SSAT Middle Level Reading : Argumentative 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 #1 : History Passages

Adapted from Citizenship in a Republic (1910) by Theodore Roosevelt

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Which of the following best captures the attitude of the author towards “critics”?

Possible Answers:

The author finds critics to be worthless and immoral.

The author feels that all critics are significant measures of social understanding.

The author has no strong opinion on critics.

The author feels critics should not be praised over those who actually strive to achieve something.

The author lauds critical analysis as the most accurate measure of the greatness of an individual.

Correct answer:

The author feels critics should not be praised over those who actually strive to achieve something.

Explanation:

The author of this passage describes, in the introduction, how critics should not receive credit for pointing out the flaws in the actions of those who “do” things. To the author the critic is merely a biased observer, intent on pointing out the mistakes of others and little inclined towards doing anything productive themselves. The correct answer is that “The author feels critics should not be praised over those who actually strive to achieve something.” Many students might have answered that “The author finds critics to be worthless and immoral,” but the words “worthless” and “immoral” are not explicitly used by the author and the tone is slightly less harsh than those words might imply.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Tone, Style, And Figurative Language In History Passages

Adapted from Citizenship in a Republic (1910) by Theodore Roosevelt

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The author’s description of those “who neither know victory nor defeat” is __________.

Possible Answers:

friendly 

ambivalent 

incomprehensible

respectful 

derisive 

Correct answer:

derisive 

Explanation:

The author contrasts those who do not even try to compete (those that do not know victory or defeat) with those “worthy” men who are not afraid to throw themselves into any challenge or competition. It is clear from the author’s tone in this passage that he believes in the greatness of men who boldly meet competition and therefore that he would feel the opposite about those who shrink away. The author even describes those “who neither know victory nor defeat” as “cold and timid.”

Example Question #1 : Argumentative Social Science Passages

Adapted from Young People’s History of the War with Spain by Prescott Holmes (1900)

On April 21st, 1898, a war began between the United States and Spain. All the other countries of the world felt an interest in it but did not take any part in it. They were what we call "neutral" and did not help either side. As soon as the war was declared, a great wave of excitement swept through the United States from shore to shore. Flags were hung out in every city and town; thousands of men offered to serve in the army—volunteers, they were called—and many persons offered to help in other ways. The people were dispirited that war had begun, but they soon felt that their country was doing right and that they ought to support the war effort.

And what was the cause of the war? Spain, a large country across the Atlantic Ocean in the southwestern part of Europe, owned some of the islands called "West Indies" near the United States. Spain had been unjust and cruel to the people living in one of these islands for many years. Several times, the unhappy islanders tried to drive the Spanish from the island and set up a government of their own, but Spain sent so many soldiers there that they could not get their freedom. They fought bravely, however, but matters kept getting worse and worse. Spain sent a very cruel general to take charge of affairs on the island. His name was Weyler and he was determined to conquer the islanders. After a while, he found he could not do it by fighting them, so he sent his soldiers to drive those who were not fighting away from their homes and farms and make them live in or near the large cities. After he did this, the people had no way to earn money for food and soon began to get sick and die of starvation. The cruel Weyler would not give them anything to eat and so they died by the thousands. Americans were faced with the choice of standing idly by whilst thousands perished or risking American lives in a difficult war.

Which of these best summarizes the tone of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Subjective

Objective

Gregarious

Fearful

Dismayed

Correct answer:

Subjective

Explanation:

This passage was written in America only two years after war had broken out between American and Spain. This suggests that too little time could have passed for the author to reach an unbiased, impartial verdict. The passage confirms this throughout, such as in the first paragraph where the author states, “but they soon felt that their country was doing right and that they ought to support the war effort” or in the second paragraph when the author states, “Americans were faced with the choice of standing idly by whilst thousands perished or risking American lives in a difficult war." These two statements are very supportive of the American cause, which suggests that the author was “subjective,” meaning biased. To provide further help, "objective" means unbiased, it is the opposite of "subjective;" "gregarious" means sociable; "dismayed" means saddened, hopeless.

Example Question #1 : Argumentative Social Science Passages

"The Modern Day vs. the 'Good 'Ol Days'" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

You may have, at one time or another, in your life, heard an elderly person bemoan the violence of our times and express a yearning for the “good ol’ days” of his or her youth. We might reasonably wonder what bygone era would be better than these days we live in. The days when children were considered lucky to make it past their fifth birthday? The days when the entire planet convulsed to the imperial and militaristic urges of the European powers? The days when the specter of nuclear war hung over every man, woman, and child?

The truth of the matter is we live in the most relatively peaceful time period in human history. Death by infectious disease is no longer the norm for everyone; the survival rate for children continues to grow around the world; and conflict, the type which involves and threatens the civilian population, is now the exception rather than the rule. Of course, none of these things have been eradicated from our society. Such a complete elimination of disease, violence, and death may never be possible. But, statistics from human history track one almost entirely uninterrupted progression—from almost everyone dying a violent or disease-ridden death to a small and unfortunate minority. Next time you hear someone claim a desire to return to the exalted days of their youth, kindly advise them to stop their misguided nostalgia and start contributing to the onward march of humanity.

The primary tone of this passage is __________.

Possible Answers:

optimistic and humorous

disparaging and urging

whimsical and apathetic

soothing and calming

remorseful and lamenting

Correct answer:

disparaging and urging

Explanation:

The primary tone of this essay is a combination of “disparaging” towards those who long for the days of the past and who prevent "the onward march of humanity" and “urging.” The “disparaging” (mocking) tone can most clearly be seen in the author’s comments and questions directed at his opposition. The “urging” tone can be seen most clearly in the concluding lines where the author says “Next time you hear someone claim a desire to return to the exalted days of their youth, kindly advise them to stop their misguided reminiscence and start contributing to the onward march of humanity.” To provide further help, “urging” means forcefully encouraging; “whimsical” means silly and quirky; “soothing” means calming; “remorseful” means expressing sorrow about some past wrong; “humorous” means very funny; “optimistic” means hopeful about the future; and “lamenting” means mourning or expressing sorrow about.

Example Question #1 : Determining Authorial Purpose In Argumentative Social Science Passages

Adapted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Thomas Jefferson (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

What is the purpose of the first sentence in the text?

Possible Answers:

None of the other answer choices

To complain of injustice and slavery

To flourish rhetorically with little meaning at all

To address the ministers of England in a direct dialogue about the colonies' issues

To announce the reason for the complaints that will follow

Correct answer:

To announce the reason for the complaints that will follow

Explanation:

The very end of the sentence helps to transition into the next paragraph by stating, "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." This means that in what follows the separation discussed in the first sentence will have its causes listed. Some of this is found in this selection, though it continues with a long list of accusations not included here.

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

Adapted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Thomas Jefferson (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

What is the purpose of the underlined selection, "That whenever any Form . . ."?

Possible Answers:

To directly accuse King George III of his tyrannical actions

None of the other answer choices

To incite rebellion in the colonies

To declare a self-evident truth that justifies the cause for independence

To incite global rebellion

Correct answer:

To declare a self-evident truth that justifies the cause for independence

Explanation:

Notice that the sentence is of this form: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, [that] all men . . ., that they are . . ., that to secure [etc]."  Although the punctuation is odd, the general idea is that this is a long list of self-evident truths. The one in question states that when a government becomes destructive of the ends for which it is instituted, it may be altered or abolished. This is not inciting complete rebellion. Likewise, it is not a direct accusation of George III. It is merely setting the stage for justifying the revolution by appealing to what Mr. Jefferson was declaring to be a self-evident truth. 

 

Example Question #2 : Argumentative Social Science Passages

"The Modern Day vs. the 'Good 'Ol Days'" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

You may have, at one time or another, in your life, heard an elderly person bemoan the violence of our times and express a yearning for the “good ol’ days” of his or her youth. We might reasonably wonder what bygone era would be better than these days we live in. The days when children were considered lucky to make it past their fifth birthday? The days when the entire planet convulsed to the imperial and militaristic urges of the European powers? The days when the specter of nuclear war hung over every man, woman, and child?

The truth of the matter is we live in the most relatively peaceful time period in human history. Death by infectious disease is no longer the norm for everyone; the survival rate for children continues to grow around the world; and conflict, the type which involves and threatens the civilian population, is now the exception rather than the rule. Of course, none of these things have been eradicated from our society. Such a complete elimination of disease, violence, and death may never be possible. But, statistics from human history track one almost entirely uninterrupted progression—from almost everyone dying a violent or disease-ridden death to a small and unfortunate minority. Next time you hear someone claim a desire to return to the exalted days of their youth, kindly advise them to stop their misguided nostalgia and start contributing to the onward march of humanity.

The questions at the end of the first paragraph serve the purpose of __________.

Possible Answers:

outlining the right path for the future

offering a counter to the previously established argument

undermining an argument made by people in a position of power

expressing outrage at how little young people care

highlighting terrible things from the past

Correct answer:

highlighting terrible things from the past

Explanation:

The author introduces the questions at the end of the first paragraph by saying “We might reasonably wonder what bygone era would be better than these days we live in.” The subject matter of the questions is then a series of horrible and unfair things from the past. So the best answer choice is that the questions highlight the inequities (unfair deficiencies) of the past.

Example Question #2 : Determining Context Dependent Word Meanings In History Passages

Adapted from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Thomas Jefferson (1776)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

What is the meaning of the word “dissolve” in context?

Possible Answers:

To question

To put into solution

To fulminate

To fix

To end

Correct answer:

To end

Explanation:

In general, we use the word "dissolve" to describe the process of putting a solid into solution, as when we dissolve sugar or salt into water. This process "breaks up" the molecules (in different ways, not always completely traumatically). From this usage, we also can utilize the term to describe any process that brings something to an end. A business can be dissolved when its parts are broken up, and the relationship of the colonies to England can be dissolved. This is the sense it which the word is used in the passage.

Example Question #1 : Argumentative Social Science Passages

"The Modern Day vs. the 'Good 'Ol Days'" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

You may have, at one time or another, in your life, heard an elderly person bemoan the violence of our times and express a yearning for the “good ol’ days” of his or her youth. We might reasonably wonder what bygone era would be better than these days we live in. The days when children were considered lucky to make it past their fifth birthday? The days when the entire planet convulsed to the imperial and militaristic urges of the European powers? The days when the specter of nuclear war hung over every man, woman, and child?

The truth of the matter is we live in the most relatively peaceful time period in human history. Death by infectious disease is no longer the norm for everyone; the survival rate for children continues to grow around the world; and conflict, the type which involves and threatens the civilian population, is now the exception rather than the rule. Of course, none of these things have been eradicated from our society. Such a complete elimination of disease, violence, and death may never be possible. But, statistics from human history track one almost entirely uninterrupted progression—from almost everyone dying a violent or disease-ridden death to a small and unfortunate minority. Next time you hear someone claim a desire to return to the exalted days of their youth, kindly advise them to stop their misguided nostalgia and start contributing to the onward march of humanity.

The underlined word “bemoan” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

despise

rejoice at

complain about

express confusion about

revel in

Correct answer:

complain about

Explanation:

The word “bemoan” means express dislike or sorrow about. In this context, it is being used slightly differently. The author is describing how old people “bemoan” the violence of our times. It would make little sense for old people to “rejoice at” (celebrate) or “revel in.” They might reasonably be confused about or express hatred (“despise.”) But, the best fit for the context of the opening sentence and the manner in which the author is rallying against a certain mentality is “complain about.”

Example Question #91 : Social Science Passages

"The Modern Day vs. the 'Good 'Ol Days'" by Daniel Morrison (2014)

You may have, at one time or another, in your life, heard an elderly person bemoan the violence of our times and express a yearning for the “good ol’ days” of his or her youth. We might reasonably wonder what bygone era would be better than these days we live in. The days when children were considered lucky to make it past their fifth birthday? The days when the entire planet convulsed to the imperial and militaristic urges of the European powers? The days when the specter of nuclear war hung over every man, woman, and child?

The truth of the matter is we live in the most relatively peaceful time period in human history. Death by infectious disease is no longer the norm for everyone; the survival rate for children continues to grow around the world; and conflict, the type which involves and threatens the civilian population, is now the exception rather than the rule. Of course, none of these things have been eradicated from our society. Such a complete elimination of disease, violence, and death may never be possible. But, statistics from human history track one almost entirely uninterrupted progression—from almost everyone dying a violent or disease-ridden death to a small and unfortunate minority. Next time you hear someone claim a desire to return to the exalted days of their youth, kindly advise them to stop their misguided nostalgia and start contributing to the onward march of humanity.

The underlined word “nostalgia” most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

force of nature

fear of the future

striving for the future

derision of the past.

longing for the past

Correct answer:

longing for the past

Explanation:

“Nostalgia” is a sentimental longing for the past, or a desire to return to memories of the past. From context, you could determine this quite easily; the author says, “Next time you hear someone claim a desire to return to the exalted days of their youth, kindly advise them to stop their misguided nostalgia and start contributing to the onward march of humanity.” The “nostalgia” mentioned in this excerpt is the word used to describe the earlier mentioned “desire to return to the exalted days of their youth.” To help, “striving” is working hard to achieve something, and “derision” is mocking and scorn.

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