SSAT Middle Level Reading : Recognizing the Main Idea in Argumentative Social Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Recognizing The Main Idea In Argumentative Social Science 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 best description of the offenses committed by England according to the colonists according to the passage?

Possible Answers:

They have fought with the colonies in open battles on the content.

They have revoked the right of representation from the colonies.

They have taxed the colonies beyond possibility of payment.

They have committed many, various acts against the colonies for some time.

None of the other answer choices

Correct answer:

They have committed many, various acts against the colonies for some time.

Explanation:

Throughout the last few sentences, the passage speaks of "trains of injuries" and "repeated injuries." These are called upon as justifying action by the colonists. The implication is, whatever the particular offenses of England, they have been long-lasting and continuous. This is the primary accusation leveled in this selection—not any of the particular ones that are offered as other potential answers.

Example Question #2 : Recognizing The Main Idea 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 main argument of this passage is that __________.

Possible Answers:

The youth of today are rash and reckless and risk endangering the hard-won gains of their parents' generation.

Despite common misconceptions, mankind is living in the safest and healthiest period in history.

Mankind is facing an eternal battle against the forces of disease and warfare.

Old people have consistently prevented the onward march of progress.

In spite of our collective fears about society, disease and warfare have been almost completely eliminated.

Correct answer:

Despite common misconceptions, mankind is living in the safest and healthiest period in history.

Explanation:

The author’s main argument in this essay is that “mankind is living in the safest and healthiest period in history.” The author rallies against those who seem so eager to return to the earlier days in human history, when, according to the author, the world was a darker and more violent place. This argument can be seen in excerpts such as “The truth of the matter is we live in the most relatively peaceful time period in human history" and “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.” The idea that “old people have consistently prevented the onwards march of progress” is not something represented in this essay, nor is the idea that “The youth of today are rash and reckless and risk endangering the hard-won gains of their parents' generation.” The author does not go so far as to say “In spite of our collective fears about society, disease and warfare have been almost completely eliminated.” Nor does he go so far in the opposite direction as to say “Mankind is facing an eternal battle against the forces of disease and warfare.”

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