SSAT Elementary Level Reading : Evaluative Understanding in Nonfiction Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #9 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History Passages

"What Do We Remember About History?" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

Henry the Eighth is most commonly remembered for the unique fact that he took six different wives over the course of his lifetime. There is even a famous ditty uttered by English schoolchildren to help them remember the fate of his various wives: “Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.”

However, during Henry’s rule, England permanently ended its long-standing relationship with the Catholic church and became forever a Protestant kingdom. This break has had long-felt repercussions up to and including the present day. Yet, in spite of the deep importance of Henry’s decision to leave the family of Catholic nations, he is best known for taking six wives. This difference between importance of actions and nature of popular remembrance should tell us something about the collective understanding of history—it is often the trivial and merely interesting that survives, whilst the significant but less fascinating can fade from memory.

The underlined word “trivial” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

coherent

inherent

compulsive

implausible

insignificant

Correct answer:

insignificant

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “it is often the trivial and merely interesting that survives, whilst the significant but less fascinating can fade from memory.” Here, the “trivial and merely interesting” is contrasted against the “significant but less fascinating.” So, if “fascinating” and “interesting” are two matching terms, than “trivial” and “significant” must be opposite to one another. You can therefore determine that “trivial” must mean insignificant or not important. To provide further help, “coherent” means able to be understood; “compulsive” means forced to do; “implausible” means hard to believe or unlikely; and “inherent” means natural.

Example Question #10 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History Passages

"What Do We Remember About History?" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

Henry the Eighth is most commonly remembered for the unique fact that he took six different wives over the course of his lifetime. There is even a famous ditty uttered by English schoolchildren to help them remember the fate of his various wives: “Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.”

However, during Henry’s rule, England permanently ended its long-standing relationship with the Catholic church and became forever a Protestant kingdom. This break has had long-felt repercussions up to and including the present day. Yet, in spite of the deep importance of Henry’s decision to leave the family of Catholic nations, he is best known for taking six wives. This difference between importance of actions and nature of popular remembrance should tell us something about the collective understanding of history—it is often the trivial and merely interesting that survives, whilst the significant but less fascinating can fade from memory.

The underlined word “repercussions” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

corporations

celebrations

consequences 

revolutions

elevations

Correct answer:

consequences 

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “This break has had long felt repercussions up to and including the present day. Yet, in spite of the deep importance . . ." Because what happened was of “deep importance” “up to and including the present day,” it is reasonable to determine that the break had long felt consequences. To provide further help, “consequences” are results of an action; “revolutions” are rebellions against someone’s control; “corporations” are large businesses owned by many people; and “elevations” are high places.  

Example Question #56 : History Passages

Adapted from A Child’s History of England by Charles Darwin (1905)

Henry Plantagenet, when he was but twenty-one years old, quietly succeeded to the throne of England, according to his agreement made with the late king at Winchester. Six weeks after Stephen’s death, he and his queen, Eleanor, were crowned in that city, into which they rode on horseback in great state, side by side, amidst much shouting and rejoicing, and clashing of music, and strewing of flowers.

The reign of King Henry the Second began well. The king had great possessions, and (with his own property, and with that of his wife) was lord of one-third part of France. He was a young man of strength, ability, and determination, and immediately applied himself to remove some of the evils which had arisen in the last unhappy reign. He took away all the grants of land that had been hastily made, on either side, during the recent struggles; he forced numbers of disorderly soldiers to depart from England; he reclaimed all the castles belonging to the crown; and he forced the wicked nobles to pull down their own castles, to the number of eleven hundred, in which such dismal cruelties had been inflicted on the people.  

The king’s brother, Geoffrey, rose against him in France and forced Henry to wage a war in France. After he had subdued and made a friendly arrangement with his brother (who did not live long), his ambition to increase his possessions involved him in a war with the French king, Louis. He had been on such friendly terms with the French king just before, that to his infant daughter, then a baby in the cradle, he had promised one of his little sons in marriage, who was a child of five years old. However, the war came to nothing at last, and the Pope made the two kings friends again.

The underlined word “late” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

replaced

delayed

dead

existing

arrived

Correct answer:

dead

Explanation:

The word “late” usually means not on time or delayed. This is one of the answer choices available to you; however, in this context, this is not how the word is being used. The word “late” also is often used to mean dead or recently deceased. In context, the author says “Henry Plantagenet . . . quietly succeeded to the throne of England, according to his agreement made with the late King at Winchester.  Six weeks after Stephen’s death . . . “ The fact that Henry became King due to an agreement made with the previous King (Stephen), who are you are told has died, means that when the author describes the King at Winchester as “late,” he means "dead" and not "delayed."

Example Question #57 : History Passages

Adapted from A Child’s History of England by Charles Darwin (1905)

As great and good in peace as he was great and good in war, King Alfred never rested from his labors to improve his people. He loved to talk with clever men and travelers from foreign countries and to write down what they told him for his people to read. He had studied Latin after learning to read English, and now another of his labors was to translate Latin books into the English-Saxon tongue, that his people might be interested and improved by their contents. He made just laws, that they might live more happily and freely; he turned away all partial judges, that no wrong might be done them; he was so careful of their property, and punished robbers so severely that it was a common thing to say that under the great King Alfred, garlands of golden chains and jewels might have hung across the streets, and no man would have touched one. He founded schools, and he patiently heard causes himself in his Court of Justice. The great desires of his heart were, to do right to all his subjects, and to leave England better, wiser, and happier in all ways than he found it. His industry in these efforts was quite astonishing. Every day he divided into certain portions, and in each portion devoted himself to a certain pursuit. That he might divide his time exactly, he had wax torches or candles made, which were all of the same size, were notched across at regular distances, and were always kept burning. Thus, as the candles burnt down, he divided the day into notches, almost as accurately as we now divide it into hours upon the clock. But when the candles were first invented, it was found that the wind and draughts of air, blowing into the palace through the doors and windows and through the chinks in the walls, caused them to gutter and burn unequally. To prevent this, the King had them put into cases formed of wood and white horn. And these were the first lanterns ever made in England.

All this time, he was afflicted with a terrible unknown disease, which caused him violent and frequent pain that nothing could relieve. He bore it, as he had borne all the troubles of his life, like a brave good man, until he was fifty-three years old; and then, having reigned thirty years, he died. He died in the year nine hundred and one; but, long ago as that is, his fame, and the love and gratitude with which his subjects regarded him, are freshly remembered to the present hour.

The underlined word “just” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

illegal

complicated

only 

harsh

fair

Correct answer:

fair

Explanation:

The word “just” means fair and equal; it can also mean only. When it is used to mean fair and equal, it is usually used to describe laws or legal things. However, if you did not know this, it would be necessary to figure out the correct answer from context. The author says “He made just laws, that they might live more happily and freely; he turned away all partial judges, that no wrong might be done them." If the laws he made were “just,” and they made people “live more happily and freely,” it would not make sense for “just” to mean “harsh." Nothing in the passage suggests that the laws were "complicated" or "illegal," and "only" clearly doesn't work in the sentence; we can't say that Alfred made "only laws," as he appears to have made many other changes while king of England. The only answer that makes sense is “fair.”

Example Question #58 : History Passages

Adapted from A Child’s History of England by Charles Darwin (1905)

As great and good in peace as he was great and good in war, King Alfred never rested from his labors to improve his people. He loved to talk with clever men and travelers from foreign countries and to write down what they told him for his people to read. He had studied Latin after learning to read English, and now another of his labors was to translate Latin books into the English-Saxon tongue, that his people might be interested and improved by their contents. He made just laws, that they might live more happily and freely; he turned away all partial judges, that no wrong might be done them; he was so careful of their property, and punished robbers so severely that it was a common thing to say that under the great King Alfred, garlands of golden chains and jewels might have hung across the streets, and no man would have touched one. He founded schools, and he patiently heard causes himself in his Court of Justice. The great desires of his heart were, to do right to all his subjects, and to leave England better, wiser, and happier in all ways than he found it. His industry in these efforts was quite astonishing. Every day he divided into certain portions, and in each portion devoted himself to a certain pursuit. That he might divide his time exactly, he had wax torches or candles made, which were all of the same size, were notched across at regular distances, and were always kept burning. Thus, as the candles burnt down, he divided the day into notches, almost as accurately as we now divide it into hours upon the clock. But when the candles were first invented, it was found that the wind and draughts of air, blowing into the palace through the doors and windows and through the chinks in the walls, caused them to gutter and burn unequally. To prevent this, the King had them put into cases formed of wood and white horn. And these were the first lanterns ever made in England.

All this time, he was afflicted with a terrible unknown disease, which caused him violent and frequent pain that nothing could relieve. He bore it, as he had borne all the troubles of his life, like a brave good man, until he was fifty-three years old; and then, having reigned thirty years, he died. He died in the year nine hundred and one; but, long ago as that is, his fame, and the love and gratitude with which his subjects regarded him, are freshly remembered to the present hour.

The underlined word “labors” most nearly means

Possible Answers:

efforts

failures

conversations

mistakes

feelings

Correct answer:

efforts

Explanation:

In context, the author says that “King Alfred never rested from his labors to improve his people.” The word “labors” means work, projects, or efforts. If you did not know this, it would be necessary to consider what the author says after this excerpt. He describes how Alfred “loved to talk with clever men and travelers from foreign countries and to write down what they told him" and how Alfred "had studied Latin after learning to read English." These all sound like things that one has to work at or put effort into. To provide further help, a “conversation” is a casual instance of two or more people talking with one another.

Example Question #31 : Evaluative Understanding In Nonfiction Passages

The stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, which officially began the Great Depression in the United States. Starting on the above date (often called "Black Tuesday"), unemployment rapidly rose, causing economic hardships for many workers and their families. President Herbert Hoover tried to halt the Great Depression, but his numerous attempts were futile. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the presidential office in 1932, he enacted the "New Deal" to offer work relief for many displaced American workers. All of the "New Deal" programs were focused on the 3 Rs: relief for the poor and unemployed, recovery from the economic downturn, and reform efforts to prevent a second Great Depression. The Great Depression ended in 1941 when the United States entered World War II.

What is the meaning of the underlined word "futile"?

Possible Answers:

Applauded by the greater public

Successful in every aspect of its implementation

Subject to approval by the House of Representatives

Incapable of producing positive effects

Caused by a lack of foresight

Correct answer:

Incapable of producing positive effects

Explanation:

"Futile" is defined as pointless and ineffective. We can determine the meaning of "futile" based on its surrounding context in the sentence, "President Herbert Hoover tried to halt the Great Depression, but his numerous attempts were futile." The inclusion of "but" in the sentence conveys to the reader that President Hoover did not successfully halt the Great Depression.

Example Question #32 : Evaluative Understanding In Nonfiction Passages

It has often been asserted by modern historians that the Czech Republic ought to be known as the Republic of Bohemia and Moravia. These are the two regions of Europe that constitute the modern Czech country. The problem is that each of these names has a loose association with the short-lived reign of Hitler and the Nazis in what was then called Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia was also the name of the country in the Communist Era, until Slovakia voted to separate from the Czech Republic. So it has come to pass that the Czech people are left with a name that is to them, at least, somewhat unsatisfying. Perhaps several generations from now, as the horrors of World War Two fade further from European memory, the better names of the Czech region will once more emerge into prominence.

The underlined word "constitute" most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

outline

separate

break-up

make-up

dormant

Correct answer:

make-up

Explanation:

In context, the author is talking about how the regions of Bohemia and Moravia "make up" the Czech Republic. You ought to be able to infer that "constitute" means make-up, because the author tells you that Bohemia and Moravia are in the Czech Republic, and that they are of sufficiently significant so as to give the name to the whole nation. "Outline" means draw around, describe; "dormant" means asleep, inactive.

Example Question #33 : Evaluative Understanding In Nonfiction Passages

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

Thebes was an ancient city in Greece, founded by Cadmus, a Phoenician, though of Egyptian parentage. Sailing from the coast of Phoenicia, he arrived in Greece, and built the city, calling it Thebes, from the city of that name in Egypt. The prince is credited with the invention of sixteen letters of the Greek Alphabet. Athens was the capital of Attica, founded by Cecrops, an Egyptian. It was the seat of learning and the arts, and has produced some of the most celebrated warriors, politicians, orators, poets, and sculptors in the world. Since the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman Empire, Athens has been chosen as its capital, and is still a considerable town adorned with splendid ruins of the beautiful buildings it once possessed.

The underlined word, "splendid," most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

imperfect

incredulous

impressive

bold

broken

Correct answer:

impressive

Explanation:

In context the author is talking about the "beautiful buildings" and "splendid ruins" that can be found in the city of Athens. He says "Athens has been chosen as its capital, and is it still a considerable town, adorned with splendid ruins of the beautiful buildings it once possessed." If you are "adorned" with something, that means made more beautiful, decorated, so the ruins are unlikely to be "broken," "imperfect," or "incredulous." "Bold" is a possibility, but from the context, "impressive" is a much more reasonable answer. To provide further help, "imperfect" means not perfect; "incredulous" means disbelieving; "bold" means brave.

Example Question #34 : Evaluative Understanding In Nonfiction Passages

Egypt

Molly Kubik, 2016

Egypt is a country in northern Africa.  Egypt is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west.  The capital of Egypt is Cairo.  Cairo is the largest city in Africa, and has been a very important place throughout Egypt's history.  Cairo is a modern city.  If you visit, you will see large buildings and many cars.  Egypt has a very rich history.  Long ago, the ancient Egyptians were a very advanced civilization.  They were very intelligent people who built pyramids, invented ways to farm in the desert, invented a way of writing, and set up many schools.  Ancient Egyptian writing was very advanced.  Ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphics to write, which are small pictures that tell a written story.  Although is very difficult to live in the desert, the ancient Egyptians were very resourceful and were able to create a prosperous civilization.  Like the ancient Egyptians and modern day Egyptians mainly live near the Nile River.  Modern day Egypt sometimes has problems.  Over 82 million people live in Egypt.  Some people live in poverty.  Many poor people need jobs, homes, and education.  There have been problems with wars.  Egypt is working very hard to solve these problems.  They are working hard to make their schools better, and are helping students to learn more.  Egypt has a wonderful history, and it will have a great future too because people are working hard to make Egypt a great place.

Based on the passage, what does the term "prosperous" mean?

Possible Answers:

Modern

Ancient

Successful

Poor

Correct answer:

Successful

Explanation:

Best answer is "successful." We know that the Ancient Egyptians were successful because they built an advanced civilization in the desert. The reader might have answered "intelligent", because the passage states that the Egyptians were intelligent, but this is not the best synonym of "prosperous."

Example Question #4 : Contemporary Life Passages

"Soccer" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

Soccer is considered by some Americans to be a European and Latin American sport. For numerous reasons, the sport has struggled to take hold professionally in the United States, but there is growing participation in the sport at the youth level. This can probably be attributed to the relative dangers faced by those playing soccer and those playing America’s traditional favorite youth sport—American football.

Young children who play American football are at high risk of several catastrophic injuries such as concussions, fractures and spinal damage. The universal concern among parents to protect the health of their children has lead many to encourage their child to take up soccer as opposed to American football. If this trend continues, which it almost certainly will as our society becomes more aware of the degree of damage done by repeated collisions in American football, it will not be long before the popularity of soccer spreads upwards to the professional level.

Which of these themes or ideas is not supported by the passage?

Possible Answers:

Most parents encourage their child to play a particular sport based on the health risks involved.

Parents are worried about the health and safety of their children.

The popularity of a game at the professional level is related to its popularity at the youth level.

Some Americans view soccer as less traditionally American than American football.

It may be more expensive to play American football than to play soccer.

Correct answer:

It may be more expensive to play American football than to play soccer.

Explanation:

The idea that “American football has greater youth investment than soccer” is unrelated to this passage because the author never mentions money or compares relative levels of investment. The other four answer choices are all very important ideas in the author’s main argument. The author says “Soccer is considered by many Americans to be a European and Latin American sport,” which suggests that “Some Americans view soccer as less traditionally American than American football.” He also says, “The universal concern among parents to protect the health of their children has lead many to encourage their child to take up soccer as opposed to American football,” which supports the answer choices “Parents are worried about the health and safety of their children” and “The primary reason most parents encourage their child to play a particular sport is the health risks involved.” Finally, the idea that “The popularity of a game at the professional level is related to its popularity at the youth level” is supported by the author’s statement that “If this trend continues, which it almost certainly will as our society becomes more aware of the degree of damage done by repeated collisions in American football, it will not be long before the popularity of soccer spreads upwards to the professional level.”

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