New SAT Reading Practice Test 71: Earthquakes

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In 2010, a devastating earthquake in Haiti left over 100,000 people dead and thousands
more injured. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed
in a matter of minutes. Several factors contributed to the loss of life and property in
Haiti, including socioeconomics and the magnitude of the quake.
05But what even causes an earthquake and what makes it so severe? Think about sitting
still at your desk. Even if you aren't actively moving, your body is still technically
in motion. This is due to plate tectonics and the constant shift of those plates on the
surface of the earth. When tension builds up between these plates, they sometimes
fracture and fault. This fracturing and faulting is what causes an earthquake.
10Specifically, the rocks have a tremendous amount of potential energy built up
between them as they press on each other. When these rocks break or "fault," it causes
a seismic wave that makes the "ground shake" characteristic of an earthquake. People
can sometimes feel earthquakes, but other times they're so small that only specialized
machines detect them. These machines are called "seismographs."
15Earthquakes are measured on the Richter scale, which is named for its inventor,
Charles Francis Richter. The Richter scale goes from 0 to 10 plus, with lower numbers
representing smaller quakes, and higher numbers representing larger quakes. People
rarely feel an earthquake with a magnitude of 2 or lower. These are the types that need
to be picked up by a seismograph or they will go largely unnoticed.
20An earthquake with a magnitude of 3.0–3.9 is called a "minor earthquake." These
can usually be felt by most people, but very rarely cause any damage. Often times,
people end up attributing these small quakes to other causes like large trucks passing
or large public transit vehicles. Earthquakes on the higher end of this range may cause
slight shaking of household objects.
25Once an earthquake reaches the range of 4.0–4.9, it is almost always felt by the majority
of people. These "light earthquakes" will cause marginally more severe shaking,
and may knock objects off shelves. These quakes are still highly unlikely to cause any
damage, other than to knocked over tchotchkes.
An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 or higher will definitely be felt by people,
30and at this level, there will start to be damage to buildings. "Moderate earthquakes,"
those with a magnitude of 5.0–5.9, rarely cause damage to well-constructed buildings,
but sometimes older ones will experience cracked foundations, electrical trouble, and
In a "strong earthquake," a quake with a magnitude of 6.0–6.9, damage will be seen
35in most buildings unless they are built to be "earthquake resistant." The damage seen
in these buildings will be similar to those done by moderate quakes except it will be
more severe and happen to more buildings.
Typically, there will not be complete collapse of buildings until the level of a "major
earthquake." These earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.0–7.9 can be felt many miles
40from the epicenter of the earthquake and can cause thousands of dollars' worth of
"Great earthquakes" are those with a Richter level of 8.0 or higher. Major damage
will occur even to earthquake resistant buildings. At 9.0 or higher, there will be permanent
changes to the ground geography. There will also be near to total destruction of
45most buildings in the area.
The earthquake in Haiti had a magnitude of 7.0. However, the damage was more
severe than one would expect due to the types of buildings common in Haiti. To make
buildings "earthquake resistant," as mentioned above, is much more expensive than
building typical structures. This is an unimaginable luxury to many Haitians who live
50on less than $2 a day. Additionally, the lack of infrastructure led many buildings to be
in violation of "codes" meant to keep people safe in times of disaster.

Dates and Locations of Major Earthquakes

1. What is the point of the passage?

  • A. To educate the reader about Haiti's economy and culture
  • B. To discuss in detail the major earthquakes throughout history
  • C. To inform about earthquake science and a specific earthquake
  • D. To review plate tectonics and the science of seismographs

2. Assume that a moderate earthquake damaged 30% of the buildings built before 1960 in Town A. If the earthquake had been a strong earthquake instead, the passage most strongly suggests that what would be the resulting damage?

  • A. More than half of the buildings would fall down.
  • B. Fifty percent of the buildings would be damaged.
  • C. The town would experience no damage.
  • D. There would be permanent changes to the geography.

3. According to the passage, what can be done to minimize earthquake damage to buildings?

  • A. New buildings should replace old buildings.
  • B. Buildings should not be built on fault lines.
  • C. Buildings can be built to be earthquake resistant.
  • D. Early repairs after earthquakes are essential.

4. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 25-28 ("Once an . . . tchotchkes")
  • B. Lines 29-33 ("An earthquake . . . sinking")
  • C. Lines 34-37 ("In a . . . buildings")
  • D. Lines 38-41 ("Typically . . . damage")

5. As used in line 24, "slight" most nearly means

  • A. mild.
  • B. quick.
  • C. luminous.
  • D. irrelevant.

6. According to the passage, why did the 2010 earthquake in Haiti result in more damage than would typically be expected for earthquakes of similar magnitude?

  • A. Earthquakes on islands tend to be more severe than on the mainland.
  • B. Many buildings in Haiti were not built to code standards or earthquake resistant.
  • C. Haiti is located in an area that is susceptible to major earthquakes.
  • D. The seismograph in Haiti was faulty and incorrectly measured the magnitude.

7. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 1-3 ("In 2010 . . . minutes")
  • B. Lines 25-27 ("Once . . . shelves")
  • C. Lines 42-44 ("Great . . . geography")
  • D. Lines 47-51 ("To make . . . disaster")

8. As used in line 42, "great" most nearly means

  • A. numerous.
  • B. high.
  • C. boundless.
  • D. big.

9. According to the chart, the greatest magnitude earthquake occurred in which country?

  • A. China
  • B. Chile
  • C. Japan
  • D. Haiti

10. Using the information in the passage and chart, which countries have experienced permanent geographical changes due to earthquakes?

  • A. Chile, China, Italy
  • B. Indonesia, Japan, China
  • C. Haiti, Chile, Italy
  • D. Japan, Chile, Indonesia

11. The Richter scale is a base-10 logarithmic scale in which a 3.0 magnitude earthquake has a shaking amplitude 10 times greater than a 2.0 magnitude earthquake, and a 5.0 magnitude earthquake would have a shaking amplitude 1,000 times greater than a 2.0 magnitude earthquake. Given this information and the information in the chart, how much greater in shaking amplitude was the 2011 Japanese earthquake than the 2010 Haitian earthquake?

  • A. 10 times
  • B. 100 times
  • C. 1,000 times
  • D. 10,000 times