SSAT Middle Level Reading : Locating Details in Literary Fiction Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Locating Details In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Three Musketeers" in Volume Sixteen of The Romances of Alexandre Dumas (1844; 1893 ed.)

As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen's letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d'Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen's letter and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hotel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D'Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

What does the duke want to know from d'Artagnan in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Everything that had happened in a previous situation

What happened to Monsieur de Wardes

How d'Artagnan is so mature at his age

What d'Artagnan personally knew about a previous situation

The location of the hotel in London

Correct answer:

What d'Artagnan personally knew about a previous situation

Explanation:

In the passage's first line, we are told that "the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew." Thus, while it may seem logical that the duke would want to know "everything that had happened in a previous situation," and despite d'Artagnan mentioning "what happened to Monsieur de Wardes" as part of his story, he is not prompted by the duke to do so. Similarly, while near the end of the paragraph the duke wonders how d'Artagnan is so mature, he does not ask d'Artagnan to explain this. The passage directly tells us that the duke wanted to know "what d'Artagnan personally knew about a previous situation," so that is the correct answer.

Example Question #114 : Literature Passages

Adapted from The Fight at the Pass of Thermopylæ by Charlotte M. Yonge (1876)

The troops sent for this purpose were from different cities, and amounted to about 4,000 who were to keep the pass against two millions. The leader of them was Leonidas, who had newly become one of the two kings of Sparta, the city that above all in Greece trained its sons to be hardy soldiers, dreading death infinitely less than shame. Leonidas had already made up his mind that the expedition would probably be his death, perhaps because a prophecy had been given at the Temple at Delphi that Sparta should be saved by the death of one of her kings of the race of Hercules. He was allowed by law to take with him 300 men, and these he chose most carefully, not merely for their strength and valor, but selecting those who had sons, so that no family might be altogether destroyed. These Spartans, with their helots or slaves, made up his own share of the numbers, but all the army was under his generalship. It is even said that the 300 celebrated their own funeral rites before they set out lest they should be deprived of them by the enemy, since, as we have already seen, it was the Greek belief that the spirits of the dead found no rest till their obsequies had been performed. Such preparations did not daunt the spirits of Leonidas and his men, and his wife, Gorgo, not a woman to be faint-hearted or hold him back. Long before, when she was a very little girl, a word of hers had saved her father from listening to a traitorous message from the King of Persia; and every Spartan lady was bred up to be able to say to those she best loved that they must come home from battle "with the shield or carried upon it."

Why did Leonidas think he was going to die defending Sparta?

Possible Answers:

He was a terrible fighter.

All the Kings of Sparta died on the battlefield.

It had been foretold in a prophecy.

He had learned that the other king of Sparta was planning to kill him during the battle.

His wife demanded that he die for his country.

Correct answer:

It had been foretold in a prophecy.

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “Leonidas had already made up his mind that the expedition would probably be his death, perhaps because a prophecy had been given at the Temple at Delphi that Sparta should be saved by the death of one of her kings of the race of Hercules.” Leonidas thus believes he is likely to die because it has been foretold in a prophecy. 

Example Question #12 : Locating Details In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

What is “the Admiral Benbow”?

Possible Answers:

An inn

An island

A ship

A person

An award

Correct answer:

An inn

Explanation:

“The Admiral Benbow” is mentioned in the following lines: “When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present.” Since we are told that the Admiral Benbow is along the coast road that goes to Bristol, it wouldn’t make sense for it to be an island, a ship, an award, or even a person, despite “Admiral Benbow” sounding like a character’s name. Also, the phrasing of “put up at the Admiral Benbow” tells us that the Admiral Benbow is somewhere where one can stay, like an inn.

Example Question #13 : Locating Details In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

The narrator resides __________.

Possible Answers:

in a large city

near a large body of water

in a castle

in a forest

in a castle

on a ship

Correct answer:

near a large body of water

Explanation:

Clues to this question are scattered throughout the passage. Near the beginning of the passage, we are told that “All day [the man] hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope,” so we know that there is a “cove” near the narrator's residence. Also, in the second paragraph, we read, “On stormy nights, when the wind shook the four corners of the house and the surf roared along the cove and up the cliffs . . .” The references to “the surf” and “the cove” here tell us again that the narrator must be near a body of water. Since we can tell that he is on land and not on a ship, “near a large body of water” is the correct answer.

Example Question #5 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it—it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.

The way Dinah washed her children's faces was this: first she held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose: and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

'Oh, you wicked little thing!' cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. 'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage—and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn't get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help, if it might.

Which of the following is true in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Alice talks to the cat and kittens, and they talk back, which is normal in this story’s world.

Alice talks to the cat and kittens, and they talk back, which is unexpected in this story’s world.

Alice does not talk, but the cat and kittens do.

Alice talks to the cat and kittens, but they do not talk back.

Alice falls asleep, and the cat and kittens talk while she is asleep.

Correct answer:

Alice talks to the cat and kittens, but they do not talk back.

Explanation:

The only person who speaks in the passage is Alice; the cat and kittens never speak. This allows us to pick out the correct answer: “Alice talks to the cat and kittens, but they do not talk back.”

Example Question #115 : Literature Passages

Adapted from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it—it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.

The way Dinah washed her children's faces was this: first she held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose: and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

'Oh, you wicked little thing!' cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. 'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage—and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn't get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help, if it might.

The characters mentioned in the passage are __________.

Possible Answers:

A white kitten, a black kitten, and Dinah

Alice, Dinah, and a black kitten

Alice, the old cat, Dinah, a white kitten, and a black kitten

Alice, Alice’s sister Dinah, a white kitten, and a black kitten

Alice, Dinah, a white kitten, and a black kitten

Correct answer:

Alice, Dinah, a white kitten, and a black kitten

Explanation:

There are four characters in the passage: the white kitten and black kitten are mentioned in its first line, Dinah is mentioned in the first sentence of the second paragraph, and Alice is mentioned in the first line of the third paragraph. A sister of Alice’s is never mentioned, and “the old cat” refers to Dinah; one can infer this from the way the first paragraph says, “For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour,” and the second paragraph describes Dinah washing the white kitten. More evidence of this appears in the third paragraph when it states, “'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' [Alice] added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage.”

Example Question #2 : Textual Relationships In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (1879 Kingston ed.)

Thus talking, we pushed on until we came to a pleasant grove which stretched down to the water's edge. Here, we halted to rest, seating ourselves under a large tree, by a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us. A thousand gaily-plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them. 

My son suddenly started up.

"A monkey," he exclaimed. “I am nearly sure I saw a monkey." 

As he spoke, he sprang round to the other side of the tree, and in doing so, stumbled over a small round object. He handed it to me, remarking as he did so that it was a round bird's nest, of which he had often heard. "You may have done so," said I, laughing, "but this is a coconut."

We split open the nut, but, to our disgust, found the kernel dry and uneatable. 

"Hullo," cried Fritz, "I always thought a coconut was full of delicious sweet liquid, like almond milk."

"So it is," I replied, "when young and fresh, but as it ripens the milk becomes congealed, and in course of time is solidified into a kernel. This kernel then dries as you see here, but when the nut falls on favorable soil, the germ within the kernel swells until it bursts through the shell, and, taking root, springs up a new tree."

"I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already."

"Nature provides for all things," I answered, taking up the pieces. " Look here, do you see these three round holes near the stalk? It is through them that the germ obtains egress. Now let us find a good nut if we can." 

As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree, it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up. When we succeeded, however, we were so refreshed by the fruit that we could defer eating until later in the day, and so spare our stock of provisions.

According to Fritz, almond shells and hazelnut shells have something in common that coconuts don't have. What feature is that?

Possible Answers:

They are both used in recipes.

They are both very expensive.

They are both hard.

They are both inedible.

They are both divided down the middle.

Correct answer:

They are both divided down the middle.

Explanation:

In the eighth paragraph, Fritz says, "I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already." From this, we can correctly answer this question in saying that Fritz says almond shells and hazelnut shells are "both divided down the middle." While almond shells, hazelnut shells, and coconut shells may all be "inedible" and "hard," we are looking for the feature which is common to almond and hazelnut shells but not applicable to coconut shells, so neither of these can be the correct answer.

Example Question #4 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (1879 Kingston ed.)

Thus talking, we pushed on until we came to a pleasant grove which stretched down to the water's edge. Here, we halted to rest, seating ourselves under a large tree, by a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us. A thousand gaily-plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them. 

My son suddenly started up.

"A monkey," he exclaimed. “I am nearly sure I saw a monkey." 

As he spoke, he sprang round to the other side of the tree, and in doing so, stumbled over a small round object. He handed it to me, remarking as he did so that it was a round bird's nest, of which he had often heard. "You may have done so," said I, laughing, "but this is a coconut."

We split open the nut, but, to our disgust, found the kernel dry and uneatable. 

"Hullo," cried Fritz, "I always thought a coconut was full of delicious sweet liquid, like almond milk."

"So it is," I replied, "when young and fresh, but as it ripens the milk becomes congealed, and in course of time is solidified into a kernel. This kernel then dries as you see here, but when the nut falls on favorable soil, the germ within the kernel swells until it bursts through the shell, and, taking root, springs up a new tree."

"I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already."

"Nature provides for all things," I answered, taking up the pieces. " Look here, do you see these three round holes near the stalk? It is through them that the germ obtains egress. Now let us find a good nut if we can." 

As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree, it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up. When we succeeded, however, we were so refreshed by the fruit that we could defer eating until later in the day, and so spare our stock of provisions.

The narrator says that there are holes in coconut shells so that __________.

Possible Answers:

water that the seed needs can get inside the outer layer of the nut

birds and other small animals can drink the coconut’s milk

the nut can be easier split apart

the seed can get out of the shell when it is growing

air can get to the milk and make it spoil

Correct answer:

the seed can get out of the shell when it is growing

Explanation:

Before discussing the holes in coconut shells in the passage, the narrator tells Fritz how “when the [coconut] falls on favorable soil, the germ within the kernel swells until it bursts through the shell, and, taking root, springs up a new tree.” Fritz then says he doesn’t understand “‘how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already.’” The narrator then answers, “Look here, do you see these three round holes near the stalk [of the coconut shell]? It is through them that the germ obtains egress.” By looking at the entire conversation, we can tell that the characters are talking about how the seed gets out of the shell, and we can pick out “the seed can get out of the shell when it is growing” as the correct answer. None of the other answer choices are supported by the passage.

Example Question #116 : Literature Passages

Adapted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (1879 Kingston ed.)

Thus talking, we pushed on until we came to a pleasant grove which stretched down to the water's edge. Here, we halted to rest, seating ourselves under a large tree, by a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us. A thousand gaily-plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them. 

My son suddenly started up.

"A monkey," he exclaimed. “I am nearly sure I saw a monkey." 

As he spoke, he sprang round to the other side of the tree, and in doing so, stumbled over a small round object. He handed it to me, remarking as he did so that it was a round bird's nest, of which he had often heard. "You may have done so," said I, laughing, "but this is a coconut."

We split open the nut, but, to our disgust, found the kernel dry and uneatable. 

"Hullo," cried Fritz, "I always thought a coconut was full of delicious sweet liquid, like almond milk."

"So it is," I replied, "when young and fresh, but as it ripens the milk becomes congealed, and in course of time is solidified into a kernel. This kernel then dries as you see here, but when the nut falls on favorable soil, the germ within the kernel swells until it bursts through the shell, and, taking root, springs up a new tree."

"I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already."

"Nature provides for all things," I answered, taking up the pieces. " Look here, do you see these three round holes near the stalk? It is through them that the germ obtains egress. Now let us find a good nut if we can." 

As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree, it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up. When we succeeded, however, we were so refreshed by the fruit that we could defer eating until later in the day, and so spare our stock of provisions.

The narrator is Fritz’s __________.

Possible Answers:

brother

boss

servant

shipmate

father

Correct answer:

father

Explanation:

We can tell that the narrator is Fritz’s father because in the second paragraph, he refers to Fritz as “my son” in the transition between the last line of the first paragraph, “A thousand gaily plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them," and the first line of the second paragraph, "My son suddenly started up.”

Example Question #14 : Locating Details In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (1879 Kingston ed.)

Thus talking, we pushed on until we came to a pleasant grove which stretched down to the water's edge. Here, we halted to rest, seating ourselves under a large tree, by a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us. A thousand gaily-plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them. 

My son suddenly started up.

"A monkey," he exclaimed. “I am nearly sure I saw a monkey." 

As he spoke, he sprang round to the other side of the tree, and in doing so, stumbled over a small round object. He handed it to me, remarking as he did so that it was a round bird's nest, of which he had often heard. "You may have done so," said I, laughing, "but this is a coconut."

We split open the nut, but, to our disgust, found the kernel dry and uneatable. 

"Hullo," cried Fritz, "I always thought a coconut was full of delicious sweet liquid, like almond milk."

"So it is," I replied, "when young and fresh, but as it ripens the milk becomes congealed, and in course of time is solidified into a kernel. This kernel then dries as you see here, but when the nut falls on favorable soil, the germ within the kernel swells until it bursts through the shell, and, taking root, springs up a new tree."

"I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already."

"Nature provides for all things," I answered, taking up the pieces. " Look here, do you see these three round holes near the stalk? It is through them that the germ obtains egress. Now let us find a good nut if we can." 

As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree, it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up. When we succeeded, however, we were so refreshed by the fruit that we could defer eating until later in the day, and so spare our stock of provisions.

This passage takes place __________.

Possible Answers:

on a ship

on a mountaintop

in a desert

in the tropics

in the Arctic

Correct answer:

in the tropics

Explanation:

The first two paragraphs of the passage can help you figure out the answer to this question. In the first paragraph, the narrator describes sitting by “a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us.” A “rivulet” is a small river or stream, so we can infer that the passage cannot take place “in a desert” or “in the Arctic”; it also is not likely to take place “on a mountaintop” since they are right next to the ocean, and since the passage clearly takes place on land, “on a ship” cannot be the correct answer either. The second paragraph describes how the narrator and Fritz see colorful birds, and how Fritz thinks he sees a monkey, yielding further support to the correct answer: “in the tropics.” Coconut, colorful birds, and monkeys would all be things one could expect to encounter in the tropics.

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