SSAT Upper Level Reading : Making Predictions Based on Narrative Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #3 : Extrapolating From The Text In Natural Science Passages

"Darwinism's Effect on Science" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

For much of the history of human thought, the sciences have studied subjects that seemed to be eternal and unchanging. Even the basic laws of the Nile’s flooding were investigated in the hopes of finding never-altering laws. Similarly, the scientific investigations of the ancient Near East and Greece into the regular laws of the stars ultimately looked for constant patterns. This overall pattern of scientific reasoning has left deep marks on the minds of almost all thinkers and found its apotheosis in modern physics. From the time of the early renaissance to the nineteenth century, physics represented the ultimate expression of scientific investigation for almost all thinkers. Its static laws appeared to be the unchanging principles of all motion and life on earth. By the nineteenth century, it had appeared that only a few details had to be “cleared up” before all science was basically known.

In many ways, this situation changed dramatically with the arrival of Darwinism. It would change even more dramatically in early twentieth-century physics as well. Darwin’s theories of evolution challenged many aspects of the “static” worldview. Even those who did not believe that a divine being created an unchanging world were shaken by the new vistas opened up to science by his studies. It had been a long-accepted inheritance of Western culture to believe that the species of living organisms were unchanging in nature. Though there might be many different kinds of creatures, the kinds themselves were not believed to change. The thesis of a universal morphing of types shattered this cosmology, replacing the old world-view with a totally new one. Among the things that had to change in light of Darwin’s work was the very view of science held by most people.

Given Darwin's statements, which of the following should be expected?

Possible Answers:

Although we do not train bears as pets today, we may well in years to come.

Humanity as it is today has reached its fixed state.

Human beings will likely all die in a massive nuclear war.

Ancient physics was completely worthless.

There were no dogs at one time in the earth's history.

Correct answer:

There were no dogs at one time in the earth's history.

Explanation:

The second paragraph of this selection mostly discusses the fact that Darwin's theories lead to the belief in the changing of creatures over time. This means that some species may never have existed. Also, it implies that new ones might have arisen. Therefore, among the options provided, the best answer is the one that says that perhaps dogs did not at one time exist.

Example Question #2 : Extrapolating From The Text In Natural Science Passages

"Darwinism's Effect on Science" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

For much of the history of human thought, the sciences have studied subjects that seemed to be eternal and unchanging. Even the basic laws of the Nile’s flooding were investigated in the hopes of finding never-altering laws. Similarly, the scientific investigations of the ancient Near East and Greece into the regular laws of the stars ultimately looked for constant patterns. This overall pattern of scientific reasoning has left deep marks on the minds of almost all thinkers and found its apotheosis in modern physics. From the time of the early renaissance to the nineteenth century, physics represented the ultimate expression of scientific investigation for almost all thinkers. Its static laws appeared to be the unchanging principles of all motion and life on earth. By the nineteenth century, it had appeared that only a few details had to be “cleared up” before all science was basically known.

In many ways, this situation changed dramatically with the arrival of Darwinism. It would change even more dramatically in early twentieth-century physics as well. Darwin’s theories of evolution challenged many aspects of the “static” worldview. Even those who did not believe that a divine being created an unchanging world were shaken by the new vistas opened up to science by his studies. It had been a long-accepted inheritance of Western culture to believe that the species of living organisms were unchanging in nature. Though there might be many different kinds of creatures, the kinds themselves were not believed to change. The thesis of a universal morphing of types shattered this cosmology, replacing the old world-view with a totally new one. Among the things that had to change in light of Darwin’s work was the very view of science held by most people.

What could we expect the author to discuss in a paragraph following the last paragraph of this passage?

Possible Answers:

New theories of physics

The limits in Darwin's reasoning

The new textbooks that arose after Darwin

The new training needed for scientists after Darwin

The religious reaction to Darwinism

Correct answer:

New theories of physics

Explanation:

At the beginning of the second paragraph, the passage states, "It would change even more dramatically in early twentieth-century physics as well." In general, this passage is about the general transition from one scientific outlook to another. The details of Darwinism (or of the publication of textbooks as well) is not the main concern. Likely, the author would continue his or her discussion by returning to the theme of twentieth-century physics as well.

Example Question #91 : 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 would you LEAST expect to be discussed elsewhere in the book from which this passage was taken?

Possible Answers:

The types of birds encountered by the first Antarctic explorers

The use of tropical birds’ feathers as hat decorations

Falconry

The raising of chickens for their eggs

The practice of sending messages by carrier pigeon

Correct answer:

The types of birds encountered by the first Antarctic explorers

Explanation:

The passage describes how humans use the eider down produced by eider ducks as a commodity for its insulating properties. Given this focus, along with the title of the book from which the passage is taken, The Utility of Birds, we can assume that other topics discussed in the books would deal with ways in which birds are useful to humans. “The use of tropical birds’ feathers as hat decorations,” “the raising of chickens for their eggs,” “falconry,” and “the practice of sending messages by carrier pigeon” all deal with ways in which birds are useful to humans, but “The types of birds encountered by the first Antarctic explorers” does not relate to how birds are useful to humans, so it would be least likely to be discussed elsewhere in a book called The Utility of Birds and is the correct answer.

Example Question #21 : Making Inferences And Predictions In 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 most likely happened after the Labrador feather voyages were no longer organized?

Possible Answers:

The price of eider down in North America plummeted.

Eider down began to be used for other purposes in North America.

North Americans imported eider down from Iceland.

The quality of bedding in North America became preferable to that found in Iceland.

A population of the Labrador duck was reestablished.

Correct answer:

North Americans imported eider down from Iceland.

Explanation:

The first paragraph tells us that the Labrador feather voyages were organized to keep up with an increased demand for eider down caused by an increased North American population. The passage doesn’t mention any alternative sources of eider down being used after the Labrador feather voyages were no longer organized. Therefore, we can eliminate the answer choice “The price of eider down in North America plummeted” since if eider down became more rare, its price would likely have gone up, not down. We can also eliminate the answer choice “Eider down began to be used for other purposes in North America” as this is not suggested in the passage at all and would require more information to be supported. “The quality of bedding in North America became preferable to that found in Iceland” cannot be correct either, as in the first paragraph, the author claims that eider down makes the best bedding, and if eider down becomes rare in North America, it’s not likely that the quality of North American bedding will exceed that of bedding made in Iceland, where eider down is assumed to be more available. “A population of the Labrador duck was reestablished.” cannot be the correct answer because the passage tells us that the Labrador duck went extinct, and if a species is extinct, there are no living members left from which populations of it could be reestablished. This leaves us with one answer, the correct one: “North American populations had to import eider down from Iceland.” This makes sense, as if less eider down were available in North America but there was still a desire for it, it would be likely to be imported from elsewhere in the world.

Example Question #1 : Considering Analogous Concepts 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.

The kiwi is a bird that lives in New Zealand. New Zealand has no native ground-dwelling predatory animals. The stoat, a ground-dwelling carnivorous mammal, was introduced to New Zealand. Based on the passage, what can you predict happened?

Possible Answers:

the kiwis quickly learned to defend themselves against stoats

None of the other answers

the stoats could not support themselves in the new environment and died off

the kiwi population drastically decreased

the kiwi population rose

Correct answer:

the kiwi population drastically decreased

Explanation:

The situation presented in this question lines up precisely with the dodo’s story in the passage. The kiwi, like the dodo, would thus be unable to defend itself from introduced predators, since like on Mauritius, New Zealand has no native ground-dwelling predators. We can therefore predict that in this situation, the kiwi population would decrease drastically, if not go extinct, so “the kiwi population drastically decreased” is the correct answer. (In fact, the kiwi and stoat situation actually happened in New Zealand. While the kiwi remains a living species, New Zealand has had to work very hard to protect it from stoats.)

Example Question #21 : Gmat Verbal

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.

In which of the following would you most expect to find this passage reprinted?

Possible Answers:

A how-to manual

A scholarly report about weasels

An article in a biology magazine

A cookbook

A physics textbook

Correct answer:

An article in a biology magazine

Explanation:

Where would one most likely find this article reprinted? Well, we wouldn’t be likely to find it in “a how-to manual” as it doesn’t explain how to do anything; it conveys information about certain types of animals. Similarly, since it doesn’t discuss physics or have anything to do with cooking, we can ignore the answers “A physics textbook” and “A cookbook.” This leaves us with “A scholarly report about weasels” and “An article in a biology magazine.” At this point we have to consider how the weasel is discussed in the passage—it is discussed very little, only in the context of being compared to the stoat or providing an example of carnivorous animals that change their fur color, along with the stoat. Given that the weasel isn’t the main subject of the passage, “An article in a biology magazine” is the best answer choice.

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