SSAT Elementary Level Reading : Inferential Understanding in Nonfiction Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Inferential Understanding In Nonfiction Passages

Adapted from Ten Great Events in History by James Johannot (1887)

The children of Germany and France caught the madness of the hour, and resolved upon a crusade of their own. Inspired by the preaching of a fanatical priest named Nicholas, twenty thousand young boys assembled at Cologne. They came from all ranks of life; the heir of the proud noble marched side by side with the son of the humblest peasant. Sisters, priests, and servants joined the throng, swelling the numbers and adding to the confusion. They stayed in Cologne for several weeks, set back by chaos and disease. Eventually the ill-fated group set off for the Holy Land, but their difficulties were just beginning. 

Based on the end of the passage which of these sentences most likely summarizes the fate of the Children’s Crusade?

Possible Answers:

It ended terribly and tragically 

It ended in triumph and glory 

It captured the Holy Land for Christianity 

It was ended before it began and the children were saved

The children never left Cologne 

Correct answer:

It ended terribly and tragically 

Explanation:

In the last sentence the author says, “Eventually the ill-fated group set off for the Holy Land, but their difficulties were just beginning.” The use of the word “ill-fated” suggests the group would be unlucky and meet a tragic end; the use of the word “difficulties” also suggests a troubled future. 

Example Question #4 : Making Inferences And Predictions In History Passages

Adapted from A Man Who Coveted Washington’s Shoes by Frank E. Stockton (1896)

The person whose story we are now about to tell was not a Jerseyman, but, as most of the incidents which make him interesting to us occurred in this state, we will give him the benefit of a few years' residence here.

This was General Charles Lee, who might well have been called a soldier of fortune. He was born in England, but the British Isles were entirely too small to satisfy his wild ambitions and his bold spirit. There are few heroes of romance who have had such a wide and varied experience, and who have engaged in so many strange enterprises. He was a brave man and very able, but he had a fault which prevented him from being a high-class soldier: he could not bear authority and was always restive under command of another, and, while always ready to tell other people what they ought to do, was never willing to be told what he ought to do.

He joined the British army when he was a young man, and he first came to this country in 1757, when General Abercrombie brought over an army to fight the French. For three years, Lee was engaged in the wilds and forests, doing battle with the Native Americans and French, and no doubt he had all the adventures an ordinary person would desire, but this experience was far from satisfactory.

Based on the ending of this passage, what can you predict General Charles Lee will do next?

Possible Answers:

Be discharged from the army

Seek more and greater adventure

Go and live in New Jersey

Grow old and sick

Return to the British Isles

Correct answer:

Seek more and greater adventure

Explanation:

The passage ends with this sentence: “For three years, Lee was engaged in the wilds and forests, doing battle with the Native Americans and French, and no doubt he had all the adventures an ordinary person would desire, but this experience was far from satisfactory.” The author suggests that Lee had had a great deal of adventure, more than enough for most people, but that for Lee those experiences were not "satisfactory," which means good enough. This suggests that he will go on to have more adventures that the author will describe in the future.

Example Question #82 : Nonfiction Passages

"The Civil War" by Michael Verini (2014)

The Civil War, which took place from 1861 to 1865, is one of the most defining events in American history. The survival of the United States depended on the nation's ability to bring to reality the ideals of liberty, equality, and justice.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected to the presidency in 1860, it brought the long-term debate about the powers of the federal and state governments to a climax. When Lincoln was inaugurated, six Southern states seceded from the Union and created the Confederate States of America. Within the next few years, five more states also seceded and joined the Confederate States. The creation of a new government in the United States caused the Civil War to occur between the North and the South.

After four years of war, the Union was preserved and slavery became illegal. Due to this outcome, over four million African-American slaves were freed from their former owners. Although the Civil War was a violent conflict between two differing American subcultures, it helped create a more united country in the years following the war.

Based solely on the information in the passage, how do you think most slaves viewed the Civil War?

Possible Answers:

Positively, because they were freed from their owners after the war was over.

Positively, because their owners left the plantations to fight in the war.

Negatively, because they were treated worse during the war.

Negatively, because they did not want the states to fight.

Neutrally, because they were not directly involved in the war.

Correct answer:

Positively, because they were freed from their owners after the war was over.

Explanation:

When the North won the Civil War, four million slaves were freed from their former owners; thus, the best answer choice is "Positively, because they were freed from their owners after the war was over." Although some of the other answer choices may be true, they are never explicitly referred to in the passage.

Example Question #6 : Making Inferences And Predictions In Science Passages

Adapted from "Life Growth - Frogs" by Margaret Warner Morley in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

Our common frogs, like many of the fishes, do not trouble themselves about the fate of their eggs after they are carefully laid in a safe place. They trust Mother Nature to see the little tadpoles safely through the perils of childhood, to help them avoid being eaten or starving, and cut, not their teeth, but their arms and legs.

In Venezuela, however, there dwells a frog with well developed maternal instinct. The mothers have pockets on their backs, not for their own convenience, but as cradles for their babies. The fathers put the fertilized eggs into the pockets of the mothers, and there they remain, well guarded, until the young are able to care for themselves.

What can you most reliably predict based on the information in this passage?

Possible Answers:

Few birds in Venezuela eat frogs.

Fishes carefully guard their young until they are old enough to survive alone.

Venezuelan frogs are far more likely to survive infancy than their counterparts elsewhere.

Venezuela is absolutely full of frogs.

Frogs are in the midst of a significant evolutionary development.

Correct answer:

Venezuelan frogs are far more likely to survive infancy than their counterparts elsewhere.

Explanation:

Many of these answer choices may be true, but only one can be reliably predicted based on this passage. That is that “Venezuelan frogs are far more likely to survive infancy than their counterparts elsewhere.” You can make this prediction because you are told that elsewhere infant frogs are left to take care of themselves, but in Venezuela the mother’s take care of the frogs during infancy. If the Venezuelan frogs are cared for and raised it is reasonably to assume they would be far more likely to survive than other frogs.

Example Question #2 : Inferential Understanding In Nonfiction 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.

What can you predict happened to King Henry’s French territory during his lifetime?

Possible Answers:

It stayed roughly the same size.

It became slightly smaller.

It was dramatically reduced.

It grew slightly larger.

It was dramatically expanded.

Correct answer:

It stayed roughly the same size.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to identify the correct clue to help you predict what might have happened to Henry’s French territory. In the concluding paragraph, the author is talking about Henry’s war with the French King Louis, which Henry waged in order to increase the size of his French territory. The author says “However, the war came to nothing at last, and the Pope made the two Kings friends again.” Because the war “came to nothing,” this tells you that very little happened, and therefore it is reasonable to predict that Henry’s French territory “stayed roughly the same size.”

Example Question #231 : Prose Passages

Adapted from Ten Great Events in History by James Johannot (1887)

The children of Germany and France caught the madness of the hour, and resolved upon a crusade of their own. Inspired by the preaching of a fanatical priest named Nicholas, twenty thousand young boys assembled at Cologne. They came from all ranks of life; the heir of the proud noble marched side by side with the son of the humblest peasant. Sisters, priests, and servants joined the throng, swelling the numbers and adding to the confusion. They stayed in Cologne for several weeks, set back by chaos and disease. Eventually the ill-fated group set off for the Holy Land, but their difficulties were just beginning. 

What can you infer was “the madness of the hour?”

Possible Answers:

The Crusades

The death of children 

Religion 

Apathy 

The city of Cologne 

Correct answer:

The Crusades

Explanation:

This passage is about the famous and ill-fated Children’s Crusade to the Holy Land. From the context you can infer that the “madness of the hour” was the idea of the Crusades in general. The author states “The children of Germany and France caught the madness of the hour, and resolved upon a crusade of their own.” These two clauses are related; the children caught the madness of the hour, and then they decided to go on their own crusade. 

Example Question #4 : Inferential Understanding In Nonfiction Passages

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

France was a far richer country than Scotland, and the new King was eager to conquer it. So, he left Scotland alone, and pretended that he had a claim to the French throne. He had, in reality, no right at all; but that mattered little in those times. He brought over to his cause many little princes and rulers and with these forces Edward invaded France; but he achieved little by that, except running himself into debt. The next year he did better; gaining the harbor of Sluys. This success, however, was very short-lived, for the King’s allies took fright at the siege of Saint Omer and ran away, leaving their weapons and allegiance behind them. When Philip, the French King, arrived with his army some moments later, Edward proposed to settle the difference by single combat with him. The French King said, he thanked him; but seeing as how the English King was without allies the French King would take his chances.

Why does the French King refuse to engage in one-on-one combat with the English King?

Possible Answers:

The English King is a much better fighter and would surely defeat the French King

The English King is a notable cheater and cannot be trusted to hold to his promises

The French King has no allies 

The French King is already in control of the situation and does not need to take risks 

The French King and English King are brothers 

Correct answer:

The French King is already in control of the situation and does not need to take risks 

Explanation:

The author describes how the English King’s allies had left him and therefore he was probably going to lose. To try and swing the odds in his favor, the English King proposes that they settle the battle between the two armies in one single hand-to-hand combat between the two kings. However, the French King knows that he already has the advantage and does not need to risk it: “The French King said, he thanked him; but seeing as how the English King was without allies the French King would take his chances.” 

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences And Predictions In History Passages

Adapted from Early European History (1917) by Hutton Webster

A medieval village usually contained several classes of laborers. There might be a number of freemen, who paid a fixed rent, either in money or produce, for the use of their land. Then there might also be a few slaves in the lord's household or at work on his domain. By this time, however, slavery had about died out in Western Europe. Most of the peasants were serfs.

Serfdom represented a stage between slavery and freedom. A slave belonged to his master; he was bought and sold like other belongings. A serf had a higher position, for he could not be sold apart from the land nor could his holding be taken from him. He was fixed to the soil. On the other hand, a serf ranked lower than a freeman, because he could not change his house, nor marry outside the manor, nor hand down his goods, without the permission of his lord.

To whom does a serf owe his loyalty?

Possible Answers:

A slave

A peasant

A lord

Another serf

A freeman

Correct answer:

A lord

Explanation:

The passage never directly states that a serf owes his loyalty to a lord, but it is implied by the author’s description of the nature of relationships between serfs and lords that a serf must be loyal to his lord.

Example Question #2 : Making Inferences And Predictions In History Passages

Adapted from A Man Who Coveted Washington’s Shoes by Frank E. Stockton (1896)

The person whose story we are now about to tell was not a Jerseyman, but, as most of the incidents which make him interesting to us occurred in this state, we will give him the benefit of a few years' residence here.

This was General Charles Lee, who might well have been called a soldier of fortune. He was born in England, but the British Isles were entirely too small to satisfy his wild ambitions and his bold spirit. There are few heroes of romance who have had such a wide and varied experience, and who have engaged in so many strange enterprises. He was a brave man and very able, but he had a fault which prevented him from being a high-class soldier: he could not bear authority and was always restive under command of another, and, while always ready to tell other people what they ought to do, was never willing to be told what he ought to do.

He joined the British army when he was a young man, and he first came to this country in 1757, when General Abercrombie brought over an army to fight the French. For three years, Lee was engaged in the wilds and forests, doing battle with the Native Americans and French, and no doubt he had all the adventures an ordinary person would desire, but this experience was far from satisfactory.

Based on the first paragraph, who can you infer was the intended audience for this passage?

Possible Answers:

People from Australia

People from the British Isles

People from New Jersey

People from New York

People from France

Correct answer:

People from New Jersey

Explanation:

In the first paragraph the author says, “The person whose story we are now about to tell was not a Jerseyman, but, as most of the incidents which make him interesting to us occurred in this State, we will give him the benefit of a few years' residence here.” This suggests that this passage was taken from a larger piece about famous people from New Jersey and because the author refers to the audience in a personal and collective way, as in “make him interesting to us,” we know that the intended audience is people from the state of New Jersey.

Example Question #3 : Making Inferences And Predictions In History Passages

Adapted from A Man Who Coveted Washington’s Shoes by Frank E. Stockton (1896)

The person whose story we are now about to tell was not a Jerseyman, but, as most of the incidents which make him interesting to us occurred in this state, we will give him the benefit of a few years' residence here.

This was General Charles Lee, who might well have been called a soldier of fortune. He was born in England, but the British Isles were entirely too small to satisfy his wild ambitions and his bold spirit. There are few heroes of romance who have had such a wide and varied experience, and who have engaged in so many strange enterprises. He was a brave man and very able, but he had a fault which prevented him from being a high-class soldier: he could not bear authority and was always restive under command of another, and, while always ready to tell other people what they ought to do, was never willing to be told what he ought to do.

He joined the British army when he was a young man, and he first came to this country in 1757, when General Abercrombie brought over an army to fight the French. For three years, Lee was engaged in the wilds and forests, doing battle with the Native Americans and French, and no doubt he had all the adventures an ordinary person would desire, but this experience was far from satisfactory.

Which of these cannot be inferred from the passage?

Possible Answers:

Charles Lee was wounded in battle. 

Charles Lee was from the British Isles.

Charles Lee lived for some time in New Jersey.

During Lee’s life there was a war with the French and the Native Americans.

Charles Lee served in the army.

Correct answer:

Charles Lee was wounded in battle. 

Explanation:

We know that Lee was from the British Isles and lived in New Jersey for some time because the author tells us so. Likewise, we know that Lee served in the army and that there was a war with the French and the Native Americans because the author says, “He joined the British army when he was a young man; and he first came to this country in 1757, when General Abercrombie brought over an army to fight the French. For three years, Lee was engaged in the wilds and forests, doing battle with the Native Americans and French.” The only piece of information not directly stated by the passage is that Charles Lee was wounded in battle; there is no evidence to support this inference. 

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