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

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #2 : Drawing Generalizations About Natural Science Passages

Adapted from Volume Four of The Natural History of Animals: The Animal Life of the World in Its Various Aspects and Relations by James Richard Ainsworth Davis (1903)

The examples of protective resemblance so far quoted are mostly permanent adaptations to one particular sort of surrounding. There are, however, numerous animals which possess the power of adjusting their color more or less rapidly so as to harmonize with a changing environment.

Some of the best known of these cases are found among those mammals and birds that inhabit countries more or less covered with snow during a part of the year. A good instance is afforded by the Irish or variable hare, which is chiefly found in Ireland and Scotland. In summer, this looks very much like an ordinary hare, though rather grayer in tint and smaller in size, but in winter it becomes white with the exception of the black tips to the ears. Investigations that have been made on the closely allied American hare seem to show that the phenomenon is due to the growth of new hairs of white hue. 

The common stoat is subject to similar color change in the northern parts of its range. In summer it is of a bright reddish brown color with the exception of the under parts, which are yellowish white, and the end of the tail, which is black. But in winter, the entire coat, save only the tip of the tail, becomes white, and in that condition the animal is known as an ermine. A similar example is afforded by the weasel. The seasonal change in the vegetarian Irish hare is purely of protective character, but in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, it is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.

In which of the following would you most expect to find this passage reprinted?

Possible Answers:

A scholarly report about weasels

An article in a biology magazine

A cookbook

A how-to manual

A physics textbook

Correct answer:

An article in a biology magazine


Where would one most likely find this article reprinted? Well, we wouldn’t be likely to find it in “a how-to manual” as it doesn’t explain how to do anything; it conveys information about certain types of animals. Similarly, since it doesn’t discuss physics or have anything to do with cooking, we can ignore the answers “A physics textbook” and “A cookbook.” This leaves us with “A scholarly report about weasels” and “An article in a biology magazine.” At this point we have to consider how the weasel is discussed in the passage—it is discussed very little, only in the context of being compared to the stoat or providing an example of carnivorous animals that change their fur color, along with the stoat. Given that the weasel isn’t the main subject of the passage, “An article in a biology magazine” is the best answer choice.

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

Adapted from Cassell’s Natural History by Francis Martin Duncan (1913)

The penguins are a group of birds inhabiting the southern ocean, for the most part passing their lives in the icy waters of the Antarctic seas. Like the ratitae, penguins have lost the power of flight, but the wings are modified into swimming organs and the birds lead an aquatic existence and are scarcely seen on land except in the breeding season. They are curious-looking creatures that appear to have no legs, as the limbs are encased in the skin of the body and the large flat feet are set so far back that the birds waddle along on land in an upright position in a very ridiculous manner, carrying their long narrow flippers held out as if they were arms. When swimming, penguins use their wings as paddles while the feet are used for steering.

Penguins are usually gregarious—in the sea, they swim together in schools, and on land, assemble in great numbers in their rookeries. They are very methodical in their ways, and on leaving the water, the birds always follow well-defined tracks leading to the rookeries, marching with much solemnity one behind the other in soldierly order. 

The largest species of penguins are the king penguin and the emperor penguin, the former being found in Kerguelen Land, the Falklands, and other southern islands, and the latter in Victoria Land and on the pack ice of the Antarctic seas. As they are unaccustomed from the isolation of their haunts to being hunted and persecuted by man, emperor penguins are remarkably fearless, and Antarctic explorers invading their territory have found themselves objects of curiosity rather than fear to the strange birds who followed them about as if they were much astonished at their appearance. 

The emperor penguin lays but a single egg and breeds during the intense cold and darkness of the Antarctic winter. To prevent contact with the frozen snow, the bird places its egg upon its flat webbed feet and crouches down upon it so that it is well covered with the feathers. In spite of this precaution, many eggs do not hatch and the mortality amongst the young chicks is very great.

Where would you most expect to find this passage?

Possible Answers:

At the start of a novel in which some of the characters are penguins

At the start of a report about penguins

At the end of a newspaper article about penguins

At the end of a scientific article about the behavior of penguins

At the start of a speech about why we need to protect the rainforest

Correct answer:

At the start of a report about penguins


The passage is clearly about penguins and doesn't discuss rainforests or their conservation, so we can eliminate the answer choice “At the start of a speech about why we need to protect the rainforest.” From where, we can see that all of our answer choices relate to penguins, and two begin with “At the start of . . .” while two others begin with “At the end of . . .” The passage seems to present a very general introduction to penguins, at first telling us that they are “a group of birds.” Because the passage begins as if the reader has never before heard of or seen a penguin or pictures of one, we can infer that it would most likely appear near the beginning of some text about penguins. This leaves us with “At the start of a report about penguins” and “At the start of a novel in which some of the characters are penguins.” This passage is scientific and objective and doesn’t appear to come from a novel—it doesn’t introduce any characters and instead simply conveys factual information about penguins. This makes “At the start of a report about penguins” the best answer choice.

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

Adapted from "What I Saw in an Ant’s Nest" by Andrew Wilson in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

The workers appear to perform a never-ending round of duties. They build the nests, make the roads, attend to the wants of the young, train up the latter in the ways of ant existence, wait on the sovereigns of the nest, and like diplomatic courtiers, duly arrange for the royal marriages of the future. As Mr. Bates remarks, “The wonderful part in the history of the termites is that not only is there a rigid division of labor, but that nature has given to each class a structure of body adapting it to the kind of labor it has to perform. The males and females form a class apart; they do no kind of work, but in the course of growth, acquire wings to enable them to issue forth and disseminate their kind. The workers and soldiers are wingless, and differ solely in the shape and armature of the head. The head in the laborers is smooth and rounded, the mouth being adapted for the working of the materials in building the hive. In the soldier, the head is of very large size, and is provided in almost every kind with special organs of offense and defense in the form of horny processes resembling pikes, tridents, and so forth . . . The course of human events in our day seems, unhappily, to make it more than ever necessary for the citizens of industrious communities to set apart a numerous armed class for the protection of the rest; in this, nations only do what nature has of old done for the termites. The soldier termite, however, has not only the fighting instinct and function; he is constructed as a soldier, and carries his weapons not in his hand but growing out of his body.” When a colony of termites is disturbed, the ordinary citizens disappear and the military are called out. “The soldiers mounted the breach,” says Mr. Bates, “to cover the retreat of the workers,” when a hole was made in the archway of one of their covered roads, and with military precision the rear men fall into the vacant places in the front ranks as the latter are emptied by the misfortune of war.

How do you think the author of this passage would react to a conversation about the inherent glories of warfare?

Possible Answers:

He would disagree that there was any glory inherent in war.

It is impossible to accurately say. 

He would agree that war is a glorious part of any existence.

He would wholly disagree because warfare is completely unnecessary and in violation of nature.

He would partially agree that in war man reaches his greatest example of honor and chivalry.

Correct answer:

He would disagree that there was any glory inherent in war.


When discussing warfare, the author is quick to equate the experience of termites with that of humans, so we may infer he would employ the same language when discussing war in either context. The two biggest clues that suggest the author would disagree with any statement saying that there is glory inherent in war are his use of the words “unhappily” and “misfortune” when describing war. Most notably, he says, “The course of human events in our day seems, unhappily, to make it more than ever necessary for the citizens of industrious communities to set apart a numerous armed class for the protection of the rest." This suggests the author would never agree with any argument in favor of war. We also can see that he would not disagree because warfare is “in violation of nature” because he is discussing how warfare takes place in a natural setting—amongst termites.

Example Question #2 : Drawing Conclusions In Science Passages

Adapted from "Some Strange Nurseries" by Grant Allen in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

Many different types of animals employ one of two strategies in raising their young. Certain animals, called “r-strategists,” turn out thousands of eggs with reckless profusion, but they let them look after themselves, or be devoured by enemies, as chance will have it. Other animals, called “K-strategists,” take greater pain in the rearing and upbringing of the young. Large broods indicate an “r” life strategy; small broods imply a “K” life strategy and more care in the nurture and education of the offspring. R-strategists produce eggs wholesale, on the off chance that some two or three among them may perhaps survive an infant mortality of ninety-nine per cent, so as to replace their parents. K-strategists produce half a dozen young, or less, but bring a large proportion of these on an average up to years of discretion.

Which of these animals can you infer the author would categorize as an r-strategist?

Possible Answers:






Correct answer:



This question requires you to understand the main idea, that animals that produce more offspring are r-strategists and that those that produce a small number of offspring are called K-strategists. It also requires that you be able to take that idea and make a prediction about it. Finally, it requires you to have a basic understanding of a few types of animals. You know that any animal that has few young that it spends time caring for is deemed a "K-strategist" by the author, so that should rule out cats, birds, pigs, and wolves for you pretty quickly. Of these animals, only “frogs” let their little tadpoles fend for themselves and die by the hundreds. They would thus be considered r-strategists.

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