SSAT Middle Level Reading : Making Inferences in Poetry Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : How To Make Inferences Based On Poetry Passages

Adapted from The Cat and the Fox by Jean de la Fontaine (1678)

The Cat and the Fox once took a walk together,
Sharpening their wits with talk about the weather
And as their walking sharpened appetite too,
They also took some things they had no right to.
Cream, that is so delicious when it thickens,
Pleased the Cat best. The Fox liked little chickens.

With stomachs filled, they presently grew prouder,
And each began to try to talk the louder,
Bragging about his skill, and strength, and cunning.
"Pooh!" said the Fox. "You ought to see me running.
Besides, I have a hundred tricks. You Cat, you!
What can you do when Mr. Dog comes at you?"
"To tell the truth," the Cat said, "though it grieve me
I've but one trick. Yet that's enough—believe me!"

There came a pack of fox-hounds, yelping, baying.
"Pardon me", said the Cat. "I can't be staying.
This is my trick." And up a tree he scurried,
Leaving the Fox below a trifle worried.

In vain, he tried his hundred tricks and ruses
(The sort of thing that Mr. Dog confuses),
Doubling, and seeking one hole, then another,
Smoked out of each until he thought he'd smother.
At last as he once more came out of cover,
Two nimble dogs pounced on him—all was over!

What happens to the Fox at the end of the story?

Possible Answers:

The Fox is caught by the fox-hounds.

The Fox enjoys more cream.

The Fox escapes up a tree with the Cat.

The Fox meets up with the Cat for dinner.

The Fox successfully tricks the fox-hounds.

Correct answer:

The Fox is caught by the fox-hounds.


We learn in the last sentence of the story that "Two nimble dogs pounced on him—all was over." Since "pounce" is defined as to swoop suddenly so as to catch prey, we can safely assume that the Fox is caught by the fox-hounds.

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences In Poetry Passages

Adapted from "No Harm Meant" in Chatterbox Periodical edited by J. Erskine Clark (1906)

Two puppies with good-natured hearts, but clumsy little toes,
Were feeling rather sleepy, so they settled for a doze;
But underneath the very ledge on which they chanced to be,
A large and stately pussy cat was basking dreamily.

A short half-hour had hardly passed, when one pup made a stir,
And stretching out a lazy paw, just touched the tabby's fur;
'Twas nothing but an accident, yet, oh! the angry wail!
The flashing in the tabby's eye, the lashing of her tail!

"Who's that that dares to serve me so?" she cried with arching back.
"I'll teach you puppies how to make an unprovoked attack!"
One puppy started to his feet with terror in his eyes,
The other said, as soon as pluck had overcome surprise:

"I'm really very sorry, ma'am, but honestly declare
I hadn't any notion that a pussy cat was there."
But just like those who look for wrong in every one they see,
She left the spot, nor deigned to take the pup's apology.

What can you infer about the cat’s opinion of herself in comparison to how the cat feels about the dogs?

Possible Answers:

The cat thinks the dogs are much stronger than she is.

The cat thinks she is much less intelligent than the dogs.

The cat thinks the dogs are vicious and trying to kill her.

The cat is embarrassed to be in the same house as the dogs.

The cat thinks of herself as better than the dogs.

Correct answer:

The cat thinks of herself as better than the dogs.


From the proud and dignified manner in which the cat carries herself and the cat’s comments when she is attacked (“'Who's that that dares to serve me so?'”), we can infer that the cat thinks very highly of herself and thinks that she is better than the puppies. Furthermore, toward the end of the passage, the author uses the word “deigned,” which means condescended or agreed to talk to someone who you think is lower than you. These clues all add up to suggest that the cat thinks of herself as better than the dogs.

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