SSAT Upper Level Reading : Making Inferences in Narrative Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #77 : Science Passages

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.

What can we infer preceded this paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Descriptions of animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a changing environment

Descriptions of animals that hunt other animals efficiently by camouflaging themselves

Descriptions of changing environments

Descriptions of animals that have not adapted to their environments

Descriptions of animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a stable environment

Correct answer:

Descriptions of animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a stable environment

Explanation:

In order to infer what likely “preceded,” or came before, this passage, we should take at what the passage is talking about right when it starts. The passage’s first sentence says, “The examples of protective resemblance so far quoted are mostly permanent adaptations to one particular sort of surrounding.” The “so far quoted” means so far said or provided and tells us that the writer has been talking about “examples of protective resemblance.” This means that the writer most likely discussed “animals that defend themselves by looking like things in a stable environment” in the part of the book that comes right before the passage.

Example Question #21 : Inferences And Predictions In Narrative Science Passages

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.

Based on the passage, what can we infer about the weasel?

Possible Answers:

Like the Irish hare, has been the subject of investigations.

Like the Irish hare, it has grey fur in the summer.

Like the stoat, it has claws.

Like the stoat, it also lives in burrows.

Like the stoat, it also changes its coat color.

Correct answer:

Like the stoat, it also changes its coat color.

Explanation:

The weasel is mentioned in two places in the passage, both in the passage’s last paragraph, both reproduced here:

“But in winter, the entire coat [of the stoat], 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.”

What does the passage tell us about the weasel? Well, we can infer that it is in some way like the stoat, because the passage says “A similar example is afforded by the weasel” right after describing how the stoat’s fur changes color. We are also told that it is carnivorous, but this is not an inference we have to make, and it doesn’t relate to any of the answer choices. The best answer choice is “Like the stoat, it also changes its coat color.” This captures the specific similarity between the stoat and weasel being discussed when the author writes, “A similar example is afforded by the weasel.”

Example Question #1 : Inferences And Predictions In Narrative Science Passages

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.

Based on the passage, which of the following can we infer would be the best reason for animals living in variable arctic environments to change their fur color?

Possible Answers:

They would be more difficult to see when surrounded by snow.

They would be faster.

They would be warmer.

They would be able to find food more quickly and easily.

They would more easily be able to attract a mate.

Correct answer:

They would be more difficult to see when surrounded by snow.

Explanation:

If animals that live in arctic environments change their fur color, it is likely a seasonal change from brownish fur to predominantly white fur, as we’ve seen in the examples of the Irish hare, the stoat, and the weasel. What is specific about arctic environments? Thy likely involve a lot of snow, and are quite cold. Changing fur color to white would thus blend in with the snow and make an animal harder to see, as the last sentence suggests in saying that “in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, [color change] is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.” we’re not told anything in the passage that would support the assertion that it would make the animal warmer, or that would support any of the other answer choices.

Example Question #21 : Making Inferences In Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from "Taking a Second Look: An Analysis of Genetic Markers in Species Relatedness" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

Phylogenetics is the study of genetic composition in various species and is used by evolutionary biologists to investigate similarities in the molecular sequences of proteins in varying organisms. The amino acid sequences that build proteins are used to construct mathematical matrices that aid in determining evolutionary ties through the investigation of percentage similarities. The study of these matrices helps to expose evolutionary relationships between species that may not have the same overt characteristics.

Species adapt and evolve based on the pressures that exist in their environment. Climate, food source, and habitat availability are only a few factors that act on species adaptation. These stressors can alter the physical characteristics of organisms. This divergence in evolution has made it difficult to determine the interrelatedness of organisms by analyzing their physical characteristics alone.

For instance, looking only at physical characteristics, the ghost bat resembles a pigeon more than a spider monkey; however, phylogenetics has found that the amino acid sequences that construct the beta hemoglobin molecules of bats are twenty percent more similar to those of mammalian primates than those of birds. This helps reject the assumption that common physical characteristics between species are all that is needed to determine relatedness. 

The differences produced by divergent evolution observed in the forest-dwelling, arboreal spider monkey and the nocturnal, airborne ghost bat can be reconciled through homology. Homologous characteristics are anatomical traits that are similar in two or more different species. For instance, the bone structure of a spider monkey’s wrist and fingers greatly resembles that of a bat’s wing or even a whale’s fin. These similarities are reinforced by phylogenetic evidence that supports the idea that physically dissimilar species can be evolutionarily related through anatomical and genetic similarities.

A scientist studied the relatedness of several reptilian species solely by investigating fossil evidence and has concluded that physical characteristics alone are enough to determine species relatedness. Would this scientist agree with the claims made by phylogenetic research?

Possible Answers:

None of the other choices are correct.

No, because phylogenetics is an unreliable and new technique that has yet to prove itself in major scientific arenas.

Yes, because phylogenetics is second to physical comparisons and thus supports the archaeologist's position.

No, because phylogenetics assumes that physical traits and characteristics are not the only objective and reliable markers in the study of species relatedness.

Correct answer:

No, because phylogenetics assumes that physical traits and characteristics are not the only objective and reliable markers in the study of species relatedness.

Explanation:

The scientist studied relatedness based on the fossil record of physical traits. Having studied this, he would not agree with the notion that phylogenetics may better explain relatedness via genetic factors. The rest of the choices are incorrect because they are not supported by the passage.

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