SAT Critical Reading : Context-Dependent Meaning of Words in Natural Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Critical Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #22 : Natural 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.

Based on the context in which it is used in the first paragraph, what is the meaning of the underlined word “acme”?

Possible Answers:

employment

pinnacle

quilt

usefulness

warmth

Correct answer:

pinnacle

Explanation:

The word “acme” is used in the following sentence in the passage: “Such feathers are perfect non-conductors of heat, and beds, pillows, or coverlets filled with them represent the acme of comfort and durability.” If we were to remove the word “acme” from this sentence and replace it with another term, what term would make sense? Something like “peak” or “perfection” would make sense. 

Considering that, let’s now look at the answer choices. While the sentence is talking about “warmth” and bedding, of which a “quilt” is a type, it’s clear that neither “warmth” nor “quilt” can be the correct answer. “Usefulness” and “employment” don’t make as much sense as “pinnacle” does, so “pinnacle” is the correct answer.

Example Question #571 : Act Reading

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.

Based on the context in which it is used, what is the most likely meaning of the underlined word “egging” in the passage’s last paragraph?

Possible Answers:

The laying of eggs

The gathering and removing of eggs

The hatching of eggs

The encouraging of someone

The act of throwing eggs at a target

Correct answer:

The gathering and removing of eggs

Explanation:

The word “egging” appears in the following sentence in the passage:

“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.”

The word “egging” is here clearly describing something with a bad connotation, as it appears in parallel with “clubbing” and “shooting.” We can infer that it must mean doing something to hurt the ducks, as “clubbing” and “shooting” have that in common. This lets us discard the answer choices “the laying of eggs” and “the hatching of eggs.” These wouldn’t hurt the ducks, and at any rate, ducks lay their own eggs and then those eggs hatch; neither answer choice makes sense when used to describe something humans could do to duck eggs. While to “egg someone on” can mean to encourage that person, that is not the meaning that is being used in the passage, so we can ignore this answer choice as well. This leaves us with “the act of throwing eggs at a target” and “the destruction of eggs.” Nothing suggests that the eggs are being thrown at the ducks, so the better answer choice is the more general one, “the gathering and removing of eggs.” Indeed, this makes more sense, as the hunters could probably eat or sell the eggs.

Example Question #21 : Context Dependent Meaning Of Words In Natural Science Passages

"Darwin and His Influence" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

In this passage, “selection” refers to traits that are selected for and passed on to later generations, and “species” refers to organisms that share a common ancestor and can produce viable offspring with one another.

     Early in the nineteenth century, scientists sought to understand the differences in the earth’s flora and fauna from their archeological ancestors. The prevailing view at the time was that the differences between current and previous species were unremarkable deviations from their Platonic ideal forms. This theory hinged upon the ideals of the religious-based “created kinds” theory, which state that individuals of today are products of the organisms that were present at the earth’s creation, the result of an intelligent designer. Furthermore, these individuals believed that the differences between organisms could be explained by unseen geological and astrological forces acting on organisms slowly, throughout time. Other scientists also believed that individuals had the ability to change within their lifetimes and pass on traits to their offspring efficiently and quickly through a single generation.

     Charles Darwin and other biologists, such as Alfred Wallace, were not greatly influenced by these views and hypotheses. Their propositions stated that species evolve over many generations, due to the selective pressures of their given environments. This evolution could result in the generation of divergent traits, as well as speciation and separation from the original ancestral species. The concept that organisms were not finite or present since creation was very controversial to the scientists of the period. Some saw such an idea as unsupportable, while others perceived it as heretical and fanatical.

     Darwin set out to find support for his theory through his work, On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection. He was influenced by archeological discoveries of species, which appeared to have vastly different physiological appearances from present-day organisms. Darwin decided to sail around the world on a Royal Navy ship named the H.M.S. Beagle. During his travels, he was taken to the Pacific islands of the Galapagos archipelago. The volcanic islands followed a patterned distribution on either side of the Equator. The landscapes of each island varied, with different observable flora and fauna. Through scientific observations, Darwin noticed subtle variations of finches on different islands. Some finches had large hard beaks, while others had slender beaks. Beaks were differentiated from island to island. After careful study, Darwin noticed that the beaks seemed to match the food source on each island. The large beaks were specialized for breaking open hard-shelled nuts, while the slender beaks were specialized for eating certain fruits that were abundant. Darwin hypothesized that an ancestral species of finch landed on the islands, and that over generations they became adapted to the locally abundant food sources. 

     Darwin compiled multiple instances of natural selection and incorporated discoveries made by archeologists and physiologists. He surmised that species evolve over time due to the selective pressures of their respective habitats. These events occur slowly over many generations. Each species selects for advantageous traits among its members. Over time, traits selected as advantageous by environmental pressures and stressors become commonplace in the species. This niche-forming process specializes species by rewarding those with traits most suitable for reproductive success. These traits may progress into speciation of the original species, which results in the eventual development of an entirely new species. Darwin’s theory was met with opposition at the time of its publication, and the theory of evolution remains a controversial topic in several arenas of debate.

In the third paragraph, "variations" most nearly means which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Differences in traits

Unity in many characteristics

Differences in species

Dissension in beak formation and physiology

Correct answer:

Differences in traits

Explanation:

Differences in traits

"Variation" is a difference or divergence. The correct answer in this context is a variation or difference in traits. Darwin was studying many species and the differences in traits between them. The other answers that focus on beak physiology or speciation are too specific. Last, "unity" is an antonym to variation.

Example Question #4 : Drawing Inferences From Natural Science Passages

"Darwin and His Influence" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

In this passage, “selection” refers to traits that are selected for and passed on to later generations, and “species” refers to organisms that share a common ancestor and can produce viable offspring with one another.

     Early in the nineteenth century, scientists sought to understand the differences in the earth’s flora and fauna from their archeological ancestors. The prevailing view at the time was that the differences between current and previous species were unremarkable deviations from their Platonic ideal forms. This theory hinged upon the ideals of the religious-based “created kinds” theory, which state that individuals of today are products of the organisms that were present at the earth’s creation, the result of an intelligent designer. Furthermore, these individuals believed that the differences between organisms could be explained by unseen geological and astrological forces acting on organisms slowly, throughout time. Other scientists also believed that individuals had the ability to change within their lifetimes and pass on traits to their offspring efficiently and quickly through a single generation.

     Charles Darwin and other biologists, such as Alfred Wallace, were not greatly influenced by these views and hypotheses. Their propositions stated that species evolve over many generations, due to the selective pressures of their given environments. This evolution could result in the generation of divergent traits, as well as speciation and separation from the original ancestral species. The concept that organisms were not finite or present since creation was very controversial to the scientists of the period. Some saw such an idea as unsupportable, while others perceived it as heretical and fanatical.

     Darwin set out to find support for his theory through his work, On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection. He was influenced by archeological discoveries of species, which appeared to have vastly different physiological appearances from present-day organisms. Darwin decided to sail around the world on a Royal Navy ship named the H.M.S. Beagle. During his travels, he was taken to the Pacific islands of the Galapagos archipelago. The volcanic islands followed a patterned distribution on either side of the Equator. The landscapes of each island varied, with different observable flora and fauna. Through scientific observations, Darwin noticed subtle variations of finches on different islands. Some finches had large hard beaks, while others had slender beaks. Beaks were differentiated from island to island. After careful study, Darwin noticed that the beaks seemed to match the food source on each island. The large beaks were specialized for breaking open hard-shelled nuts, while the slender beaks were specialized for eating certain fruits that were abundant. Darwin hypothesized that an ancestral species of finch landed on the islands, and that over generations they became adapted to the locally abundant food sources. 

     Darwin compiled multiple instances of natural selection and incorporated discoveries made by archeologists and physiologists. He surmised that species evolve over time due to the selective pressures of their respective habitats. These events occur slowly over many generations. Each species selects for advantageous traits among its members. Over time, traits selected as advantageous by environmental pressures and stressors become commonplace in the species. This niche-forming process specializes species by rewarding those with traits most suitable for reproductive success. These traits may progress into speciation of the original species, which results in the eventual development of an entirely new species. Darwin’s theory was met with opposition at the time of its publication, and the theory of evolution remains a controversial topic in several arenas of debate.

According to evidence in the passage, "speciation" is most related to which of the following statements?

Possible Answers:

Speciation is the process that facilitates natural selection and evolution of organisms.

Speciation is the process by which a species evolves and produces new advantageous traits among individuals that may then mate and produce offspring that possess similiar traits.

Speciation occurs when a species adapt to varying environments and in the process lose the ability to mate with one another and produce viable offspring.

Speciation occurs when a geographic barrier separates a species from itself and the diverge in evolutionary paths.

Correct answer:

Speciation occurs when a species adapt to varying environments and in the process lose the ability to mate with one another and produce viable offspring.

Explanation:

Speciation occurs when a species adapt to varying environments and in the process lose the ability to mate with one another and produce viable offspring.

According to the passage "species" is defined as organisms that share a common ancestor and can produce viable offspring with one another." Speciation is defined in the last paragraph as a process that brings about a new species. According to these definitions, speciation occurs when a new species arises and cannot mate with mebers of its ancestral branch. The other selections are incorrect because they indicate that physical barrieers cause speciation, that individuals can mate with one another after speciation, and that it is the process that facilitates natural selection. All of these choices are incorrect and unsupported by the passage.

Example Question #141 : Natural Sciences

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 context in which it is used, what is the most likely definition of the underlined word “entomologist”?

Possible Answers:

a type of insect that eats other insects

someone who causes and then solves a problem

someone who draws pictures of insects

a scientist who studies insects

a scientist who studies invasive species

Correct answer:

a scientist who studies insects

Explanation:

The word “entomologist” is used in the following part of the passage:

“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.” 

“Entomologist” is describing “Mr. Leopold Trouvelot,” so it cannot mean “a type of insect that eats other insects.” Nothing in the passage suggests that Mr. Trouvelot drew insects, so we can discard “someone who draws pictures of insects” as an answer choice. The answer “someone who causes and then solves a problem” doesn’t make sense either; while Mr. Trouvelot causes a problem by introducing the gypsy moth to the United States, he isn’t able to solve it. This leaves us with two answer choices: “a scientist who studies invasive species” and “a scientist who studies insects.” Nothing suggests that Mr. Trouvelot is a scientist who studies invasive species; indeed, at this point in the passage, the gypsy moth hasn’t even been released yet, so it is debatable whether we could call it an invasive species before it “invades.”

Example Question #573 : Act Reading

"The Place of Lesion Studies in Neuroscience" by Samantha Winter (2013)

It’s easy to forget that the study of neuroscience originated from non-normalized, non-statistically appraised methods like lesion studies. It’s equally easy, with the advent of sophisticated technology, to render such a method obsolete. A small group of neuroscientists today make a case for the reinstitution of lesion studies—the study of abnormal brains with damaged regions in order to better understand the brain—into the twenty-first-century cognitive neuroscience realm. Their suggestion is bold, but their argument is justified.

Cognitive neuroscientists advocate for the use of convergent methods. Many of them argue that with the limitations of our existing techniques, convergent evidence is imperative for sound research. If this is the case, why ignore a method that has potential for implying causality in a domain dominated by correlational research? Rather than advocating for a single method, neuroscientists should take their own advice and use convergent techniques. Sound research should combine a variety of techniques to examine both causal relationships and overcome the individual shortcomings of each method through the use of many.

Lesion studies are also significantly more beneficial now than they were in earlier times. Neuroimaging methods have enhanced our understanding of what contributes to the brain problems most often encountered, and more refined experiments have been developed to confirm the findings from the more unreliable lesion studies. This transformation allows lesion studies to be included alongside the other systems as a mechanism for understanding the human brain.

In the first sentence of the second paragraph, the underlined word "convergent" most closely means __________.

Possible Answers:

similar and current

identical

multiple and complimentary

numerous

convenient

Correct answer:

multiple and complimentary

Explanation:

The answer is "multiple and complimentary." In this context, convergent methods are different methods that work together to achieve a unified goal. They are not "Identical" methods, but rather different methods. They may be "Similar," but “convergence” does not refer to the time frame, therefore there is no indication of whether or not they are current, thereby eliminating that choice. "Numerous," may be misleading, but there only need to be two methods in order to achieve convergence, "Numerous" is an incomplete answer, since it does not imply the complimentary nature of these methods.

Example Question #574 : Act Reading

"The Place of Lesion Studies in Neuroscience" by Samantha Winter (2013)

It’s easy to forget that the study of neuroscience originated from non-normalized, non-statistically appraised methods like lesion studies. It’s equally easy, with the advent of sophisticated technology, to render such a method obsolete. A small group of neuroscientists today make a case for the reinstitution of lesion studies—the study of abnormal brains with damaged regions in order to better understand the brain—into the twenty-first-century cognitive neuroscience realm. Their suggestion is bold, but their argument is justified.

Cognitive neuroscientists advocate for the use of convergent methods. Many of them argue that with the limitations of our existing techniques, convergent evidence is imperative for sound research. If this is the case, why ignore a method that has potential for implying causality in a domain dominated by correlational research? Rather than advocating for a single method, neuroscientists should take their own advice and use convergent techniques. Sound research should combine a variety of techniques to examine both causal relationships and overcome the individual shortcomings of each method through the use of many.

Lesion studies are also significantly more beneficial now than they were in earlier times. Neuroimaging methods have enhanced our understanding of what contributes to the brain problems most often encountered, and more refined experiments have been developed to confirm the findings from the more unreliable lesion studies. This transformation allows lesion studies to be included alongside the other systems as a mechanism for understanding the human brain.

In the last sentence of the first paragraph, "bold" most closely means __________.

Possible Answers:

cunning

impertinent

extruding

emphasized

daring

Correct answer:

daring

Explanation:

Bold is not used in the sense of bolded text in a document, therefore cunning and extruding are both incorrect. Cunning may be a mechanism for describing the neuroscientists, but the definition of bold is unrelated to sharpness or wit. 

Example Question #575 : Act Reading

"The Cell Cycle" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

The process by which cells divide and multiply is known as the cell cycle. This cycle consists of two main phases: interphase and mitosis. Each phase consists of a series of clearly defined and observable steps. At the conclusion of the cycle, each parent cell produces two genetically identical daughter cells that may also replicate by proceeding through the cell cycle.

Roughly ninety percent of the cell cycle is spent in interphase. Interphase is comprised of three main steps: the first gap phase, the synthesis phase (also called "S phase"), and the second gap phase. The initial gap phase is a period of cellular preparation in which the cell increases in size and readies itself for DNA synthesis. In the synthesis phase, or S phase, DNA replication occurs, so that when the cell divides, each daughter cell will have the DNA necessary to function properly. In the second gap phase, the cell grows in size and prepares for cellular division in the mitotic phase. At the end of each gap phase, the cell has to pass a regulatory checkpoint to ensure that nothing is going wrong. If anything has gone wrong, the checkpoints stop the cell from proceeding through the cell cycle any further.

The next part of the cell cycle is mitosis. Mitosis is a form of cell division and is broken down into five distinct phases. During prophase, the genetic material contained in the cell’s chromatin condenses into distinct chromosomes. Prometaphase is marked by the breakdown of the cell’s nuclear envelope and the formation of centrosomes at the poles of the cell. During metaphase, the cell’s chromosomes are moved to the center of the cell. A checkpoint ensures that the chromosomes are properly aligned on the center and halts the cell cycle if any errors have occurred. In anaphase, chromosomes break apart at their center, or centromere, and sister chromatids move to opposite ends of the cell. Lastly, telophase and cytokinesis occur as nuclear membranes form to physically divide the cell into two new daughter cells. Chromosomes also unwind into loose chromatin during this part of mitosis. Cytokinesis is defined as the division of the each cell’s cytoplasm and organelles. At the conclusion of the cell cycle, two genetically identical daughter cells have formed.

The cell cycle operates by a series of checkpoints and external cues. This system of checks enables the cell to enter a state of dormancy known as the gap zero phase when conditions or other factors inhibit the cell cycle. Conversely, unregulated and uncontrolled cellular division can occur under certain circumstances. A cell in a state of uncontrolled division is known to be cancerous. Lastly, cells have the ability to mediate their own death by way of apoptosis if certain genetic or physical abnormalities exist. The cell cycle is a complex process that enables cells to replicate and proliferate under a stringent set of checks and balances that produce healthy and viable daughter cells that are each able to perform the process in the future.

Which of the following is the term for mediated cell death?

Possible Answers:

Chromatin

Cellular envelope

Apoptosis

Anaphase

Correct answer:

Apoptosis

Explanation:

The final paragraph states that a cell can mediate its own death via apoptosis if conditions indicate that it is necessary. These conditions wold indicate that it is either too physically or genetically damaged to reproduce productive daughter cells. The other choices are incorrect because they are not supported by the passage.

Example Question #576 : Act Reading

"The Cell Cycle" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

The process by which cells divide and multiply is known as the cell cycle. This cycle consists of two main phases: interphase and mitosis. Each phase consists of a series of clearly defined and observable steps. At the conclusion of the cycle, each parent cell produces two genetically identical daughter cells that may also replicate by proceeding through the cell cycle.

Roughly ninety percent of the cell cycle is spent in interphase. Interphase is comprised of three main steps: the first gap phase, the synthesis phase (also called "S phase"), and the second gap phase. The initial gap phase is a period of cellular preparation in which the cell increases in size and readies itself for DNA synthesis. In the synthesis phase, or S phase, DNA replication occurs, so that when the cell divides, each daughter cell will have the DNA necessary to function properly. In the second gap phase, the cell grows in size and prepares for cellular division in the mitotic phase. At the end of each gap phase, the cell has to pass a regulatory checkpoint to ensure that nothing is going wrong. If anything has gone wrong, the checkpoints stop the cell from proceeding through the cell cycle any further.

The next part of the cell cycle is mitosis. Mitosis is a form of cell division and is broken down into five distinct phases. During prophase, the genetic material contained in the cell’s chromatin condenses into distinct chromosomes. Prometaphase is marked by the breakdown of the cell’s nuclear envelope and the formation of centrosomes at the poles of the cell. During metaphase, the cell’s chromosomes are moved to the center of the cell. A checkpoint ensures that the chromosomes are properly aligned on the center and halts the cell cycle if any errors have occurred. In anaphase, chromosomes break apart at their center, or centromere, and sister chromatids move to opposite ends of the cell. Lastly, telophase and cytokinesis occur as nuclear membranes form to physically divide the cell into two new daughter cells. Chromosomes also unwind into loose chromatin during this part of mitosis. Cytokinesis is defined as the division of the each cell’s cytoplasm and organelles. At the conclusion of the cell cycle, two genetically identical daughter cells have formed.

The cell cycle operates by a series of checkpoints and external cues. This system of checks enables the cell to enter a state of dormancy known as the gap zero phase when conditions or other factors inhibit the cell cycle. Conversely, unregulated and uncontrolled cellular division can occur under certain circumstances. A cell in a state of uncontrolled division is known to be cancerous. Lastly, cells have the ability to mediate their own death by way of apoptosis if certain genetic or physical abnormalities exist. The cell cycle is a complex process that enables cells to replicate and proliferate under a stringent set of checks and balances that produce healthy and viable daughter cells that are each able to perform the process in the future.

Cytokinesis is best defined as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

The division of the nucleus

The migration of sister chromatids to the poles of a cell

The replication of DNA

The division of the cytoplasm

Correct answer:

The division of the cytoplasm

Explanation:

The third paragraph of the passage defines cytokinesis as the "division of the cell's cytoplasm and organelles." Cytokinesis occurs when the nucleaus has reformed in each cell. The organelles and cytoplasmic material are equally divided amongst daughter cells, and they split from one another as their cell walls grow to fully encompass each new daughter cell.

Example Question #577 : Act Reading

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.

Which of the following terms is closest in meaning to the underlined word “inconspicuous”?

Possible Answers:

wily

fraudulent

obvious

hidden

important

Correct answer:

hidden

Explanation:

The word “inconspicuous” is used the passage’s last sentence, “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.” “Important” makes no sense in this context, so we can discard that answer. “Wily” (sneaky and clever) and “fraudulent” (deceptive) may each seem like an ok answer, but neither of these would necessarily make the animal a better predator, and “wily” doesn’t describe how a predator would relate to its prey, and “fraudulent” is usually reserved for describing human behavior and intentions. “Hidden” would certainly make the animal a better predator, though—if a predator were “hidden” from its prey, it would be much harder for the prey to avoid the predator. “Hidden” makes the most sense in the context of the sentence, so it is the correct answer.

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