SSAT Elementary Level Reading : How to Locate and Analyze Details in Nonfiction Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In History Passages

Adapted from Early European History by Hutton Webster (1917)

The Phoenicians were a Syrian people whose country was a narrow stretch of coast, about one hundred and twenty miles in length, seldom more than twelve miles in width, between the Lebanon Mountains and the sea. This tiny land could not support a large population. As the Phoenicians increased in numbers, they were obliged to betake themselves to the sea. The Lebanon cedars furnished soft, white wood for shipbuilding, and the deeply indented coast offered excellent harbors. Thus, the Phoenicians became preeminent sailors. Their great cities, Sidon and Tyre, established colonies throughout the Mediterranean and had an extensive commerce with every region of the known world.

What were the two great Phoenician cities?

Possible Answers:

Tyre and Sidon

Athens and Sidon

Tyre and Athens

Tyre and Rome

Athens and Rome

Correct answer:

Tyre and Sidon

Explanation:

This is another detail retention question. The author says, “Their great cities, Sidon and Tyre, established colonies throughout the Mediterranean and had an extensive commerce with every region of the known world.”

Example Question #31 : How To Locate And Analyze Details In Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from A Catechism of Familiar Things: Their History and the Events Which Led to Their Discovery by the Benziger Brothers (1881)

The olive tree was a great favorite with the ancient Greeks, and scarcely an ancient custom existed with which the olive was not in some way associated: at their marriages and festivals, all parts of their dwellings, especially the doors, were ornamented with them, and the same custom prevails at the present day, both in public and private rejoicings. It was also scarcely less a favorite with the Romans, although it was not held in the same sacred light as amongst the Greeks. The olive-branch has likewise been universally considered the emblem of plenty, and as such, is found on the coins of those countries of which it is not a native.

How does the Roman appreciation for the olive tree differ from that of the Greeks?

Possible Answers:

The Romans regarded the olive tree as less holy than the Greeks did.

The Romans disliked the taste of olives.

The Romans regarded the olive tree as merely a provider of food.

The Romans regarded the olive tree as more useful than the Greeks did.

The Romans put olives on everything they ate.

Correct answer:

The Romans regarded the olive tree as less holy than the Greeks did.

Explanation:

The key piece of context needed to answer this question is found in the excerpt where the author says, “It was also scarcely less a favorite with the Romans, although it was not held in the same sacred light as amongst the Greeks.” So the Romans liked it almost as much as the Greeks, but they did not regard “in the same sacred light.” “Sacred” means holy or religiously important and significant.

Example Question #32 : How To Locate And Analyze Details In Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from A Catechism of Familiar Things: Their History and the Events Which Led to Their Discovery by the Benziger Brothers (1881)

The olive tree was a great favorite with the ancient Greeks, and scarcely an ancient custom existed with which the olive was not in some way associated: at their marriages and festivals, all parts of their dwellings, especially the doors, were ornamented with them, and the same custom prevails at the present day, both in public and private rejoicings. It was also scarcely less a favorite with the Romans, although it was not held in the same sacred light as amongst the Greeks. The olive-branch has likewise been universally considered the emblem of plenty, and as such, is found on the coins of those countries of which it is not a native.

According to the author, what does the olive-branch signify?

Possible Answers:

Violence

Spirituality

Death

Abundance

Life

Correct answer:

Abundance

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read in detail and to be able to understand the meaning of a word. The author says “The olive-branch has likewise been universally considered the emblem of plenty." An “emblem” is an image that represents or signifies something. So a heart is an “emblem” of love. According to the author, an “olive-branch” is an “emblem of plenty.” “Plenty” means having enough of something or “abundance.” To provide further help, “spirituality” is closeness to religion or spiritual matters.

Example Question #33 : How To Locate And Analyze Details In Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from A Catechism of Familiar Things: Their History and the Events Which Led to Their Discovery by the Benziger Brothers (1881)

Potatoes grew wild in Peru, a country of South America, from where they were transplanted to other parts of the American continent, and afterwards to Europe. The honor of introducing this useful vegetable into England is divided between Sir Francis Drake, in 1580, and Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1586, some crediting it to the former, and others to the latter. It is certain they were obtained from Virginia in the time of Raleigh; they were grown only in the gardens of the nobility, and were considered a great delicacy. They now constitute a crucial article of food in most of the countries of Europe and America; in Ireland, they have long furnished nearly four-fifths of the entire food of the people.

Who is credited with introducing potatoes to England?

Possible Answers:

Peruvian travelers.

Sir Francis Drake.

Either Sir Walter Raleigh or Sir Francis Drake.

Sir Walter Raleigh.

It is impossible to say.

Correct answer:

Either Sir Walter Raleigh or Sir Francis Drake.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read in detail to determine the correct answer. Because the author says “It is certain they were obtained from Virginia in the time of Raleigh,“ you might be tempted to answer that Sir Walter Raleigh is credited with introducing potatoes to England. But, the author actually says, “The honor of introducing this useful vegetable into England is divided between Sir Francis Drake, in 1580, and Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1586, some crediting it to the former, and others to the latter.” So, the credit is shared between the two men, with some crediting Raleigh and some Drake. If the answer choice “Either Sir Walter Raleigh or Sir Francis Drake” was not included, it might be reasonable to answer “it is impossible to say.”

Example Question #81 : Isee Lower Level (Grades 5 6) Reading Comprehension

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

I am going to take you to the top of the highest pyramid and I am going to ask that you imagine yourself possessed of the eyes of a hawk. Way, way off, in the distance, far beyond the yellow sands of the desert, you will see something green and shimmering. It is a valley situated between two rivers. It is the land of mystery and wonder which the Greeks called Mesopotamia—the "country between the rivers."

The names of the two rivers are the Euphrates and the Tigris. They begin their course amidst the snows of the mountains of Armenia and slowly they flow through the southern plain until they reach the muddy banks of the Persian gulf. They perform a very useful service. They turn the arid regions of Western Asia into a fertile garden.

The valley of the Nile had attracted people because it had offered them food upon fairly easy terms. The "land between the rivers" was popular for the same reason. It was a country full of promise and both the inhabitants of the northern mountains and the tribes which roamed through the southern deserts tried to claim this territory as their own and most exclusive possession. The constant rivalry between the mountaineers and the desert-nomads led to endless warfare. Only the strongest and the bravest could hope to survive, and that will explain why Mesopotamia became the home of very strong people.

What significance does Armenia play in this passage?

Possible Answers:

It is where the rivers were first discovered.

It is where the two rivers begin.

It is where the ancient pyramids are.

It is a neighboring country of Egypt.

It is a region of Mesopotamia.

Correct answer:

It is where the two rivers begin.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read carefully in detail. The author says, “The names of the two rivers are the Euphrates and the Tigris. They begin their course amidst the snows of the mountains of Armenia.“ The rivers “begin” in Armenia.

Example Question #81 : Isee Lower Level (Grades 5 6) Reading Comprehension

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

I am going to take you to the top of the highest pyramid and I am going to ask that you imagine yourself possessed of the eyes of a hawk. Way, way off, in the distance, far beyond the yellow sands of the desert, you will see something green and shimmering. It is a valley situated between two rivers. It is the land of mystery and wonder which the Greeks called Mesopotamia—the "country between the rivers."

The names of the two rivers are the Euphrates and the Tigris. They begin their course amidst the snows of the mountains of Armenia and slowly they flow through the southern plain until they reach the muddy banks of the Persian gulf. They perform a very useful service. They turn the arid regions of Western Asia into a fertile garden.

The valley of the Nile had attracted people because it had offered them food upon fairly easy terms. The "land between the rivers" was popular for the same reason. It was a country full of promise and both the inhabitants of the northern mountains and the tribes which roamed through the southern deserts tried to claim this territory as their own and most exclusive possession. The constant rivalry between the mountaineers and the desert-nomads led to endless warfare. Only the strongest and the bravest could hope to survive, and that will explain why Mesopotamia became the home of very strong people.

Why does the author believe that the Mesopotamian valley produced "strong people"?

Possible Answers:

Because the Mesopotamians were forced to fight the Egyptians from the very beginning of their society

Because the abundance of food encouraged the rise of art and culture

Because the constant fighting over the fertile lands meant that only the strongest survived

Because the people had to learn to survive life in the mountains, desert, and floodplains

Because the location between two rivers encouraged trade with Europe and Asia

Correct answer:

Because the constant fighting over the fertile lands meant that only the strongest survived

Explanation:

Most of the third paragraph is concerned with arguing how Mesopotamia produced "strong people." The author says, “It was a country full of promise . . . The constant rivalry between the mountaineers and the desert-nomads led to endless warfare. Only the strongest and the bravest could hope to survive and that will explain why Mesopotamia became the home of very strong people." The author believes that the constant fighting over the fertile lands meant that only the “strongest and bravest could hope to survive.”

Example Question #781 : Ssat Upper Level Reading Comprehension

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

The Phoenicians were a Semitic tribe that at a very early age had settled along the shores of the Mediterranean. They had built themselves two well-fortified towns, Tyre and Sidon, and within a short time they had gained a monopoly of the trade of the western seas. Their ships went regularly to Greece and Italy and Spain and they even ventured beyond the straits of Gibraltar to visit the Scilly islands where they could buy tin. Wherever they went, they built themselves small trading stations, which they called colonies. Many of these were the origin of modern cities, such as Cadiz and Marseilles.

They bought and sold whatever promised to bring them a good profit and regarded a well-filled treasure chest the highest ideal of all good citizens. Notably, they rendered future generations one service of the greatest possible value: they helped develop the alphabet used in modern English.

The Phoenicians had been familiar with the art of writing, invented by the Sumerians. But they regarded the Sumerian method as a clumsy waste of time. They were practical business men and could not spend hours engraving two or three letters. They set to work and invented a new system of writing which was greatly superior to the old one. They borrowed a few pictures from the Egyptians and they simplified a number of the wedge-shaped figures of the Sumerians. They sacrificed the pretty looks of the older system for the advantage of speed and they reduced the thousands of different images to a short and handy alphabet of twenty-two letters.

In due course of time, this alphabet travelled across the Aegean Sea and entered Greece. The Greeks added a few letters of their own and carried the improved system to Italy. The Romans modified the figures somewhat and in turn taught them to the barbarians of western Europe. That is the reason why this is written in characters that are of Phoenician origin and not in the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians or in the nail-script of the Sumerians.

Based on this passage the Phoenicians traded with all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

Sidon

Greece

The Scilly islands

Marseilles

Cadiz

Correct answer:

Sidon

Explanation:

The author says, that the Phoenicians "had built themselves two well-fortified towns, Tyre and Sidon," so you know that the Phoenicians live in Sidon and traded with towns elsewhere. The author says that the Phoenicians established trading posts in Cadiz and Marseilles; that they traded with Greece, Italy, and Spain; and that they went to the Scilly islands in order to trade for tin.

Example Question #67 : Nonfiction Passages

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

The Phoenicians were a Semitic tribe that at a very early age had settled along the shores of the Mediterranean. They had built themselves two well-fortified towns, Tyre and Sidon, and within a short time they had gained a monopoly of the trade of the western seas. Their ships went regularly to Greece and Italy and Spain and they even ventured beyond the straits of Gibraltar to visit the Scilly islands where they could buy tin. Wherever they went, they built themselves small trading stations, which they called colonies. Many of these were the origin of modern cities, such as Cadiz and Marseilles.

They bought and sold whatever promised to bring them a good profit and regarded a well-filled treasure chest the highest ideal of all good citizens. Notably, they rendered future generations one service of the greatest possible value: they helped develop the alphabet used in modern English.

The Phoenicians had been familiar with the art of writing, invented by the Sumerians. But they regarded the Sumerian method as a clumsy waste of time. They were practical business men and could not spend hours engraving two or three letters. They set to work and invented a new system of writing which was greatly superior to the old one. They borrowed a few pictures from the Egyptians and they simplified a number of the wedge-shaped figures of the Sumerians. They sacrificed the pretty looks of the older system for the advantage of speed and they reduced the thousands of different images to a short and handy alphabet of twenty-two letters.

In due course of time, this alphabet travelled across the Aegean Sea and entered Greece. The Greeks added a few letters of their own and carried the improved system to Italy. The Romans modified the figures somewhat and in turn taught them to the barbarians of western Europe. That is the reason why this is written in characters that are of Phoenician origin and not in the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians or in the nail-script of the Sumerians.

The final paragraph is concerned with __________.

Possible Answers:

expressing distaste for the barbarian people of Western Europe

removing any literary association with the Phoenician people

tracking the movement of the Phoenician alphabet into the English language

highlighting the role the Romans played in the development of European language

undermining the existing dialects of Western Europe

Correct answer:

tracking the movement of the Phoenician alphabet into the English language

Explanation:

In the final paragraph, the author tracks the Phoenician language from Greece into Rome, and then on to the barbarian tribes that used to inhabit Western Europe, and finally to England and the English language. The role of the Romans is mentioned, but not highlighted.

Example Question #34 : How To Locate And Analyze Details In Nonfiction Passages

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

The Phoenicians were a Semitic tribe that at a very early age had settled along the shores of the Mediterranean. They had built themselves two well-fortified towns, Tyre and Sidon, and within a short time they had gained a monopoly of the trade of the western seas. Their ships went regularly to Greece and Italy and Spain and they even ventured beyond the straits of Gibraltar to visit the Scilly islands where they could buy tin. Wherever they went, they built themselves small trading stations, which they called colonies. Many of these were the origin of modern cities, such as Cadiz and Marseilles.

They bought and sold whatever promised to bring them a good profit and regarded a well-filled treasure chest the highest ideal of all good citizens. Notably, they rendered future generations one service of the greatest possible value: they helped develop the alphabet used in modern English.

The Phoenicians had been familiar with the art of writing, invented by the Sumerians. But they regarded the Sumerian method as a clumsy waste of time. They were practical business men and could not spend hours engraving two or three letters. They set to work and invented a new system of writing which was greatly superior to the old one. They borrowed a few pictures from the Egyptians and they simplified a number of the wedge-shaped figures of the Sumerians. They sacrificed the pretty looks of the older system for the advantage of speed and they reduced the thousands of different images to a short and handy alphabet of twenty-two letters.

In due course of time, this alphabet travelled across the Aegean Sea and entered Greece. The Greeks added a few letters of their own and carried the improved system to Italy. The Romans modified the figures somewhat and in turn taught them to the barbarians of western Europe. That is the reason why this is written in characters that are of Phoenician origin and not in the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians or in the nail-script of the Sumerians.

The author claims that the Phoenician alphabet first traveled to where after its development?

Possible Answers:

Italy

Spain

Tyre

Greece

Western Europe

Correct answer:

Greece

Explanation:

In the third paragraph, the author traces the movement of the Phoenician alphabet after its invention. He claims, "In due course of time, this alphabet travelled across the Aegean Sea and entered Greece." Thus, Greece is the first place to where the Phoenician alphabet traveled after its development.

Example Question #35 : How To Locate And Analyze Details In Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from A Catechism of Familiar Things: Their History and the Events Which Led to Their Discovery by the Benziger Brothers (1881)

The tea-tree, when it has arrived at its full growth, which takes about seven years, is about a man's height; the green leaves are narrow, and jagged all round; the flower resembles that of the wild rose, but is smaller. The shrub loves to grow in valleys, at the foot of mountains, and on the banks of rivers where it enjoys a southern exposure to the sun. It endures considerable variation of heat and cold, as it flourishes in the northern clime of Pekin, where the winter is often severe, and also about Canton, where the heat is sometimes very great. The best tea, however, grows in a temperate climate, the country about Nankin producing better tea than either Pekin or Canton, between which two places it is situated.

Which of these statements about the tea-tree is supported by this passage?

Possible Answers:

It can grow in varied climates.

It dies in great numbers during the winter.

It is harvested during the summer.

It is consumed by many insects.

It takes decades to grow.

Correct answer:

It can grow in varied climates.

Explanation:

Some of these statements are simply unrelated to any of the information in this passage, such as the statement that the tea-tree is “consumed by many insects” or “harvested during the summer.” Some are actually completely opposite to statements made by the author; for example, you know it takes a tea-tree “about seven years” to grow, which is less than “decades” (periods of ten years). The only answer supported by this passage is that the tea-tree “can grow in varied climates,” which you know because the author says “it endures considerable variation of heat and cold” and “it flourishes . . . where the winter is often severe and . . . where the heat is sometimes very great.”

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