SSAT Middle Level Reading : Locating Details in Narrative Social Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #2 : Literal Comprehension

"The Holy Roman Empire" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

The Holy Roman Empire was somewhat unique among the various organized states of Middle and Early Modern Europe in that the Emperor was chosen by a group of electors. This is in stark contrast to the strict hereditary nature of English or French succession, where the position of monarch was handed down from the outgoing ruler to his closest legitimate heir, usually a son. In the Holy Roman Empire, the Emperor was chosen by seven electors, which in theory might seem to give the Empire a sort of early democratic flavor. However, in practice, only two or three families were ever able to draw on sufficient personal wealth to stand for election. Of these, the Luxembourgs and the Hapsburgs are most well known. The Hapsburgs were so successful that they were able to maintain their “elected” position for almost four centuries, and the Luxembourgs somehow still have a small country named after their family almost seven hundred years after their fall from dominance.

Why were the Hapsburg and Luxembourg families able to stand for election?

Possible Answers:

They were deemed highly virtuous and religious families

They were renowned throughout Europe

They had sufficient personal wealth to afford it

They were beloved by the people

They had the historical legitimacy necessary to be elected

Correct answer:

They had sufficient personal wealth to afford it

Explanation:

This question is asking you to identify a relevant detail from the text. When you are asked to do this, it is important to read carefully to determine which of the answers is most directly supported in the text. The author says, "only two or three families were ever able to draw on sufficient personal wealth to stand for election. Of these the Luxembourgs and the Hapsburgs are most well known.” So, the correct answer is that the Hapsburgs and Luxembourgs were able to stand for election because they were wealthy enough to afford the costs involved.

Example Question #21 : Locating Details In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from A Modern History from the Time of Luther to the Fall of Napoleon by John Lord (1874)

The period at which this history commences—the beginning of the sixteenth century—when compared with the ages which had preceded it, since the fall of the Roman empire, was one of unprecedented brilliancy and activity. It was a period very fruitful in great people and great events, and, though stormy and turbulent, was favorable to experiments and reforms. The nations of Europe seem to have been suddenly aroused from a state of torpor and rest, and to have put forth new energies in every department of life. The material and the political, the moral and the social condition of society was subject to powerful agitations, and passed through important changes.

Great discoveries and inventions had been made. The use of movable types, first ascribed to Gutenberg in 1441 and to Peter Schœffer in 1444, changed the whole system of book-making, and vastly increased the circulation of the scriptures, the Greek and Latin classics, and all other valuable works, which, by the industry of the monkish copyist, had been preserved from the ravages of time and barbarism. Gunpowder, whose explosive power had been perceived by Roger Bacon as early as 1280, though it was not used on the field of battle until 1346, had changed the art of war, which had greatly contributed to undermining the feudal system. The polarity of the magnet, also discovered in the middle ages, and not practically applied to the mariner's compass until 1403, had led to the greatest event of the fifteenth century—the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, in 1492. The impulse given to commerce by this and other discoveries of unknown continents and oceans, by the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the Dutch, the English, and the French, cannot be here enlarged on. America revealed to the astonished European its riches in gold and silver; and Indian spices, and silks, and drugs, were imported through new channels. Mercantile wealth, with all its refinements, acquired new importance in the eyes of the nations. The world opened towards the east and the west. The horizon of knowledge extended. Popular delusions were dispelled. Liberality of mind was acquired. The material prosperity of the western nations was increased. Tastes became more refined, and social intercourse more cheerful.

According to the author, how were books and writings preserved before the invention of movable type?

Possible Answers:

Barbarians and other conquerors had no great interest in books, so books survived without much loss.

Many individual wealthy men kept some books for themselves and ensured they would pass on to their children.

There was no deliberate attempt to protect any particular written works; some books merely survived due to fortune.

A series of dedicated kings worked over many centuries to protect the classics.

Monks worked diligently to make copies of works and ensure their longevity.

Correct answer:

Monks worked diligently to make copies of works and ensure their longevity.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read the passage carefully to discover the correct detail. In the second paragraph, the author says, “The use of movable types . . . changed the whole system of book-making, and vastly increased the circulation of . . . valuable works, which, by the industry of the monkish copyist, had been preserved from the ravages of time and barbarism.” So, it is the “industry” (hard-work and dedication) of the “monkish copyist” which preserved literature in the years before movable type.

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