LSAT Reading Comprehension
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
(C) discussing the process by which coral reefs deteriorate in
(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
(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
(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
(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
(E) identify members of coral reef communities that rely on coral reefs
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
5. It can be inferred from the passage that the author describes
coral reef communities as paradoxical most likely for which of the
(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
(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
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
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