ISEE Middle Level Reading : Identifying and Analyzing Supporting Ideas in Science Passages

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Drawing Generalizations About Natural Science Passages

"Darwinism's Effect on Science" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

For much of the history of human thought, the sciences have studied subjects that seemed to be eternal and unchanging. Even the basic laws of the Nile’s flooding were investigated in the hopes of finding never-altering laws. Similarly, the scientific investigations of the ancient Near East and Greece into the regular laws of the stars ultimately looked for constant patterns. This overall pattern of scientific reasoning has left deep marks on the minds of almost all thinkers and found its apotheosis in modern physics. From the time of the early renaissance to the nineteenth century, physics represented the ultimate expression of scientific investigation for almost all thinkers. Its static laws appeared to be the unchanging principles of all motion and life on earth. By the nineteenth century, it had appeared that only a few details had to be “cleared up” before all science was basically known.

In many ways, this situation changed dramatically with the arrival of Darwinism. It would change even more dramatically in early twentieth-century physics as well. Darwin’s theories of evolution challenged many aspects of the “static” worldview. Even those who did not believe that a divine being created an unchanging world were shaken by the new vistas opened up to science by his studies. It had been a long-accepted inheritance of Western culture to believe that the species of living organisms were unchanging in nature. Though there might be many different kinds of creatures, the kinds themselves were not believed to change. The thesis of a universal morphing of types shattered this cosmology, replacing the old world-view with a totally new one. Among the things that had to change in light of Darwin’s work was the very view of science held by most people.

Which of the following provides an example of the main idea asserted in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

The Pythagorean theorem is based upon the constant relationship of the sides of a right triangle to its hypotenuse.

Religion constantly wanes with the rise of science.

The fluctuation of coloration within a species is rather minimal.

The interest in science only arises once agriculture reaches a certain point of fixity.

None of the other answers

Correct answer:

The Pythagorean theorem is based upon the constant relationship of the sides of a right triangle to its hypotenuse.

Explanation:

The first paragraph discusses the role of necessary connections and unvarying rules in scientific thinking, particularly the type of thinking that has played a prominent role in Western thought for many centuries. The example of the Pythagorean theorem is a good example of this.  Even if you do not know this mathematical equation, you can tell that this is the correct answer by the words "constant relationship."

Example Question #251 : Natural Sciences

"Comparing Technologies: A Difficult Endeavor" by Matthew Minerd (2014)

Comparisons of technology are often difficult to make, not only because of the rapid pace of improvements but also because of the many new applications that are available as time progresses. If we were to consider the contemporary graphing calculator and the calculation capacities of computing machines from fifty years ago, there would be astounding improvements between these two devices. However, the improvements are not reduced merely to speed improvements. A graphing calculator also has numerous output capacities that far exceed those available much older computers, none of which had the ability to represent their output in any manner even closely resembling that of contemporary devices. Merely consider the display capacities of such a device. These enable users to input many new kinds of information, enabling design engineers to design new hardware functions to match the new means of collecting user input.

The situation is even more obvious when one considers the numerous functions performed by a modern “smartphone.” These devices are equipped with a panoply of features.  With all of these new functions come many new types of computational capabilities as well. In order to process images quickly, specialized hardware must be designed and software written for it in order to ensure that there are few issues with the phone’s operation. Indeed, the whole “real time” nature of telecommunications has exerted numerous pressures on the designers of computing devices. Layers of complexity, at all levels of production and development, are required to ensure that the phone can function in a synchronous manner. Gone are the days of asynchronous processing, when the computer user entered data into a mainframe, only to wait for a period of time before the processing results were provided. Today, even the smallest of digital devices must provide seamless service for users. The effects of this requirement are almost beyond number.

What is implied by the word “merely” at the beginning of the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

The example given is quite intriguing, though many think it to be simplistic.

None of the other answers

The example that follows is meant for unexperienced audiences.

These are really unimportant points that need little attention.

There are many, more profound differences even beyond those mentioned here.

Correct answer:

There are many, more profound differences even beyond those mentioned here.

Explanation:

The word "merely" here implies that the detail is just one among many. The author is calling the reader's attention to one little detail among many others. It is, perhaps, a bit simple in its nature, but it is not necessarily unimportant or simplistic. The general point is that many other details could be brought forward if need be.

Example Question #1 : Understanding Causes And Effects In Natural Science Passages

Adapted from “Humming-Birds: As Illustrating the Luxuriance of Tropical Nature” in Tropical Nature, and Other Essays by Alfred Russel Wallace (1878)

The food of hummingbirds has been a matter of much controversy. All the early writers down to Buffon believed that they lived solely on the nectar of flowers, but since that time, every close observer of their habits maintains that they feed largely, and in some cases wholly, on insects. Azara observed them on the La Plata in winter taking insects out of the webs of spiders at a time and place where there were no flowers. Bullock, in Mexico, declares that he saw them catch small butterflies, and that he found many kinds of insects in their stomachs. Waterton made a similar statement. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of specimens have since been dissected by collecting naturalists, and in almost every instance their stomachs have been found full of insects, sometimes, but not generally, mixed with a proportion of honey. Many of them in fact may be seen catching gnats and other small insects just like fly-catchers, sitting on a dead twig over water, darting off for a time in the air, and then returning to the twig. Others come out just at dusk, and remain on the wing, now stationary, now darting about with the greatest rapidity, imitating in a limited space the evolutions of the goatsuckers, and evidently for the same end and purpose. Mr. Gosse also remarks, ” All the hummingbirds have more or less the habit, when in flight, of pausing in the air and throwing the body and tail into rapid and odd contortions. This is most observable in the Polytmus, from the effect that such motions have on the long feathers of the tail. That the object of these quick turns is the capture of insects, I am sure, having watched one thus engaged pretty close to me.”

What evidence does Mr. Gosse have to support the claim that hummingbirds eat insects?

Possible Answers:

He surmised that they must eat insects because he has never seen one eating flower nectar.

He observed one flailing around in the air and concluded that it was eating insects.

He examined the contents of a hummingbird’s stomach and found many insects in it.

A hummingbird got into his collection of live insects, and soon after, all of his insects were missing.

He read in a reputable scientific journal that they eat insects.

Correct answer:

He observed one flailing around in the air and concluded that it was eating insects.

Explanation:

To answer this question, we have to consider the quotation attributed to Mr. Gosse found at the end of the passage:

“Mr. Gosse also remarks, ‘All the hummingbirds have more or less the habit, when in flight, of pausing in the air and throwing the body and tail into rapid and odd contortions. This is most observable in the Polytmus, from the effect that such motions have on the long feathers of the tail. That the object of these quick turns is the capture of insects, I am sure, having watched one thus engaged pretty close to me.’”

He doesn’t mention anything about having a collection of live insects, getting his information from a scientific journal, or dissecting a hummingbird’s stomach, so we can ignore those answer choices. He actively observes a hummingbird and surmises that they eat insects because of that, so the correct answer is “He observed one flailing around in the air and concluded that it was eating insects.”

Example Question #1 : Understanding And Evaluating Opinions And Arguments In Argumentative Science Passages

Adapted from “Introduced Species That Have Become Pests” in Our Vanishing Wild Life, Its Extermination and Protection by William Temple Hornaday (1913)

The man who successfully transplants or "introduces" into a new habitat any persistent species of living thing assumes a very grave responsibility. Every introduced species is doubtful gravel until panned out. The enormous losses that have been inflicted upon the world through the perpetuation of follies with wild vertebrates and insects would, if added together, be enough to purchase a principality. The most aggravating feature of these follies in transplantation is that never yet have they been made severely punishable. We are just as careless and easygoing on this point as we were about the government of the Yellowstone Park in the days when Howell and other poachers destroyed our first national bison herd, and when caught red-handed—as Howell was, skinning seven Park bison cows—could not be punished for it, because there was no penalty prescribed by any law. Today, there is a way in which any revengeful person could inflict enormous damage on the entire South, at no cost to himself, involve those states in enormous losses and the expenditure of vast sums of money, yet go absolutely unpunished!

The gypsy moth is a case in point. This winged calamity was imported at Maiden, Massachusetts, near Boston, by a French entomologist, Mr. Leopold Trouvelot, in 1868 or 69. History records the fact that the man of science did not purposely set free the pest. He was endeavoring with live specimens to find a moth that would produce a cocoon of commercial value to America, and a sudden gust of wind blew out of his study, through an open window, his living and breeding specimens of the gypsy moth. The moth itself is not bad to look at, but its larvae is a great, overgrown brute with an appetite like a hog. Immediately Mr. Trouvelot sought to recover his specimens, and when he failed to find them all, like a man of real honor, he notified the State authorities of the accident. Every effort was made to recover all the specimens, but enough escaped to produce progeny that soon became a scourge to the trees of Massachusetts. The method of the big, nasty-looking mottled-brown caterpillar was very simple. It devoured the entire foliage of every tree that grew in its sphere of influence.

The gypsy moth spread with alarming rapidity and persistence. In course of time, the state authorities of Massachusetts were forced to begin a relentless war upon it, by poisonous sprays and by fire. It was awful! Up to this date (1912) the New England states and the United States Government service have expended in fighting this pest about $7,680,000!

The spread of this pest has been retarded, but the gypsy moth never will be wholly stamped out. Today it exists in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and it is due to reach New York at an early date. It is steadily spreading in three directions from Boston, its original point of departure, and when it strikes the State of New York, we, too, will begin to pay dearly for the Trouvelot experiment.

Which of the following best describes an opinion held by the author?

Possible Answers:

We should introduce a new species of animal that eats gypsy moths to combat the problems they cause.

Farmers should place nets around their fields and orchards to prevent the gypsy moths from getting to their crops.

Despite spending a great deal of money, the United States will never be rid of the gypsy moth.

Efforts to contain the gypsy moth will improve as technology improves, until all of the moths in the United States have been eradicated.

It is difficult to say what the future holds for the fate of the gypsy moth in the United States.

Correct answer:

Despite spending a great deal of money, the United States will never be rid of the gypsy moth.

Explanation:

The first sentence of the passage’s last paragraph provides the information we need to answer this question correctly: the author writes, “The spread of this pest has been retarded, but the gypsy moth never will be wholly stamped out.” We can thus definitively say that he thinks that “despite spending a great deal of money, the United States will never be rid of the gypsy moth.”

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 #2 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In 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 the behavior of individual bats is often very different from the behavior of other individual bats

Because scientists have spent far too little time studying bats

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

Because it shares the appearance and characteristics of several disparate animals

Because the mannerisms of bats make them very hard to study

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 #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In 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.

The author mentions the various names of a bat in other languages to highlight __________.

Possible Answers:

the whimsical nature of animal naming

the likelihood of being attacked by a bat

the fear of bats among early societies

the similarities between a bat and a mouse in popular understanding

the relationship between a bat and an owl

Correct answer:

the similarities between a bat and a mouse in popular understanding

Explanation:

The author discusses "the likeness of the Bat to a winged mouse" immediately before he introduces the names of the bat in various languages. The English name is even “flitter-mouse,” so it is clear that the author is trying to highlight “the similarities between a bat and a mouse in popular understanding."

Example Question #2 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In 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 believe many people have long regarded bats as birds?

Possible Answers:

Because bats live in nests

Because bats can fly

Because bats live atop trees and on the roof of caves

Because bats have feathers

Because bats lay eggs

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 #32 : Ideas In Science Passages

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

Otters will certainly consume an immense quantity of fish, and the owners of salmon or trout streams have great spite against them. It is, however, very possible to tame them so as to make them bring the fish that they catch. This practice is much more followed in other countries than in England; they are purposely kept for it in Sweden, and at a signal from the cook will go and fetch the fish for dinner. Bishop Heber mentions that he saw several large and very beautiful otters fastened to bamboo stakes by the side of the Matta Colly river, some of which appeared to be at play, and uttered a shrill whistling noise. They wore straw collars and were very tame and docile. They should be caught quite young, and fed on small fish; then they are allowed bread and milk at alternate meals, till at last they entirely live upon this food. They are taught to fetch and carry with artificial fishes made of leather, and stuffed with wool. Then they are made to bring dead fishes, and if they attempt to tear them, they are severely punished. Thus trained, in process of time, the otter becomes useful and domesticated.

In their natural condition, otters will wander to considerable distances for their prey; Mr. St. John says, "I was rather amused at an old woman living on the Findhorn, who, complaining of the hardness of the present times, when 'a puir body couldn't get a drop smuggled whisky, or shoot a roe without his lordship's sportsman finding it out,' added to her list of grievances that even the otters were nearly all gone—'puir beasties.' 'Well, but what good could the otters do you?' I asked her. 'Good, your honor? Why scarcely a morning came but they left a bonny grilse (young salmon) on the scarp down yonder, and the venison was none the worse of the bit the puir beasts ate themselves.’ The people here (Morayshire) call every edible animal—fish, flesh, or fowl—“venison,” or as they pronounce it, “venisaan.” For instance, they tell you that the snipes are good venison, or that the trout are not good venison in the winter. The people of the Findhorn have learned well how to utilize the natural tenacity of the otter, but they have yet to attempt to domesticate them.

The author’s account of his conversation with the old lady from the Findhorn is meant to __________.

Possible Answers:

demonstrate how most people consider otters to be great pests

show the unique way of speaking of the people of the Findhorn

support the author’s argument that the people of England do not how to utilize otters

highlight the usefulness of otters to people

demonstrate the difficulty of life on the Findhorn in contemporary times

Correct answer:

highlight the usefulness of otters to people

Explanation:

Although the author does discuss how some people consider otters as pests and the unique way of speaking among the people of Findhorn, as well as describing the old lady’s belief that life is difficult on the Findhorn, the primary reason he includes the conversation is to highlight the usefulness of otters, which is his main argument. The old lady tells the author, and the reader, how otters catch fish and often leave them behind to be consumed by whomever finds them quickly. “'Well, but what good could the otters do you?' I asked her. 'Good, your honor? Why scarcely a morning came but they left a bonny grilse (young salmon) on the scarp down yonder, and the venison was none the worse of the bit the puir beasts ate themselves.'”

Example Question #3 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Science Passages

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

There are instances of weasels having been tamed, but it is very difficult to make any impression on their affections, although they are very sagacious, and sagacious animals are more easily influenced than others. The weasel and the stoat are so often mistaken for each other that it will be well to point out the constant difference in each. The stoat is brown above, dirty white underneath; its tail is longer and more bushy than that of the weasel, and always black at the tip. The weasel is red above, and pure white underneath, and the tail is red and uniform, being deprived of the bushy tip.

Mr. Bell, from whose pages I have taken these characters, states that weasels should not be accused of devouring poultry, game, hares, rabbits, and various small birds. He says that when driven by hunger, they may occasionally eat such things; but that their general food consists of mice and rats of every description, the field and water vole, and moles, and that they ought rather to be encouraged than exterminated, because they destroy so much vermin. They generally approach with the utmost caution and shyness, and when once they have seized their prey, they never let go their hold; they aim at the neck, below the ear, or drive their teeth through the back of the head. They hound and spring, and climb trees with the greatest facility, and seem never to tire of hunting, whether they are hungry or not.

Proof of the weasel's affection for her young was witnessed by a laborer, who, while standing on a foot-path close to the hedge side, perceived a weasel with one of her young ones in her mouth. He kicked her, and she, dropping it, retreated into a hedge. He then stood over the young one with a stick in his hand, not intending to kill it, but merely to see how its mother would proceed. She soon peeped from her cover, and made several feints to get at her charge, but was obliged to run into the hedge again, intimidated by the stick which the man flourished about. At last she summoned up all her resolution, and in spite of everything, after a great deal of dodging to avoid the stick, succeeded in obtaining the object of her solicitude, and bore it off between the legs of her tormentor.

Mr. Bell is primarily concerned with __________.

Possible Answers:

explaining the aggressive nature of weasels

encouraging the hunting of weasels

defending the usefulness of weasels

arguing that weasels should be kept as pets

undermining the usefulness of weasels

Correct answer:

defending the usefulness of weasels

Explanation:

The author introduces the opinions of Mr. Bell to explain why weasels ought not to be thought of as vermin, but rather why they should be seen as useful animals who can help humans keep real vermin in check. That this is the case can be seen in excerpts like “Mr. Bell, from whose pages I have taken these characters, states that weasels should not be accused of devouring poultry" and "they ought rather to be encouraged than exterminated, because they destroy so much vermin.“

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