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

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #2 : Poetry Passages

Adapted from "No Harm Meant" in Chatterbox Periodical edited by J. Erskine Clark (1906)

Two puppies with good-natured hearts, but clumsy little toes,
Were feeling rather sleepy, so they settled for a doze;
But underneath the very ledge on which they chanced to be,
A large and stately pussy cat was basking dreamily.

A short half-hour had hardly passed, when one pup made a stir,
And stretching out a lazy paw, just touched the tabby's fur;
'Twas nothing but an accident, yet, oh! the angry wail!
The flashing in the tabby's eye, the lashing of her tail!

"Who's that that dares to serve me so?" she cried with arching back.
"I'll teach you puppies how to make an unprovoked attack!"
One puppy started to his feet with terror in his eyes,
The other said, as soon as pluck had overcome surprise:

"I'm really very sorry, ma'am, but honestly declare
I hadn't any notion that a pussy cat was there."
But just like those who look for wrong in every one they see,
She left the spot, nor deigned to take the pup's apology.

“The flashing in the tabby’s eye” demonstrates __________.

Possible Answers:

the author’s belief in the aggressive nature of cats

the cat’s anger at having suffered an affront 

the cat’s good-humor during the uncomfortable situation

the dogs' fear at the anger of the cat

the cat’s relaxed belief that it was probably an accident

Correct answer:

the cat’s anger at having suffered an affront 

Explanation:

In context, “the flashing in the tabby’s eye” occurs shortly after she is “attacked." This part of the poem is surrounded by other descriptions of her anger, so it makes sense that it is meant to be an example of the “cat’s anger at having been attacked.” A “flashing in the eye” is an English idiom that means a look of anger or real meaning that can be seen in someone’s eyes. To provide further help, “suffered an affront” means been attacked or been insulted.

Example Question #2 : Inferences And Predictions In Poetry Passages

Adapted from "No Harm Meant" in Chatterbox Periodical edited by J. Erskine Clark (1906)

Two puppies with good-natured hearts, but clumsy little toes,
Were feeling rather sleepy, so they settled for a doze;
But underneath the very ledge on which they chanced to be,
A large and stately pussy cat was basking dreamily.

A short half-hour had hardly passed, when one pup made a stir,
And stretching out a lazy paw, just touched the tabby's fur;
'Twas nothing but an accident, yet, oh! the angry wail!
The flashing in the tabby's eye, the lashing of her tail!

"Who's that that dares to serve me so?" she cried with arching back.
"I'll teach you puppies how to make an unprovoked attack!"
One puppy started to his feet with terror in his eyes,
The other said, as soon as pluck had overcome surprise:

"I'm really very sorry, ma'am, but honestly declare
I hadn't any notion that a pussy cat was there."
But just like those who look for wrong in every one they see,
She left the spot, nor deigned to take the pup's apology.

What can you infer about the cat’s opinion of herself in comparison to how the cat feels about the dogs?

Possible Answers:

The cat thinks of herself as better than the dogs.

The cat thinks she is much less intelligent than the dogs.

The cat thinks the dogs are much stronger than she is.

The cat thinks the dogs are vicious and trying to kill her.

The cat is embarrassed to be in the same house as the dogs.

Correct answer:

The cat thinks of herself as better than the dogs.

Explanation:

From the proud and dignified manner in which the cat carries herself and the cat’s comments when she is attacked (“'Who's that that dares to serve me so?'”), we can infer that the cat thinks very highly of herself and thinks that she is better than the puppies. Furthermore, toward the end of the passage, the author uses the word “deigned,” which means condescended or agreed to talk to someone who you think is lower than you. These clues all add up to suggest that the cat thinks of herself as better than the dogs.

Example Question #1 : Inferences And Predictions In Poetry Passages

Adapted from The Cat and the Fox by Jean de la Fontaine (1678)

The Cat and the Fox once took a walk together,
Sharpening their wits with talk about the weather
And as their walking sharpened appetite too,
They also took some things they had no right to.
Cream, that is so delicious when it thickens,
Pleased the Cat best. The Fox liked little chickens.

With stomachs filled, they presently grew prouder,
And each began to try to talk the louder,
Bragging about his skill, and strength, and cunning.
"Pooh!" said the Fox. "You ought to see me running.
Besides, I have a hundred tricks. You Cat, you!
What can you do when Mr. Dog comes at you?"
"To tell the truth," the Cat said, "though it grieve me
I've but one trick. Yet that's enough—believe me!"

There came a pack of fox-hounds, yelping, baying.
"Pardon me", said the Cat. "I can't be staying.
This is my trick." And up a tree he scurried,
Leaving the Fox below a trifle worried.

In vain, he tried his hundred tricks and ruses
(The sort of thing that Mr. Dog confuses),
Doubling, and seeking one hole, then another,
Smoked out of each until he thought he'd smother.
At last as he once more came out of cover,
Two nimble dogs pounced on him—all was over!

What happens to the Fox at the end of the story?

Possible Answers:

The Fox enjoys more cream.

The Fox successfully tricks the fox-hounds.

The Fox is caught by the fox-hounds.

The Fox meets up with the Cat for dinner.

The Fox escapes up a tree with the Cat.

Correct answer:

The Fox is caught by the fox-hounds.

Explanation:

We learn in the last sentence of the story that "Two nimble dogs pounced on him—all was over." Since "pounce" is defined as to swoop suddenly so as to catch prey, we can safely assume that the Fox is caught by the fox-hounds.

Example Question #3 : Poetry Passages

Adapted from “The Duel” by Eugene Field (1888)

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'Twas half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Not one nor t'other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
(I wasn't there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The gingham dog went "bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I'm only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! What shall we do?"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfullest way you ever saw--
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
(Don't fancy I exaggerate!
I got my views from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning where the two had sat
They found no trace of the dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole the pair away!
But the truth about the cat and the pup
Is this: They ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock, it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.)

Which of these words best describes the tone of this poem?

Possible Answers:

Educational

Silly

Serious

Somber

Intense

Correct answer:

Silly

Explanation:

When trying to figure out the tone of a story you have to look for how the information is being presented to you and what the author’s attitude towards the subject and the audience is. For example, the tone of a cartoon would likely be silly and the tone of a funeral speech would be very sad and serious. In this poem, the tone is silly and not serious because it is a story about a cloth dog and a cloth cat fighting told from the perspective of a clock and a plate—not the most serious of subjects. ("Gingham" and "calico" are each prints found on fabrics, so you can infer that the cat and dog are each objects made of fabric, not live animals.)

Example Question #4 : Poetry Passages

Adapted from "A Good Boy" by Robert Louis Stevenson (1913)

I woke before the morning, I was happy all the day, 
I never said an ugly word, but smiled and stuck to play. 

And now at last the sun is going down behind the wood, 
And I am very happy, for I know that I've been good. 

I know that, till to-morrow I shall see the sun arise, 
No ugly dream shall fright my mind, no ugly sight my eyes. 

But slumber hold me tightly till I waken in the dawn, 
And hear the thrushes singing in the lilacs round the lawn.

Why do you think the title of this poem is "A Good Boy"?

Possible Answers:

The narrator is well-behaved.

The narrator loves animals.

The narrator is generous.

The narrator helped his sister with her homework.

The narrator is handsome.

Correct answer:

The narrator is well-behaved.

Explanation:

The title of this poem, "A Good Boy," is clearly referencing the narrator's behavior. Throughout the poem, the main character is "happy all the day," "never [says] an ugly word," and smiles a lot.

All of these characterizations of the narrator indicate that the best answer choice is "The main character is well-behaved." Nothing in the rest of the poem directly suggests that any of the other answer choices are true.

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