SAT 2016




Exercise 1

1.  C   The thesis of the passage is that [w]ithout some appreciation of common large numbers and a feeling for probabilities, we will overreact to some dangers and underreact to others. In other words, there is some danger inherent in our common misunderstandings about statistical data.

2.  B   The author regards these “reports” with informed incredulity because he has good reason to believe they are not accurate. He expresses this fact when he suggests that we should regard them with skepticism (lines 2–3). (There are only about 74 million kids in the U.S., so if 1 million kids were kidnapped every year, then about 6 kids would be kidnapped from the average American elementary school every year.)

3.  A   The list of activities in lines 21–25 are dangerous events that are more probable than terrorism. Therefore, they are underappreciated dangers.

4.  A   Ad hominem is personal attack. Although the passage criticizes widespread innumeracy, at no point does the author attack anyone personally. Choice B is incorrect because the author uses verifiable statistics liberally in the first, second, third, and sixth paragraphs. Choice C is incorrect because the joke described in the fourth paragraph is an amusing illustration. Choice D is incorrect because the passage makes a social assessment in lines 32–34 when he states that [t]his tendency to personalize is a characteristic of many who suffer from innumeracy, and again in lines 51–52 when he states that we too often lack an intuitive grasp for these numbers.

5.  D   The author states that the innumerate will inevitably respond with the non sequitur, “Yes, but what if you’re that one,” and then nod knowingly, as if they’ve demolished your argument with penetrating insight (lines 28–32). In other words, the penetrating insight is really notpenetrating at all: it is a non sequitur (a statement that does not follow logically from the premises). The author is using the word penetrating ironically and sarcastically. Choice A is incorrect, because the author is not using the word penetrating to make the insight seem more positive than it is. In fact, he is criticizing, not euphemizing. Choice B is incorrect because the author is not using exaggeration for rhetorical effect. Choice C is incorrect because penetrating is not intended as an acclamation (word of praise).

6.  D   When the author uses the phrase this tendency to personalize, he is referring to the non sequitur in the previous sentence: “Yes, but what if you’re that one,” which is an attempt to individualize the horror of terrorism out of the context in which its probability is calculated.

7.  B   The third paragraph (lines 26–38) discusses the tendency of people to overestimate the chances of certain horrific event precisely because they are exotic and attention-grabbing. The exotic malady is mentioned as one such risk that is wildly overestimated.

8.  A   The first sentence of the passage provides direct evidence that the author believes that people commonly overestimate particular risks, such as reports that more than a million American kids are kidnapped each year.

9.  C   The final paragraph mentions Drs. Kronlund and Phillips because their study showed that most doctors’ assessments of the risks of various operations, procedures, and medications were way off the mark. In other words, they were fallible (capable of error) with regard to their own specialties.

Exercise 2

1.  C   Lines 5–7 list the following examples: frogs appeared to arise from damp earth, mice from putrefied matter, insects from dew, and maggots from decaying meat. In line 1, the author indicates that these are things that people commonly believed in ancient times. But the passage then goes on to explain that these beliefs were mistaken, and that life in fact does not arise that way.

2.  C   In lines 22–23, the author states that in fact, living organisms cannot so easily arise from nonliving matter. Notice that this is a clear, direct statement that the author regards the beliefs listed in lines 5–7 as faulty conclusions. Therefore, the correct answer to question 2 is C. Choice A is incorrect because lines 1–4 simply state that ancient people believed these things, not that the author disagrees. Choice B is incorrect because lines 7–10 just give details about these beliefs, but no indication that the author doesn’t share them. Choice D is incorrect because lines 30–32 just give a detail about Pasteur’s experiment, and no direct indication that the author disagrees with the list of beliefs.

3.  A   Lines 21–40 describe Pasteur’s experiment, in which he demonstrates that living organisms cannot so easily arise spontaneously from nonliving matter, and that the mice in van Helmont’s demonstration likely crept into the jar. In other words, van Helmont’s recipe lacked scientific controls to keep living things out.

4.  D   When Pasteur said, “Never will the doctrine of spontaneous generation arise from this mortal blow,” he meant that the doctrine is as dead as an opponent who has been struck with a sword. Therefore, in this context, mortal means “fatal.”

5.  B   The final paragraph describes how Pasteur wasn’t entirely correct about the possibility of life arising from nonliving matter by describing the most likely scenario by which basic self-replicating units, the precursors of life, could have arisen from nonliving molecules in the chemical-rich cauldron of early Earth.

6.  D   The phrase very basic self-replicating units refers to the most rudimentary chemical building blocks of life.

7.  D   The point of this paragraph is that the earliest life most likely arose from the chemical-rich cauldron of early Earth. In other words, the author describes a chaotic world. He is not portraying early earth as mysterious, because he is claiming to understand important aspects of that ancient environment. He is also not portraying the early earth as perilous, because no creatures yet existed to suffer its dangers.

8.  B   The passage begins by describing the common belief that new life could arise … by spontaneous generation from nonliving material then presents evidence, in the form of Pasteur’s experiment, that refutes that belief.

Exercise 3

1.  C   In saying that [e]qual certainty exists among those [scientists] who study the base of their skulls that [Neanderthals] did [lack the long vocal chamber needed for speech] and that they did not, the author is saying that there is considerable disagreement about the vocal abilities of Neanderthals.

2.  B   The main thesis of this passage is that humans came to dominate the Neanderthals by taking advantage of their intellectual abilities rather than relying on their physical strength. This directly implies that physical weakness is not necessarily a disadvantage in the fight for survival.

3.  D   In lines 43–47, the authors state their main thesis: The reason we—anatomically modern humans—won out lies, we suspect, not in being brighter or better able to speak but in our very physical frailty and our resulting need to exploit our minds. Choice A is incorrect because this sentence merely states that scientists disagree about the length of the Neanderthal vocal chamber. Choice B is incorrect because this sentence merely states that hunters sometimes find it helpful to communicate silently. Choice C is incorrect because this sentence merely states that the ability to speak cannot explain our dominance over the Neanderthals.

4.  B   The solid lines in the diagram indicate that H. sapiens (which includes the Cro-Magnon) descended from H. heidelbergensis, which descended from H. erectus, which descended from H. habilis, which descended from A. afarensis. Therefore, the Cro-Magnon and H. heidelbergensisboth share A. afarensis as a common ancestor. Choice A is incorrect because the diagram shows no line of descent from H. neanderthalensis to H. sapiens. Choice C is incorrect because the diagram contains no information about the reasons for extinction. Choice D is incorrect because there is no line of descent from H. habilis to A. robustus.

5.  C   In the diagram, the longest vertical bar for any hominid species is that for H. erectus, which begins at about the 2-million-year mark and ends at about the 250,000-year mark. Subtracting these two values gives us a time span of about 1,750,000 years.

6.  C   Although statements A and D are both valid conclusions based on the information in the diagram, neither of these facts supports the main thesis of the passage, which is found in lines 43–47: The reason we—anatomically modern humans—won out [in our competition with the Neanderthals] lies, we suspect, not in being brighter or better able to speak but in our very physical frailty and our resulting need to exploit our minds. Therefore, the argument rests on the fact that H. sapiens coexisted with H. neanderthalensis. The diagram clearly shows that both species lived in the period between approximately 100,000 years ago and 40,000 years ago, and so could have been in direct competition. It also shows that H. neanderthalensis appears to have gone extinct, because its vertical bar does not reach all the way up to the 0 mark.

7.  D   The author mentions that hunter-gatherers use sophisticated sign language to provide evidence that speech is not necessary for success in hunting, and that therefore long vocal chambers might not provide a decisive evolutionary advantage.

8.  A   In saying that Neanderthals could survive with their physical strength rather than tapping the potential of their brains, the authors are saying that, unlike Homo sapiens, the Neanderthals did not need to exploit (take advantage of) their intelligence.

9.  C   These are examples of how countries exploit their minds rather than relying on natural resources to compete with other nations economically. Therefore, the correct answer is C: goods and services based on intellectual resources. Notice that choices A, B, and D don’t fit at all with the overall purpose of the paragraph.

Exercise 4

1.  A   The first paragraph states that the we have moved slowly and tortuously toward strengthening our mode of explanation. In other words, that the march of human intellectual progress has not been steady and direct, and that indeed we are still plagued by faulty intuitions. In other words, this progress has been halting (slow and hesitant).

2.  C   The first paragraph describes human intellectual progress with the metaphor of a march. It does not employ any euphemism (a word or phrase used to make something unpleasant sound less so), understatement (phrasing that makes something seem less intense than it is), or anecdote(illustrative story).

3.  D   The main idea of the passage is that mechanistic explanations are those theories, equations, and mechanisms[that] best represent physical phenomena. These are the scientific modes of explanation.

4.  C   The statements listed in line 16–18 are examples of explaining phenomena in terms of their presumed purposes or desires, rather than their causes. The passage as a whole explains how such teleological explanations are in fact misguided and unhelpful (lines 20–21). Therefore, these are unsound beliefs.

5.  A   The problem with teleological explanations, according to the author, is that they can’t predict the future as accurately as mechanistic explanations can (lines 21–23). Therefore, they are imprecise in this regard.

6.  C   The author explains the imprecision of teleological explanations in lines 21–27, where he states that they can’t predict the future as accurately as mechanistic explanations can.

7.  B   Neil Shubin is mentioned as an example of a clear-minded scientist [who] slides into teleology from time to time when describing natural phenomena to laypeople (lines 54–56). That is, he is confusing purpose with cause in a scientific explanation.

8.  A   The purpose of this paragraph is to acknowledge the drawback that mechanistic explanations of our own decisions seem to deny the possibility of free will, which is something that most people consider precious.

9.  A   Since the author has conceded a drawback to his thesis in his previous paragraph, this paragraph uses beseeching language, like only … if, and must to make a plea to the reader to reject teleological explanations.

Exercise 5

1.  A   Passage 2 is primarily concerned with the chemical reactions that harness energy to sustain life, specifically photosynthesis (line 15) and chemosynthesis (line 24). Therefore the question How does photosynthesis convert the energy of sunlight into the energy of sugar molecules? is most directly relevant to Passage 2.

2.  C   Passage 1 focuses on the study of the molecules of which living things are composed (lines 1–3) and how those molecules convert energy, make muscles contract, help nerve cells communicate, and so on. Passage 2 focuses on the chemical reactions that harness energy to sustain life. Therefore, both passages are primarily concerned with the chemical processes that sustain life.

3.  C   This list of questions represent some of the questions that guide the study of the molecules of which living organisms are composed (lines 1–3), therefore they are areas of productive inquiry. Passage 1 does not discuss any scientific controversies, innovations, or sources of frustration.

4.  C   The bacteria mentioned in line 28 are incorporated into organisms to provide benefits. This is a symbiotic relationship, in which both organisms benefit. These bacteria are not infections or parasites, because they are not doing harm, and they are not progenitors, because they are not the original ancestors of a species or kind.

5.  A   Since Passage 2 is focused on the recent discovery of a new way by which living organisms on Earth can harvest energy, namely chemosynthesis, its author would likely suggest that the study of life on earth include research into atypical sources of energy.

6.  B   The complex relationships mentioned in line 27 are those in which bacteria are incorporated into organisms to provide benefits. The choice that best resembles such a relationship is a fungus living within a grass plant that renders the grass more drought resistant.

7.  A   The phrase we assumed in line 18 refers to the belief among biologists that solar energy is required to sustain life on Earth. In other words, they accepted this proposition uncritically, and, it turns out, erroneously.

Exercise 6

1.  A   This rhetorical essay focus on the author’s thesis that the Primitive phase … can only be of short duration (lines 51–52). The first paragraph explains how an attempt to revive the art-principles of the past will at best produce an art that is stillborn (lines 5–6), the second paragraph gives a glimmer of hope to the Primitivists by stating that our spiritual relationship with the Primitives (lines 26–27) may lead to a revival of the external forms (lines 23–24). The last paragraph describes the obstacle that materialism places in the way of the Primitivist movement. Therefore, as a whole, the passage is concerned with the obstacles to a particular undertaking.

2.  B   The statement every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions means that art derives from the culture in which its created, and in turn forms our emotional response to that culture. Therefore the metaphor is one of creation versus creator.

3.  D   The phrase thoughtful aspect is used to describe the face of a monkey that is acting as if it is reading but really is not. That is, he has a thoughtful facial expression, but is not really thinking.

4.  C   The fundamental truth described in the second paragraph is that when there is a similarity … in the spiritual atmosphere, a similarity of ideals … the logical result will be a revival of the external forms which served to express those feelings. In other words, the art forms will be similar if the cultural feelings are similar. This suggests that sculptures celebrating the virtue of liberty share common features across eras.

5.  C   The passage states that [o]ur minds … are infected with the despair of unbelief, of lack of purpose and ideal (lines 32–35) because of the nightmare of materialism (line 36). Therefore the effect of materialism is to deny [artists] access to meaningful and spiritual activity.

6.  C   The best evidence for this answer comes in lines 38–39, where the author states that [materialism] holds the awakening soul still in it its grip.

7.  B   The last paragraph uses the metaphor of a feeble light to represent the awakening soul of the artist, and the darkness to represent the nightmare of materialism, so when the author states that the soul trembles in doubt whether the light is not a dream, he is saying that artists are wondering whether their artistic ideals can survive the era of materialism.

8.  D   The costly vase is compared to the beleaguered artist’s soul, which is found to have a flaw when it is dug up once more. In other words, the principles and ideals of primitive art cannot be completely recovered, and so the primitive frame of mind is irretrievable.