Instruction: A number of other questions are asked that require an overall understanding of the passage. These are often the last questions in a set of overview questions.

Tone questions ask you to determine the author’s feelings about the topic by the language that he or she uses in writing the passage. Attitude questions are very similar to tone questions. Again, you must understand the author’s opinion. The language that the author uses will tell you what his or her position is.

Text: Preserving biological richness

Task: Below are six short separate texts containing general information in the field of biology. For your convenience they are marked with numbers 1-6. The texts are divided into paragraphs, marked with letters. Your task is to understand the texts and determine the authors’ feelings about the topics.

Protection of plant and animal species

In the United States, the need to protect plant and animal species has become a highly controversial and sharply political issue since the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973. The act, designed to protect species, in effect requires the preservation of the species’ habitats, and policies that preserve land and forests compete with economic interests. In the 1990’s, for example, the loggers of forests in the Western United States were challenged legally in their attempt to cut trees for lumber in the Cascade Mountains. The challenge was mounted to protect the endangered spotted owl, whose remaining population occupies these forests and requires the intact, ancient forest for survival. The dilemma pitted the interests of environmentalists against those of corporations and of individuals who stood to lose jobs. After months of debate and legal battles, the fate of the loggers — and the owls — was still undecided in mid-2009.

Similar tensions exist between the developed and the developing nations. Many people in industrialized nations, for example, believe that developing nations in tropical regions should do more to protect their rain forests and other natural areas. But the developing countries may be impoverished, with populations growing so rapidly that using the land is a means to temporarily avoid worsening poverty and starvation.

Many of the changes to Earth that concern scientists have the potential to rob the planet of its biological richness. The destruction of Earth’s ozone layer, for example, could contribute to the general process of impoverishment by allowing ultraviolet rays to harm plants and animals. And global warming could wipe out species unable to quickly adapt to changing climates. Clearly, protecting Earth’s biodiversity is a complex problem. But solutions to humanity’s current problems will come only through coordinated international efforts to control human population, stabilize the composition of the atmosphere, and preserve intact Earth’s complex web of life.

Sample Tone Questions

What tone does the autho

r take in writing this text?

How could the tone of this text best be described as?

Sample Answer Choices

Look for vocabulary that indicates if the author’s feelings are positive, negative, or neutral

If you read the italicized sentences in passage C, would the tone of this passage most likely be positive or negative? Choose the right descriptors from the list above.

The world’s largest known organism

A fungus that was called the world’s largest known organism was discovered in a forest near Crystal Falls, Mich., according to an April 2007 report by researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada and Michigan Technological University in Houghton. The fungus is a member of the species Armillaria bulbosa, which typically grows by sending out string like hyphen under the surface of a forest floor. Occasionally, it sends up edible mushrooms.

The researchers performed genetic testing on a fungal network that extended across 15 hectares (37 acres) of the Michigan forest and discovered that the entire growth was genetically identical. They concluded that it was a single individual. The researchers estimated that the fungus weighed more than 10,000 kilograms (22,000 pounds) and had been growing for more than 1,500 years.

Then in May, researchers at the Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station in Fort Collins, Colo., and at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources reported that for 20 years they had been studying a fungus, Armillaria ostoyae, that was 40 times as large as the Michigan fungus. It grows in a pine forest in southwestern Washington and covers more than 600 hectares (1,500 acres). The researchers estimated that the fungus was 400 to 1,000 years old. They and the Michigan researchers said that even larger, yet undiscovered fungi could exist.

Botanists say, however, that there is no way to be certain that all the hyphae underground are attached to each other. If they have become detached, and the researchers suspect that this may be the case, then the giant «organism» would be a group of genetically identical individuals that arose without sexual reproduction from a single parent. That is, the detached individuals would be clones, not unlike the world’s many plant varieties produced by horticultural cloning techniques. Many biologists thus dispute the reports that the fungi are the world’s largest organisms.

Note: You should keep in mind that, in academic texts, most reading passages have a neutral tone, but sometimes an author may take a position for or against some point. However, answer choices that indicate strong emotion— amused, angry, outraged, pleased, and so forth—will seldom be correct.

The italicized words in Passage C show a doubtful tone; and the italicized words indicate a negative attitude. Words like no way, if, suspect, dispute, and similar words can «reverse» the tone of the passage.

Notice that Passage C contains negative phrases but the overall meaning of Passages A, B, C is neutral.

A significant step in synthetic molecules evolution

Chemists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge disclosed that they had created molecules that mimic some of the essential features of living things. In particular, they showed for the first time that it may be possible for compounds made in the laboratory to reproduce in solution. This is a significant step that may eventually lead to more complex chemical compounds that can reproduce in the same manner as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the molecule of which genes are made. Genes are the units of heredity in cells.

The compounds — prepared by organic chemist Julius Rebek, Jr., and his colleagues — behave in much the same way as DNA. The synthetic molecules, which are carbon compounds containing nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen, combine in a fashion similar to that of DNA, which forms a double helix (spiral). And like DNA, the synthetic molecules can make copies of themselves when placed in solutions containing their chemical ingredients.

Perhaps most startling of all, and again like natural DNA, the synthetic molecules display the ability to evolve (develop and change into a more organized state). For example, bombarding the compounds with ultraviolet radiation causes them to change their structures into new forms that are more successful at reproducing than the original molecules.

Rebek’s molecules are different from DNA in important ways, however. They are not truly living and have structures quite different from DNA. Many scientists consider the ability to continuously evolve into new forms a sign of life. Unlike the DNA in living cells, however, the synthetic molecules have only a limited ability to evolve into new forms or to store information. But the MIT work could lead to other compounds that possess these traits.

Attitude questions are very similar to tone questions. Again, you must understand the author’s opinion. The language that the author uses will tell you what his or her position is.

Sample Attitude Questions

What is the author’s attitude toward creation of molecules that mimic some of the essential features of living things?

If you read the italicized phrases in Text 3, would the author’s attitude most likely be positive or negative? Choose the right descriptors from the list above.

The chaos theory

Ecologists focused much energy on the topic of chaos. Chaos theory is based on the idea that random variations control the behavior of natural systems that change with time, such as the weather and ecosystems. The theory predicts, in essence, that science cannot predict the changes in some systems. Scientists believe that chaotic systems, such as the weather, are those in which very small changes produce unexpectedly dramatic results.

Small changes in temperature, air pressure, or wind speed or direction, for instance, may produce weather wildly different five days later than if that change had not occurred. Because of a shortage of precise data from long-term studies of ecological systems, however, it has been difficult to determine where and when chaos is occurring.

18 years ago in October 1991, ecologists David Tilman and David Wedin of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis reported the results of a five-year study showing that growth patterns of Agrostis scabra, a common prairie grass, exhibit many properties of chaotic systems. The scientists planted different groups of the plants in soils with varying degrees of nutrients.

The scientists found that plants in nutrient-rich soils grew more unpredictably than the plants in the poorer quality soils. Plants in the better soil grew better during the first two years of the experiment, but their growth became unpredictable in the third year and remained unpredictable for the rest of the experiment. These plants’ populations dropped wildly compared with plants in poorer soils.

The researchers attributed this drop to the accumulation of litter (dead plant material) at the end of the previous growing season. As litter accumulated, the scientists discovered, it blocked light to the plants. Plant growth thus varied most in the most favorable conditions, suggesting that plants with the most luxurious growth may be susceptible to unpredictable changes.

Organization questions ask about the overall structure of a passage or about the organization of a paragraph.

A Sample Question

Which of the following best describes the organization of the passage?

Answer Choices

A general concept is defined and examples are given.

Several generalizations are presented, from which a conclusion is drawn.

The author presents the advantages and disadvantages of .

The author presents a system of classification for .

Persuasive language is used to argue against .

The author describes .

The author presents a brief account of .

The author compares and .

Father-Son relations in birds

The biologists found that the more closely the older bird was related to the younger, the more successful the older bird was. Fathers who interfered with their sons were the most successful at getting them to help. A typical father visited a son’s nest dozens of times a day, blocking the young bird’s return and begging for food intended for a young female in preparation for egg-laying. About 40 per cent of the time, the son returned to the nest of his father, at times leaving his own mate with eggs that had little chance to survive as chicks without his help.

B. When the son helped the father, the survival rate of the father’s new chicks was almost double the survival rate of chicks brought up without helpers. The biologists suggested that the sons cooperate in order to pass on their fathers’ genes, in which they too have a share.

Sample Questions

What is the author’s attitude toward Father-Son relations in birds?

How would the author probably feel about Father-Son relations in birds?

Answer Choices

The author’s opinion of Father-Son relations in birds is best described as (positive, negative, neutral, objective, impersonal, etc.)

The author’s attitude toward Father-Son relations in birds could best be described as one of (a researcher interest, approval, indifference, curiosity, etc)

6. The three passages below have been scrambled for you to put them in a logical order and find a headline for the text.

The biologists also surveyed the two types of tiger salamanders in 10 lakes. The lakes with high levels of bacteria had fewer cannibal salamanders than noncannibals. The scientists concluded that the cannibal salamanders had eaten infected members of the species and subsequently died. Thus, they said, cannibalism is rare in nature because of the high risk for spreading disease.

Cannibal tiger salamanders in the laboratory ate their weaker — often sick neighbors. When they did so, they also consumed the disease-causing viruses or bacteria common to die species and potentially harmful to all members. Many of the cannibals became sick and died from the same diseases as their prey.

There is a good reason why very few organisms like to eat their own kind, biologists at Arizona State University in Tempe reported in October 2008. Cannibalism can cause death. David Pfennig and his colleagues studied cannibalism in tiger salamanders because these animals come in two types: those that eat other tiger salamanders and those that do not.

Questions about previous or following paragraphs ask you to assume how the passages are organized, what would be the topic of the text. To find the order of the passages, look for clues in the first lines. To find the topic of the text, look in the last lines.

Sample Questions

With what topic would the text most likely begin?

What does the second paragraph most probably discuss?

Can it be inferred from the text which paragraph is most likely the last one?


Errors with word forms

By far the most common type of error involves word forms. Most errors of this type involve using one part of speech in place of another. Both the incorrect word and the correction come from the same root (rapid and rapidly, for example, or inform and information). The four parts of speech generally involved are verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. The most common problems are adjectives in place of adverbs and adverbs in place of adjectives. Nouns in place of adjectives and adjectives in place of nouns are also commonly seen. In some word form problems, different forms of the same part of speech may be involved. For example, a noun that refers to a person (leader) may be used in place of the field (leadership). A gerund (a verbal noun) may also be used in place of an ordinary noun (judging and judgment, for example).

Parts of speech can often be identified by their suffixes (word endings).

Common noun suffixes

-tion (information), -sion (provision), -ence (independence), -ance (acceptance), -ity (creativity),

-hood (childhood), -dom (wisdom), -th (health), -ery (recovery), -ship (scholarship), -tude (multitude), -ism (capitalism), -cracy (democracy), -logy (biology), -ness (happiness), -ment (experiment).

Suffixes for nouns that refer to persons

-er (explorer), -or (sailor), -ist (psychologist), -ent (student), ee (employee), ic (comic), -ian (technician), -ant (attendant).

Common verb suffixes

-ize (realize), -en (shorten), -er (recover), -ify (justify), -ate (incorporate).

Common adjective suffixes

-ate (moderate), -ous (dangerous), -al (normal),-ial (remedial), -able (comfortable), -ible (sensible),

-ish (sluggish), -ant (resistant), -y (sunny), -ic (economic), -ical (ogical), -ory (sensory), -less (hopeless),-ive (competitive),-ly (friendly),-ful (colorful).

Common adverb suffixes

-ly (quickly), -ally (historically).


1. Fill in the blanks with the right form of a word.

(to protect, protected, protecting, protective, protection) plant and animal species has become a (controversy, controversial) among (policies, politics, politicians) and the general public.

(research, to research, researching, researcher) was performed in (genes, genetic, geneticists) (test, to test, to testify, testing) on a fungal network.

The (synthetic, synthesize, synthesizing, synthesis) of molecules was (to display, a display, displaying, displayed) in the ability to develop and change into a more organized state.

The (to grow, grew, growing, growth) of plants in nutrient-rich soils was more (unpredicted, unpredictable, unpredictably) demonstrated than that of the plants in the poorer quality soils.

The biologists found that the older bird, which was (to close, closed and, closely) related to the younger bird, was ( a success, succeeded, succeeding, more successful, successful) compared to other older birds.

Very few (kind, kinds) of (animal, animals, animated) organisms are (cannibalizing, cannibal, cannibals, cannibalism) .

2. Fill in the blanks with the right form of an article (no article — NA, the indefinite article — IA, the definite article — DA).

(NA, IA, DA) growing body of literature suggests that (NA, IA, DA) mothers who violate (NA, IA, DA) gender roles by seeking full-time (NA, IA, DA) employment are negatively stereotyped and discriminated against.

(NA, IA, DA) psychologists asked (NA, IA, DA) undergraduate students to read CVs describing (NA, IA, DA) consultant who was either (NA, IA, DA) female or male and either (NA, IA, DA) parent or not (NA, IA, DA) parent.

(NA, IA, DA) students requested and recommended (NA, IA, DA) consultant less when she was (NA, IA, DA) mother than (NA, IA, DA) woman without children, though (NA, IA, DA) fatherhood did not affect (NA, IA, DA) man’s chances of being requested and recommended.

(NA, IA, DA) Students rated (NA, IA, DA) a mother more communal (warm) but less agentic (competent) than a woman without children.

(NA, IA, DA) Other psychologists asked undergraduate and graduate (NA,IA, DA) students

to evaluate (NA, IA, DA) job applicant depicted as (NA, IA, DA) male or (NA, IA, DA) female and with or without (NA, IA, DA) children. Similarly, (NA, IA, DA) participants recommended (NA, IA, DA) mother less often than (NA, IA, DA) woman without children. (NA, IA, DA) Fatherhood had no (NA, IA, DA) effect on (NA, IA, DA) man’s chances of (NA, IA, DA) recommendation.