Practicing Critical Reading Passages: Reading for Points - Comprehending the SAT: The Critical Reading Sections - SAT For Dummies

SAT For Dummies

Part II

Comprehending the SAT: The Critical Reading Sections

Chapter 4

Practicing Critical Reading Passages: Reading for Points

In This Chapter

Attacking questions in single passages

Taking a stab at paired passages

Making short work of short passages

My seventh-grade teacher used to thump around the classroom yelling, “Read! Read! Read!” as she slapped a metal ruler on the desks and occasionally on the heads of inattentive students. Whenever I remember her, I think (a) these days she’d probably get sued for the ruler hits, and (b) she was right about the reading. The only way to become a better reader is to practice. And the only way to become a better SAT critical reader is to practice (guess what!) Critical Reading passages.

In this chapter, I provide the raw material, first for single passages and then for paired passages. I finish up with some short passages. You just stir in the brainpower for a higher score. (Turn to Chapter 3 for more info on any of the topics covered in these practice questions.)

Hitting the Singles Scene: Full-Length Passages

Most SAT passages are singles; their only companions are ten or so questions, which follow the order in which information is presented in the passage, not the order of difficulty. In this section, I provide two full-length, single, stand-alone, practice Critical Reading passages with a sampling of typical questions. In the first set, I give you the answer and an explanation after each question. When you get to the second set, which is set up like the real test, you’re on your own — just until you complete the passage and its questions. The answers and explanations follow the set.

Set 1

In this passage from The Secret Life of Dust (Wiley), author Hannah Holmes discusses some airborne particles called diatoms.

1. The phrase that most nearly describes “flying diatoms” (Line 1) is

(A) living or dead algae that may be transported through the air

(B) single-celled animals that can fly

(C) glass-shelled, winged animals

(D) living algae imprisoned in glass

(E) dead algae borne through the air by wind

The tough part about this question is that most of the choices have some element of truth in them. But in SAT Land, some isn’t enough. Line 14 states that “the ideal source of diatom dust is a shallow lake that shrinks in the dry season, exposing the sediment at its edges to the wind.” The last paragraph talks about “living diatoms” that “blow into melt pools at the edges of glaciers,” so (D) and (E) drop out. Because they “fly” with the aid of wind, (B) and (C) aren’t correct, as these choices imply or directly specify wings. All that’s left is (A) the correct answer.

2. The wordteasing” (Line 6) in this context may best be defined as

(A) mocking

(B) coaxing

(C) annoying

(D) disentangling

(E) shredding

Surprisingly, all the other choices are in fact definitions of teasing, but the one that fits here is disentangling. The correct answer is (D).

3. Diatoms puzzle researchers because

(A) they sometimes appear in unexpected places

(B) they have glass shells

(C) their surface is extremely small, given their weight

(D) they may be carried by wind after death

(E) none of the above

Choices (B) and (D) are true, but not puzzling, and Choice (C) is untrue. Choice (A) is correct because Lines 34–39 discuss the puzzlement of the colony in the Greenland glacier.

4. The title that best expresses the contents of this passage is

(A) Characteristics of Algae

(B) The Lives of Diatoms

(C) A Scientific Study of Diatoms

(D) Michael Ram’s Life and Work

(E) Windborne Diatoms

Titles, like the swimsuits you tried on last summer, may be too big, too small, or just right. In this set of answers, Choices (A) and (B) are too big, which in reading terms means too general. Choices (C) and (D) are too small, or too specific. They focus on one part of the passage, instead of on the whole. Choice (E) is the best because it takes into account all the contents except Paragraph 3, which is clearly inserted as background information, creating a context for the rest of the information about diatoms.

5. Which statement may be inferred from Lines 17–22?

(A) Winds from North America and from Africa blow in the same direction.

(B) Ram’s analysis showed that all diatoms from Antarctica and Greenland ice originate in the same shallow lakes.

(C) Ram does not know enough about diatoms to differentiate one type from another.

(D) Diatoms change over the course of a century.

(E) Diatoms originating in Greenland differ from diatoms originating in Antarctica.

Ram was hoping to find a wind shift, so wind from North America and wind from Africa must blow from different directions. Hence, Choice (A) isn’t the prizewinner here. Choices (B) and (D) are wrong, based on the passage, which also says that Ram couldn’t tell the diatoms apart. Someone with more diatom expertise was needed for this task, so Choice (C) is the best answer.

6. The example of hailstone cores (Line 30) primarily

(A) shows how dust is examined

(B) illustrates wind direction

(C) explains what weather conditions diatoms face

(D) reinforces the idea that wind can carry heavy particles

(E) contrasts with the methods used to study diatoms

The preceding paragraph says that the distances diatoms travel solely via wind power puzzle scientists. Line 30 says that “uncommonly strong wind can lift uncommonly large dust,” and the hailstone core example reinforces this point. Choice (D) is the correct answer.

After you finish the first practice passage, profile your strengths and weaknesses by checking which type of question stumped you. Here’s the key: Questions 1 and 3 were fact-finding missions, Question 2 tackled vocabulary, 4 hit the main idea, and 5 required you to make an inference or to interpret a metaphor. Question 6 concerned the significance of an example. For help with any of these question types, check out the corresponding section in Chapter 3.

Set 2

In this excerpt from Dickens’s 19th-century novel Great Expectations, the narrator recalls a Christmas dinner. Note: “bobbish” means “hungry,” and “Sixpennorth of halfpence” is a nickname referring to a very small quantity of British money of the period. “N.B.” means “note well.”

1. Which statement may be inferred from Lines 1–2?

(A) The door that the narrator opens is normally locked.

(B) The door that the narrator opens is never used for company.

(C) The narrator is not normally allowed to open the door for visitors.

(D) Different doors are used on special occasions and for everyday entries.

(E) The doors in the narrator’s house are always kept open.

2. The author’s attitude toward Uncle Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe in Paragraphs 2 and 3 (Lines 5–14) may best be characterized as

(A) mildly critical

(B) approving

(C) admiring

(D) ambivalent

(E) sharply disapproving

3. The move from the kitchen to the parlour is compared to Joe’s change of clothes because

(A) Mrs. Joe is uncomfortable with both

(B) both take place only on special occasions

(C) the narrator is confused by each of these actions

(D) Mrs. Hubble is always present for both of these actions

(E) Joe insists upon both of these changes

4. The details in Paragraph 5 (Lines 25–34) serve to

(A) show how the author enjoys Christmas dinner

(B) explain the behavior of the dinner guests

(C) describe a 19th-century Christmas celebration

(D) make the case that the narrator is not treated well

(E) illustrate 19th-century child-rearing practices

5. The metaphor of “an unfortunate little bull in a Spanish arena” (Line 33) means that

(A) the narrator, like a bull in a bullfight, is a target of teasing attacks

(B) the narrator’s table manners are more like those of an animal than a polite child

(C) the narrator did not participate actively in the conversation

(D) the dinner guests were the targets of the narrator’s mocking comments

(E) the dinner resembled a festive sporting event

6. The author of this passage would most likely agree with which statement?

(A) Children should be seen and not heard.

(B) The narrator has a happy life.

(C) Holiday gatherings may be joyous occasions.

(D) People often show off during holiday gatherings.

(E) Holiday celebrations should be abolished.

Answers to Set 2

1. D. Lines 1–2 contain the statement that the narrator was “making believe that it was a habit of ours to open that door.” That door implies a contrast with another door, so you can rule out Choices (A), (C), and (E). The two remaining choices present no real puzzle. Because company is arriving, Choice (B) can’t be correct. Bingo — (D) is your answer.

2. A. The description of Uncle Pumblechook (isn’t that one of the all-time greatest names?) clearly shows that Choices (B) and (C) won’t do, because a mouth like a fish isn’t an approving or admiring comment. Choice (D) is possible, because clearly the author isn’t sharply disapproving, given that the negative comments are quite tame (ambivalent means “of two opinions”). But Choice (A) is the best. If the two characters are pretending to do something that they’ve never done before and do so every year, the author is critical of them, but only mildly so.

3. B. Mrs. Joe is uncommonly lively, so Choice (A) is out. The passage gives no indication that Joe insists on anything, so you can rule out (E). Mrs. Hubble isn’t really a factor, and the narrator’s general confusion isn’t specifically connected to clothes or location. The best is (B), because Joe’s change is referred to as Sunday dress and (B) refers to special occasions.

4. D. The author is certainly not enjoying dinner, so Choice (A) is out. The dinner guests’ behavior (B) is possible, but the details tell you more about how the narrator is treated than about the guests’ general behavior. Choices (C) and (E) are too general. Choice (D) is the only one to make the cut.

5. A. The guests are described as unwilling to leave the narrator alone, so you can rule out (D) and (E) because the narrator isn’t the attacker — there goes (D) — and the dinner isn’t a fun occasion — goodbye (E). Choice (C) is true but has no relationship to the bullfighting image, and neither does the statement about table manners. The narrator is, however, described as the target of attacks by the guests’ statements, just as the bull faces attacks in a bullfight. Thus, (A) is the correct answer.

6. D. The change from one room to another, the use of a special door, the ceremonial exchange of gifts — all these details prove that the characters in this passage are showing off, putting on airs, pretending to be better than they really are, and in general acting like contestants on a reality show. Choice (D) fills the bill.

Time for a checkup. Look at everything you got wrong and figure out your weak spots — facts, inference, main idea, and so on. Here’s the key: Questions 1, 4, and 6 are about inference; 2 is about attitude; 3 is about symbolism; and 5 is about metaphor. After you know what to work on, turn to Chapter 3 for some tips.

Doing Double Duty: Paired Passages

Paired passages double your trouble, but if you approach them the right way, they also double your score. Twice as many chances to get the answer right! Expect some questions on Passage I, some on Passage II, and a couple that address the similarities or differences between both passages. Work through the first set, checking the answers and explanations that follow each question, and then fly solo through the second set, which is set up like the real test. The answers to the second set are at the end. Good luck!

Set 1

The first passage discusses the relationship between geography and human culture. The second passage comes from The Secret Life of Dust by Hannah Holmes (Wiley). The author addresses climate change. Note: An oviraptor is a type of dinosaur. Mount Pinatubo was a volcano that erupted in 1991.

1. Based on the statements in the first paragraph (Lines 1–7) of Passage I, which position would the author most likely support?

(A) History is intertwined with geography.

(B) Human beings shape their environment, not the other way around.

(C) Climate and prosperity are completely unrelated.

(D) Dramatic climate changes always cause dramatic cultural shifts.

(E) Climate is the most important factor in the creation of an empire.

Most of the choices are as extreme as a category-five hurricane, but the author’s position is closer to a moderate summer breeze. Lines 1–3 make clear that the site (that is, the geography and climate) where people live is a factor in human culture, a belief expressed by (A). Did Choice (D) entrap you? Lines 5–7 refer to the fall of the Mayan Empire because of extreme drought, but Line 3 firmly asserts that climate isn’t the sole factor determining the stability of a civilization.

2. In the context of Line 4, what is the best definition of shifts?

(A) transfers

(B) modifications

(C) swings

(D) working periods

(E) gears

Lines 3–5 tell you that climate has undergone many variations and [s]o too have there been shifts in civilizations. The word too tells you that you’re looking for a synonym of variations, which Choice (C) provides. Choice (B) is close, but a modification usually refers to a small change to an existing thing, and the paragraph describes more extreme changes.

3. The example of the Mayan civilization serves to

(A) emphasize the importance of water conservation

(B) clarify how history and climate are related

(C) show that no empire is immune to climate change

(D) reveal how human behavior influences climate

(E) explain that political power depends upon a wealth of natural resources

The Mayan empire fell because of a prolonged drought (Line 6), so you can immediately eliminate Choices (C) and (D). To choose among the remaining three answers, examine the whole paragraph, which discusses the effect of climate on human culture. In that context, Choice (B) is the best answer.

4. Which of the following best expresses the meaning of this statement: “Modern science has in some sense inherited the mantle of ancient seers” (Line 10)?

(A) Much scientific knowledge is as imprecise as magic.

(B) Scientific knowledge isn’t accessible to ordinary people.

(C) Science attempts to predict future events.

(D) Scientists today are expected to understand the past.

(E) The ancients understood science very well.

Ancient seers tried to predict the future, and Lines 8–9 tell you that today’s scientists are “preparing for major shifts in trade, population density, and political affinity” — future trends, in other words. Hence, Choice (C) is the answer you seek.

5. The author mentions Mt. Toba (Lines 17–19)

(A) as an example of extreme climate change

(B) to warn of the dangers of natural forces

(C) to show that volcanoes can do damage

(D) as an illustration of the way human behavior changes when climate changes

(E) to explain how ice ages occur

The third paragraph of Passage I (Lines 14–20) talks about climate and culture. The passage states that the eruption of Mt. Toba brought on an ice age, but — and this is an important but — human culture survived intact (not damaged or broken). Therefore, Choice (A) is your best answer here.

6. In Passage II, the author mentions the oviraptor (Line 27) to illustrate

(A) the difference between human and animal responses to climate

(B) how living creatures adapt to many climates

(C) a creature that became extinct because of climate shifts

(D) how the dinosaurs were affected by climate

(E) a dinosaur that lived during a warm period

The author doesn’t develop the oviraptor example. Choices (A), (B), (C), and (D) are out because they call for a more extensive discussion of the dinosaur in question. Choice (E) is the correct answer.

7. In Passage II, which phrase most nearly defines “any day now” (Line 33)?

(A) within a week

(B) within a month

(C) within a year

(D) during our lifetime

(E) within a thousand years

The author of Passage II certainly takes the long view. Paragraph 4 specifically says that even a few thousand years would be possible, but that amount of time is labeled as erratic, or without a consistent pattern. So the best answer is (E).

8. Compared to the authors of Passage I, the author of Passage II

(A) describes volcanic eruptions as more important factors in climate change

(B) believes that climate change has less effect on human behavior

(C) is more concerned with human beings’ effect on climate than the effect of climate on human beings

(D) sees climate as having greater historical importance

(E) thinks that the Earth’s climate will change more rapidly

Lines 37–38 state that “[h]uman industry has wrought profound changes in the Earth’s atmosphere since the last warm period.” Thus the author considers how human beings affect climate, not the other way around, as is the case in Passage I. Go for Choice (C).

9. Evidence from both passages supports the idea that

(A) climate change is inevitable

(B) human beings cannot withstand radical climate changes

(C) human activity affects climate

(D) climate changes very little

(E) climatologists must study human behavior to understand temperature patterns

Passage I makes a point of stating that climate isn’t a constant (Line 3) and Passage II flat out tells you that climate is always changing (Lines 21–22). Therefore, Choice (A) fits perfectly. Choice (C) may have lured you because the author of Passage II does state that human activity is a factor; Passage I, however, ignores the human effect on the weather.

10. The title that best fits both passages is

(A) Global Warming

(B) Climate Change

(C) Volcanoes and Climate

(D) Human Effects on Climate

(E) Climate’s Effects on Humans

Choice (A) is out because Passage I talks about Mt. Toba, an example of colder temperatures, and Passage II doesn’t really deal with volcanoes, so (C) is also out. Passage I ignores human effects on climate, so the answer can’t be (D), and (E) is out because Passage II mentions the climate’s effects on human beings only in passing. As a result, (B) is the correct answer.

Set 2

The first passage is an excerpt from The Ancient Egyptians For Dummies by Charlotte Booth (Wiley). The second passage comes from a 19th-century guide to Egyptian archaeology.

1. According to Passage I, which of the following statements about Egyptian art is not true?

(A) Egyptian art was valid only if the viewer recognized the people or things it depicted.

(B) Though objects were sometimes distorted, people were always drawn in lifelike proportions.

(C) In Egyptian art, clarity was more important than realism.

(D) Egyptian art does not present three-dimensional images.

(E) The subjects of Egyptian art may be natural or supernatural.

2. According to Passage II, Egyptian art

(A) sometimes depicts natural figures

(B) always follows a set tradition

(C) relies heavily upon a knowledge of anatomy

(D) is inferior to the work of modern artists

(E) frequently incorporates mythological monsters

3. With which statement would the authors of both passages agree?

(A) Only the original artworks are worth viewing.

(B) In Egyptian art, supernatural images are more important than natural ones.

(C) Egyptian artists did not understand basic anatomy.

(D) The historical context of Egyptian art is irrelevant.

(E) Modern viewers must understand Egyptian art in order to appreciate it.

4. Compared to Passage I, Passage II is

(A) more critical of Egyptian art

(B) more general

(C) more specific

(D) more concerned with history than aesthetics

(E) less descriptive

Answers to Set 2

1. B. When you’re checking for an answer that isn’t true, go through the answers in order. With any luck, the false statement will be high up in the pack, and you won’t have to bother with the answers that follow. In this question, Choice (A) is clearly true, because Lines 7–9 tell you that “Everything in ancient Egyptian art is presented from the most recognizable viewpoint in an effort to eliminate ambiguity” (two possible meanings). Choice (B), on the other hand, immediately makes the lie-detector jump: The passage specifically refers to “bizarre . . . representations of people” (Lines 6–7). Bingo: you’ve found the false statement, so you’re done.

2. A. Passage II opens with a description of specific tombs, where paintings of wrestlers “go about their work with perfect naturalness” (Line 11). The passage also explains that the wrestlers are exceptions (Line 12) to the usual style. Therefore, Egyptian art “sometimes depicts [shows] natural figures” — Choice (A).

3. E. In Passage I, the art is described as “bizarre (to our eyes, at least)” (Lines 6–7), but the author also says that “every element of a composition is designed to tell you something about the person, event, or ritual” (Lines 4–5). Passage II explains that once “the conventionalities of Egyptian art” (Line 19) are accepted, the artists’ technical skill is evident. Thus, both authors agree that modern viewers may need some background in Egyptian artistic style in order to appreciate it, as Choice (E) states.

4. C. Passage I discusses Egyptian art in a general way, explaining the principles underlying its style. While Passage II also contains some general statements, it begins with two specific examples, “the wrestlers of the Beni Hasan tombs and the dancers and servants of the Theban catacombs” (Lines 10–11), making Choice (C) the best response.

Abbreviating the Agony: Short Passages

The 100-word (give or take a sentence) Critical Reading passages are short but not sweet. Don’t be fooled by their length; sometimes the questions attached to these little devils are harder than those based on longer passages because more is implied than stated in a tiny slice of text. Still, you can conquer short passages after you’ve practiced them. Here are two sets: One takes you step by step, and the second, which is set up like the real test, sends you out alone, with answers at the very end.

Set 1

This excerpt from a 19th-century novel describes a female tavern owner’s dilemma.

1. According to the passage, the narrator

(A) wants to hire three youths to help in the tavern

(B) is deciding whether to hire a youth or an old maid

(C) is confused about running a tavern

(D) understands that a man will help keep order in the tavern

(E) does not like giving orders

Choice (D) is correct. The clue is in Sentence 1. The narrator understood that the presence of a man was desirable in order to maintain the discipline of the tavern. You can dump Choice (A) because she did not care to wait for a third youth, so she’s not hiring three people. Choice (B) bites the dust because she’s worried about becoming an old maid herself, not thinking about hiring one. The passage directly contradicts (C) and (E).

2. Who is most likely to participate in the “civil war” referred to in Line 5?

(A) candidates who lose an election

(B) someone not chosen to run the tavern

(C) people who drink at the tavern

(D) soldiers from a local fort

(E) old maids

Choice (B) is correct. Check out the reference to a third youth in Line 3. The author implies that a man is present, ready to work in the tavern, but a third youth may arrive as competition for the role of helper. A civil war may break out between the two male candidates for the position, including someone not chosen to run the tavern, also known as (B).

This passage is an excerpt from The Hidden Universe, a science text by Roger J. Tayler (Wiley).

3. The passage implies that the laws of physics

(A) may not be the same away from the Earth

(B) can never change

(C) are a problem for scientists because they cannot be the subject of any experiments

(D) apply only to waves

(E) have been verified in environments away from the Earth

The passage contains a couple of clue words — different (Line 1) alerts you to a contrast, and “only . . . on the Earth . . . at the present time” (Lines 7–8) puts you on notice that anything away from the Earth is doubtful. The enticing-but-wrong answer here is Choice (C) because the passage does describe the problem of not being able to verify the laws of physics — away from the Earth. The laws of physics may certainly be verified on Earth, including the law that whenever I drop a sandwich it will land jelly side down. Choice (A) is correct.

4. In the context of Line 5, what is the best rephrasing of “at the outset”?

(A) when one gathers data

(B) when one analyzes data

(C) the first consideration is

(D) historically

(E) in the early days of astronomy

Choice (C) is for correct in this question. Although the passage refers to a process, and all processes take place over time, the statement that “At the outset there is one major problem” (Line 5) takes into account the study of astronomy, not the gathering or analysis of data. Nor does the phrase refer to an earlier stage of scientific knowledge.

This excerpt from The House of Science by Philip R. Holzinger (Wiley) discusses world population growth in relation to food supply.

5. What assumption does the author make about the rate of population growth?

(A) Scientists should work to increase the rate of population growth.

(B) The Green Revolution will lower the growth rate of population.

(C) The present growth rate of population must change as the number of people on earth increases.

(D) Without adequate food, the rate of population growth will slow.

(E) A growth rate of 1.6 percent is ideal.

The clue is the question pair in Lines 2–4. Placing them together implies a cause-and-effect relationship. Another clue is the description of agricultural improvements. Plopping them in a paragraph about population links the two. Choice (D) is correct.

6. In this passage, the “Green Revolution” (Line 8) refers to

(A) changes in the way plants are harvested

(B) new types of plants

(C) plants that yield more food, in addition to other advancements in agriculture

(D) an increased concern for ecology

(E) population control through food rationing

The passage talks about new crops and then throws you the label Green Revolution, so the revolution has to have something to do with food and/or plants, so you can eliminate (D) and (E). Choice (C) wins the race because the last sentence in the passage says part of the Revolution, so other factors must exist.

This paragraph about food safety comes from Basic Statistics by Olive Jean Dunn (Wiley).

7. The author believes that statistics

(A) should be used to evaluate the safety of restaurants

(B) prove that restaurant meals are safer on the whole than most people think

(C) accurately measure the safety of picnic food

(D) can easily be misinterpreted by the media

(E) are the media’s most valuable source of information

The SAT writers tuck a bunch of false clues in these choices, hoping to distract you. The passage criticizes the newspaper article that evaluated the safety of restaurant meals. Choices (D) and (E) deal with media, so they’re both in the running. Choice (E) loses the race, however, because of its vagueness. Choices (A) and (C) are contradicted by the passage, and (B) falls away because of the word prove. Thus, (D) is right.

8. In Line 9 the word may is italicized because the author

(A) thinks that restaurants are more dangerous than most people believe

(B) wants to emphasize that no valid conclusion about the safety of restaurants may be drawn without more information

(C) is confused about the safety of various food sources

(D) believes that many cases of food poisoning are not reported

(E) is emphasizing how little is known about restaurant meals

An italicized word nearly always creates emphasis, as in “The SAT is an awful test.” So Choices (B) and (E) are the best bets, with (E) voted off the island because it says nothing about safety. If you selected (B), pat yourself on the back.

After you’re done, add up your score. If you answered more than four right, you’re doing great. Take the night off. If only one or two made it into your correct column, hit the next set.

Set 2

This passage about leadership comes from The Transformational Leader, by Noel M. Tichy and Mary Anne Devanna (Wiley).

1. The authors imply that

(A) women have too many decision-making roles in international organizations

(B) Japanese women are discontent with traditional roles

(C) white males in the United States hold too little power in the workplace

(D) laws to change the ethnic or gender balance of power are easy to put into effect

(E) white males are now a minority in the American workforce

2. What is the meaning of “sanctions” in Line 5?

(A) blessings

(B) praise

(C) approval

(D) penalties

(E) actions

This selection from Physical Science in the Middle Ages by Edward Gran (Wiley) describes the origins of universities in Western Europe.

3. According to the passage, once many works had been translated into Latin,

(A) Latin could more easily be taught in universities

(B) universities were formed to translate more books

(C) knowledge could be shared among scholars

(D) the language was not understood by university students

(E) scholars could no longer appreciate the knowledge gained by past generations

4. The author implies that

(A) all true universities teach philosophy, science, law, and medicine

(B) the establishment of universities was the result of a carefully planned effort

(C) law and medicine were not appreciated in Paris and Oxford

(D) today’s universities should have an international student body

(E) today’s universities owe much to an intellectual effort in the 12th century

In this passage from a 19th-century novel, the narrator reminisces about a childhood friend.

5. The carving referred to in the passage

(A) was probably a tombstone

(B) was primarily created by the author

(C) contained only words

(D) has hardly aged at all

(E) was intended to protect eyesight

6. A schooner and a cutter (Line 5) are

(A) carving tools

(B) names carved on the stone

(C) types of stone

(D) associated with the sea

(E) mineral formations

This passage from Rogue Asteroids and Doomsday Comets by Duncan Steel (Wiley) describes the damage that may be caused by the impact of an asteroid (chunk of space rock) on our planet.

7. According to the passage, which of the following is true of both earthquakes and collision with an asteroid?

(A) Neither shakes cities so strongly that buildings are flattened.

(B) Both may generate tsunamis.

(C) Both have the power to devastate deserts and oceans.

(D) Both originate in the Southern Hemisphere.

(E) Australia is less affected by earthquakes and asteroid collisions than New Zealand and Tahiti are.

8. The passage mentions the Outback of Australia because

(A) it is most likely to be hit by an asteroid

(B) it has been hit by asteroids in the past

(C) the Outback is a source of tsunamis

(D) it serves as an example of a desert area

(E) Australia has felt the effects of tsunamis but not asteroids

Answers to Set 2

1. B. The false positive in this question is Choice (E) because the passage states that white males are a minority in the American workforce. So anyone who zoomed through the question got this one wrong. Why? Because the question asks what the authors imply, not what they actually say. The statement in Lines 3–4 about Japanese women’s search for a more meaningful role is the clue that nails down (B) because no one searches if he or she is already content.

2. D. A vocabulary-in-context question is usually a cinch, as long as you take the time to read the context. The passage says, “Laws and sanctions to correct inequity are formulated by the government.” The law doesn’t give blessings or praise, and approval is rare, so Choices (A), (B), and (C) are all wrong. Besides, you can’t correct a mistake with approval. Choice (E) is too vague. Two cheers for (D).

3. C. The clue in Sentence 1 intimately associates learning and Latin. Because the universities are sharing learning, you need take only one tiny step from Latin to learning to universities, where you find — in addition to keg parties and tailgate parties — scholars. Choice (C) is correct.

4. E. Zero in on Lines 5–6, where you find generations to come, and Line 8, which mentions a form that “has persisted to this day . . .” which, by the way, is Tuesday. (Just kidding.) Now you can check out Choices (D) and (E), which talk about today’s universities. Choice (E) relates to the rest of the passage, the 12th-century part.

5. A. You’re in a churchyard, carving, and the carving stays around long enough to gather lichen (little fungi) and blur its words. Think tombstone or monument, and only tombstone is an option. Bingo! Choice (A) is right.

6. D. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the words (which name types of boats), Line 4 tells you that the carving is a sea-piece. Choice (D) is the only one that deals with the sea.

7. B. The appealing-but-wrong choice is (C) because although both earthquakes are described in the passage as devastating, giant waves don’t hit the desert. Thus, Choice (B) is a better bet.

8. D. This question is a rule-out, as in rule out the wrong answers and what’s left is correct. You can’t justify Choice (A) because the odds of an asteroid hitting the desert are never discussed. Ditto for (B) and (E) — the passage doesn’t tell you whether an asteroid or a giant wave once hit the Outback. Choice (C) is just plain wrong. Opt for (D).