SSAT Middle Level Reading : Making Inferences in Argumentative Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #631 : Act Reading

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.

Based on the first paragraph, the author would be most likely to support __________.

Possible Answers:

an effort to catalogue the exact amount of money invasive species have cost the United States

granting Howell clemency for his actions

introducing damaging invasive species to the South

a law severely punishing those who introduce invasive species that damage the environment

keeping bison out of Yellowstone National Park

Correct answer:

a law severely punishing those who introduce invasive species that damage the environment

Explanation:

One of the author’s main points in the first paragraph is that harsher legal repercussions are needed for those who release damaging invasive species into the United States. This is clear when the author writes, “The most aggravating feature of these follies in transplantation is that never yet have they been made severely punishable.” Thus, we can infer that the author would be most likely to support “a law severely punishing those who introduce invasive species that damage the environment.” Though the author does discuss the potential for someone to introduce invasive species to the South, he is not in favor of this, and he clearly doesn’t want to grant Howell clemency for his actions. (Furthermore, “clemency” somewhat implies that Howell has been charged with a crime, and the author explains that this isn’t the case.) 

The author does state, “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,” and we can therefore assume that he might support cataloguing the amount of money invasive species have cost the United States. However, this inference requires a much larger logical leap than does the one that the author would support harsher legal punishments for those who introduce damaging invasive species, making “a law severely punishing those who introduce invasive species that damage the environment” the best answer. If you’re unsure when picking between answers to an inference question, it’s usually a good idea to see which one is more relevant to the passage’s topic and has the most evidence supporting it.

Example Question #21 : Argumentative Science Passages

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

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, is a luminous appearance in the northern parts of the sky, seen mostly during winter, or in frosty weather, and clear evenings; it assumes a variety of forms and hues, especially in the polar regions, where it appears in its perfection, and proves a great solace to the inhabitants amidst the gloom of their long winter's night, which lasts from one to six months.

Which of these statements about the Northern Lights is supported by this passage?

Possible Answers:

It is unexplainable.

It is a sign of coming winter.

None of these answers is supported by this passage.

It is more clearly seen in Canada than in Mexico.

It is a phenomenon reserved solely for the Antarctic region.

Correct answer:

It is more clearly seen in Canada than in Mexico.

Explanation:

The author says that the Northern Lights appear in “the Northern parts of the sky” and “especially in the polar regions,” so you know that the further North you are, the more likely you are to see the Northern Lights, and the more clearly they can be seen. This should allow you to infer that the Northern Lights can be much more clearly seen in Canada than in Mexico. The same phenomenon does occur in the Antarctic region, but there it is in the Southern Hemisphere and called “Aurora Australis.”

Example Question #22 : 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 the author can you most reasonably infer to be true?

Possible Answers:

He worked for the American space program.

He is unmarried and childless.

He works in London.

He is an amateur astronomer.

He dropped out of university.

Correct answer:

He works in London.

Explanation:

There is no evidence in this passage to support that the author is “unmarried” or that “he dropped out of university.” Likewise, there is no mention of the “American space program” or of the author’s professional or amateur status as an astronomer. It is reasonable to assume he is a professional from the assuredness of his tone. The only piece of information that could possibly lead to an inference being made is found in the third paragraph where the author is talking about constructing a scale model of the known universe. He says, “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.” The author is clearly in London and giving a lecture to a group of assembled individuals, so we can reasonably infer that the author “works in London.” Of course, this is not a concrete inference; he might simply be in town for a conference. But, there is such little evidence to support any other inference, so this is the answer choice that can be “most reasonably” inferred.

Example Question #363 : Isee Lower Level (Grades 5 6) Reading Comprehension

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

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

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

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

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

Possible Answers:

ridiculous

misplaced

wise

abhorrent

beneficial

Correct answer:

misplaced

Explanation:

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

Example Question #22 : Literal Comprehension

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

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

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

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

Jersey cows originally come from __________.

Possible Answers:

Jersey

Normandy

Alderney

England

It is impossible to say.

Correct answer:

Normandy

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to pay attention to the correct detail. The name “Jersey cow” is simply the name of the cow and not an indication of where the cows originally come from. The same is true of “Alderney.” However, the author tells you “These cattle are of Norman origin," so, you can easily determine that Jersey cows come from “Normandy.”

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences In Argumentative Science Passages

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

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

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

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

The author would most likely view using a Jersey cow as a source of beef as __________.

Possible Answers:

It is impossible to say.

a waste of resources

a situational consideration

a viable way to make a profit

a foolish, but understandable mistake

Correct answer:

a waste of resources

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read the first paragraph carefully and make an inference from what the author says: “These cattle, formerly known as Alderney, are almost exclusively employed for dairy purposes, and may not be expected to give satisfaction for other uses.” He goes on to say that the milk and butter produced from these cows is very valuable, so if a farmer employed a Jersey cow for different purposes, the author would probably view the decision as “a waste of resources.”

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