SSAT Middle Level Reading : Understanding and Evaluating Opinions and Arguments in Narrative Humanities Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #51 : Critical Comprehension

Adapted from The Struggles of Charles Goodyear by George C. Towle (1916)

Never did any man work harder, suffer more keenly, or remain more steadfast to one great purpose of life, than did Charles Goodyear. The story of his life—for the most part mournful—teems with touching interest. No inventor ever struggled against greater or more often returning obstacles, or against repeated failures more overwhelming. Goodyear is often compared, as a martyr and hero of invention, to Bernard Palissy the potter. He is sometimes called "the Palissy of the nineteenth century." But his sufferings were more various, more bitter, and more long enduring than ever were even those of Palissy; while the result of his long, unceasing labors was infinitely more precious to the world. For if Palissy restored the art of enameling so as to produce beautiful works of art, Goodyear perfected a substance which gives comfort and secures health to millions of human beings.

It was by accident at last that he hit upon the secret of how to make India-rubber durable. He was talking one day to several visitors, and in his ardor making rapid gestures, when a piece of rubber that he was holding in his hand accidentally hit against a hot stove. To his amazement, instead of melting, the gum remained stiff and charred, like leather. He again applied great heat to a piece of rubber, and then nailed it outside the door, where it was very cold. The next morning he found that it was perfectly flexible; and this was the discovery which led to that successful invention which he had struggled through so many years to perfect. The main value of the discovery lay in this, that while the gum would dissolve in a moderate heat, it both remained hard and continued to be flexible when submitted to an extreme heat. This came to be known as the "vulcanization" of India-rubber.

Goodyear was terribly afraid that he should die before he could make the world perceive the great uses to which his discovery might be applied. What he was toiling for was neither fame nor fortune, but only to confer a vast benefit on his fellow men.

At last, after infinite struggles, the absorbing purpose of his life was attained. India-rubber was introduced under his patents, and soon proved to have all the value he had, in his wildest moments, claimed for it. Success thus crowned his noble efforts, which had continued unceasingly through ten years of self-imposed privation. India-rubber was now seen to be capable of being adapted to at least five hundred uses. It could be made "as pliable as kid, tougher than oxhide, as elastic as whalebone, or as rigid as flint." But, as too often happens, his great discovery enriched neither Goodyear nor his family. It soon gave employment to sixty thousand artisans, and annually produced articles in this country alone worth eight millions of dollars.

Happily the later years of the noble, self-denying inventor were spent at least free from the grinding penury and privations of his years of uncertainty and toil. He died in 1860 in his sixtieth year, happy in the thought of the magnificent boon he had given to mankind.

Why does the author think that comparisons between Goodyear and Palissy are irrelevant?

Possible Answers:

Because Goodyear’s sufferings were much greater and his accomplishment much more significant 

Because Palissy was from the working class, whereas Goodyear was born into wealth

Because Goodyear was a man of God and Palissy was a drunkard

Because Palissy never invented anything and Goodyear was constantly uncovering new methods and developing new ideas

Because Palissy was an artist and Goodyear was an inventor

Correct answer:

Because Goodyear’s sufferings were much greater and his accomplishment much more significant 

Explanation:

The author discusses how people often compare Palissy and Goodyear. He says, “[Goodyear] is sometimes called ‘the Palissy of the nineteenth century.’ But his sufferings were more various, more bitter, and more long enduring than ever were even those of Palissy; while the result of his long, unceasing labors was infinitely more precious to the world. For if Palissy restored the art of enameling so as to produce beautiful works of art, Goodyear perfected a substance which gives comfort and secures health to millions of human beings.” The author thinks that Goodyear’s sufferings were much greater than Pallisy's and that his accomplishment was much more significant than Palissy’s. Notice how he says “his sufferings were more various and more long enduring” and the way in which he compares Palissy’s aesthetic achievement to Goodyear’s “perfected” achievement that changes the lives of “millions of human beings.”

Example Question #13 : Main Ideas In Humanities Passages

Adapted from The Struggles of Charles Goodyear by George C. Towle (1916)

Never did any man work harder, suffer more keenly, or remain more steadfast to one great purpose of life, than did Charles Goodyear. The story of his life—for the most part mournful—teems with touching interest. No inventor ever struggled against greater or more often returning obstacles, or against repeated failures more overwhelming. Goodyear is often compared, as a martyr and hero of invention, to Bernard Palissy the potter. He is sometimes called "the Palissy of the nineteenth century." But his sufferings were more various, more bitter, and more long enduring than ever were even those of Palissy; while the result of his long, unceasing labors was infinitely more precious to the world. For if Palissy restored the art of enameling so as to produce beautiful works of art, Goodyear perfected a substance which gives comfort and secures health to millions of human beings.

It was by accident at last that he hit upon the secret of how to make India-rubber durable. He was talking one day to several visitors, and in his ardor making rapid gestures, when a piece of rubber that he was holding in his hand accidentally hit against a hot stove. To his amazement, instead of melting, the gum remained stiff and charred, like leather. He again applied great heat to a piece of rubber, and then nailed it outside the door, where it was very cold. The next morning he found that it was perfectly flexible; and this was the discovery which led to that successful invention which he had struggled through so many years to perfect. The main value of the discovery lay in this, that while the gum would dissolve in a moderate heat, it both remained hard and continued to be flexible when submitted to an extreme heat. This came to be known as the "vulcanization" of India-rubber.

Goodyear was terribly afraid that he should die before he could make the world perceive the great uses to which his discovery might be applied. What he was toiling for was neither fame nor fortune, but only to confer a vast benefit on his fellow men.

At last, after infinite struggles, the absorbing purpose of his life was attained. India-rubber was introduced under his patents, and soon proved to have all the value he had, in his wildest moments, claimed for it. Success thus crowned his noble efforts, which had continued unceasingly through ten years of self-imposed privation. India-rubber was now seen to be capable of being adapted to at least five hundred uses. It could be made "as pliable as kid, tougher than oxhide, as elastic as whalebone, or as rigid as flint." But, as too often happens, his great discovery enriched neither Goodyear nor his family. It soon gave employment to sixty thousand artisans, and annually produced articles in this country alone worth eight millions of dollars.

Happily the later years of the noble, self-denying inventor were spent at least free from the grinding penury and privations of his years of uncertainty and toil. He died in his sixtieth year, in 1860, happy in the thought of the magnificent boon he had given to mankind.

According to the author, Goodyear’s primary motivation was __________.

Possible Answers:

to ensure the prosperity of his company and family

to provide something beneficial to mankind 

to be famous 

to impress his neighbors and contemporaries 

to gain individual riches

Correct answer:

to provide something beneficial to mankind 

Explanation:

The author makes specific reference to Goodyear’s motivations towards the end of the passage when he says “Goodyear was terribly afraid that he should die before he could make the world perceive the great uses to which his discovery might be applied. What he was toiling for was neither fame nor fortune, but only to confer a vast benefit on his fellow-men.” To help you understand, “toiling” means working; “perceive” means notice or recognize; “confer” means give to; “vast” means big; and “benefit” means help when used as a verb and boon or helpful thing when used as a noun.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Sequence, Organization, And Structure In Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from "Of One Defect in Our Government" in Essays of Michael, Seigneur de Montaigne in The Complete Works of Michael de Montaigne (1580, trans. C. Cotton, ed. W. Hazlitt 1842)

My late father, a man that had no other advantages than experience and his own natural parts, was nevertheless of a very clear judgment, formerly told me that he once had thoughts of endeavoring to introduce this practice; that there might be in every city a certain place assigned to which such as stood in need of anything might repair, and have their business entered by an officer appointed for that purpose. As for example: I want a chapman to buy my pearls; I want one that has pearls to sell; such a one wants company to go to Paris; such a one seeks a servant of such a quality; such a one a master; such a one such an artificer; some inquiring for one thing, some for another, every one according to what he wants. And doubtless, these mutual advertisements would be of no contemptible advantage to the public correspondence and intelligence: for there are evermore conditions that hunt after one another, and for want of knowing one another's occasions leave men in very great necessity.

I have heard, to the great shame of the age we live in, that in our very sight two most excellent men for learning died so poor that they had scarce bread to put in their mouths: Lilius Gregorius Giraldus in Italy and Sebastianus Castalio in Germany: and I believe there are a thousand men would have invited them into their families, with very advantageous conditions, or have relieved them where they were, had they known their wants. The world is not so generally corrupted, but that I know a man that would heartily wish the estate his ancestors have left him might be employed, so long as it shall please fortune to give him leave to enjoy it, to secure rare and remarkable persons of any kind, whom misfortune sometimes persecutes to the last degree, from the dangers of necessity; and at least place them in such a condition that they must be very hard to please, if they are not contented.

My father in his domestic economy had this rule (which I know how to commend, but by no means to imitate), namely, that besides the day-book or memorial of household affairs, where the small accounts, payments, and disbursements, which do not require a secretary's hand, were entered, and which a steward always had in custody, he ordered him whom he employed to write for him, to keep a journal, and in it to set down all the remarkable occurrences, and daily memorials of the history of his house: very pleasant to look over, when time begins to wear things out of memory, and very useful sometimes to put us out of doubt when such a thing was begun, when ended; what visitors came, and when they went; our travels, absences, marriages, and deaths; the reception of good or ill news; the change of principal servants, and the like. An ancient custom, which I think it would not be amiss for every one to revive in his own house; and I find I did very foolishly in neglecting it.

What function do Lilius Gregorius Giraldus and Sebastianus Castalio serve in the passage?

Possible Answers:

They are two of the narrator's critics, mentioned as the narrator defends himself from their criticism.

They are two men on which the narrator, a poor intellectual, has relied on for financial support.

They are two of the narrator's father's friends, and their comments on the narrator's father confirm the narrator's description of his father to be accurate.

They are two men who each helped to support famous thinkers, providing evidence for the narrator's claim that this practice occurs.

They serve as two examples of famous intellectuals who have died poor because no one knew they needed financial help and support.

Correct answer:

They serve as two examples of famous intellectuals who have died poor because no one knew they needed financial help and support.

Explanation:

Lilius Gregorius Giraldus and Sebastianus Castalio are mentioned in the passage's second paragraph in this context: "I have heard, to the great shame of the age we live in, that in our very sight two most excellent men for learning died so poor that they had scarce bread to put in their mouths: Lilius Gregorius Giraldus in Italy and Sebastianus Castalio in Germany: and I believe there are a thousand men would have invited them into their families, with very advantageous conditions, or have relieved them where they were, had they known their wants." From this quotation, we can tell that these two men are mentioned to "serve as two examples of famous intellectuals who have died poor because no one knew they needed financial help and support." It's important to read carefully in order to correctly determine the relationships between the narrator and the people mentioned in the passage.

Example Question #1 : Drawing Generalizations About Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from "Of One Defect in Our Government" in Essays of Michael, Seigneur de Montaigne in The Complete Works of Michael de Montaigne (1580, trans. C. Cotton, ed. W. Hazlitt 1842)

My late father, a man that had no other advantages than experience and his own natural parts, was nevertheless of a very clear judgment, formerly told me that he once had thoughts of endeavoring to introduce this practice; that there might be in every city a certain place assigned to which such as stood in need of anything might repair, and have their business entered by an officer appointed for that purpose. As for example: I want a chapman to buy my pearls; I want one that has pearls to sell; such a one wants company to go to Paris; such a one seeks a servant of such a quality; such a one a master; such a one such an artificer; some inquiring for one thing, some for another, every one according to what he wants. And doubtless, these mutual advertisements would be of no contemptible advantage to the public correspondence and intelligence: for there are evermore conditions that hunt after one another, and for want of knowing one another's occasions leave men in very great necessity.

I have heard, to the great shame of the age we live in, that in our very sight two most excellent men for learning died so poor that they had scarce bread to put in their mouths: Lilius Gregorius Giraldus in Italy and Sebastianus Castalio in Germany: and I believe there are a thousand men would have invited them into their families, with very advantageous conditions, or have relieved them where they were, had they known their wants. The world is not so generally corrupted, but that I know a man that would heartily wish the estate his ancestors have left him might be employed, so long as it shall please fortune to give him leave to enjoy it, to secure rare and remarkable persons of any kind, whom misfortune sometimes persecutes to the last degree, from the dangers of necessity; and at least place them in such a condition that they must be very hard to please, if they are not contented.

My father in his domestic economy had this rule (which I know how to commend, but by no means to imitate), namely, that besides the day-book or memorial of household affairs, where the small accounts, payments, and disbursements, which do not require a secretary's hand, were entered, and which a steward always had in custody, he ordered him whom he employed to write for him, to keep a journal, and in it to set down all the remarkable occurrences, and daily memorials of the history of his house: very pleasant to look over, when time begins to wear things out of memory, and very useful sometimes to put us out of doubt when such a thing was begun, when ended; what visitors came, and when they went; our travels, absences, marriages, and deaths; the reception of good or ill news; the change of principal servants, and the like. An ancient custom, which I think it would not be amiss for every one to revive in his own house; and I find I did very foolishly in neglecting it.

The second paragraph recommends a financial relationship similar to which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Feudal lord and peasant

Master and apprentice

Patron and artist

Shop owner and customer

Money lender and borrower

Correct answer:

Patron and artist

Explanation:

In approaching this question, let's first figure out what financial relationship is discussed in the second paragraph, and then compare it to the answer choices. In the passage's second paragraph, the narrator says that he thinks many men would use their estates and finances "to secure rare and remarkable persons of any kind . . . from the dangers of necessity," or in other words, to financially support intellectuals who might otherwise lack for necessities without such support. Now let's consider the answer choices: "Shop owner and customer" cannot be correct because the donors aren't purchasing anything from the intellectuals. The money the intellectuals are given isn't expected to be paid back, so "Money lender and borrower" cannot be correct either. "Master and apprentice" involves the learning of a trade or skill, and the intellectuals aren't teaching the donors anything, so that can't be the correct answer. "Feudal lord and peasant" can't be correct either, as the intellectuals aren't being paid for work that they do specifically for the donor. "Patron and artist" is the best answer because patrons provide for the needs of artists, allowing them to concentrate solely on their art, just as the donors in the second paragraph supply the intellectuals' needs so that they can focus on their work.

Example Question #101 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Passage adapted from "Of One Defect in Our Government" in Essays of Michael, Seigneur de Montaigne in The Complete Works of Michael de Montaigne (1580, trans. C. Cotton, ed. W. Hazlitt 1842)

My late father, a man that had no other advantages than experience and his own natural parts, was nevertheless of a very clear judgment, formerly told me that he once had thoughts of endeavoring to introduce this practice; that there might be in every city a certain place assigned to which such as stood in need of anything might repair, and have their business entered by an officer appointed for that purpose. As for example: I want a chapman to buy my pearls; I want one that has pearls to sell; such a one wants company to go to Paris; such a one seeks a servant of such a quality; such a one a master; such a one such an artificer; some inquiring for one thing, some for another, every one according to what he wants. And doubtless, these mutual advertisements would be of no contemptible advantage to the public correspondence and intelligence: for there are evermore conditions that hunt after one another, and for want of knowing one another's occasions leave men in very great necessity.

I have heard, to the great shame of the age we live in, that in our very sight two most excellent men for learning died so poor that they had scarce bread to put in their mouths: Lilius Gregorius Giraldus in Italy and Sebastianus Castalio in Germany: and I believe there are a thousand men would have invited them into their families, with very advantageous conditions, or have relieved them where they were, had they known their wants. The world is not so generally corrupted, but that I know a man that would heartily wish the estate his ancestors have left him might be employed, so long as it shall please fortune to give him leave to enjoy it, to secure rare and remarkable persons of any kind, whom misfortune sometimes persecutes to the last degree, from the dangers of necessity; and at least place them in such a condition that they must be very hard to please, if they are not contented.

My father in his domestic economy had this rule (which I know how to commend, but by no means to imitate), namely, that besides the day-book or memorial of household affairs, where the small accounts, payments, and disbursements, which do not require a secretary's hand, were entered, and which a steward always had in custody, he ordered him whom he employed to write for him, to keep a journal, and in it to set down all the remarkable occurrences, and daily memorials of the history of his house: very pleasant to look over, when time begins to wear things out of memory, and very useful sometimes to put us out of doubt when such a thing was begun, when ended; what visitors came, and when they went; our travels, absences, marriages, and deaths; the reception of good or ill news; the change of principal servants, and the like. An ancient custom, which I think it would not be amiss for every one to revive in his own house; and I find I did very foolishly in neglecting it.

How does the narrator feel about the fact that famous intellectuals sometimes perish poor without receiving help from others?

Possible Answers:

He thinks it is shameful.

He thinks it is an unavoidable result of the society in which he lives.

He thinks that intellectuals should be paid more.

He thinks the famous intellectuals get what they deserve.

He thinks that a tax should be collected to provide for such intellectuals.

Correct answer:

He thinks it is shameful.

Explanation:

The narrator tells us directly how he feels about this situation at the beginning of paragraph two: "I have heard, to the great shame of the age we live in, that in our very sight two most excellent men for learning died so poor that they had scarce bread to put in their mouths." The phrase "to the great shame of the age we live in" is evidence that the narrator thinks such a situation is shameful. While other answer choices like "he thinks that intellectuals should be paid more" may look appealing because it is possible the narrator might support those assertions, the passage doesn't provide any evidence directly correlating to those answer choices.

Example Question #15 : Analyzing Authorial Tone And Method In Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from "Of One Defect in Our Government" in Essays of Michael, Seigneur de Montaigne in The Complete Works of Michael de Montaigne (1580, trans. C. Cotton, ed. W. Hazlitt 1842)

My late father, a man that had no other advantages than experience and his own natural parts, was nevertheless of a very clear judgment, formerly told me that he once had thoughts of endeavoring to introduce this practice; that there might be in every city a certain place assigned to which such as stood in need of anything might repair, and have their business entered by an officer appointed for that purpose. As for example: I want a chapman to buy my pearls; I want one that has pearls to sell; such a one wants company to go to Paris; such a one seeks a servant of such a quality; such a one a master; such a one such an artificer; some inquiring for one thing, some for another, every one according to what he wants. And doubtless, these mutual advertisements would be of no contemptible advantage to the public correspondence and intelligence: for there are evermore conditions that hunt after one another, and for want of knowing one another's occasions leave men in very great necessity.

I have heard, to the great shame of the age we live in, that in our very sight two most excellent men for learning died so poor that they had scarce bread to put in their mouths: Lilius Gregorius Giraldus in Italy and Sebastianus Castalio in Germany: and I believe there are a thousand men would have invited them into their families, with very advantageous conditions, or have relieved them where they were, had they known their wants. The world is not so generally corrupted, but that I know a man that would heartily wish the estate his ancestors have left him might be employed, so long as it shall please fortune to give him leave to enjoy it, to secure rare and remarkable persons of any kind, whom misfortune sometimes persecutes to the last degree, from the dangers of necessity; and at least place them in such a condition that they must be very hard to please, if they are not contented.

My father in his domestic economy had this rule (which I know how to commend, but by no means to imitate), namely, that besides the day-book or memorial of household affairs, where the small accounts, payments, and disbursements, which do not require a secretary's hand, were entered, and which a steward always had in custody, he ordered him whom he employed to write for him, to keep a journal, and in it to set down all the remarkable occurrences, and daily memorials of the history of his house: very pleasant to look over, when time begins to wear things out of memory, and very useful sometimes to put us out of doubt when such a thing was begun, when ended; what visitors came, and when they went; our travels, absences, marriages, and deaths; the reception of good or ill news; the change of principal servants, and the like. An ancient custom, which I think it would not be amiss for every one to revive in his own house; and I find I did very foolishly in neglecting it.

The second paragraph suggests that the narrator's view of the mankind is __________.

Possible Answers:

cynical

old-fashioned

prejudiced

selfish

optimistic

Correct answer:

optimistic

Explanation:

In the second paragraph, the narrator states, "I believe there are a thousand men would have invited [the aforementioned famously learned but poor men] into their families, with very advantageous conditions . . . had they known their wants. The world is not so generally corrupted, but that I know a man that would heartily wish [his] estate . . . to secure rare and remarkable persons of any kind . . . from the dangers of necessity." To paraphrase this, the narrator is saying that he believes that people would invite needy intellectuals into their homes and support them financially, if their needs were known. This supports the answer choice that the narrator has an "optimistic," or generally positive and hopeful, view of mankind. The phrasing of "The world is not so generally corrupted" also supports this answer choice. As for the other answer choices, "cynical" means assuming the worst of people, "prejudiced" in this context would mean unfairly biased against certain groups.

Example Question #1 : Understanding And Evaluating Opinions And Arguments In 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 sentences best describes the differences between Athens and Sparta?

Possible Answers:

Athens was built on an island, whereas Sparta was the capital of the mainland.

Athens ceased to exist after the war, whereas Sparta continued to grow in influence.

Athens was very prosperous, whereas Sparta was very poor.

Athens was focused on defending itself, whereas Sparta was focused on conquests.

Athens was a centre of arts and learning, whereas Sparta was focused on its military.

Correct answer:

Athens was a centre of arts and learning, whereas Sparta was focused on its military.

Explanation:

In the first paragraph, the author focuses on describing the primary differences between Athens and Sparta. Athens is primarily described as a philosophical center of arts and learning, whereas Sparta is described as a “military camp.” The most useful excerpt for noticing this distinction occurs at the end of the first paragraph, where the author says, “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.”

Example Question #11 : History Passages

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

During the first twenty years of his life, young Napoleon was a professional Corsican patriot—a Corsican Sinn Feiner, who hoped to deliver his beloved country from the yoke of the bitterly hated French enemy. But the French revolution had unexpectedly recognised the claims of the Corsicans and gradually Napoleon, who had received a good training at the military school of Brienne, drifted into the service of his adopted country. Although he never learned to spell French correctly or to speak it without a broad Italian accent, he became a Frenchman. In due time he came to stand as the highest expression of all French virtues. At present he is regarded as the symbol of the Gallic genius.

Napoleon was what is called a fast worker. His career does not cover more than twenty years. In that short span of time he fought more wars and gained more victories and marched more miles and conquered more square kilometers and killed more people and brought about more reforms and generally upset Europe to a greater extent than anybody (including Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan) had ever managed to do.

He was a little fellow and during the first years of his life his health was not very good. He never impressed anybody by his good looks and he remained to the end of his days very clumsy whenever he was obliged to appear at a social function. He did not enjoy a single advantage of breeding or birth or riches. For the greater part of his youth he was desperately poor and often he had to go without a meal or was obliged to make a few extra pennies in curious ways.

He gave little promise as a literary genius. When he competed for a prize offered by the Academy of Lyons, his essay was found to be next to the last and he was number 15 out of 16 candidates. But he overcame all these difficulties through his absolute and unshakable belief in his own destiny, and in his own glorious future. Ambition was the main-spring of his life. The thought of self, the worship of that capital letter "N" with which he signed all his letters, and which recurred forever in the ornaments of his hastily constructed palaces, the absolute will to make the name Napoleon the most important thing in the world next to the name of God, these desires carried Napoleon to a pinnacle of fame which no other man has ever reached.

According to the author Napoleon was primarily inspired by __________.

Possible Answers:

personal ambition

the betterment of the European people

the betterment of the European people

the glories of battle

personal ambition

the glories of battle

the advancement of the French nation

the Corsican independence movement

the advancement of the French nation

the Corsican independence movement

Correct answer:

personal ambition

Explanation:

In the final paragraph, the author makes it clear that although Napoleon was inspired by the Corsican independence movement, the betterment of Europe, the glories of battle, and the advancement of France, he was primarily inspired by his personal ambition. The author says, “But he overcame all these difficulties through his absolute and unshakable belief in his own destiny, and in his own glorious future. Ambition was the main-spring of his life.”

Example Question #2 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Contemporary Life 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.

According to the passage, why is it better for meat-eating animals kept in captivity to occasionally be denied a daily meal?

Possible Answers:

It replicates the notion of “survival of the fittest” ensuring only the healthiest animals survive.

It keeps the animal healthier by simulating the realities of hunting in the wild.

It causes the animals to learn to fend for themselves by denying them enough food to survive.

It ensures that the zoological gardens can afford to keep as many animals as possible.

It keeps the animals weaker and makes it easier for the zookeepers to control them.

Correct answer:

It keeps the animal healthier by simulating the realities of hunting in the wild.

Explanation:

The author this passage is primarily discussing the ways in which animals suffer in captivity and the ways in which zookeepers can minimize this suffering. In context here, the author says, “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.” Basically, the author is saying that it is a natural condition of wildlife to someone times go without food, so to ensure the best possible health of a captive animal, it is wise to sometimes deny them food.

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