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

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #81 : Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from Volume Four of The Natural History of Animals: The Animal Life of the World in Its Various Aspects and Relations by James Richard Ainsworth Davis (1903)

The examples of protective resemblance so far quoted are mostly permanent adaptations to one particular sort of surrounding. There are, however, numerous animals which possess the power of adjusting their color more or less rapidly so as to harmonize with a changing environment.

Some of the best known of these cases are found among those mammals and birds that inhabit countries more or less covered with snow during a part of the year. A good instance is afforded by the Irish or variable hare, which is chiefly found in Ireland and Scotland. In summer, this looks very much like an ordinary hare, though rather grayer in tint and smaller in size, but in winter it becomes white with the exception of the black tips to the ears. Investigations that have been made on the closely allied American hare seem to show that the phenomenon is due to the growth of new hairs of white hue. 

The common stoat is subject to similar color change in the northern parts of its range. In summer it is of a bright reddish brown color with the exception of the under parts, which are yellowish white, and the end of the tail, which is black. But in winter, the entire coat, save only the tip of the tail, becomes white, and in that condition the animal is known as an ermine. A similar example is afforded by the weasel. The seasonal change in the vegetarian Irish hare is purely of protective character, but in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, it is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.

Based on the passage, which of the following can we infer would be the best reason for animals living in variable arctic environments to change their fur color?

Possible Answers:

They would be faster.

They would more easily be able to attract a mate.

They would be more difficult to see when surrounded by snow.

They would be warmer.

They would be able to find food more quickly and easily.

Correct answer:

They would be more difficult to see when surrounded by snow.

Explanation:

If animals that live in arctic environments change their fur color, it is likely a seasonal change from brownish fur to predominantly white fur, as we’ve seen in the examples of the Irish hare, the stoat, and the weasel. What is specific about arctic environments? Thy likely involve a lot of snow, and are quite cold. Changing fur color to white would thus blend in with the snow and make an animal harder to see, as the last sentence suggests in saying that “in such an actively carnivorous creature as a stoat or weasel, [color change] is aggressive as well, rendering the animal inconspicuous to its prey.” we’re not told anything in the passage that would support the assertion that it would make the animal warmer, or that would support any of the other answer choices.

Example Question #1 : Locating Details In Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from Cassell’s Natural History by Francis Martin Duncan (1913)

The penguins are a group of birds inhabiting the southern ocean, for the most part passing their lives in the icy waters of the Antarctic seas. Like the ratitae, penguins have lost the power of flight, but the wings are modified into swimming organs and the birds lead an aquatic existence and are scarcely seen on land except in the breeding season. They are curious-looking creatures that appear to have no legs, as the limbs are encased in the skin of the body and the large flat feet are set so far back that the birds waddle along on land in an upright position in a very ridiculous manner, carrying their long narrow flippers held out as if they were arms. When swimming, penguins use their wings as paddles while the feet are used for steering.

Penguins are usually gregarious—in the sea, they swim together in schools, and on land, assemble in great numbers in their rookeries. They are very methodical in their ways, and on leaving the water, the birds always follow well-defined tracks leading to the rookeries, marching with much solemnity one behind the other in soldierly order. 

The largest species of penguins are the king penguin and the emperor penguin, the former being found in Kerguelen Land, the Falklands, and other southern islands, and the latter in Victoria Land and on the pack ice of the Antarctic seas. As they are unaccustomed from the isolation of their haunts to being hunted and persecuted by man, emperor penguins are remarkably fearless, and Antarctic explorers invading their territory have found themselves objects of curiosity rather than fear to the strange birds who followed them about as if they were much astonished at their appearance. 

The emperor penguin lays but a single egg and breeds during the intense cold and darkness of the Antarctic winter. To prevent contact with the frozen snow, the bird places its egg upon its flat webbed feet and crouches down upon it so that it is well covered with the feathers. In spite of this precaution, many eggs do not hatch and the mortality amongst the young chicks is very great.

According to the passage, why does the emperor penguin keep its egg balanced on its feet and covered by its feathers?

Possible Answers:

So it won’t roll into the ocean

So that other penguins won’t try to steal it

So that it won’t touch the snow and get too cold

So that predators will not see it and try to eat it

The author is not sure why Emperor penguins do this.

Correct answer:

So that it won’t touch the snow and get too cold

Explanation:

The author discusses these behaviors of the emperor penguin in the passage’s last paragraph:

“To prevent contact with the frozen snow, the bird places its egg upon its flat webbed feet and crouches down upon it so that it is well covered with the feathers.” 

The first part of the sentence is most important to answering this question correctly, as it tells us why the emperor penguins are motivated to act this way: “To prevent contact with the frozen snow.” This means that while many of the answer choices sound reasonable, the correct answer is that the emperor penguin protects its egg in the specified ways “so that it won’t touch the snow and get too cold.”

Example Question #171 : Isee Lower Level (Grades 5 6) Reading Comprehension

Adapted from "Bats" by W. S. Dallas in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

Like the owls, with which they share the dominion of the evening air, the bats have a perfectly noiseless flight; their activity is chiefly during the twilight, although some species are later, and in fact seem to keep up throughout the whole night. As they rest during the day, concealed usually in the most inaccessible places they can find, and are seen only upon the wing, their power of flight is their most striking peculiarity in the popular mind, and it is perhaps no great wonder that by many people, both in ancient and modern times, they have been regarded as birds. Nevertheless, their hairy bodies and leathery wings are so unlike anything that we ordinarily understand as pertaining to a bird, that opinion was apparently always divided, as to the true nature of these creatures—“a mouse with wings,” as Goldsmith called it once, according to James Boswell, is certainly a curious animal, and very difficult to classify so long as the would-be systematist has no particularly definite ideas to guide him. The likeness of the bat to a winged mouse has made itself felt in the name given to the creature in many languages, such as the “chauvesouris” of the French and the “flitter-mouse” of some parts of England, the latter being reproduced almost literally in German, Dutch, and Swedish, while the Danes called the bat a “flogenmues,” which has about the same meaning.

Why does the author believe many people have long regarded bats as birds?

Possible Answers:

Because bats lay eggs

Because bats have feathers

Because bats live in nests

Because bats live atop trees and on the roof of caves

Because bats can fly

Correct answer:

Because bats can fly

Explanation:

This is a relatively simple detail-based question. The author says, "their power of flight is their most striking peculiarity in the popular mind, and it is perhaps no great wonder that by many people, both in ancient and modern times, they have been regarded as birds.” So, it is clear that the author believes many people have considered bats to be a bird because bats can also fly.

Example Question #156 : Prose Passages

Adapted from "America the Old World" by L. Agassiz in Wonders of Earth, Sea, and Sky (1902, ed. Edward Singleton Holden)

There is, perhaps, no part of the world where the early geological periods can be studied with so much ease and precision as in the United States. Along their northern borders, between Canada and the United States, there runs the low line of hills known as the Laurentian Hills. Insignificant in height, nowhere rising more than fifteen hundred or two thousand feet above the level of the sea, these are nevertheless some of the first mountains that broke the uniform level of the earth's surface and lifted themselves above the waters. Their low stature, as compared with that of other more lofty mountain ranges, is in accordance with an invariable rule, by which the relative age of mountains may be estimated. The oldest mountains are the lowest, while the younger and more recent ones tower above their elders, and are usually more torn and dislocated also. So it is known the Alps, Rockies, and Himalayas are considerably younger than the Appalachian mountains.

How do we know that the Appalachians are older than the Alps?

Possible Answers:

Because the Appalachians are much taller than the Alps.

Because geologists have studied rock samples from both.

Because the Alps are closer to the sea.

Because the Alps are much taller than the Appalachians.

Because the Appalachians contain fossils from a much earlier period than the Alps.

Correct answer:

Because the Alps are much taller than the Appalachians.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires understanding the main idea of the passage, namely that the taller a mountain range is, generally speaking, the younger it is. So if the Appalachians are not as tall as the Alps, then we know the Appalachians are older than the Alps.

Example Question #64 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from Cassell’s Natural History by Francis Martin Duncan (1913)

The penguins are a group of birds inhabiting the southern ocean, for the most part passing their lives in the icy waters of the Antarctic seas. Like the ratitae, penguins have lost the power of flight, but the wings are modified into swimming organs and the birds lead an aquatic existence and are scarcely seen on land except in the breeding season. They are curious-looking creatures that appear to have no legs, as the limbs are encased in the skin of the body and the large flat feet are set so far back that the birds waddle along on land in an upright position in a very ridiculous manner, carrying their long narrow flippers held out as if they were arms. When swimming, penguins use their wings as paddles while the feet are used for steering.

Penguins are usually gregarious—in the sea, they swim together in schools, and on land, assemble in great numbers in their rookeries. They are very methodical in their ways, and on leaving the water, the birds always follow well-defined tracks leading to the rookeries, marching with much solemnity one behind the other in soldierly order. 

The largest species of penguins are the king penguin and the emperor penguin, the former being found in Kerguelen Land, the Falklands, and other southern islands, and the latter in Victoria Land and on the pack ice of the Antarctic seas. As they are unaccustomed from the isolation of their haunts to being hunted and persecuted by man, emperor penguins are remarkably fearless, and Antarctic explorers invading their territory have found themselves objects of curiosity rather than fear to the strange birds who followed them about as if they were much astonished at their appearance. 

The emperor penguin lays but a single egg and breeds during the intense cold and darkness of the Antarctic winter. To prevent contact with the frozen snow, the bird places its egg upon its flat webbed feet and crouches down upon it so that it is well covered with the feathers. In spite of this precaution, many eggs do not hatch and the mortality amongst the young chicks is very great.

According to the passage, why are emperor penguins so bold in approaching Antarctic explorers?

Possible Answers:

They are territorial and each wants to protect the area it has claimed.

They are not used to humans and have not been hunted by them. 

They are shy.

They want to seem brave to impress their mates.

They think that the explorers might be prey.

Correct answer:

They are not used to humans and have not been hunted by them. 

Explanation:

The passage talks about emperor penguins approaching Antarctic explorers in its third paragraph, stating the following:

“As they are unaccustomed from the isolation of their haunts to being hunted and persecuted by man, emperor penguins are remarkably fearless, and Antarctic explorers invading their territory have found themselves objects of curiosity rather than fear to the strange birds who followed them about as if they were much astonished at their appearance.”

The most important part of this long sentence in answering this question is its opening phrase, “As they are unaccustomed from the isolation of their haunts to being hunted and persecuted by man . . .” The “as” is functioning like “because” and therefore telling us the reason why emperor penguins are so bold in this way. This means that while some of the other answer choices may sound reasonable and valid, the correct answer is “They are not used to humans and have not been hunted by them,” as this is what the passage states.

Example Question #61 : Textual Relationships In Science Passages

Adapted from Anecdotes of the Habits and Instincts of Animals by Mrs. R. Lee (1852)

The Carnivora are divided by naturalists into three groups, the characters of which are taken from their feet and manner of walking. Bears rank among the Plantigrada, or those which put the whole of their feet firmly upon the ground when they walk. They are occasionally cunning and ferocious, but often evince good humor and a great love of fun. In their wild state, they are solitary the greater part of their lives. They climb trees with great facility; live in caverns, holes, and hollow trees; and in cold countries, retire to some sequestered spot during the winter, where they remain concealed and bring forth their young. Some say they are torpid, but this cannot be, for the female bears come from their retreats with cubs that have lived upon them, and it is not likely that they can have reared them and remained without food; they are, however, often very lean and wasted, and the absorption of their generally large portion of fat contributes to their nourishment. The story that they live by sucking their paws is, as may be supposed, a fable; when well-fed they always lick their paws, very often accompanying the action with a peculiar sort of mumbling noise. There are a few which will never eat flesh, and all are able to do without it. They are, generally speaking, large, clumsy, and awkward, possessing large claws for digging, and often walk on their hind feet, a facility afforded them by the peculiar formation of their thigh bone. They do not often attack in the first instance, unless impelled by hunger or danger; they are, however, formidable opponents when excited. In former times, there were few parts of the globe in which they were not to be found, but, like other wild animals, they have disappeared before the advance of man. Still they are found in certain spots from the northern regions of the world to the burning climes of Africa, Asia, and America. The latest date of their appearance in Great Britain was in Scotland during the year 1057.

What reason does the author give for the disappearance of bears around the world?

Possible Answers:

Climate change

A decline in food supply

All of the other answer choices are given as reasons.

Evolutionary setbacks

The interference of humans

Correct answer:

The interference of humans

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read carefully in detail. Towards the end of the passage, the author says, “In former times, there were few parts of the globe in which they were not to be found, but, like other wild animals, they have disappeared before the advance of man.” So, bears have disappeared around the world due to human interference.

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