ISEE Lower Level Reading : Identifying and Analyzing Supporting Ideas 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 #3 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Science Passages

"The Multiple Sides of Computer Science" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

It often takes some time for a new discipline to become recognized as an independent science. An excellent example of this is computer science. In many ways, this science still is a hodgepodge of several different sciences, each one having its own distinct character. For example, some computer scientists are almost indistinguishable from mathematicians. Many of the most difficult topics in pattern recognition and data communications require intensive mathematics in order to provide software solutions. Years of training in the appropriate disciplines are necessary before the computer scientist can even begin to work as a programmer in such areas. In contrast to those computer scientists who work with complex mathematics, many computer scientists work on areas of hardware development that are similar to disciplines like electrical engineering and physics.

However, computer science has its own particular problems regarding the unity of its subject matter. There are many practical applications for computing work; therefore, many computer scientists focus on learning a large set of skills in programming languages, development environments, and even information technology. All of these disciplines have a certain practical coloration that is quite distinct from the theoretical concepts used in other parts of the field. Nevertheless, these practical topics add to the broad range of topics covered by most academic programs that claim to focus on “computer science.” It can only be hoped that these disciplines will increase in orderliness in the coming decades.

Which of the following topics would not be a good example to add to the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

Applications of computing to civic planning

Studies in the types of physics involved in memory chip design

Studies of the social ramifications of programming

Courses in manufacturing and connecting internet cables

Topics related to building new computers from parts

Correct answer:

Studies in the types of physics involved in memory chip design

Explanation:

The second paragraph focuses on the practical topics that often are taught in computer science programs. (These are contrasted to the more "theoretical" or "scientific" topics noted in the first paragraph.) The only really "scientific" topic listed here is the one about the physics involved in designing memory chips. Since this focuses on the physics, it is not so much about how to make these things as it is about the reasons why they work. This is more of a speculative matter than a practical or technical one.

Example Question #1 : Purpose And Effect Of Phrases Or Sentences In Natural 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.

Why is the American hare mentioned in the passage?

Possible Answers:

It is better at hiding than the Scottish hare.

Scientists have studied it to find out how a hare’s fur changes color.

It is another name for the Scottish hare.

It is a predator of the Scottish hare.

It is a type of hare that does not change color.

Correct answer:

Scientists have studied it to find out how a hare’s fur changes color.

Explanation:

The American hare is mentioned in the last line of the passage’s second paragraph, “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.” Here, the American hare is mentioned because “investigations” “have been made” on it, and those “investigations” “seem to show that the phenomenon is due to” something. We can tell from this context that in these “investigations,” scientists have studied how a hare’s fur changes color, since they are about what “the phenomenon is due to.” This means that “Scientists have studied it to find out how a hare’s fur changes color.” None of the other answer choices are supported by the passage.

Example Question #4 : Understanding And Evaluating Opinions And Arguments In Narrative Science Passages

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 consider the bat to be a difficult animal to classify?

Possible Answers:

Because it shares the appearance and characteristics of several disparate animals

Because scientists have spent far too little time studying bats

Because the behavior of individual bats is often very different from the behavior of other individual bats

Because the mannerisms of bats make them very hard to study

Because the popular understanding of bats has been affected by centuries of superstition

Correct answer:

Because it shares the appearance and characteristics of several disparate animals

Explanation:

The author says bats are “very difficult to classify so long as the would-be systematist has no particularly definite ideas to guide him.” Immediately before this, he says, “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.“ So, the bat is hard to classify because it shares characteristics with all types of birds, and with mice, and does not therefore fit neatly into existing classifications.

Example Question #21 : Literal Comprehension

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.

Worms are characterized as all of the following in this passage EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers

surprisingly intelligent

greatly underappreciated

extremely prolific

immensely strong for their size

Correct answer:

None of the other answers

Explanation:

In this passage, worms are characterized as all of these answers. So, none of them is the exception. Early in the first paragraph, the author says, “In almost all humid countries they are extraordinarily numerous, and for their size possess great muscular power.” So, worms are “immensely strong for their size” and “extremely prolific.” “Prolific” and “numerous” both mean present in large numbers or plentiful. In the second paragraph, the author spends much of his time characterizing worms as “surprisingly intelligent,” as is shown in his focus on their ability to adapt to different circumstances when it comes to plugging their burrows. Finally, throughout the passage, worms are characterized as “greatly underappreciated.” This is notable in the second paragraph, where the author seems deeply impressed by the intelligence of worms, but most obviously notable in the first paragraph, where the author says “Worms have played a more important part in the history of the world than most persons would at first suppose.”

Example Question #1 : Understanding Organization And Argument In Natural Science Passages

"The Multiple Sides of Computer Science" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

It often takes some time for a new discipline to become recognized as an independent science. An excellent example of this is computer science. In many ways, this science still is a hodgepodge of several different sciences, each one having its own distinct character. For example, some computer scientists are almost indistinguishable from mathematicians. Many of the most difficult topics in pattern recognition and data communications require intensive mathematics in order to provide software solutions. Years of training in the appropriate disciplines are necessary before the computer scientist can even begin to work as a programmer in such areas. In contrast to those computer scientists who work with complex mathematics, many computer scientists work on areas of hardware development that are similar to disciplines like electrical engineering and physics.

However, computer science has its own particular problems regarding the unity of its subject matter. There are many practical applications for computing work; therefore, many computer scientists focus on learning a large set of skills in programming languages, development environments, and even information technology. All of these disciplines have a certain practical coloration that is quite distinct from the theoretical concepts used in other parts of the field. Nevertheless, these practical topics add to the broad range of topics covered by most academic programs that claim to focus on “computer science.” It can only be hoped that these disciplines will increase in orderliness in the coming decades.

Which of the following would strengthen the author’s main contention?

Possible Answers:

Even social sciences like behavioral psychology are often studied in order to help develop artificial intelligence algorithms.

Almost all computer scientists have some ability in a major programming language.

All computer science departments require calculus.

None of these

No computer science curricula include studies from biology and chemistry.

Correct answer:

Even social sciences like behavioral psychology are often studied in order to help develop artificial intelligence algorithms.

Explanation:

The general point of the passage is that it is hard to find the "focus" of computer science. A number of the answers actually help to find the focus—either (1) by stating what all (or almost all) study or (2) by excluding certain subjects entirely (chemistry / biology); however, if computer scientists also studied behavioral psychology it would be yet one more topic in the "mix" of many different subjects studied.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

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