SSAT Middle Level Reading : Determining Authorial Purpose in Argumentative Social Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Authorial Attitude, Tone, And Purpose In Argumentative Social Science Passages

Adapted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Thomas Jefferson (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

What is the purpose of the first sentence in the text?

Possible Answers:

To complain of injustice and slavery

To address the ministers of England in a direct dialogue about the colonies' issues

To flourish rhetorically with little meaning at all

To announce the reason for the complaints that will follow

None of the other answer choices

Correct answer:

To announce the reason for the complaints that will follow

Explanation:

The very end of the sentence helps to transition into the next paragraph by stating, "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." This means that in what follows the separation discussed in the first sentence will have its causes listed. Some of this is found in this selection, though it continues with a long list of accusations not included here.

Example Question #5 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In History Passages

Adapted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Thomas Jefferson (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

What is the purpose of the underlined selection, "That whenever any Form . . ."?

Possible Answers:

To declare a self-evident truth that justifies the cause for independence

To directly accuse King George III of his tyrannical actions

None of the other answer choices

To incite rebellion in the colonies

To incite global rebellion

Correct answer:

To declare a self-evident truth that justifies the cause for independence

Explanation:

Notice that the sentence is of this form: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, [that] all men . . ., that they are . . ., that to secure [etc]."  Although the punctuation is odd, the general idea is that this is a long list of self-evident truths. The one in question states that when a government becomes destructive of the ends for which it is instituted, it may be altered or abolished. This is not inciting complete rebellion. Likewise, it is not a direct accusation of George III. It is merely setting the stage for justifying the revolution by appealing to what Mr. Jefferson was declaring to be a self-evident truth. 

 

Example Question #1 : Determining Authorial Purpose In Argumentative Social Science Passages

"The Modern Day vs. the 'Good 'Ol Days'" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

You may have, at one time or another, in your life, heard an elderly person bemoan the violence of our times and express a yearning for the “good ol’ days” of his or her youth. We might reasonably wonder what bygone era would be better than these days we live in. The days when children were considered lucky to make it past their fifth birthday? The days when the entire planet convulsed to the imperial and militaristic urges of the European powers? The days when the specter of nuclear war hung over every man, woman, and child?

The truth of the matter is we live in the most relatively peaceful time period in human history. Death by infectious disease is no longer the norm for everyone; the survival rate for children continues to grow around the world; and conflict, the type which involves and threatens the civilian population, is now the exception rather than the rule. Of course, none of these things have been eradicated from our society. Such a complete elimination of disease, violence, and death may never be possible. But, statistics from human history track one almost entirely uninterrupted progression—from almost everyone dying a violent or disease-ridden death to a small and unfortunate minority. Next time you hear someone claim a desire to return to the exalted days of their youth, kindly advise them to stop their misguided nostalgia and start contributing to the onward march of humanity.

The questions at the end of the first paragraph serve the purpose of __________.

Possible Answers:

highlighting terrible things from the past

undermining an argument made by people in a position of power

expressing outrage at how little young people care

outlining the right path for the future

offering a counter to the previously established argument

Correct answer:

highlighting terrible things from the past

Explanation:

The author introduces the questions at the end of the first paragraph by saying “We might reasonably wonder what bygone era would be better than these days we live in.” The subject matter of the questions is then a series of horrible and unfair things from the past. So the best answer choice is that the questions highlight the inequities (unfair deficiencies) of the past.

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