SSAT Middle Level Reading : Locating Details in Narrative Social Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #53 : Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

Perhaps the most striking feature of a medieval village was its self-sufficiency. The inhabitants tried to produce at home everything they required, in order to avoid the uncertainty and expense of trade. The land gave them their food; the forest provided them with wood for houses and furniture. They made their own clothes of flax, wool, and leather. Their meal and flour were ground at the village mill, and at the village smithy their farm implements were manufactured. The chief articles which needed to be brought from some distant market were salt, used to salt down farm animals killed in autumn, iron for various tools, and millstones. Cattle, horses, and surplus grain also formed common objects of exchange between manors.

Life in a medieval village was rude and rough. The peasants labored from sunrise to sunset, ate coarse fare, lived in huts, and suffered from frequent diseases. They were often the helpless prey of the feudal nobles. If their lord happened to be a quarrelsome man, given to fighting with his neighbors, they might see their lands ravaged, their cattle driven off, their village burned, and might themselves be slain. Even under peaceful conditions the narrow, shut-in life of the manor could not be otherwise than degrading.

Yet there is another side to the picture. If the peasants had a just and generous lord, they probably led a fairly comfortable existence. Except when crops failed, they had an abundance of food, and possibly wine or cider drink. They shared a common life in the work of the fields, in the sports of the village green, and in the services of the parish church. They enjoyed many holidays; it has been estimated that, besides Sundays, about eight weeks in every year were free from work. Festivities at Christmas, Easter, and May Day, at the end of ploughing and the completion of harvest, relieved the monotony of the daily round of labor. Perhaps these medieval peasants were not much worse off than the agricultural laborers in most countries of modern Europe. 

How many weeks of vacation is it thought that the peasants received each year?

Possible Answers:

Eight 

Six

Five

Four

Seven 

Correct answer:

Eight 

Explanation:

This is a question that checks whether you can find details in the passage. The author states, “[Peasants] enjoyed many holidays; it has been estimated that, besides Sundays, about eight weeks in every year were free from work.”

Example Question #54 : Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

Perhaps the most striking feature of a medieval village was its self-sufficiency. The inhabitants tried to produce at home everything they required, in order to avoid the uncertainty and expense of trade. The land gave them their food; the forest provided them with wood for houses and furniture. They made their own clothes of flax, wool, and leather. Their meal and flour were ground at the village mill, and at the village smithy their farm implements were manufactured. The chief articles which needed to be brought from some distant market were salt, used to salt down farm animals killed in autumn, iron for various tools, and millstones. Cattle, horses, and surplus grain also formed common objects of exchange between manors.

Life in a medieval village was rude and rough. The peasants labored from sunrise to sunset, ate coarse fare, lived in huts, and suffered from frequent diseases. They were often the helpless prey of the feudal nobles. If their lord happened to be a quarrelsome man, given to fighting with his neighbors, they might see their lands ravaged, their cattle driven off, their village burned, and might themselves be slain. Even under peaceful conditions the narrow, shut-in life of the manor could not be otherwise than degrading.

Yet there is another side to the picture. If the peasants had a just and generous lord, they probably led a fairly comfortable existence. Except when crops failed, they had an abundance of food, and possibly wine or cider drink. They shared a common life in the work of the fields, in the sports of the village green, and in the services of the parish church. They enjoyed many holidays; it has been estimated that, besides Sundays, about eight weeks in every year were free from work. Festivities at Christmas, Easter, and May Day, at the end of ploughing and the completion of harvest, relieved the monotony of the daily round of labor. Perhaps these medieval peasants were not much worse off than the agricultural laborers in most countries of modern Europe. 

Which of these is not mentioned as a commonly exchanged product?

Possible Answers:

Cattle

None of these answers are mentioned.

All of these answers are mentioned. 

Horses

Grain 

Correct answer:

All of these answers are mentioned. 

Explanation:

The author says, “Cattle, horses, and surplus grain also formed common objects of exchange between manors.” All of these answers are mentioned as a commonly exchanged product. 

Example Question #471 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from The Man who Spoiled Napoleon’s Destiny by Rev. W. H. Fitchett, LL.D. (1899)

From March 18 to May 20, 1799—for more than sixty days and nights, that is—a little, half-forgotten, and more than half-ruined Syrian town was the scene of one of the fiercest and most dramatic sieges recorded in military history. And rarely has there been a struggle so apparently one-sided.

A handful of British sailors and Turkish irregulars were holding Acre, a town without regular defenses, against Napoleon, the most brilliant military genius of his generation, with an army of 10,000 war-hardened veterans, the "Army of Italy"—soldiers who had dared the snows of the Alps and conquered Italy, and to whom victory was a familiar experience. In their ranks military daring had reached, perhaps, its very highest point. And yet the sailors inside that ring of crumbling wall won! At Acre Napoleon experienced his first defeat; and, years after, at St. Helena, he said of Sir Sidney Smith, the gallant sailor who baffled him, "That man made me miss my destiny." It is a curious fact that one Englishman thwarted Napoleon's career in the East, and another ended his career in the West, and it may be doubted which of the two Napoleon hated most—Wellington, who finally overthrew him at Waterloo, or Sidney Smith, who, to use Napoleon's own words, made him "miss his destiny," and exchange the empire of the East for a lonely pinnacle of rock in the Atlantic.

In what year did the siege of Acre take place?

Possible Answers:

1799

1800

1812

1899

1912

Correct answer:

1799

Explanation:

In the first sentence, the author reveals how the siege of Acre took place between March 18th and May 20th, 1799. 

Example Question #21 : Main Idea, Details, Opinions, And Arguments In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Man who Spoiled Napoleon’s Destiny by Rev. W. H. Fitchett, LL.D. (1899)

From March 18 to May 20, 1799—for more than sixty days and nights, that is—a little, half-forgotten, and more than half-ruined Syrian town was the scene of one of the fiercest and most dramatic sieges recorded in military history. And rarely has there been a struggle so apparently one-sided.

A handful of British sailors and Turkish irregulars were holding Acre, a town without regular defenses, against Napoleon, the most brilliant military genius of his generation, with an army of 10,000 war-hardened veterans, the "Army of Italy"—soldiers who had dared the snows of the Alps and conquered Italy, and to whom victory was a familiar experience. In their ranks military daring had reached, perhaps, its very highest point. And yet the sailors inside that ring of crumbling wall won! At Acre Napoleon experienced his first defeat; and, years after, at St. Helena, he said of Sir Sidney Smith, the gallant sailor who baffled him, "That man made me miss my destiny." It is a curious fact that one Englishman thwarted Napoleon's career in the East, and another ended his career in the West, and it may be doubted which of the two Napoleon hated most—Wellington, who finally overthrew him at Waterloo, or Sidney Smith, who, to use Napoleon's own words, made him "miss his destiny," and exchange the empire of the East for a lonely pinnacle of rock in the Atlantic.

Who is described as “the most brilliant military genius of his generation?”

Possible Answers:

Napoleon

Waterloo

Sir Sidney Smith 

Wellington 

None of these answers

Correct answer:

Napoleon

Explanation:

Napoleon is described as “the most brilliant military genius of his generation" in the first sentence of the passage's second paragraph.

Example Question #3 : Locating Details In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Man who Spoiled Napoleon’s Destiny by Rev. W. H. Fitchett, LL.D. (1899)

From March 18 to May 20, 1799—for more than sixty days and nights, that is—a little, half-forgotten, and more than half-ruined Syrian town was the scene of one of the fiercest and most dramatic sieges recorded in military history. And rarely has there been a struggle so apparently one-sided.

A handful of British sailors and Turkish irregulars were holding Acre, a town without regular defenses, against Napoleon, the most brilliant military genius of his generation, with an army of 10,000 war-hardened veterans, the "Army of Italy"—soldiers who had dared the snows of the Alps and conquered Italy, and to whom victory was a familiar experience. In their ranks military daring had reached, perhaps, its very highest point. And yet the sailors inside that ring of crumbling wall won! At Acre Napoleon experienced his first defeat; and, years after, at St. Helena, he said of Sir Sidney Smith, the gallant sailor who baffled him, "That man made me miss my destiny." It is a curious fact that one Englishman thwarted Napoleon's career in the East, and another ended his career in the West, and it may be doubted which of the two Napoleon hated most—Wellington, who finally overthrew him at Waterloo, or Sidney Smith, who, to use Napoleon's own words, made him "miss his destiny," and exchange the empire of the East for a lonely pinnacle of rock in the Atlantic.

What is the name given to Napoleon’s troops?

Possible Answers:

The Empire Army

The Army of Destiny

The Army of the Alps

The Army of Italy

The French Army

Correct answer:

The Army of Italy

Explanation:

The author describes Napoleon's army as "an army of 10,000 war-hardened veterans, the "Army of Italy"—soldiers who had dared the snows of the Alps and conquered Italy, and to whom victory was a familiar experience.” So, the name given to Napoleon's army is "the Army of Italy."

Example Question #472 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from "The Great Red Dragon of Wales" in Welsh Fairy Tales (1921) by William Elliot Griffis.

Every old country that has won fame in history and built up a civilization of its own has a national flower. Besides this, some living creature, bird, or beast, or, it may be, a fish is on its flag. In places of honor, it stands as the emblem of the nation; that is, of the people, apart from the land they live on. Besides flag and symbol, it has a motto. That of Wales is: "Awake: It is light."

Now because the glorious stories of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland have been nearly lost in those of mighty England, men have at times, almost forgotten about the leek, the thistle, and the shamrock, which stand for the other three divisions of the British Isles.

Yet each of these peoples has a history as noble as that of which the rose and the lion are the emblems. Each has also its patron saint and civilizer. So we have Saint George, Saint David, Saint Andrew, and Saint Patrick, all of them white-souled heroes. On the union flag, or standard of the United Kingdom, we see their three crosses.

The lion of England, the harp of Ireland, the thistle of Scotland, and the Red Dragon of Wales represent the four peoples in the British Isles, each with its own speech, traditions, and emblems; yet all in unity and in loyalty.

What is the motto of Wales?

Possible Answers:

“The Eternal State.”

“Union makes strength.”

“Wherever the fates carry us.”

“Strength and endurance.”

“Awake: It is light.”

Correct answer:

“Awake: It is light.”

Explanation:

The author says that every great nation has a flag, a symbol, and a motto; that of Wales is: "Awake: It is light."

Example Question #473 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from "The Great Red Dragon of Wales" in Welsh Fairy Tales (1921) by William Elliot Griffis.

Every old country that has won fame in history and built up a civilization of its own has a national flower. Besides this, some living creature, bird, or beast, or, it may be, a fish is on its flag. In places of honor, it stands as the emblem of the nation; that is, of the people, apart from the land they live on. Besides flag and symbol, it has a motto. That of Wales is: "Awake: It is light."

Now because the glorious stories of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland have been nearly lost in those of mighty England, men have at times, almost forgotten about the leek, the thistle, and the shamrock, which stand for the other three divisions of the British Isles.

Yet each of these peoples has a history as noble as that of which the rose and the lion are the emblems. Each has also its patron saint and civilizer. So we have Saint George, Saint David, Saint Andrew, and Saint Patrick, all of them white-souled heroes. On the union flag, or standard of the United Kingdom, we see their three crosses.

The lion of England, the harp of Ireland, the thistle of Scotland, and the Red Dragon of Wales represent the four peoples in the British Isles, each with its own speech, traditions, and emblems; yet all in unity and in loyalty.

Which of these countries is NOT correctly matched with its appropriate emblem?

Possible Answers:

England—Rose.

Scotland—Bagpipes.

Wales—Red Dragon.

They are all correctly matched.

Ireland—Harp.

Correct answer:

Scotland—Bagpipes.

Explanation:

The passage reveals that England has a lion and a rose; Ireland the shamrock and a harp; Wales the leek and the red dragon; Scotland the thistle and nothing else. There is no mention of bagpipes. This is a trick question relying on you having carefully read the whole passage to spot the trick.

Example Question #1 : Locating Details In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

Henry II, who ascended the English throne in 1154 C.E., was a grandson of William the Conqueror and the first of the famous Plantagenet family, Henry spent more than half of his reign abroad, looking after his extensive possessions in France, but this fact did not prevent him from giving England good government. Three things in which all Englishmen take special pride—the courts, the jury system, and the Common law—began to take shape during Henry's reign.

Henry, first of all, developed the royal court of justice. This had been, at first, simply the court of the king's chief vassals, corresponding to the local feudal courts. Henry transformed it from an occasional assembly of warlike nobles into a regular body of trained lawyers, and at the same time opened its doors to all except serfs. In the king's court any freeman could find a justice that was cheaper and speedier than that dispensed by the feudal lords. The higher courts of England have sprung from this institution.

Henry also took measures to bring the king's justice directly to the people. He sent members of the royal court on circuit throughout the kingdom. At least once a year a judge was to hold an assembly in each county and try such cases as were brought before him. This system of circuit judges helped to make the law uniform in all parts of England.

The king's court owed much of its popularity to the fact that it employed a better form of trying cases than the old ordeal, oath-swearing, or judicial duel. Henry introduced a method of jury trial which had long been in use in Normandy. When a case came before the king's judges on circuit, they were to select twelve knights, usually neighbors of the parties engaged in the dispute, to make an investigation and give a "verdict" as to which side was in the right. These selected men bore the name of "jurors," because they swore to tell the truth. In Henry's time this method of securing justice applied only to civil cases, that is, to cases affecting land and other forms of property, but later it was extended to persons charged with criminal offenses. Thus arose the "petty jury," an institution which nearly all European peoples have borrowed from England.

Another of Henry's innovations developed into the "grand jury." Before his time, many offenders went unpunished, especially if they were so powerful that no private individual dared accuse them. Henry provided that when the king's justices came to a county court, a number of selected men should be put upon their oath and required to give the names of any persons whom they knew or believed to be guilty of crimes. Such persons were then to be arrested and tried. This "grand jury," as it came to be called, thus had the public duty of making accusations, whether its members felt any personal interest in the matter or not.

The decisions handed down by the legal experts who composed the royal court formed the basis of the English system of jurisprudence. It received the name “Common law” because it grew out of such customs as were common to the realm, as distinguished from those which were merely local. This law, from Henry's II's time, became so widespread and so firmly established that it could not be supplanted by the Roman law followed on the Continent. Carried by English colonists across the seas, it has now come to prevail throughout a great part of the world.

Which of these statements about Henry II is true?

Possible Answers:

He was married to Marie Antoinette.

He founded the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

He paid little interest in economic or legal matters, focusing instead on warfare.

He was the great Grandfather of William the Conqueror.

He spent most of his time living outside of England.

Correct answer:

He spent most of his time living outside of England.

Explanation:

In the first paragraph the author states, “Henry spent more than half of his reign abroad.” “Abroad” means outside the country.

Example Question #2 : Locating Details In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

Henry II, who ascended the English throne in 1154 C.E., was a grandson of William the Conqueror and the first of the famous Plantagenet family, Henry spent more than half of his reign abroad, looking after his extensive possessions in France, but this fact did not prevent him from giving England good government. Three things in which all Englishmen take special pride—the courts, the jury system, and the Common law—began to take shape during Henry's reign.

Henry, first of all, developed the royal court of justice. This had been, at first, simply the court of the king's chief vassals, corresponding to the local feudal courts. Henry transformed it from an occasional assembly of warlike nobles into a regular body of trained lawyers, and at the same time opened its doors to all except serfs. In the king's court any freeman could find a justice that was cheaper and speedier than that dispensed by the feudal lords. The higher courts of England have sprung from this institution.

Henry also took measures to bring the king's justice directly to the people. He sent members of the royal court on circuit throughout the kingdom. At least once a year a judge was to hold an assembly in each county and try such cases as were brought before him. This system of circuit judges helped to make the law uniform in all parts of England.

The king's court owed much of its popularity to the fact that it employed a better form of trying cases than the old ordeal, oath-swearing, or judicial duel. Henry introduced a method of jury trial which had long been in use in Normandy. When a case came before the king's judges on circuit, they were to select twelve knights, usually neighbors of the parties engaged in the dispute, to make an investigation and give a "verdict" as to which side was in the right. These selected men bore the name of "jurors," because they swore to tell the truth. In Henry's time this method of securing justice applied only to civil cases, that is, to cases affecting land and other forms of property, but later it was extended to persons charged with criminal offenses. Thus arose the "petty jury," an institution which nearly all European peoples have borrowed from England.

Another of Henry's innovations developed into the "grand jury." Before his time, many offenders went unpunished, especially if they were so powerful that no private individual dared accuse them. Henry provided that when the king's justices came to a county court, a number of selected men should be put upon their oath and required to give the names of any persons whom they knew or believed to be guilty of crimes. Such persons were then to be arrested and tried. This "grand jury," as it came to be called, thus had the public duty of making accusations, whether its members felt any personal interest in the matter or not.

The decisions handed down by the legal experts who composed the royal court formed the basis of the English system of jurisprudence. It received the name “Common law” because it grew out of such customs as were common to the realm, as distinguished from those which were merely local. This law, from Henry's II's time, became so widespread and so firmly established that it could not be supplanted by the Roman law followed on the Continent. Carried by English colonists across the seas, it has now come to prevail throughout a great part of the world.

Who was excluded from equal justice in Henry’s court system?

Possible Answers:

Priests

Nobles 

Serfs

Merchants

The King 

Correct answer:

Serfs

Explanation:

In context, the author states, “Henry, first of all, developed the royal court of justice. This had been, at first, simply the court of the king's chief vassals, corresponding to the local feudal courts. Henry transformed it from an occasional assembly of warlike nobles into a regular body of trained lawyers, and at the same time opened its doors to all except serfs.” As it is stated that Henry’s Court System was open to everyone except serfs, it can be said that serfs were excluded from equal justice in Henry’s court system.

Example Question #2 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In History Passages

Adapted from Early European History Hutton Webster (1917)

It was the work of Darius to provide for his dominions a stable government which should preserve what the sword had won. The problem was difficult. The empire was a collection of many people widely different in race, language, customs, and religion. Darius did not attempt to weld the conquered nations into unity. As long as the subjects of Persia paid tribute and furnished troops for the royal army, they were allowed to conduct their own affairs with little interference from the Great King.

The entire empire, excluding Persia proper, was divided into twenty satrapies, or provinces, each one with its civil governor, or satrap. The satraps carried out the laws and collected the heavy tribute annually levied throughout the empire. In most of the provinces there were also military governors who commanded the army and reported directly to the king. This device of entrusting the civil and military functions to separate officials lessened the danger of revolts against the Persian authority. As an additional precaution Darius provided special agents whose business it was to travel from province to province and investigate the conduct of his officials. It became a proverb that "the king has many eyes and many ears."

Darius also established a system of military roads throughout the Persian dominions. The roads were provided at frequent intervals with inns, where postmen stood always in readiness to take up a letter and carry it to the next station. The Royal Road from Susa, the Persian capital, to Sardis in Lydia was over fifteen hundred miles long; but government couriers, using relays of fresh horses, could cover the distance within a week. An old Greek writer declares with admiration that "there is nothing mortal more swift than these messengers."

Into how many satrapies was Persia divided?

Possible Answers:

Ten 

Fifteen 

Two 

Twenty 

Thirteen 

Correct answer:

Twenty 

Explanation:

This is a simple detail retention question that requires you to read the passage in search of a specific detail. At the beginning of the second paragraph, the author says, “The entire empire, excluding Persia proper, was divided into twenty satrapies, or provinces, each one with its civil governor, or satrap.” So the correct answer is “twenty.”

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