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Reading Comprehension
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        In nearly every passage you encounter, the author will be trying to convey a specific point. In general, the strategy for the reading comprehension passage goes like this: get the general topic, find the specific focus of the passage, and finally, get the author's reason for writing the passage.


This chapter is broken into 3 parts:

I.    6 Tactics for Analyzing a Reading Comprehension Passage
II.   3 Most Common Question Types
III.  4 Step Method of Attacking Reading Comprehension Passages and Sample Essay

 

I. 6 Tactics for Analyzing a Reading Comprehension Passage

A. The writer's purpose and voice
B. Finding the essay's main point
C. Finding the purpose of each paragraph
D. Determining the scope of the argument
E. Determining the structure (Ignore this section if you have limited time to prepare)
F. Don't read, skim

 

A. The writer's purpose and voice


      It would be nice if the authors of the reading passages came right out and specifically said what they were writing about, what they have to say, and how they intend to accomplish their goal. That, however, is not the style of writing on the LSAT. They will not be hitting you over the head with their points, so you have to read between the lines and look for them very carefully.

    What is the best method to detect the author's point? The author will frequently change his tone when describing the main point of the passage. Notice when the author shifts his voice from an objective, factual description to his subjective viewpoint.

    Attacking a passage is what critical reading is all about: stepping back from the factual content, figuring out the author's views on a topic and how he arrived at them, and looking for the evidence that must be provided. Always be on the lookout for sentences in which the author's voice is coming through and try to skip past the sentences that are purely factual or simply there for support.
    

Try to find the author's purpose and voice in the following passage:

One of the most persistently troubling parts of national domestic policy is the development and use of water resources. Because the technology of water management involves similar construction skills, whether the task is the building of an ocean jetty for protection of shipping or the construction of a river dam for flood control and irrigation, the issues of water policy have mingled problems of navigation and agriculture. A further inherent complexity of water policy is the frequent conflict between flood control and irrigation and between requirements for abundance and those for scarcity of water. Both problems exist in America, often in the same river basins; the one is most typically the problem of the lower part of the basin and the other the problem of the upper part.

Nevertheless, the most startling fact about the history of water projects in the United States is the degree to which their shortcomings have been associated with administrative failures. Again and again these shortcomings have proved to be the consequences of inadequate study of water flow, of soil, of factors other than construction technology, and of faulty organization. In 1959, the Senate Select Committee on National Water resources found that twenty different national commissions or committees charged with examining these problems and seeking solutions had emphasized with remarkable consistency the need for coordination among agencies dealing with water.

What is the author's voice and purpose?

     There is one point in the essay where the author lets his guard down, and his word choice reveals his position. The sentence, "The most startling fact... shortcomings" at the beginning of paragraph two marks a shift in tone. Scholars will choose their words carefully, and the use of "startling", a rather strong word, should send a clear message to the reader about the author's attitude toward his subject matter. That is followed by an exasperated "again and again" suggesting agencies are refusing to learn from experience.

      This is his axe to grind. Indeed, his point is the incompetence of government administrations in charge of water management. In this second paragraph, we discover the author's purpose: the author believes water resources are managed incompetently, and he's writing to call attention to the problem. He then suggests a solution in the last sentence: "Committees charged with examining these problems and seeking solutions had emphasized with remarkable consistency the need for coordination among agencies dealing with water." The bottom line: the author wants "coordination among agencies dealing with water." That is his purpose, and that is why his voice changes the way it does through the passage.


B. Finding the essay's main point

    If you can find the author's voice and purpose, you are in excellent shape to find the essay's main point. The author has a personal point of view that is nearly always injected into the essay. The purpose of the essay is to persuade you of the author's point of view. Sometimes the author makes it easy to identify his point of view by tagging it with strong adjectives/adverbs (vital, remarkable, spectacular, etc.). Watch the author's voice. However, often the essay writers are less straightforward in expressing their viewpoints.

    Main points are arguments and not objectively factual. The main point of an essay would not be World War I was fought from 1914 to 1919; that is merely a fact. Instead, the claim World War I was extended by Britain's needless and poorly conceived intervention would be a main idea of an essay (note the strong words). That is a controversial position that a 350-word passage might discuss. Even science articles that might appear objective will have subjective viewpoints injected by the author to express a point. For these persuasive essays, you will most likely get the question: "What is the essay's main idea?"



Essays without a point

    Sometimes an essay has no major point. These essays read like a story or a factual, dispassionate account. These essays will have no buzzwords that indicate the author is expressing an opinion: no amazing, impressive, disappointing, remarkable, invalid, etc. These essays tend to be rare, and if you think you have a "pointless essay", you may simply have failed to identify the author's point of view. Double check.

    In the event you do have a pointless essay, you should look for structure and factual details that might be brought up in the questions. You are more likely to be asked detail (recall) questions on pointless essays. Make sure you make a good mental road map so that you may identify where certain facts are located in the essay.

 

C. Finding the purpose of each paragraph
  
The paragraph is the main structural unit of any passage. To find a paragraph's purpose, ask yourself

     This process allows you to create a "mental road map" of the passage. You are taking the test on a computer screen. You cannot label the paragraphs. Instead, remember the structure as you proceed and/or use scrap paper to draw a rough diagram of the essay as you go. Some students feel comfortable drawing the diagram. There are two purposes to creating a map of the essay: 1) it will help you better understand the essay and 2) it will help you locate specific details later if you get a specific detail question.

Let's look at the earlier essay:

      One of the most persistently troubling parts of national domestic policy is the development and use of water resources. Because the technology of water management involves similar construction skills, whether the task is the building of an ocean jetty for protection of shipping or the construction of a river dam for flood control and irrigation, the issues of water policy have mingled problems of navigation and agriculture. A further inherent complexity of water policy is the frequent conflict between flood control and irrigation, between requirements for abundance and those for scarcity of water. Both problems exist in America, often in the same river basins; the one is most typically the problem of the lower part of the basin and the other the problem of the upper part.

<<This paragraph is a discussion of the conflicts over scarce water resources (flood control vs. irrigation, lower part vs. higher part of basin).>>

      Then there are the problems of cities located along the major American rivers, not infrequently directly on the very flood plains of highly erratic streams. In the arid parts of the land, it has recently become clear that climate varies over time, with irregular periods of serious drought followed by wet periods marked by occasional floods. The problems of land and water, then, are inherently difficult. For this reason alone, shortcomings and failures have probably been inevitable. Moreover, in the scale of the undertakings that have been attempted involving on occasion no less than the reversal of stream flow and the altering of the natural features of whole river basins, it is inevitable.

<<Climate varies creating inherent conflict in how to use a water supply that constantly changes.>>

     Nevertheless, the most startling fact about the history of water projects in the United States is the degree to which their shortcomings have been associated with administrative failures. Again and again these shortcomings have proved to be the consequences of inadequate study of water flow, of soils, of factors other than construction technology and of faulty organization. In 1959, the Senate Select Committee on National Water resources found that twenty different national commissions or committees charged with examining these problems and seeking solutions had emphasized with remarkable consistency the need for coordination among agencies dealing with water.

<<The major problem with water policy is administrative failures. Coordination is needed between agencies.>>

Draw the roadmap:
Paragraph 1. This paragraph is a discussion of the conflicts over scarce water resources (flood control vs. irrigation, lower part vs. higher part of basin).
Paragraph 2. Because climate varies, it creates inherent conflict in how to use a water supply that constantly changes.
Paragraph 3. The major problem with water policy is administrative failures. Coordination is needed between agencies.

If you see how the essay is set up, you will better understand the essay and more quickly find answers.

 

D. Determining the scope of the argument (this section is a repeat from the Critical Reasoning Section)

     When it comes to determining the scope of a passage, you need to understand what we mean by "scope." Think of scope as a narrowing of the topic. If you've found the main point, you must also identify what is in the range of the argument. Scope is related to more than just the general topic being discussed; it is the narrowing of the topic. Is the article about graduate-school admissions, MBA admissions, or helping international students get into the business school program of their choice? Each step represents a narrowing of the scope.

     Scope is one of the most important concepts for doing well on the verbal section, particularly for high scorers. Why? Put yourself in the position of the test question writers. They must write difficult questions. Only one of the five choices is correct; the rest are "junk" answers.  They have to write questions that a certain number of students will get wrong, and they have to make up "junk" answers to fool people. The issue of scope solves both problems for test question writers: it allows them to easily generate wrong answers, and it makes the questions harder because scope is a challenging issue.  Most critical reasoning or reading comprehension questions have "junk" answers that are outside of the question's scope.

     Some common examples of scope junk answers are choices that are too narrow, too broad, or literally have nothing to do with the author's points. Also, watch for and eliminate choices that are too extreme to match the argument's scope; they're usually signaled by such words as all, always, never, none, and so on. Choices that are in some way qualified are often correct for arguments that are moderate in tone and contain such words as usually, sometimes, probably.

 all

 always

 never

 only

words that signal answers that are too strong and therefore usually outside the scope of an argument.


Example:

Some scientists believe that carbon dioxide-induced global warming may increase the number of hurricanes in the future and their severity.

What if someone inferred from that statement that

All of this season's severe hurricanes were caused by global warming.

That statement would be outside of the scope of the original argument. The inference made is outside the scope of the argument. The argument is not that strong. What about this statement:

Some of this season's storms may have been caused and exacerbated by global warming.

This statement is more measured and is within the scope of the original argument.

Strategy: If the question asks "which of the following is NOT an assumption of the argument" or "which of the following does NOT describe an argument made in the passage above", the answer will often be the one with extreme language.


Here is a critical reasoning question that illustrates scope.

Apartment building owners argue that rent control should be abolished. Although they acknowledge that they would increase rents in the short term, owners argue that in the long term the rent increases would lead to greater profitability. Higher profits would lead to increased apartment construction. Increased apartment construction would then lead to a greater supply of residences and lower prices as the potential apartment residents have a better selection. Thus, abolishing rent control would ultimately reduce prices.

Name an assumption made by the owners. (Hint: this is a difficult question, but you may eliminate 4 of the 5 answers as outside the scope of the argument).

a) Current residents of rent-controlled apartments would be able to find new apartments once their rents increased.
b) The fundamental value of any society is to house its citizens.
c) Only current apartment owners would profit significantly from market deregulation.
d) New apartment construction will generate a great number of jobs.
e) The increase in the number of apartments available would exceed the number of new potential apartment residents.

Which possible answers are outside of the scope? The scope is the argument that deregulation will increase supply and lower prices. "Name an assumption" means find a direct assumption of that supply/demand argument.

a) Current residents of rent control apartments would be able to find new apartments once their rent increased--is this outside of the scope?
Well, this sentence expresses a nice sentiment for the welfare of renters, but it has nothing to do with our argument, which is about a supply/demand dynamic.

b) The fundamental value of any society is to house its citizens. Is this outside of the scope? Again, nice sentiment, but this does not directly tie into the argument.

c) Only current apartment owners would profit significantly from market deregulation. Is this outside of the scope? The profitability of the apartment owners is not directly relevant. If the profitability of the apartments increases, it would help increase supply because other companies would be drawn into the market, thus increasing supply. Indeed this looks good and as if it is an assumption, but "Only current apartment owners" is too limiting. How about newer apartment owners? The profits made by "only current owners" is not the issue at hand; it is the price of apartments. Again, as previously mentioned, answer choices that use words such as "only" tend to be outside the scope of the question. Here "only" is too restrictive and allows you to eliminate this answer choice.

d) New apartment construction will generate a great number of jobs. This is clearly outside of the scope.

e) The increase in the number of apartments available would exceed the number of new potential apartment residents. Aha! This is an argument about supply and demand, and this is an answer about supply and demand. This is clearly within the scope of the argument, and it is the correct answer. If demand rose with new apartment construction, then prices would not decline, invalidating their argument.

 

E. Determining structure (this is a difficult and in-depth section. If you have limited time to prepare, skip it)

    The essays on the LSAT are organized using a variety of structures. If you identify the structures, you can more easily identify the author's point. In this section, we go through five forms of essay structure that you are likely to encounter.


1. Chronological Pattern

     When the focus of a text is a change, a transformation, or a sequence of actions unfolding over time, then chronological order is the pattern of choice for that text. Consider the following sentence:

When the plague entered northern France in July, 1348, it settled first in Normandy and, checked by winter, gave Picardy a deceptive interim until the next summer.

The sentence emphasizes the interruption in the spread of plague, a concept linked to chronology. The plague entered Northern France in July, 1348, settled first in Normandy, was checked by winter, and gave Picardy a deceptive interim until the next summer.


2. Spatial Pattern

This pattern organizes information by location, orientation or configuration.


Consider the following passage:

     But if the Romans couldn't, or didn't care to, conquer the Germans, the latter equally could not then conquer the Romans. The standoff deflected German expansion toward the east; by the third century it had pushed as far as the Dnieper. Stretching now from the North Sea to southern Russia and from Scandinavia to the Roman frontier, Common Germanic inevitably evolved from a fairly uniform tongue into three distinct, though still closely related, languages.
     North Germanic (ancestor of the Scandinavian tongues) covered most of Norway and Sweden; East Germanic (which included Gothic and several other extinct dialects) covered Eastern Europe and southern Russia. West Germanic, ancestor of all the other modern Germanic tongues, including English, was spoken from the coasts of the North Sea and western Baltic south to the Roman frontier.

     Note the prevalence of phrases that denote geographic expansion of the Germans or their containment in territories held by the Romans. Note also the predictability of this passage: it describes the north-south and the east-west boundaries of the spread of the German languages (the geographic whole) and then differentiates three parts of the whole according to directions: the Far North, the east, and the west. Here, the spatial pattern is in service: the author states a relationship, in this case, a correspondence between geographic and linguistic expansion.


3. Hierarchical Pattern

     Passages organized by hierarchy, a ranked series, create an order where no natural relationship (such as chronological or spatial relationship) exists. For example, if no natural chronological or spatial characteristic is a critical aspect of the matter described, then the text may designate a grouping according to a system of some sort.
     Like chronological and spatial order, a hierarchical pattern moves in a linear direction, and for this reason, it creates a pattern of expectation for the reader. Once you have identified the principle of order (for example, lesser to greater, least familiar to most familiar, colder to hotter), you can anticipate and assimilate later information and understand the general framework. Consider the working out of a hierarchy in support of a thesis in this passage:

Because of their extravagance, violence, and vainglory, tournaments were continually being denounced by popes and kings, from whom they drained money. This was in vain. When the Dominicans denounced them as a pagan circus, no one listened. When the formidable St. Bernard thundered that anyone killed in a tournament would go to Hell, he spoke for once to deaf ears. Death in a tournament was officially considered the sin of suicide by the Church, besides jeopardizing family and tenantry without cause, but even threats of excommunication had no effect.

    According to the thesis, the denunciation of tournaments by popes and kings failed.
The Dominicans denounced them, but no one listened; St. Bernard thundered but spoke to deaf ears; the Church threatened excommunication, to no effect. You perceive a hierarchical order in the increasing degree of severity of these denunciations, and that regularity gives pattern to the passage.


4. General-to-Specific Pattern

     This pattern is especially useful in argumentation. Argumentative writing makes a general argument, develops it by a grouping of specific examples that give evidence for the claim, and concludes by restating the general argument.

Here is the pattern:

Consider the following passage:

Throughout the seventeenth century, the French medical profession had what we should call a thoroughly bad press; Moliere [a satiric dramatist] conferred upon its members an inglorious morality, the satirists did their worst with them, and, in private correspondence, the physician was almost always presented as a cross between a murderer and a buffoon.

      This passage starts with a general claim of the widespread negative view of the medical profession in France in the 17th century. The general claim rests on three factual pieces of evidence that are stated after the initial claim: Moliere attacked the profession in his farces; satirists savagely attacked it; persons in private life attacked it.


5. Specific-to-General Pattern

     The specific-to-general pattern presents a series of related examples whose relationship is unclear until the passage draws them to a conclusion or general claim.

Here is the pattern:


Consider this passage:

Frogs react quickly and effectively to bugs that fly past them. This by no means implies that they have a concept of bug. Indeed, we can be pretty sure that they do not, or at best, that their concept of bug both under- and over-generalizes to a rather gross extent. For instance, they will overgeneralize by snapping at bug-sized pellets that are flipped past them, but will undergeneralize by totally ignoring motionless bugs even when no other food source is available. The most parsimonious explanation of their behavior is that networks of cells that respond to rapid movement and small rounded objects are directly linked to the snapping reflex and that there is nothing more sophisticated than this inside the frog's brain.

     In this passage, statements that describe behavior of frogs in certain instances are the categories: frogs react quickly and effectively to bugs, they snap at bug-size pellets, they totally ignore motionless bugs. The general claim that accounts for all these specific behaviors is phrased at the end of the paragraph.

F. Don't read, skim

     The LSAT grades you on the ability to answer questions, not whether or not you understand every nuance in the text. Do not try to memorize information. Make a slight mental note of something that seems important. Focus instead on the structure, the argument, and what the writer is trying to say. Draw a mental road map so that if you are asked a question on the detail later, you may quickly locate the information.

ALTERNATIVE STRATEGY- SPEED READING:
      A common strategy to read quicker is to focus on the first sentence of paragraphs. Think about it, each essay is well written and well written paragraphs are usually summarized in the first sentence. Thus, you can theoretically ONLY read the first sentence and ignore the balance of each paragraph. Since you aren't graded on reading the essay (just getting the questions right) there is no reason that you have to read the entire essay.
     You can construct a mental road map of the essay by simply reading the first sentence of each paragraph. This will save you time and give you more time to focus on the questions themselves.

In sum, there are six different strategies to analyzing reading comprehension sections.

A. Identify the writer's purpose and voice
B. Find the essay's main point
C. Find the purpose of each paragraph
D. Determine the scope of the argument
E. Determine the structure
F. Don't Read, Skim


II. Three Most Common Question Types


A. Recall questions
B. Synthesis
C. Comprehension



A. Recall Questions

     Recall questions ask you to recall by name key organizing terms (features, causes, and characteristics), special disciplinary terms, technical terms, metaphors and similes, symbols, and/or quantities. It's fairly simple to identify a recall question from its stem:

Often, these questions provide very direct clues about where an answer may be found, such as line references or some text that links up with the passage structure.

    You may recall that we advised you to skim over details in Reading Comprehension passages and to focus on the topic, scope, and purpose. This appears to be a contradiction with these highly specific detail questions. The fact is most of the details that appear in a typical passage aren't tested in the questions. Of the few that are, you'll either


    If your mental road map and understanding of the purpose of each paragraph are both clear in your mind, it shouldn't take long to locate the relevant detail and then choose an answer. Despite this question type, the winning strategy is still to note the purpose of details in each paragraph's argument, but not to attempt to memorize the details themselves. Consider the following passage:

Entire disciplines contain scientists who participate in communities of colleagues. Crudely stated, what enlivens this system is recognition-incentives from within the discipline. Recognition facilitates access to funding, but the primary currency is said to be social and intellectual rather than financial. Scientists are favored with honors and awards, which are emblematic affirmations and increments of status within their specialties. Of these, eponymy--i.e., the designation, in this case of an entire science or a particular innovation by reference to the discoverer's name--is the most enduring, the most distinguished, and therefore, the most coveted form of recognition.

The recall question asks:
Which of the following best describes what animates the system of rewards in scientific research?
A) financial rewards
B) honors and awards specific to excellence in the science
C) social and intellectual recognition
D) competition for original discovery
E) exchange of original information



The recall question asks only that you retrieve factual data stated flatly in the passage. In this case, the correct answer is (C). Recall questions can almost always be answered by a direct quote: "Recognition facilitates access to funding, but the primary currency is said to be social and intellectual rather than financial." The primary currency is "social and intellectual." That is the answer.


Strategy 1: If the passage puts a highly unusual phrase in quotes or emphasizes some unusual jargon, make a mental note of it because there is a good chance that an important piece of jargon or new phrase may be used in a question. In this case, when you are reading the essay, you can expect a question about "eponymy".



B. Synthesis Questions

    Synthesis questions ask that you identify the whole object, system, organism, process, or idea and/or establish the relationship of the whole to its parts. 

Consider the following passage:

These stages reflect the system of color discrimination common to all primates. Roughly, four paired sets of neurons respond to light of different wavelengths, the pair that responds to light/dark distinctions being phylogenetically the oldest. The pair that responds to red/green is perhaps the second oldest, and so on. In other words, the distinctions that have been longest within the power of our remote ancestors to make are the most likely to be represented in language, while more recent ones are progressively less likely, and those that depend on cultural rather than biological factors (the browns, pinks, and so on) are rarer still.

The synthesis question asks the following:

In this passage, color discrimination is described as:
A) deriving from the visual properties of objects
B) deriving from cultural factors to a lesser extent than from biological factors
C) occurring in fixed order corresponding to phylogenetic order of development of sets of neurons
D) deriving from biological factors to a lesser extent than from cultural factors
E) occurring first at random in response to environmental circumstances, then in increasingly predictable stages


Although (B) may be derived from the passage, the most broadly correct answer is (C). (C) makes a general claim about the whole: that the system of color discrimination (whole) proceeds in stages (parts) according to a particular order (phylogeneticage). (A) is incorrect. The passage flatly declares that color discrimination does not derive from specific objects. (B) is correct but too narrow. (D) is flatly contradicted by the information in the passage. The conditions of (E) are not mentioned at all in the passage.

 

C. Comprehension Questions

     
Comprehension questions derive from the full factual, organizational, and argumentative field of the passage. These questions draw on all your resources of analysis and understanding and ask that you restate, interpret, or deduce logically consistent statements from the thesis or general claim of a passage. They typically look like this:

     In answering the comprehension question, you must determine the thesis or general claim of the passage. Frequently, but not always, this will be the first or the last sentence of the passage. It will advance a broad claim relative to the parts/whole or reasons given as evidence in the passage. You must also look closely at the conditions expressed in the word choice of the thesis or general claim. Extracting valid inferences from Reading Comprehension passages requires the ability to recognize that information in the passage can be expressed in different ways. The ability to bridge the gap between the way information is presented in the passage and the way it's presented in the correct answer choice is vital. In fact, comprehension questions often boil down to an exercise in "translation." Consider the general claim of this passage:

This is the noble lie, which Plato broaches through the mouth of Socrates in the third book of the Republic. "How, then," Socrates asks, "might we contrive one of those opportune falsehoods of which we were just now speaking, so as by one noble lie to persuade the rulers themselves, but failing that the rest of the city?" Plato assumes that the rulers, being philosophers, may gulp at their own propaganda but that the masses might eventually be brought to swallow it.

     May we infer that Plato approves of Socrates' proposal? May we infer that Socrates bears malevolence toward the populace? May we infer that Socrates was extremely reluctant to use terror as an instrument of persuasion? None of these inferences is supported by the statements given. However, we may infer that Socrates has spoken of several opportune falsehoods before the time of this telling. We may infer, on the basis of Plato's inference, that because the rulers are philosophers, they may gulp at their own propaganda. A close reading will support each of these inferences.
      

Strategy 1: Comprehension questions don't focus on individual issues. When a question asks, "What is the main point of the passage?", the answer will not be a small detail.


Strategy 2: Be alert for partially correct answers. Occasionally you will encounter an instance in which two or more answers to a question are correct. When you do, look for the most broadly and comprehensively accurate answer, the one that accounts correctly for the greatest number of aspects or features or parts or qualities named in the reading passage. For example, an answer may be correct but too narrow; the best answer will be both correct and broadly inclusive within the scope of the question.

 

III. 4 Step Method of Attacking Reading Comprehension Passages and Sample Essay

     In the above section we gave you the six strategies to analyze a reading comprehension text and what the common questions are. Now you need to know how to apply them when you get to a passage:

1. Dissect the introductory paragraph.
Read the introductory paragraph in an active manner. Think through the concepts while you are reading the text. What is the author's point? What is he trying to prove?

2. Create a mental road map.
Diagram the organization of the passage. What are the purposes of the different paragraphs? What is the content of the different paragraphs? You are not graded on reading the essay, but answering the questions. Your goal here is to simply get an idea of roughly how the essay works. You do not need a perfect understanding of the essay and do not have enough time to read it completely. Instead, attack each paragraph by reading the first sentence and quickly skimming the rest. When you've read all of the paragraphs, you can get an idea about the essay's organization.


3. Stop to summarize the essay.
Before answering the questions, take a few seconds to summarize your mental road map and the point of the essay.

4. Tackle the questions.
Answer the questions based on your mental road map of the passage. Locate the answer to each question within the paragraph that relates to the question. Here you may have to read more thoroughly than when you were skimming in step 2 above.

 

To see how these techniques work, try the sample essay below:

  One of the most persistently troubling parts of national domestic policy is the development and use of water resources. Because the technology of water management involves similar construction skills, whether the task is the building of an ocean jetty for protection of shipping or the construction of a river dam for flood control and irrigation, the issues of water policy have mingled problems of navigation and agriculture. A further inherent complexity of water policy is the frequent conflict between flood control and irrigation and between requirements for abundance and those for scarcity of water. Both problems exist in America, often in the same river basins; the one is most typically the problem of the lower part of the basin and the other the problem of the upper part.

     Then there are the problems of cities located along the major American rivers, not infrequently directly on the very flood plains of highly erratic streams. In the arid parts of the land it has recently become clear that climate varies over time, with irregular periods of serious drought followed by wet periods marked by occasional floods. The problems of land and water, then, are inherently difficult. For this reason alone, shortcomings and failures have probably been inevitable. Moreover, in the scale of the undertakings that have been attempted involving on occasion no less than the reversal of stream flow and the altering of the natural features of whole river basins, it is inevitable.

      Nevertheless, the most startling fact about the history of water projects in the United States is the degree to which their shortcomings have been associated with administrative failures. Again and again these shortcomings have proved to be the consequences of inadequate study of water flow: of soil, of factors other than construction technology and of faulty organization. In 1959, the Senate Select Committee on National Water resources found that twenty different national commissions or committees charged with examining these problems and seeking solutions had emphasized with remarkable consistency the need for coordination among agencies dealing with water.

 

Let's take a second to follow the set strategy.

1. Dissect the first paragraph.

One of the most persistently troubling parts of national domestic policy is the development and use of water resources. Because the technology of water management involves similar construction skills, whether the task is the building of an ocean jetty for protection of shipping or the construction of a river dam for flood control and irrigation, the issues of water policy have mingled problems of navigation and agriculture. A further inherent complexity of water policy is the frequent conflict between flood control and irrigation between requirements for abundance and those for scarcity of water. Both problems exist in America, often in the same river basins; the one is most typically the problem of the lower part of the basin and the other the problem of the upper part.


The main point is that there are problems with water management that result from conflicts of interest between flood control, irrigation, navigation and the upper/lower parts of the basin.


2. Create a mental road map.

Paragraph 1 is about the problems with water management that result from conflicts of interest between flood control, irrigation, navigation and the upper/lower parts of the basin.

Paragraph 2 describes the effects of floods, streams and other natural variances that add another level of complexity to the issue.

Paragraph 3 describes how the attempts to deal with these conflicts have been incompetently managed. Note the use of strong phrase "startling." It appears that the author's main point is in paragraph 3.



3. Stop to summarize the essay

Clearly, the author's main intention of writing this essay is to reveal the incompetence of agencies managing water. The first two paragraphs describe the scale of the problem; the final paragraph describes the problems faced in attempting to solve it.



4. Tackle the questions.

1. According to the passage, the shortcomings of water projects in the U.S. are primarily the consequences of?
a) conflict between flood control and irrigation
b) inadequate study and faulty coordination among agencies
c) Problems of land and water
d) inadequate construction technology
e) the scale of the projects


Explanation: The passage makes it clear that the primary cause of the shortcomings of water projects in the U.S. is (B) inadequate study and faulty coordination among agencies. The passage does not refer to conflicts between flood control, problems of land and water, inadequate construction technology, or the scale of projects. The correct answer is (B).
Having the discipline to stick to the 4 point strategy pays off here. We identified that the main point of the passage was incompetent agencies in step 3. We used our knowledge that the author will use strong language "startling... incompetence" to identify his main point. The author's purpose here is to point out bad management.

 

 

2. Of the issues named below, which is more typically the problem of the upper part of a river basin?
a) navigation
b) shipping
c) flood control
d) drought followed by wet period
e) scarcity



This is a simple recall question. The passage makes it clear that in the lower part of the basin, flooding is the problem; in the upper part, scarcity is the problem. Scarcity is the only problem identified with the upper part of a basin. (A), (B), (C), and (D) are irrelevant to this question and, as a result, are incorrect. (E) is the correct answer.


3. Which of the following is not a problem associated with the development of water resources?
a) a conflict between flood control and irrigation
b) problems of navigation and agriculture
c) location of cities on flood plains
d) inadequate design technology
e) variations in climate

 


The passage makes it plain that (A), conflict of purpose; (B), practical problems of use; (C), vulnerability of cities on flood plains; and (E), climatic variations, impede the development of water resources. Design technology is not one of the impediments identified by this passage. The correct answer is (D).


4. Which statement below may be inferred from the information given in this passage?
a) The intersection of problems of climate, geography, purpose, technology, and administration complicates the development of water projects.
b) Innovative design and construction technology eliminate conflict in demand for flood control and for irrigation.
c) In the design of a water project, upper and lower parts of a river basin must be regarded as identical entities.
d) In the design of a water project, predominant problems derive from the presence of erratic streams.
e) Irregularity of climate is the most critical impediment to the development of water projects.


The passage makes it clear that problems of climate, geography, purpose, and technology complicate the development of water projects, but the most serious impediment is inadequate study and faulty coordination. The inference in (B) is wholly unsupported by the passage. (C) directly contradicts the major scientific argument of the passage. The inferences in (D) and (E) are not supported by information in the passage. This question is easy to get because all of the concepts are covered in the road map. The correct answer is (A).

Additional Example

 

      As in the case of so many words used by the biologist and physiologist, the word acclimatization is hard to define. With increase in knowledge and understanding, meanings of words change. Originally the term acclimatization was taken to mean only the ability of human beings or animals or plants to accustom themselves to new and strange climatic conditions, primarily altered temperature. A person or a wolf moves to a hot climate and is uncomfortable there, but after a time is better able to withstand the heat. But aside from temperature, there are other aspects of climate. A person or an animal may become adjusted to living at higher altitudes than those it was originally accustomed to. At really high altitudes, such as aviators maybe exposed to, the low atmospheric pressure becomes a factor of primary importance. In changing to a new environment, a person may, therefore, meet new conditions of temperature or pressure, and in addition may have to contend with different chemical surroundings. On high mountains, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere may be relatively small; in crowded cities, a person may become exposed to relatively high concentrations of carbon dioxide or even carbon monoxide, and in various areas may be exposed to conditions in which the water content of the atmosphere is extremely high or extremely low. Thus in the case of humans, animals, and even plants, the concept of acclimatization includes the phenomena of increased toleration of high or low temperature, of altered pressure, and of changes in the chemical environment.

       Let us define acclimatization, therefore, as the process in which an organism or a part of an organism becomes inured to an environment which is normally unsuitable to it or lethal for it. By and large, acclimatization is a relatively slow process. The term should not be taken to include relatively rapid adjustments such as our sense organs are constantly making. This type of adjustment is commonly referred to by physiologists as "adaptation." Thus our touch sense soon becomes accustomed to the pressure of our clothes and we do not feel them; we soon fail to hear the ticking of a clock; obnoxious orders after a time fail to make much impression on us, and our eyes in strong light rapidly become insensitive.

      The fundamental fact about acclimatization is that all animals and plants have some capacity to adjust themselves to changes in their environment. This is one of the most is remarkable characteristics of living organisms, a characteristic for which it is extremely difficult to find explanations.



1. According to the reading selection, all animals and plants

(A) have an ability for acclimatization.
(B) can adjust to only one change in the environment at a time.
(C) are successful in adjusting themselves to changes in their environments.
(D) can adjust to natural changes in the environment but not to artificially induced changes.
(E) that have once acclimatized themselves to an environmental change can acclimatize themselves more rapidly to subsequent changes.




(A) Choice A is correct. the last paragraph: "The fundamental fact ... in their environment." Choices B, D, and E are incorrect because the passage does not indicate that these statements are true. Choice C is incorrect because it is only partially true. The passage does not state that all animals and plants are successful in adjusting themselves to changes in their environments.





2. It can be inferred from the reading selection that

(A) every change in the environment requires acclimatization by living things.
(B) plants and animals are more alike than they are different.
(C) biologist and physiologists study essentially the same things.
(D) the explanation of acclimatization is specific to each plant and animal.
(E) as science develops, the connotation of terms may change.


2. Choice E is correct. See the third sentence in paragraph 1: "Originally the term acclimatization . .. altered temperature." Also see sentence 5 in paragraph 1: "But aside from temperature originally accustomed to." Choices A, B, C, and D are incorrect because one cannot infer from the passage what any of these choices state.





3. According to the reading selection, acclimatization

(A) is similar to adaptation.
(B) is more important today than it formerly was.
(C) involves positive as well as negative adjustment.
(D) may be involved with a part of an organism but not with the whole organism.
(E) is more difficult to explain with the more complex present-day environment than formerly.





3. Choice A is correct. Acclimatization and adaptation are both forms of adjustment. Accordingly, these two processes are similar. The difference between the two terms, however, is brought out in the second sentence in second paragraph: By and large ... as adaptation." Choice D is incorrect because the passage does not indicate what is expressed in Choice D. See the first line of the second paragraph: "Let us define acclimatization.. . lethal for it." Choices B, C, and E are incorrect because the passage does not indicate that any of these choices are true.




4. By inference from the reading selection, which one of the following would not require the process of acclimatization?


(A) an ocean fish placed in a lake
(B) a skin diver making a deep dive
(C) an airplane pilot making a high-altitude flight
(D) a person going from daylight into a darkened room
(E) a businessman moving from Denver, Colorado, to New Orleans, Louisiana




4. (D) Choice D is correct. A person going from daylight into a darkened room is an example of adaptation— not acclimatization. See the second through fourth sentences in paragraph two: "By and large as ‘adaptation." Choices A, B, C, and E all require the process of acclimatization. Therefore, they are incorrect choices. An ocean fish placed in a lake (Choice A) is a chemical change. Choices B, C, and E are all pressure changes. Acclimatization, by definition, deals with chemical and pressure changes.

 

 

 


5. According to the passage, a major distinction between acclimatization and adaptation is that acclimatization

(A) is more important than adaptation.
(B) is relatively slow and adaptation is relatively rapid.
(C) applies to adjustments while adaptation does not apply to adjustments.
(D) applies to terrestrial animals and adaptation to aquatic animals.
(E) is applicable to all animals and plants and adaptation only to higher animals and man.


5. Choice B is correct. See the third sentence of paragraph two: "The term [acclimatization] should not be taken. . . as ‘adaptation.’ "Choices A, D, and E are incorrect because the passage does not indicate that these choices are true. Choice C is partially correct in that acclimatization does apply to adjustments, but the choice is incorrect because adaptation also applies to adjustments. See paragraph two sentence three: "This type of adjustment as ‘adaptation."


 

6. The word "inured" in the first sentence of paragraph two most likely means

(A) exposed
(B) accustomed
(C) attracted
(D) associated
(E) in love with

 


Choice B is correct. Given the context in the sentence, Choice B is the best.

 

Review

1. Dissect the introductory paragraph.
Read the introductory paragraph in an active manner. Think through the concepts while you are reading the text. What is the author's point? What is he trying to prove?

2. Create a mental road map.
Diagram the organization of the passage.

3. Stop to summarize the essay.
Before answering the questions, take a few seconds to summarize your mental road map.

4. Tackle the questions.
Answer the questions based on your mental road map of the passage.


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