ISEE Lower Level Reading : Analyzing Cause and Effect in Literature Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ISEE Lower Level Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.

Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. Judge Miller's place, it was called. It stood back from the road, half hidden among the trees, through which glimpses could be caught of the wide cool veranda that ran around its four sides. The house was approached by graveled driveways which wound about through wide-spreading lawns and under the interlacing boughs of tall poplars. At the rear things were on even a more spacious scale than at the front. There were great stables, where a dozen grooms and boys held forth, rows of vine-clad servants' cottages, an endless and orderly array of outhouses, long grape arbors, green pastures, orchards, and berry patches. Then there was the pumping plant for the artesian well, and the big cement tank where Judge Miller's boys took their morning plunge and kept cool in the hot afternoon.

And over this great demesne Buck ruled. Here he was born, and here he had lived the four years of his life. It was true, there were other dogs, There could not but be other dogs on so vast a place, but they did not count. They came and went, resided in the populous kennels, or lived obscurely in the recesses of the house after the fashion of Toots, the Japanese pug, or Ysabel, the Mexican hairless—strange creatures that rarely put nose out of doors or set foot to ground. On the other hand, there were the fox terriers, a score of them at least, who yelped at Toots and Ysabel looking out of the windows at them, protected by a legion of housemaids armed with brooms and mops.

Which of the following groups of adjectives best describes the location in which Buck lives?

Possible Answers:

Warm, comfortable, and spacious

Dry, arid, and desert-like

Cold, snowy, and arctic

Tropical, humid, and in a jungle

Urban, man-made, and cosmopolitan

Correct answer:

Warm, comfortable, and spacious

Explanation:

The second paragraph describes Judge Miller's property as being "spacious" ("At the rear things were on even a more spacious scale than at the front.") It also describes Judge Miller's property and house as being located in the "sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley," and the adjective "sun-kissed" suggests that the weather is quite warm in this area. Buck seems to live a comfortable life as well, as he is not required to do any work, and appears to be free to roam around the property as he pleases. So, the best answer choice is "Warm, comfortable, and spacious."

Example Question #32 : Locating Details In Literary Fiction 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 the Spartans celebrate their funeral rites before they departed?

Possible Answers:

None of these answers 

They wanted to be near the temple.

They feared the enemy would deprive them of the opportunity to be buried with a funeral.

They wanted to be with their families when observing the ceremonies.

They thought they might live through the battle.

Correct answer:

They feared the enemy would deprive them of the opportunity to be buried with a funeral.

Explanation:

In context, the author says, “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.” “Lest” means in case and “deprived” means taken away, so the Spartans observed their funeral rites in case the enemy denied them the opportunity to have funerals.

Example Question #5 : Recognizing The Main Idea In Literary Fiction 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.

Alice didn’t stop the black kitten from unwinding the ball because __________.

Possible Answers:

she was talking to someone else and was distracted

she was half-asleep

she is trying to avoid having to do something, and having to rewind the ball allows her to procrastinate

she wasn’t in the room when it happened

the ball it was unwinding wasn’t hers

Correct answer:

she was half-asleep

Explanation:

Let’s look at the specific part of the passage where it talks about the black kitten unwinding the ball of worsted:

“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.”

What was Alice doing when this was happening? The passage tells us: “Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep.” So, we can pick out “she was half-asleep” as the correct answer. “She was talking to someone else and was distracted” might look like a good answer, but since she was talking to herself, it can’t be correct.

Example Question #1 : 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:

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

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

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

the nut can be easier split apart

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 #2 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo" in Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (1902)

Not always was the Kangaroo as now we do behold him, but a Different Animal with four short legs. He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on an outcrop in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Little God Nqa.

He went to Nqa at six before breakfast, saying, “Make me different from all other animals by five this afternoon.”

Up jumped Nqa from his seat on the sand flat and shouted, “Go away!”

He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a rock-ledge in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Middle God Nquing.

He went to Nquing at eight after breakfast, saying, “Make me different from all other animals; make me, also, wonderfully popular by five this afternoon.”

Up jumped Nquing from his burrow in the spinifex and shouted, “Go away!”

He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a sandbank in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Big God Nqong.

He went to Nqong at ten before dinner-time, saying, “Make me different from all other animals; make me popular and wonderfully run after by five this afternoon.”

Up jumped Nqong from his bath in the salt-pan and shouted, “Yes, I will!”

Nqong called Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, dusty in the sunshine, and showed him Kangaroo. Nqong said, “Dingo! Wake up, Dingo! Do you see that gentleman dancing on an ashpit? He wants to be popular and very truly run after. Dingo, make him SO!”

Up jumped Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—and said, "What, that cat-rabbit?"

Off ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a coal-scuttle—ran after Kangaroo.

Off went the proud Kangaroo on his four little legs like a bunny.

This, O Beloved of mine, ends the first part of the tale!

He ran through the desert; he ran through the mountains; he ran through the salt-pans; he ran through the reed-beds; he ran through the blue gums; he ran through the spinifex; he ran till his front legs ached.

He had to!

Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a rat-trap, never getting nearer, never getting farther—ran after Kangaroo.

He had to!

Still ran Kangaroo—Old Man Kangaroo. He ran through the ti-trees; he ran through the mulga; he ran through the long grass; he ran through the short grass; he ran through the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer; he ran till his hind legs ached.

He had to!

Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—hungrier and hungrier, grinning like a horse-collar, never getting nearer, never getting farther; and they came to the Wollgong River.

Now, there wasn't any bridge, and there wasn't any ferry-boat, and Kangaroo didn't know how to get over; so he stood on his legs and hopped.

He had to!

Which of these answers explains why the Dingo chased the Kangaroo?

Possible Answers:

It was in his nature to chase Kangaroos.

He was disobeying the commands of Nquing.

None of the other answers best explains why.

He liked to chase things.

He thought the Kangaroo needed to be chased.

Correct answer:

None of the other answers best explains why.

Explanation:

We can see that the Dingo is always hungry, and while he probably naturally chases things which are like rabbits, he is also likely listening to the god Nqong. None of the answers say these three things together, so we cannot say any of them are true or fully true. Therefore it is best to say “none of these”.

Example Question #3 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Bat, the Birds, and the Beasts" by Aesop (trans. Jacobs 1909)

A great conflict was about to take place between the Birds and the Beasts. When the two armies were gathered together, the Bat hesitated which to join. The Birds that passed his perch said "Come with us," but he said to them, "I am a Beast."

Later on, some Beasts who were passing underneath him looked up and said "Come with us," but he said, "I am a Bird." Luckily at the last moment peace was made, and no battle took place, so the Bat came to the Birds and wished to join in the celebrations, but they all turned against him and he had to fly away. He then went to the Beasts, but soon had to run away, or else they would have torn him to pieces. "Ah," said the Bat, "I see now: he that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends."

Why do you think the birds and the beasts refuse to be friends with the bat at the end of the story?

Possible Answers:

He does not know how to fly.

He is a coward.

He was not loyal to either of them. 

None of these answers

He incited the beasts into action.

Correct answer:

He was not loyal to either of them. 

Explanation:

At the end of the story the beasts and the birds both refuse to be friends with the bat. The bat responds to their unkindness by saying "I see now: he that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends." This means that someone who does not pick sides in a conflict will have a hard time staying friends with either side.

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