SSAT Middle Level Reading : Locating Details in Narrative Science Passages

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

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #21 : Main Idea, Details, Opinions, And Arguments In Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from "Birds’ Nests" by John Burroughs in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

The woodpeckers all build in about the same manner, excavating the trunk or branch of a decayed tree, and depositing the eggs on the fine fragments of wood at the bottom of the cavity. Though the nest is not especially an artistic work, requiring strength rather than skill, yet the eggs and the young of few other birds are so completely housed from the elements, or protected from their natural enemies—the jays, crows, hawks, and owls. A tree with a natural cavity is never selected, but one which has been dead just long enough to have become soft and brittle throughout. The bird goes in horizontally for a few inches, making a hole perfectly round and smooth and adapted to his size, then turns downward, gradually enlarging the hole, as he proceeds, to the depth of ten, fifteen, twenty inches, according to the softness of the tree and the urgency of the mother bird to deposit her eggs. While excavating, male and female work alternately. After one has been engaged fifteen or twenty minutes, drilling and carrying out chips, it ascends to an upper limb, utters a loud call or two, when its mate soon appears, and, alighting near it on the branch, the pair chatter and caress a moment; then the fresh one enters the cavity and the other flies away.

Which of these statements is NOT supported by the passage?

Possible Answers:

Woodpeckers prefer to build their nests in living trees.

Female and male woodpeckers work together.

Woodpeckers have to be relatively strong, when compared to other birds, to build their nests.

Woodpeckers have many natural enemies and rivals.

All of these statements are supported by the passage.

Correct answer:

Woodpeckers prefer to build their nests in living trees.

Explanation:

The author tells you that woodpeckers like to build their nests in “decaying” trees, so you can reliably claim that they do not “prefer to build their nests in living trees.” This is also supported by the author when he says, “A tree with a natural cavity is never selected, but one which has been dead just long enough to have become soft and brittle throughout.” That male and female woodpeckers work together is supported by the information at the end of the passage. That woodpeckers have to be strong is supported by the author’s claim that nest building requires strength rather than skill. Finally, that woodpeckers have many natural rivals is supported by the statement “protected from their natural enemies—the jays, crows, hawks, and owls.”

Example Question #22 : Main Idea, Details, Opinions, And Arguments In Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from "The Greatest Sea-Wave Ever Known" by R. A. Proctor in Wonders of Earth, Sea, and Sky (1902, ed. Edward Singleton Holden)

The inhabitants of the Sandwich Islands, which lie about six thousand three hundred miles from Arica—a city in Chile, might have imagined themselves safe from any effects that could be produced by an earthquake taking place so far away from them. But on the night between August 13th and 14th, the sea around this island group rose in a surprising manner, and many thought the islands were sinking, and would shortly subside altogether beneath the waves. Some of the smaller islands, indeed, were for a time completely submerged. Before long, however, the sea fell again, and as it did so the observers "found it impossible to resist the impression that the islands were rising bodily out of the water." For no less than three days this strange oscillation of the sea continued to be experienced, the most remarkable ebbs and floods being noticed at Honolulu, on the island of Woahoo.

But the sea-wave swept onward far beyond these islands. At Yokohama, in Japan, more than ten thousand five hundred miles from Arica, an enormous wave poured in on August 14th, but at what hour we have no satisfactory record. So far as distance is concerned, this wave affords most surprising evidence of the stupendous nature of the disturbance to which the waters of the Pacific Ocean had been subjected. The whole circumference of the earth is but twenty-five thousand miles, so that this wave had traveled over a distance considerably greater than two-fifths of the earth's circumference. A distance which the swiftest of our ships could not traverse in less than six or seven weeks had been swept over by this enormous undulation in the course of a few hours.

The earthquake that produced the sea-wave took place in __________.

Possible Answers:

the Sandwich Islands

Yokohama

an unknown location somewhere in the Pacific Ocean

Honolulu

Arica

Correct answer:

Arica

Explanation:

The earthquake that produced the sea-wave originated in Arica, a city in Chile. The biggest clue that helps you determine this is the fact that the author is trying to highlight the vast distances traveled by the sea-wave by mentioning how far apart everything touched by the sea-wave is. Most of the places that are mentioned are described in relation to their distance from Arica. This suggests that Arica was the point where the wave began. This can be most clearly seen in the introduction, where the author says, “The inhabitants of the Sandwich Islands, which lie about six thousand three hundred miles from Arica—a city in Chile, might have imagined themselves safe from any effects which could be produced by an earthquake taking place so far away from them.”

Example Question #23 : Main Idea, Details, Opinions, And Arguments In Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from "What I Saw in an Ant’s Nest" by Andrew Wilson in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

The workers appear to perform a never-ending round of duties. They build the nests, make the roads, attend to the wants of the young, train up the latter in the ways of ant existence, wait on the sovereigns of the nest, and like diplomatic courtiers, duly arrange for the royal marriages of the future. As Mr. Bates remarks, “The wonderful part in the history of the termites is that not only is there a rigid division of labor, but that nature has given to each class a structure of body adapting it to the kind of labor it has to perform. The males and females form a class apart; they do no kind of work, but in the course of growth, acquire wings to enable them to issue forth and disseminate their kind. The workers and soldiers are wingless, and differ solely in the shape and armature of the head. The head in the laborers is smooth and rounded, the mouth being adapted for the working of the materials in building the hive. In the soldier, the head is of very large size, and is provided in almost every kind with special organs of offense and defense in the form of horny processes resembling pikes, tridents, and so forth . . . The course of human events in our day seems, unhappily, to make it more than ever necessary for the citizens of industrious communities to set apart a numerous armed class for the protection of the rest; in this, nations only do what nature has of old done for the termites. The soldier termite, however, has not only the fighting instinct and function; he is constructed as a soldier, and carries his weapons not in his hand but growing out of his body.” When a colony of termites is disturbed, the ordinary citizens disappear and the military are called out. “The soldiers mounted the breach,” says Mr. Bates, “to cover the retreat of the workers,” when a hole was made in the archway of one of their covered roads, and with military precision the rear men fall into the vacant places in the front ranks as the latter are emptied by the misfortune of war.

Which of these is not a duty of the worker ants?

Possible Answers:

Caring for the young

Protecting the colony from attack

Nest building

Waiting on the ruling ants

Road construction

Correct answer:

Protecting the colony from attack

Explanation:

This question is simply asking you to recall details and interpret certain words. All the relevant information is contained in the first few lines of the passage: “The workers appear to perform a never-ending round of duties. They build the nests, make the roads, attend to the wants of the young, train up the latter in the ways of ant existence, wait on the sovereigns of the nest, and like diplomatic courtiers, duly arrange for the royal marriages of the future.” Even regardless of this, it is clear from the rest of the passage that the responsibility of protecting the colony from attack falls with the soldier ants.

Example Question #8 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from “Comets” by Camille Flammarion in Wonders of Earth, Sea, and Sky (1902, ed. Edward Singleton Holden)

The history of a comet would be an instructive episode of the great history of the heavens. In it could be brought together the description of the progressive movement of human thought, as well as the astronomical theory of these extraordinary bodies. Let us take, for example, one of the most memorable and best-known comets, and give an outline of its successive passages near the Earth. Like the planetary worlds, comets belong to the solar system, and are subject to the rule of the Star King. It is the universal law of gravitation which guides their path; solar attraction governs them, as it governs the movement of the planets and the small satellites. The chief point of difference between them and the planets is that their orbits are very elongated, and instead of being nearly circular, they take the elliptical form. In consequence of the nature of these orbits, the same comet may approach very near the sun, and afterwards travel from it to immense distances.

Thus, the period of the Comet of 1680 has been estimated at three thousand years. It approaches the sun, so as to be nearer to it than our moon is to us, whilst it recedes to a distance 853 times greater than the distance of the Earth from the sun. On the 17th of December, 1680, it was at its perihelion—that is, at its greatest proximity to the sun; it is now continuing its path beyond the Neptunian orbit. Its velocity varies according to its distance from the solar body. At its perihelion it travels thousands of leagues per minute; at its aphelion it does not pass over more than a few yards.  

Its proximity to the Sun in its passage near that body caused Newton to think that it received a heat twenty-eight thousand times greater than that we experience at the summer solstice, and that this heat being two thousand times greater than that of red-hot iron, an iron globe of the same dimensions would be fifty thousand years entirely losing its heat. Newton added that in the end, comets will approach so near the sun that they will not be able to escape the preponderance of its attraction, and that they will fall one after the other into this brilliant body, thus keeping up the heat which it perpetually pours out into space. Such is the deplorable end assigned to comets by the author of the Principia, an end which makes De la Brétonne say to Rétif: "An immense comet, already larger than Jupiter, was again increased in its path by being blended with six other dying comets. Thus displaced from its ordinary route by these slight shocks, it did not pursue its true elliptical orbit; so that the unfortunate thing was precipitated into the devouring centre of the Sun." "It is said," added he, "that the poor comet, thus burned alive, sent forth dreadful cries!"

According to the author, what is the primary difference between comets and planets?

Possible Answers:

Comets move much faster through space than planets.

Planets are much bigger than comets.

Planets move in a circular orbit, whereas the orbits of comets are elongated.

Comets are much more destructive than planets.

Planets have been around for billions of years, comets are constantly formed and then destroyed.

Correct answer:

Planets move in a circular orbit, whereas the orbits of comets are elongated.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read carefully in detail. For example, you know that planets are not necessarily bigger than comets because the author talks about how a comet bigger than Jupiter once crashed into the sun. You also know that comets do not necessarily move much faster through space than planets because the author talks about the varied speeds of comets and how they can sometimes slow to a relative crawl. The correct answer is found towards the end of the first paragraph, where the author says, “The chief point of difference between [comets] and the planets is that their orbits are very elongated, and instead of being nearly circular, they take the elliptical form.” So, the orbit of planets is “nearly circular” and the orbit of comets is “very elongated,” in “the elliptical form.”

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In Science Passages

Adapted from "Bats" by W. S. Dallas in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

Like the owls, with which they share the dominion of the evening air, the bats have a perfectly noiseless flight; their activity is chiefly during the twilight, although some species are later, and in fact seem to keep up throughout the whole night. As they rest during the day, concealed usually in the most inaccessible places they can find, and are seen only upon the wing, their power of flight is their most striking peculiarity in the popular mind, and it is perhaps no great wonder that by many people, both in ancient and modern times, they have been regarded as birds. Nevertheless, their hairy bodies and leathery wings are so unlike anything that we ordinarily understand as pertaining to a bird, that opinion was apparently always divided, as to the true nature of these creatures—“a mouse with wings,” as Goldsmith called it once, according to James Boswell, is certainly a curious animal, and very difficult to classify so long as the would-be systematist has no particularly definite ideas to guide him. The likeness of the bat to a winged mouse has made itself felt in the name given to the creature in many languages, such as the “chauvesouris” of the French and the “flitter-mouse” of some parts of England, the latter being reproduced almost literally in German, Dutch, and Swedish, while the Danes called the bat a “flogenmues,” which has about the same meaning.

Why does the author believe many people have long regarded bats as birds?

Possible Answers:

Because bats lay eggs

Because bats live in nests

Because bats live atop trees and on the roof of caves

Because bats can fly

Because bats have feathers

Correct answer:

Because bats can fly

Explanation:

This is a relatively simple detail-based question. The author says, "their power of flight is their most striking peculiarity in the popular mind, and it is perhaps no great wonder that by many people, both in ancient and modern times, they have been regarded as birds.” So, it is clear that the author believes many people have considered bats to be a bird because bats can also fly.

Example Question #24 : Main Idea, Details, Opinions, And Arguments In Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from "Inhabitants of My Pool" by Arabella B. Buckley in Wonders of Earth, Sea, and Sky (1902, ed. Edward Singleton Holden)

The pool lies in a deep hollow among a group of rocks and boulders, close to the entrance of the cove, which can only be entered at low water; it does not measure more than two feet across, so that you can step over it, if you take care not to slip on the masses of green and brown seaweed growing over the rocks on its sides, as I have done many a time when collecting specimens for our saltwater aquarium. I find now the only way is to lie flat down on the rock, so that my hands and eyes are free to observe and handle, and then, bringing my eye down to the edge of the pool, to lift the seaweeds and let the sunlight enter into the chinks and crannies. In this way I can catch sight of many a small being either on the seaweed or the rocky ledges, and even creatures transparent as glass become visible by the thin outline gleaming in the sunlight. Then I pluck a piece of seaweed, or chip off a fragment of rock with a sharp-edged collecting knife, bringing away the specimen uninjured upon it, and place it carefully in its own separate bottle to be carried home alive and well.

Now though this little pool and I are old friends, I find new treasures in it almost every time I go, for it is almost as full of living things as the heavens are of stars, and the tide as it comes and goes brings many a mother there to find a safe home for her little ones, and many a waif and stray to seek shelter from the troubled life of the open ocean.

You will perhaps find it difficult to believe that in this rock-bound basin there can be millions of living creatures hidden away among the fine feathery weeds; yet so it is. Not that they are always the same. At one time it may be the home of myriads of infant crabs, not an eighth of an inch long, another of baby sea-urchins only visible to the naked eye as minute spots in the water, at another of young jelly-fish growing on their tiny stalks, and splitting off one by one as transparent bells to float away with the rising tide. Or it may be that the whelk has chosen this quiet nook to deposit her leathery eggs; or young barnacles, periwinkles, and limpets are growing up among the green and brown tangles, while the far-sailing velella and the stay-at-home sea-squirts, together with a variety of other sea-animals, find a nursery and shelter in their youth in this quiet harbor of rest.

And besides these casual visitors there are numberless creatures which have lived and multiplied there, ever since I first visited the pool. Tender red, olive-colored, and green seaweeds, stony corallines, and acorn-barnacles lining the floor, sea-anemones clinging to the sides, sponges tiny and many-colored hiding under the ledges, and limpets and mussels wedged in the cracks. These can be easily seen with the naked eye, but they are not the most numerous inhabitants; for these we must search with a magnifying glass, which will reveal to us wonderful fairy-forms, delicate crystal vases with tiny creatures in them whose transparent lashes make whirlpools in the water, living crystal bells so tiny that whole branches of them look only like a fringe of hair, jelly globes rising and falling in the water, patches of living jelly clinging to the rocky sides of the pool, and a hundred other forms, some so minute that you must examine the fine sand in which they lie under a powerful microscope before you can even guess that they are there.

Which of these statements is most clearly supported by the text?

Possible Answers:

None of these statements are supported by the text.

The author collects specimens from the rock pool and takes them back to her house.

The author has only recently begun visiting the rock pool and still does not understand it well.

The variety of the ecosystem in the pool can be attributed in part to the author’s interference.

The rock pool has a fixed ecosystem that rarely incorporates new inhabitants.

Correct answer:

The author collects specimens from the rock pool and takes them back to her house.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read carefully in detail throughout the entirety of the passage. Specifically, you need to process what the author is saying when she says, “I have done many a time when collecting specimens for our salt-water aquarium" and "bringing away the specimen uninjured upon it, and place it carefully in its own separate bottle to be carried home alive and well.” This tells you that the author collects specimens from the rock pool and takes them back to her house to put into her “salt-water aquarium.” You could perhaps infer that the author affects the variety of the ecosystem, but this requires more inference than the correct answer, which is directly stated.

Example Question #25 : Main Idea, Details, Opinions, And Arguments In Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from "Inhabitants of My Pool" by Arabella B. Buckley in Wonders of Earth, Sea, and Sky (1902, ed. Edward Singleton Holden)

The pool lies in a deep hollow among a group of rocks and boulders, close to the entrance of the cove, which can only be entered at low water; it does not measure more than two feet across, so that you can step over it, if you take care not to slip on the masses of green and brown seaweed growing over the rocks on its sides, as I have done many a time when collecting specimens for our saltwater aquarium. I find now the only way is to lie flat down on the rock, so that my hands and eyes are free to observe and handle, and then, bringing my eye down to the edge of the pool, to lift the seaweeds and let the sunlight enter into the chinks and crannies. In this way I can catch sight of many a small being either on the seaweed or the rocky ledges, and even creatures transparent as glass become visible by the thin outline gleaming in the sunlight. Then I pluck a piece of seaweed, or chip off a fragment of rock with a sharp-edged collecting knife, bringing away the specimen uninjured upon it, and place it carefully in its own separate bottle to be carried home alive and well.

Now though this little pool and I are old friends, I find new treasures in it almost every time I go, for it is almost as full of living things as the heavens are of stars, and the tide as it comes and goes brings many a mother there to find a safe home for her little ones, and many a waif and stray to seek shelter from the troubled life of the open ocean.

You will perhaps find it difficult to believe that in this rock-bound basin there can be millions of living creatures hidden away among the fine feathery weeds; yet so it is. Not that they are always the same. At one time it may be the home of myriads of infant crabs, not an eighth of an inch long, another of baby sea-urchins only visible to the naked eye as minute spots in the water, at another of young jelly-fish growing on their tiny stalks, and splitting off one by one as transparent bells to float away with the rising tide. Or it may be that the whelk has chosen this quiet nook to deposit her leathery eggs; or young barnacles, periwinkles, and limpets are growing up among the green and brown tangles, while the far-sailing velella and the stay-at-home sea-squirts, together with a variety of other sea-animals, find a nursery and shelter in their youth in this quiet harbor of rest.

And besides these casual visitors there are numberless creatures which have lived and multiplied there, ever since I first visited the pool. Tender red, olive-colored, and green seaweeds, stony corallines, and acorn-barnacles lining the floor, sea-anemones clinging to the sides, sponges tiny and many-colored hiding under the ledges, and limpets and mussels wedged in the cracks. These can be easily seen with the naked eye, but they are not the most numerous inhabitants; for these we must search with a magnifying glass, which will reveal to us wonderful fairy-forms, delicate crystal vases with tiny creatures in them whose transparent lashes make whirlpools in the water, living crystal bells so tiny that whole branches of them look only like a fringe of hair, jelly globes rising and falling in the water, patches of living jelly clinging to the rocky sides of the pool, and a hundred other forms, some so minute that you must examine the fine sand in which they lie under a powerful microscope before you can even guess that they are there.

Which of these is not a reason the author gives for why the rock pool contains such a changing and extensive ecosystem?

Possible Answers:

It provides a safe haven for creatures threatened in the open ocean.

It is exposed to regular sunlight.

It is a convenient place for small sea creatures to lay their eggs and protect their young.

The tides regularly bring in new creatures.

All of these are reasons given by the author.

Correct answer:

It is exposed to regular sunlight.

Explanation:

This question is perhaps a little difficult. You might be tempted to pick the answer that begins with “All of these are reasons“ because you probably know that the exposure to regular sunlight is a very important factor in the maintenance of such a large ecosystem. However, the author does not explicitly state this. Regarding sunlight, she says, “let the sunlight enter into the chinks and crannies. In this way I can catch sight of many a small being either on the seaweed or the rocky ledges, and even creatures transparent as glass become visible by the thin outline gleaming in the sunlight.” She talks about the way sunlight allows her to see various sea creatures, but she does not mention how sunlight affects the ecosystem.

Example Question #62 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from "Wasps" by Thomas G. Belt in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

One day I saw a small black and yellow banded wasp hunting for spiders; it approached a web where a spider was stationed in the center, made a dart towards it—apparently a feint to frighten the spider clear of its web; at any rate it had that effect, for it fell to the ground, and was immediately seized by the wasp, who stung it, then ran quickly backwards, dragging the spider after it, up a branch reaching to the ground until it got high enough, when it flew heavily off with it. It was so small, and the spider so cumbersome, that it probably could not have raised it from the ground by flight.

All over the world there are wasps that store their nests with the bodies of spiders for their young to feed on. In Australia, I often witnessed a wasp engaging with a large flat spider that is found on the bark of trees. It would fall to the ground, and lie on its back, so as to be able to grapple with its opponent; but the wasp was always the victor in the encounters I saw, although it was not always allowed to carry off its prey in peace. One day, sitting on the sandbanks on the coast of Hobson’s Bay, I saw one dragging along a large spider. Three or four inches above it hovered two minute flies, keeping a little behind, and advancing with it. The wasp seemed much disturbed by the presence of the tiny flies, and twice left its prey to fly up towards them, but they darted away with it. As soon as the wasp returned to the spider, there they were hovering over and following it again. At last, unable to drive away its small provocateurs, the wasp reached its burrow and took down the spider, and the two flies stationed themselves one on each side of the entrance, and would, doubtless, when the wasp went away to seek another victim, descend and lay their own eggs in the nest.

Why is the wasp annoyed by the presence of the flies?

Possible Answers:

The flies will alert spiders to the presence of the wasp, rendering the wasp’s endeavors less productive.

The flies will lay their eggs inside the wasp’s nest, which will consume the food meant for the wasp’s young.

The flies are impossible for the wasp to catch and so the wasp will have to go hungry.

The flies will consume the spider’s body themselves, leaving the wasp without food.

The flies are an inconvenience to the wasp because they force the wasp to hide the spider more carefully.

Correct answer:

The flies will lay their eggs inside the wasp’s nest, which will consume the food meant for the wasp’s young.

Explanation:

Answering this question is a simple case of reading for details. At the very end of the passage, the author says "the two flies stationed themselves one on each side of the entrance [to the wasp's burrow], and would, doubtless, when the wasp went away to seek another victim, descend and lay their own eggs in the nest.” You are also told earlier that wasps "store their nests with the bodies of spiders for their young to feed on.” So, the wasp is annoyed by the presence of the flies because the flies will lay their own eggs inside the spider’s nest, which will consume the spider and deprive the wasp’s young of food.

Example Question #63 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from "Wasps" by Thomas G. Belt in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

One day I saw a small black and yellow banded wasp hunting for spiders; it approached a web where a spider was stationed in the center, made a dart towards it—apparently a feint to frighten the spider clear of its web; at any rate it had that effect, for it fell to the ground, and was immediately seized by the wasp, who stung it, then ran quickly backwards, dragging the spider after it, up a branch reaching to the ground until it got high enough, when it flew heavily off with it. It was so small, and the spider so cumbersome, that it probably could not have raised it from the ground by flight.

All over the world there are wasps that store their nests with the bodies of spiders for their young to feed on. In Australia, I often witnessed a wasp engaging with a large flat spider that is found on the bark of trees. It would fall to the ground, and lie on its back, so as to be able to grapple with its opponent; but the wasp was always the victor in the encounters I saw, although it was not always allowed to carry off its prey in peace. One day, sitting on the sandbanks on the coast of Hobson’s Bay, I saw one dragging along a large spider. Three or four inches above it hovered two minute flies, keeping a little behind, and advancing with it. The wasp seemed much disturbed by the presence of the tiny flies, and twice left its prey to fly up towards them, but they darted away with it. As soon as the wasp returned to the spider, there they were hovering over and following it again. At last, unable to drive away its small provocateurs, the wasp reached its burrow and took down the spider, and the two flies stationed themselves one on each side of the entrance, and would, doubtless, when the wasp went away to seek another victim, descend and lay their own eggs in the nest.

Why does the wasp have to drag the spider up a branch before flying back to its nest with it?

Possible Answers:

Because the wasp is trying to avoid detection by any flies, or other interfering insects

Because the wasp needs to get away from the other spiders

Because the spider is too heavy for the wasp to lift off the ground

Because the spider is not quite dead and has the advantage on the ground

Because the wasp is worried about remaining on the ground where it can be easily preyed upon

Correct answer:

Because the spider is too heavy for the wasp to lift off the ground

Explanation:

Answering this question requires reading in detail and understanding a somewhat challenging word that the author employs. After mentioning that the wasp took the spider into a branch before taking off and flying back to its nest, the author says, “It was so small, and the spider so cumbersome, that it probably could not have raised it from the ground by flight.” The word “cumbersome,” in this context, means burdensome and heavy to carry. So the spider is “too heavy” for the wasp and therefore the wasp drags it into a tree rather than lifting it off the ground itself.

Example Question #121 : Science Passages

Adapted from "Rain and Snow" by John Tyndall in Wonders of Earth, Sea, and Sky (1902, ed. by Edward Singleton Holden)

At the equator, and within certain limits north and south of it, the sun at certain periods of the year is directly overhead at noon. These limits are called the Tropics of Cancer and of Capricorn. Upon the belt comprised between these two circles, the sun's rays fall with their mightiest power, for here they shoot directly downwards and heat both earth and sea more than when they strike slantingly. When the vertical sunbeams strike the land, they heat it, and the air in contact with the hot soil becomes heated in turn. But when heated, the air expands, and when it expands, it becomes lighter. This lighter air rises through the heavier air overhead.

When the sunbeams fall upon the sea, the water is warmed, though not so much as the land. The warmed water expands, becomes thereby lighter, and therefore continues to float upon the top. This upper layer of water warms to some extent the air in contact with it, but it also sends up a quantity of aqueous vapor, which being far lighter than air helps the latter to rise. Thus both from the land and from the sea we have ascending currents established by the action of the sun.

The Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are __________.

Possible Answers:

the limits of where the sun’s energy can be properly absorbed by the water

where the sun’s rays are least likely to fall during the winter

the physical limits of where the sun can adequately make a difference in the regulation of earth’s atmosphere

the two warmest parts of the planet

the geographical limits of where the sun is sometimes directly overhead at noon

Correct answer:

the geographical limits of where the sun is sometimes directly overhead at noon

Explanation:

Answering this question requires reading the opening lines of this passage carefully, specifically where the author says, “At the equator, and within certain limits north and south of it, the sun at certain periods of the year is directly overhead at noon. These limits are called the Tropics of Cancer and of Capricorn.” The author says “certain periods of the year,” which is the same as “sometimes,” and he says that the “certain limits north and south” are “called the Tropics of Cancer and of Capricorn."

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors