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LSAT Reading Comprehension


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The LSAT Reading Comprehension measures your ability to read, analyze, and evaluate a written passage so at to consolidate critical information from the text.

Below is a sample reading passage for LSAT:

Coral reefs are one of the most fragile, biologically complex, and diverse marine ecosystem on Earth. This
ecosystem is one of the fascinating paradoxes of the biosphere: how do clear, and thus nutrient-poor, waters support such prolific and productive communities? Part of the answer lies within the tissues of the corals themselves.

Symbiotic cells of algae known as zooxanthellae carry out photosynthesis using the metabolic wastes of the coral thereby producing food for themselves, for their corals, hosts, and even for other members of the reef community. This symbiotic process allows organisms in the reef community to use sparse nutrient resources efficiently. Unfortunately for coral reefs, however, a variety of human activities are causing worldwide degradation of shallow marine habitats by adding nutrients to the (water. Agriculture, slash-and-burn land clearing, sewage disposal and manufacturing that creates waste by-products all increase nutrient loads in these waters. Typical symptoms of reef decline are destabilized herbivore populations and an increasing abundance of algae and filter-feeding animals.

Declines in reef communities are consistent with observations that nutrient input is increasing in direct proportion to growing human populations, thereby threatening reef communities sensitive to subtle changes in nutrient input to their waters.

And below are sample questions following the reading passage:

1. The passage is primarily concerned with
(A) describing the effects of human activities on algae in coral reefs
(B) explaining how human activities are posing a threat to coral reef communities
(C) discussing the process by which coral reefs deteriorate in nutrient-poor waters
(D) explaining how coral reefs produce food for themselves
(E) describing the abundance of algae and filter-feeding animals in coral reef areas

2. The passage suggests which of the following about coral reef communities?
(A) Coral reef communities may actually be more likely to thrive in waters that are relatively low in nutrients.
(B) The nutrients on which coral reef communities thrive are only found in shallow waters.
(C) Human population growth has led to changing ocean temperatures, which threatens coral reef communities.
(D) The growth of coral reef communities tends to destabilize underwater herbivore populations.
(E) Coral reef communities are more complex and diverse than most ecosystems located on dry land.

3. The author refers to “filter-feeding animals” (line 20) in order to
(A) provide an example of a characteristic sign of reef deterioration
(B) explain how reef communities acquire sustenance for survival
(C) identify a factor that helps herbivore populations thrive
(D) indicate a cause of decreasing nutrient input in waters that reefs inhabit
(E) identify members of coral reef communities that rely on coral reefs for nutrients

4. According to the passage, which of the following is a factor that is threatening the survival of coral reef communities?
(A) The waters they inhabit contain few nutrient resources.
(B) A decline in nutrient input is disrupting their symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae
(C) The degraded waters of their marine habitats have reduced their ability to carry out photosynthesis
(D) They are too biologically complex to survive in habitats with minimal nutrient input.
(E) Waste by-products result in an increase in nutrient input to reef communities.

5. It can be inferred from the passage that the author describes coral reef communities as paradoxical most likely for which of the following reasons?
(A) They are thriving even though human activities have depleted the nutrients in their environment.
(B) They are able to survive in spite of an overabundance of algae inhabiting their waters.
(C) They are able to survive in an environment with limited food resources.
(D) Their metabolic wastes contribute to the degradation of the waters that they inhabit.
(E) They are declining even when the water surrounding them remains clear.

Answers with Explanation:

1. This question asks you to identify the primary concerns of the passage. The best answer is B. The first paragraph describes how coral reefs survive in nutrient-poor waters. The second paragraph states that human activities are adding nutrients to shallow marine habitats, thus threatening the survival of coral reef communities. Choices A and E can be eliminated because an increase in algae and filter-feeding animals is mentioned in the context of the passage’s larger concern with the negative effects of human activities on coral reefs. Choice C is incorrect because the first paragraph of the passage explains how coral reefs survive in nutrient-poor waters; the deterioration of coral reef communities has occurred as a result of the increase in nutrients in their habitats. Choice D can be eliminated because the first paragraph states that symbiotic cells of algae known as zooxanethellae produce food for coral reef communities.

2. This question asks you to identify what the passage suggests about coral reef communities. The best answer is A. The first paragraph of the passage describes how coral reef communities have survived in nutrient-poor waters. Lines 21-22 go on to state that recent “Declines in reef communities are consistent wit observations that nutrient input is increasing” in habitats occupied by coral reefs. Thus, the passage suggests that coral reef communities are more likely to survive in nutrient-poor waters. Both B and C can be eliminated because the passage does not state that human population growth has led to changing ocean temperature, nor does it state that the nutrients on which coral reef communities thrive are found only in shallow waters. Choice D is incorrect because the passage states that destabilized herbivore populations are a symptom of the decline of coral reef communities rather than a result of the growth of coral reef communities. Choice E can also be eliminated because the first sentence of the passage states that coral reefs “are one of the most fragile, biologically complex, and diverse marine ecosystems on Earth”; it does not, however, discuss the complexity of coral reefs communities in the context of ecosystems on dry land.

3. This question asks you to identify the purpose of the author’s reference to filter-feeding animals. The best answer is A. In the second paragraph, the author asserts than human activities are adding nutrients to coral reef habitats, thus causing reef decline. In lines 18-20, the author identifies “an increasing abundance of … filter-feeding animals” as a typical symptom of this decline. Choice B can be eliminated because the way in which reef communities acquire sustenance for survival is described in the first paragraph of the passage, prior to the author’s reference to filter-feeding animals. Choice C is not the correct answer because filter-feeding animals are not identified as a factor that helps herbivore populations survive; in fact, destabilized herbivore populations and an increase in filter-feeding animals are signs of coral reef decline. Choice D can be eliminated because the passage indicates that an increase in filter-feeding animals is a symptom of coral reef decline that is brought about by an increase in nutrient input in coral reef habitats, not a decrease in nutrient input. Choice E can be eliminated also because the passage does not mention filter-feeding animals in order to identify coral reef community members that rely on coral reefs for sustenance.

4. This question asks you to identify a factor, mentioned in the passage, that is threatening the survival of coral reef communities. The best answer is E. In lines 16-18, the author indicates that waste by-products created by manufacturing increase the nutrient input in coral reef habitats. In lines 21-25, the author states that the increase in nutrient input is threatening the coral reef communities. Choice A can be eliminated because the first paragraph of the passage indicates that coral reef communities have thrived in nutrient-poor waters. Choice B can be eliminated because the second paragraph of the passage indicates that there has been an increase in the nutrient input in their habits, not a decline. Choice C is not the correct answer. Although the passage does indicate that the waters of coral reefs’ marine habitats have become degraded, the passage does not state that this degradation reduces the ability of coral reef communities to carry out photosynthesis. Choice D is incorrect because the passage does indicate that coral reef communities are complex, but it also states that they have been able to thrive in nutrient-poor waters.

5. To answer this question, you must use information contained in the passage to draw an inference about why the author labels coral reef communities as paradoxical. The bet answer is C. In line 3, the author calls coral reefs “one of the fascinating paradoxes of the biosphere.” The author goes on to explain the nature of this paradox: the “prolific and productive” coral reef communities survive in nutrient-poor waters. Choice A contradicts information presented in the passage. The second paragraph indicates that human activities have increased, not decreased, the nutrients in coral reef communities’ waters, and that this increase has threatened the survival of such communities. Choice B does not present a reason why the author describes coral reef communities as paradoxical. In addition, lines 18-20 of the passage indicate that an abundance of algae is a symptom of reef decline, not reef survival. Choice D does not describe a paradox, and it misrepresents information presented in the passage. Lines 7-10 indicate that the metabolic wastes of coral reefs are used by zooxanthellae to carry out photosynthesis, thereby sustaining themselves and the coral reefs. Choice E contradicts information presented in the passage. Lines 2-5 indicate that coral reef communities thrive in “clear, and thus nutrient-poor, waters.” However, they have begun to decline because of an addition of nutrients in their waters, thus suggesting that the water surrounding them is no longer as clear.
 


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