greater than that we experience at the summer solstice, and that this heat being two thousand times greater than that of red-hot iron, an iron globe of the same dimensions would be fifty thousand years entirely losing its heat. Newton added that in the end, comets will approach so near the sun that they will not be able to escape the preponderance of its attraction, and that they will fall one after the other into this brilliant body, thus keeping up the heat which it perpetually pours out into space. Such is the deplorable end assigned to comets by the author of the Principia, an end which makes De la Brétonne say to Rétif: "An immense comet, already larger than Jupiter, was again increased in its path by being blended with six other dying comets. Thus displaced from its ordinary route by these slight shocks, it did not pursue its true elliptical orbit; so that the unfortunate thing was precipitated into the devouring centre of the Sun." "It is said," added he, "that the poor comet, thus burned alive, sent forth dreadful cries!"

According to the author, what is the primary difference between comets and planets?

Possible Answers:

Comets move much faster through space than planets.

Planets have been around for billions of years, comets are constantly formed and then destroyed.

Planets move in a circular orbit, whereas the orbits of comets are elongated.

Planets are much bigger than comets.

Comets are much more destructive than planets.

Correct answer:

Planets move in a circular orbit, whereas the orbits of comets are elongated.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read carefully in detail. For example, you know that planets are not necessarily bigger than comets because the author talks about how a comet bigger than Jupiter once crashed into the sun. You also know that comets do not necessarily move much faster through space than planets because the author talks about the varied speeds of comets and how they can sometimes slow to a relative crawl. The correct answer is found towards the end of the first paragraph, where the author says, “The chief point of difference between [comets] and the planets is that their orbits are very elongated, and instead of being nearly circular, they take the elliptical form.” So, the orbit of planets is “nearly circular” and the orbit of comets is “very elongated,” in “the elliptical form.”

← Previous 1
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

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