SSAT Middle Level Reading : Making Predictions Based on Narrative Humanities Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Making Predictions Based On Narrative Humanities Passages

Adapted from The Little Post Boy (1846) by Bayard Taylor.

Very few foreigners travel in Sweden in the winter, on account of the intense cold. As you go northward from Stockholm, the capital, the country becomes ruder and wilder, and the climate more severe. In the sheltered valleys along the Gulf of Bothnia and the rivers that empty into it, there are farms and villages for a distance of seven or eight hundred miles, after which fruit trees disappear, and nothing will grow in the short, cold summers, except potatoes and a little barley. Farther inland, there are great forests and lakes, and ranges of mountains where bears, wolves, and herds of wild reindeer make their home. No people could live in such a country unless they were very industrious and thrifty.

I made my journey in the winter, because I was on my way to Lapland, where it is easier to travel when the swamps and rivers are frozen, and the reindeer-sleds can fly along over the smooth snow. It was very cold indeed, the greater part of the time; the days were short and dark, and if I had not found the people so kind, so cheerful, and so honest, I should have felt inclined to turn back more than once. But I do not think there are better people in the world than those who live in Norrland, which is a Swedish province, commencing about two hundred miles north of Stockholm.

They are a hale, strong people, with yellow hair and bright blue eyes, and the handsomest teeth I ever saw. They live plainly, but very comfortably, in snug wooden houses, with double windows and doors to keep out the cold; and since they cannot do much outdoor work, they spin and weave and mend their farming implements in the large family room, thus enjoying the winter in spite of its severity. They are very happy and contented, and few of them would be willing to leave that cold country and make their homes in a warmer climate.

Where do you think the author of this passage will continue to on his journey?

Possible Answers:

Lapland

Norrland

Norway

Stockholm

Greenland

Correct answer:

Lapland

Explanation:

In this passage, the author says that "I made my journey in the winter, because I was on my way to Lapland, where it is easier to travel when the swamps and rivers are frozen." It is reasonable to infer that if this passage were to continue, it would relate the story of the man's experience in Lapland.

Example Question #2 : Making Predictions Based On Narrative Humanities Passages

Adapted from Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads by John A. Lomax (1910)

The big ranches of the West are now being cut up into small farms. The nester has come, and come to stay. Gone is the buffalo and the free grass of the open plain—even the stinging lizard, the horned frog, the centipede, the prairie dog, the rattlesnake, are fast disappearing. Save in some of the secluded valleys of southern New Mexico, the old-time round-up is no more; the trails to Kansas and to Montana have become grass-grown or lost in fields of waving grain; the maverick steer, the regal longhorn, has been supplanted by his unpoetic but more beefy and profitable Polled Angus, Durham, and Hereford cousins from across the seas. The changing and romantic West of the early days lives mainly in story and in song. The last figure to vanish is the cowboy, the animating spirit of the vanishing era. He sits his horse easily as he rides through a wide valley, enclosed by mountains, clad in the hazy purple of coming night,—with his face turned steadily down the long, long road, "the road that the sun goes down." Dauntless, reckless, without the unearthly purity of Sir Galahad though as gentle to a woman as King Arthur, he is truly a knight of the twentieth century. A vagrant puff of wind shakes a corner of the crimson handkerchief knotted loosely at his throat; the thud of his pony's feet mingling with the jingle of his spurs is borne back; and as the careless, gracious, lovable figure disappears over the divide, the breeze brings to the ears, faint and far yet cheery still, the refrain of a cowboy song.

The next paragraph will most likely contain __________.

Possible Answers:

an introduction of the American cowboy

a description of cowboy songs

a critique of the Wild West lifestyle

a comparison of cowboy and Arthurian legends

a discussion of profitable ranching

Correct answer:

a description of cowboy songs

Explanation:

This paragraph is an introduction of the American cowboy, so it is unlikely that the next will be the same. More likely, the next paragraph will expound on what this one mentioned at the end: the cowboy song. Also, earlier in the paragraph the author mentions that “The changing and romantic West of the early days lives mainly in story and in song.” If he wants to tell us more about the West, it would make sense that he discuss the songs to do so.

Example Question #1 : Making Predictions Based On Narrative Humanities Passages

Adapted from The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon (1921)

Athens and Sparta were both Greek cities and their people spoke a common language. In every other respect they were different. Athens rose high from the plain. It was a city exposed to the fresh breezes from the sea, willing to look at the world with the eyes of a happy child. Sparta, on the other hand, was built at the bottom of a deep valley, and used the surrounding mountains as a barrier against foreign thought. Athens was a city of busy trade. Sparta was an armed camp where people were soldiers for the sake of being soldiers. The people of Athens loved to sit in the sun and discuss poetry or listen to the wise words of a philosopher. The Spartans, on the other hand, never wrote much that was considered literature, but they knew how to fight, they liked to fight, and they sacrificed all human emotions to their ideal of military preparedness.

No wonder that these sombre Spartans viewed the success of Athens with malicious hate. The energy which the defense of the common home had developed in Athens was now used for purposes of a more peaceful nature. The Acropolis was rebuilt and was made into a marble shrine to the goddess Athena. Pericles, the leader of the Athenian democracy, sent far and wide to find famous sculptors and painters and scientists to make the city more beautiful and the young Athenians more worthy of their home. At the same time he kept a watchful eye on Sparta and built high walls that connected Athens with the sea and made her the strongest fortress of that day.

An insignificant quarrel between two little Greek cities led to the final conflict. For thirty years, the war between Athens and Sparta continued. It ended in a terrible disaster for Athens.

During the third year of the war the plague had entered the city. More than half of the people and Pericles, the great leader, had been killed. The plague was followed by a period of bad and untrustworthy leadership. A brilliant young fellow by the name of Alcibiades had gained the favor of the popular assembly. He suggested a raid upon the Spartan colony of Syracuse in Sicily. An expedition was equipped and everything was ready. But Alcibiades got mixed up in a street brawl and was forced to flee. First he lost his ships and then he lost his army, and the few surviving Athenians were thrown into the stone-quarries of Syracuse, where they died from hunger and thirst.

The expedition had killed all the young men of Athens. The city was doomed. After a long siege, the town surrendered in April of the year 404. The high walls were demolished. The navy was taken away by the Spartans. Athens ceased to exist as the center of the great colonial empire that it had conquered during the days of its prosperity. But that wonderful desire to learn and to know and to investigate that had distinguished her free citizens during the days of greatness and prosperity did not perish with the walls and the ships. It continued to live. It became even more brilliant.

Athens no longer shaped the destinies of the land of Greece. But now, as the home of a great university, the city began to influence the minds of people far beyond the narrow frontiers of Hellas.

Which of these statements about the war between Athens and Sparta do you think the author would most likely agree with?

Possible Answers:

The war was a mistake for Athens, but had beneficial consequences for the world.

The war ended without a clear victor and led to future conflict down the line.

None of these answers

The war was a great success for Athens, as they gained new territory abroad.

The war led to the capture of the Athenian navy and the complete destruction of Sicily.

Correct answer:

The war was a mistake for Athens, but had beneficial consequences for the world.

Explanation:

The author of this passage clearly feels that it was a very grave mistake for Athens to involve itself with a war with Sparta, as he says: “For thirty years the war between Athens and Sparta continued. It ended in a terrible disaster for Athens" and “The expedition had killed all the young men of Athens. The city was doomed.” However, he also seems to believe that the war had “beneficial consequences” (good results) for the rest of the world. He says that Athens "continued to live. It became even more brilliant. Athens no longer shaped the destinies of the land of Greece. But now, as the home of a great university, the city began to influence the minds of people far beyond the narrow frontiers of Hellas.”

Example Question #3 : Making Predictions Based On Narrative Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Wild Animals in Captivity" by W. A. Atkinson in Chatterbox Periodical (1906, ed. J. Erskine Clark)

Notwithstanding all the care which is now bestowed upon wild animals in our zoological gardens and menageries, nearly all of them suffer a little in some way or other by confinement. When we think of the great difference which exists between the surroundings natural to a free wild animal, and those of even the best zoological gardens, we cannot but be surprised that so many animals from all parts of the world can be kept alive and in good condition in a climate so changeable as ours. Every effort is made by the keepers to copy as far as possible the natural conditions to which each animal is accustomed.

It was usual, for instance, to deprive all the flesh-eating animals of one of the greatest traveling menageries of food during one day in each week. It was found by experience that the animals were healthier when they suffered periods of fasting like this, than they were when they were fed regularly every day without a break. The explanation of this was very simple. These animals, when they were living wild in the jungles, forests, deserts, or ice-fields, obtained all their food by hunting. When game was scarce or difficult to catch, they were compelled to go hungry; and this occurred so often as to be a natural condition to which they were well accustomed. When, therefore, they were placed in cages, and were fed as regularly, though not as frequently as human beings, their health was more or less impaired.

Animals in confinement often undergo slight changes even when no alteration in their appearance or falling-off in health is noticeable. Many of them, for instance, rarely have young ones, and even when they have, the young are seldom as healthy and robust as if born in a wild state. The keepers have frequently the utmost difficulty in rearing animals which are born in menageries and zoological gardens. Yet if these animals were born in their own countries and under natural conditions, they would grow up healthy and strong, without receiving any more care than a kitten receives from its mother.

An incident which occurred in the Zoo not long ago affords a striking illustration of these facts. A wolf had an ordinary family of eight young ones. The keepers, probably thinking that these were too many for the captive wolf to bring up alone, divided the family. Four of them were left with their mother, and four of them were placed in charge of a collie. The dog took kindly to her foster-children, and reared them successfully with her own. This was only what the keepers expected. But when they placed the young ones together again, and compared the collie's family with the wolf's family, they were surprised to find that the four which had been nurtured by the collie were stronger and better animals than their four brothers and sisters. The best explanation of this result is that the collie was living a healthy natural life, while the wolf, though to all appearance quite well, was not enjoying the full vigor which results from a free and active life.

Based on this whole passage, what can you predict is the best way for zookeepers to best provide for the health of their captive animals?

Possible Answers:

Ensure that each animal is allowed out of its cage on a regular basis to experience a taste of freedom.

Separate animals' young at birth to ensure the most young survive.

Keep the animals well fed and meticulously nurtured.

Imitate the animals’ experience of the wild as closely as possible.

Keep male and female animals of the same species separate to avoid confrontation between males.

Correct answer:

Imitate the animals’ experience of the wild as closely as possible.

Explanation:

The overall argument of this passage, as demonstrated by the stories about the study of the wolf and the collie raising the wolf's pups and the discussion of why it is best to deny captive animals an occasional meal, is that the best way for zookeepers to provide for the health of their captive animals is to “imitate the animals’ experience of the wild as closely as possible.” 

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