ISEE Lower Level Reading : Identifying and Analyzing Details in Science Passages

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

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In 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.

A stoat might also be called __________.

Possible Answers:

an ermine, depending on its fur color

a weasel, depending on what it eats

a weasel, depending on where it lives

an ermine, depending on where it lives

a weasel, depending on its fur color

Correct answer:

an ermine, depending on its fur color

Explanation:

The passage’s last paragraph provides the information we need to answer this question.  The paragraph begins by describing “the common stoat.” Eventually, it says, “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.” While this sentence is followed by “A similar example is afforded by the weasel,” this means that the weasel is another example of an animal that changes its fur color, not that a stoat can be called a weasel. It means that a weasel is a distinct type of animal. The correct answer is that a stoat might also be called “an ermine, depending on its fur color.”

Example Question #2 : Identifying And Analyzing Details 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.

Where do emperor penguins live?

Possible Answers:

Kerguelen Land

Greenland

On ice in the Antarctic seas

The Falklands

Northern Canada

Correct answer:

On ice in the Antarctic seas

Explanation:

In its third paragraph, the passage states, “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.” The phrasing of this might be a bit confusing, so it’s good to pause and work it out. The author is referring to the king penguin when he says “the former,” since he mentions the king penguin first, and he is referring to the emperor penguin when he says “the latter,” since he mentions the emperor penguin second. This means that when the author writes “the latter [being found] in Victoria Land and on the pack ice of the Antarctic seas,” he is describing where the emperor penguin lives. This means that “On ice in the Antarctic seas” is the correct answer. “Kerguelen Land” and “the Falklands” are mentioned as places where the king penguin lives, and the passage doesn’t mention Northern Canada or Greenland at all. 

Example Question #3 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In Science 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.

What is considered significant about the Laurentian Hills?

Possible Answers:

They are shared by the United States and Canada.

They stretch for vast, uncommon distances.

They are the youngest mountains in the Northern Hemisphere.

They are exceedingly tall. 

They are some of the oldest mountains yet studied.

Correct answer:

They are some of the oldest mountains yet studied.

Explanation:

The author says that the Laurentian Hills are “insignificant in height,” so we know it is not important how tall or short they are. What is significant is that they are “the first mountains that broke the uniform level of the earth’s surface." So, they are significant because “they are some of the oldest mountains yet studied.”

Example Question #7 : Authorial Attitude, Tone, And Purpose In Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from "Some Strange Nurseries" by Grant Allen in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

Many different types of animals employ one of two strategies in raising their young. Certain animals, called “r-strategists,” turn out thousands of eggs with reckless profusion, but they let them look after themselves, or be devoured by enemies, as chance will have it. Other animals, called “K-strategists,” take greater pain in the rearing and upbringing of the young. Large broods indicate an “r” life strategy; small broods imply a “K” life strategy and more care in the nurture and education of the offspring. R-strategists produce eggs wholesale, on the off chance that some two or three among them may perhaps survive an infant mortality of ninety-nine per cent, so as to replace their parents. K-strategists produce half a dozen young, or less, but bring a large proportion of these on an average up to years of discretion.

The author characterizes r-strategists as __________.

Possible Answers:

overly cautious

aggressively protective

reliant on fortune

uncaring and immature

undeserving of research and study

Correct answer:

reliant on fortune

Explanation:

The author primarily characterizes r-strategist animals as “reliant on fortune.” He says "R-strategists produce eggs wholesale, on the off chance that some two or three among them may perhaps survive an infant mortality of ninety-nine per cent, so as to replace their parents.” The use of the phrases “off-chance” and “may perhaps” suggest an over reliance on fortune. It seems unreasonable the author would go so far as to suggest certain animals are “undeserving” or “immature.” These words don’t really fit the stylistic expectations of a scientific or academic journal.

Example Question #32 : Ideas In Science Passages

Adapted from "How the Soil is Made" by Charles Darwin in Wonders of Earth, Sea, and Sky (1902, ed. Edward Singleton Holden)

Worms have played a more important part in the history of the world than most persons would at first suppose. In almost all humid countries they are extraordinarily numerous, and for their size possess great muscular power. In many parts of England a weight of more than ten tons (10,516 kilograms) of dry earth annually passes through their bodies and is brought to the surface on each acre of land, so that the whole superficial bed of vegetable mould passes through their bodies in the course of every few years. From the collapsing of the old burrows, the mold is in constant though slow movement, and the particles composing it are thus rubbed together. Thus the particles of earth, forming the superficial mold, are subjected to conditions eminently favorable for their decomposition and disintegration. This keeps the surface of the earth perfectly suited to the growth of an abundant array of fruits and vegetables.

Worms are poorly provided with sense-organs, for they cannot be said to see, although they can just distinguish between light and darkness; they are completely deaf, and have only a feeble power of smell; the sense of touch alone is well developed. They can, therefore, learn little about the outside world, and it is surprising that they should exhibit some skill in lining their burrows with their castings and with leaves, and in the case of some species in piling up their castings into tower-like constructions. But it is far more surprising that they should apparently exhibit some degree of intelligence instead of a mere blind, instinctive impulse, in their manner of plugging up the mouths of their burrows. They act in nearly the same manner as would a man, who had to close a cylindrical tube with different kinds of leaves, petioles, triangles of paper, etc., for they commonly seize such objects by their pointed ends. But with thin objects a certain number are drawn in by their broader ends. They do not act in the same unvarying manner in all cases, as do most of the lower animals.

Which of worms' sensory organs is well-developed?

Possible Answers:

Touch

Smell

Sight

Taste

Hearing

Correct answer:

Touch

Explanation:

This question requires little more than careful reading in detail. In the second paragraph, the author says, “Worms are poorly provided with sense-organs, for they cannot be said to see, although they can just distinguish between light and darkness; they are completely deaf, and have only a feeble power of smell; the sense of touch alone is well developed.” So, they cannot hear at all, and cannot see or smell well. Their sense of taste is unmentioned, but the author says “the sense of touch alone is well developed.”

Example Question #4 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In Science Passages

Adapted from "Birds’ Nests" by John Burroughs in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

The woodpeckers all build in about the same manner, excavating the trunk or branch of a decayed tree, and depositing the eggs on the fine fragments of wood at the bottom of the cavity. Though the nest is not especially an artistic work, requiring strength rather than skill, yet the eggs and the young of few other birds are so completely housed from the elements, or protected from their natural enemies—the jays, crows, hawks, and owls. A tree with a natural cavity is never selected, but one which has been dead just long enough to have become soft and brittle throughout. The bird goes in horizontally for a few inches, making a hole perfectly round and smooth and adapted to his size, then turns downward, gradually enlarging the hole, as he proceeds, to the depth of ten, fifteen, twenty inches, according to the softness of the tree and the urgency of the mother bird to deposit her eggs. While excavating, male and female work alternately. After one has been engaged fifteen or twenty minutes, drilling and carrying out chips, it ascends to an upper limb, utters a loud call or two, when its mate soon appears, and, alighting near it on the branch, the pair chatter and caress a moment; then the fresh one enters the cavity and the other flies away.

Which of these statements is NOT supported by the passage?

Possible Answers:

All of these statements are supported by the passage.

Woodpeckers prefer to build their nests in living trees.

Female and male woodpeckers work together.

Woodpeckers have to be relatively strong, when compared to other birds, to build their nests.

Woodpeckers have many natural enemies and rivals.

Correct answer:

Woodpeckers prefer to build their nests in living trees.

Explanation:

The author tells you that woodpeckers like to build their nests in “decaying” trees, so you can reliably claim that they do not “prefer to build their nests in living trees.” This is also supported by the author when he says, “A tree with a natural cavity is never selected, but one which has been dead just long enough to have become soft and brittle throughout.” That male and female woodpeckers work together is supported by the information at the end of the passage. That woodpeckers have to be strong is supported by the author’s claim that nest building requires strength rather than skill. Finally, that woodpeckers have many natural rivals is supported by the statement “protected from their natural enemies—the jays, crows, hawks, and owls.”

Example Question #31 : Locating Details In Narrative Science Passages

Adapted from "The Wild Llama" by Charles Darwin in A Book of Natural History (1902, ed. David Starr Jordan)

The wild llama is the characteristic quadruped of the plains of Patagonia; it is the South American representative of the camel in the East. It is an elegant animal in a state of nature, with a long slender neck and fine legs. It is very common over the whole of the temperate parts of the continent, as far south as the islands near Cape Horn. It generally lives in small herds of from half a dozen to thirty in each, but on the banks of the St. Cruz we saw one herd which must have contained at least five hundred.

They are generally wild and extremely wary. Mr. Stokes told me that he one day saw through a glass a herd of these animals which evidently had been frightened and were running away at full speed, although they were so far away that he could not distinguish them with his naked eye. The sportsman frequently receives the first notice of their presence by hearing from a long distance their peculiar shrill, neighing note of alarm. If he then looks attentively, he will probably see the herd standing in a line on the side of some distant hill. On approaching nearer, a few more squeals are given, and off they set at an apparently slow, but really quick canter, along some narrow beaten track to a neighboring hill. If, however, by chance, he abruptly meets a single animal, or several together, they will generally stand motionless and intently gaze at him, then perhaps move on a few yards, turn round, and look again. What is the cause of this difference in their shyness? Do they mistake a man in the distance for their chief enemy, the puma? Or does curiosity overcome their timidity?

Why was the herd of llamas that the author witnessed on the banks of the St. Cruz considered exceptional?

Possible Answers:

It was eating a type of food that is extremely uncommon for wild llamas to eat.

It was exhibiting aggressive behavior that is highly unusual for a pack of llamas.

It was demonstrating a level of intelligence considered almost impossible for wild llamas.

It was found in an environment that was typically very uncommon for llamas to be found in.

It was much larger than the typical size of herds that the author had observed.

Correct answer:

It was much larger than the typical size of herds that the author had observed.

Explanation:

Answering this question requires little more than reading in context and identifying relevant information. The author says, “It generally lives in small herds of from half a dozen to thirty in each, but on the banks of the St. Cruz we saw one herd which must have contained at least five hundred.” So, llamas are usually found in herds between six and thirty individuals, but the pack found near the banks of the St. Cruz river contained over five hundred individuals.

Example Question #5 : Identifying And Analyzing Details In Science Passages

Adapted from A Catechism of Familiar Things: Their History and the Events Which Led to Their Discovery by the Benziger Brothers (1881)

Iron is one of the most useful and abundant metals, being found in all mineral earths, stones, plants, and animal fluids. Iron is found in great masses, in various states, in the bowels of the earth; it is usually, however, compounded with stone, from which it is separated by the action of fire. In some parts of the world, whole mountains are formed of iron; among these may be mentioned the Pilot Knob and the Iron Mountain, in Missouri, being unsurpassed by anything of the kind found elsewhere.

It is hard, fusible, not very malleable, but extremely ductile, and very tenacious; it is of a greyish color, and nearly eight times heavier than water. Without iron, society could make no progress in the cultivation of the ground, in mechanical arts or trades, in architecture or navigation; it is therefore of the greatest use to man.

Which of these statements is not supported by the text?

Possible Answers:

Iron is found in plants and animals.

For iron to be usable, it must be extracted from stone.

There is a plentiful supply of iron within the earth.

Iron is much heavier than water.

Iron is more valuable than bronze.

Correct answer:

Iron is more valuable than bronze.

Explanation:

The author says that iron is "nearly eight times heavier than water," so you know that the answer choice “Iron is much heavier than water” is supported by the text. The author also says “Iron is found in great masses, in various states, in the bowels of the earth; it is usually, however, compounded with stone," so you also know that “There is a plentiful supply of iron within the earth” and “For iron to be usable, it must be extracted from stone.” Finally, the author describes iron as "being found in all mineral earths, stones, plants, and animal fluids," so the answer choice “Iron is found in plants and animals” is also supported by the text. The only answer not supported by the text is that “iron is more valuable than bronze.” The author makes no mention of iron’s relative value compared to other specific metals.

Example Question #6 : Identifying And Analyzing Details 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.

How are the Carnivora divided by naturalists?

Possible Answers:

According to their manner of walking

According to what they eat

According to their size

According to where they live

According to the levels of aggression they show

Correct answer:

According to their manner of walking

Explanation:

Answering this question requires you to read carefully in detail. At the beginning of the passage, the author says, “The Carnivora are divided by naturalists into three tribes, the characters of which are taken from their feet and manner of walking.” So, you can determine that the Carnivora are divided “according to their manner of walking.” The author goes on to explain how bears fit into this system of classification.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: