Visual Qualitative Information Sample Questions

INFORMATIONAL: “These Wheels Were Made for Skating” is an original work of nonfiction.

Accounts vary as to when the skateboard first appeared. Supposedly, somewhere between the late 1800s and the 1940s, enterprising kids created a prototype by simply removing the wheels from roller skates and fastening them to a board.

The first factory-produced, commercial skateboard, on the other hand, appeared—irrefutably—in 1959. Benefiting from an association with the youth culture of ocean surfing, which was all the rage in the movies, music, and styles of the era, skateboards sold briskly. More skateboards flooded the market as the fad spread from the West Coast to the rest of the country. Within a three-year span, fifty million skateboards were sold, a figure equal to one-fourth of the US population then.

But like many fads, the initial era of skateboarding ended precipitously. Skateboarders—most of whom were children or teenagers—suffered high rates of injury, and doctors and parents grew outspoken about the hazards of skateboarding. As a result of safety concerns and public complaints about reckless skateboarders, many municipalities even banned skateboarding.

The design of the skateboard also contributed to the activity’s demise. All the 1960s skateboards used steel or clay wheels; the hardness of these materials made the wheels roll easily but also transmitted every minuscule bump in the pavement to the skateboarder’s body. More significantly, hard wheels had meager traction, meaning that even basic steering entailed the possibility that the wheels would lose traction and cause a crash.

Besieged on multiple fronts, the skateboarding market collapsed in 1965. Almost overnight, skateboarding nearly vanished. Nearly.

Flash forward to the summer of 1970, when a young Virginian named Frank Nasworthy happened to visit a small factory that specialized in making things out of urethane, a resilient kind of plastic. Nasworthy was intrigued by the urethane roller skate wheels being manufactured there on a trial basis as a potentially longer-lasting alternative to clay roller skate wheels. Coincidentally, Nasworthy and his pals were skateboarders, and Nasworthy took some of the urethane wheels home and installed them on his and his friends’ skateboards. For the rest of that summer, he and his pals skateboarded around Washington, DC, enjoying the smooth ride and tenacious traction provided by the urethane wheels.

But for Nasworthy, skateboarding was a mere diversion. He wanted to surf waves, not sidewalks, so in 1971 he moved to the surfing hot spot of Encinitas, California. There he discovered that some surfers still skateboarded when they weren’t riding waves. Nasworthy recalled those urethane wheels he had tried. Thinking that he could make money with a new and improved skateboarding wheel, Nasworthy designed some urethane wheels and had a manufacturer make a thousand of them.

With a car full of skateboard wheels, Nasworthy visited surf shops up and down the coast, only to find shopkeepers unenthusiastic about experimental wheels that cost considerably more than clay wheels. He adopted a new approach, giving free samples to skateboarders and staging demonstrations to prove the benefits of his wheels: a comfortable ride and traction that allowed skaters to turn both more nimbly and more safely. When Stacy Peralta, who would become a prominent professional skateboarder, tried urethane wheels, he was amazed at how the traction allowed him to build momentum by leaning hard into curves. “Talk about a pinnacle moment in your life,” he later said.

Soon, everybody wanted the wheels. Nasworthy went from selling 10,000 sets in 1973 to 300,000 sets in 1975. Competitors charged the market, imitating Nasworthy’s wheels. Suddenly skaters had immensely more control of their skateboards, setting the stage for the development of more sophisticated and technical riding styles and tricks. But the wheels also made skateboarding easier and more comfortable for newcomers; skateboarding was about to become popular again.

Skateboard Wheel Design Evolution
Wheel TypeWheel Diameter (mm)Wheel Weight (g)
Precision Bearings58167
High Rebound Double Radial64158


1. Which of the following conclusions regarding wheel characteristics is most strongly supported by the graphics?

A. The smallest wheel always has the highest speed.
B. The smaller the wheel, the heavier the wheel.
C. The largest wheel is always the heaviest.
D. The larger the wheel, the higher its speed.

2. Based on the passage and the graphics, compared to a skateboard with precision bearing wheels, a skateboard made in the 1960s would likely have a:

A.  higher potential rate of speed and a faster acceleration rate.
B.  higher potential rate of speed and a slower acceleration rate.
C.  lower potential rate of speed and a slower acceleration rate.
D.  lower potential rate of speed and a faster acceleration rate.

3. Based on the passage and the graphics, does the information in the graphics support the claim that urethane wheels “allowed skaters to turn both more nimbly and more safely” (underlined text)?

A.  Yes, because the graphics present data about skateboard wheels that allow for lower speed and slower acceleration.
B.  Yes, because the graphics present data about the level of comfort experienced by skateboarders using each type of skateboard wheel.
C.  No, because neither graphic provides data about skateboard wheels’ level of traction.
D.  No, because neither graphic provides data about the skateboard wheels manufactured prior to the 1970s.

Correct Answers:
1. D
2. D
3. C