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

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #4 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from A Room With a View by E.M. Forster (1908)

"The Signora had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!"

"And a Cockney, besides!" said Lucy, who had been further saddened by the Signora's unexpected accent. "It might be London." She looked at the two rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at the row of white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between the English people; at the portraits of the late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung behind the English people, heavily framed; at the notice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M. A. Oxon.), that was the only other decoration of the wall. "Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all kinds of other things are just outside. I suppose it is one's being so tired."

"This meat has surely been used for soup," said Miss Bartlett, laying down her fork.

"I want so to see the Arno. The rooms the Signora promised us in her letter would have looked over the Arno. The Signora had no business to do it at all. Oh, it is a shame!"

"Any nook does for me," Miss Bartlett continued, "but it does seem hard that you shouldn't have a view."

Lucy felt that she had been selfish. "Charlotte, you mustn't spoil me; of course, you must look over the Arno, too. I meant that. The first vacant room in the front—" "You must have it," said Miss Bartlett, part of whose traveling expenses were paid by Lucy's mother—a piece of generosity to which she made many a tactful allusion.

"No, no. You must have it."

"I insist on it. Your mother would never forgive me, Lucy."

"She would never forgive me."

The ladies' voices grew animated, and—if the sad truth be owned—a little peevish. They were tired, and under the guise of unselfishness they wrangled. Some of their neighbors interchanged glances, and one of them—one of the ill-bred people whom one does meet abroad—leant forward over the table and actually intruded into their argument. He said:

"I have a view, I have a view."

Miss Bartlett was startled. Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out that they would "do" till they had gone. She knew that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced at him. He was an old man, of heavy build, with a fair, shaven face and large eyes. There was something childish in those eyes, though it was not the childishness of senility. What exactly it was Miss Bartlett did not stop to consider, for her glance passed on to his clothes. These did not attract her. He was probably trying to become acquainted with them before they got into the swim. So she assumed a dazed expression when he spoke to her, and then said: "A view? Oh, a view! How delightful a view is!”

Which is the most logical reason for the man to state “I have a view, I have a view” at the end of the passage?

Possible Answers:

He wants to provide evidence that certain rooms in the pension do actually have a view.

He wants to support Miss Bartlett in her argument with Lucy.

He is about to suggest that the young women trade rooms with him.

He is about to suggest that the young women try to find better rooms at another pension.

He wants to support Lucy in her argument with Miss Bartlett.

Correct answer:

He is about to suggest that the young women trade rooms with him.

Explanation:

Lucy and Miss Bartlett's argument concerns which of them will take the first room with a view to free up, so the man's comment doesn't support either one in this argument. Lucy and Miss Bartlett never doubt that certain of the pension's rooms do have views, so it doesn't make sense that the man would say "I have a view" in order "to provide evidence that certain rooms in the pension do actually have a view." There is no connection between the man stating he has a view and him suggesting that the women find rooms at another pension. However, there is a logical connection between him telling them he has a view and offering to switch rooms with them, so this is the correct answer.

Example Question #251 : Literary Fiction

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

The man described in the passage asks every day if any seafaring men have passed by because __________.

Possible Answers:

he wants very badly to become a sailor

he wants to avoid any seafaring men

he is lonely and wants to make some friends who are also seafarers

he needs to learn how to avoid being seasick before his big trip

he is a fisherman and wants to buy a new boat

Correct answer:

he wants to avoid any seafaring men

Explanation:

This is a somewhat tricky question because the narrator first gives one interpretation of the man’s behavior before saying that he discovered a more accurate interpretation: “Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them.” So, the correct answer is “he wants to avoid any seafaring men,” not “he is lonely and wants to make some friends who are also seafarers.”

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 Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen in Hans Anderson’s Fairy Tales: A New Translation by Mrs. Paull (1867 ed.)

The Sea King had been a widower for many years, and his aged mother kept house for him. She was a very wise woman, and exceedingly proud of her high birth; on that account she wore twelve oysters on her tail, while others, also of high rank, were only allowed to wear six. She was, however, deserving of very great praise, especially for her care of the little sea princesses, her granddaughters. They were six beautiful children; but the youngest was the prettiest of them all. Like all the others, she had no feet, and her body ended in a fish's tail. 

All day long they played in the great halls of the castle, or among the living flowers that grew out of the walls. The large amber windows were open, and the fish swam in, just as the swallows fly into our houses when we open the windows, excepting that the fishes swam up to the princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed themselves to be stroked. 

Outside the castle there was a beautiful garden, in which grew bright red and dark blue flowers, and blossoms like flames of fire; the fruit glittered like gold, and the leaves and stems waved to and fro continually. Each of the young princesses had a little plot of ground in the garden, where she might dig and plant as she pleased. One arranged her flower-bed into the form of a whale; another thought it better to make hers like the figure of a little mermaid; but that of the youngest was round like the sun, and contained flowers as red as its rays at sunset. 

She was a strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters would be delighted with the wonderful things which they obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful marble statue. It was the representation of a handsome boy, carved out of pure white stone, which had fallen to the bottom of the sea from a wreck. She planted by the statue a rose-colored weeping willow. It grew splendidly, and very soon hung its fresh branches over the statue, almost down to the blue sands. Nothing gave her so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the ships and of the towns, the people and the animals. To her it seemed most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers of the land should have fragrance, and not those below the sea; that the trees of the forest should be green; and that the fishes among the trees could sing so sweetly, that it was quite a pleasure to hear them. Her grandmother called the little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for she had never seen birds.

Why does the Sea King’s mother call birds “fishes” at the end of the passage?

Possible Answers:

She thinks that all birds can swim underwater like fish.

She mistakenly thinks that birds are fish.

She is describing life on land in a way that the Sea King’s youngest daughter can understand it.

She has mistakenly called birds “fishes,” since she sees fish much more often than she sees birds.

She is trying to confuse the Sea King’s youngest daughter so that she will not be so interested in life on land.

Correct answer:

She is describing life on land in a way that the Sea King’s youngest daughter can understand it.

Explanation:

Let’s consider the end of the passage:

“[The Sea King’s youngest daughter] made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the ships and of the towns, the people and the animals [on land]. To her it seemed most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers of the land should have fragrance, and not those below the sea; that the trees of the forest should be green; and that the fishes among the trees could sing so sweetly, that it was quite a pleasure to hear them. Her grandmother called the little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for she had never seen birds.”

We can ignore the answer choice about the grandmother trying to make the Sea King’s youngest daughter less interested in life on land, since she is telling her stories about life on land. At this point, it is important to realize to which individual the pronouns “she” and “her” are referring in the passage and in the question. We can rephrase the sentence “Her grandmother called the little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for she had never seen birds” to say “The grandmother called birds “fishes,” or the Sea King’s youngest daughter would not have understood the grandmother, because the Sea King’s youngest daughter had never seen birds.”At this point, we can answer the question: nothing in the passage suggests that the grandmother “thinks that all birds can swim underwater like fish,” “thinks that birds are fish,” or has mistakenly called birds “fishes.” She clearly understands the distinction, and is calling the birds “fishes” to avoid confusing the Sea King’s youngest daughter. This means that the correct answer is “She is describing life on land in a way that the Sea King’s youngest daughter can understand it.”

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