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I took an English reading comprehension test that was marked as 'advanced' as I am studying advanced English at the moment. Wanted to know at which level I am currently at.

The test asks a series of questions about this passage:

The canopy, the upper level of the trees in the rain forest, holds a plethora of climbing mammals of moderately large size, which may include monkeys, cats, civets, and porcupines. Smaller species, including such rodents as mice and small squirrels, are not as prevalent overall in high tropical canopies as they are in most habitats globally.
Small mammals, being warm blooded, suffer hardship in the exposed and turbulent environment of the uppermost trees. Because a small body has more surface area per unit of weight than a large one of similar shape, it gains or loses heat more swiftly. Thus, in the trees, where shelter from heat and cold may be scarce and conditions may fluctuate, a small mammal may have trouble maintaining its body temperature.
Small size makes it easy to scramble among twigs and branches in the canopy for insects, flowers, or fruit, but small mammals are surpassed, in the competition for food, by large ones that have their own tactics for browsing among food-rich twigs. The weight of a gibbon (a small ape) hanging below a branch arches the terminal leaves down so that fruit-bearing foliage drops toward the gibbon's face. Walking or leaping species of a similar or even larger size access the outer twigs either by snapping off and retrieving the whole branch or by clutching stiff branches with the feet or tail and plucking food with their hands.
Small climbing animals may reach twigs readily, but it is harder for them than for large climbing animals to cross the wide gaps from one tree crown to the next that typify the high canopy. A macaque or gibbon can hurl itself farther than a mouse can: it can achieve a running start, and it can more effectively use a branch as a springboard, even bouncing on a limb several times before jumping. The forward movement of a small animal is seriously reduced by the air friction against the relatively large surface area of its body. Finally, for the many small mammals the supplement their insect diet with fruits or seeds, an inability to span open gaps between tree crowns may be problematic, since trees that yield these foods can be sparse.

One of the questions is "What does the author indicate in paragraph 3?" There were four alternatives, one of which was 'larger size is an advantage'. I thought it was correct but instead, the correct one was allegedly 'small animals require proportionally more food than larger ones'.

How is that so? Am I missing something? Thanks!

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    Change your source. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 15 '16 at 21:47
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    In addition to the problems with the questions, there's a typo in the text: the last sentence should be "Finally, for the many small mammals that supplement …" – Scott Sep 16 '16 at 5:24
  • Spotted that. I am preparing for my English finals and naturally grew anxious since I could understand how it said 'the supplement'. Guessed it had to be a typo. – aeroch Sep 16 '16 at 6:35
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Your interpretation of the paragraph is correct, and the test is wrong.

I am a native speaker of English. I went through the entire test myself. For two of the questions -- the one you asked about, and the one reading "According to paragraph 2, which of the following is true about the small mammals of the rain forest?" -- it rejects the correct answer. This isn't just a matter of a poorly worded multiple-choice question (unlike the question with the mice and the porcupines). It is so obviously mistaken about the correct answer that I can only think there must have been a data-entry error.

Sadly, this is not an unusual thing with online tests.

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I just took the test, questions 4 and 5 are definitely incorrect - the rest are fine.

Question 4 I can just about see:

Thus, in the trees, where shelter from heat and cold may be scarce and conditions may fluctuate

Scarce doesn't imply non-existent, so the smaller species DO take cover in the trees to shelter from the heat and cold..., but the answer that they struggle to cope makes much more sense.

Question 5 however is giving me problems - I even contacted the site about it!

Small size makes it easy to scramble among twigs and branches in the canopy for insects, flowers, or fruit, but small mammals are surpassed, in the competition for food, by large ones that have their own tactics for browsing among food-rich twigs. The weight of a gibbon (a small ape) hanging below a branch arches the terminal leaves down so that fruit-bearing foliage drops toward the gibbon's face. Walking or leaping species of a similar or even larger size access the outer twigs either by snapping off and retrieving the whole branch or by clutching stiff branches with the feet or tail and plucking food with their hands.

The bold text is almost opposite to the correct answer expected:

small animals require proportionally more food than larger ones

Good spot!

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The answer is easy. All small animals have a small body but they have more surface area per unit of weight than a large one of similar shape. Therefore, a tiny mouse will need to eat more than a gibbon according to its weight. We are talking about scales, that's why it is tricky. So, although a mouse is much smaller than a gibbon, this rodent proportionally eats much more than a gibbon.

  • While this information about mice and gibbons may be correct, it is not in the quoted material in the question. The OP was asked a reading comprehension test, not a "what do you happen to know about mice" test. – Kate Gregory Aug 2 at 19:13
  • Then we are not reading the same reading passage because mine clearly says it. I'm not making up information or saying something that I knew ahead. This is what the passage says in the third paragraph: Because a small body has more surface area per unit of weight than a large one of similar shape, it gains or loses heat more swiftly. Thus, in the trees, where shelter from heat and cold may be scarce and conditions may fluctuate, a small mammal may have trouble maintaining its body temperature. – Romero Constantini Aug 2 at 21:16
  • Then keeps talking about that relative "large surface" of small animals: "The forward movement of a small animal is seriously reduced by the air friction against the relatively large surface area of its body" – Romero Constantini Aug 2 at 21:24
  • Connecting "gaining or losing heat" to needing to eat requires scientific knowledge. It is not in the passage. Anyway, eating might help you if you were losing heat, but I don't think it would help if you were gaining it. But that's not the point. There is nothing in the passage about "small animals require proportionally more food than larger ones". – Kate Gregory Aug 2 at 22:34
  • You won't find a textual answer in the passage because it's an inference that you have to make. If the text keeps telling you that a mouse is proportionally bigger and weighs more than a monkey then you have to conclude that proportionally needs more food than a monkey to keep his body in good shape. That's the whole point of the comprehension of this reading passage and what they are trying to test . Basically, you have to prove that you understood that a mouse is bigger than a monkey. Therefore, it needs more food. – Romero Constantini Aug 4 at 3:36

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