Standardized Science Test Practice Passage 15
Timing: 8 minutes

Reading Passage #15

Sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Every time you stick something in your mouth, one or a combination of those four primary tastes alerts you to vital information about that mouthful of matter.

Deciding what tastes "good" is anything but simple. A food's flavor doesn't usually depend on data from a single sense. Rather, smell, touch, sight and even hearing often come into play. You might call the little knobs dotting the surface of your tongue taste buds, but you'd be wrong. Those are papillae, and there are four kinds of them: fungiform and filiform on the front half, foliate and vallate on the back. The actual taste buds cluster together in packs of two to 250 within the papillae.

There are taste buds throughout the oral cavity, even on the upper palate. Any bud is capable of detecting all the basic tastes. It's just that some are more sensitive to a particular taste than to the others.

Much of what we commonly refer to as "flavor" is actually a combination of smell and taste, with taste most often assuming the secondary position.

Throughout your adult life, your sense of taste remains at roughly the same level, although abusing your taste buds, such as by smoking or repeatedly scalding the tongue with hot beverages, obviously has a dulling effect on them. Unlike all other brain cells, the olfactory receptor cells in the nose are continually dying off and regenerating themselves, but a gradual loss of smell sensitivity is not uncommon in the elderly. It's estimated that between two and four million Americans suffer from smell and taste disorders. The complete loss of smell is called anosmia, while a significantly reduced ability to detect odors is referred to as hyposmia.

Humans have learned to enjoy chemical irritants in their food. These include capsaicin in chili peppers, the gingerols in ginger, piperin in black pepper and the various isothiocyanates in onions, mustard, radishes and horseradish. You consider them "hot" because they stimulate only a subset of the pain fibers in your mouth, not all of them. But that subset also includes sensors that monitor temperature, hence the burning sensation associated with even an ice-cold jalapeno.


  1. The number of primary tastes:
    1. four.
    2. two.
    3. five.
    4. undetermined.

  2. The bumps on your tongue are:
    1. taste buds.
    2. olfactory nerves.
    3. papillae.
    4. heart

  3. Which of these senses is used to determine flavor?
    1. taste
    2. smell
    3. sight
    4. all of these

  4. Taste buds are located:
    1. on the tongue.
    2. on the papillae.
    3. within the papillae.
    4. in the mouth.

  5. Over time hot beverages will:
    1. enhance your sense of taste.
    2. dull your sense of taste.
    3. not affect your sense of taste.
    4. change your sense of taste.

  6. These brain cells can regenerate themselves:
    1. none
    2. visual receptors
    3. taste receptors
    4. olfactory receptors

  7. The complete loss of smell is known as:
    1. adoenma
    2. hyposmia
    3. anosmia
    4. capsaicin

  8. A significant loss of smell as:
    1. adoenma
    2. hyposmia
    3. anosmia
    4. capsaicin

  9. The taste of black pepper is:
    1. sour
    2. salty
    3. a combination of A and B
    4. pepper has no taste

  10. Onions stimulate these in the mouth:
    1. pain fibers
    2. papillae
    3. taste buds
    4. gingerols
Biology Week 27

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