Health and Medicine Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 1

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Updated on Apr 25, 2014

Health and Medicine Critical Reading

Questions 1–4 are based on the following passage.

The following passage is an excerpt from the National Institutes of Health that describes the effects and potential consequences of sleep deprivation.

Experts say that if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven't had enough sleep. If you routinely fall asleep within five minutes of lying down, you probably have severe sleep deprivation, possibly even a sleep disorder. Microsleeps, or very brief episodes of sleep in an otherwise awake person, are another mark of sleep deprivation. In many cases, people are not aware that they are experiencing microsleeps. The widespread practice of "burning the candle at both ends" in Western industrialized societies has created so much sleep deprivation that what is really abnormal sleepiness is now almost the norm.

Many studies make it clear that sleep deprivation is dangerous. Sleep-deprived people who are tested by using a driving simulator or by performing a hand-eye coordination task perform as badly as or worse than those who are intoxicated. Sleep deprivation also magnifies alcohol's effects on the body, so a fatigued person who drinks will become much more impaired than someone who is well rested. Driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,500 deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since drowsiness is the brain's last step before falling asleep, driving while drowsy can—and often does—lead to disaster. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation. The National Sleep Foundation says that if you have trouble keeping your eyes focused, if you can't stop yawning, or if you can't remember driving the last few miles, you are probably too drowsy to drive safely.

  1. The passage suggests that falling asleep during a morning class
    1. means that the topic does not interest you.
    2. is a symptom of sleep deprivation.
    3. indicates that you should drink a caffeinated beverage at breakfast.
    4. means that you have a sleep disorder.
    5. requires a visit to the doctor.
  2. The image of burning the candle at both ends (lines 7–8) most nearly refers to
    1. an unrelenting schedule that affords little rest.
    2. an ardent desire to achieve.
    3. the unavoidable conflagration that occurs when two forces oppose each other.
    4. a latent period before a conflict or collapse.
    5. a state of extreme agitation.
  3. In line 16, the term impaired most nearly means
    1. sentient.
    2. apprehensive.
    3. disturbed.
    4. blemished.
    5. hampered.
  4. The primary purpose of the passage is to
    1. offer preventive measures for sleep deprivation.
    2. explain why sleeplessness has become a common state in Western cultures.
    3. recommend the amount of sleep individuals need at different ages.
    4. alert readers to the signs and risks of not getting enough sleep.
    5. discuss the effects of alcohol on a sleep-deprived person.

Questions 5–8 refer to the following passage.

In the following passage, the author gives an account of the scientific discoveries made by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in the fifteenth century.

The history of microbiology begins with a Dutch haberdasher named Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, a man of no formal scientific education. In the late 1600s, Leeuwenhoek, inspired by the magnifying lenses used by drapers to examine cloth, assembled some of the first microscopes. He developed a technique for grinding and polishing tiny, convex lenses, some of which could magnify an object up to 270 times. After scraping some plaque from between his teeth and examining it under a lens, Leeuwenhoek found tiny squirming creatures, which he called "animalcules." His observations, which he reported to the Royal Society of London, are among the first descriptions of living bacteria. Leeuwenhoek discovered an entire universe invisible to the naked eye. He found more animalcules—protozoa and bacteria—in samples of pond water, rain water, and human saliva. He gave the first description of red corpuscles, observed plant tissue, examined muscle, and investigated the life cycle of insects.

Nearly two hundred years later, Leeuwenhoek's discovery of microbes aided French chemist and biologist Louis Pasteur to develop his "germ theory of disease." This concept suggested that disease derives from tiny organisms attacking and weakening the body. The germ theory later helped doctors to fight infectious diseases including anthrax, diphtheria, polio, smallpox, tetanus, and typhoid. Leeuwenhoek did not foresee this legacy. In a 1716 letter, he described his contribution to science this way: "My work, which I've done for a long time, was not pursued in order to gain the praise I now enjoy, but chiefly from a craving after knowledge, which I notice resides in me more than in most other men. And therewithal, whenever I found out anything remarkable, I have thought it my duty to put down my discovery on paper, so that all ingenious people might be informed thereof."

  1. According to the passage, Leeuwenhoek would be best described as a
    1. bored haberdasher who stumbled upon scientific discovery.
    2. trained researcher with an interest in microbiology.
    3. proficient hobbyist who made microscopic lenses for entertainment.
    4. inquisitive amateur who made pioneer studies of microbes.
    5. talented scientist interested in finding a cure for disease.
  2. In line 3, inspired most nearly means
    1. introduced.
    2. invested.
    3. influenced.
    4. indulged.
    5. inclined.
  3. The quotation from Leeuwenhoek (lines 23–28) is used to illustrate
    1. the value he placed on sharing knowledge among scientists.
    2. that scientific discoveries often go unrecognized.
    3. that much important research is spurred by professional ambition.
    4. the serendipity of scientific progress.
    5. the importance of Leeuwenhoek's discoveries in fighting infectious diseases.
  4. The author's attitude toward Leeuwenhoek's contribution to medicine is one of
    1. ecstatic reverence.
    2. genuine admiration.
    3. tepid approval.
    4. courteous opposition.
    5. antagonistic incredulity.

Questions 9–12 are based on the following passage.

The following passage discusses the findings of several recent health surveys investigating the physical activity level of American adolescents.

Almost 50% of American teens are not vigorously active on a regular basis, contributing to a trend of sluggishness among Americans of all ages, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Adolescent female students are particularly inactive—29% are inactive compared with 15% of male students. Unfortunately, the sedentary habits of young "couch potatoes" often continue into adulthood. According to the Surgeon General's 1996 Report on Physical Activity and Health, Americans become increasingly less active with each year of age. Inactivity can be a serious health risk factor, setting the stage for obesity and associated chronic illnesses like heart disease or diabetes. The benefits of exercise include building bone, muscle, and joints, controlling weight, and preventing the development of high blood pressure.

Some studies suggest that physical activity may have other benefits as well. One CDC study found that high school students who take part in team sports or are physically active outside of school are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, like using drugs or smoking. Physical activity does not need to be strenuous to be beneficial. The CDC recommends moderate, daily physical activity for people of all ages, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes or 15–20 minutes of more intense exercise. A survey conducted by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education questioned teens about their attitudes toward exercise and about what it would take to get them moving. Teens chose friends (56%) as their most likely motivators for becoming more active, followed by parents (18%) and professional athletes (11%).

  1. The first paragraph (lines 1–13) of the passage serves all of the following purposes EXCEPT to
    1. provide statistical information to support the claim that teenagers do not exercise enough.
    2. list long-term health risks associated with lack of exercise.
    3. express skepticism that teenagers can change their exercise habits.
    4. show a correlation between inactive teenagers and inactive adults.
    5. highlight some health benefits of exercise.
  2. In line 5, sedentary most nearly means
    1. slothful.
    2. apathetic.
    3. stationary.
    4. stabilized.
    5. inflexible.
  3. Which of the following techniques is used in the last sentence of the passage (lines 23–25)?
    1. explanation of terms
    2. comparison of different arguments
    3. contrast of opposing views
    4. generalized statement
    5. illustration by example
  4. The primary purpose of the passage is to
    1. refute an argument.
    2. make a prediction.
    3. praise an outcome.
    4. promote a change.
    5. justify a conclusion.

Questions 13–20 are based on the following passage.

The following passage discusses the inspiration and career of the first woman to receive a M.D. degree from an American medical school in the nineteenth century.

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive an M.D. degree since the Renaissance, graduating from Geneva Medical College, in New York state, in 1849. She supported women's medical education and helped many other women's careers. By establishing the New York Infirmary in 1857, she offered a practical solution to one of the problems facing women who were rejected from internships elsewhere but determined to expand their skills as physicians. She also published several important books on the issue of women in medicine, including Address on the Medical Education of Women in 1864 and Medicine as a Profession for Women in 1860.

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol, England in 1821, to Hannah Lane and Samuel Blackwell. Both for financial reasons and because her father wanted to help abolish slavery, the family moved to America when Elizabeth was eleven years old. Her father died in 1838. As adults, his children campaigned for women's rights and supported the anti-slavery movement. In her book Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women, published in 1895, Dr. Blackwell wrote that she was initially repelled by the idea of studying medicine. She said she had "hated everything connected with the body, and could not bear the sight of a medical book . . . My favorite studies were history and metaphysics, and the very thought of dwelling on the physical structure of the body and its various ailments filled me with disgust." Instead she went into teaching, then considered more suitable for a woman. She claimed that she turned to medicine after a close friend who was dying suggested she would have been spared her worst suffering if her physician had been a woman.

Blackwell had no idea how to become a physician, so she consulted with several physicians known by her family. They told her it was a fine idea, but impossible; it was too expensive, and such education was not available to women. Yet Blackwell reasoned that if the idea were a good one, there must be some way to do it, and she was attracted by the challenge. She convinced two physician friends to let her read medicine with them for a year, and applied to all the medical schools in New York and Philadelphia. She also applied to twelve more schools in the northeast states and was accepted by Geneva Medical College in 1847. The faculty, assuming that the all-male student body would never agree to a woman joining their ranks, allowed them to vote on her admission. As a joke, they voted "yes," and she gained admittance, despite the reluctance of most students and faculty.

Two years later, in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to receive an M.D. degree from an American medical school. She worked in clinics in London and Paris for two years, and studied midwifery at La Maternité where she contracted "purulent opthalmia" from a young patient. When Blackwell lost sight in one eye, she returned to New York City in 1851, giving up her dream of becoming a surgeon.

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell established a practice in New York City, but had few patients and few opportunities for intellectual exchange with other physicians and "the means of increasing medical knowledge which dispensary practice affords." She applied for a job as physician at the women's department of a large city dispensary, but was refused. In 1853, with the help of friends, she opened her own dispensary in a single rented room, seeing patients three afternoons a week. The dispensary was incorporated in 1854 and moved to a small house she bought on 15th Street. Her sister, Dr. Emily Blackwell, joined her in 1856 and, together with Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, they opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children at 64 Bleecker Street in 1857. This institution and its medical college for women (opened 1867) provided training and experience for women doctors and medical care for the poor.

As her health declined, Blackwell gave up the practice of medicine in the late 1870s, though she still campaigned for reform.

  1. The passage is primarily concerned with
    1. the inevitable breaking down of social barriers for women.
    2. the effect of adversity in shaping a person's life.
    3. one woman's determination to open the field of medicine to females.
    4. one woman's desire to gain prestige.
    5. the quality of healthcare available in the 1800s.
  2. The word practical (line 5) most nearly means
    1. usable.
    2. satisfactory.
    3. systematic.
    4. professional.
    5. adept.
  3. The author mentions Samuel Blackwell's involvement in the antislavery movement (lines 13–14) in order to
    1. offer random biographical information about Elizabeth's upbringing.
    2. suggest that her father's beliefs greatly influenced Elizabeth.
    3. imply a link between financial need and the abhorrence of slavery.
    4. describe the political ferment that preceded the American Civil War.
    5. explain Elizabeth's choice of medicine for a profession.
  4. In line 18, the word repelled most nearly means
    1. vanquished.
    2. discouraged.
    3. intimidated.
    4. depressed.
    5. sickened.
  5. According to the passage, Blackwell chose to become a doctor
    1. as a result of the encouragement of physicians known to her family.
    2. despite the fact that most considered her goal inappropriate and unattainable.
    3. in order to make healthcare more accessible to the poor.
    4. because she hoped to overcome her revulsion of the body and disease.
    5. to fulfill a childhood dream of establishing a medical college for women.
  6. As described in lines 36–39, the actions of the student body of Geneva Medical College suggest that they
    1. admired Blackwell's ambition.
    2. respected the politics of the Blackwell family.
    3. doubted Blackwell's commitment to medicine.
    4. feared the influence of Blackwell's family connections.
    5. made light of Blackwell's goal.
  7. The passage implies that Blackwell's attitude toward studying and practicing medicine changed from
    1. tenacious to wavering.
    2. uninterested to resolute.
    3. cynical to committed.
    4. idealized to realistic.
    5. theoretical to practical.
  8. All of the following questions can be explicitly answered on the basis of the passage EXCEPT
    1. What barriers did Blackwell face in her pursuit to become a physician?
    2. What degree of success did women attain in the field of medicine as a result of Blackwell?
    3. What contributions did Blackwell make to women interested in medicine as a profession?
    4. What specific steps did Blackwell take to gain admittance to medical school?
    5. What did Blackwell claim was her inspiration for wanting to become a doctor?
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