SSAT Elementary Level Reading : How to Determine the Meaning of a Word from Its Context in a Fiction Passage

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SSAT Elementary Level Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : How To Determine The Meaning Of A Word From Its Context In A Fiction Passage

Determine the meaning of the underlined word.

Fred went to the flower market to pick up some beautiful blooms. He needed to buy lovely flowers for the soirée at his house that evening. When he returned, he quickly dressed in his best suit and tie because his guests were about to arrive.

Possible Answers:

A meeting

A game

A fancy party

A school

A host

Correct answer:

A fancy party

Explanation:

A "soirée" is a fancy party in the evening.

Example Question #82 : Fiction Passages

Determine the meaning of the underlined word.

Laurel was walking her tiny Chihuahua through the park last night when she noticed a big dog quietly lurking in the shadows. She quickly turned and walked the other way because she did not want the big dog to notice her tiny Chihuahua.

Possible Answers:

secretly waiting

swimming

running

dancing

playing

Correct answer:

secretly waiting

Explanation:

To "lurk" means to lie quietly in wait, most often for prey.

Example Question #2 : How To Determine The Meaning Of A Word From Its Context In A Fiction Passage

Determine the meaning of the underlined word.

Amber walked into the party and immediately noticed the gregarious hostess. She was chatting, laughing, and telling jokes to a crowd of four people across the room.

Possible Answers:

shy

unkind

pretty

angry

friendly

Correct answer:

friendly

Explanation:

A "gregarious" person is someone who is friendly, outgoing, and easy to get along with.

Example Question #3 : How To Determine The Meaning Of A Word From Its Context In A Fiction Passage

Baseball is a great game. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. It’s a great way to spend a lazy summer afternoon. I love going to watch the nine inning game played on a beautifully mowed lawn, listening to the Umpire yell “STRIKE,” singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch, and I especially love the sound of the bat going "crack!!" when it hits the ball.  Baseball is definitely my favorite sport.

Determine the meaning of the underlined word.

Possible Answers:

a fun activity

something that is old or from the past

a scary event

a baseball field

something that is boring

Correct answer:

a fun activity

Explanation:

A pastime is a fun activity that helps you "pass the time."

Example Question #85 : Fiction Passages

As the airplane beganto descend from 35,000 feet, after a bumpy four hour flight, Eric felt relieved that he would soon be on the ground.

 

What is the meaning of the word descend?

Possible Answers:

thankful

to wish for

to break down

to come down

to take off

Correct answer:

to come down

Explanation:

To descend means to come/go down. You can also conclude from the sentence that the airplane has been flying for four hours and is now coming down to land.

Example Question #4 : How To Determine The Meaning Of A Word From Its Context In A Fiction Passage

Addison is having a bad day. In the morning, she lost her lunch money on the way to school. Her mom told her to put it in the zipper pocket of her backpack, but she didn’t listen and put it in her pants pocket instead.  In the afternoon, her class went to the library. When she went to her backpack to retrieve her library book, it was not there!  She could not check out a new book this week. After school, she was talking to her friends on the playground and lost track of time. When she walked out to the front of the school, she realized that the bus had already left!! Her house is over 4 miles away and she is not allowed to walk home alone.

What does the word retrieve mean?

Possible Answers:

to ruin something

to get angry

to go get something

to save something

to exchange something

Correct answer:

to go get something

Explanation:

The word retrieve means to go get something or get something back. The sentences around the word retrieve give you clues: 

"In the afternoon, her class went to the library. When she went to her backpack to retrieve her library book, it was not there!"  

Since she would go to her backpack to "get" her library book out, the best choice is "to go get something."

Example Question #87 : Fiction Passages

Max had not eaten all day and was feeling ravenous! He decided to go to the store to buy ingredients to make a delicious dinner. His shopping list was wheat buns, beef patties, American cheese, lettuce, and a tomato. When Max got home he got straight to work on his dinner and then gobbled it up!

What does the word ravenous mean?

Possible Answers:

greedy

upset; mad

happy

Starved; famished

misunderstood

Correct answer:

Starved; famished

Explanation:

Since Max had not eaten all day and was feeling ravenous, you could guess that he was starving or hungry.

Example Question #5 : How To Determine The Meaning Of A Word From Its Context In A Fiction Passage

Adapted from "The Dog and the Wolf" by Aesop (trans. Jacobs 1909)

A gaunt Wolf was almost dead with hunger when he happened to meet a House-dog who was passing by.

"Ah, Cousin," said the Dog. "I knew how it would be; your irregular life will soon be the ruin of you. Why do you not work steadily as I do, and get your food regularly given to you?"

"I would have no objection," said the Wolf, "if I could only acquire a place."

"I will easily arrange that for you," said the Dog; "come with me to my master and you shall share my work."

So the Wolf and the Dog went towards the town together. On the way there the Wolf noticed that the hair on a certain part of the Dog's neck was very much worn away, so he asked him how that had come about.

"Oh, it is nothing," said the Dog. "That is only the place where the collar is put on at night to keep me chained up; it chafes a bit, but one soon gets used to it."

"Is that all?" said the Wolf. "Then good-bye to you, Master Dog."

Moral: "Better starve free than be a fat slave."

The underlined word “gaunt” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

very fat 

very scary 

very brave 

very thin 

very angry 

Correct answer:

very thin 

Explanation:

The word “gaunt” means very thin. If you did not know the meaning of the word you could infer meaning from the words that follow “gaunt,” because the author says that the gaunt wolf was “almost dead with hunger.”

Example Question #89 : Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Princess and the Pea" by Hans Christian Andersen (trans. Sommer 1897)

Once upon a time there was a prince who wanted to marry a princess; but she would have to be a real princess. He travelled all over the world to find one, but nowhere could he get what he wanted. There were princesses enough, but it was difficult to find out whether they were real ones. There was always something about them that was not as it should be. So he came home again and was sad, for he would have liked very much to have a real princess.

One evening a terrible storm came on; there was thunder and lightning, and the rain poured down. Suddenly a knocking was heard at the city gate, and the old king went to open it.

It was a princess standing out there in front of the gate. The water ran down from her hair and clothes; it ran down into the toes of her shoes and out again at the heels. She looked so destitute in the wind and the rain. And yet she said that she was a real princess.

“Well, we’ll soon find that out,” thought the old queen. But she said nothing, went into the bed-room, took all the bedding off the bedstead, and laid a pea on the bottom; then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on top of the pea.

On this the princess had to lie all night. In the morning she was asked how she had slept.

“Oh, very badly!” said she. “I have scarcely closed my eyes all night. Heaven only knows what was in the bed, but I was lying on something hard, so that I am black and blue all over my body. It’s horrible!”

Now they knew that she was a real princess because she had felt the pea right through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eider-down beds.

Nobody but a real princess could be as sensitive as that.

So the prince took her for his wife, for now he knew that he had a real princess; and the pea was put in the museum, where it may still be seen, if no one has stolen it.

There, that is a true story.

The underlined word “destitute” in line 9 most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

intelligent 

poor 

beautiful 

wealthy 

healthy 

Correct answer:

poor 

Explanation:

The word “destitute” is used to describe someone who is very poor, and has no possessions. The author describes how the princess looked destitute out at night in the wind and the rain so you know it cannot mean something good like "healthy" or "beautiful," and it must be something bad like “poor.” 

Example Question #4 : How To Determine The Meaning Of A Word From Its Context In A Fiction Passage

Adapted from "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse" by Aesop (trans. Jacobs 1909)

Now you must know that a Town Mouse once upon a time went on a visit to his cousin in the country. He was rough and ready, this cousin, but he loved his town friend and made him heartily welcome. Beans and bacon, cheese and bread, were all he had to offer, but he offered them freely. The Town Mouse rather turned up his long nose at this country fare, and said: "I cannot understand, Cousin, how you can put up with such poor food as this, but of course you cannot expect anything better in the country; come with me and I will show you how to live. When you have been in town a week you will wonder how you could ever have stood a country life." No sooner said than done: the two mice set off for the town and arrived at the Town Mouse's residence late at night. "You will want some refreshment after our long journey," said the polite Town Mouse, and took his friend into the grand dining-room. There they found the remains of a fine feast, and soon the two mice were eating up jellies and cakes and all that was nice. Suddenly they heard growling and barking. "What is that?" said the Country Mouse. "It is only the dogs of the house," answered the other. "Only!" said the Country Mouse. "I do not like that music at my dinner." Just at that moment the door flew open, in came two huge mastiffs, and the two mice had to scamper down and run off. "Good-bye, Cousin," said the Country Mouse, "What! going so soon?" said the other. "Yes," he replied; "Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear."

The underlined word “grand” in line 9 most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

tiny 

magnificent 

delicious 

scary 

terrible 

Correct answer:

magnificent 

Explanation:

The word “grand” is used to mean big, impressive or magnificent. If you did not know the definition of the word, you would need to read the passage to try and figure out the word's meaning from context. You know that the word “grand” is used to describe the house of the Town Mouse, and from earlier comparisons between the modesty of the Country Mouse and the fanciness of the Town Mouse it is reasonable to infer that the Town Mouse must live somewhere magnificent, big and impressive. 

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