Free STAAR Grade 8 Reading Practice Questions

Questions 1 -5 pertain to the following passage:

The Great Round World and What is Going On In It by William Beverley Harison

(1) There is a new cause for supposing that the Treaty with Great Britain will either be defeated in the Senate, or else delayed for some time to come.
(2) This new trouble concerns the building of the Nicaragua Canal.
(3) It seems a remote cause, does it not? but it only shows how closely the affairs of one nation are bound up with those of all the others. No matter what our speech, our climate, or our color, we are all a portion of the great human family, and the good of one is the good of all.

(4) The Nicaragua Canal is a water-way that will cross the narrow neck of land that makes Central America. It will connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean.
(5) With the help of such a canal, ships in going to the western coast of North or South America will not need to make the long and dangerous voyage around Cape Horn.

(6) Cape Horn, you will see if you look on your map, is the extreme southerly point of South America.
(7) There are so many storms and fogs there, that the Horn, as it is called, is much dreaded by sailors.
(8) Since the invention of steam, all the steamships go through the Straits of Magellan, and save the passage round the Horn; but there is not enough wind for sailing vessels in the rocky and narrow straits, so they still have to take the outside passage.
(9) The Straits of Magellan divide the main continent of South America from a group of islands, called Tierra del Fuego, and Cape Horn is the most southerly point of this archipelago.
(10) The journey down the coast of South America on the east, and up again on the west, takes such a long time, that the desire for a canal across the narrow neck of land which joins North and South America has been in men's minds for many years.
(11) A railway was built across the Isthmus of Panama to shorten the distance, and save taking the passage round the Horn. Travellers left their ship at one side of the Isthmus, and took the train over to the other, where they went on board another ship, which would take them the rest of their journey.

(12) This plan greatly increased the expense of the journey, and the canal was still so much wanted, that at last the Panama Canal was begun.
(13) You have all heard about the Panama Canal, which was to do the same work that the Nicaragua Canal is to do, that is, to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. You have probably heard how much time, labor, and human life was wasted over it, and how much trouble its failure caused in France.
(14) This Canal was to cut across the Isthmus at its very narrowest point. It was worked on for years, every one believing that it would be opened to ships before very long. Many of the maps and geographies that were printed in the eighties said that the Panama Canal would be opened in 1888, or at latest in 1889.
(15) No one expected what afterward happened. In 1889 the works were stopped for want of money; the affairs of the Canal were looked into; it was found that there had been dishonesty and fraud, and in 1892 the great Count Ferdinand de Lesseps, who built the Suez Canal, and a number of other prominent Frenchmen, were arrested for dealing dishonestly with the money subscribed for the Canal.
(16) There was a dreadful scandal; many of the high French officials had to give up their positions, and run away for fear of arrest.

(17) When the whole matter was understood, it was found that, for months before the work was stopped, the men who had charge of the Canal had decided that the work would cost such an enormous sum of money that it would be almost an impossibility to complete it.
(18) They did not have the honesty to let this be known, but allowed people to go on subscribing money, a part of which they put in their own pockets, and spent the rest in bribing the French newspapers not to tell the truth about the Canal.
(19) The worst of it was, that the money which had been subscribed was not from rich people, who would feel its loss very little, but from poor people, who put their savings, and the money they were storing away for their old age, into the Canal; and when they lost it, it meant misery and poverty to them.
(20) So the Panama Canal failed.

(21) But the project of making a canal was not given up. Two years before the idea of digging at Panama had been thought of, the ground where the Nicaragua Canal is being built had been surveyed, and thought better suited to the purpose than Panama.
(22) The reason for this was, that at Panama a long and deep cut had to be made through the mountains. This had to be done by blasting, in much the same way that the rocks are cleared away to build houses. This is a long and tedious work.
(23) The Nicaragua Canal will be 159 miles long, while the Panama, if it is ever completed, will be only 59 miles; but of these 159 miles, 117 are through the Nicaragua Lake and the San Juan River water-ways already made by nature. For the remaining distance, there are other river-beds that will be used, and only 21 miles will actually have to be cut through.
(24) The main objection to this route for the Canal is, that there is a volcano on an island in the Nicaragua Lake, and there are always fears of eruptions and earthquakes in the neighborhood of volcanoes. A great eruption of the volcano might change the course of a river, or alter the face of the country so much, that the Canal might have to be largely remade.

1. The author mentions the treaty with Great Britain in paragraph 1 because people are concerned about

  1. A canal through Cape Horn
  2. The new Panama Canal
  3. The building of the Nicaragua Canal
  4. The Central America Canal

2. Read this phrase from paragraph 19: And when they lost it, it meant misery and poverty to them. The author uses this sentence to show:

  1. The people who suffered the most from the failure to build the Panama Canal
  2. Why the Panama Canal failed
  3. Rich people suffered the most from the failure to build the Panama Canal
  4. The project of making a canal was not given up

3. The Nicaragua Canal will?

  1. Make sailing longer and more dangerous
  2. Help ships avoid Cape Horn
  3. Cause more people to take the train across the Isthmus of Panama
  4. Cut across the Isthmus at its very narrowest point

4. What is the main problem in building the Nicaragua Canal?

  1. Many of the financial backers, like Ferdinand de Lesseps, are in jail
  2. The route needs to be cut through mountains
  3. The Nicaragua Canal is interrupting the treaty with Great Britain
  4. The canal route goes past a volcano

5. The author probably wrote this selection to

  1. Argue against the building of the Nicaragua Canal
  2. Argue for the building of the Nicaragua Canal
  3. Explain the problems that ended the Panama Canal project
  4. Discuss new plans for a canal

Questions 6 - 10 pertain to the following passage:

"The Cruel Crane Outwitted" from Indian Fairy Tales

(1) Long ago the Bodisat was born to a forest life as the Genius of a tree standing near a certain lotus pond.
(2) Now at that time the water used to run short at the dry season in a certain pond, not over large, in which there were a good many fish. And a crane thought on seeing the fish.
(3) "I must outwit these fish somehow or other and make a prey of them."
(4) And he went and sat down at the edge of the water, thinking how he should do it.
(5) When the fish saw him, they asked him, "What are you sitting there for, lost in thought?"
(6) "I am sitting thinking about you," said he.
(7) "Oh, sir! what are you thinking about us?" said they.
(8) "Why," he replied; "there is very little water in this pond, and but little for you to eat; and the heat is so great! So I was thinking, 'What in the world will these fish do now?'"
(9) "Yes, indeed, sir! what are we to do?" said they.
(10) "If you will only do as I bid you, I will take you in my beak to a fine large pond, covered with all the kinds of lotuses, and put you into it," answered the crane.

(11) "That a crane should take thought for the fishes is a thing unheard of, sir, since the world began. It's eating us, one after the other, that you're aiming at."
(12) "Not I! So long as you trust me, I won't eat you. But if you don't believe me that there is such a pond, send one of you with me to go and see it."
(13) Then they trusted him, and handed over to him one of their number - a big fellow, blind of one eye, whom they thought sharp enough in any emergency, afloat or ashore.
(14) Him the crane took with him, let him go in the pond, showed him the whole of it, brought him back, and let him go again close to the other fish. And he told them all the glories of the pond.
(15) And when they heard what he said, they exclaimed, "All right, sir! You may take us with you."

(16) Then the crane took the old purblind fish first to the bank of the other pond, and alighted in a Varana-tree growing on the bank there. But he threw it into a fork of the tree, struck it with his beak, and killed it; and then ate its flesh, and threw its bones away at the foot of the tree. Then he went back and called out:
(17) "I've thrown that fish in; let another one come."
(18) And in that manner he took all the fish, one by one, and ate them, till he came back and found no more!
(19) But there was still a crab left behind there; and the crane thought he would eat him too, and called out:
(20) "I say, good crab, I've taken all the fish away, and put them into a fine large pond. Come along. I'll take you too!"
(21) "But how will you take hold of me to carry me along?"
(22) "I'll bite hold of you with my beak."
(23) "You'll let me fall if you carry me like that. I won't go with you!"

(24) "Don't be afraid! I'll hold you quite tight all the way."
(25) Then said the crab to himself, "If this fellow once got hold of fish, he would never let them go in a pond! Now if he should really put me into the pond, it would be capital; but if he doesn't - then I'll cut his throat, and kill him!" So he said to him:
(26) "Look here, friend, you won't be able to hold me tight enough; but we crabs have a famous grip. If you let me catch hold of you round the neck with my claws, I shall be glad to go with you."
(27) And the other did not see that he was trying to outwit him, and agreed. So the crab caught hold of his neck with his claws as securely as with a pair of blacksmith's pincers, and called out, "Off with you, now!"
(28) And the crane took him and showed him the pond, and then turned off towards the Varana-tree.
(29) "Uncle!" cried the crab, "the pond lies that way, but you are taking me this way!"

(30) "Oh, that's it, is it?" answered the crane. "Your dear little uncle, your very sweet nephew, you call me! You mean me to understand, I suppose, that I am your slave, who has to lift you up and carry you about with him! Now cast your eye upon the heap of fish-bones lying at the root of yonder Varana-tree. Just as I have eaten those fish, every one of them, just so I will devour you as well!"
(31) "Ah! those fishes got eaten through their own stupidity," answered the crab; "but I'm not going to let you eat me. On the contrary, is it you that I am going to destroy. For you in your folly have not seen that I was outwitting you. If we die, we die both together; for I will cut off this head of yours, and cast it to the ground!" And so saying, he gave the crane's neck a grip with his claws, as with a vice.
(32) Then gasping, and with tears trickling from his eyes, and trembling with the fear of death, the crane beseeched him, saying, "O my Lord! Indeed I did not intend to eat you. Grant me my life!"

(33) "Well, well! step down into the pond, and put me in there."
(34) And he turned round and stepped down into the pond, and placed the crab on the mud at its edge. But the crab cut through its neck as clean as one would cut a lotus-stalk with a hunting-knife, and then only entered the water!
(35) When the Genius who lived in the Varana-tree saw this strange affair, he made the wood resound with his plaudits, uttering in a pleasant voice the verse:
(36) "The villain, though exceeding clever, Shall prosper not by his villainy. He may win indeed, sharp-witted in deceit, But only as the Crane here from the Crab!"

6. In paragraph 26, why does the crab makes plans to defend himself?

  1. He's worried that he'll fall
  2. He's worried the crane won't really take him to the pond
  3. He's friends with the crane
  4. He's glad to go with the crane

7. The context of paragraphs 13-16, helps the reader know that purblind most likely means:

  1. Blind in one eye
  2. Blind in two eyes
  3. Old
  4. Trustworthy

8. The author organizes the story mainly by:

  1. introducing Bodisat and showing his role in the crane's story
  2. using cause and effect to show what happens when a pond runs dry
  3. telling a story and then giving a moral
  4. giving a moral and then telling a story that supports it

9. Which of these is the best summary of the selection?

  1. The pond that the fish live in is drying up, and the crane offers to take the fish to a pond with more water. The fish don't trust the crane, so they send a representative to check out the new pond. He says that the pond exists, so they all agree to go with the crane. The crane drops them off at the pond and then comes back to take the crab. The crab also doesn't trust the crane, but the crane is honest and also takes him to the pond.
  2. The pond that the fish live in is drying up, and the crane offers to take the fish to a pond with more water. The fish don't trust the crane, so they send a representative to check out the new pond. He says that the pond exists, so they all agree to go with the crane. Instead of taking the fish to the pond, the crane eats each one. He then goes back to the dry pond and offers to take the crab. The crab also doesn't trust the crane, but the crane is honest this time and takes him straight to the new pond.
  3. The pond that the fish live in is drying up, and the crane offers to take the fish to a pond with more water. The fish don't trust the crane, so they send a representative to check out the new pond. He says that the pond exists, so they all agree to go with the crane. Instead of taking the fish to the pond, the crane eats each one. He then goes back to the dry pond and offers to take the crab. The crab also doesn't trust the crane, so he creates a plan to force the crane to take him to the pond. Just when the crane is about to eat the crab, the crab attacks him. The crane quickly eats him up.
  4. The pond that the fish live in is drying up, and the crane offers to take the fish to a pond with more water. The fish don't trust the crane, so they send a representative to check out the new pond. He says that the pond exists, so they all agree to go with the crane. Instead of taking the fish to the pond, the crane eats each one. He then goes back to the dry pond and offers to take the crab. The crab also doesn't trust the crane, so he creates a plan to force the crane to take him to the pond. When the crane tries to veer away from the pond to eat the crab, the crab attacks him. The crane agrees to take the crab to the pond. When they get to the pond, the crab attacks the crane again.

10. What is the moral of this story?

  1. Villains succeed by being especially evil
  2. Villains succeed by tricking others
  3. Villains that are exceedingly clever are evil
  4. Villains prosper by their villainy

Grade 8 Reading Answer Key

1. Answer: C
The correct answer is C because paragraph 2 says, "This new trouble concerns the building of the Nicaragua Canal." Choice A is incorrect because paragraph 5 says that people are looking for a way to avoid going around Cape Horn; sailors would be happy for a canal. Choice B is incorrect because the Panama Canal is an older, failed project. Paragraph D is incorrect because there is no canal called the Central America Canal. There are two possible canals that, if completed, would cut across Central America: the Nicaragua Canal and the Panama Canal.

2. Answer: A
The correct answer is A because the sentence discusses the people who, according to the passage, were not rich, but lost money on the Panama Canal. These people suffered the most because they fell into deeper poverty. Choice B is incorrect because the sentence shows who suffered but does not show the problems that caused the money loss. Choice C is incorrect because paragraph 19 says that people who were not rich are the people who lost the money. Choice D is incorrect because paragraph 20 says that the canal failed and that the project was not completed.

3. Answer: B
The correct answer is choice B because the passage explains that the only way for sailing vessels to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean is to go around Cape Horn. A canal will cut across Central America so that ships no longer need to go around Cape Horn. Choice A is incorrect because the canal will do the opposite by making sailing less dangerous. Choice C is incorrect because people needed to take the train before the canal was built. The train was the only way for people to go between shores while avoiding Cape Horn. Choice D is incorrect because the Panama Canal was planned to cut across at the narrowest point. The Nicaragua Canal would be 100 miles longer.

4. Answer: D
Choice D is the correct answer because paragraph 24 says that there is a volcano in Nicaragua Lake, which the canal will go through. Choice A is incorrect because Ferdinand de Lesseps and the other people in jail backed the Panama Canal, not the Nicaragua Canal. Choice B is incorrect because paragraph 22 shows that the Panama Canal, not the Nicaragua Canal, went through the mountains. Although paragraphs 1 and 2 say that the treaty may be defeated or delayed, this treaty is not a problem in building the canal. In contrast, the building of the canal affects the treaty.

5. Answer: D
The correct answer is D because the author is discussing the new plans for a canal, which will be the Nicaragua Canal. The author does this by giving some background of canals in Central America and describing details of the Nicaragua Canal. Choices A and B are incorrect because the author is very objective and does not argue for or against the Nicaragua Canal project; instead, he just gives information. Although the author does explain the problems that ended the Panama Canal project (in paragraph 15-20), this description is a small portion of the passage. The main purpose is to describe the issues surrounding the Nicaragua Canal.

6. Answer: B
The correct answer is B because the crab says in paragraph 24, "If this fellow once got hold of fish, he would never let them go in a pond." This sentence shows that the crab knows that he cannot trust the crane. Even though the crab says in paragraph 22 that he's worried he'll fall, he needs to defend himself from the crane because he's worried the crane will eat him. Choice C is incorrect because the crab is not friends with the crane; in fact, he does not trust the crane and is worried the crane will attack him. Although the crab is glad to leave the dry pond for the wet pond, he's worried about being transported on the crane because he knows that the crane will probably try to eat him.

7. Answer: A
The correct answer is choice A because paragraph 13 says that the fish was blind in one eye. Choice B is incorrect because the fish is blind in one eye, not two. While the passage does say that the fish is old, choice C is incorrect because the word purblind contains the root word blind and is probably related to not being able to see. While the other fish do trust the purblind fish, purblind is most likely related to the word blind.

8. Answer: C
The correct answer is C because the author tells the story of the crane's trickery and then ends with a moral in verse. While the author does introduce Bodisat at the beginning of the story, Choice A is incorrect because Bodisat does not have a role in the crane's story; he only observes. Choice B is incorrect because the pond running dry is not the reason why the fish were eaten; the crane's trickery is the cause. Choice D is incorrect because the moral is at the end of the story, not the beginning.

9. Answer: D
While all of the answer choices contain correct parts of the story, only choice D is fully correct. Choice A is incorrect because the crane does not drop the fish off at the pond; he eats them instead. Choice B is incorrect because the crane does not take the crab straight to the pond. He tries to veer off to the tree to eat the crab and only goes to the pond when the crab threatens him. Choice C is incorrect because the crane does not eat the crab.

10. Answer: B
The verse at the end of the story presents the moral and says villains won't prosper, or succeed, through villainy. Instead, villains win through deceit, or trickery. Choices A and D are incorrect because the moral says that villains don't succeed through villainy or evil. Choice C is incorrect because the moral does not say that clever villains are also evil. Instead, it says that the villain is clever.

STAAR Test Questions - Main

STAAR Grade 8 Reading Overview

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Last Updated: 07/05/2018