SSAT Middle Level Reading : Finding Context-Dependent Meanings of Words in Argumentative Social Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #64 : 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 meaning of the word “dissolve” in context?

Possible Answers:

To fix

To fulminate

To end

To put into solution

To question

Correct answer:

To end

Explanation:

In general, we use the word "dissolve" to describe the process of putting a solid into solution, as when we dissolve sugar or salt into water. This process "breaks up" the molecules (in different ways, not always completely traumatically). From this usage, we also can utilize the term to describe any process that brings something to an end. A business can be dissolved when its parts are broken up, and the relationship of the colonies to England can be dissolved. This is the sense it which the word is used in the passage.

Example Question #4 : 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 underlined word “bemoan” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

revel in

rejoice at

complain about

express confusion about

despise

Correct answer:

complain about

Explanation:

The word “bemoan” means express dislike or sorrow about. In this context, it is being used slightly differently. The author is describing how old people “bemoan” the violence of our times. It would make little sense for old people to “rejoice at” (celebrate) or “revel in.” They might reasonably be confused about or express hatred (“despise.”) But, the best fit for the context of the opening sentence and the manner in which the author is rallying against a certain mentality is “complain about.”

Example Question #5 : 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 underlined word “nostalgia” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

striving for the future

derision of the past.

fear of the future

longing for the past

force of nature

Correct answer:

longing for the past

Explanation:

“Nostalgia” is a sentimental longing for the past, or a desire to return to memories of the past. From context, you could determine this quite easily; the author says, “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 “nostalgia” mentioned in this excerpt is the word used to describe the earlier mentioned “desire to return to the exalted days of their youth.” To help, “striving” is working hard to achieve something, and “derision” is mocking and scorn.

Example Question #1 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Words 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 underlined word “specter” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

threat

concern

phantom

apparition

ghost

Correct answer:

threat

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “The days when the specter of nuclear war hung over every man, woman, and child?” The word “specter” has a primary meaning of ghost, phantom, or apparition; however, it is clearly not being used in this context, so you must try to determine a secondary meaning of the word from the context of the sentence. “Nuclear war” is something that would have concerned people certainly, but more related to the tone of the essay and the context of the sentence is the answer choice “threat.” The secondary meaning of the word “specter” is something widely feared as a possibility, a threat or menace.

Example Question #2 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Words In Argumentative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Citizenship in a Republic (1910) by Theodore Roosevelt

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The word “spends” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

neglects 

considers 

buys 

fails 

exhausts 

Correct answer:

exhausts 

Explanation:

The author favorably describes how some people “spend” themselves in a difficult cause. In this context the word “spends” means to exhaust. You might be more familiar with hearing the phrase “I’m spent” used by someone who has put a great deal of effort into something and no longer has the energy to continue.

Example Question #74 : History Passages

Adapted from Citizenship in a Republic (1910) by Theodore Roosevelt

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The word “errs” is a reference to the importance of __________.

Possible Answers:

historical context 

government 

celebration 

mistakes 

challenges

Correct answer:

mistakes 

Explanation:

To err means to make a mistake. The author describes how it is important to take chances, to make mistakes and errors, and to learn from those errors. According to the author striving and failing is much better than not striving at all. Indeed, the author implies that making mistakes is a necessary part of the process.

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