ISEE Lower Level Reading : Analyzing the Text in History Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Analyzing The Text In History Passages

Adapted from Early European History Hutton Webster (1917)

It was the work of Darius to provide for his dominions a stable government which should preserve what the sword had won. The problem was difficult. The empire was a collection of many people widely different in race, language, customs, and religion. Darius did not attempt to weld the conquered nations into unity. As long as the subjects of Persia paid tribute and furnished troops for the royal army, they were allowed to conduct their own affairs with little interference from the Great King.

The entire empire, excluding Persia proper, was divided into twenty satrapies, or provinces, each one with its civil governor, or satrap. The satraps carried out the laws and collected the heavy tribute annually levied throughout the empire. In most of the provinces there were also military governors who commanded the army and reported directly to the king. This device of entrusting the civil and military functions to separate officials lessened the danger of revolts against the Persian authority. As an additional precaution Darius provided special agents whose business it was to travel from province to province and investigate the conduct of his officials. It became a proverb that "the king has many eyes and many ears."

Darius also established a system of military roads throughout the Persian dominions. The roads were provided at frequent intervals with inns, where postmen stood always in readiness to take up a letter and carry it to the next station. The Royal Road from Susa, the Persian capital, to Sardis in Lydia was over fifteen hundred miles long; but government couriers, using relays of fresh horses, could cover the distance within a week. An old Greek writer declares with admiration that "there is nothing mortal more swift than these messengers."

The underlined proverb “the king has many eyes and many ears” is intended to demonstrate what?

Possible Answers:

The fear that Darius inspired in his people

The belief that Darius was a divine being

The wisdom and benevolence of the king

The malevolence and diabolical nature of the king 

The extent of Darius’ control 

Correct answer:

The extent of Darius’ control 

Explanation:

The revelation that it became a proverb to say “the king has many eyes and many ears” is offered immediately after an account of the extent of Darius’ power and control in the Persian Empire. For example, the preceding sentence says, “As an additional precaution, Darius provided special agents whose business it was to travel from province to province and investigate the conduct of his officials.” Therefore, when the author reveals this proverb he is intending to add a little color to his portrayal of the extent of Darius’ control. 

Example Question #61 : Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Man who Spoiled Napoleon’s Destiny by Rev. W. H. Fitchett, LL.D. (1899)

From March 18 to May 20, 1799—for more than sixty days and nights, that is—a little, half-forgotten, and more than half-ruined Syrian town was the scene of one of the fiercest and most dramatic sieges recorded in military history. And rarely has there been a struggle so apparently one-sided.

A handful of British sailors and Turkish irregulars were holding Acre, a town without regular defenses, against Napoleon, the most brilliant military genius of his generation, with an army of 10,000 war-hardened veterans, the "Army of Italy"—soldiers who had dared the snows of the Alps and conquered Italy, and to whom victory was a familiar experience. In their ranks military daring had reached, perhaps, its very highest point. And yet the sailors inside that ring of crumbling wall won! At Acre Napoleon experienced his first defeat; and, years after, at St. Helena, he said of Sir Sidney Smith, the gallant sailor who baffled him, "That man made me miss my destiny." It is a curious fact that one Englishman thwarted Napoleon's career in the East, and another ended his career in the West, and it may be doubted which of the two Napoleon hated most—Wellington, who finally overthrew him at Waterloo, or Sidney Smith, who, to use Napoleon's own words, made him "miss his destiny," and exchange the empire of the East for a lonely pinnacle of rock in the Atlantic.

Who is described as “the most brilliant military genius of his generation?”

Possible Answers:

Waterloo

Napoleon

None of these answers

Wellington 

Sir Sidney Smith 

Correct answer:

Napoleon

Explanation:

Napoleon is described as “the most brilliant military genius of his generation" in the first sentence of the passage's second paragraph.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing The Text In History Passages

Adapted from A Child’s History of England by Charles Darwin (1905)

As great and good in peace as he was great and good in war, King Alfred never rested from his labors to improve his people. He loved to talk with clever men and travelers from foreign countries and to write down what they told him for his people to read. He had studied Latin after learning to read English, and now another of his labors was to translate Latin books into the English-Saxon tongue, that his people might be interested and improved by their contents. He made just laws, that they might live more happily and freely; he turned away all partial judges, that no wrong might be done them; he was so careful of their property, and punished robbers so severely that it was a common thing to say that under the great King Alfred, garlands of golden chains and jewels might have hung across the streets, and no man would have touched one. He founded schools, and he patiently heard causes himself in his Court of Justice. The great desires of his heart were, to do right to all his subjects, and to leave England better, wiser, and happier in all ways than he found it. His industry in these efforts was quite astonishing. Every day he divided into certain portions, and in each portion devoted himself to a certain pursuit. That he might divide his time exactly, he had wax torches or candles made, which were all of the same size, were notched across at regular distances, and were always kept burning. Thus, as the candles burnt down, he divided the day into notches, almost as accurately as we now divide it into hours upon the clock. But when the candles were first invented, it was found that the wind and draughts of air, blowing into the palace through the doors and windows and through the chinks in the walls, caused them to gutter and burn unequally. To prevent this, the King had them put into cases formed of wood and white horn. And these were the first lanterns ever made in England.

All this time, he was afflicted with a terrible unknown disease, which caused him violent and frequent pain that nothing could relieve. He bore it, as he had borne all the troubles of his life, like a brave good man, until he was fifty-three years old; and then, having reigned thirty years, he died. He died in the year nine hundred and one; but, long ago as that is, his fame, and the love and gratitude with which his subjects regarded him, are freshly remembered to the present hour.

The information that King Alfred suffered from a “terrible unknown disease” is meant to highlight __________.

Possible Answers:

the lack of doctors in Alfred’s English kingdom

Alfred’s resolve and virtue

Alfred’s inability to focus on himself

the abundance of disease in England during the medieval period

the lack of medical knowledge in the time period being discussed

Correct answer:

Alfred’s resolve and virtue

Explanation:

Throughout the passage, the author highlights how hard-working, determined, and virtuous King Alfred was. When discussing Alfred's “terrible unknown disease,” the author says, “All this time, he was afflicted with a terrible unknown disease, which caused him violent and frequent pain that nothing could relieve. He bore it, as he had borne all the troubles of his life, like a brave good man, until he was fifty-three years old." So, you can infer that the author would is portraying Alfred as “resolute” (determined) and “virtuous” (good). The author says that he “bore” (suffered through) his disease “like a brave good man.” Taken altogether, this means that this part of the passage highlight's "Alfred's resolve and virtue."

Example Question #301 : Ssat Elementary Level Reading Comprehension

Adapted from A Child’s History of England by Charles Darwin (1905)

As great and good in peace as he was great and good in war, King Alfred never rested from his labors to improve his people. He loved to talk with clever men and travelers from foreign countries and to write down what they told him for his people to read. He had studied Latin after learning to read English, and now another of his labors was to translate Latin books into the English-Saxon tongue, that his people might be interested and improved by their contents. He made just laws, that they might live more happily and freely; he turned away all partial judges, that no wrong might be done them; he was so careful of their property, and punished robbers so severely that it was a common thing to say that under the great King Alfred, garlands of golden chains and jewels might have hung across the streets, and no man would have touched one. He founded schools, and he patiently heard causes himself in his Court of Justice. The great desires of his heart were, to do right to all his subjects, and to leave England better, wiser, and happier in all ways than he found it. His industry in these efforts was quite astonishing. Every day he divided into certain portions, and in each portion devoted himself to a certain pursuit. That he might divide his time exactly, he had wax torches or candles made, which were all of the same size, were notched across at regular distances, and were always kept burning. Thus, as the candles burnt down, he divided the day into notches, almost as accurately as we now divide it into hours upon the clock. But when the candles were first invented, it was found that the wind and draughts of air, blowing into the palace through the doors and windows and through the chinks in the walls, caused them to gutter and burn unequally. To prevent this, the King had them put into cases formed of wood and white horn. And these were the first lanterns ever made in England.

All this time, he was afflicted with a terrible unknown disease, which caused him violent and frequent pain that nothing could relieve. He bore it, as he had borne all the troubles of his life, like a brave good man, until he was fifty-three years old; and then, having reigned thirty years, he died. He died in the year nine hundred and one; but, long ago as that is, his fame, and the love and gratitude with which his subjects regarded him, are freshly remembered to the present hour.

The author’s statement that “garlands of golden chains and jewels might have hung across the streets, and no man would have touched one” is primarily meant __________.

Possible Answers:

undermine claims by other historians that King Alfred was not rich

exaggerate the wealth of the common man in England

demonstrate how lenient King Alfred was toward robbers

highlight how safe from crime people felt under King Alfred

show how wealthy the population grew under the wise rule of King Alfred

Correct answer:

highlight how safe from crime people felt under King Alfred

Explanation:

The author states that King Alfred "punished robbers so severely that it was a common thing to say that under the great King Alfred, garlands of golden chains and jewels might have hung across the streets, and no man would have touched one.” The fact that it is said people were able to hang jewels in the streets shows that the people felt safe that no one would try to steal them; so, this statement allows the author to demonstrate how Alfred changed the laws of the land to make people feel “safe from crime.”

Example Question #1 : Finding Context Dependent Meanings Of Phrases In Narrative Social Science Passages

Adapted from A Child’s History of England by Charles Darwin (1905) 

On Christmas Day, William was crowned in Westminster Abbey under the title of William the First, but he is best known as William the Conqueror. It was a strange coronation. One of the bishops who performed the ceremony asked the Normans, in French, if they would have William the Conqueror for their king. They answered "Yes." Another of the bishops put the same question to the Saxons, in English. They too answered "Yes," with a loud shout. The noise was heard by a guard of Norman horse-soldiers outside, and was mistaken for resistance on the part of the English. The guard instantly set fire to the neighboring houses, and chaos ensued, in the midst of which the king, being left alone in the abbey with a few priests (and they all being in a terrible fright together) was hurriedly crowned. When the crown was placed upon his head, he swore to govern the English as well as the best of their own monarchs. I dare say you think, as I do, that if we except the great Alfred, he might pretty easily have done that.

When the author says William was “best known” as William the Conqueror, which of the following does he most nearly mean?

Possible Answers:

Most accurately known

Most deservedly known

Most commonly known

Most sarcastically known

Most humorously known

Correct answer:

Most commonly known

Explanation:

When the author says that William was “best known” as William the Conqueror, he means “most commonly known.” There is no contextual evidence to support the notion that the author thought William was “humorously” or “sarcastically” known as William the Conqueror, nor does it seem as if the author would be expressing that “Conqueror” conveys a sense of “accuracy.” It is possible the author could mean “deservedly,” but from the manner in which he goes on to use William’s title as “William the Conqueror” the next time he mentions him, we may infer that he is trying to say that William was “most commonly known” as “William the Conqueror."

Example Question #3 : Analyzing The Text In History Passages

Adapted from A Child’s History of England by Charles Darwin (1905) 

On Christmas Day, William was crowned in Westminster Abbey under the title of William the First, but he is best known as William the Conqueror. It was a strange coronation. One of the bishops who performed the ceremony asked the Normans, in French, if they would have William the Conqueror for their king. They answered "Yes." Another of the bishops put the same question to the Saxons, in English. They too answered "Yes," with a loud shout. The noise was heard by a guard of Norman horse-soldiers outside, and was mistaken for resistance on the part of the English. The guard instantly set fire to the neighboring houses, and chaos ensued, in the midst of which the king, being left alone in the abbey with a few priests (and they all being in a terrible fright together) was hurriedly crowned. When the crown was placed upon his head, he swore to govern the English as well as the best of their own monarchs. I dare say you think, as I do, that if we except the great Alfred, he might pretty easily have done that.

Why does the author think the crowning of William was a “strange coronation”?

Possible Answers:

Because of the aggressive behavior of the Norman conquerors

Because of the romantic nature of the conquered English people

Because of the hurried nature of the ceremony

Because the bishops in attendance were unwilling to crown William without the consent of all the people

Because of the tensions between the Normans and the English

Correct answer:

Because of the tensions between the Normans and the English

Explanation:

The author says it was a “strange coronation” because there were tensions between the conquering Normans and the conquered English that too easily broke out into chaos and conflict. Take the portion of text immediately after the author says it was a “strange coronation,” the author writes, “One of the bishops who performed the ceremony asked the Normans, in French, if they would have William the Conqueror for their king. They answered "Yes." Another of the bishops put the same question to the Saxons, in English. They too answered "Yes," with a loud shout. The noise was heard by a guard of Norman horse-soldiers outside, and was mistaken for resistance on the part of the English.” The strangeness is not derived from the nature of the ceremony, the behavior of the Normans or the English, or the bishops. It is a result of the tensions between the Normans, who clearly felt the English might not accept their leader as their king, and the inability of the two groups to understand one another.

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