The following passage and questions are from a book used by some Chicago Public Schools to prepare students for the 9th-grade TAP. 

More than 80 years ago, a scientist named Alfred Wegener noticed that a map of the world resembled a giant jigsaw puzzle. It looked as though the east coasts of North America and South America fit into the west coasts of Europe and Africa. Wegener argued that thousands of years ago these continents were joined together. Something had happened that caused them to break apart and move in different directions.

Experts were skeptical at first, but new facts kept turning up with only one possible explanation–the one Wegener had given. Wegener was right; the countries had once been joined and had then moved apart. Today we understand how this movement occurred.

The top portion of the earth is made up of gigantic pieces of rock called tectonic plates. Both the continents and the oceans rest on top of these plates. Underneath the plates lies a mass of melted rock. The plates float on this liquid. If a plate moves, so do the continents and oceans which lie on top of it.

Some continents straddle more than one plate. If two plates on which a continent rests move apart, the continent is ripped in two. Part of it stays on one plate and one part moves away with the other. This is what happened to America, Africa, and Europe. They used to be one single continent. Then the two plates on which this continent rested became separated. America traveled west. Europe and Africa moved east. The water which we call the Atlantic Ocean filled the space between them.

Today, the continents still continue to move; they drift about half an inch farther apart each year.

36. What caused the continents to separate?

A. A massive earthquake

B. Melting ice

C. The movement of the plates on which they rested

D. A giant wave

E. A volcanic eruption

37. What would happen over the next 100 years if the changes described in this article were to continue?

J. The continents would still move farther apart.

K. The weather would grow much colder.

L. The west coast of the United States would join the east coast.

M. The oceans would lose most of their salt.

N. There would be terrible floods.

Source: Educational Design, Preparation for the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency Grade 9 Reading Coach.


36. Choice C is correct. A continent moves if the plate on which it rests moves.

37. Choice J is correct. The continents would move still farther apart.

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