SAT Reading Practice Test 1

Directions: The SAT Reading test consists of five passages, and each passage is followed by a series of questions. After reading each passage, answer the questions based on what is stated or implied in the passage.

Questions 1-10 are based on the following passage.

The following passage is adapted from R. Smith’s “The Organic Way of Life.”

Compared to the atmosphere, soil is a place where temperature fluctuations are small and slow. Consequently, soil animals are generally intolerant to sudden temperature changes and may not function well over a very wide range. That’s why leaving bare earth exposed to the hot summer sun often slows plant growth and why many thoughtful composters either put down a thin mulch in summer or try to rapidly establish a cooling leaf canopy to shade raised beds. Except for a few microorganisms, soil animals breathe oxygen just like other living things and so are dependent on an adequate air supply. Where soil is airless due to compaction, poor drainage, or large proportions of very fine clay, soil animals are few in number.

The soil environment is generally quite moist, and even when the soil seems dry the relative humidity of soil air usually approaches 100 percent. Soil animals consequently have not developed the ability to conserve their body moisture and are speedily killed by dry conditions. When faced with desiccation they retreat deeper into the soil if there is oxygen and pore spaces large enough to move about. So we see another reason why a thin mulch that preserves surface moisture can greatly increase the beneficial population of soil animals. Some single-cell animals and roundworms are capable of surviving stress by encysting themselves, forming a little “seed” that preserves their genetic material and enough food to reactivate it, coming back to life when conditions improve. These cysts may endure long periods of severe freezing and sometimes temperatures of over 150 degree F.

Inhabitants of leaf litter reside close to the surface and so must be able to experience exposure to dryer air and light for short times without damage. These are called primary decomposers. They spend most of their time chewing on the thick reserve of moist leaves contacting the forest floor. Primary decomposers are unable to digest the entire leaf. They extract only the easily-assimilated substances from their food: proteins, sugars and other simple carbohydrates and fats. Cellulose and lignin are the two substances that make up the hard, permanent, and woody parts of plants; these materials cannot be digested by most soil animals. Interestingly, there are a few larvae whose digestive tract contains cellulose-decomposing bacteria but these larvae have little overall effect.

By the time the primary decomposers are finished, the leaves have been mechanically disintegrated and thoroughly moistened, worked over, chewed to tiny pieces and converted into minuscule bits of moist excrement still containing active digestive enzymes. Many of the bacteria and fungi that were present on the leaf surfaces have passed through this initial digestion process alive or as spores waiting and ready to activate. Digestive wastes of primary decomposers are thoroughly inoculated with microorganisms that can consume cellulose and lignin. Even though it looks broken down, it has not yet fully decomposed. It does have a water-retentive, granular structure that facilitates the presence of air and moisture throughout the mass creating perfect conditions for microbial digestion to proceed. Both secondary and primary decomposers are necessary to complete the composting process.

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Question 1
According to the passage, which of the following is true about primary decomposers?

A
Most of them have difficulty digesting cellulose and lignin.
B
Most have a digestive tract that contains cellulose-decomposing bacteria.
C
They can encyst themselves to protect against unfavorable weather conditions.
D
They desiccate leaves, creating mulch.
Question 1 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). The phrase “according to the passage” indicates that this is a detail question; the correct answer must match what is explicitly stated in the passage. It is stated that most soil animals, which includes primary decomposers, cannot break down cellulose and lignin. Answer choices (B) and (C) describe larvae and single-cell animals and roundworms, respectively, instead of primary decomposers. The passage does not describe a relationship between primary decomposers and mulch. Remember that words like “most” can sometimes make an answer choice too extreme to be correct. Always double-check that the claim of “most” or “a majority” is supported by the passage.
Question 2
Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

(You can use the left arrow below to go back and review the previous question.)

A
Paragraph 1, Sentences 1-3 (“Compared…beds.”)
B
Paragraph 2, Sentences 3-5 (“When…improve.”)
C
Paragraph 3, Sentences 4-6 (“Primary…animals.”)
D
Paragraph 4, Sentences 2-4 (“Many…decomposed.”)
Question 2 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Find the part of the passage that describes “primary decomposers,” “cellulose” and “lignin” together. The best evidence for the correct answer is found in paragraph 3:

Primary decomposers are unable to digest the entire leaf. They extract only the easily-assimilated substances from their food: proteins, sugars and other simple carbohydrates and fats. Cellulose and lignin are the two substances that make up the hard, permanent, and woody parts of plants; these materials cannot be digested by most soil animals.
Question 3
The author is primarily concerned with

A
comparing the characteristics of two types of soil animals.
B
describing the habits of a class of soil-dwelling microorganisms.
C
reviewing the conditions required for an ecological process to occur.
D
examining the environmental factors necessary for composting.
Question 3 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). This is a main idea question. The correct answer must be broad enough to encompass all four of the paragraphs of the passage without veering outside of its scope. The passage describes the temperature and moisture conditions required for soil animals to survive, and then goes on to describe how some of them (primary/secondary decomposers) decompose leaves during the process of composting. Unlike choice (D), choice (C) allows for the final two paragraphs’ discussion of the primary/secondary decomposers. If you chose answer choice (D), notice that this is true of the first two paragraphs, but that the last two paragraphs explore the actions of the decomposers, not just their environment. The correct answer to a Main Idea question cannot be too narrow.
Question 4
As used in paragraph 2, the word “encysting” most nearly means

A
encroaching.
B
embellishing.
C
encrusting.
D
enclosing.
Question 4 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). This is a vocab-in-context question. Examine the sentence in which ’encysting’ appears in order to clarify the context: “Some single-cell animals and roundworms are capable of surviving stress by encysting themselves, forming a little "seed" that preserves their genetic material and enough food to reactivate it, coming back to life when conditions improve.” The sentence describes an act of self-preservation, or hibernation, by way of isolation from the environment; enclosing, or closing off on all sides, is the word that most closely matches this usage.
Question 5
What can be inferred about the atmosphere as described in the passage?

A
Its inhabitants do not require as much moisture as creatures that live in soil.
B
Changes in temperature can be abrupt.
C
It is not a habitat for primary decomposers.
D
Single-cell organisms cannot encyst in the atmosphere.
Question 5 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). This is an inference question. You must draw a conclusion based upon information not explicitly stated in the passage. Remember to select the answer that is supported by a piece of evidence; do not choose something simply because it sounds logical. The first sentence of the passage states: “Compared to the atmosphere, soil is a place where temperature fluctuations are small and slow.” The implication here is that the atmosphere exhibits large and rapid fluctuations in temperature. None of the other answer choices can be supported by evidence provided in the passage.
Question 6
Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

A
Paragraph 1, Sentences 1-2 ("Compared...range.")
B
Paragraph 1, Sentences 4-5 ("Except...number.")
C
Paragraph 2, Sentence 6 ("These...degree F.")
D
Paragraph 3, Sentence 1 ("Inhabitants...damage.")
Question 6 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). The first sentence of the passage contains the correct answer to the previous Inference question. Only paragraph 1 mentions details relating to the atmosphere.
Question 7
Which of the following is the function of the fourth paragraph?

A
To explain how soil animals thrive in certain temperatures and humidities.
B
To affirm the importance of both primary and secondary decomposers in composting.
C
To summarize the composting process.
D
To explain how both primary and secondary decomposers aid decomposition.
Question 7 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). This is a function question. The correct answer’s scope will be confined to the author’s intentions in the fourth paragraph only. Incorrect answer choices will either not describe the purpose of the fourth paragraph, or they will describe the function of multiple paragraphs.

Ask yourself: how does this paragraph function within the larger context of the passage? Often the answer choices for this type of question are presented as verbs, so try to come up with your own answer in verb-form. This paragraph focuses on the primary decomposers’ process, then introduces and discusses secondary decomposers. Finally, it mentions how both are necessary for composting. Choice (D) is the best match for this purpose.
Question 8
Which of the following can be inferred from the passage?

A
Primary decomposers can digest entire leaves, while secondary decomposers cannot.
B
Composting requires only secondary decomposers.
C
Secondary decomposers cannot decompose proteins, sugars, or fats.
D
Secondary decomposers come from the leaf surfaces.
Question 8 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). This is an inference question. Select the answer that is most strongly implied by details from the passage. The correct answer will not be explicitly stated, but will be supported by details mentioned by the author. According to paragraph 4, after passing from the leaves through the primary decomposers’ digestion process, spores and bacteria are ready to activate and become secondary decomposers.
Question 9
Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

A
Paragraph 3, Sentence 6 ("Interestingly...effect.")
B
Paragraph 4, Sentence 1 (By the time...enzymes.")
C
Paragraph 4, Sentence 2 (Many...activate.")
D
Paragraph 4, Sentences 3-5 ("Digestive...proceed.")
Question 9 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). The answer to the previous question is supported by sentence 2 of paragraph 4: “Many of the bacteria and fungi that were present on the leaf surfaces have passed through this initial digestion process alive or as spores waiting and ready to activate.” The environmental conditions enable the bacteria and fungi to activate and become secondary decomposers.
Question 10
Which of the following is NOT necessary for the composting process?

A
Air
B
Heat
C
Primary decomposers
D
Secondary decomposers
Question 10 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). This is a detail question. Because of the word “NOT,” we know that ¾ of the answer choices WILL be mentioned in the passage as something required for the composting process. Look at the four answer choices, then look through the passage and eliminate the answer choices mentioned in the passage. Paragraph 1 states that “an adequate air supply” is necessary for soil animals to survive; because soil animals are necessary for the composting process, answer choice (A) cannot be correct. The final sentence of the passage states, “Both secondary and primary decomposers are necessary to complete the composting process.” Therefore, answer choices (C) and (D) cannot be correct.
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