SSAT Middle Level Reading : Making Inferences in Narrative Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Making Inferences In Narrative 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.”

Based on what is said in the passage, the author most likely believes that __________.

Possible Answers:

hummingbirds eat a mixture of flower nectar and insects, but mostly insects

hummingbirds eat neither flower nectar nor insects

hummingbirds eat a mixture of flower nectar and insects, but mostly flower nectar

None of the other answers

hummingbirds eat only flower nectar

Correct answer:

hummingbirds eat a mixture of flower nectar and insects, but mostly insects

Explanation:

This is a tricky question because in the passage, the author never directly states his opinion about what hummingbirds eat; readers have to infer it based on the evidence he presents. The author begins the passage by stating that while old scientists used to think hummingbirds ate only flower nectar, modern writers think that they eat “largely, and in some cases wholly,” on insects. He then presents evidence suggesting that hummingbirds eat insects, and in discussing the contents of hummingbirds’ stomachs, says that scientists sometimes find both insects and honey. For the rest of the paragraph, he provides evidence suggesting that hummingbirds eat insects.

What can we infer from this? Well, we can tell that it’s not likely that the author thinks hummingbirds eat only flower nectar, because he provides evidence supporting the idea that they eat insects. This means that we can also discard the answer choice “hummingbirds eat neither flower nectar nor insects.” It’s quite reasonable to think that the author thinks that “hummingbirds eat a mixture of flower nectar and insects” because he mentions that sometimes honey is found along with insects in hummingbirds’ stomachs. So, we need to figure out whether he probably believes that they eat mostly insects or mostly flower nectar. Let’s look at how the author phrases his description of the contents of hummingbirds’ stomachs: “in almost every instance their stomachs have been found full of insects, sometimes, but not generally, mixed with a proportion of honey.” So, if “in almost every instance” the hummingbird stomachs examined were “full of insects,” but “sometimes, but not generally” honey was also found, the correct answer must be “hummingbirds eat a mixture of flower nectar and insects, but mostly insects.”

Example Question #91 : Content Of Natural 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.”

Which of the following inferences does the passage expect its readers to make?

Possible Answers:

If a hummingbird consumes flower nectar, this nectar will turn into the honey that can be found in its stomach.

The author is the first scientist to ever have investigated what hummingbirds eat.

Scientists rarely learn about hummingbirds by dissecting them.

If a hummingbird eats gnats, it will not eat honey.

Fly-catchers are a type of insect.

Correct answer:

If a hummingbird consumes flower nectar, this nectar will turn into the honey that can be found in its stomach.

Explanation:

Let’s consider each of the answer choices to identify the correct one.

“The author is the first scientist to ever have investigated what hummingbirds eat.” - This cannot be true, because the author begins the passage by saying “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.” He also cites numerous other scientists’ opinions throughout the passage, so he can’t be the first person to have investigated what hummingbirds eat.

“Fly-catchers are a type of insect.” - The passage mentions fly-catchers in the following sentence: “Many [hummingbirds] 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.” This is a tricky answer choice in that it’s easy to misread the sentence and think that “just like flycatchers” refers to “other small insects” when in fact it refers to the act of “catching.” The sentence is saying that hummingbirds catch insects in the same manner as fly-catchers, not that fly-catchers are a type of insect. Plus, we are being asked to identify an inference readers are expected to make, and if this sentence did mean that fly-catchers were insects, it would be overtly telling us this, and there would be nothing we’d have to infer.

“Scientists rarely learn about hummingbirds by dissecting them.” - This answer choice is proven wrong by the following sentence: “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.”

“If a hummingbird eats gnats, it will not eat honey.” - Given that the questions of whether hummingbirds eat insects or honey and in what proportions is the topic of the passage, it may be easy to choose this answer choice because it seems like the one closest to the passage’s main idea; however, nothing in the passage supports this assertion.

“If a hummingbird consumes flower nectar, this nectar will turn into the honey that can be found in its stomach.” - This is the correct answer! The author initially states that “All the early writers down to Buffon believed that [hummingbirds] lived solely on the nectar of flowers”; however, he later states that “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.” The author does not address the idea that flower nectar and honey could be different substances, and instead expects the reader to treat these as one source of food.

Example Question #616 : Ssat Upper Level 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.”

Based on the way the term is used in passage, what is “the Polytmus”?

Possible Answers:

A type of hummingbird with particularly bright coloring

A type of carnivorous mammal that eats hummingbirds

A species of flower that often attracts hummingbirds

A type of hummingbird with a long tail

A scientific term for a fledgling hummingbird that cannot yet fly

Correct answer:

A type of hummingbird with a long tail

Explanation:

Let’s look at the spot in the passage where “the Polytmus” is mentioned: 

“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.’” 

From this context, we can tell that the Polytmus isn’t a carnivorous hummingbird-eating mammal, or a species of flower: it is a hummingbird. It is mentioned in the context of flying, so it can’t refer to a fledgling hummingbird that can’t yet fly. So, is it mentioning a type of hummingbird with particularly bright coloring, or one with a long tail? Mr. Gosse mentions the Polytmus in particular because observers can easily see it contort in midair “from the effect that such motions have on the long feathers of the tail.” So, the Polytmus must be “a type of hummingbird with a long tail.”

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 #81 : Narrative 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, which of the following can we infer would be the best reason for animals living in variable arctic environments to change their fur color?

Possible Answers:

They would be faster.

They would more easily be able to attract a mate.

They would be more difficult to see when surrounded by snow.

They would be warmer.

They would be able to find food more quickly and easily.

Correct answer:

They would be more difficult to see when surrounded by snow.

Explanation:

If animals that live in arctic environments change their fur color, it is likely a seasonal change from brownish fur to predominantly white fur, as we’ve seen in the examples of the Irish hare, the stoat, and the weasel. What is specific about arctic environments? Thy likely involve a lot of snow, and are quite cold. Changing fur color to white would thus blend in with the snow and make an animal harder to see, as the last sentence suggests in saying that “in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, [color change] is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.” we’re not told anything in the passage that would support the assertion that it would make the animal warmer, or that would support any of the other answer choices.

Example Question #13 : Gmat Verbal

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.”

What can we infer from the underlined sentence, “Many [hummingbirds] 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"?

Possible Answers:

Gnats are rarely found near bodies of water.

Some hummingbirds live in the desert.

All hummingbirds live near bodies of water.

All hummingbirds live in the desert.

Some hummingbirds live near bodies of water.

Correct answer:

Some hummingbirds live near bodies of water.

Explanation:

What does the underlined sentence tell us? It refers to “Many” hummingbirds, not “all hummingbirds,” so we can’t infer that what it says holds true for all hummingbirds. This allows us to eliminate the answer choices that begin with “all hummingbirds,” leaving us with “Gnats are rarely found near bodies of water,” “Some hummingbirds live in the desert,” and “Some hummingbirds live near a body of water.” Regarding gnats, the sentence doesn’t suggest that they are rarely found near bodies of water, since it mentions hummingbirds “may be seen catching gnats and other small insects just like fly-catchers” and implies that they do this by “sitting on a dead twig over water, darting off for a time in the air, and then returning to the twig.” We’re down to two answer choices: whether some hummingbirds live in the desert or near a body of water. The sentence doesn’t mention anything about deserts; on the contrary, it tells us that “many” hummingbirds catch gnats. The way that these hummingbirds do this begins with them “sitting on a dead twig over water.” So, we are told that many hummingbirds catch gnats and that in catching gnats, they sit over water. From this, we can infer that many hummingbirds live near bodies of water.

Example Question #21 : Textual Relationships 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:

polar bears . . . penguins are unafraid of explorers

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

seals . . . penguins are carnivorous and hunt in groups

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

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

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 #2 : Making Inferences In Narrative 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.

What can you infer is “the ratitae," underlined in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

A bone found in most birds’ skeletons

A bird that swims

A type of flightless bird

A bird that lives in Antarctica

A type of fish

Correct answer:

A type of flightless bird

Explanation:

The ratitae is mentioned in the paragraph’s first passage, when the author writes, “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.” In analyzing this, it’s important to ask: to what part of the sentence is “Like the ratitae” specifically referring? It is referring to the fact that “penguins have lost the power of flight.” Thus, the comparison being made here is that both the ratitae and the penguins “have lost the power of flight.” Therefore, we can infer that “the ratitae” is “a type of flightless bird.” 

You may have picked out “a bird that lives in Antarctica” based on the information that precedes the comparison or “a bird that swims” based on the information that follows it. However, neither of these comparisons are being made in the passage: it is specifically the fact that both the ratitae and penguins “have lost the power of flight” that is being stated. Nothing in the passage suggests that “the ratitae” is “a bone found in most birds’ skeletons” or “a type of fish.”

Example Question #61 : Critical Comprehension

"Cacti" by Ami Dave (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The development of a new cactus from a graft is similar to what other biological phenomenon?

Possible Answers:

An unsuccessful kidney transplant

A lizard that regrows its tail

The birth of a genetically unique organism from an egg

A nematode worm that develops into two separate organisms when cut in half

A cut that successfully heals

Correct answer:

A nematode worm that develops into two separate organisms when cut in half

Explanation:

The passage discusses how grafting is a relatively simple procedure, and all that one must do is cut off a piece of the cactus and place it in an environment that supports its growth: the new cactus will develop roots. This is most similar to when a worm develops into a new organism when part of it is cut off. A lizard regrowing its tail is not similar to a graft, since the original organism simply regains the part that it lost. In the same vein, a cut that heals also involves an organism healing itself, not splitting apart to form a new organism. Birth from an egg or a failed organ transplant are not similar to the effects of a cactus graft.

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