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Reading Comprehension and Long Passages Practice

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Updated on Aug 10, 2011

For more practice on long passages reading comprehension, review:

The long passages are the final test of your reading comprehension skills. They test your ability to read large blocks of text, define words in context, and respond to questions about content.

You'll find that the longer passages in this section are the most difficult of all the ones you have read in this book so far, but at this point, you are more than ready for them. Some of the passages are about new research, geology, history, and even Greek mythology. Some of the passages contain technical and scientific information, much of it related to medicine. If the material looks daunting because of unfamiliar vocabulary, read the passage in a relaxed manner to get a sense of its overall meaning and organizational pattern. After that, go back and read the passage one paragraph at a time. The material will seem less overwhelming if you consider it in smaller chunks. Notes or outlines may also help clarify the material for you.

Remember that the reading process is the same whether the text is long or short, complex or simple, and the way to respond to the questions correctly is to read closely and carefully.

Passage 1

The walnut tree produces wood that is used for countless purposes, and is considered the finest wood in the world. The wood is easy to work with, yet it is very hard and durable—and when it is polished, it produces a rich, dark luster. It also shrinks and swells less than any other wood, which makes it especially desirable for fine furniture, flooring, and even gun stocks.

In fact, just about every part of the walnut is unusually hard and strong. The nut of the tree is encased inside a very hard shell, which itself is enclosed in a leathery outer covering called a husk. It requires real effort to break through those layers to get at the tasty meat inside.

Yet every part of the walnut is useful to people. The outer husk produces a dark reddish stain that is hard to remove from the hands of the person who opens the nut, and this pigment is widely used in dyes and wood stains. The inner shell is used as an abrasive to clean jet engines. And the meat of the nut is extensively used in cooking, ice cream, flavorings—and just eaten raw.

Walnut trees exude a chemical into the soil near their roots which can be poisonous to some trees and shrubs. Fruit trees, for example, will not survive if planted too close to a walnut. Many other plants, such as maple trees or ivy, are not affected by the walnut's presence, and are well-suited to grow in its vicinity.

  1. What is the topic of this passage?
    1. the use of walnut wood in furniture
    2. walnut trees
    3. where to plant walnuts
    4. trees of North America
  2. What is the main idea of the passage?
    1. Trees are used for many things.
    2. Maple trees grow well with walnuts.
    3. Walnuts can kill other trees.
    4. Walnut trees are valuable when planted correctly.
  3. As used in the passage, the underlined word abrasive most nearly means
    1. rough.
    2. disagreeable.
    3. soft.
    4. fragrant.
  4. The author of the passage probably believes that
    1. walnut trees are endangered.
    2. people should recycle more
    3. people should grow walnut trees if possible.
    4. maple trees are not good for furniture making.
  5. As used in the passage, the underlined word exude most nearly means
    1. give off.
    2. naked.
    3. smell bad.
    4. leave the area.
  6. Passage 2

    Today, bicycles are elegantly simple machines that are common around the world. Many people ride bicycles for recreation, whereas others use them as a means of transportation. The first bicycle, called a draisienne, was invented in Germany in 1818 by Baron Karl de Drais de Sauerbrun. Because it was made of wood, the draisienne wasn't very durable nor did it have pedals. Riders moved it by pushing their feet against the ground.

    In 1839, Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a Scottish blacksmith, invented a much better bicycle. Macmillan's machine had tires with iron rims to keep them from getting worn down. He also used foot-operated cranks, similar to pedals, so his bicycle could be ridden at a quick pace. It didn't look much like the modern bicycle, though, because its back wheel was substantially larger than its front wheel. Although Macmillan's bicycles could be ridden easily, they were never produced in large numbers.

    In 1861, Frenchman Pierre Michaux and his brother Ernest invented a bicycle with an improved crank mechanism. They called their bicycle a vélocipède, but most people called it a "bone shaker" because of the jarring effect of the wood and iron frame. Despite the unflattering nickname, the vélocipède was a hit. After a few years, the Michaux family was making hundreds of the machines annually, mostly for fun-seeking young people.

    Ten years later, James Starley, an English inventor, made several innovations that revolutionized bicycle design. He made the front wheel many times larger than the back wheel, put a gear on the pedals to make the bicycle more efficient, and lightened the wheels by using wire spokes. Although this bicycle was much lighter and less tiring to ride, it was still clumsy, extremely top-heavy, and ridden mostly for entertainment.

    It wasn't until 1874 that the first truly modern bicycle appeared on the scene. Invented by another Englishman, H. J. Lawson, the safety bicycle would look familiar to today's cyclists. The safety bicycle had equal-sized wheels, which made it much less prone to toppling over. Lawson also attached a chain to the pedals to drive the rear wheel. By 1893, the safety bicycle had been further improved with air-filled rubber tires, a diamond-shaped frame, and easy braking. With the improvements provided by Lawson, bicycles became extremely popular and useful for transportation. Today, they are built, used, and enjoyed all over the world.

  7. There is enough information in this passage to show that
    1. several people contributed to the development of the modern bicycle.
    2. only a few vélocipèdes built by the Michaux family are still in existence.
    3. for most of the nineteenth century, few people rode bicycles just for fun.
    4. bicycles with wheels of different sizes cannot be ridden easily.
  8. The first person to use a gear system on bicycles was
    1. H. J. Lawson.
    2. Kirkpatrick Macmillan.
    3. Pierre Michaux.
    4. James Starley.
  9. This passage was most likely written in order to
    1. persuade readers to use bicycles for transportation.
    2. describe the problems that bicycle manufacturers encounter.
    3. compare bicycles used for fun with bicycles used for transportation.
    4. tell readers a little about the history of the bicycle.
  10. Macmillan added iron rims to the tires of his bicycle to
    1. add weight to the bicycle.
    2. make the tires last longer.
    3. make the ride less bumpy.
    4. make the ride less tiring.
  11. Read the following sentence from the fourth paragraph:
  12. Ten years later, James Starley, an English inventor, made several innovations that revolutionized bicycle design. As it is used in the sentence, the underlined word revolutionized most nearly means

    1. cancelled.
    2. changed drastically.
    3. became outdated.
    4. exercised control over.
  13. Which of the following statements from the passage represents the writer's opinion?
    1. The safety bicycle would look familiar to today's cyclists.
    2. Two hundred years ago, bicycles didn't even exist.
    3. The Michaux brothers called their bicycle a vélocipède.
    4. Macmillan's machine had tires with iron rims.
  14. Passage 3

    One of the most hazardous conditions a firefighter will ever encounter is a backdraft (also known as a smoke explosion). A backdraft can occur in the hot-smoldering phase of a fire when burning is incomplete and there is not enough oxygen to sustain the fire. Unburned carbon particles and other flammable products, combined with the intense heat, may cause instantaneous combustion if more oxygen reaches the fire.

    Firefighters should be aware of the conditions that indicate the possibility for a backdraft to occur. When there is a lack of oxygen during a fire, the smoke becomes filled with carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide and turns dense gray or black. Other warning signs of a potential backdraft are little or no visible flame, excessive heat, smoke leaving the building in puffs, muffled sounds, and smoke-stained windows.

    Proper ventilation will make a backdraft less likely. Opening a room or building at the highest point allows heated gases and smoke to be released gradually. However, suddenly breaking a window or opening a door is a mistake, because it allows oxygen to rush in, causing an explosion.

  15. A backdraft is a dangerous condition for firefighters mainly because
    1. there is not enough oxygen for breathing.
    2. the heat is extremely intense.
    3. the smoke is dangerously thick.
    4. an explosion occurs.
  16. Which of the following is not mentioned as a potential backdraft warning sign?
    1. windows stained with smoke
    2. flames shooting up from the building
    3. puffs of smoke leaving the building
    4. more intense heat than usual
  17. To prevent the possibility of a backdraft, a firefighter should
    1. carry an oxygen tank.
    2. open a door to allow gases to escape.
    3. make an opening at the top of the building.
    4. break a window to release carbon particles.
  18. When compared with a hot, smoldering fire, a fire with visible, high-reaching flames
    1. has more oxygen available for combustion.
    2. has more carbon dioxide available for consumption.
    3. produces more dense gray smoke.
    4. is more likely to cause a backdraft.
  19. Passage 4

    The human body can tolerate only a small range of temperature, especially when the person is engaged in vigorous activity. Heat reactions usually occur when large amounts of water and/or salt are lost through excessive sweating following strenuous exercise. When the body becomes overheated and cannot eliminate this excess heat, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are possible.

    Heat exhaustion is generally characterized by clammy skin, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, profuse perspiration, and sometimes fainting, resulting from an inadequate intake of water and the loss of fluids. First aid treatment for this condition includes having the victim lie down, raising the feet 8 to 12 inches, applying cool, wet cloths to the skin, and giving the victim sips of salt water (1 teaspoon per glass, half a glass every 15 minutes) over a 1-hour period.

    Heat stroke is much more serious; it is an immediate life-threatening situation. The characteristics of heat stroke are a high body temperature (which may reach 106° F or more); a rapid pulse; hot, dry skin; and a blocked sweating mechanism. Victims of this condition may be unconscious, and first-aid measures should be directed at quickly cooling the body. The victim should be placed in a tub of cold water or repeatedly sponged with cool water until his or her temperature is sufficiently lowered. Fans or air conditioners will also help with the cooling process. Care should be taken, however, not to over-chill the victim once the temperature is below 102° F.

  20. The most immediate concern of a person tending to a victim of heat stroke should be to
    1. get salt into the victim's body.
    2. raise the victim's feet.
    3. lower the victim's pulse.
    4. lower the victim's temperature.
  21. Which of the following is a symptom of heat exhaustion?
    1. unconsciousness
    2. profuse sweating
    3. hot, dry skin
    4. a weak pulse
  22. Heat stroke is more serious than heat exhaustion because heat stroke victims
    1. do not sweat.
    2. have no salt in their bodies.
    3. cannot take in water.
    4. have frequent fainting spells.
  23. Symptoms such as nausea and dizziness in a heat exhaustion victim indicate that the person most likely needs to
    1. be immediately taken to a hospital.
    2. be given more salt water.
    3. be immersed in a tub of water.
    4. sweat more.
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