PSAT Writing : Author's Intent

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Author's Intent

One of the most influential niche constructors is the earthworm, an organism found almost everywhere on the planet.  A scientist only concerned with evolution would predict that, in order to live on land, earthworms would have to significantly change. Earthworms didn’t change their physiology a great  amount, however; instead, they changed the soil to make it more like the ocean in order to survive. Land with earthworms is less compacted, is more nutrient rich, and is better mixed than land without them – 1 leading to monumental changes in the ecosystem.

Niche constructors are particularly important in colonizing new environments. One of the easiest ways to measure this effect on evolution has been in the effect that the number of earthworms has on soil fertility, a measure of how hospitable an environment is to plant growth. Even the least fertile soil has around 62 worms per square meter, and as the number of worms increases so does soil fertility. As worms move through the different layers of soil, they eat, digest, and excrete massive amounts of organic matter. They leave their excretions behind in the form of nutrient-rich droppings known as casings. As these casings decompose, they release nutrients into the soil. This process not only moves nutrients from one layer of the soil to another but also converts the nutrients to forms that plants can absorb and process more easily. Because it is easier for plants to get the proper nutrients, plants don’t have to invest time and energy into making better root systems to gather nutrients. As a result, plants have, over time, lost some of these mechanisms – a form of evolution. 

 

Which of the following best supports the point developed in this paragraph?

 

Possible Answers:

all of which make the environment more suitable for plants.

all from a tiny organism not much larger than a human hand.

resulting in a moist environment in which the worms can thrive.

NO CHANGE

Correct answer:

resulting in a moist environment in which the worms can thrive.

Explanation:

In order to conclude which choice best concludes the paragraph, you need to understand the overall context of the paragraph. The paragraph is all about how and why the worms change their environment in order to survive. The only choice that talks about why earthworms change the environment is "resulting in a moist environment in which the worms can thrive." As it is in the text is too vague since it's already been established that the worms change their environments. Choice "all of which make the environment more suitable for plants." is more in line with the next paragraph, which discusses the effect of earthworm engineering on plants. And choice "all from a tiny organism not much larger than a human hand.", while catchy, does not address anything that is discussed in the paragraph.

Example Question #2 : Author's Intent

The public’s perception of archaeologists has, for years, been colored by depictions of the profession in movie franchises like Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, and The Mummy. However popular these movies are, they– like movies that depict any other profession – don’t necessarily reflect what archaeologists actually do. While fighting supernatural forces and foiling nefarious plans does make for a better movie, 1 archaeologists are interesting people.

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

the primary work of archaeology is in research and preservation

movies don’t reflect what archaeologists actually do

box office numbers don’t always reflect this fact

Correct answer:

the primary work of archaeology is in research and preservation

Explanation:

Whenever you are asked to complete a sentence without instruction as to what the test is looking for, you want to look for logic and for concision. The paragraph discusses the fact that movies don't necessarily reflect the job of real archaeologists. That implies that the contrast in this sentence should be between what archaeologists actually do and what they do in the movies. Since what they do in the movies is already addressed, the correct answer will reflect real- life archaeology. The only answer that does this is "the primary work of archaeology is in research and preservation", which gives an example of what archaeologists do. NO CHANGE and "box office numbers don’t always reflect this fact" don't address real-life archaeology and choice "movies don’t reflect what archaeologists actually do" is just a repetition of a phrase from earlier in the paragraph.

Example Question #3 : Author's Intent

One of the most influential niche constructors is the earthworm, an organism found almost everywhere on the planet.  A scientist only concerned with evolution would predict that, in order to live on land, earthworms would have to significantly change. Earthworms didn’t change their physiology a great  amount, however; instead, they changed the soil to make it more like the ocean in order to survive. Land with earthworms is less compacted, is more nutrient rich, and is better mixed than land without them –  resulting in a moist environment in which the worms can thrive.

1 Niche constructors are particularly important in colonizing new environments. One of the easiest ways to measure this effect on evolution has been in the effect that the number of earthworms has on soil fertility, a measure of how hospitable an environment is to plant growth. Even the least fertile soil has around 62 worms per square meter, and as the number of worms increases so does soil fertility. As worms move through the different layers of soil, they eat, digest, and excrete massive amounts of organic matter. They leave their excretions behind in the form of nutrient-rich droppings known as casings. As these casings decompose, they release nutrients into the soil. This process not only moves nutrients from one layer of the soil to another but also converts the nutrients to forms that plants can absorb and process more easily. Because it is easier for plants to get the proper nutrients, plants don’t have to invest time and energy into making better root systems to gather nutrients. As result, plants have, over time, lost some of these  mechanisms – a form of evolution. 

Which of the following provides the most effective transition from the previous paragraph?

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

To be considered true niche constructors, however, earthworms must change the environment in such a way as to alter the evolution of another species.

Earthworms’ most important role is to make soil more hospitable to plants, microbes, and other animals that might not otherwise do well in an arid environment.

Earthworms aren’t alone in their capacity as niche constructors: beavers do the same.

Correct answer:

To be considered true niche constructors, however, earthworms must change the environment in such a way as to alter the evolution of another species.

Explanation:

In order to provide an effective transition between the two paragraphs, you need to know what the previous paragraph was about and what the current paragraph is about. The previous paragraph discusses one of the factors that allow earthworms to be considered niche creators - that they significantly change their environment. The current paragraph discusses another - that they must affect the evolution of another organism. As it is in the passage (NO CHANGE) and "Earthworms aren’t alone in their capacity as niche constructors: beavers do the same." and can both be quickly eliminated because they don't address either of these challenges. Between choice "To be considered true niche constructors, however, earthworms must change the environment in such a way as to alter the evolution of another species." and Earthworms’ most important role is to make soil more hospitable to plants, microbes, and other animals that might not otherwise do well in an arid environment", the former at first seems insufficient because it doesn't clearly address the previous paragraph. However, note that it does call back to the previous paragraph by saying that earthworms need to do one more thing before they are real niche creators. "Earthworms’ most important role is to make soil more hospitable to plants, microbes, and other animals that might not otherwise do well in an arid environment." only continues to discuss how they change the environment with no mention of the main idea of the paragraph to come.

Example Question #4 : Author's Intent

The pair brought scientific thinking and equipment to the kitchen, challenging perceptions about what belonged in the lab and what belonged in a chef ’s kitchen. For example, an early experiment in pie baking involved injecting pies with a syringe full of liquid after baking in order to preserve the crust. Other experiments involved creating meringue (cooked whipped egg whites with sugar) in a vacuum chamber and a “reverse” baked Alaska (ice cream topped with meringue) with the hot merengue on the inside and the ice cream on the outside. Although the experiments themselves might not have been useful to the home cook, 1 they were interesting for scientists.

 

Which choice most logically completes the sentence?

Possible Answers:

there were other experiments soon to follow.

they did answer many questions that This and Herve had about cooking.

NO CHANGE

they did give insights into the science of cooking that improved recipes and techniques for cooks everywhere.

Correct answer:

they did give insights into the science of cooking that improved recipes and techniques for cooks everywhere.

Explanation:

Whenever the SAT asks you to logically complete a sentence or thought, you are often going to need to complete a comparison or a contrast set up earlier in the sentence. In this case, the word "although" indicates that you need to have a phrase that contrasts with the idea that the experiments weren't useful to home chefs. If we leave the sentence as is, it may be true, but it isn't that comparison."They did give insights into the science of cooking that improved recipes and techniques for cooks everywhere." does set up that comparison, since the outcomes of the experiments were useful to home chefs even if the experiments themselves were not. This is correct. "They did answer many questions that This and Herve had about cooking." and "there were other experiments soon to follow." can be eliminated because they don't complete the comparison.

Example Question #5 : Author's Intent

Since 1988, the mission of molecular gastronomy has shifted. Kurti and This originally sought to investigate “kitchen old wives’ tales,” invent new recipes, improve old ones, and make the case to the public that science was a useful part of everyday life. Even if their experiments weren’t intended to be replicated in home kitchens, they were intended to encourage home cooks to experiment. Today, molecular gastronomists seek to explore the social, artistic, and technical aspects of food preparation. Some have argued that this shift in focus, along with the fact that techniques in molecular gastronomy have so far surpassed what any home cook could do, means that molecular gastronomy has lost 1 the ability to impact homemade food.

Possible Answers:

its ability to impact how the world’s domestic cooks cook at home.

NO CHANGE

its ability to impact how the world cooks at home.

its ability to impact and influence how the world cooks at home.

Correct answer:

its ability to impact how the world cooks at home.

Explanation:

For this question, you are looking for an answer choice that gets rid of redundancy within the sentence and that maintains a logical meaning within the sentence. Choices "its ability to impact and influence how the world cooks at home." and "its ability to impact how the world’s domestic cooks cook at home." can both be eliminated because they contain redundant structures ("impact and influence" and "domestic... at home", respectively). NO CHANGE isn't logical. The field of molecular gastronomy doesn't affect homemade food. It affects how people cook. Choice "its ability to impact how the world cooks at home." correctly shows that molecular gastronomy affects the process of cooking and is not redundant.

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