Why Does It Say This? The Meteor Stream Passage

Stacey Koprince —  May 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

gmat meteor passage Originally, I was only planning to do one question from the Meteor Stream passage. But this one is so much fun, I figured why not?

Yes, I’m being sarcastic. I don’t think anybody finds this passage fun. : )

In fact, that’s why I want to look at another problem with you”this thing is kind of a nightmare!

Okay, if you haven’t already, read the Meteor Stream passage. Note that this comes from the free set of questions in GMATPrep (not from the practice CATs). Here’s the link to the first question we did (though you don’t need to try that one before continuing with this article).

Click the first link in the previous paragraph and open up that passage in a separate window (I’m not going to show it here because it’s so long!).

Ready for the question? Give yourself about 1.5 minutes to answer.

The Question

The author states that the research described in the first paragraph was undertaken in order to

(A) determine the age of an actual meteor stream

(B) identify the various structural features of meteor streams

(C) explore the nature of a particularly interesting meteor stream

(D) test the hypothesis that meteor streams become broader as they age

(E) show that a computer model could help in explaining actual astronomical data

Solution

This is a detail question, so we’re going to use our notes and any clues in the question stem to know where to look. The question stem gives us one huge clue: it refers specifically to the first paragraph.

Next, the question says in order to. This language typically points to a Why question”that is, why did the author talk about or include something? In this case, the question asks why someone conducted the research described in the first paragraph.

Take a look at your notes. Mine are below, but everyone will have somewhat different notes.

P1

 

MS around comet

same orbit, diff veloc

model of G vs. theory

 

P2 Earth + MS = shower

activity varies (?)

 

P3 model = reality? Y. (?)

G 3,000 yo

 

 

Hmm. The first paragraph described meteor streams that’s not research, though, just information. Next, the passage talked about building a computer model to show some stuff. That must be the research. Okay, time to dive back into the text and figure out why the research was done!

Re-read the text

Scan until the text starts describing the research:

A recent computer-modeling experiment tested this hypothesis by tracking the blah blah blah.

Tested this hypothesis? What hypothesis? Go back one more sentence:

Astronomers have hypothesized that a meteor stream should broaden with time as the blah orbits are perturbed by blah. A recent computer-modeling experiment tested this hypothesis by tracking the blah blah blah.

All right, got it! They built the model in order to test the hypothesis. That might be enough to answer the question or the answer might reference the actual hypothesis: they built the model in order to test whether the meteor stream broadened with time.

Now, are you sure that this is it? Maybe there’s more about why later in the paragraph. Should you keep reading?

You’ve got one why idea, so check the answers. If that one doesn’t do it, then you can keep going in the paragraph, but don’t try to find every possible answer first.

 

Test the Answers

Look for language that goes along with this idea: to test the hypothesis that the meteor stream broadened over time.

(A) determine the age of an actual meteor stream

This doesn’t match, but it’s still tempting. Why? Oh, right, because the later two paragraphs do actually talk about the age of a meteor stream, and the very last thing the passage does is to calculate the age of the Geminid. But that’s in paragraph 3; this question asks about paragraph 1. Eliminate answer (A).

(B) identify the various structural features of meteor streams

The early part of the passage does seem to describe some structural features, but the goal of the computer model research wasn’t to identify all of the various features. Rather, the reseNavigators wanted to test a certain hypothesis. Eliminate (B).

(C) explore the nature of a particularly interesting meteor stream

It’s true that the reseNavigators used a particular meteor stream, the Geminid, in their computer model, but this isn’t why they undertook the research in the first place. Rather, they undertook the research to test a specific hypothesis; they just happened to choose the Geminid for their research. Eliminate (C).

(D) test the hypothesis that meteor streams become broader as they age

Yes, this is what the passage says: the astronomers hypothesized that a meteor stream should broaden with time and the reseNavigators built a computer model in order to test that hypothesis.

(E) show that a computer model could help in explaining actual astronomical data

It’s true that the computer model did ultimately seem to help explain some things, but the passage doesn’t say that this is why the reseNavigators chose to build the model.

The correct answer is (D).

Note that a couple of the answers might have been appropriate for a what question: what did the model show? It predicted a certain structural feature (the pipe shape), so answer (B) might have worked for a different question. What was the final result of all of the described research? They were able to predict the actual age of the Geminid”answer (A).

 

Key Takeaways for Why Questions

(1) First, figure out where to look; the clues will be in the wording of the question itself. In this case, they mentioned a specific paragraph, but they also gave important direction when they asked not what happened but why something happened.

(2) Whenever possible, know what you’re not looking for as well. On why questions, don’t fall into the trap of picking a what answer. In addition, when they mention a particular paragraph, don’t pick an answer that discusses something mentioned only in a different paragraph.

 

* GMATPrep text courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of this question does not imply endorsement by GMAC.

 

Stacey Koprince

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Stacey Koprince is an Instructor and Trainer as well as the Director of Online Community for Manhattan Prep. She's also a management consultant who specializes in corporate strategy. She has been teaching various standardized tests for more than fifteen years and her entire teaching philosophy can be summed up in five words: teaching students how to think.

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