SSAT Middle Level Reading : Finding Context-Dependent Meanings of Phrases in Narrative Social Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #14 : Hspt Reading

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

On Christmas Day, William was crowned in Westminster Abbey under the title of William the First, but he is best known as William the Conqueror. It was a strange coronation. One of the bishops who performed the ceremony asked the Normans, in French, if they would have William the Conqueror for their king. They answered "Yes." Another of the bishops put the same question to the Saxons, in English. They too answered "Yes," with a loud shout. The noise was heard by a guard of Norman horse-soldiers outside, and was mistaken for resistance on the part of the English. The guard instantly set fire to the neighboring houses, and chaos ensued, in the midst of which the king, being left alone in the abbey with a few priests (and they all being in a terrible fright together) was hurriedly crowned. When the crown was placed upon his head, he swore to govern the English as well as the best of their own monarchs. I dare say you think, as I do, that if we except the great Alfred, he might pretty easily have done that.

When the author says William was “best known” as William the Conqueror, which of the following does he most nearly mean?

Possible Answers:

Most sarcastically known

Most commonly known

Most deservedly known

Most accurately known

Most humorously known

Correct answer:

Most commonly known


When the author says that William was “best known” as William the Conqueror, he means “most commonly known.” There is no contextual evidence to support the notion that the author thought William was “humorously” or “sarcastically” known as William the Conqueror, nor does it seem as if the author would be expressing that “Conqueror” conveys a sense of “accuracy.” It is possible the author could mean “deservedly,” but from the manner in which he goes on to use William’s title as “William the Conqueror” the next time he mentions him, we may infer that he is trying to say that William was “most commonly known” as “William the Conqueror."

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