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Reading Comprehension and Long Passages Reading Practice

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Updated on Aug 10, 2011

For more practice on long passages reading comprehension, review:

Isolate the unfamiliar words as you read, by underlining them or jotting them down. Then go back and look at the sentences before and after them—that is, in their immediate context.

Passage 1

(1) The worst and longest economic crisis in the modern industrial world, the Great Depression in the United States had devastating consequences for American society. At its lowest depth (1932–33), more than 16 million people were unemployed, more than 5,000 banks had closed, and over 85,000 businesses had failed. Millions of Americans lost their jobs, their savings, and even their homes. The homeless built shacks for temporary shelter—these emerging shantytowns were nicknamed Hoovervilles; a bitter homage to President Herbert Hoover, who refused to give government assistance to the jobless. The effects of the Depression—severe unemployment rates and a sharp drop in the production and sales of goods—could also be felt abroad, where many European nations still struggled to recover from World War I.

(2) Although the stock market crash of 1929 marked the onset of the depression, it was not the cause of it: Deep, underlying fissures already existed in the economy of the Roaring Twenties. For example, the tariff and war-debt policies after World War I contributed to the instability of the banking system. American banks made loans to European countries following World War I. However, the United States kept high tariffs on goods imported from other nations. These policies worked against one another. If other countries could not sell goods in the United States, they could not make enough money to pay back their loans or to buy American goods.

(3) And while the United States seemed to be enjoying a prosperous period in the 1920s, the wealth was not evenly distributed. Businesses made gains in productivity, but only one segment of the population—the wealthy—reaped large profits. Workers received only a small share of the wealth they helped produce. At the same time, Americans spent more than they earned. Advertising encouraged Americans to buy cars, radios, and household appliances instead of saving or purchasing only what they could afford. Easy credit policies allowed consumers to borrow money and accumulate debt. Investors also wildly speculated on the stock market, often borrowing money on credit to buy shares of a company. Stocks increased beyond their worth, but investors were willing to pay inflated prices because they believed stocks would continue to rise. This bubble burst in the fall of 1929, when investors lost confidence that stock prices would keep rising. As investors sold off stocks, the market spiraled downward. The stock market crash affected the economy in the same way that a stressful event can affect the human body, lowering its resistance to infection.

(4) The ensuing depression led to the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Roosevelt introduced relief measures that would revive the economy and bring needed relief to Americans suffering the effects of the depression. In his 100 days in office, Roosevelt and Congress passed major legislation that saved banks from closing and regained public confidence. These measures, called the New Deal, included the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which paid farmers to slow their production in order to stabilize food prices; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insured bank deposits if banks failed; and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulated the stock market. Although the New Deal offered relief, it did not end the Depression. The economy sagged until the nation entered World War II. However, the New Deal changed the relationship between government and American citizens, by expanding the role of the central government in regulating the economy and creating social assistance programs.

  1. The author's main point about the Great Depression is that
    1. government policies had nothing to do with it.
    2. the government immediately stepped in with assistance for the jobless and homeless.
    3. underlying problems in the economy preceded it.
    4. the New Deal policies introduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt ended it.
  2. This passage is best described as
    1. an account of the causes and effects of a major event.
    2. a statement supporting the value of federal social policies.
    3. a condemnation of outdated beliefs.
    4. a polite response to controversial issues.
  3. The author cites the emergence of Hoovervilles in paragraph 1 as an example of
    1. federally sponsored housing programs.
    2. the resilience of Americans who lost their jobs, savings, and homes.
    3. the government's unwillingness to assist citizens in desperate circumstances.
    4. the effectiveness of the Hoover administration in dealing with the crisis.
  4. The term policies, as it is used in paragraph 2, most nearly means
    1. theories.
    2. practices.
    3. laws.
    4. examples.
  5. The passage suggests that the 1920s was a decade that extolled the value of
    1. thrift.
    2. prudence.
    3. balance.
    4. extravagance.
  6. The example of the human body as a metaphor for the economy, which is found at the end of paragraph 3, suggests that
    1. a stressful event like the stock market crash of 1929 probably made a lot of people sick
    2. the crash weakened the economy's ability to withstand other pressures.
    3. the crash was an untreatable disease.
    4. a single event caused the collapse of the economy.
  7. The content in the last paragraph of the passage would most likely support which of the following statements?
    1. The New Deal policies were not radical enough in challenging capitalism.
    2. The economic policies of the New Deal brought about a complete business recovery.
    3. The Agricultural Adjustment Act paid farmers to produce surplus crops.
    4. The federal government became more involved in caring for needy members of society.
  8. Passage 2

    (1) The atmosphere forms a gaseous, protective envelope around Earth. It protects the planet from the cold of space, from harmful ultraviolet light, and from all but the largest meteors. After traveling over 93 million miles, solar energy strikes the atmosphere and Earth's surface, warming the planet and creating what is known as the biosphere, the region of Earth capable of sustaining life. Solar radiation in combination with the planet's rotation causes the atmosphere to circulate. Atmospheric circulation is one important reason that life on Earth can exist at higher latitudes because equatorial heat is transported poleward, moderating the climate.

    (2) The equatorial region is the warmest part of the earth because it receives the most direct and, therefore, strongest solar radiation. The plane in which the earth revolves around the sun is called the ecliptic. Earth's axis is inclined 23 degrees with respect to the ecliptic. This inclined axis is responsible for our changing seasons because, as seen from the earth, the sun oscillates back and forth across the equator in an annual cycle. On or about June 21 each year, the sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer, 23 degrees north latitude. This is the northernmost point where the sun can be directly overhead. On or about December 21 of each year, the sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn, 23 degrees south latitude. This is the southernmost point at which the sun can be directly overhead. The polar regions are the coldest parts of the earth because they receive the least direct and, therefore, the weakest solar radiation. Here solar radiation strikes at a very oblique angle and thus spreads the same amount of energy over a greater area than in the equatorial regions. A static envelope of air surrounding the earth would produce an extremely hot, uninhabitable equatorial region, while the polar regions would remain inhospitably cold.

    (3) The transport of water vapor in the atmosphere is an important mechanism by which heat energy is redistributed poleward. When water evaporates into the air and becomes water vapor, it absorbs energy. At the equator, air saturated with water vapor rises high into the atmosphere where winds aloft carry it poleward. As this moist air approaches the polar regions, it cools and sinks back to earth. At some point, the water vapor condenses out of the air as rain or snow, releasing energy in the process. The now-dry polar air flows back toward the equator to repeat the convection cycle. In this way, heat energy absorbed at the equator is deposited at the poles and the temperature gradient between these regions is reduced.

    (4) The circulation of the atmosphere and the weather it generates is but one example of the many complex, interdependent events of nature. The web of life depends on the proper functioning of these natural mechanisms for its continued existence. Global warming, the hole in the atmosphere's ozone layer, and increasing air and water pollution pose serious, long-term threats to the biosphere. Given the high degree of nature's interconnectedness, it is quite possible that the most serious threats have yet to be recognized.

  9. Which of the following best expresses the main idea of the passage?
    1. The circulation of atmosphere, threatened by global warming and pollution, protects the biosphere and makes life on Earth possible.
    2. If the protective atmosphere around the earth is too damaged by human activity, all life on Earth will cease.
    3. Life on Earth is the result of complex interdependent events of nature, and some of these events are a result of human intervention.
    4. The circulation of atmosphere is the single most important factor in keeping the biosphere alive, and it is constantly threatened by harmful human activity.
  10. Which of the following best represents the organization of the passage?
      1. Definition and description of the circulation of the atmosphere
      2. How the atmosphere affects heat and water in the biosphere
      3. How the circulation of the atmosphere works
      4. What will happen if human activity destroys the atmosphere and other life-sustaining mechanisms
      1. Origin of the atmosphere and ways it protects the biosphere
      2. How the circulation of the atmosphere affects the equator and the poles
      3. How the circulation of the atmosphere interrelates with other events in nature to protect life on Earth IV. Threats to life in the biosphere
      1. Definition and description of the circulation of the atmosphere
      2. Protective functions of the circulation of the atmosphere
      3. Relationship of the circulation of the atmosphere to other life-sustaining mechanisms
      4. Threats to nature's interconnectedness in the biosphere
      1. The journey of the atmosphere 93 million miles through space.
      2. How the atmosphere circulates and protects the biosphere
      3. How the atmosphere interrelates with weather in the biosphere
      4. How damage to the biosphere threatens life on Earth
  11. Which of the following is the best definition of the underlined word biosphere as it is used in the passage?
    1. the protective envelope formed by the atmosphere around the living earth
    2. that part of the earth and its atmosphere in which life can exist
    3. the living things on Earth whose existence is made possible by circulation of the atmosphere
    4. the circulation of the atmosphere's contribution to life on Earth
  12. Which of the following sentences from the passage best supports the author's point that circulation of the atmosphere is vital to life on Earth?
    1. The equatorial region is the warmest part of the earth because it receives the most direct and, therefore, strongest solar radiation.
    2. The circulation of the atmosphere and the weather it generates is but one example of the many complex, interdependent events of nature.
    3. [The atmosphere] protects Earth from the cold of space, from harmful ultraviolet light, and from all but the largest meteors.
    4. A static envelope of air surrounding the earth would produce an extremely hot, uninhabitable equatorial region, while the polar regions would remain inhospitably cold.
  13. Based on the passage, which of the following is directly responsible for all temperature changes on Earth?
    1. variations in the strength of solar radiation
    2. variations in the amount of ultraviolet light
    3. variation of biologic processes in the biosphere
    4. variation in global warming
  14. The first paragraph of the passage deals mainly with which of the following effects of the atmosphere on the earth?
    1. its sheltering effect
    2. its reviving effect
    3. its invigorating effect
    4. its cleansing effect
  15. Passage 3

    (1) There are two types of diabetes, insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent. Between 90–95% of the estimated 13–14 million people in the United States with diabetes have non-insulin-dependent, or Type II, diabetes. Because this form of diabetes usually begins in adults over the age of 40 and is most common after the age of 55, it used to be called adult-onset diabetes. Its symptoms often develop gradually and are hard to identify at first; therefore, nearly half of all people with diabetes do not know they have it. For instance, someone who has developed Type II diabetes may feel tired or ill without knowing why. This can be particularly dangerous because untreated diabetes can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. While the causes, short-term effects, and treatments of the two types of diabetes differ, both types can cause the same long-term health problems.

    (2) Most importantly, both types affect the body's ability to use digested food for energy. Diabetes does not interfere with digestion, but it does prevent the body from using an important product of digestion, glucose (commonly known as sugar), for energy. After a meal, the normal digestive system breaks some food down into glucose. The blood carries the glucose or sugar throughout the body, causing blood glucose levels to rise. In response to this rise, the hormone insulin is released into the bloodstream and signals the body tissues to metabolize or burn the glucose for fuel, which causes blood glucose levels to return to normal. The glucose that the body does not use right away is stored in the liver, muscle, or fat.

    (3) In both types of diabetes, however, this normal process malfunctions. A gland called the pancreas, found just behind the stomach, makes insulin. In people with insulin-dependent diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin at all. This condition usually begins in childhood and is known as Type I (formerly called juvenile-onset) diabetes. These patients must have daily insulin injections to survive. People with non-insulin-dependent diabetes usually produce some insulin in their pancreas, but their bodies' tissues do not respond well to the insulin signal and, therefore, do not metabolize the glucose properly, a condition known as insulin resistance.

    (4) Insulin resistance is an important factor in non-insulin-dependent diabetes, and scientists are searching for the causes of insulin resistance. They have identified two possibilities. The first is that there could be a defect in the insulin receptors on cells. Like an appliance that needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet, insulin has to bind to a receptor in order to function. Several things can go wrong with receptors. For example, there may not be enough receptors to which insulin may bind, or a defect in the receptors may prevent insulin from binding. The second possible cause of insulin resistance is that, although insulin may bind to the receptors, the cells do not read the signal to metabolize the glucose. Scientists continue to study these cells to see why this might happen.

    (5) There's no cure for diabetes yet. However, there are ways to alleviate its symptoms. In 1986, a National Institute of Health panel of experts recommended that the best treatment for non-insulin-dependent diabetes is a diet that helps one maintain a normal weight and pays particular attention to a proper balance of the different food groups. Many experts, including those in the American Diabetes Association, recommend that 50–60% of daily calories come from carbohydrates, 12–20% from protein, and no more than 30% from fat. Foods that are rich in carbohydrates, like breads, cereals, fruits, and vegetables, break down into glucose during digestion, causing blood glucose to rise. Additionally, studies have shown that cooked foods raise blood glucose higher than raw, unpeeled foods. A doctor or nutritionist should always be consulted for more of this kind of information and for help in planning a diet to offset the effects of this form of diabetes.

  16. According to the passage, what may be the most dangerous aspect of Type II diabetes?
    1. Insulin shots are needed daily for treatment of Type II diabetes.
    2. Type II diabetes may go undetected and, therefore, untreated.
    3. In Type II diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin.
    4. Type II diabetes interferes with digestion.
  17. Which of the following are the same for Type I and Type II diabetes?
    1. treatments
    2. long-term health risks
    3. short-term effects
    4. causes
  18. According to the passage, one place in which excess glucose is stored is the
    1. stomach.
    2. insulin receptors.
    3. pancreas.
    4. liver.
  19. A diet dominated by which of the following is recommended for non-insulin-dependent diabetics?
    1. protein
    2. fat
    3. carbohydrates
    4. raw foods
  20. Which of the following is the main function of insulin?
    1. It signals tissues to metabolize sugar.
    2. It breaks down food into glucose.
    3. It carries glucose throughout the body.
    4. It binds to receptors.
  21. Which of the following statements best summarizes the main theme of the passage?
    1. Type I and Type II diabetes are best treated by maintaining a high-protein diet.
    2. Type II diabetes is a distinct condition that can be managed by maintaining a healthy diet.
    3. Type I diabetes is an insidious condition most harmful when the patient is not taking daily insulin injections.
    4. Adults who suspect they may have Type II diabetes should immediately adopt a high-carbohydrate diet.
  22. Which of the following is mentioned in the passage as a possible problem with insulin receptors in insulin-resistant individuals?
    1. Overeating causes the receptors to function improperly.
    2. There may be an overabundance of receptors present.
    3. A defect causes the receptors to bind with glucose.
    4. A defect hinders the receptors from binding with insulin.
  23. According to the passage, in normal individuals, which of the following processes occur immediately after the digestive system converts some food into glucose?
    1. The glucose is metabolized by body tissues.
    2. Insulin is released into the bloodstream.
    3. Blood sugar levels rise.
    4. The pancreas manufactures increased amounts of insulin.
  24. Based on the information in the passage, which of the following best describes people with Type I diabetes?
    1. They do not need to be treated with injections of insulin.
    2. They comprise the majority of people with diabetes.
    3. Their pancreases do not produce insulin.
    4. They are usually diagnosed as adults.
  25. What is the closest meaning of the underlined word offset in the final sentence of the passage?
    1. counteract
    2. cure
    3. soothe
    4. erase
  26. Passage 4

    (1) The immune system is equal in complexity to the combined intricacies of the brain and nervous system. The success of the immune system in defending the body relies on a dynamic regulatory communications network consisting of millions and millions of cells. Organized into sets and subsets, these cells pass information back and forth like clouds of bees swarming around a hive. The result is a sensitive system of checks and balances that produces an immune response that is prompt, appropriate, effective, and self-limiting.

    (2) At the heart of the immune system is the ability to distinguish between self and non-self. When immune defenders encounter cells or organisms carrying foreign or non-self molecules, the immune troops move quickly to eliminate the intruders. Virtually every body cell carries distinctive molecules that identify it as self. The body's immune defenses do not normally attack tissues that carry a self-marker. Rather, immune cells and other body cells coexist peaceably in a state known as self-tolerance. When a normally functioning immune system attacks a non-self molecule, the system has the ability to remember the specifics of the foreign body. Upon subsequent encounters with the same species of molecules, the immune system reacts accordingly. With the possible exception of antibodies passed during lactation, this so-called immune system memory is not inherited. Despite the occurrence of a virus in your family, your immune system must learn from experience with the many millions of distinctive non-self molecules in the sea of microbes in which we live. Learning entails producing the appropriate molecules and cells to match up with and counteract each non-self invader.

    (3) Any substance capable of triggering an immune response is called an antigen. Antigens are not to be confused with allergens, which are most often harmless substances (such as ragweed pollen or cat hair) that provoke the immune system to set off the inappropriate and harmful response known as allergy. An antigen can be a virus, a bacterium, a fungus, a parasite, or even a portion or product of one of these organisms. Tissues or cells from another individual (except an identical twin, whose cells carry identical self-markers) also act as antigens; because the immune system recognizes transplanted tissues as foreign, it rejects them. The body will even reject nourishing proteins unless they are first broken down by the digestive system into their primary, non-antigenic building blocks. An antigen announces its foreignness by means of intricate and characteristic shapes called epitopes, which protrude from its surface. Most antigens, even the simplest microbes, carry several different kinds of epitopes on their surface; some may even carry several hundred. Some epitopes will be more effective than others at stimulating an immune response. Only in abnormal situations does the immune system wrongly identify self as non-self and execute a misdirected immune attack. The result can be a so-called autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosis. The painful side effects of these diseases are caused by a person's immune system actually attacking itself.

  27. What is the analogy used to describe the communications network among the cells in the immune system?
    1. the immune system's memory
    2. immune troops eliminating intruders
    3. bees swarming around a hive
    4. a sea of microbes
  28. The immune cells and other cells in the body coexist peaceably in a state known as
    1. equilibrium.
    2. self-tolerance.
    3. harmony.
    4. tolerance.
  29. What is the specific term for the substance capable of triggering an inappropriate or harmful immune response to a harmless substance such as ragweed pollen?
    1. antigen
    2. microbe
    3. allergen
    4. autoimmune disease
  30. How do the cells in the immune system recognize an antigen as foreign or non-self?
    1. through an allergic response
    2. through blood type
    3. through fine hairs protruding from the antigen surface
    4. through characteristic shapes on the antigen surface
  31. After you have had the chicken pox, your immune system will be able to do all of the following EXCEPT
    1. prevent your offspring from infection by the chicken pox virus.
    2. distinguish between your body cells and that of the chicken pox virus.
    3. remember previous experiences with the chicken pox virus.
    4. match up and counteract non-self molecules in the form of the chicken pox virus.
  32. Which of the following best expresses the main idea of this passage?
    1. An antigen is any substance that triggers an immune response.
    2. The basic function of the immune system is to distinguish between self and non-self.
    3. One of the immune system's primary functions is the allergic response.
    4. The human body presents an opportune habitat for microbes.
  33. Why would tissue transplanted from father to daughter have a greater risk of being detected as foreign than a tissue transplanted between identical twins?
    1. The age of the twins' tissue would be the same and, therefore, less likely to be rejected.
    2. The identical twin's tissue would carry the same self-markers and would, therefore, be less likely to be rejected.
    3. The difference in the sex of the father and daughter would cause the tissue to be rejected by the daughter's immune system.
    4. The twins' immune systems would remember the same encounters with childhood illnesses.
  34. What is the meaning of the underlined word intricacies as it is used in the first sentence of the passage?
    1. elaborate interconnections
    2. confusion of pathways
    3. inherent perplexity
    4. comprehensive coverage
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