SSAT Middle Level Reading : SSAT Middle Level Reading Comprehension

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson (1916)

 

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what is the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me when I jump into my bed.

 

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller, like a big old bouncing ball,

And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

  

He hasn't got an idea of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close behind me; he's a coward you can see;

I'd think shame to stick to mother as that shadow sticks to me!

 

One morning, very early, when my shadow was not yet up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup,

But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

The underlined phrase “I’d think shame” in the third stanza most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

I would try to be proud

I would be embarrassed

I would be proud

I would be incensed

I would try to embarrass someone

Correct answer:

I would be embarrassed

Explanation:

The phrase “I’d think shame” is used to mean “I would be embarrassed.” You could figure this out by either equating the word "shame" with embarrassment or by reading in-context. “He stays so close behind me; he's a coward you can see; I'd think shame to stick to mother as that shadow sticks to me!” The author is stating that he would feel embarrassed to have as little courage as his shadow. To provide further help, "incensed" means made angry

Example Question #2 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson (1916)

 

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what is the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me when I jump into my bed.

 

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller, like a big old bouncing ball,

And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

  

He hasn't got an idea of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close behind me; he's a coward you can see;

I'd think shame to stick to mother as that shadow sticks to me!

 

One morning, very early, when my shadow was not yet up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup,

But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

The underlined word “proper” in the second stanza most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

fake

good

appropriate

real

polite

Correct answer:

real

Explanation:

The word “proper” is used to distinguish the shadow from real or genuine children. In other contexts, the word proper can be used to mean “polite,” “appropriate,” or “good,” but in this context, it is clearly used to distinguish the authentic from the fake.

Example Question #3 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson (1916)

 

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what is the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me when I jump into my bed.

 

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller, like a big old bouncing ball,

And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

  

He hasn't got an idea of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close behind me; he's a coward you can see;

I'd think shame to stick to mother as that shadow sticks to me!

 

One morning, very early, when my shadow was not yet up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup,

But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

The underlined word “errant” in the last stanza most nearly means __________.

Possible Answers:

regal 

wayward

guilty

comely

suspicious

Correct answer:

wayward

Explanation:

The word “errant” is used to describe the boy’s shadow when it is absent and left behind. The closest definition is therefore “wayward,” which means lost, unruly, or hard to predict. To provide further help, "comely" means cute, attractive; "regal" means related to royalty

Example Question #4 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson (1916)

 

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what is the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me when I jump into my bed.

 

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller, like a big old bouncing ball,

And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

  

He hasn't got an idea of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close behind me; he's a coward you can see;

I'd think shame to stick to mother as that shadow sticks to me!

 

One morning, very early, when my shadow was not yet up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup,

But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Why could the author not see his shadow when he awoke early in the morning?

Possible Answers:

Because the boy did not go outside.

Because the shadow was sleeping in bed.

Because the sun had not yet risen.

Because the shadow did not want to play games with the boy. 

Because the boy was very tired.

Correct answer:

Because the sun had not yet risen.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to make a prediction, or inference, based on the passage. In the last line, the boy describes how he awoke early and discovered that his shadow was not yet awake. We know that shadows form from light hitting an object and not being able to pass through; therefore, if there is no shadow, there is likely no source of direct light. As it is very early in the morning, the most logical reason for the absence of light is that the sun had not yet risen.

Example Question #5 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson (1916)

 

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what is the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me when I jump into my bed.

 

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller, like a big old bouncing ball,

And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

  

He hasn't got an idea of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close behind me; he's a coward you can see;

I'd think shame to stick to mother as that shadow sticks to me!

 

One morning, very early, when my shadow was not yet up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup,

But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

What does the author think is the funniest thing about his shadow?

Possible Answers:

How it won't leave the author alone

How quickly it can grow and shrink

None of the other answers

How lazy and mischievous it is

How cowardly is it

Correct answer:

How quickly it can grow and shrink

Explanation:

The author declares in the second stanza that the funniest thing about his shadow is the way it grows and shrinks very quickly.

Example Question #6 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson (1916)

 

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,

And what is the use of him is more than I can see.

He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;

And I see him jump before me when I jump into my bed.

 

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—

Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;

For he sometimes shoots up taller, like a big old bouncing ball,

And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

  

He hasn't got an idea of how children ought to play,

And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.

He stays so close behind me; he's a coward you can see;

I'd think shame to stick to mother as that shadow sticks to me!

 

One morning, very early, when my shadow was not yet up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup,

But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,

Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Why does the author describe his shadow as a coward?

Possible Answers:

Because it likes to make a fool of the boy.

Because it is afraid of the dark.

Because it is always hiding behind him.

Because it is always sleeping.

Because it is afraid of the sunlight. 

Correct answer:

Because it is always hiding behind him.

Explanation:

In the last two lines of the third stanza, the author says: “He stays so close behind me; he's a coward you can see; I'd think shame to stick to mother as that shadow sticks to me!” This indicates that the author believes his shadow is a coward because it is always sticking closely behind him.

Example Question #1 : Determining Authorial Attitude In Narrative Humanities Passages

Adapted from The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (1903)

 I am told that while I was still in long dresses I showed many signs of an eager, self-asserting disposition. Everything that I saw other people do I insisted upon imitating. At six months I could pipe out "How d'ye," and one day I attracted every one's attention by saying "Tea, tea, tea" quite plainly. Even after my illness I remembered one of the words I had learned in these early months. It was the word "water," and I continued to make some sound for that word after all other speech was lost. I ceased making the sound "wah-wah" only when I learned to spell the word.

They tell me I walked the day I was a year old. My mother had just taken me out of the bathtub and was holding me in her lap, when I was suddenly attracted by the flickering shadows of leaves that danced in the sunlight on the smooth floor. I slipped from my mother's lap and almost ran toward them. The impulse gone, I fell down and cried for her to take me up in her arms.

These happy days did not last long. One brief spring, musical with the song of robin and mockingbird, one summer rich in fruit and roses, one autumn of gold and crimson sped by and left their gifts at the feet of an eager, delighted child. Then, in the dreary month of February, came the illness that closed my eyes and ears and plunged me into the unconsciousness of a newborn baby. They called it acute congestion of the stomach and brain. The doctor thought I could not live. Early one morning, however, the fever left me as suddenly and mysteriously as it had come. There was great rejoicing in the family that morning, but no one, not even the doctor, knew that I should never see or hear again.

I fancy I still have confused recollections of that illness. I especially remember the tenderness with which my mother tried to soothe me in my wailing hours of fret and pain, and the agony and bewilderment with which I awoke after a tossing half sleep, and turned my eyes, so dry and hot, to the wall away from the once-loved light, which came to me dim and yet more dim each day. But, except for these fleeting memories, if, indeed, they be memories, it all seems very unreal, like a nightmare. Gradually I got used to the silence and darkness that surrounded me and forgot that it had ever been different, until she came—my teacher—who was to set my spirit free. But during the first nineteen months of my life I had caught glimpses of broad, green fields, a luminous sky, trees and flowers which the darkness that followed could not wholly blot out. If we have once seen, “the day is ours, and what the day has shown."

Based on the narrator's description of herself in the first two paragraphs, which of the following adjectives best describes the narrator?

Possible Answers:

Belligerent

Obtuse

Precocious

Obstinate

Petulant

Correct answer:

Precocious

Explanation:

In the first paragraph, the narrator describes how she "showed many signs of an eager, self-asserting disposition" while she was young. "Everything that I saw other people do I insisted upon imitating," she continues. In the second paragraph, the narrator says, "They tell me I walked the day I was a year old" and then goes on to describe this scene. Based on this description, the narrator is best described as "precocious," an adjective that when used to describe young children means having developed or learned to do certain things at an earlier age than is typical for most children. None of the other answer choices would be apt descriptions of the narrator based on the way she describes herself in the passage's first paragraph: "obtuse," when used to describe people, means not easily understanding things; "petulant" means peevishirritable, or cranky; "belligerent" means eager and willing to fight; and "obstinate" means refusing to change one's opinion or plan of action despite other people wanting one to do so.

Example Question #1 : Ssat Middle Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon (1921)

Athens and Sparta were both Greek cities and their people spoke a common language. In every other respect they were different. Athens rose high from the plain. It was a city exposed to the fresh breezes from the sea, willing to look at the world with the eyes of a happy child. Sparta, on the other hand, was built at the bottom of a deep valley, and used the surrounding mountains as a barrier against foreign thought. Athens was a city of busy trade. Sparta was an armed camp where people were soldiers for the sake of being soldiers. The people of Athens loved to sit in the sun and discuss poetry or listen to the wise words of a philosopher. The Spartans, on the other hand, never wrote much that was considered literature, but they knew how to fight, they liked to fight, and they sacrificed all human emotions to their ideal of military preparedness.

No wonder that these sombre Spartans viewed the success of Athens with malicious hate. The energy which the defense of the common home had developed in Athens was now used for purposes of a more peaceful nature. The Acropolis was rebuilt and was made into a marble shrine to the goddess Athena. Pericles, the leader of the Athenian democracy, sent far and wide to find famous sculptors and painters and scientists to make the city more beautiful and the young Athenians more worthy of their home. At the same time he kept a watchful eye on Sparta and built high walls that connected Athens with the sea and made her the strongest fortress of that day.

An insignificant quarrel between two little Greek cities led to the final conflict. For thirty years, the war between Athens and Sparta continued. It ended in a terrible disaster for Athens.

During the third year of the war the plague had entered the city. More than half of the people and Pericles, the great leader, had been killed. The plague was followed by a period of bad and untrustworthy leadership. A brilliant young fellow by the name of Alcibiades had gained the favor of the popular assembly. He suggested a raid upon the Spartan colony of Syracuse in Sicily. An expedition was equipped and everything was ready. But Alcibiades got mixed up in a street brawl and was forced to flee. First he lost his ships and then he lost his army, and the few surviving Athenians were thrown into the stone-quarries of Syracuse, where they died from hunger and thirst.

The expedition had killed all the young men of Athens. The city was doomed. After a long siege, the town surrendered in April of the year 404. The high walls were demolished. The navy was taken away by the Spartans. Athens ceased to exist as the center of the great colonial empire that it had conquered during the days of its prosperity. But that wonderful desire to learn and to know and to investigate that had distinguished her free citizens during the days of greatness and prosperity did not perish with the walls and the ships. It continued to live. It became even more brilliant.

Athens no longer shaped the destinies of the land of Greece. But now, as the home of a great university, the city began to influence the minds of people far beyond the narrow frontiers of Hellas.

The author’s attitude towards Athens is primarily one of __________.

Possible Answers:

love

interest

dislike

disdain

respect

Correct answer:

respect

Explanation:

The author adopts a “respectful” attitude towards Athens throughout the whole passage. This can be seen in the opening paragraph in the manner in which he characterizes the Athenian state, but is most clearly seen in the concluding paragraphs in excerpts such as “But that wonderful desire to learn and to know and to investigate which had distinguished her free citizens during the days of greatness and prosperity did not perish with the walls and the ships. It continued to live. It became even more brilliant.” “Disdain” means scorn, so this is clearly not correct; “love” is too extreme of an answer, and “interest” is too mild.

Example Question #1 : Ssat Upper Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from "The Loon" by Henry David Thoreau in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

As I was paddling along the north shore one very calm October afternoon, for such days especially they settle on to the lakes, like the milkweed down, having looked in vain over the pond for a loon, suddenly one, sailing out from the shore toward the middle a few rods in front of me, set up his wild laugh and betrayed himself. I pursued with a paddle and he dived, but when he came up I was nearer than before. He dived again but I miscalculated the direction he would take, and we were fifty rods apart when he came to the surface this time, for I had helped to widen the interval; and again he laughed long and loud, and with more reason than before.

He maneuvered so cunningly that I could not get within half a dozen rods of him. Each time when he came to the surface, turning his head this way and that, he coolly surveyed the water and the land, and apparently chose his course so that he might come up where there was the widest expanse of water and at the greatest distance from the boat. It was surprising how quickly he made up his mind and put his resolve into execution. He led me at once to the wildest part of the pond, and could not be driven from it. While he was thinking one thing in his brain, I was endeavoring to divine his thought in mine. It was a pretty game, played on the smooth surface of the pond, a man against a loon.

He was indeed a silly loon, I thought. I could commonly hear the plash of the water when he came up, and so also detected him. But after an hour he seemed as fresh as ever, dived as willingly and swam yet farther than at first. It was surprising to see how serenely he sailed off with unruffled breast when he came to the surface, doing all the work with his webbed feet beneath. His usual note was this demoniac laughter, yet somewhat like that of a waterfowl, but occasionally when he had balked me most successfully and come up a long way off, he uttered a long-drawn unearthly howl, probably more like that of a wolf than any bird, as when a beast puts his muzzle to the ground and deliberately howls. This was his looning—perhaps the wildest sound that is ever heard here, making the woods ring far and wide. I concluded that he laughed in derision of my efforts, confident of his own resources.

In this passage, the loon is primarily characterized as __________.

Possible Answers:

crafty

sneaky

aggressive

orderly

chaotic

Correct answer:

crafty

Explanation:

This passage tells the story of the author’s attempts to track down a loon (a type of bird that swims in water like a duck) that he encounters on the lake near where he lives. The author characterizes the loon primarily as a cunning and wily animal that knows how to evade human capture and makes a mockery of human beings. You could reasonably say that the loon is characterized as “sneaky,” but from the use of language it is clear that “crafty” is the better option. This is most clearly seen in excerpts such as “He maneuvered so cunningly that I could not get within half a dozen rods of him" ("cunning" being a synonym of "crafty") and “ . . . occasionally when he had balked me most successfully."

Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Text In History Passages

Adapted from The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon (1921)

During the first twenty years of his life, young Napoleon was a professional Corsican patriot—a Corsican Sinn Feiner, who hoped to deliver his beloved country from the yoke of the bitterly hated French enemy. But the French revolution had unexpectedly recognised the claims of the Corsicans and gradually Napoleon, who had received a good training at the military school of Brienne, drifted into the service of his adopted country. Although he never learned to spell French correctly or to speak it without a broad Italian accent, he became a Frenchman. In due time he came to stand as the highest expression of all French virtues. At present he is regarded as the symbol of the Gallic genius.

Napoleon was what is called a fast worker. His career does not cover more than twenty years. In that short span of time he fought more wars and gained more victories and marched more miles and conquered more square kilometers and killed more people and brought about more reforms and generally upset Europe to a greater extent than anybody (including Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan) had ever managed to do.

He was a little fellow and during the first years of his life his health was not very good. He never impressed anybody by his good looks and he remained to the end of his days very clumsy whenever he was obliged to appear at a social function. He did not enjoy a single advantage of breeding or birth or riches. For the greater part of his youth he was desperately poor and often he had to go without a meal or was obliged to make a few extra pennies in curious ways.

He gave little promise as a literary genius. When he competed for a prize offered by the Academy of Lyons, his essay was found to be next to the last and he was number 15 out of 16 candidates. But he overcame all these difficulties through his absolute and unshakable belief in his own destiny, and in his own glorious future. Ambition was the main-spring of his life. The thought of self, the worship of that capital letter "N" with which he signed all his letters, and which recurred forever in the ornaments of his hastily constructed palaces, the absolute will to make the name Napoleon the most important thing in the world next to the name of God, these desires carried Napoleon to a pinnacle of fame which no other man has ever reached.

The author’s attitude towards Napoleon is primarily one of __________.

Possible Answers:

reverence

commiseration

confusion

forgiveness

anger

Correct answer:

reverence

Explanation:

It is clear that the author has great respect (“reverence”) for Napoleon from excerpts such as “In due time he came to stand as the highest expression of all French virtues," as well as the author’s belief that Napoleon had no advantages of birth and yet raised himself up to one of the most powerful and influential men in history. Certainly the author’s attitude could not be described as “anger” or “confusion.” “Forgiveness” might make sense in the context of Napoleon’s life, but does not fit with the tone of this text. Finally, “commiseration” only makes up a small part of this text. To “commiserate” means to share in someone’s suffering and offer comfort. The author does this when he talks about Napoleon’s disadvantages of birth, but it is not the primary attitude in this text.

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