SSAT Upper Level Reading : Making Inferences in Argumentative Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #3 : Making Inferences And Predictions 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.

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

Possible Answers:

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

granting Howell clemency for his actions

introducing damaging invasive species to the South

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

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.

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