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WorkbookEdition 6 hunting for pearls

READTHEORY

Passage and Questions

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Date________________

• Reading Comprehension Assessment
Directions: Read the passage. Then answer the questions below.

Hunting for Pearls
When I was little, my mother told me that pearls came from
oysters. Once I had learned this fact, every trip to the beach turned into a
treasure hunt. I was certain that if I searched carefully enough, I would
one day find my very own pearl inside an oyster. After all, jewelry stores
were filled with pearl earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and rings. Surely the
ocean was also filled with pearl-stuffed oysters.
As it turns out, this is not quite the case. Pearls are formed when
small bits of a foreign object—like sand, food, or bacteria—get trapped
inside an oyster’s shell. The oyster tries to protect itself from this object
by covering it in something called nacre, which is the same substance

that lines the inside of its shell. Layer upon layer of nacre cover this
object. These layers of nacre form a pearl. When this process occurs without any human interference, the
result is called a natural pearl. Natural pearls are extremely rare and extremely valuable.
Cultured pearls are much more common than natural pearls. Cultured pearls are made on oyster
farms, not in the ocean. A cultured pearl is created when an oyster farmer carefully inserts a small piece
of a foreign object into an oyster. A pearl then develops in the same way as it would in the ocean.
Although natural pearls and cultured pearls are basically identical, natural pearls are much more
expensive because they are so uncommon. In fact, some experts estimate that one ton of oysters will
only contain three or four natural pearls. Because natural pearls are so rare, nearly every pearl that you
see in a jewelry store is a cultured pearl.
Now that I have learned how improbable my chances were of finding a natural pearl, I wish that I
had spent more time enjoying the beach instead of wasting all those hours hunting for pearls!

1) In the first paragraph, the author mentions jewelry stores “filled with pearl earrings, bracelets,
necklaces, and rings.” Based on the information in the passage, we can infer that these pearls in the
jewelry store are most likely
A.
B.
C.
D.

extremely rare and extremely valuable
something the narrator only imagined seeing when he or she was a child
actually made of plastic or glass
cultured pearls

2) The main purpose of paragraph 2 is to
A.
B.
C.
D.

convince readers to buy cultured pearls instead of natural pearls
explain why natural pearls are more valuable than cultured pearls
describe the way natural pearls are formed
discuss the process of culturing pearls

3) According to the passage, nacre is
I. part of an oyster’s shell
II. what a pearl is made of


III. foreign matter that enters an oyster


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A.
B.
C.
D.

Questions

I only
I and II only
II and III only
I, II, and III

4) As used in the last paragraph, what is the best antonym for improbable?
A.
B.
C.
D.

likely
small
noticeable
confusing

5) Based on the passage, what does the narrator understand as an adult that he or she did not
understand as a child?
A.
B.
C.
D.

It is important to search carefully when hunting for pearls.
Natural pearls are almost impossible to find.
Cultured pearls are basically identical to natural pearls.
Most pearls are made without any human interference.

6) Based on the information in the passage, explain in your own words how pearls (both natural and
cultured) are formed.
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7) Knowing that natural and cultured pearls are “basically identical,” would you be willing to pay
thousands of dollars more for natural pearls instead of cultured pearls? Do you think rarity is a good
enough reason to spend more money? Why or why not?
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Questions

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8) Where do you think the narrator found the information he or she summarizes in paragraphs 2 and 3?
What kinds of resources might contain these facts? Who might have written them? Brainstorm below.
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9) The narrator explains a particular misunderstanding he or she held as a child. The narrator thought
that if he or she just looked hard enough, he or she would find a pearl at the beach. This turned out
not to be true. Did you ever experience any similar misunderstandings and disappointments in
childhood? Give details about at least one such false idea below.
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READTHEORY

Answers and Explanations

1) D
Question Type: Inference
In the first paragraph, the narrator assumes that because jewelry stores were “filled with pearl earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and
rings,” the ocean must also be “filled with pearl-stuffed oysters.” As the passage progresses, however, the author explains that
natural pearls produced by ocean oysters are very rare. In paragraph 3, the author writes: “nearly every pearl that you see for sale in
a jewelry store is a cultured pearl.” Based on this information, we can see that the pearls in the jewelry store mentioned in the first
paragraph are most likely cultured pearls. Therefore, (D) is correct. Although the passage does describe natural pearls as
“extremely rare and extremely valuable,” based on the above information, we can see that the pearls in the jewelry store are most
likely cultured pearls, not natural pearls. Therefore (A) is incorrect. The narrator never suggests that he or she imagined seeing
pearls in a jewelry store as a child. Therefore (B) is incorrect. The narrator never suggests that the pearls in a jewelry store are
actually made of plastic or glass. Cultured pearls are actual pearls made by oysters; they are not made of plastic or glass.
Therefore (C) is incorrect.
2) C
Question Type: Inference
In paragraph 2, the author writes: “Pearls are formed when small bits of a foreign object—like sand, food, or bacteria—get trapped
inside an oyster’s shell. The oyster tries to protect itself from this object by covering it in something called nacre, which is the same
substance that lines the inside of its shell. As more and more layers of nacre cover the object, a pearl forms. When this process
occurs without any human interference, the result is called a natural pearl.” This quotation contains the majority of the sentences in
paragraph 2. Almost all of the sentences in this paragraph explain how oysters form natural pearls. Therefore (C) is correct.
Although the passage does explain that cultured pearls are much cheaper and easier to find than natural pearls, paragraph 2 does
not try to persuade readers to buy cultured pearls instead of natural pearls. Therefore (A) is incorrect. Paragraph 2 does state that
“natural pearls are extremely rare and extremely valuable.” However, based on the above information, we can see that most of the
sentences in paragraph 2 are about how pearls are formed. If the main purpose of paragraph 2 were to explain why natural pearls
were so valuable, the author would likely have included information about how rare they were. Paragraph 3 contains some evidence
of their rarity (“natural pearls are much more expensive because they are so uncommon. In fact, some experts estimate that one ton
of oysters will only contain three or four natural pearls”), but paragraph 2 is about how natural pearls are formed. Therefore (B) is
incorrect. Paragraph 3 is about the process of culturing pearls. Paragraph 2 is about how natural pearls are formed. Therefore (D) is
incorrect.
3) B
Question Type: Detail
In paragraph 2, the author writes: “Pearls are formed when small bits of a foreign object—like sand, food, or bacteria—get trapped
inside an oyster’s shell. The oyster tries to protect itself from this object by covering it in something called nacre, which is the same
substance that lines the inside of its shell.” Based on this excerpt, we can see that nacre lines the inside of an oyster’s shell. This
supports option (I). In paragraph 2, the author writes: “Layer upon layer of nacre cover this object. These layers of nacre form a
pearl.” Based on this information, we can see that a pearl is made up of layers of nacre. This supports option (II). In paragraph 2,
the author writes: “Pearls are formed when small bits of a foreign object—like sand, food, or bacteria—get trapped inside an oyster’s
shell. The oyster tries to protect itself from this object by covering it in something called nacre, which is the same substance that
lines the inside of its shell.” Nacre is not the foreign object. The author explains that the foreign matter can be “sand, food, or
bacteria,” but does not call this foreign matter nacre. Nacre is the substance that lines the oyster shell and creates layers over the
foreign object. This eliminates option (III). Therefore (B) is correct.
4) A
Question Type: Vocabulary
improbable (adjective): unlikely, doubtful, questionable, almost certainly not going to happen.
In the last paragraph, the author writes: “Now that I have learned how improbable my chances were of finding a natural pearl in the
wild, I wish that I had spent more time enjoying the beach instead of spending all day hunting for pearls!” We can use context
clues—hints from known words or phrases around the unknown word or phrase—to help us figure out what the word improbable
most nearly means. Throughout the passage, the author explains how rare natural pearls are. In paragraph 3, the author states: “In
fact, some experts estimate that one ton of oysters will only contain three or four natural pearls.” Because natural pearls are so rare,
it is very unlikely that the author would have found one at the beach when he/she was a child. When the author describes his/her
chances as “improbable,” it is another way of saying unlikely. An antonym for unlikely would be likely, expected, or probable. Based
on this information, we can tell that we are looking for a word that means likely or expected. Therefore (A) is correct. Based on the
above information, we can tell that we are looking for a word that means likely or expected. In this case, small and improbable are
synonyms. The author thinks that he/she has a small chance of finding a natural pearl. Because we are looking for an
antonym, (B) is incorrect. Based on the above information, we can tell that we are looking for a word that means likely or expected.
Noticeable does not mean likely. Therefore (C) is incorrect. Based on the above information, we can tell that we are looking for a
word that means likely or expected. Confusing does not mean likely. Therefore (D) is incorrect.
5) B
Question Type: Global
In the first paragraph, the author writes: “When I was little, my mother told me that pearls came from oysters. Once I had learned
this fact, every trip to the beach turned into a treasure hunt. I was certain that if I were patient and determined, I would one day find
my very own pearl inside an oyster.” The narrator also explains that because jewelry stores are filled with pearls, he/she assumed
that the ocean must be filled with “pearl-stuffed oysters.” As a child, the narrator believed that if he/she tried hard enough, he/she
would be able to find a pearl in an oyster. As the passage progresses, the narrator explains that natural pearls are actually very rare.
In paragraph 3, the author writes: “some experts estimate that one ton of oysters will only contain three or four natural pearls” and
adds that “because natural pearls are so rare, nearly every pearl that you see for sale in a jewelry store is a cultured pearl.” In the
final paragraph, the author states that he/she now wishes that he/she had spent more time “enjoying the beach” instead of “wasting


READTHEORY

Answers and Explanations

all those hours” searching for pearls. Based on this information, we can see that as a child, the narrator thought that the ocean was
filled with pearls waiting to be found. As an adult, however, he/she understands that natural pearls are very difficult to find. Therefore
(B) is correct. In the first paragraph, the author says: “When I was little, my mother told me that pearls came from oysters. Once I
had learned this fact, every trip to the beach turned into a treasure hunt. I was certain that if I searched carefully enough, I would
one day find my very own pearl inside an oyster.” Here, the author explains that as a child, he/she thought that a careful search
would yield a pearl-filled oyster. This is something that the narrator believed as a child. The question is asking for something the
author understands as an adult that he/she did not understand as a child. Therefore (A) is incorrect. Although paragraph 3 does
state that “natural pearls and cultured pearls are basically identical,” the narrator does not present this information as something
he/she did not understand as a child but does as an adult. Therefore (C) is incorrect. In paragraph 3, the author writes: “Cultured
pearls are much more common than natural pearls. Cultured pearls are made on oyster farms, not in the ocean.” Based on this
information, we can see that most pearls are cultured pearls. Cultured pearls are made when humans insert foreign matter into
oysters. Most pearls are actually made with human interference. Therefore (D) is incorrect.



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