SSAT Elementary Level Reading : How to Make Inferences Based on Nonfiction Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Inferential Understanding In Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from Ten Great Events in History by James Johannot (1887)

The children of Germany and France caught the madness of the hour, and resolved upon a crusade of their own. Inspired by the preaching of a fanatical priest named Nicholas, twenty thousand young boys assembled at Cologne. They came from all ranks of life; the heir of the proud noble marched side by side with the son of the humblest peasant. Sisters, priests, and servants joined the throng, swelling the numbers and adding to the confusion. They stayed in Cologne for several weeks, set back by chaos and disease. Eventually the ill-fated group set off for the Holy Land, but their difficulties were just beginning. 

What can you infer was “the madness of the hour?”

Possible Answers:

Apathy 

The death of children 

The Crusades

The city of Cologne 

Religion 

Correct answer:

The Crusades

Explanation:

This passage is about the famous and ill-fated Children’s Crusade to the Holy Land. From the context you can infer that the “madness of the hour” was the idea of the Crusades in general. The author states “The children of Germany and France caught the madness of the hour, and resolved upon a crusade of their own.” These two clauses are related; the children caught the madness of the hour, and then they decided to go on their own crusade. 

Example Question #2 : Inferential Understanding In Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from A Child’s History of England by Charles Dickens (1905)

France was a far richer country than Scotland, and the new King was eager to conquer it. So, he left Scotland alone, and pretended that he had a claim to the French throne. He had, in reality, no right at all; but that mattered little in those times. He brought over to his cause many little princes and rulers and with these forces Edward invaded France; but he achieved little by that, except running himself into debt. The next year he did better; gaining the harbor of Sluys. This success, however, was very short-lived, for the King’s allies took fright at the siege of Saint Omer and ran away, leaving their weapons and allegiance behind them. When Philip, the French King, arrived with his army some moments later, Edward proposed to settle the difference by single combat with him. The French King said, he thanked him; but seeing as how the English King was without allies the French King would take his chances.

Why does the French King refuse to engage in one-on-one combat with the English King?

Possible Answers:

The English King is a notable cheater and cannot be trusted to hold to his promises

The French King and English King are brothers 

The French King has no allies 

The English King is a much better fighter and would surely defeat the French King

The French King is already in control of the situation and does not need to take risks 

Correct answer:

The French King is already in control of the situation and does not need to take risks 

Explanation:

The author describes how the English King’s allies had left him and therefore he was probably going to lose. To try and swing the odds in his favor, the English King proposes that they settle the battle between the two armies in one single hand-to-hand combat between the two kings. However, the French King knows that he already has the advantage and does not need to risk it: “The French King said, he thanked him; but seeing as how the English King was without allies the French King would take his chances.” 

Example Question #2 : Textual Relationships In History Passages

Adapted from Early European History (1917) by Hutton Webster

A medieval village usually contained several classes of laborers. There might be a number of freemen, who paid a fixed rent, either in money or produce, for the use of their land. Then there might also be a few slaves in the lord's household or at work on his domain. By this time, however, slavery had about died out in Western Europe. Most of the peasants were serfs.

Serfdom represented a stage between slavery and freedom. A slave belonged to his master; he was bought and sold like other belongings. A serf had a higher position, for he could not be sold apart from the land nor could his holding be taken from him. He was fixed to the soil. On the other hand, a serf ranked lower than a freeman, because he could not change his house, nor marry outside the manor, nor hand down his goods, without the permission of his lord.

To whom does a serf owe his loyalty?

Possible Answers:

A peasant

A lord

A freeman

Another serf

A slave

Correct answer:

A lord

Explanation:

The passage never directly states that a serf owes his loyalty to a lord, but it is implied by the author’s description of the nature of relationships between serfs and lords that a serf must be loyal to his lord.

Example Question #3 : How To Make Inferences Based On Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from A Man Who Coveted Washington’s Shoes by Frank E. Stockton (1896)

The person whose story we are now about to tell was not a Jerseyman, but, as most of the incidents which make him interesting to us occurred in this state, we will give him the benefit of a few years' residence here.

This was General Charles Lee, who might well have been called a soldier of fortune. He was born in England, but the British Isles were entirely too small to satisfy his wild ambitions and his bold spirit. There are few heroes of romance who have had such a wide and varied experience, and who have engaged in so many strange enterprises. He was a brave man and very able, but he had a fault which prevented him from being a high-class soldier: he could not bear authority and was always restive under command of another, and, while always ready to tell other people what they ought to do, was never willing to be told what he ought to do.

He joined the British army when he was a young man, and he first came to this country in 1757, when General Abercrombie brought over an army to fight the French. For three years, Lee was engaged in the wilds and forests, doing battle with the Native Americans and French, and no doubt he had all the adventures an ordinary person would desire, but this experience was far from satisfactory.

Based on the first paragraph, who can you infer was the intended audience for this passage?

Possible Answers:

People from New York

People from France

People from New Jersey

People from the British Isles

People from Australia

Correct answer:

People from New Jersey

Explanation:

In the first paragraph the author says, “The person whose story we are now about to tell was not a Jerseyman, but, as most of the incidents which make him interesting to us occurred in this State, we will give him the benefit of a few years' residence here.” This suggests that this passage was taken from a larger piece about famous people from New Jersey and because the author refers to the audience in a personal and collective way, as in “make him interesting to us,” we know that the intended audience is people from the state of New Jersey.

Example Question #4 : How To Make Inferences Based On Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from A Man Who Coveted Washington’s Shoes by Frank E. Stockton (1896)

The person whose story we are now about to tell was not a Jerseyman, but, as most of the incidents which make him interesting to us occurred in this state, we will give him the benefit of a few years' residence here.

This was General Charles Lee, who might well have been called a soldier of fortune. He was born in England, but the British Isles were entirely too small to satisfy his wild ambitions and his bold spirit. There are few heroes of romance who have had such a wide and varied experience, and who have engaged in so many strange enterprises. He was a brave man and very able, but he had a fault which prevented him from being a high-class soldier: he could not bear authority and was always restive under command of another, and, while always ready to tell other people what they ought to do, was never willing to be told what he ought to do.

He joined the British army when he was a young man, and he first came to this country in 1757, when General Abercrombie brought over an army to fight the French. For three years, Lee was engaged in the wilds and forests, doing battle with the Native Americans and French, and no doubt he had all the adventures an ordinary person would desire, but this experience was far from satisfactory.

Which of these cannot be inferred from the passage?

Possible Answers:

During Lee’s life there was a war with the French and the Native Americans.

Charles Lee was from the British Isles.

Charles Lee lived for some time in New Jersey.

Charles Lee served in the army.

Charles Lee was wounded in battle. 

Correct answer:

Charles Lee was wounded in battle. 

Explanation:

We know that Lee was from the British Isles and lived in New Jersey for some time because the author tells us so. Likewise, we know that Lee served in the army and that there was a war with the French and the Native Americans because the author says, “He joined the British army when he was a young man; and he first came to this country in 1757, when General Abercrombie brought over an army to fight the French. For three years, Lee was engaged in the wilds and forests, doing battle with the Native Americans and French.” The only piece of information not directly stated by the passage is that Charles Lee was wounded in battle; there is no evidence to support this inference. 

Example Question #22 : History Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

History cannot easily go back beyond written records. These alone will preserve a full and accurate account of man's achievements. Manuscripts and books form one class of written records. The old Babylonians used tablets of soft clay, on which signs were impressed with a metal instrument. The tablets were then baked hard in an oven. The Egyptians made a kind of paper out of the papyrus, a plant native to the Nile valley. The Greeks and Romans at first used papyrus, but later they employed the more lasting parchment prepared from sheepskin. Paper seems to have been a Chinese invention. It was introduced into Europe by the Arabs during the twelfth century of our era.

History, based on written records, begins in different countries at varying dates. A few manuscripts and inscriptions found in Egypt date back three or four thousand years before Christ. The annals of Babylonia are scarcely less ancient. Trustworthy records in China and India do not extend beyond 1000 B.C. For the Greeks and Romans the commencement of the historic period must be placed about 750 B.C. The inhabitants of northern Europe did not come into the light of history until about the opening of the Christian era.

Which of the civilizations mentioned in this passage can you infer lived in or near the Nile valley?

Possible Answers:

The Chinese 

The Greeks 

The Babylonians 

The Romans 

The Egyptians 

Correct answer:

The Egyptians 

Explanation:

The author states, “The Egyptians made a kind of paper out of the papyrus, a plant native to the Nile valley.” As the Egyptians used the plant, and the plant was native to the Nile Valley, it can be inferred that the Egyptians lived in or near the Nile Valley. The Nile is a very important river, both historically and today for the massive amounts of farming its flood plains allow.

Example Question #21 : History Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

History cannot easily go back beyond written records. These alone will preserve a full and accurate account of man's achievements. Manuscripts and books form one class of written records. The old Babylonians used tablets of soft clay, on which signs were impressed with a metal instrument. The tablets were then baked hard in an oven. The Egyptians made a kind of paper out of the papyrus, a plant native to the Nile valley. The Greeks and Romans at first used papyrus, but later they employed the more lasting parchment prepared from sheepskin. Paper seems to have been a Chinese invention. It was introduced into Europe by the Arabs during the twelfth century of our era.

History, based on written records, begins in different countries at varying dates. A few manuscripts and inscriptions found in Egypt date back three or four thousand years before Christ. The annals of Babylonia are scarcely less ancient. Trustworthy records in China and India do not extend beyond 1000 B.C. For the Greeks and Romans the commencement of the historic period must be placed about 750 B.C. The inhabitants of northern Europe did not come into the light of history until about the opening of the Christian era.

Which of these civilizations was the last to keep a reliable written history?

Possible Answers:

Egyptians 

Greeks and Romans 

Northern Europeans 

Babylonians

Chinese 

Correct answer:

Northern Europeans 

Explanation:

In the final paragraph the author discusses, in chronological order, the various periods of time in which each nation began keeping a written history. As the Northern Europeans come last on this list you can infer that they were the last to keep a reliable written history. Alternatively, the author says, “The inhabitants of northern Europe did not come into the light of history until about the opening of the Christian era.” He also tells you that all the other civilizations mentioned had written history from at least 750 B.C. Therefore, if you knew that B.C. stands for "Before Christ," then you would know that the Christian Era must have come after all the other eras had finished. 

Example Question #231 : Ssat Elementary Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from "Life Growth - Frogs" by Margaret Warner Morley in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

Our common frogs, like many of the fishes, do not trouble themselves about the fate of their eggs after they are carefully laid in a safe place. They trust Mother Nature to see the little tadpoles safely through the perils of childhood, to help them avoid being eaten or starving, and cut, not their teeth, but their arms and legs.

In Venezuela, however, there dwells a frog with well developed maternal instinct. The mothers have pockets on their backs, not for their own convenience, but as cradles for their babies. The fathers put the fertilized eggs into the pockets of the mothers, and there they remain, well guarded, until the young are able to care for themselves.

Which of these inferences does the wording of the passage demonstrate to be false?

Possible Answers:

The author has studied the behavior of many types of animals.

There are fewer types of frogs in Venezuela than in America.

The author is from Venezuela.

Fishes and frogs have a great deal in common.

Maternal instincts are uncommon among animals.

Correct answer:

The author is from Venezuela.

Explanation:

The inference that is least likely to be true is that “the author is from Venezuela.” You know this is highly unlikely to be true because the author says “Our common frogs . . . “ when talking about the frogs outside Venezuela. The use of the word “our” suggests she is part of the community from which these non-Venezuelan frogs are also from. We cannot reasonably infer any of the answers to be untrue. You might be tempted to answer “Maternal instincts are uncommon among animals,” but seeing as the author only talks about the instincts of frogs and fishes, there are few concrete conclusions that can be drawn.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Tone, Style, And Figurative Language In Contemporary Life Passages

"The Dangers of Sugar" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

Sugar is a highly addictive substance that plays a dangerous role in the health and well-being of people around the world. It is particularly threatening to American health, as it is placed in everything from carbonated sodas to beef jerky and vegetable juice. The average American consumes seventy-five pounds of sugar every year—that is roughly the weight of a elementary school child. Many health experts believe that sugar is the number one contributing factor in the high rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes that can be found in the contemporary United States.

The author’s tone in this passage could best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

informational

considerate and generous

ominous and threatening

educational and warning

mocking

Correct answer:

educational and warning

Explanation:

In this passage, the author tries to “educate” and “warn” his audience about the extremely unhealthy levels of sugar consumption in the United States. His tone is therefore best seen as “educational” (providing a lesson) and “warning.” To provide further help, “informational” means giving information; “ominous” and “threatening” both mean suggesting something bad is going to happen; “considerate” means kind and thinking about others; “mocking” means making fun of someone or something; and “generous” means giving and kind.

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting In History Passages

Adapted from The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon (1921)

I am going to take you to the top of the highest pyramid and I am going to ask that you imagine yourself possessed of the eyes of a hawk. Way, way off, in the distance, far beyond the yellow sands of the desert, you will see something green and shimmering. It is a valley situated between two rivers. It is the land of mystery and wonder which the Greeks called Mesopotamia—the "country between the rivers."

The names of the two rivers are the Euphrates and the Tigris. They begin their course amidst the snows of the mountains of Armenia and slowly they flow through the southern plain until they reach the muddy banks of the Persian gulf. They perform a very useful service. They turn the arid regions of Western Asia into a fertile garden.

The valley of the Nile had attracted people because it had offered them food upon fairly easy terms. The "land between the rivers" was popular for the same reason. It was a country full of promise and both the inhabitants of the northern mountains and the tribes which roamed through the southern deserts tried to claim this territory as their own and most exclusive possession. The constant rivalry between the mountaineers and the desert-nomads led to endless warfare. Only the strongest and the bravest could hope to survive, and that will explain why Mesopotamia became the home of very strong people.

In the underlined sentences, Mesopotamia is primarily compared to __________.

Possible Answers:

The Tigris

Egypt

The Euphrates

Persia

Albania

Correct answer:

Egypt

Explanation:

“Mesopotamia” is the area of the world between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris; it was for a time also called “Persia.” So, none of these can be the correct answer. The correct answer is “Egypt.” The author compares Mesopotamia to Egypt in this passage when the author says, “The valley of the Nile had attracted people because it had offered them food upon fairly easy terms. The 'land between the rivers' was popular for the same reason” (Egypt being in the valley of the Nile).

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