SSAT Middle Level Reading : Locating Details in Argumentative Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SSAT Middle Level Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #71 : Content Of Natural 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 sought to capture insects while Trouvelot sought to release them

Howell acted alone while Trouvelot worked with a group

Howell worked for a zoo while Trouvelot was a scientist

Howell acted purposely while Trouvelot introduced the moths by accident

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 #31 : Drawing Evidence From Natural 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.

Why did Mr. Trouvelot bring gypsy moths to Boston?

Possible Answers:

He wanted to use them combat other insect pests that were ruining his crops.

He wanted to release them as a scientific experiment.

Mr. Trouvelot did not bring gypsy moths to Boston; he brought them to Yellowstone National Park.

He wanted to feed them to the birds he kept in his aviary.

He was trying to find a moth that would make cocoons he could sell.

Correct answer:

He was trying to find a moth that would make cocoons he could sell.

Explanation:

The second paragraph of the passage tells the story of how Mr. Trouvelot released the gypsy moths, so we should look there for our answer. In it, the author writes that the gypsy moth “was imported at Maiden, Massachusetts, near Boston, by a French entomologist, Mr. Leopold Trouvelot, in 1868 or 69”; this allows us to eliminate the answer “Mr. Trouvelot did not bring gypsy moths to Boston; he brought them to Yellowstone National Park.” The author then explains that Trouvelot “was endeavoring with live specimens to find a moth that would produce a cocoon of commercial value to America.” Therefore, the correct answer is “He was trying to find a moth that would make a cocoon he could sell.”

Example Question #7 : Identifying And Analyzing Details 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.

At the time the passage was written, in which of the following states was the gypsy moth NOT found?

Possible Answers:

New Hampshire

Connecticut

New York

Rhode Island

Massachusetts

Correct answer:

New York

Explanation:

The part of the passage most relevant to this question is found in the last paragraph:

“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.”

We can tell that “New York” is the answer based on this quotation, but one state remains unaccounted for: Massachusetts. Earlier in the passage, we are told that the gypsy moth “was imported at Maiden, Massachusetts, near Boston,” and that “enough escaped to produce progeny that soon became a scourge to the trees of Massachusetts.” We can infer that the gypsy moth is found in Massachusetts at the time the passage was written, especially given that the author writes, “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!” This quotation—especially the author’s use of the transition “Up to this date”—suggests that the gypsy moth remained a problem in Massachusetts at the time the author was writing.

Example Question #1 : Locating Details In Argumentative Science Passages

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

Among the larger lizards, a distinct difference may be observed between the American alligator and its near ally, the African crocodile. On the banks of the Mississippi, the alligator lays a hundred eggs or thereabouts, which she deposits in a nest near the water’s edge, and then covers them up with leaves and other decaying vegetable matter. The fermentation of these leaves produces heat and so does for the alligator’s eggs what sitting does for those of hens and other birds: the mother deputes her maternal functions, so to speak, to a festering heap of decomposing plant-refuse. Nevertheless, she loiters about all the time to see what happens, and when the eggs hatch out, she leads her little ones down to the river, and there makes alligators of them. This is a simple nursery arrangement of the big lizards.

The African crocodile, on the other hand, does something different, and takes greater care for the safety of its young. It lays only about thirty eggs, but these it buries in warm sand, and then lies on top of them at night, both to protect them from attack and to keep them warm during the cooler hours. In short, it sits upon them. When the young crocodiles within the eggs are ready to hatch, they utter an acute cry. The mother then digs down to the eggs, and lays them freely on the surface, so that the little reptiles may have space to work their way out unimpeded. This they do by biting at the shell with a specially developed tooth; at the end of two hours’ nibbling they are free, and are led down to the water by their affectionate parent. In these two cases we see the beginnings of the instinct of hatching, which in birds has become almost universal.

What role do the “leaves and decaying vegetable matter” play in the life of an American alligator?

Possible Answers:

They provide food for the alligator’s offspring

They are used by the alligators to bait the fish and small mammals that the alligator eats.

They provide nesting for the mother alligator.

They provide warmth for the alligator’s eggs.

They provide protection from predators.

Correct answer:

They provide warmth for the alligator’s eggs.

Explanation:

The passage says that the alligator lays her eggs and then covers them with leaves and vegetable matter; it then says that “The fermentation of these leaves produces heat and so does for the alligator’s eggs what sitting does for those of hens and other birds." So, the leaves produce “heat,” which fulfills the same function as “sitting does for . . . hens" Therefore, it can be reasonably determined that “they provide warmth for the alligator’s eggs.”

Example Question #1 : Locating Details In Argumentative Science Passages

Adapted from “The Stars” by Sir Robert S. Ball in Wonders of Earth, Sea, and Sky (1902, ed. Edward Singleton Holden)

The group of bodies that cluster around our sun forms a little island in the extent of infinite space. We may illustrate this by drawing a map in which we shall endeavor to show the stars placed at their proper relative distances. 

We first open the compasses one inch, and thus draw a little circle to represent the path of Earth. We are not going to put in all the planets; we take Neptune, the outermost, at once. To draw its path, I open the compasses to thirty inches, and draw a circle with that radius. That will do for our solar system, though the comets no doubt will roam beyond these limits. 

To complete our map, we ought to put in some stars. There are a hundred million to choose from, and we shall begin with the brightest. It is often called the Dog Star, but astronomers know it better as Sirius. Let us see where it is to be placed on our map. Sirius is a good deal further off than Neptune; so I try at the edge of the drawing-board; I have got a method of making a little calculation that I do not intend to trouble you with, but I can assure you that the results it leads me to are quite correct; they show me that this board is not big enough. But could a board which was big enough fit into this lecture theatre? No; in fact, the board would have to go out through the wall of the theatre, out through London. Indeed, big as London is, it would not be large enough to contain the drawing-board that I should require. It would have to stretch about twenty miles from where we are now assembled. We may therefore dismiss any hope of making a practical map of our system on this scale if Sirius is to have its proper place. 

Let us, then, take some other star. We shall naturally try with the nearest of all. It is one that we do not know in this part of the world, but those that live in the southern hemisphere are well acquainted with it. The name of this star is Alpha Centauri. Even for this star, we should require a drawing three or four miles long if the distance from the earth to the sun is to be taken as one inch. 

You see what an isolated position our sun and its planets occupy. The stars might be very troublesome neighbors if they were very much closer to our system; it is therefore well they are so far off. If they were near at hand, they would drag us into unpleasantly great heat by bringing us too close to the sun, or produce a coolness by pulling us away from the sun, which would be quite as disagreeable.

Which of these statements about Alpha Centauri is true?

Possible Answers:

It is the brightest star in the night sky.

It cannot be seen in the Northern Hemisphere.

It is the star farthest from Earth and still observable.

None of the other answers is true.

It is the biggest star in the night sky.

Correct answer:

It cannot be seen in the Northern Hemisphere.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read carefully in detail and be able to translate what the author means in certain sentences. When discussing Alpha Centauri, the author tells you, “We shall naturally try with the nearest [star] of all. It is one that we do not know in this part of the world, but those that live in the southern hemisphere are well acquainted with it. The name of this star is Alpha Centauri.” When the author says “we do not know in this part of the world,” he means we cannot see it in the Northern Hemisphere. This can be confirmed by the fact that the author says that “those . . . in the southern hemisphere are well acquainted with it.”

Example Question #174 : Science Passages

Adapted from “The Stars” by Sir Robert S. Ball in Wonders of Earth, Sea, and Sky (1902, ed. Edward Singleton Holden)

The group of bodies that cluster around our sun forms a little island in the extent of infinite space. We may illustrate this by drawing a map in which we shall endeavor to show the stars placed at their proper relative distances. 

We first open the compasses one inch, and thus draw a little circle to represent the path of Earth. We are not going to put in all the planets; we take Neptune, the outermost, at once. To draw its path, I open the compasses to thirty inches, and draw a circle with that radius. That will do for our solar system, though the comets no doubt will roam beyond these limits. 

To complete our map, we ought to put in some stars. There are a hundred million to choose from, and we shall begin with the brightest. It is often called the Dog Star, but astronomers know it better as Sirius. Let us see where it is to be placed on our map. Sirius is a good deal further off than Neptune; so I try at the edge of the drawing-board; I have got a method of making a little calculation that I do not intend to trouble you with, but I can assure you that the results it leads me to are quite correct; they show me that this board is not big enough. But could a board which was big enough fit into this lecture theatre? No; in fact, the board would have to go out through the wall of the theatre, out through London. Indeed, big as London is, it would not be large enough to contain the drawing-board that I should require. It would have to stretch about twenty miles from where we are now assembled. We may therefore dismiss any hope of making a practical map of our system on this scale if Sirius is to have its proper place. 

Let us, then, take some other star. We shall naturally try with the nearest of all. It is one that we do not know in this part of the world, but those that live in the southern hemisphere are well acquainted with it. The name of this star is Alpha Centauri. Even for this star, we should require a drawing three or four miles long if the distance from the earth to the sun is to be taken as one inch. 

You see what an isolated position our sun and its planets occupy. The stars might be very troublesome neighbors if they were very much closer to our system; it is therefore well they are so far off. If they were near at hand, they would drag us into unpleasantly great heat by bringing us too close to the sun, or produce a coolness by pulling us away from the sun, which would be quite as disagreeable.

Which of these statements about the Dog Star is true?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answer choices is true.

It is the observable star farthest away from Earth.

It presents a large danger to our solar system.

It can only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere.

It is the brightest star in the night sky.

Correct answer:

It is the brightest star in the night sky.

Explanation:

Answering this question is a matter of reading carefully in detail. When discussing Sirius, the Dog Star, the author says, “There are a hundred million to choose from, and we shall begin with the brightest. It is often called the Dog Star, but astronomers know it better as Sirius.” So, the Dog Star is the brightest star in the night sky.

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